Visiteering with WeDigBio and the Department for Transport | Digital Collections Programme

Visiteering offers one day volunteering opportunities to the public, linking our Museum narratives to a series of set ‘challenges’ relating to our collections. On 20 October we completed our first collaborative Visiteering session to coincide with a worldwide transcription event run by WeDigBio.

Photo showing Margaret standing on the right hand side speaking to a group of people sitting in a semi-circle around her.

Margaret explains the importance of digitising our collections to the Dangerous Goods Group from the Department of Transport

WeDigBio, is a four day event that engages global participants online and onsite in digitising natural history collections. Although our main focus was our Visiteers in the lab for a day, we also encouraged other visitors to the museum to engage in the project via posters with QR codes and promoted a worldwide audience to get involved with blogposts and social media promotion prior, during and post event.

Our Visiteer team, in this instance, were the Dangerous Goods Group from the Department of Transport. We ran the day from the Specimen Preparation Area in the Cocoon, where our Visiteers learnt about our ‘Killer Within’ chalcid slides. Before lunch the group became record breakers by smashing the previously held record for transcriptions in any one day on the Notes from Nature platform.

Photo showing a man with glasses leaning forward to peer into the lens of a light microscope

One of our Visiteers looks at a UK chalcid up close

Photo showing volunteers sitting at computers entering data

The Visiteers in action: transcribing data from the chalcids microscope slide collection

Chalcids play a very important role as biological control agents as they are the natural enemy of a wide range of insect pests that damage our food crops, thus chalcids can reduce the need for chemicals and pesticides, and save a significant amount of money as well.

The results at a glance: Visiteering with WeDigBio ‘The Killer Within’ project.

  • Nine Visiteers took part in checking and transcribing data for our chalcid specimens
  • The session was led by Ali Thomas, Margaret Gold and Natalie Dale-Skey held in the Specimen Preparation Area (Darwin Centre) with support from Jennifer Pullar and Laurence Livermore
  • The Visiteers were challenged to transcribe 500 microscope slides during their day
  • In total the Visiteers transcribes 542 slides during their time with us and showed enthusiasm to continue transcribing from home
  • One visiteer transcribed 200 specimens alone!
  • Collaborating with @WeDigBio and live tweeting the event allowed us to reach 22,732 twitter feeds worldwide and see an increase in our usual amount of engagement with our channel. @NHM_Digitise had over twice the amount of retweets and nearly six times the amount of ‘likes’ we would typically expect in a day
  • The top tweet of the day featured one of our volunteers using a microscope together with a beautiful picture of one of our chalcids
  • WeDigBio events were all over the world over four days. Being part of this project helped us connect with peers and hear about similar projects in other institutions

Other outputs from Visiteering:

  • On a scale of 1-10, 7 participants were either likely (7-8) to extremely likely (9-10) to continue verifying/transcribing from home.
  • All participants understood the value of their contribution and the ambitions of the day to help capture (and liberate!) the data from the chalcid microscope slide collection.
  • Practical skills gained ranged from: transcribing microscope slides, to deciphering handwriting and investigation skills, cross referencing, improving geographical awareness and information searches.
  • New knowledge gained: information about insects and parasitic wasps,  specimen data online/Data Portal, the range of wasp species, the differences between a wasp and a bee, geographical knowledge, data sorting.

Feedback: What did you most enjoy about your Visiteer day?

‘the mix of learning and useful data entry for worldwide research’

‘…the knowledge of the hosts’

‘Seeing the pinned wasp collection and learning about them…’

‘…very satisfying –trying to do a good job of deciphering the information…’

‘Close up viewing of various wasps and the enthusiasm of the Museum staff explaining their work ’

‘The whole day and particularly our museum hosts; Ali, Margaret, Natalie and Laurence’!’

Photo of the volunteers posing for a group photo

All the Visiteers and facilitators who took part in the day. Thank you!

We are so grateful to the Dangerous Goods Group (Department of Transport) who gave their time to the project and for their valuable and lasting contribution to the Museum and our research. We would like to thank everyone who has helped to set up and invest in the programme so far and hope for many more successful Visiteer collaborations in the future.