Digital volunteering


As well as our successful onsite volunteering programmes, the Museum also benefits from the time and dedication of a growing global community of digital volunteers. This guest blog post from Hetti Tomlin, Honorary Curatorial Assistant at the Museum, sheds some light on some of the vital work that goes on behind the scenes (and across the world), through which our collections are becoming increasingly well documented and accessible.

One of our volunteers taking photographs of the collection: the images are uploaded onto Zooniverse where digital volunteers transcribe the label text.

The Reading Natures Library Zooniverse project is a fantastic opportunity to help Manchester Museum to discover the treasures in its collection. The project aims to digitize the information currently stored on labels for each object, with a photo of the object for reference.

Mass digitisation of our collections will allow the information we currently have stored on paper labels, to be stored safely and permanently for future generations to learn from and enjoy. The production of this online database will allow researchers, educators and the public to be able to find specimens much more easily, helping us to understand and learn from the collection in a way we have never been able to before.

Zooniverse screenshot
Screenshot of the ‘Reading Nature’s Library’ Zooniverse project

Reading Natures Library was launched in February 2018 and focused on fossils from the Museum’s geology collection. It has been hugely successful with over 2,500 volunteers so far completing the digitisation of almost 8,700 fossils.

The volunteers have been truly amazing, going above and beyond to ensure the details they add are entirely accurate and we can’t thank them enough for the passion and enthusiasm they have shown during the project. They have not only helped us to understand our collection but through their feedback and comments, they have also helped us to improve this project so that it can be enjoyed by everyone.

Comments from some of our volunteers:

“I really like to take a look into this hidden stash! Are they not beautiful and interesting looking, some of them”

“I always wanted to work in this field but never got the chance. Now technology caught up with us, we can all make a contribution in the many fields we are interested in.”

“Certain kind of secret pleasure in seeing a beauty that someone else found, and cared enough about to collect it and document it. Thank you for sharing. Hope some future scientists will find this site.”

“It’s wonderful that you can contribute to an institution that you actually know and enjoy.”

“I’m finding this project a lot of fun, and it can be especially if you like solving puzzles or learning more about geology, palaeontology, or geography or simply having a good feeling about helping a museum”

“I have very much enjoyed working on the project, especially the stratigraphy, finding in retirement a brand new field to study.  Thanks to this project, I have rediscovered the sheer pleasure of learning, and am grateful to you for that. Thank you!”

This project is a fantastic way to get involved with volunteering at Manchester Museum without having to travel into Manchester or having to commit a specific amount of time, whilst making a real difference.

Its not to late to get involved: just click on the link below! More specimens have been added to the project and the plan is to add a botany and entomology module to the project in the near future!

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