Maintaining databases

Norman F. Johnson nfjohnso at POSTBOX.ACS.OHIO-STATE.EDU
Fri Dec 1 07:46:15 CST 1995

Doug Yanega wrote:

>A pinned ALAS insect specimen apparently has a barcode label
>there on top where one can read it or scan it easily. A museum specimen
>will not, unless one has gone to the trouble of removing the 2-5 labels
>already there, putting the bar code label on top, and then replacing the
>original labels (running risks of both losing or damaging some of the
>original labels as well as damaging the specimen). Has anyone on this
>newsgroup actually taken already-identified pinned museum specimens and
>added barcodes to them? If so, what was the final placement and orientation
>of the barcodes? If the barcodes end up pinned upside-down beneath the
>other labels, they cannot be scanned/read without removing the specimen
>from the unit (and once again risking damage).

Yes, we are putting them on the bottom, upside down.  I felt that there will
always be the need for someone to visually scan the contents of a unit tray.
The labels are lined up just like the normal label and, in fact, are a touch

> An upside-down code label is
>a problem even if NOT bar-coded, for this same reason, and also because if
>one then gets a request for, say, "specimen 00003478" there is no good way
>to make a quick visual search.

But precisely this kind of search is what the database is good for.  Ours
has a table and fields for locating where a specimen is physically stored.
I have also heard of systems in which each unit tray is uniquely identified,
thus simplifying the problem of location.

 I would suspect then that, ultimately, code
>labels added to old pinned material will *inevitably* be placed slightly
>offset at the bottom of the stack of labels - where it might indeed be
>easier to read them by eye than scan them (because scanning would, if I'm
>not mistaken, still require that they be pulled out of the unit).

Nothing is inevitable, but I don't think that there's a single system that
will meet everyone's ideals.  Yes, we still have to pull specimens to scan
the barcode (visually or mechanically).  This is a new system for us, so we
have no statistics as to the relative frequency of searches requiring this
action.  I don't think it will be significant.

Norm J.
Norman F. Johnson          Phone: 614-292-6595
Associate Professor        Fax: 614-292-7774
Director, Ohio State       E-mail: Johnson.2 at
  Insect Collection

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