kw: natural history, museums, volunteers
Delaware Museum of Natural History, when I look to my left, I see something like this. This day there are three volunteers on duty.
No museum—indeed, no nonprofit organization—can function without volunteers. I think museum volunteers have some of the best "jobs" going (but I am a science geek; what do I know?).
The Collections Manager at DMNH is also the Volunteer Manager. Of the daunting variety of tasks needed to care for a large seashell collection, he must prioritize and assign them, and also perform many himself (a couple of years ago there was a "herself"). At the moment, much work is being done on shells from a couple of new donations, and updating some existing material.
The policy is, if a lot has 30 shells or fewer, and the shells are large enough, they are each numbered. Considering that the average size of a lot is seven shells, and that most shells are indeed larger than a fingernail, that comes to a lot of inking! Where they are too small or too numerous to number individually the shells are not put in an open box but into a lidded plastic container or vial.
Online references are improving all the time, including WoRMS, the World Register of Marine Species, which he and the other man have up on their screens.
Most preliminary identification can be done by volunteers, and then the Collections Manager can verify their work. Sometimes, the species cannot be fully discerned at first, and the volunteer reports only the genus. In all cases, to make sure an identification is up to date, the literature is searched to see if a specialist has renamed a species or lumped it into another species. Then the identification (now called a determination once it is verified) is recorded for that lot.
Few museum volunteers work more than a day or two per week, and those are frequently short days of 4-5 hours. But their work adds up. The time spent by these three volunteers amounts to about 3/4 of a full-time person; and there are a few more volunteers who work on other days. Even more, as our lunchtime banter attests, having a few volunteers around makes the work a lot less lonely, compared to a couple of folks sharing a huge room with two million seashells.