Volunteer Portal

How to create a new project for the volunteer portal

Application of this topic

The process outlined in this help topic applies to projects to transcribe images of:

  • labels of specimens
  • documents, field note books and other written material.

For other types of volunteer projects, contact us to discuss your requirements.

Process overview


You need an account with ARCS and its Data Fabric to allow you to upload your images.

If you do not have an account, you can quickly and easily create one.

Note: You must be associated with a research or educational institution to have an ARCS account. If you are not eligible for an ARCS account and you want to set up a volunteer project, contact us.

1. Define your project

To define your project:

  1. Decide the scope and nature of your project. Projects should ideally consist of 100–5 000 images and be focused around a particular taxonomic group (at any suitable level,eg Cicadas) or set of documents.
  2. Contact the Atlas to see if your project is suitable as a Volunteer Portal project. If it is, the Atlas will prepare the template and other functions needed to deliver your project.
  3. Collect or create the image you want to represent your project on the Volunteer Portal. It will appear on:
    • on your project’s button on the front page of the portal
    • your project’s splash bar.
  4. Create the text you want to appear on the splash bar on the front page of your project to entice volunteers to your project.
  5. If possible, identify a web page that provides background information on the species or written material to be transcribed; this allows the user to get a better understanding of the project.
  6. Provide the Atlas with the information from steps 3, 4 and 5 in this stage.

2. Create an image database

The image database is used to record metadata about the images for your project. At a minimum, it must contain an identifier, or file name, for each image, eg AM_ENTO_DRW_127_0288.jpg.

You can also use the image database to generate the data upload file (stage 6) by including the additional fields listed in stage 6.


  • A spreadsheet can be used as the database.
  • If you intend transferring the data from the image database into your collection management system (CMS), you may need to add whatever additional data fields are required for the CMS. This extra data should be added in stage 3.

3. Create your images

To create your images:

  1. Image the specimens or documents to be transcribed using a suitable digital camera, scanner etc.
  2. Post-process the images as appropriate.
  3. As necessary, resize the images (at 72 dpi) to a file size of 400–800kB.
  4. As necessary, rename the images.
  5. Record the images in the image database (stage 2).


  • IrfanView is free software that can be used to resize and rename images in bulk or singly.

4. Upload your images to ARCS

ARCS Data Fabric is used as a staging area for your images; from there the Atlas accesses your images for loading into the Volunteer Portal.

You can upload your images into the ARCS Data Fabric using:

  • your web browser or WebDAV protocols (instructions), or
  • ARCS WebDrive software which allows you to create a directory in your Data Fabric user space into which you copy all of your images.


  • Create a separate ARCS folder for each of your Volunteer Portal projects.

5. Create URLs for your images

URLs for your images represent the links the Atlas uses to access your images from within your ARCS Data Fabric user space.

To create URLs for your images:

  1. Access your project folder on the ARCS Data Fabric.
  2. Use the Share/Unshare menu on the right hand side of the screen to create the URLs.

6. Create the upload file

The upload file tells the Atlas about your images: who they’re from, where they are, their name and their content.

How you create the upload file depends on the nature of your image database, eg if it is a spreadsheet or database like Access, if it is intended to generate the upload file. In any event, you need to merge data from the database and ARCS to generate the upload file. Creation of the upload file is thus likely to be a manual process.

Ensure the upload file :

  • is in .csv format
  • includes at least the identifier and ARCS URL for each image
  • has the form ‘identifier, imageURL,institutionCode,catalogNumber,scientificName’ (no quotes) where:

See sample upload file.

7. Confirm your project with the Atlas

Before you upload your images contact the Atlas to make sure that your project has been established on the Volunteer Portal.

8. Upload your images

To upload your images to the Volunteer Portal:

  1. Go to the file upload load page of the Volunteer Portal.
  2. From the Project Id pull-down menu, select your project.
  3. Paste the csv upload file into the upload box. This should be the contents of the file not the file name.
  4. Click the Submit button.
  5. Check your project page every 10 minutes or so to ensure that your images have uploaded.


  • Paste the csv file in groups of no more than 500 images to ensure a stable upload.
  • If the browser times out and shows an error, don’t worry; this usually doesn’t mean there’s a problem with the upload.
  • Your project page won’t show any change until all of the images in that batch have been uploaded.