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What do you want from a microscope club?

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Alan Wood

Joined: 29 Dec 2010
Posts: 292
Location: Near London, U.K.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 8:56 am    Post subject: What do you want from a microscope club? Reply with quote

What do you want from a microscope club?

In the UK we have clubs for amateurs that meet regularly in Bergh Apton (Norfolk), Chasewater (Cornwall), Leeds, London, Manchester, Northampton and Reading and have occasional meetings in Bickenhall (Somerset), Bradfield St George (Suffolk), Husbands Bosworth (Leicestershire), Langton Matravers (Dorset), Lockington (Leicestershire), Penkridge (Staffordshire) and Pool in Wharfedale (West Yorkshire).

They offer lectures, workshops, gossips, sales, excursions and residential weekends.

Sounds great, but they are all having trouble getting new people to come to meetings.

Please can you tell us what would persuade you to come to meetings?

Alan Wood
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Joined: 05 Jul 2013
Posts: 1510
Location: Malvern, UK

PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bluntly, nothing.

I doubt a microscope club would hold my attention for long, even if there was one near me (which there isn't). I love dabbling with my microscopes and photographing stuff through them, but it's the "doing" that rings my bell. Personally meeting like-minded souls and "talking" about doing, or listening to someone else talking about it, just doesn't appeal. I can do that online in forums like this or through personal correspondence (which I do) and have a far greater breadth of expertise to draw on from around the world.

Workshops are more interesting, but once every few months (and feeling obliged to attend the other stuff as well) isn't particularly attractive.

I have wondered about this - if a microscope group were part of a broader, related "collective" such as a camera club, then maybe I'd be more inclined to join in. But in practice, I don't think this has legs either. I'm a member of the 2nd largest camera club in the Midlands (UK) with around 150 members. In that group, there are maybe 6 members who express any interest in microscopes at all, and I'm the only one that you could call an enthusiast.

So it seems to me that amateur microscopists are a very rare breed, often a bit insular (like me?), and that's why recruitment is so difficult. Also, and I admit this is a cynical view, microscopy takes effort and no small measure of patience and persistence to get results. That's not entirely compatible with modern attitudes IMO.

Anyway, sorry to start the responses on a negative note. I'm not against microscope clubs at all, but I fear they are always going to have a limited, niche appeal offline. Looking forward to the discussion and hearing other views...
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Joined: 22 May 2014
Posts: 1801
Location: Texas USA

PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


I think your UK clubs are as good as they get. People may be simply too busy.

It may help to recruit new members, if you can share most of that meeting experience online (I know you are already hosting meeting photos, though videos may be even better). I understand it is logistically difficult though.

I mostly agree with Beats.

I actually discussed the possibility of organizing a local microscopy club with a local microscopist friend, using your UK clubs as models. The problem is, I have never managed to meet that friend in person, even though we tried many times. Out schedule rarely match up. Not to mention meeting more new people.

Personally, I would attend meetings more actively, when:
1) I need to buy/sell stuff;
2) I am starting and need to learn a lot quickly;
3) I am extremely bored.

Otherwise, I find it hard to find time to attend meetings, as I have to fulfill many other responsibilities first. Online forums / Google and emails get thing done more efficiently.

As a related note:

I just looked into a local seashell club and thought about attending a few times, even though I already have most of the shells that I want. I mainly want to find more venues for hobbysit buying/selling, and let my son meet new people.

So I asked my 7 year old son, who is also an enthusiastic seashell collector, but an slightly shy boy. He said it very bluntly: "#1, I only like handling seashells myself and don't care much about other people talking about it; #2, I don't see many kids there and people there are new and often older than my grandpa." Even though I assured him members there are very kind and friendly.

I would go to those meetings, if my son would go with me, but it is hard for me to go otherwise - I would have to ask my wife (who also loves seashells, but is very busy) to take care of our kids, when I leave. That is often difficult.

I know many audio clubs meet only once or twice a year. Audio clubs are enjoyed by more (and younger) people, but still, most activities occur online, rather than at in-person meetings. Each time, a local meeting would usually have less than 20 attendants, even for a big city like Houston (Texas/USA). More often, people only attend bigger regional meetings every (other) year, even though those big meetings have a lot of experienced members and commercial vendors/sponsors there.
Selling my Canon FD 200mm F/2.8 lens
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Joined: 06 Sep 2011
Posts: 1003

PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Speaking for myself, I'm a recent recruit to the world of microscopy, and I'm eager to learn more. So I have joined Quekett, and I'll keep that membership up, but:

Access to the web and its reams of amazing forums and websites means that information is now readily available, as is dialogue and engagement with international experts. This means that information-hungry people are less likely to join a club and more likely to browse online, unless that club offers something that online doesn't.

Speaking for myself, I have severe time pressures, and with two teenage children I don't often have the freedom to do activities that I want. I am sure that I will come along to an excursion but the dates have unfortunately not worked out for me the last couple of times.

Camera clubs hold no attraction for me. Many people in those are learners and I have found little to learn from in the club talks myself. Unfortunately when I joined one I quickly became the guy whose photos were trotted out to every competition to make the club look good and I'm just not into that. For me the primary purpose of a camera club would be to learn and improve and I can do that better through online forums and my own experimentation. On the flip side though I do go out and give talks at clubs, and the feedback is always that it was interesting because people learn from the talks.
My extreme-macro.co.uk site, a learning site. Your comments and input there would be gratefully appreciated.
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Robert Berdan

Joined: 18 Oct 2017
Posts: 143
Location: Calgary

PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2018 5:50 pm    Post subject: What do I want from a club Reply with quote

Interesting question. I am looking at starting a microscpy club in Calgary in the future if there is enough interest. I belong to a microscopy users group at the University of Calgary which consists mainly of faculty and graduate students. I enjoy attending lectures on new microscopy techniques. I would also like to promote photography through the microscope and more macrophotography. I have been a member of Photography clubs and the most enjoyable part for me was to see the photos of different artists and learn why they took the pictures they did. I often gained some insight in what they were trying to achieve even though I might not be attracted to that form of photography. I believe my first task is to show folks the beauty in the invisible world and hope it inspires them to want to learn more and\or take photos themselves. The specimens are everywhere and there are many amazing creatures to see. The cost for a entry level microscope is about $100 used and camera adapters can be purchased for $20-100 so the entry cost is low compared to camera equipment in general. It also doesn't have to be as lonely as astrophotography - one doesn't have to stay out until early hours of the morning to see interesting creatures and it can be enjoyed all year long. Snowflakes, Diatoms, Rotifers, Water bears are fascinating and beautiful and I hope to show them and the art of photomicrography in the future. At least I will give it a try - you can see some samples on my web site: www.canadiannaturephotographer.com if you like - though I cover all aspects of nature photography. I am getting emails from folks wanting to buy microscopes and attach their cameras. At least it is a start.
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Joined: 22 Jan 2018
Posts: 59
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2018 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm in a micromineral collectors club in the Denver area. At 50, I'm typically the youngest person in the room; about 12-15 attend each monthly meeting. I think I'm also the active member that lives farthest away, I typically drive just over an hour to attend.

The things that draw me are the talks (usually pretty good) and the passing-around of materials to view. The members bring in specimens, and the museum brings ~50 specimens out of its collection for the club meeting. The last is a nice touch. Most of the members bring their own scopes (usually their "travel" scope) and the club has a few loaners, including long-term loaners.

I would imagine that, if you could coordinate with a museum or university to get access to some of their collection of mounted/prepared specimens, that might serve as a draw.
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