Archive for the ‘Tips+Tricks’ Category

Outreach builds audiences in children’s museum: Jane Cush

After a visit to the Boston Children’s Museum last year, gallery director Jane Cush has decided to target three year olds as the organisation’s new audience. Ms Cush, who runs the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery (GRAG), believes they are the ones who feel the least inhibited in a gallery environment. Older visitors often say they feel alienated by art or do not understand what it means. By inviting young children into the gallery, it has the opportunity to interact with parents. Ms Cush tells children there are no rules in the gallery except not to trip up old ladies or touch the artwork. Often school children tell each other to be quiet in the gallery but she insists that they should feel at home and loves hearing them babble on about something they have discovered in an artwork in the gallery.

Ms Cush brought back a list of ideas on how to build a community after a two-week Museums and Galleries NSW fellowship at the children’s museum last year. Her detailed report about her experience can be found on the MGNSW website.

She arrived home feeling that GRAG needed to engage more with youth. ‘We were just paying lip service really. Now, amongst several strategies to develop audiences, we are looking at how to engage more with mothers and babies. Outreach was already set-up but now we are drilling down.’ Ms Cush said. ‘We have also beefed up the information day for teachers at the start of each semester, and every exhibition now has an interactive children’s programme.

Boston Children’s Museum focuses on supporting marginalised or under-represented groups. It has sensitively developed programs that empower those who participate without drawing attention to the fact that they are in need. For example, the Museum runs a teen ambassador programme which mentors teen students to work with migrant families who visit the museum. The scheme invites bi-lingual teenagers to join the program – looking at the positives rather than focusing on the fact that they themselves usually come from poorer migrant families. If the students stick with the ambassador program for two years, various Boston companies sponsor them with a US$5000 scholarship to go on to college. There is no dedicated children’s museum in Australia but many of Boston’s initiatives can be applied to institutions offering edu-tainment.


As quick as a Flash?: Funding an online journal

A Melbourne-based photomedia artist made a one-off donation to the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) to set-up an online journal. This was to cover the set-up costs and the first four issues. Monash University Museum of Art exhibition curator Kyla McFarlane took on the role of editor and commissioned well-known arts writers to produce high quality, long-form articles. The online journal — Flash — would be quarterly and take on the personality of a traditional academic periodical. CCP will publish the fourth issue in July and then will need to seek out a new funding source. The donor is not happy and is withdrawing their support so the team is currently working on the last scheduled issue.

CCP director Naomi Cass believes there was an expectation that the editorial would focus on the private donor’s colleagues and friends. This has caused a problem as Ms Cass and Ms McFarlane were not prepared to compromise the integrity of the arts writers or the Centre. As they contemplate the future of Flash, they are assessing the success of the journal. What would they do differently? What are they proud of? To what extent should they be influenced by Web 2.0 and traditional forms of publishing? Should they offer the online magazine in a print-on-demand format?

They have jotted down the successes and challenges of Flash for the benefit of anyone looking to set-up their own online journal or wanting to support the continuation of Flash.

1. Ability to attract a wild mix of writers outside the photography discipline in an online format
2. High quality editing rather than relying on open-source
3. Long-form articles provide a really good read. passionate and authoritative articles
4. Beautiful interface
5. Broader reach than a print journal

1. A quarterly journal has made it difficult to gain momentum on the Web
2. It has not been able to start a dialogue with the photography community
3. Small budget has compromised the number writers that could be commissioned
4. Small budget has restricted ability to build on opportunities the online journal offered
5. Functionality of WordPress

Email Naomi Cass if you would like to offer support.


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!


Gordon Darling Foundation makes a remarkable difference to accessibility of art


Small parcels of money from a private purse are making a remarkable difference to the public accessibility of art collections in Australia. In just two years, the Gordon Darling Foundation trustees have given 16 grants to state and regional galleries to put their collections online. The Geelong Art Gallery is the latest organisation to make its collection available on its website and they have worked to an impeccably high standard. An interview with registrar Veronica Filmer will be published on Thursday in the CAN Outreach Blog.

In June 2008, $15,000 grants were given to regional galleries after the trustees saw how overwhelmingly successful they were in helping state galleries put collections online the year before. The regional grants were structured in two parts – an initial $10,000, with a further $5,000 available if the galleries were able to match it. The trustees anticipated this would not only increase the pool of money available for the task, but also make other stakeholders and potential sponsors aware of the importance of putting collections online. All of the galleries were able to take up the extra $5,000 offered.

It has been amazing to see what a significant impact $15,000 can have to a regional gallery. While the grant would not cover the total cost of putting a collection online, it has stimulated the gallery sector to work towards this goal. The funding is offered for three stages of development: cataloguing, documentation, digitisation and online access.

The Gordon Darling Foundation, now in its twentieth year, also supports the Museum Leadership Program (in partnership with Museums Australia) and the Darling Travel Grant program. There are three funding rounds each year with the next round closing on May 31. To find out more, email or call Aileen Ellis on 03 98203168.

This is the list of the 16 state and regional galleries who successfully received grants in 2007-08. If any gallery is applying for a grant, please contact one of these galleries for advice on what is involved.

Regional gallery grant recipients for online access, 2008
Art Gallery of Ballarat
Cairns Regional Gallery
Devonport Regional Gallery
Geelong Art Gallery
Heide Museum of Modern Art
Lismore Regional Gallery
Manly Art Gallery and Museum
Newcastle Regional Gallery

Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery

State gallery grant recipients for online access, 2007
Art Gallery of NSW

Art Gallery of South Australia
Art Gallery of Western Australia
Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory
National Gallery of Victoria
Queensland Art Gallery
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Photo courtesy of Flickr / ‘Smil


Regional gallery puts collection online: Western Plains Cultural Centre

The Western Plains Cultural Centre (WPCC) is one of Australia’s first regional galleries to make its collection available online. Collections Officer Jessica Moore started her role at the centre managing the merging of two separate museum and gallery collections to make up 3500 objects with little to no documentation.

Over the last year, she has catalogued and written small significant assessments for 88 artworks and 30 museum items while also running a deaccessioning program. Her strategy has been to select the most significant works first to go online, with some 1000 items online at the end of the project. Ms Moore is currently aiming to uploading four objects a day, with plans to put the whole collection online by June 2012. The website has been designed with an education bent with a video conferencing program at the facility complementing the online collection, specifically catering to the Department of Distance Education needs.

GaryHeeryGary HEERY (b.1950), Chapman’s Zebra (Equua burchelli chapmani), 1996, Gelatin silver photographic print on paper, Animal in Art Collection/Dubbo Regional Gallery, (c) Gary Heery, (c) photographed by Greg Piper

It took one year for the WPCC to research, buy and install the collection management system Vernon. “We were fortunate that the people from Vernon could come in and offer technical support but I still had to teach myself,” Ms Moore said. “It was at times a frustrating process, mainly convincing the council the legitimacy of the project and that it wouldn’t cause a security breach.”

Vernon is commonly used by large and medium-sized galleries. Ms Moore suggests that this could be attributed to an excellent image management technical support.

Mundaring Arts Centre in Perth also has its collection online. If any other regional or city galleries have their collection online, please email the Collections Australia Network (CAN).

For advice on how to start planning to put a regional gallery’s collection online, please email CAN or Jessica Moore at the WPCC.


Join us in #collectionfishing on Twitter

The Collections Australia Network has been collectionfishing on Twitter. Each day a different organisation organically comes up with a theme for the day. Participants fossick around online collections for related material. Synesthesia took hold of the cultural sector online last week with the days of the week taking on different colours. Te Papa, New Zealand, started the week off with blue, Museum Victoria saw Tuesday as blue / red and Wednesday as red, CAN nominated Thursday as green and Friday yellow.

CAN is using #collectionfishing as a form of collection research, as its starting point for sourcing psychiatric hospital collections that could be uploaded to the CAN collection database.


Monday / Blue: @staterecordsnsw licence for the Coolamon Golf Club (Blue Light Disco)
Tuesday / Blue:@museumvictoria Oh the nostalgia, a lovely Bondi Blue iMac
Wednesday / Red: @CAN001 Old Gippstown on CAN A slightly different drum with red and blue
Thursday / Green: @CAN001 from the UTAS Fine Art Collection on CAN, thanks to Rachel Rose, Spit Bay, Heard Island
Friday / Yellow: @TePapaColOnline What will make you iron faster? Yellow racing stripes Iron, His Masters Voice, circa 1955

@MigrationMuseum, South Australia, took photographs within its exhibition space of a collection of items from the Polonia Soccer Club and uploaded it to Twitpic. Very resourceful – proof that anyone can play this game and participants are not confined to those with collections online. @lifeasdaddy, aka Bob Meade, is a well-known citizen researcher of cultural collections. He has been yelling out cries of encouragement from the sideline but we would love him to search across the nation’s collections on CAN and tweet them.

To participate, search a cultural collection online with the theme of the day in mind. Briefly describe the item, add a tinyurl to take the reader directly to the artefact (shorten the web link at the website and finish the tweet with #collectionfishing. Remember, CAN is looking for any reference to mental illness or psychiatric hospital collections.


Tips+Tricks: Creating and keeping digital treasures


The State Library of Western Australia (SLWA) has just published an excellent resource on how to create and keep digital treasures. It is a very comprehensive 19 page pdf that can be downloaded from the SLWA website. It covers extremely important issues like creating several copies of digital files and storing them in different locations, ensuring preservation copies can be read using open source software, keeping file formats current, periodically checking access to digital files and creating a metadata system.

Download here

World’s Columbian Exposition: Ferris Wheel, Chicago, United States, 1893. Flickr Commons / Brooklyn Museum Archives


Two perspectives on putting collections online

The Collections Australia Network (CAN) takes two approaches to putting collections online. Exporting the entire database into an Excel spreadsheet with images or selecting a minimum of five items to be uploaded. Here are two case studies demonstrating both strategies.

RACHAEL ROSE University of Tasmania Art Collection online
rachael rose
University of Tasmania Fine Art Collection registrar and keeper Rachael Rose has successfully uploaded the entire art collection to CAN. Even though she only has general computer skills, she was able to export the whole collection into an Excel spreadsheet without any difficulty. Rachael approached CAN for a little Outreach support. Now researchers and curators can search the whole university art collection online. Email Rachael Rose if you would like to know more about her experience of preparing the university art collection for CAN.

DAVID HARDHAM Glen Eira Historical Society collection online
David Hardham is an IT professional who volunteers for several historical societies in country Victoria. He has been working with the Glen Eira Historical Society in Victoria to raise the profile of the organisation. His first step was to put the collection online in phases so that the society could assess the impact of going online. One of its greatest concerns was the impact on photo sales but the society was reassured that there would be more likely to be a positive impact on this revenue stream. Email David Hardham if you would like to know more about his experience of preparing the Glen Eira collection for CAN.

How did the organisation upload its collection to CAN?
DH: We selected a sample collection to upload rather than our entire database. We did this to see what the impact would be and the effort required to do this as we have approximately 2000 items that is increasing every week.
RR: Exported 1270 records in the database onto an Excel spreadsheet, then matched images, copied them and sent through on a separate disc.

Does CAN’s metadata suit the organisation’s catalogue fields?
DH: Generally yes.
RR: Yes.

What was the impact on resources in preparing the collection to be uploaded?
DH: The time taken in extracting the information from our existing database and re-formatting to the required metadata structure. Now that we know how to do that, we can tailor our database extract to the same order and fields as the metadata and that will make further extracts a lot easier.
RR: Time- although most of the information was in the database, I discovered that over the years and with different people entering data there were discrepancies, typos, and missing details which all needed to be corrected and then checked. It was a fantastic opportunity to get the database into shape, but took a lot longer than I first anticipated. Also matching up images which could be copied across took some time, as many had to be rescanned or photographed. Until this point the database has only been viewed by the curator managing the collection, and so many of the images were only snapshots for identification purposes. To get better quality images for online use meant a little more time and work, but it was well worth the effort.

What was the biggest challenge in preparing the collection spreadsheet?
DH: CAN can only hold one record per item, we have a number of single entry items that have one or more photographs, so we have to replicate the spreadsheet line so that there is only one photograph per line. An example is that we have a single entry that has over 200 photographs associated with it.
RR: Checking all the information was correct against other records – with so many entries it was fairly time-consuming but it also meant I learnt a lot more about each individual artwork in the collection.

What will be your approach moving forward?
DH: Using the answers from the two questions above as a guide, we will probably upload our data in stages rather then an entire database at once.
RR: Learning how to use social media.

What will be the potential benefits in having the collection on CAN?
DH: Provide access of our collection to a wider audience, especially the photographs we have.
RR: People often enquire about what works we have in the Collection, so it will be helpful having an online presence to refer them to. I hope it will bring the Collection to a wider audience for general appreciation and also to aid researchers and other artists.

To what extent will social media be used to share stories about collection material?
DH: It is an evolving story that will expand as more data is catalogued and recorded and made available. We see it as a key item in making the general public aware of what we have and what we do.
RR: This is not something we use now but certainly an interesting possibility in the future.


Tips+Tricks: Video for the Web

The CAN Outreach Blog has compiled a simple guide on how to make video for the web. The main source of material has come from Shooting Web Video: How to put your readers at the scene. CAN highly recommends readers download Mindy McAdams’s Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency. This is a bible for those wanting to participate in any type of social media, from producing video for the web to blogging.

A possum and a movie camera 1943, Australian War Memorial

A possum and a movie camera 1943, Flickr Commons/Australian War Memorial

Guide to making video for the web
1. Refine the story into one sentence to focus the idea. This will reduce any temptation to shoot everything.

2. Basic tools: digital video camera, a microphone, a tripod, a computer with enough processing power to capture and edit video, video editing software.

3. Interview: Make sure subjects are relaxed first. Ask simple questions that require a sentence to answer. Ask questions that evoke feelings, emotions and opinions. Don’t say anything while the subject is talking and don’t be afraid of silences. Ask the interviewee to pause between thoughts or mistakes so that is easy to edit.

4. Video images: Fill the frame. Keep the composition simple and uncluttered. Do not shoot into window light. Shoot sequences of video – a wide shot, medium and close up, with cutaway shots from multiple locations. A good trick is to ask the subject the same set of questions from two different angles (close-up and medium). Hold each shot for a minimum of 10 seconds. Avoid pans and zooms.

5. Write the script once the footage has been logged and captured in the editing software. Lay the best soundbites first and then build the images and secondary quotes around them. Poynter’s guide to script writing is an excellent and succinct resource.


Powerhouse Museum Object Name Thesaurus live: Susan Davidson


The Powerhouse Museum has recently put its Object Name Thesaurus onto its website. So it is now finally available for everyone to easily access and use. We hope it can be as valuable a tool for other collecting institutions to use in the management of their collection information, as it is for us here at the Powerhouse.

The Powerhouse first developed this thesaurus back in the early 1990s to standardise the terminology used to describe its own collection. With a collection of around 400,000 objects we saw the need for an effective way to organise information in our database to make searching for objects easy and precise. The Thesaurus was first published in 1995 as the Powerhouse Museum Collection Thesaurus, but has been out of print for many years. We are finally able to provide this updated PDF version of the thesaurus in its alphabetical format via our website.

The purpose of the Powerhouse Museum Object Name Thesaurus is to provide object name terms within an Australian context, for indexing museum collections. It also provides a controlled vocabulary that facilitates easier searching of collection databases for specific object types.

One of the strengths of the thesaurus is its Australian focus. While it does include terminology from around the world, it specifically includes object name terms in common use in Australia. The Powerhouse Museum Object Name Thesaurus is the only thesaurus for object names that recognises Australian usage and spelling.

There are currently about 8,600 terms in the thesaurus that name or categorise object types. It can aid searching for objects across your collection database by ensuring that the same term is used consistently to describe similar objects. It formally organises relationships between terms in a hierarchical structure so that the relationships are explicit.

Another advantage of using a thesaurus is that it can assist in the general understanding of a subject area. A thesaurus can provide a ‘semantic map’ by showing the inter-relationship between objects and help to provide definitions of terms. This is particularly true for the Powerhouse Museum Object Name Thesaurus which can provide a greater understanding of an object and the relationships between different types of objects.

The Object Name Thesaurus is an intrinsic part of the Powerhouse collection database. The thesaurus is maintained within our collection database and so is a ‘living document’ constantly being updated with new terms added and old terms reorganised as we continue in the perpetual task of documenting our collection.

Recently we entered into an agreement with the National Museum of Australia (NMA) to provide an electronic version of the thesaurus, which they now use within their EMu database. This has benefited the thesaurus by the addition of a number of terms to match objects in the NMA collection. It is possible for any institution to obtain an electronic, text-based version of the thesaurus which also provides the hierarchical structure of the thesaurus. To discuss possibilities for your institution to use the Powerhouse thesaurus, or if you would just like more information about the thesaurus, please contact me via email: Susan Davidson.


Where is the Indigenous cultural material around Australia?: AIATSIS

As the Collections Australia Network (CAN) has travelled around the country offering outreach support, it has found many small organisations are the custodians of Indigenous cultural material. The caretakers are not always sure whether the photographs or objects are culturally sensitive so they have decided not to exhibit them or put them on CAN. This is a respectful approach but there is something else that can be done to make sure the material is safe.

Di Hosking and David Jeffery, AIATSIS
AIATSIS Director of Audiovisual Archives Di Hosking and Collection Unit Manager David Jeffery

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) is developing a national database that identifies where material is around the country for research and preservation. This will help identify the artefacts in need of care and items of national significance. Silverfish could be eating the possum skin cloak wrapped in a blanket under someone’s bed or original photographs could be pinned to a noticeboard in the sun. Both items are being damaged and are irreplacible. AIATSIS is asking all organisations to contact the peak body to let them know what material they have in their collection. AIATSIS can offer resources to help organisations establish what material they have, determine access rights and strategies on how to care for the material. If the item needs care that the organisation is not able to provide, alternative arrangements can be made to loan or donate works to AIATSIS or the National Museum of Australia (NMA). Please email David Jeffrey to start a conversation.


AIATSIS offers a free workshop and manual on how to store, document and record called Keeping History Alive. Group bookings are available and it runs from one to five days depending on the needs. They also offer outreach support when travel costs are paid. Please email Access Unit Manager Tasha Lamb for more information on this course.
Sarah Rhodes


Podcasts on museum entry experience

There has been some interest on the can-talk listserv in podcasts on the museum entry experience. We have had a little dig around and come up with a starting point for further investigations in this field, including a YouTube search. When making a list of interesting videos from YouTube, CAN imagined some of the issues the current redevelopment of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery might be considering.

Podcasts and videos on museum entry experience

1. Experienceology
2. Museum Mobile
3. “Innovation in Museum Design” [Redesigning the Louvre and Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)] Part I
“Innovation in Museum Design” [Redesigning the Louvre and Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)] Part II
“Innovation in Museum Design” [Redesigning the Louvre and Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)] Part III”
4. Broad Contemporary Art Museum LA with architect Renzo Piano: YouTube
5. Designing a museum experience: YouTube

CAN Partners also sent through links to resources on how to make podcasts and vodcasts. David Milne, at Queensland Museum, sent through an excellent link to Apple’s Guide to Making a Podcast and tips on how to make them rank highly in searches. Apple also offers a guide to finding your favourite podcast.

Here is the link to a list of museum podcasts CAN published in its Outreach Blog early last year. NSW-based museum consultant Desmond Kennard sent through museum pods 2008 list of top ten podcasts. It also hosts podcasts as an alternative or complement to iTunes.

Sarah Rhodes


Radiology collection online and on-site

Archivist Nyree Morrison talks about how she built a display to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists and then made the material accessible to researchers online. Ms Morrison worked with the Collections Australia Network (CAN) to put the archives relating to the formation of the radiologists college on the national heritage collections database.

Nyree Morrison, reference archivist, RANZCR

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists celebrate its 60th anniversary this year. However, the College was originally an association and known as the Australian and New Zealand Association of Radiology (1935-1942), and the Australian and New Zealand Association of Radiologists (1942-1949). The College has undergone three further name changes since it became the College of Radiologists (Australia and New Zealand) in 1949. For this anniversary, a small display was planned for the Combined Scientific Meeting (CSM) to be held in Brisbane in October this year. I would put the exhibition together but would not go to Brisbane to stage it. I was therefore relying on someone else to put the display together.

Telegram sent by Dr Nisbet to Dr John O’Sullivan on the occasion of the inauguration of the College, 5 October 1949. Dr O’Sullivan was the last president of the ANZAR. Drs Nisbet and O’Sullivan were instrumental in the establishment of the College. Telegram conveyed by Commonwealth of Australia Post-Master General’s Department.

Before it was decided what to display, I had to find out what the facilities were at the convention centre. We were given display panels which were 2 metres in width and just less than 1 metre high. The College does not have that many aesthetically pleasing items and I was very conscious that as the exhibition would be small, it had to be as eye catching as possible. In liaison with the College’s Communications and Membership Team who is responsible for organising the annual meetings, I would show them the layout of the display and we would photograph it so that it could be put up by them in the same chronological order.

I decided to display College documents that chart its history since becoming a College over the past 60 years, with brief captions underneath. Eleven documents, ranging from A4 to A5-6 in size were taken to a professional high street copying firm. They were all individually encased in mylar, with one also being wrapped in acid-free paper and strict instructions were given that they be handled with care. The copies were ready to be picked up the next day, and I must admit I did have a moment of fear when I was handed a plastic document holder and saw the documents in them. It was then I realised they were the copies – they were that well done. For less than $50 we had copy documents and a disc containing the scanned images. We already had a colour copy of the College’s Armorial Bearings and so I decided to use that too.

I printed off a copy of the documents so that I could handle them and measured out an area on one of the Archive walls (actually the cupboards as they were the only part of the Archive with nothing on them that I could use!) to the dimensions of the display board so I could move the documents about as much as I wanted. I also needed a banner for the display board so I used the same company that I used for the documents, and within five hours had a banner made to my requirements for $90.


I decided to use only seven of the copied documents and the image of the armorial bearings. I numbered the captions and noted what item they correlated to and drew a plan of the display. The display was photographed and I handed over all the material to the Communications and Membership Team, which was couriered to Brisbane a week before the College staff arrived.

The display was mounted with no problems what so ever and was placed in an area of the concourse outside the exhibition hall that everyone had to walk by to attend their various seminars. I was assured that a good number of people stopped and had a look.

I have to admit that putting on this very small exhibition was time consuming as I only work one day a week. Searching to find interesting relevant material was trying, but I feel that it all worked together and was relevant. As the display was of a small scale, there were no obviously no problems encountered in putting it up. Yes it did cost under $150, however the results were excellent and the copied documents are being framed and put on display in the College offices.

For more information, email Nyree Morrison


Tips+Tricks: Photographing collections

Powerhouse Museum Photography Manager Geoff Friend offers tips+tricks on how to photograph heritage collections. Geoff has worked at the Powerhouse Museum for 26 years and in that time has built a photographic studio that would make any organisation envious. But in this article he offers suggestions on how to make-do with limited resources. It can also be downloaded from Sector Resources on the CAN website.

“Necessity is the mother of all invention” – Thorstein Veblen

Powerhouse Museum Photography Manager Geoff Friend

Ideally images should be taken with a digital SLR as they have better noise processing; which means the pixels do not appear rough when shooting in low light conditions. The digital SLR should have a full-frame sensor. A non-full-frame sensor has a multiplying effect so a 35mm wide-angle lens becomes a 52mm lens.
(Geoff uses a Canon 1DS Mk3 and Canon 5D)

If the budget only allows for a compact camera, it should have at least 10 megapixels to ensure high resolution images. These cameras are good for photographing events and exhibitions for the organisation.
(Geoff uses a Canon G10)

Most digital cameras have video capture which is great for the web.

Use a low ISO (film speed) such as ISO 100 to achieve the finest resolution.

Lighting_setup Lighting set-up to photograph the chair pictured below

The Powerhouse Museum uses professional electronic studio flash equipment – Broncolour floor packs with separate flash heads. The team uses a 1m x 1m softbox with a diffusion screen placed 50cm from the flash head to create a soft yet directional light source.


When using lighting equipment, avoid bare heads pointing at the object. Pulling the light source back from the object reduces the intensity of the light so that the detail is not burnt out. Angle the light so that it picks up the texture and pattern on the object if desired.

When photographing two-dimensional objects, make sure the light source is even. For example, place two lights on either side of the item at 45 degrees. Make sure the plane of the camera lens is perfectly parallel with the object.

If an artwork is behind glass, it is preferable to remove it from the frame. If it is too difficult, then cut a small hole in a piece of black velvet and shoot through the hole.

If the organisation cannot afford sophisticated lighting equipment, then it is a good idea to use natural light with the camera on a tripod. In this case a cable release cord or self-timer function on the camera should be used so there is no camera shake causing blurry photos. Avoid using the tripod’s centre column extension because it is unstable.

Please email Geoff Friend at the Powerhouse Museum for any technical questions.


aMUSine, an ezine: Lyn Hicks

aMUSine is a monthly ezine exploring the ideas and controversies in the Australian art world, as well as sharing campus life in the Macquarie University Museum Studies faculty. Online magazine editor and PhD student Lyn Hicks offers CAN readers a step-by-step guide to setting up an ezine. aMUSine is an excellent example of how an organisation can use digital publishing to take its audience beyond the institution and look at broader issues that relate to its core business.

I’d love to say that editing and producing the first issue of ‘aMUSine’, the ezine from the Museum Studies Program at Macquarie University was a horrifying experience … but I’d be so wrong! It was certainly a challenge, but at the end of the day it turned out to be a fun (and often hilarious) project that pulled academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students together and really bonded our Program with the museums and galleries on campus as well as with numerous readers from ‘museum world’ off-campus. The experience might almost qualify as a case study for my PhD which is looking at how volunteers in museums and galleries contribute to the evolution of social capital such was its capacity for producing social cohesion in our little corner of the world.

Lyn Hicks
Lyn Hicks, aMUSine editor and Museum Studies PhD student at Macquarie University

So much was happening in Museum Studies at Macquarie; we needed a regular, interesting and entertaining medium through which to share this news and invite participation from our students, other Faculties within the university and our professional partners outside the university. We were also keen to raise the profile of the Museum Studies Program generally, to attract more students to our degrees and units and to showcase our splendid university museums.

When the idea for a ‘newsletter’ was first raised at one of our regular ‘coffee meetings’ down at the Union café I must say that I rolled my eyes. After many years in the corporate world I had seen many paper-based newsletters come onto my desk and eventually leave my desk without so much as being opened. Over the next few days however the idea of an online magazine, with a different theme each issue and lots of edgy interesting ideas and visuals started to form in my mind. I was hooked!

Despite being keen to contribute there was quite a bit of ‘feet-dragging’ until I put together a rough layout of the creative theme (in Microsoft Word), the ‘front cover’ and the template for news and regular features. Once the idea took on a tangible form the ezine itself rapidly evolved. The difficulties (for me anyway) came in the technology and in deciding how to deliver it, particularly as the university had recently adopted a ‘corporate image’ for official material that was quite a bit different to the look and feel we were trying to achieve.

AMUSING No 1 front
Front cover of first edition of aMUSine launched in late November. The third edition will be online in February

As this was a student initiated publication we felt that if we hosted the ezine site off-campus and emailed a teaser image of the ‘front cover’ to our own contact list (managed by Dr Andrew Simpson, Director of the Museum Studies Program) with a click through to the off-campus website once the first issue was up online, we would may be able to follow the lead of ‘grapeshot’, the official university student publication and be a bit ‘different’.

Eventually, after lots of clicking around the web, I found that Yahoo hosted ‘small business’ websites for less than $15 a month and supplied a free domain and a free design template. In a fit of ‘let’s get this thing done’, over one weekend I organised the domain name through Yahoo, purchased three months worth of web hosting, designed and published the ezine. The following week Andrew and Gina (who is our techno-whiz) consolidated an expanded contact list and ‘aMUSine’ was launched to the world!

For more information on the ins-and-outs of setting up an ezine, email Lyn Hicks