By Nathan Anderson on Fri, 06/14/2019 - 13:31
Taking images of the Smithsonian’s diverse holdings can be a challenging endeavor as we discovered in our project to digitize the living orchids collection with Smithsonian Gardens, but with the careful planning every one of our projects undergo, we turn the challenging into manageable.
Planning for all our projects anticipates the need for supplies and staff but it’s often an educational process for all involved. We always begin by working closely with the collection managers, registrars and curators to assess the physical and virtual collection status.
After our findings we compile a gap analysis assessment to clearly identify the portions of the collection that need resources in order to make them ready for digitization. This might be anything from light conservation treatments to hiring a cataloger to enrich the metadata and information associated with the items. From our gap analysis we draft a resource coalition matrix of all the personnel, supplies, and associated in-kind and budgeted costs associated with our project for the stakeholders. After review, the funding is committed, and we are ready to begin our long-term prep of the collection for digitization.
Not just the collection is prepped either, every effort is made to provide additional high speed network connectivity and access where possible within the IT security regulations of the Smithsonian and Federal government. Power is upgraded and new circuit breakers have to be installed in order to handle the demands of powering a photography set (in this case in a greenhouse!)
While the mass digitization project was on-going, Smithsonian Gardens staff launched ‘the Virus Project’. This project ensured the health of the collection, by enabling collection staff to implement handling and collection management protocols which allowed for a disease-free collection that also helped prevent future virus outbreaks. We were trying to prevent the spread of viral pathogens from plant to plant on the photography set and during the prepping stage, the most prevalent/common being Cymbidium Mosiac Virus (CymMV) and Odontoglossum Ring Spot Virus (ORSV). In order to prevent such viruses from spreading it was quickly determined that Smithsonian Gardens needed to purchase an autoclave sterilization device. Autoclave sterilization can be used to sanitize stainless steel, and we purchased 300 scissors for grooming the orchids, as each tool can only be used once before it goes back into the autoclave.
Comparison of a healthy orchid plant vs. one with Cymbidium Mosiac Virus (CymMV) Stainless steel autoclave sterilization
We also needed the following equipment and supplies
- 4 Utility carts
- 8 transportation carts (moving /staging plants)
- anti-fatigue mats
- knee pads
- waxed paper rolls/cutter
- 300 stainless steel scissors
- 10,000 plant stakes (metal & bamboo)
- 3,200 disposable gloves
- concentrated sanitizer
- 6 rolls of orchid tying string
- 4,000 orchid clips
- Extra Staff were also hired to help with the project prepping:
- 3 full time contractors for 800 hours (groomer, handler, registrar)
- 1 part time contractor for 480 hours (groomer)
- Facilities had to be upgraded
- Networking and waterproof power upgrades installed as we were photographing in the greenhouses.
No project is ever identical and we face a myriad of challenges with every collection. Taking the time to clearly identify and document what’s required for the safety of the items before we begin digitization is our top priority. This collaboration was undertaken between the National Collections Program (NCP), Smithsonian Gardens, and the Mass Digitization Program Office at the Smithsonian.