Australian Museum Data capture of specimen labels using volunteers

TitleAustralian Museum Data capture of specimen labels using volunteers
Publication TypeWeb Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsTann, John, and Flemons Paul
KeywordsDatabasing, LabelCapture, WorkFlows
This is a report of an attempt to speed up the capture of information on the labels of specimens held by the Australian Museum. A trial was conducted using volunteers with a camera to photograph specimen labels and transcribe that data into a spreadsheet. Location information was georeferenced. The data in the resulting spreadsheet was then entered into EMu by a museum technician. Times and costs were compared to direct data entry, as well as with a previous trial using an off-shore data transcription service. The outcome of the trial was successful in clarifying the following. Importing data into EMu is not straightforward and is a specialist task. Having the data transcribed into a spreadsheet before import into EMu does not help. Errors, misspellings, and uncertainties on many of the labels meant that a spreadsheet of data became a clumsy and inefficient method of data entry. Photographing a label has advantages – a photograph becomes a verbatim record in the database of the label for later referral, and makes the data entry process quicker by about 20%, as well as easier and more convenient. Recommendations: The Australian museum could train and use a small team of volunteers to photograph specimen labels. These photographs would be saved on Emu as a record of the label, and subsequently used for data entry by AM technical staff. Investigate the Emu inline toolset as a possible route for engaging volunteers for accurate and reliable data entry.