Read about the experiences of volunteer coordinators in establishing a volunteer digitisation project.

Leonie Prater, Rhiannon Stephens, Australian Museum

Leonie Prater and Rhiannon Stephens have worked part time on the Australian Museum Digitisation Project since March 2011. The success of the initial trial digitisation project led to the employment of Leonie and Rhiannon who have recruited and trained a skilled group of volunteers to handle and digitise specimens and archival material in the Digitisation Laboratory.

Leonie, who was a volunteer on the trial project before working as a coordinator, has worked in a range of strategic planning and project management positions and has post-graduate qualifications. Rhiannon, who has Applied Science qualifications, worked at the Royal Botanic Gardens Herbarium on the Australian Virtual Herbarium project which she really enjoyed. In her spare time, Leonie likes to sail, read, hike, go to theatre and listen to music while Rhiannon enjoys jewellery making, reading and going to the beach with her children.

What have been the key challenges in establishing the project?
“A key challenge was developing a strategic project framework and implementation plan which had realistic timeframes to furnish and equip an old storage lab into a fully functioning laboratory with five digitisation workstations and up to ten trained and skilled volunteer digitisers.

“There has been a strong emphasis on documentation of the project as it is seen to be cutting edge here in Australia. Other cultural institutions, which may not have the same level of infrastructure, staffing and volunteers, can access and adapt the range of documentation, including volunteer induction and training tools,  to meet their requirements.

“Providing a fun learning environment for volunteers is critical to ensure that volunteers remain interested and committed to spending a day a week on this project. Volunteers have been provided with a comprehensive induction and training session to become skilled and confident digitisers who  handle valuable specimens and archival material.

“We had to develop a good understanding of and appreciation of the culture and pressures that collections management and staff deal with on a daily basis as their support of this project is only one small part of their work”.

What have been your key achievements in the position?
“The project would not exist without having a skilled group of volunteers and over the last six months, it has been wonderful to see the lab gradually filled with people from different walks of life who are passionate about their work and receive acknowledgement for their contribution to the Museum.

“An extension of Atlas of Living Australia funding for the project was a significant achievement as it demonstrated that the funding body agreed supported the key strategic directions of the project and its application to the wider communities”.

Story by Leonie Prater