Bar Coding old material

Michael Ivie ueymi at GEMINI.OSCS.MONTANA.EDU
Fri Dec 1 11:29:54 CST 1995

As part of the West Indian Beetle Project, we have been working with
barcodes for a couple of years, and have indeed barcoded over 25,000
old specimens.  Like everybody else, we put them upside down on the bottom.

A few points.  First, the barcodes work great in all ways, the problems
we have had is in hidebound systematists (including me) who don't like
to learn new ways of doing things.  They want only one label, high on the
pin, they don't want anything under their determination label, they
claim the shiny tag might cause reflections.....  None of these "problems"
has proven real.

In fact, changing and updating determinations is INCREDABLY speeded up
with barcodes, as pointed out by Colwell.  So is virtually any database
change or activity that originates WITH (i.e. FROM) THE SPECIMEN.

The point about finding a specimen is actually not a point at all.  That
is an activity of going from the database TO THE SPECIMEN.
Barcodes are not FOR finding a specimen in the collection, only
confirming it.  If you want
to find specimen WIBF 0008506, you have some reason, and that reason will
involve the determination and collecting data.  The database tells
you it is a specimen of Polycesta porcata, collected on Saba Is. on 17 DEC

So, just like now, you go to the Buprestidae drawer, pull out the P. porcata
tray, and look for a label that says Saba, and check for 17 DEC 1980.
Your eye scans for complex word better than complex numbers.
If there are duplicates of this data under that determination,
barcode, it is almost certain you will ALWAYS be looking for them too.
Seeing the actual barcode while scanning is not necessary.  It works great.
If your database tells you a drawer and unit tray number, so much the
faster, but that can be as easily tied to the determination as the
barcode number, and will probably float via such a link anyway.

Just think about it in practice, is it easier to remember that you are
looking for Saba, 17 DEC 1980, or 0008506?  Remember, all the barcode
labels look just alike except for numeric and tiny variation.

Until Kris' idea about individually number pinheads (which sounds
pretty good) is reality, we'd better get used to barcodes and
equivalents.  Discussing negatives tied to activities just not appropriate
to the technology gets us nowhere.

By the way, there is a new technology for barcode readers that is supposed to
be much better than the ones available last year.  It captures an image
on a mirror like a photocopier, and then reads from it (or some other
form of magic, I barely know how my car runs).
Reduces the hand coordination problem with very small code 49 labels.
Does anyone have one?  Could it be demonstrated at the ECN meeting?
(sorry to non-North American entomologists)

Mike Ivie

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