BIRTH OF A MICROSCOPE CLUB
Postal Microscopical Club of Australia

By Mike Dingley


Clubs and societies are usually formed when one or more people with similar interests want to:

In Australia we have the Microscopical Society of Australia (MSA) of which I am a member. After a while I realized that my needs were not being met i.e.. I was interested in looking at microscopical objects/ specimens as well as the processes involved in preparing the same objects for examination as prepared slides under a microscope. I felt that this was the most important aspect of microscopy. Without properly mounted specimens what is the use for a microscope? It was OK to talk about historical instruments and the physics of light and objects but I just wanted to use the microscope to observe microscopical objects.

I had an idea to form a Club or Society but was not quite sure what guidelines it should follow. I then heard about the Postal Microscopical society in the UK and wrote and asked for help in designing a club along similar lines. I was fortunate enough to get some very good help especially where the rules were concerned but I was unsure of how to start it going. My good friend John Tolliday was instrumental with being a sounding board and we discussed the idea and it was he who really gave me the impetus to get started.

 One thing we both wanted was that it should be called a CLUB and not a society. The word Club instils an amateur idea where members do not have to be university graduates or academics to belong. We wanted members from all ages and walks of life. We did not and do not want it to become too technical but have a 'hands-on' approach. We also try to get members to interact with each other on a casual basis.

How do you make it known that a new club exists and that it will serve members and not be a 'fly- by-night' enterprise as well as not making me a millionaire! Yes I have been asked on many occasions 'How much are you making from it'? (The annual accounts are printed in the fist newsletter of each year for scrutiny).

First of all I sent a note to the editor of the MSA newsletter asking for a small inclusion. This was granted and was duly placed. Not long afterwards I received several applications for membership. My first target was to reach a membership of 10 (this would give us a complete circuit) but I soon realized that I should up this target to 20 in a very short space of time. As I had quite a large stock of prepared microscope slides at hand, this became the basis for slide sets to be sent around the circuit, and still does.

 I also had to very quickly learn about word processing and newsletter design and printing as members wanted a newsletter. One member offered to design the front cover which is still being used today. I toyed with the idea of a couple of pages but my enthusiasm pushed me to a first issue of 24 pages a target which I try to attain for every issue unless it is an anniversary issue such as issue 15. This was to celebrate 5 years of continuous achievement. No Mean Feat!

 As time went by more and more members were joining up and news of our existence seemed to travel by word of mouth. I wrote a story about the club for my local newspaper and it was successful in adding a few more members. I then thought about getting TV involved. I mentioned this to a friend of mine who has contacts here and there, and before I knew it a TV channel asked if I would do a short stint on their 'morning' show. This was organized and was a success. The TV station was besieged with telephone calls after the interview although not all became members.

 As membership grew I noticed that it comprised nearly all of adults. So I thought about how to get young people such as children or teenagers involved. I mentioned this to a member who then organized a meeting with science teachers in a high school which did not prove too successful. We tried to get teachers involved which hopefully would lead to the students becoming interested. However, teachers told us that they were working hard teaching the current curriculum without having to 'add' to their burden.

Before I knew it we had over 40 members and still rising. My target then became 50. A mention was made in a teachers magazine which produced a few members and still membership was rising. A notice was placed in the UK's newsletter which resulted in an immediate response from a person who was migrating to Australia and wanted to let me know that he would join up when he reached these shores. Not long after we signed up a 'real' overseas member and he is still with us.

As I was the one who started the Club I was also the bunny doing all of the work. This entailed the jobs of Secretary, Editor, Writer, Paster-upperer of the newsletter and Slide Circuit Manager, which involved getting slides ready, writing a few notes in notebooks and sending them out to members. It became serious when I did not find time to look down a microscope!!!! I then advertised for HEELLLPPPP!! And luckily I managed to pass off the Slide circuit managers job and this has relieved a lot of work from my shoulders. I would like to give up the job of Secretary or Editor but at the moment I can still handle them both. Still I would not have to be asked twice.

At the present moment we have about 65 members and still rising. Quite an achievement for such humble beginnings. It has taken a lot of sweat and enthusiasm but I feel it has been worth it. I have personally made new friends and acquaintances and I am sure that I will make more in the future. I feel that if more members became involved in writing something for the newsletter it would make for better reading. This is the area of most concern as they are in for a shock next year when I send them a newsletter with only 4 pages or whatever has been submitted.

All in all it has been a fun 6 years of operation since our 'birth' and I feel that we are now in our youth after graduating from our first teething troubles. In just a few years we shall reach adulthood but I hope that we do not die a premature death.

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 Editor's note: the Microscopy UK and Micscape Editors would like to thank Mike Dingley, who is a new contributor to Micscape magazine, for submitting this original article.

 

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