Earlham’s Joseph Moore Museum recently received a grant from the IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) to support the digitization of the museum’s extensive insect collection. The grant will provide $192,663 to complete the project. Ann-Eliza Lewis, collections manager at the Joseph Moore Museum, explains “The funds cover a variety of things from student and staff salaries to equipment for specialized photography, IT support, and general supplies like special boxes for holding fragile insects.”
This grant will be the second that the Joseph Moore Museum has received from the IMLS for a digitization project. In 2014 the IMLS provided $149,793 to “improve research and educational access to the museum’s mammal, ornithology, herpetology, and teaching collections.” However, the entomological collection requires a range of new techniques and expertise that weren’t used in 2014. Specimens will now have to be photographed using a special technique known as “stacked focus photography” which layers images on top of each other in order to amplify details. The collection is also much larger. The museum’s 2014 digitization project included about 12,000 specimens. The entomology collection, on the other hand, comprises over 35,000 individual insects.
The aim of digitization is to make the collection accessible to scientists, students, and the general community at large. “Once digitized,” Lewis explains “we’ll be able to share our collection with the wider world of researchers.” In three years, as the project comes to a close, you may be able to log on to databases like SCAN (The Symbiota Collections Arthropods Network) and browse the entire entomological collection of the Joseph Moore Museum.
While projects such as this are invaluable in terms of research potential, they’re also important for another reason. For Lewis, “The best part of these grants, of course, is that we get to hire students to do jobs that have real world applications.” As soon as January, the museum will begin hiring and training additional students to aid the current collections team in their digitization effort.
Although Ann-Eliza Lewis was the grant’s primary writer, she’s quick to mention other Earlham staff who supported the application. “Heather Lerner, the JMM’s director helped a lot with review and approving the financing. Cathy Habschmidt is also always involved in creating the budgets because they are complicated. Sara Paule is amazing and helps balance all our applications, makes sure everything is up to date with Federal grant requirements and all manner of other important things.” Lewis says she is “very appreciative of the team” that worked on this project. And this project certainly isn’t the end of the museum’s push towards digitization. I asked Lewis what the future holds for the museum in terms of collections. Without a moment of hesitation, she answered “After we finish insect we’ll probably go on to the paleo collection.”