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Becoming a “Digitator” – experiences from the digitization expert training

By jjuvonen - Posted on 29 November 2012

Training to become a “digitator” started on the 3rd of September, so the first quarter is over. In the beginning we became acquainted with each other, the trainers and part of the Digitarium staff. All of us had different kinds of “vibes” depending on our background. At least for some of us an update in communication, time and project management skills were in order. Goal setting for a personal study plan and discussion with our trainer Riitta clarified future prospects, the most important one being employment in the future. At least a history project researcher was in need of some branding and update.

Collecting insects in Noljakka, Joensuu.

The training course proceeds from the beginning to the end and therefore Botania, plant and insect collections at the biology department of Eastern University and netting of insects from a meadow in Noljakka, Joensuu were the very first touches to our work field awaiting. Trainer Mika familiarized us at painstaking lengths to a systems camera, although Mika’s jovial and tolerable grasp significantly eased the process. After making small photography projects in pairs, the systems camera became a bit more familiar. Becoming a student once again and getting used to the lectures was challenging, but all the new contacts, humor and exchange of ideas were stimulating. From the very beginning we were allowed to become involved in Digitarium’s weekly meetings: the project operates in a wide national and international field, which may give opportunities to some of us in the future.

On the third week of training we started to study the actual digitization work and became familiarized with IDs, codes and a conveyer belt system intended for automated digitization. We performed a conveyer analysis, in which we tried to assess the optimal use of the production line. In parallel we shot a presentation video of insect digitization on this very same automated system. The actual manual shooting of butterflies was seen as something requiring extreme precision, dexterity and “an esthetic eye”, but manual shooting of herbarium sheets turned out to be easier. However, each specimen with its label tells its own story. Training days were pleasant with alternating insect and plant subjects as well as alternating theory and practice. Hall teachers are to be thanked for their patience – they were able to guide us and the feedback we received from our first shots was necessary and thus highly appreciated. Training and digitization work occurred seamlessly in the same place.

Mastery in photography and data entry requires great amount of practice and experience. Other requirements include good all-round education, language skills, knowledge in geography, biology and history, and an ability to read old handwriting. This makes data entry interesting, because with good luck a specimen label leads to a small detective work.

Studying data entry for plants.

All in all the training has matched the expectations thus far. One of the greatest contributions has been the practice on using a systems camera and the programs needed in data entry. The group spirit has been good: in an informal atmosphere it has been possible to ask even stupid questions and problems have been dealt with cooperatively. This training period has made us reflect upon employment opportunities and, on even a wider scale, on education policies, when highly educated people with a variety of skills have a hard time getting employed. Hopefully the know-how and skills we receive in this training will further our efforts.

- Jaana Juvonen, Mira Sääskilahti, and Henri Viitala; translation Eini Nyyssönen