Archive for the ‘guest writers’ Category

Australia’s 1st Petrol-Driven Lawn Mower – City of Canada Bay Museum

Mowhall Mower Canada Bay Museum

The story behind Lawrence Hall’s ‘Mowhall’ mower and Mervyn Richardson’s ‘Victa’

Lawrence Hall was a self-taught inventor who went on to become a Marine Engineer. In 1948, tired pushing a lawnmower around his mother’s lawn and around the grounds of the Cabarita Speedboat Club he set about finding an easier way to get the job done.

Using his engineering knowledge he set about building a motorised lawnmower. Using a disc from a plough, tin cans and steel pipe scraps he constructed a prototype powered by another of Hall’s inventions, a three-horsepower marine engine. In 1993 the Sydney Morning Herald interviewed his son Walter who claimed that “It was a heavy old monster and I nearly cut my foot off with it.”

But Walter also claims that this prototype of Hall’s ‘Mowhall’ mower, was used before Mervyn Victor Richardson’s ‘Victa’ mower was ever built. Richardson, who went on to be credited by most people for inventing Australia’s first petrol-engine rotary mower, started work on his ‘Victa’ mower in a garage in Concord in 1952.

Eventually the ‘Victa’ mower made Richardson a multi-millionaire but while many agree he deserved credit for his insight into the mower’s potential others, like Walter, also felt he copied the basic form and method of propulsion from Lawrence Hall’s “Mowhall” mower. The Hall family’s claim is backed up by John Longhurst who was a teenager apprenticed to Hall as a fitter and machinist around this time.

According to Longhurst, Merve Richardson, then an associate of Hall’s, visited the workshop one day when Hall was fitting his mower with a ’snorkel’ to prevent the engine being clogged with dust. After Merve commented on what a wonderful idea it was Hall proceeded to demonstrate how the mower could cut even the longest grass.

Eventually Richardson came up with the ‘Victa’ mower which was much lighter and more compact in design and which would go on to make millions. Hall’s ‘Mowhall’ mower while far less successful is arguably no less important to this great Australian story of invention. It is certainly rarer and this “Mowhall” mower has been on display in the Concord Heritage Society Museum since the 1980s, accompanied by a sign declaring it to be “the machine from which all modern mowers were copies”.

Concord Heritage Society Museum
Opening hours: Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
1 Bent Street, Concord
Group visits by arrangement.
Admission FREE (donations welcome)

Post from Lois Michel, Concord Historical Society


“La Stupenda” in Canberra – ACT Heritage Library

La Stupenda Mobile Quest Program

As we mourn the passing of Dame Joan Sutherland, Canberra remembers her performing at local venues at least three times in her career.

As one of Stars of the Mobil Quest 1950, a very young Joan Sutherland performed at the Albert Hall on 15 September 1950. It was also the first outing of the Canberra Concert Orchestra conducted by Les Pogson. The Canberra Times declared it a “delightful concert”.

Local audiences did not see the soprano again until 27 August 1976 at the Canberra when she gave a recital accompanied by her husband Richard Bonynge. Canberra Times reviewer, WL Hoffman said it was “La Stupenda at her magnificent best…”

The couple again played the Canberra Theatre on 31 August 1980, when Joan played the title role in the Australian Opera production of Lucia di Lammermoor and Bonynge conducted the orchestra.

All featured programmes and clippings are part of the ACT Heritage Library’s extensive performing arts ephemera collection.

A list of holdings for performances at the Canberra Theatre and Australian National University venues can be found on the library’s website.

Submitted by Antoinette Buchanan
Senior Librarian, ACT Heritage Library
ACT Library and Information Services


Museum3 – from network to not-for-profit!

Museums 3 Ning Logo 2010

Post by Associate Professor Angelina Russo.

It’s been just over two and a half years since we established Museum3.0. What started as an idea for connecting cultural professionals online, has grown to a network of over 2500 members and is still going strong!

Earlier this year, the network provider (Ning) announced changes to it’s structure. While these changes didn’t make a huge difference to us (we already paid for premium services) they came at the same time as we were realising that the network was now larger than we could have ever anticipated. With so many members, Lynda Kelly and I put our heads together to try and come up with a structure which would enable the network to grow and give us some entity through which to manage and sustain this growth.

The upshot?
We decided to incorporate as a not-for-profit organisation! This gives us a legal entity through which to advocate, create and develop new knowledge, projects and collaborations. It also means we can do simple things like book venues for conferences!!

With an initial executive board made up of the members of our current research project (Timothy Hart, Melbourne Museum; Sebastian Chan, Powerhouse Museum, Lynda Kelly, Australian Museum and myself, RMIT University) we are currently finalising the constitution so that we can establish ourselves in the next few weeks.

Why now?
To begin with, Museum3 was supported by our current collaborative research project Engaging with Social Media in Museums. This project explored the impact of social media on museum learning and communication. The project supported Lynda and my time to explore the potential of the network. As the project nears its end, neither of us would have a remit through which to maintain the network. By establishing as a not-for-profit, we are able to demonstrate an outcome of the project which, while unexpected, has benefits well beyond the academic papers which were written throughout the three year research program.

What came out of Museum3
Throughout the past 2 1/2 years a number of groups have formed on the network, enabling like-minded professionals to contribute to discussions surrounding the changes in the sector. Additionally, two specialised groups were formed by students to share their research and to create a global network of up and coming museum professionals. We are particularly proud of this outcome and hope to be able to support it further within the new organisation.

What’s next?
Earlier this week we published the ‘objects’ or aims of the organisation which will become part of our constitution. We asked the network for their thoughts and received terrific feedback which has enabled us to hone the objects to meet the needs of our network. It is this type of participation which is of particular interest to me as it demonstrates a dedicated, supportive and critical discourse within which to evolve.

We’re currently trialling the new graphics and establishing new features which will include tiered membership (an issue which we also posted to our network for feedback), our inaugural conference and first AGM (14 – 15 April 2011, Melbourne) and specialist research workspaces.

In the future we want to develop webinars, podcasts and teaching resources.

We’re very excited about these developments and are particularly proud of the thoughtful contributions we have received all the way along.

So, in the next few weeks, this is what we will become:

Museum3 –

Museum3 is a global network for those interested in the future of museums, galleries, science centres, libraries & archives. It seeks to:

(a) Develop and maintain an engaged, creative and connected community of global cultural institution professionals and advocates; encouraging innovation through knowledge exchange, networking, research, design development and outreach activities.

(b) Provide an environment that promotes the evolutionary development of the cultural institution sector fostering the exchange of innovative online and onsite practices in a critical and supportive space.

(c) Develop positive perceptions by members, visitors and the broader community about the cultural sector’s role in inspirational and sustainable programs of communication, both onsite and online.

(d) Enhance and effectively share knowledge, ideas, skills and innovations about the cultural institution sector (libraries, museums, galleries, archives and broadcasters) by promoting movable cultural heritage.

(e) Provide advocacy and support to the cultural institution sector to develop and maintain partnerships with media, business, government and other cultural services organizations to facilitate cross-fertilisation of ideas, information exchange and joint projects to the benefit of heritage collections and places.

In the meantime, you can find us at

All thoughts and comments greatly appreciated!

Associate Professor Angelina Russo, PhD
RMIT University
School of Media and Communication
Building 9, Level 2, Room 4

Phone +613 99252753


The Quest for Quolls (aka native cat and tiger cat)

Quests are adventures usually with a cause and a redemptive goal and it seemed fitting to term this blogpost as a quest for quolls. CAN received an email recently from Dr David Peacock (Research Officer – NRM Biosecurity Unit Biosecurity SA) asking for help from the Australian collecting community with finding artefacts with quoll fur and historical evidence of quolls. Dave and his colleague Ian Abbott are collecting historical accounts of the “native cat” and “tiger cat”, animals now called quolls, to advance contemporary understanding of these species. They have found that the eastern quoll in particular, now only found in Tasmania, was extremely common and was generally mercilessly persecuted, for reasons such as to prevent their raiding of chicken coops, as well as for the fur trade.

Tiger Quoll | CC-BY | Pierre Pouliquin

Tiger Quoll | CC-BY | Pierre Pouliquin


During their searches they have come across numerous accounts of “native cat” and “tiger cat” skin prices; and their skins for sale, being made into “blankets”, “rugs”, “carriage-wraps” and the like, including a 1922 advertisement for children’s coats manufactured at a place in Geelong, Victoria, from The Argus, 6 September 1922. Another example of these accounts is from 1886: ‘… A very handsome and remarkable rug, made from Tasmanian furs, is exhibited by W. A. Gardner, Esq., of Launceston. The centre is of the fur of the native cat, and is surrounded by the fur of the tiger cat and common native cat, with border of opossum’. Tasmania, for one, exported “native cat” and “tiger cat” skins to England as early as 1826, with material sent to Europe for the trade exhibitions as early as 1854, so perhaps such an historical artifact has survived in a European museum?

The Argus, 6 September 1922

The Argus, 6 September 1922

For Dave’s talks on these historical quoll accounts he has wanted an image of one of these “native cat” or “tiger cat” skin coats, blankets, etc. to help people understand (visualise) one of the reasons for the decline and regional extinction of these species. However he has been unable to locate such an image and wants some help from the wider collecting community here in sourcing useful support material and images. Dave and Ian want to know if anyone on CAN have such a “native cat” or “tiger cat” skin rug or blanket image, or one of a pile of quoll skins (such as exist for the koala), or perhaps might know of such an image? They would of course appropriately cite the image. If such an image existed, they strongly advocate that it be added to a heritage collection as it would be a very rare record of what was a very common species and the usage of its fur here in Australia.

With accounts such as “In Western Victoria the stony grassy plains are their great haunt, and every station has a permanent barrel trap, near the slaughter yard, for the sole purpose of catching these animals. I have frequently, after slaughtering a beast, caught as many as twenty of a night in one of these traps” (from 1879), it is a shame they don’t have a photo, or surviving “barrel trap”, as an artefact of the early settlers efforts to tame Australia’s now regionally extinct fauna! Dave and Ian have already used museum specimens, c.f. artefacts in their work. In their recent paper just sent to Australian Journal of Zoology entitled ‘The mongoose in Australia: failed introduction of a biological control agent’, they liaised with the state museums to detail what mongoose were held in their collections. From this they hypothesised that the approximately 1000 mongoose introduced into Australia to control the rabbit plague were probably the Indian Grey Mongoose, as this is the species of which Australia seems to have the most specimens. For this quoll research, originally the purpose was to help justify the reintroduction of quolls to South Australia as a native rabbit predator. Dave and his colleague are so glad of the National Library of Australia’s efforts to digitise old newspapers! With a search word and much time, but inordinately less effort than having to use a microfilm reader and luck with visual scanning, they have sourced many hundreds of records, and with them much insight into Australia’s faunal history. Seeking out collection items (artefacts) have not been a part of their searching, yet they represent an important tangible visual record of Australian history, and somewhat validate the relevant historical accounts they have located in their work.

Just to give you a bit of background on Ian and Dave’s research and how using unique collection materials is key to their work. Ian has also utilised old explorer and surveyor diaries to establish the origin of the feral cat arriving in Australia from 19th century European releases and not Dutch shipwrecks of the 1600s as others have hypothesised. Ian’s original paper, culminating from significant time researching, is ‘Abbott, I. (2002) Origin and spread of the cat, Felis catus, on mainland Australia, with a discussion of the magnitude of its early impact on native fauna. Wildlife Research 29(1), 51-74.’. Dave when writing his PhD he spent weeks in the Battye library in Perth going through reels of microfilm, mainly of The Western Mail, for accounts of wildlife, such as bronzewing pigeons, being poisonous to cats and dogs from their feeding on the 1080 poison-producing Gastrolobium plants. That huge effort should finally be published next month in Australian Zoologist

Dr David Peacock, Biosecurity SA

Dr David Peacock, Biosecurity SA


Dave and his colleague Ian would love diary, newspaper or other accounts and artefacts (like rugs, or skins) the Australian collecting community might have, or know of. Dave’s details are below if anyone has quoll related collection material in their collection they’d like to bring to light to help with this research.


Postal address: GPO Box 1671 Adelaide SA 5001
Location address: Building 1, Soil & Water Environs, Entry 4, Waite Rd, Urrbrae SA
Phone: 08 8303 9504
Fax: 08 8303 9555


Redeveloping Culture Victoria: Simon Sherrin

Culture Victoria relaunched its website earlier this month so that it can be more easily indexed by search engines and viewed on mobile devices. Victorian Cultural Network (VCN) Manager Simon Sherrin shares the redevelopment process with CAN Partners. He offers insights into best practice for putting collections online and makes suggestions on how Victorian organisations can work with Culture Victoria.

What was the main reason you redeveloped the Culture Victoria site?
There were a couple of reasons. A lot of the content of the site was contained within Flash, and it wasn’t possible to directly link to an object within a particular story. For example, you might be browsing the site and Herbert Schmalz’s “Too Late” particularly moving. You can direct a friend straight to that image by sending them the URL. On the old site, if you wanted to share that with a friend, you could only give someone a link to the story, and tell them to click on the images link and look at the 5th, sorry, 6th image in the slideshow.

In addition, the Culture Portal providing our cross-agency search was closing on the 1st of July, giving us a deadline for getting that functionality up and running.

We are also expanding the ways that you can access and explore our content that wouldn’t have fitted with the old design.

What is the benefit of using HTML over Flash?
As a general rule, it’s easier to make content accessible with HTML than Flash. It’s also easier for Google and other search engines to index your content. For example, with the old version of the site, we had 161 pages in Google’s database. While Google hasn’t finished crawling the new version of the site, there are now 3680 entries in Google’s database. By the time it finishes, we’ll have over 4000 distinct entries. The upshot of that is Culture Victoria results will appear in more search results. The ability to directly link to objects will, hopefully, increase the amount of external sites linking to Culture Victoria, which will improve the rank of our pages within search engine results.

How has the collections search been improved?
The previous version of the site didn’t have collection specific search results. Cultural organisations in Victoria are now offering the collection search on their own sites, for example:
NGV Collection,
Museum Victoria Collection,
Geelong Gallery.

Initially we’ve been working with the core Victorian Cultural Network (VCN) partners to provide OpenSearch formatted result sets from these searches. This allows us to query their search engines and display those results as separate to website results. We’ll be adding collection searches from them as their OpenSearch responses come online.

Are there plans to separate the collection search from the web search?
Beyond having collection search results on their own tabs, we don’t have any immediate plans to separate collection search results and web search. That may change as the number of Victorian organisations providing OpenSearch increases.

Do you have any future plans for Google Maps within the site?
Over the next couple of months we’ll be adding geo-location data to our stories and objects. Combined with a Google Map, users will be able to see stories and objects related to particular cities and regions.

How will CV Partners upload content? What type of material will this be?
We have developed online software (story builder) that allows partners to directly upload content. We will moderate uploads initially until we are comfortable with the process. Currently we have 16 metro-regional content partners who are developing an exciting range of stories about their collections and activities. Subject range from Aboriginal culture, Burke and Wills expedition, choral music, RSL collections, textile manufacturing, through to Victoria’s distributed craft collections.

Do you have plans to build an iPhone or iPad application for CV?
We are working on making all the content on the site available on smartphones and other mobile devices. One part of that was re-encoding videos into H.264. We’re also looking at how we can use the location-aware nature of those devices, to highlight near-by organisations for example.

As for plans for a specific iPhone/iPad app, yes, yes we do, but we’re going to play that close to our chest for the moment. ;-)

Do you have any advice for an organisation starting to research putting their own collection online? What are the main issues they would need to take into account?
There are two pieces of advice I’d give to an organisation putting their collection online. The first is that all the data you use should feed out of your collection management system. That’s not to say the website is accessing the collection management system database directly, but rather any change made to an object record should appear automatically in the online collection. Separate systems will get out of sync almost immediately.

The second is that all images/videos of collection items should all be stored at their original resolution, which should be as large as possible. Disk space is getting cheaper and automatic resizing of images for a website is straight forward.

With hindsight, would you do anything differently?
The only thing that I’d do differently would be to have briefed the graphic designers about one or two weeks earlier.

How do you measure web traffic? Do you compare notes with your Partner organisations in terms of how people come into the site?
We use Google Analytics to measure visitation to the site. We also use Google Webmaster tools, which gives more information about who’s linking to the site and also how our pages appear in Google’s search results. We don’t have a problem with comparing notes with our partner organisation if that’s useful to them.


Journeys – where history meets geography: Asa Letourneau

My name is Asa Letourneau. I work at Public Record Office Victoria, in the Online Access team. I contribute to the team across a range of initiatives including online exhibitions, social media applications, and website development.

In early May this year I put a call out to all of PROV asking if anyone would like to put together a team for the App My State Hack Day. It was pretty short notice (the Hack day started in 3 days!) but fortunately I got a yes from a colleague, Abigail Belfrage, who works in Online Business Development at PROV.

With some trepidation but buoyed up with a healthy dose of WE CAN DO THIS!! we turned up to Box Hill TAFE for the Hack Day (really a weekend which neither of us could totally commit to because of children and lives etc…). Anyway we teamed up with two complete strangers (web developers/coders) and between the four of us came up with the concept behind Journeys. We wanted to build an app that overlays historic records over a contemporary landscape — bringing the past into the present. The rest is history. We ended up winning the Hack Day and had just enough of a taste of the dizzying heights of minor celebrity status to push on and make a go of it for the main prize — the App My State Open Competition.

What followed over the course of the next 12 days was a lot of blood, sweat, tears, Google waves, Skype calls, Tweets, numerous emails and, God forbid, a face to face catch up with the whole team. We made the competition deadline entering our very BETA BETA app Journeys (which is still so BETA!). Here’s some choice words from Abigail that she wrote for the App My State entry application and the Journeys site respectively.

Journeys is a website devoted to mapping digitised cultural collections such as maps, data and images. Utilising Google Earth functionality, it has a ‘tour’ feature that allows users to virtually fly over landscapes, populated with images or maps relating to that landscape. A user in the site can create a map by layering historical records over the contemporary landscape. People can learn about geography through history, and history through geography and, with the opacity functionality, experience a map merging into the landscape. Journeys can be a powerful research tool for learning about places, communities and individuals around Victoria.

We even gave the team the name Mappster. We are a team that began as strangers (and now are good friends) who busted a mighty move at the App My State Hack Day 8 May 2010, building Journeys in less than 24 hours. Emboldened by Journeys’ win on the day, Mappster resolved to grow the app, and enter it in the App My State competition 12 days later!

Who is Mappster?
Abigail Belfrage, content & design. History and archives nerd, budding geek. Dreams about maps and mapping in her spare time.
Asa Letourneau, content & design. web2.0 junkie
Nguyen Ly, coder & UX junkie who thinks sleep is overrated! By day he’s a professional .Net enterprise applications developer.
Gregor McNish, an old programmer trying to keep up rather than getting sucked into management.

While we didn’t end up winning the App My State Competition, we did learn an awful lot from the experience, met some great people and produced something that we are now going to take further. Even the team is still together! Despite Journeys being a private venture, we have started using the skills and knowledge acquired to promote similar projects back at PROV and feel confident that a culture of mapping historical records will grow from strength to strength.

So there you have it. Journeys: where history meets geography and where people can engage with historical records in a truly interactive way.


Convergence: Albury City LibraryMuseum: Carina Clement

Carina Clement talks to CAN about the benefits and challenges of cross-pollination within the new Albury City LibraryMuseum facility. As the Cultural Programs Team Leader, she has been working with the team to fine tune the convergence process — from collection policy and education right through to professional development and infrastructure. This is an edited transcript of an interview made at the LibraryMuseum in late April. Ms Clement’s slides from a presentation are also embedded into this article for those wanting to learn more.

When we first started the plan for the building, it was always going to be a co-located library and museum. Then we were asked what facilities we could share — what synergies are there between libraries and museums? So I think we started looking at what models were out there and state libraries were certainly one of those models, in that they have collections that are not just books and electronic resources, they have objects, artefacts, photographs and maps, etcetera.

Albury City LibraryMuseum

They had that whole range of resources. They have exhibition spaces. They curate exhibitions so that was done in one of their models. In the local government area, in Australia the Parramatta Heritage Centre, was another of our models in that it’s a museum, a community art space, a local studies space and they have integrated interest information. They have integrated staffing so that was one of the places we looked at.

Puke Ariki, Taranaki in New Zealand was probably the model we followed most closely, and that opened in I think 2003. Like us, they have been on a long convergence journey and have continually changed structures and services. It is a library, a museum, touring space, tourist information and has two restaurants. It’s in New Plymouth, North Island in New Zealand. It’s brought enormous economic revitalisation to the waterfront. We’ve had some apartment blocks built across the road that I think probably having this cultural facility here, there was a more of an impetus to build those buildings.

Collection policy
So when we started our research we were looking at what models were out there. We were also asking ourselves what were the synergies between libraries and museum. Collection management was certainly the first area that we looked at. At that time we had a museum manager, a library manager, and an art gallery manager. The museum manager accepted a range of objects and documents into her collection, and the Library Local Studies collected documents, maps and photographs. So we thought, well, wouldn’t it make sense that we dealt with the local studies in the museum collection as one so that we’re not double collecting.

We’re actually dealing with it as one collection where there may be secondary sources, like a map. We don’t have to decide, oh, no, does that belong in the local studies collection, or does that belong in the museum collection. Well, no, it belongs in the Albury City Heritage Collection.

When we were looking at the design or the thought for this building, we started thinking how it could become that hub of library and museum convergence. If you’re a serious researcher, you could get a book off the shelf and also be able to look up the catalogue. To do that, obviously everything needed to be on one catalogue. Then we started thinking, well, what about the gallery collection.

Merging databases
At that stage we didn’t actually own our library catalogue. We were part of a regional library service. We’re no longer. So we didn’t actually own that library data. So we couldn’t at that stage move towards one consolidated database. We had to look at building a search engine, at that stage, across three separate databases: the library catalogue, the museum catalogue and the art gallery catalogue.

The first step was because we owned the data for both the gallery and the museum we were able to merge that data into the database. We put in a grant and were able to develop a search engine that operated across LIBERO, which is a library catalogue, then the other two.

We employed a collection manager Jim McCain to manage the process. He dealt with some of the entrenched issues associated with the different fields used in galleries, libraries and museums. He was able to develop the search engine to search the fields across the two databases. Now that we own our library data, we can look at one consolidated database.

Staff restructure
We started working under a converged management structure in 2006. We’ve had three staff structures since then. So every two years we change our staff structure, 2006, 2008, and we just changed it a couple of weeks ago, 2010. And we learn as we go along.

Outreach and Public Programs
We have an educationalist. She’s got an education and visual arts background. She has four staff under her who had some specialties in museum, library, and visual arts so they’re able to work across all program areas. Whilst they have specialties in particular areas, they have flexibility that they can take a tour of school kids to the art gallery even if their specialty is library. We’re able to package programs to incorporate all of our venues and we’ll have one staff member to take that tour.

Audience development
Audience development probably was another major thrust and why we went towards convergence quite aggressively. We really thought that it was very much about providing new opportunities for audience.

In this facility we wanted our traditional library users to come in and not just use our library, but find out about museums. They may not be museum attendees, so when we developed the design brief for the building, we made sure that there were spaces where exhibitions could occur. So it’s really important that we have those wide spaces where we can have some exhibitions and we can flow and bleed some of those areas into each other.

We’re still working out through areas on how to flow a bit better. We have had signage, and we’ve taken it away, and we need to put it back. It works well, that audience development by stealth almost. But we could do it better. Certainly the attendance for this building has been grand for a regional center. We have about 20,000 visitors a month, which is pretty good for a regional center, compared to the old museum, which had 9,000 a year.

In terms of things that haven’t worked well, you’re working without those established boundaries and alongside people with professional knowledge. We came to convergence and popped people into positions they didn’t necessarily have the skills and background for. So we moved immediately from having, as I said before, having a library manager, a museum manager and a gallery manager, to having an operations team leader and a programs team leader.

So we moved from three service or facility management positions to two that were across the library, museum and gallery. An operations manager was responsible for collections management, customer service and information management. And my role as programs team leader was responsible for exhibitions, programs and outreach and collection development, so we split out collections.

People floundered. There wasn’t enough change management support. We started implementing the structure at the same time that we moved into this facility. It was all a bit stressful. There were elements of the structure that weren’t working. There wasn’t enough focus given to collection management. Michelle and I, as library trained people, have gained museum qualifications in the last three years and we have a number of other staff also undertaking museum studies at different levels, which is great. Skill development is really important.

There was a demand for programming, and so we put our energy and effort into that. We probably didn’t put our energy so much into curating our own exhibitions or into developing our own collections. There were some staff who probably, from some of the professional areas we had on board, who didn’t buy convergence at all. And I think that and they seemed threatened. If you don’t like change, you leave, or you become very, very, very bitter and you get forced to leave.

Anyway, we changed in our models a few times. Since we’ve put much more focus on collection management. We realise in some areas that that professionalism, that professional knowledge is really important. And so now in our most recent incarnation, which is only a month or so old, we’ve gone back to specialists who manage visual arts, libraries and our heritage collection.

So we have acknowledged that but we still have the convergence. We realise that probably you need someone to be responsible for facility, not responsible for certain functions in the facility, so that facility management.
You need someone ultimately responsible for the library museum and the gallery. We didn’t have that previously. We had someone responsible for the bits of the library museum and bits of the gallery. But there is still converged programming and converged exhibitions within the collections area.

We received quite a lot of industry flak, particularly from the visual arts area. I’ll say that. There was a real feeling because we didn’t have a director of the gallery or a position named a curator, that we had downgraded the gallery. I think that in the library museum industry looked at us with interest. Not as aggressively as the visual arts sector did.

CAN interviewed Carina Clement at the Albury City LibraryMuseum on the 28th of April 2010.


A story of beauty, connection and healing: Lee Darroch

The possum skin cloak revitalisation project has become central to the healing process in many communities across Victoria. Contemporary artist Lee Darroch says when a person puts a cloak over their shoulders, their spine stiffens with pride. She sees the cloaks as an opportunity to help communities develop a stronger understanding of where they came from and learn their ancestors’ stories.

In 1999, Darroch first became fascinated with possum skin cloaks after seeing the original Lake Condah cloak (1872) in the Melbourne Museum. It is only one of two original cloaks remaining in Australia and there are six cloaks in collections in the United States and Europe. Over the last ten years, Darroch has worked with sisters Vicki and Debra Couzens, Treahna Hamm, Maree Clarke and Amanda Reynolds to not only teach but also make contemporary cloaks that have been acquired by major collecting institutions across the country. The Collections Australia Network (CAN) is working with these women to upload the cloaks into the national collection database so they can be accessed by curators, researchers and the general public.

This is video interview was made at Lee Darroch’s studio on Raymond Island, Gippsland where she has started making possum skin cloaks for babies and children.


Challenges ACMI face: Nick Richardson

ACMI’s Collections and Access Manager Nick Richardson talks to CAN about the challenges the new Mediatheque deals with onsite and online — from access rights and digital preservation to audience evaluation and reporting to its content partners. In September 2009 it opened in Melbourne’s Federation Square as the shopfront for the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) collections. The Centre has managed to secure 13 content partners – all of the television networks, government agencies, major educational institutions dealing with moving image and sound, together with a number of the production houses. The collaboration has allowed Mediatheque users to access a million items, including 160, 000 items predominantly on traditional analog forms, tape, disc, film from ACMI’s collection.

Please take us on a tour of the Mediatheque.
Each of the 11 booths in the room has a tape and disc combo player. We’re really excited we’ve now got digitised content on what we call the VOD, or the video on demand system, which is a touch screen interface in each of the booths. There’s a range of curated highlighted packages, which allow us to illuminate aspects of the collection or provide a way into the collection because of an event or an activity, or a period of year. We’ve obviously got a package of stories, as well as the films of Adam Elliot to coincide with the exhibition which is going on downstairs, which we should have a look at. Also, as you pointed out then, a range of films, from filmmakers while they were still at school generally. This one is Sarah Watt, Gillian Armstrong, Chris Noonan, Phil Noyce, Jane Campion, and so on.

The idea of the interface is that, with as little effort as possible, you can be watching content. We’re trying to cater to both users of the collection, from an educational and research point of view, to work on an entertainment point of view, if you like.
We don’t have any intentions to put the VOD online. We’ve also had to renegotiate the rights to virtually every title in here. It’s one thing to hold a copy of “Storm Boy” in our collection, for instance. The copyright laws allow us to show that on site, but only in the form that we originally purchased it in. We get life of print rights; we don’t have the rights to make a digital copy of anything in our collection. We’ve actually had to go back and negotiate those rights with virtually every one of the currently 500 titles in here.

That’s what’s really time consuming, and something that often people who come and use the collection don’t quite understand. It has been a criticism of ACMI’s collection in the past. People will say, “Why can’t we just put them all on DVD?” Well, for the simple fact that we’ve done is, we’ve got life of print rights and they don’t include the transfer of that material from one form to another.

What is ACMI’s digital preservation policy?
ACMI’s an interesting case, in the sense that we are not an archive. In the case of “Storm Boy”, “Storm Boy” was provided to us from the NFSA. Through the process of digitising it we have returned to them the uncompressed digital asset, and we are holding the compressed H264 digital asset for use in the VOD, and that forms part of our normal business IT backup process. ACMI is an access collection, so anything that we found that was rare and significant, we would repatriate to an archive anyway and negotiate to hold and access copy of that.

So, we have a cultivation responsibility, if you like, to try and preserve our items within our collection for use for as long as possible, but we’re not an archive, so anything that we have found in our collection that is rare or unique has been repatriated to the relevant archive whether that’s in Australia or oversees.

We’ve got a kind of preservation responsibility to insure that our access items are kept in good condition and available for as long as possible, and particularly because when what we do is we acquire extended rights to lend, for instance, based on print not content. So, in some cases we’ve paid $1, 000 for the tape. It’s in our interest to look after that tape as well as we can to provide as much and ongoing access to it as we can. But, certainly the process now, having got the media to open and establish these partnerships, is then to begin to discuss with those other partners how we can facilitate access to material and be part of the digital preservation process of those titles. And, you know, like most organisations we’re still to some extent working our way through exactly what is the best digital preservation path to take.

I’m an old filmie, I guess. I remain healthily skeptical of the digital age in the sense that the looniest films can still be projected, and even if every 35mm projector in the world broke, you could still shine a light through the image and put a lens in front of it and see the image. So, it’s a tangible medium that actually proven over a 130 years, or whatever it is, it’s preservation credentials. So, I don’t think we’re alone in approaching the digital preservation area with some caution. And one of the things that’s been really good for ACMI, again this collaboration and also working with some of the other collection agencies in Victoria, we’re part of a group, a cultural network, that’s discussing the issues, so we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or go down a preservation path in isolation. We’re actually part of now a broader community that’s addressing those issues. So, that’s a good thing for us.

I noticed that you have developed some great partnerships with Public Galleries Association of Victoria (PGAV) and the Council of Australian Museum Directors. Do you see the boundaries changing within the collecting sector?
It’s not only how ACMI’s viewing itself. I think it’s how others in that cultural network are viewing ACMI. I think for a long time film was seen as little more than entertainment. Now it’s really holding it’s place as both a medium of art and also a medium of legitimate social and historical research. It’s not just filmmakers that use our collection. It’s social historians that use our collection because the films are viewed more as documents now along aside the other more traditional paper-based documents, and particularly new media art. Now, we have galleries here at ACMI, because what we display is art, and so I think there’s been a bit of a shift in that dynamic.

You can see that now in the emerging academic discourse on video games. I mean there’s the new example of that, that video games have always been considered as frivolous entertainment, and now there’s a growing academic discourse about them, and more and more the games themselves are more moving image and less game if you like.

I think the medium we deal with has now a different perception in the community, so it’s made it easier to be part of that network. And increasingly people like the gallery to hold new media artworks too. So we’re also in a position to provide galleries expertise in how to display and how to preserve.

We’re working with the Shepparton Regional Art Gallery at the moment because we hold a video installation by an artist they’re doing a retrospective of, so they’ve sought our permission for us to provide them copies of that, but more importantly, in a way, they’re also seeking some expert advice on how they should display a five screen synchronous new media installation.

What is ACMI’s plan for online?
We don’t have any intentions to put the VOD online. We’ve also had to renegotiate the rights to virtually every title in here. It’s one thing to hold a copy of “Storm Boy” in our collection, for instance. The copyright laws allow us to show that on site, but only in the form that we originally purchased it in. We get life of print rights; we don’t have the rights to make a digital copy of anything in our collection. We’ve actually had to go back and negotiate those rights with virtually every one of the currently 500 titles in here.

That’s what’s really time consuming, and something that often people who come and use the collection don’t quite understand. It has been a criticism of ACMI’s collection in the past. People will say, “Why can’t we just put them all on DVD?” Well, for the simple fact that we’ve done is, we’ve got life of print rights and they don’t include the transfer of that material from one form to another.

ACMI produces quite a bit of its own content. We work very closely with community groups, regional groups and schools to produce digital stories. Some of that content is already on our website, but personally, there’s no doubt that online delivery of content is part and parcel of where we’re moving towards. The effort involved in contacting every rights holder and negotiating the rights to put what we can present on site, up online is fairly daunting.

We were very lucky to negotiate with Animal and the production company for “Mary and Max,” to be able to put “Mary and Max” here in the Mediatheque to coincide with the exhibition downstairs for a limited period of time. Now that was a bit of a coup for us to be able to put a currently, commercially viable title, free, onsite and I think it’s been watched almost three hundred times since we’ve put it up.

But if we approached the production company or indeed the distributor of the DVD asking if we could put it up online the answer would probably be, “No”. The major concerns there are about the protection of their intellectual property. So I’m quite happy to proceed cautiously and slowly with that.

The National Film Board of Canada has an absolutely fantastic website with a tremendous amount of content, but it’s content that they own the rights to. Both ACMI and the NFSI own very little of what we hold. So it’s certainly something that’s on our agenda for the future, but it’s something that I’m very happy to proceed cautiously with. My model is to show material in a way that is not disadvantaging anybody’s commercial opportunity.

We’d like to think that people come to the exhibition, watch twenty minutes of “Mary and Max” and then think, “Oh, this is so good, I’ll buy a copy and take it home.” So we’re, I’m trying to build the model progressively to show that in any stage of the development of the Mediatheque we’re protecting people’s rights, we like to think we’re, if anything, enhancing the commercial opportunity for them to exploit their own content but that our paramount importance is two-fold – one is to protect people’s rights and the other is to get this material seen by researchers, academics, actors, filmmakers, members of the general public.

What is your approach to negotiating rights?
I’ve deliberately shied away from complicating the rights negotiation for the media take with any suggestion of online just because I think, again, it’s about building a good model here and then allowing people to feel comfortable that, “We’ve operated this for, ” let’s say, “two years and the model’s worked well, ” and we’ve proceeded with integrity you know in respecting in rights and in cultural issues. And then we can begin to target how to, what we want to put online and how we want to go about it. And then go back to those rights holders. And some will be easier than others. So, in the case of Adam, his first three films before “Harvey Crumpet, ” he kinds of considers have run their course and he’s done as much with them as he’s ever likely to and his attitude is a bit more relaxed about them. So we have broadcast quality masters of those three films with rights to exhibit and basically use within ACMI’s premises any way we see fit. I would think that negotiating with him to put, you know, either the whole title or snippets of that title online would be less problematic than it would be negotiating with Grundy to put an episode of one of their soap operas that they’re still selling on DVD up online.

How do you manage audience evaluation?

We collect three types of user stats from the view on demand system. One is popular titles, so we basically just count the number of times a title is viewed. We also monitor the method in which that title has been found. So, the people who have gone to a title through a highlights package, or through one of the explore categories, or have they done a search specifically for that title. That’s quite revealing.

The other thing we do is monitor the percentage of each title viewed. So, we’ve got “The Sentimental Bloke,” which goes for however long “The Sentimental Bloke” goes for. We’ve also got “Kid Stakes,” a 1927 Australian feature film. It’s silent. It goes for an hour and eight minutes. Are people watching all of it, or are they just watching six minutes of it?
That’s a really important stat, because it allows us to consider which areas of the view on demand content we grow. If we’ve got 20 pre ’50s Australian feature films, and people are only watching six minutes of them, then do we really need to put a whole lot more pre ’50s feature films on? We’re monitoring is patrons’ session times. So, how long are people spending in each booth? How many titles in each session are they watching? Are they watching only six minutes of “Kid Stakes,” but then six minutes of “The Sentimental Bloke,” then all of “Storm Boy,” and then a video art?

We’re trying to build up a picture of what people are watching, what they’re watching it in combination with, and how they get into what they watch. We’ve only been collecting the stats. It’s been quite difficult to get it up and running. We’ve only been collecting the stats for about eight weeks, but already, a really interesting pattern of usage is starting to emerge. We get, on average, about 100 people a day. We’re open seven days a week. On school holidays, that rises to between 150 and 200. We find that people generally stay about an hour. That includes the people who wander in and say, “What’s this place? What are you doing here?” and will say, “I’ll just have a little look,” and an hour later, they’ve watched three short films. People come in and start with something that’s familiar to them, and then use that as the springboard to branch out into other things. I actually find the TV ads are incredibly popular. I suspect because they’re short, and they put people in mind of a past very quickly. But then, they’ll often use them to branch out and watch other things. The stats collection is really pretty clear to what we do.

Its something that we’re able to report back to our content partners. It’s very heartening to be able to say to someone like the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, who have been enormously supportive of us. “We’ve got 38 titles in our collection from you, in the VOD from you, and this is how many times they’ve been watched, and these are the popular titles,” and so on. It’s a good reporting function for our partners, as much as anything.

Sarah Rhodes interviewed ACMI Collection Manager Nick Richardson on May 4, 2010 in the Mediatheque.


An insight into the development of Queensland Museum’s online collection: David Milne

The Queensland Museum’s new website went live on International Museums Day last week. Strategic Learning Manager David Milne explains what was involved in redesigning the Museum’s website and making 40,000 collection items publicly accesible.

QMNew Website

Technical Development
Extensive public consultation was undertaken prior to redesigning the website. The new website is underpinned by Sitecore (a content management system) which will enable new content to be added regularly by curators and other staff in a more flexible way. Vernon Systems is the collection management system which holds extensive records of the cultures and histories objects and geosciences and biodiversity specimens held by the museum. Many former discrete databases have been integrated into Vernon; the public can now view over 40,000 records on-line.

Funnelback is the Queensland government approved search engine that has been chosen to explore the site’s rich content. There will be further refinements to page content metadata to improve its ‘findability’ through Google and other search engines. Our in-house database developer used SQL to create a searchable facility for customers to find and borrow over 5000 objects and kits from QM Loans.
The museum holds an outstanding collection of more than 250,000 photographs that document the natural and cultural heritage of Queensland. Fotoware is being used by QM Publications to document its photograph collection in slide, film and digital formats.

The development of the new website has taken over two years to research, build, test and launch and is testament to the collective efforts of many museum staff and the guidance of key external consultants.

Resolving Development Challenges
Undertaking such a large scale web project effectively requires a combination of vital inputs. These include: a clear vision of the information architecture and the final ‘look and feel’ of the website; adequate resourcing (human and financial) and prior experience and leadership of major web redevelopments. Building good collaborative relationships with external providers, consultants and museum staff enabled clear expectations to be set and met. Integrating the Vernon browser within the Sitecore interface was a technical challenge. Through the collective leadership, experience and skills of the Information Management and Information Technology (IMIT) staff and the web consultants the majority of internal technical issues were resolved through discussion and consensus.

QMCollection On-Line

As other GLAM institutions have found, enabling collections to be viewed on-line is of enormous public benefit – but it does necessitate a substantial institutional investment. Updating, aligning and integrating accession records is a vital activity with numerous database fields and millions of objects and artefacts to check. Once collections can be viewed on-line the public will want to see particular specimens and perhaps add information about some photographs and cultural artefacts. There are resource implications for curators to deal with a tidal wave of public queries and for conservators to prepare objects for research or exhibition viewing.

Collections Online
The new QM Online Collections portal enables visitors to search selected data fields held on the Vernon database for cultural artefacts, historical objects, biological specimens and geological samples.

Virtual access to significant ‘type’ specimens from our biodiversity collections is now possible. These are the original specimens that define the name of a particular species, whether it be a bird, mammal, spider, insect, reptile, fish, sponge or any other creature. Below is an example of a holotype record for Austronibea oedogenys

QMFish Holotype

The website’s new ‘Find out about’ section lets you browse or search for information about animals, insects, spiders, snakes, dinosaurs, rocks, transport, clothing, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and more. Queensland Museum scientists and historians have created this section to help answer many of the questions the Museum receives from people every day.

There are many more useful features to browse on the new website. These include: information about visiting each of the Queensland Museum’s four public museums and the Sciencentre. An online shop retails quality publications for adults and children, including the best-selling wild guide and pocket guide series. There are many curriculum-linked learning resources for schools and an online search facility for Queensland schools and community groups to borrow objects and kits from QM Loans.

Technical Providers
Public Consultation: Peak Usability
Web Consultants: Reading Room
Content Management System:Sitecore
Internal Search Engine: Funnelback
Collection Management System: Vernon Systems
Digital Asset Management: Fotoware
Loans database development (in-house): SQL
Content Writers: Queensland Museum Staff

Please email David Milne with any questions.

Happy browsing!


Social media and online collections in Gippsland: Linda Barraclough

The Stratford Historical Society and Museum and Maffra Sugar Beet Museum join Old Gippstown (Heritage Park) in uploading their collection to CAN. This great achievement is due to the dedication and vision of Linda Barraclough who supports a number of collections in Central Gippsland. Ms Barraclough has developed an online strategy to promote the stories behind the collections through her four blogs and various social media applications.

What is your online strategy to promote the collection?
I come from the craft sector where blogging is very popular. There’s a very strong community of people who look at others’ work and comment on others’ work. It’s a very visual form of blogs, not perhaps like the political blogs that rarely have illustrations. So, I run four blogs — two for Old Gippstown. One is just a general cataloguer’s blog to let people know what we’re up to. One, which is Old Gippstown Object of the Week, which is inspired by the absolutely glorious “Powerhouse Museum Object of the Week” blog, and a a blog for Stratford, and a blog for Maffra.

In what other ways do you promote collection items through social media?
Backing up the blogs, we need to have Flickr pages that actually host our photographs. As part of that, you form groups. One of the groups that we have there is Objects in Australian Museums: Help Needed. We post mystery objects there in the hope that people can identify them. Sometimes it’s quite embarrassing. I posted one of this strange object that I found in the kitchen collection that I couldn’t work out what it was. Someone quite firmly said, “Do you realise that’s a hat pin stand?” There’s others, such as something that was catalogued here as a pasta maker that turned out to be a home shaver for an Edison phonograph but was rather beautiful. We posted that.

On the Maffra blog we just put a photograph up there with three young women in neck to knee bathing costumes. Beside it, we put up the scrawl on the back that we couldn’t quite decipher. I use the RootsWeb email lists a lot. We put it up on the Gippstown list and said, “Look, go and have a look at the scrawl. Go and have a look at the people. Can anyone recognise them?” and we finally decided, yes, this has got to be these two young women. A whole community of interest gets involved in things, and then they go off on a different red herring and bring back more information about them. The family historians are really wonderful for that sort of thing.


Do you find the audience is mainly in Gippsland or do you reach broader Australia?
We’ve got two sorts of audiences, or three sorts of audience to do with each of the different social media streams. RootsWeb, where we use the email, this is a bit like the CAN discussion list. That audience is anyone interested in Gippsland anywhere, so you’ll have people just as interested who are in Queensland, New Zealand, and Canada. The Flickr one is definitely international. People search that one, and you have to be very wise in what words you put in there, because you need to think what people are going to search by. So, if you put up a steam traction engine, you make sure you use that word “steam” and “traction” and people come, using a popular search engine, come streaming in on that.

We’ve been posting on the Old Gippstown blog about our tinsmithing collection that we’re going to have up soon. That would be one of the more searched for terms for our work here.

I’ll get up, and each morning when I check the stats, I’ll find some very obscure European countries, and a lot of Americans, and a few Canadians, Turkey, and Istanbul, and all that sort of thing, have been searching on the term “tinsmithing.” We’ve got an international audience. With the blogs, I can’t really define the audience yet, and it’s still developing. It’s still a growing thing.

Is this a paper clip? Or a Boone spa soda siphon?

What is the benefit of putting your collection on CAN
Within about the first week we had the email on, I opened my mailbox and I found an email from Ingrid that said, “We’ve got your connection up on CAN.” We ran up and down the corridors here screaming and dancing and no one could understand what we were carrying on about. It was the most wonderful thing to be able to turn on our computers here and suddenly see our stuff up there on CAN.

We’ve had a few times when we’ve run up and down the roads out there screaming. One of them was when we reunited a sewing machine with its base and getting the collection up on CAN was one of the others. We’ve only got, I think, 1,600 items up there. It’s a small part of the collection. We’ve got 7,500 objects in the catalog. We’ve had a couple of direct contacts from people who’ve got the same sort of thing, and said, “What can you tell me about my Boones Bar Soda Siphon?” and we’ve said, “Well, not a lot, but what can you tell us about yours?”

It’s got potential to bring in those sorts of relationships. We’re also hoping that people might look at it and say, “Well, that was my grandmother’s, and this is the story behind it.”

We started in 1968 and the recording of objects wasn’t good enough for us to have caught all the stories for everything that comes in. We’re hoping that people are going to see the objects and tell us the stories.

Links to culture in Central Gippsland
Gippsland Heritage Park Blog
Gippsland Heritage Park Cataloguers Blog
Stratford Historical Society and Museum Blog
Maffra Sugar Beet Museum Blog
Old Gippstown Flickr account
Old Gippstown Flickr group – public can upload pictures
Objects in Australian Museums – Help Needed Flickr group
Australasian Heritage Parks Flickr group

Photo at top: Old Gippstown Manager Michael Fozzard and Collection Management and Team Leader Linda Barraclough at the Heritage Park


Sourcing Skint! online: Annie Campbell

Skint! Making do in the Great Depression is a new exhibition that is now on display at the Museum of Sydney – a topical exhibition given the recent economic downturn. ABC Stateline has put a short video on YouTube with historic footage and photographs and an interview with this week’s guest writer, Historic Houses Trust curator Annie Campbell. Ms Campbell sourced much of the exhibition from online collections. ‘Without those online collections, the job of curator would be very laborious.’ The National Quilt Register, in particular, and the National Library of Australia (NLA) offered rich content online.

While the stock market crash of 1929 spawned a decade of high unemployment, poverty, low wages and lost opportunities, it was also a remarkable time for resourcefulness and resilience. Today we can learn a lot from the men, women and children who made it through the Great Depression.

Despite the ongoing hardship, the Great Depression encouraged a culture of ‘making do’ and ingenuity. Old clothes and linen were darned and patched and existing items ingeniously put to other uses. In the exhibition we showcase some surprising examples of this make-do mindset of the 1930s, including colourful wagga rugs (actually quilts) and rag rugs, hand sewn aprons made from hessian sugar bags, a cake tin made from a kerosene tin, furniture made from wooden packing crates, and children’s makeshift toys. The enterprising jobless also devised novel ways of earning money and began referring to themselves as ‘self-employed’. They made and decorated goods using any material at their disposal. Included are pincushions made out of jam tins, flowerpots made out of kerosene tins and clothes pegs made out of fencing wire, which were sold door to door. Surprisingly, some of these items are still used today.

skint‘Block boys at St Peters’ (detail), Sam Hood, 22 April 1935, Courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Waste not, want not – this is a valuable point of the exhibition considering our contemporary mass consumer driven society. We can adopt make-do principles of our own, particularly in light of our growing environmental awareness. More importantly, in the exhibition visitors can explore then and now comparisons and discover the differences and similarities we all share today. The fear of unemployment or paying the mortgage or rent are not solely concerns experienced during the Great Depression. Some people are facing similar hardships today.

Notes from the exhibition feedback will be uploaded onto the HHT website

To focus solely on despair, despondency, politics and the economics of the Great Depression would only tell half of the story. How did these people overcome adversity and triumph? The objects on display convey the people’s stories of survival, optimism, creativity and ingenuity while a film commissioned for the exhibition allows the ‘bread and dripping kids’ to speak for themselves. They are stories that will no doubt touch and affect every visitor to the exhibition and maybe even encourage some of us to ‘make-do’.


How one Australian museum has taken flight in the social media skies: Hayley Dean

Marketing expert Hayley Dean has grown up around aeroplanes with her grandfather a former RAAF officer and father a curator at the Australian Aviation Museum in Bankstown. Now she manages the AAM’s communication and publicity on a pro bono basis. It is fascinating and inspiring to watch Hayley use Twitter and Facebook – to see how she is building a community network around the aviation collection.

Marketing and social media expert, Australian Aviation Museum, Hayley Dean

The Australian Aviation Museum (AAM) located at Bankstown Airport has been operating since the 1990’s and is home to some of Australia’s most historic Aviation memorabilia. But despite its impressive collection, the museum was aware that it was time to address a decline in visitor numbers and their lack of awareness by the Australian public, outside of the aviation & historic community.

The answer came in the form of a 21st century version of a lamington sale, a social marketing campaign on Twitter (AustaviationMus) and Facebook. Rather than simply tweeting aviation facts and aircraft photo’s, the AAM has created a connection between their museum and current new stories…. and it’s working.

Australian Aviation Museum volunteer team

The key is ‘connection’. When Calvin Klein (CK) showed his latest bomber jacket collection at New York’s fashion week, the AAM mentioned their CK collection, that being our Charles Kingsford Smiths flying jacket and the number of female followers increased.

When O week began, the AAM wished all aviation students good luck and we connected with each university offering the degree, and when Hollywood honoured their greats during Oscar week, the AAM honoured a great man who befriended the stars and flew them in boats and the socialites began to listen. In only a short few weeks, by talking to an audience that once showed little to no interest, the AAM has had a number of small successes in once unreachable avenues. Thanks to the support of their wonderful volunteers, the sky is no longer the limit for the AAM with plans for their social marketing to grow ever bigger.

Based in Sydney’s Inner West, Hayley Dean is the owner of me marketing agency, specialising in social media management and marketing communications. She has worked on numerous marketing initiatives for not for profit organisations including that of the AAM’s and so is well placed to offer advice to other museums. Email Hayley for advice on how small organisations can use social media effectively.

The Australian Aviation Museum is located in Starkie Drive, Bankstown Airport. For more information visit or phone (02) 9791 3088….or follow them on twitter ‘Austaviationmus’ and facebook.


The Paphos Theatre Dig online: Craig Barker


Craig Barker runs an archaeological dig in Cyprus when he is not working as the Education and Public Programs Manager for the University of Sydney Museums. His true love is archaeology. All of his annual leave is spent in the little Mediterranean town of Paphos researching the ancient Hellenistic and Roman period theatre. Many of the pieces found in the 650 year-old Paphos Theatre are similar to those in the Nicholson Museum so it is fitting that Craig is developing an education programme around the Nicholson – home to the largest collection of ancient artefacts in Australia.

The next trip to Cyprus is scheduled in October by which time Sydney University Museums will be online. Craig will use the Paphos Theatre dig in the university’s education programme drawing on the online collection, using a similar approach as the British Museum’s Explore site. Craig will set-up a blog with archaeologists and architects sharing experiences about their own specialities – whether it is glass, pottery, bones or buildings. He will then draw on the Nicholson Museum online collection for examples of artefacts they have found.

Craig is also working closely with University Collections Manager Maree Clutterbuck to develop a broader education programme around the online collection as it covers an enormous breadth of disciplines from natural history and sciences, Indigenous art and artefacts right through to contemporary art. Craig is an advocate of using available resources. The university has a wealth of postgraduate students in a broad range of disciplines who would be keen to develop web-based narratives for school students as part of their coursework. The development of a school-age education program that interprets the university museum collection will be based on the philosophy of lifelong learning. Craig hopes that once students become familiar with the collections when they are 12 years old, Sydney University will be their first choice when they need to choose a tertiary institution.

Sarah Rhodes


Where are the police watchhouse books?: Liz Marsden

Since 2006 Victoria Police’s Historical Services has been undergoing a massive registration program of its entire historical and archival collections. As part of this process we are interested in documenting the location of other significant police holdings, specifically Victoria Police Station Watchhouse books.


Established in 1853, Victoria Police have been present at all the significant milestones in Victorian history, including the Gold Rush, the Eureka Stockade and the notorious Kelly gang Outbreak. Documents created by this government organisation, often reflect the values and issues faced by people through these turbulent times.

Police watchhouse charge books document the formal moment of arrest and contain invaluable personal information about the accused and their crime. As such these large ledgers contain a wealth of information, invaluable to social and local historians as well as family researchers.

Whilst Victoria Police holds the majority of these records, we are aware that some of these permanent records may have slipped through the cracks and been donated or loaned to regional historical societies in the past.

These items remain the property of Victoria Police and as such we need to know where they are located. Our main concern is ascertaining where these items are and ensuring they are well cared for. The inclusion of these books in one uniform database will increase the accessibility of these records and benefit future historians and researchers.

If you are able to help with this important project, or have any questions, please contact Liz Marsden at the Victoria Police Museum by or phone (03) 92475213.