Breathing life into Haswell’s historic educational zoological collection


  • Rosanne Quinnell School of Life and Environmental Sciences Faculty of Science The University of Sydney
  • Lindsey Jane Gray School of Life and Environmental Sciences Faculty of Science
  • Jude Philp Sydney University Museums
  • Brittany Mitchell Australian Museum
  • Momo Newberry The University of Sydney
  • Richard Dimon Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria


zoology teaching and learning, digital collections management, object-based learning


BACKGROUND The Haswell collection contains thousands of significant teaching-focused specimens amassed more than a hundred years ago by William Aitcheson Haswell, the first Professor of Zoology at the University of Sydney. The collection is unique for the quality of specimen preservation, its emphasis on Australian fauna, and the number of prominent Australian biologists who have contributed. The value of collections like Haswell’s are being reassessed by educators and scientists seeking to offer unique, authentic learning experiences for our Australian students. Offering the collection as an online searchable database, with key objects offered digitally, will allow the enormous value of this collection to teaching, research and scientific heritage to be realised. APPROACHES Over the past three years we have been conducting the first digital audit of Haswell’s historical collection, noting that our team includes undergraduates across biology and museum studies. The online catalogue we envisage will be based on the work undertaken for this audit and also offer photographs and interactive digital content e.g. 3D scans and gifs. FINDINGS Digitally repackaging Haswell collection offers contemporary reimagining of Haswell’s work and will not only support the learning of our local students, but allow Haswell’s legacy to be shared globally. Students have documented their respective learning journeys on social media (Haswell Project Team, 2016) and in this way our project adds to a discourse on students-as-partners via new media (Healy, Flint & Harrington, 2014; Rifkin, Longnecker, Leach & Davis, 2011), whereby students are major protagonists in digital repackagings of traditional teaching resources. FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS The final hurdle is to place the collection online, and here we are in negotiations with our University Library. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS We thank the University of Sydney’s Chancellor’s Committee for funding. This paper is dedicated to A/Professor Roz Hinde.

Author Biographies

Rosanne Quinnell, School of Life and Environmental Sciences Faculty of Science The University of Sydney

Associate Professor School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Jude Philp, Sydney University Museums

Senior Curator

Brittany Mitchell, Australian Museum

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Momo Newberry, The University of Sydney

The School of Life and Environmental Sciences