Archive for the ‘Views from the CAN Observation Deck’ Category

CAN GLAM Sector News 28 Oct–3 Nov 2010

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The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) was established on 1 November 2010 by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 and they have published a paper ‘Towards an Australian Government Information Policy – Issues Paper which is worth a read.

Regional Australians have new opportunities to participate in hands-on arts and cultural activities that explore community issues through their local festival. Minister for the Arts announces Festival Australia funding for 37 new community festivals. Find out more http://bit.ly/8XmYS3 . Arts Minister Simon Crean said local Festivals are opportunities for communities to come together to have fun, and also to share and participate in cultural and artistic experiences. Today I am announcing $540,000 from the Festivals Australia program for 37 new and diverse festivals projects that range from career development for young Indigenous hip hop performers, workshops for singers and songwriters, MP3 guides to community art spaces, and shopping trolley art works that raise awareness of homelessness.

UNESCO-Aschberg is offering bursaries for young Artists with the deadlines ending Nov: http://bit.ly/cKXkrG Residencies in different arts disciplines available in countries around the world for artists aged 25-35. Residencies offered in Asia and Europe include:
• Visual Arts at Changdong National Art Studio, Korea
• Visual Arts & Creative Writing at Sanskriti Pratishthan, India
• Visual Arts & Design at Camac, France
• Visual Arts & Writing at Civitella Ranieri Centre, Italy
• Visual/ video arts, photography, architecture, animation at UNIDEE, Italy

The Australian Aviation Museum is featured in a new iphone app on Sydney Kids Activities by Nasda Studios http://fb.me/K0ufSt43

Museums Victoria has two positions advertised MV/6589 – Coordinator, Live Exhibits Grade 3; Value Range 2, This Vacancy is Full Time and Ongoing. Applications close: Wednesday 17 November 2010 ; MV/8027 – Senior Event Operations Coordinator Grade 3; Value Range 1 This Vacancy is Full Time and Ongoing Applications close: Monday 15 November 2010.

An interesting book – Electronic Business Revolution: Opportunities and Challenges in the 21st Century – by Peter Cunningham et al. http://amzn.to/8ZKQue

An interesting account of how Mosman Council has been using Social media can be found at http://tinyurl.com/23ofqvw

The CeBIT’s Gov 2.0 conference was also held and you can follow the tweets on this by using the #gov20cebit.

Sound Summit is looking for Festival Co-Directors on 2011 and 2012 festivals http://bit.ly/aY26nn Monday 15th November 2010.

Some great coverage of Phar Lap’s Melbourne Cup win in 1930 http://bit.ly/cCQ91e

World Wildlife Foundation posts 7 photos on Facebook in the album “20% of vertebrates (back-boned species) face extinction risk” http://fb.me/L9jEWkLv

The State Library is hosting a free exhibition of original artwork by the revered poet, Kahlil Gibran, from 4 Dec 2010. http://bit.ly/d17blg

The South Australian Zoo saw the arrival of their long awaited Sea-lion pup. The first pictures http://bit.ly/aCl4O8

EveryBlock partner API goes online to provide access to the latest neighbourhood news 24/7 – across 16 cities Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco ,San Jose, Seattle, Washington, http://tinyurl.com/3axwnu3

Senator Kate Lundy was named one of the Top 10 People Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics & topped the top 10, winning the International eDemocracy Award at the World e.Gov Forum in Paris. Craig Thomler online director at the Department of Health and Ageing & runs a blog called eGov AU, and was also named. Charlotte Harper’s article http://tinyurl.com/38ah2qj

Archiving the Web: Papers from the International Web Archiving Workshop (Vienna 2010) has put some papers online although 1 link appears faulty the others include: Archiving web video – http://liwa-project.eu/images/publications/ArchivingWebVideo.pdf , Terminology Evolution Module for Web Archives http://liwa-project.eu/images/publications/TerminologyEvolutionModule.pdf , Archiving Data Objects using Web Feeds http://liwa-project.eu/images/publications/ArchivingDataObjects.pdf

The Powerhouse Museum have just completed WaterWorx their first in-gallery iPad interactive http://bit.ly/aNj5v6

To support the development of inclusive practices and opportunities for all people with a disability living in NSW, Accessible Arts has developed a Rural and Regional Engagement Strategy 2010-12 http://bit.ly/bpn00H

Australia Council appoints Anzarts for Australian Performing Arts Market scoping study http://bit.ly/dlsLGc

Release of the draft for the proposed new National Arts curriculum http://icio.us/5wfrah
Australia’s average online connection speed is 2.8 megabits per second (Mbps) ranking it 48th in the world according to the Akamai Report: http://bit.ly/aNrXPm
A fantastic interactive graphic illustrating the scale of the universe by Cary Huang & Michael Huang http://htwins.net/scale/

South Australian Library & Information Network (SALIN) Committee wrote to tell us about the library infested with Zombies see Attack of the Zombrarians they even have their own calendar http://bit.ly/9iBR8u

Simon Collins wins the inaugural Hurstville Library St George Art Award.
An article on the end of textbooks as we know them http://bit.ly/aacxSy

One less login – you can now sign up for Flickr using your Google Account! http://cot.ag/8XGibT

The Smithsonian’s open source web development tools Omeka beta launches http://bit.ly/bBShhX

A nice BBC story on Ludwig Koch, the man pioneered nature sound recording: http://is.gd/gpbAX

Paper from Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission inquiry on Victorian tourism industry scopes public submissions http://tinyurl.com/392wt9d

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Historians and Digital Scholarship

How difficult is it for historians to publish work in digital form?

This was the question posed by Rachel Ensign in her Chronicle article today. While an American survey of 4000 historians found most wanted to include interactive maps or databases in their work the publishers of journal were far less enthusiastic.

According to Ensign the system of peer review and printed journals has not embraced digital-born work and instead much of this work makes it way into blogs or Wikipedia. In my experience a lot of the work appearing in this form also appears with poor footnoting and references, often not helped by the technical limitations of the software used to create this work. About 20 percent of scholars in the survey, conducted by Robert Townsend, assistant director of research and publications at the American Historical Association, said they had published work in a native digital form.

One of the projects mentioned in the article by Doug Seefeldt, pointed to new digital scholarship which works in ways paper cannot. I had a quick look at one of these the Stanford University’s Spatial History Project, where interactive maps, searchable primary sources, video, and audio are given the same importance as the text, and thought the ‘Colorado Railroad Accidents 1894 -1895′ project was an interesting example of how this kind of scholarship could work.

I would be interested to know what others thought about this – and what success they have had developing, and publishing, digital-born content.

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Emerging technologies. Immaterial Matters?

 

A tweet from Lorcan Dempsey @lorcanD caught my eye this morning – it referenced an Ariadne article ‘Emerging Technologies in Academic Libraries (emtacl10)’ a new international conference for academic libraries held in April this year in Trondheim, Norway. The article is in fact a report from Andrew Walsh an academic librarian from the University of Huddersfield, England. Then I saw another tweet from @DigitalKoans about the value academic libraries offer to researchers being analysed to ascertain how what libraries do is beneficial to the research process.

Strikes me the word “research” itself implies that the researcher (party) has explored research materials (collection material) that are made usefully available (a library) to the researcher. This research was (I’m surmising) a means of exploring “how much” value academic libraries generate and therefore increase the potential and therefore value (tangible and intangible) of new research. Lastly I spotted a reference to ways to learning how to write good grant applications from Richard Urban @Musebrarian that I thought “ah ha!” and quickly retweeted the reference.

What struck me about the information in this Ariadne article was the radical changes occurring (impact and issues arising) at one part of the collecting sector and how different the working experience is in the other parts of the collecting sector. On occasion I have been asked to give a sense of what I think is happening in the collecting sector in Australia and I’m going to attempt to do so more here. I’ll come back to the second and third references on value and grant writing further along.


Image provided with a Creative Commons Licence from Jurvetson on Flickr

I’m going to break radical change (and issues) down into bite-sized chunks and use scenarios to think more broadly about the collecting sector and emerging technologies. The collecting sector is a very complex field to be working in and the word collecting is so widely applicable. To make distinctions in work practice and approaches it can therefore be important to see in what context collecting occurs and why.

 

Organisation Size

>> Small local volunteer supported collecting organisations

These collecting organisations can be found ALL over Australia and may have a library collection, an archive of primary materials, historic buildings, native or exotic trees, specimens, artworks or made objects. These organisations might be known as an historical society, a visitor centre, a cultural centre or a museum. Rather than focus on the name or type of the organisation I focus in on what is being collected and my thoughts wander back to why – what is driving this? Then I look at the scale, any public infrastructure, resources available (staff, recurrent budget or grant opportunities) and the services provided. Many issues are faced by volunteer based organisations, to name a few: secure and appropriate premises for keeping collection material, technical expertise to enable digitisation and practice guidance. Outreach supports are crucial for these types of organisations and good advice and support at critical times can mean the world of difference in terms of making progress and continuity.

The notion of emerging technologies might seem incongruent to talk about when organisations like this are faced with these bottom line issues. But… I have to say, I have been enormously impressed by the positive thinking, commitment and power to surprise of the volunteer workforce. In my limited experience working across the GLAMs I’m constantly staggered at the careful attention to core issues and the ability to clear some head space and explore social media.

 

>> Medium-large sized organisations with paid professional staff

These collecting organisations are established as regional, state and national entities often. The organisations may have a primary collecting domain but will often have adjunct and diverse other collections, e.g. a museum that has a library and an archive. It would be disingenuous to say that the same issues faced by volunteer organisations are the same for these medium to large sized collecting organisations. So to qualify this statement I’d say the issues may be similar but the capacity to resolve them and address the risks is greater in these organisations. This capacity arises from the fact that the organisations have been formalised as publicly funded entities, there is recurrent funding and people are specifically trained to undertake core collecting tasks.

The notion of emerging technologies doesn’t seem incongruent at all to talk about in the context of these organisations. What I really like about the collecting community though is that innovation, nimbleness and curiosity – isn’t – the preserve of the paid workforce and social media is increasingly a means of collecting practitioners in organisations large and small establishing new peer networks and drawing upon each others’ know-how (and ventures forth).

 

The Why: Sustainability and Relevance

In the base social/economic sense collecting organisations collect to provide resources for their community to exploit. When that idea is dug into a little more there are very specific reasons that collecting organisations collect and make their collections publicly accessible. What is behind this is the relevance to the community (there is an interest in accessing the collection) and that interest is sustained, i.e there is continued desire/need and therefore expectation.

This is where I’d like to draw attention to the second article – and that is the ability (and necessity in many cases) to be able to continue to demonstrate the sustained interest (desire/need) and relevance of maintaining a collection and providing access to it. It seemed extraordinary to me that after 20 years of working in this field I am still seeing reports like this emerging and I’m still inclined to respond with intensity when articulating and asserting the value I know so well that is generated through collecting.

 

Technology and Value


Image provides with a Creative Commons Licence from theplanetdotcom via Flickr

Australia currently has a hung parliament, one of the issues being debated was the National Broadband Network (NBN). Whatever comes out of the negotiations between the political parties here in Australia will be important for collecting organisations large and small in the longer term. The demand for online content (and by extension it is assumed virtual access to collections) isn’t showing any signs of going away. Opportunities for organisations large and small to secure funding and advice to digitise their collections is a prime means of making the most of this community desire/need to access content online. The pace and level at which this happens is where the sticking point is when the situation of these two collecting organisations is considered. I don’t have ready answers inexcept that I point back to: The Why and How. To sustain collecting and maintain relevance to audiences and user communities is about having a good understanding of what those audiences and communities desire/need and therefore will support with people power and/or $. Which brings me to the last tweet I mentioned with a link to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in the US – which i explored a little and found some good sample grant applications to look at. While these resources are focused on the IMLS grants and US organisations, much of the same information required by the IMLS is the kind of information required by grant bodies here in Australia.

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Irish Professionals in Australia: Connecting CAN Partners

Richard Reid is curating the much-anticipated Irish in Australia exhibition for the National Museum of Australia. It cuts across a wide range of themes but the Collections Australia Network (CAN) has decided to focus on the success stories of Irish professionals to showcase the collections of its CAN Partners. From notorious bushranger Ned Kelly in Victoria to celebrated South Australian mineowner Charles Hervey Bagot, this story travels across the country from first settlement until the end of WWII. Our CAN Partners have provided the Outreach Blog with some fascinating and inspiring stories about Irish settlers. Australia boasts the world’s largest population of Irish descendants per capita outside Ireland, offering many more stories that can be found in collections across the country. CAN has worked in partnership with the National Museum to assist in collection research, as well as help promote our Partners’ collections and the national exhibition which opens on St Patrick’s Day 2011.

Irish_Google
Google Earth image mapping organisations holding material relating to Irish professionals in Australia.

Western Australia
Durack Collection / State Library of Western Australia collection on CAN
Durack 6
The Durack family surveyed land across the Kimberley, Western Australia in 1882-83 that would be fit for cattle. Michael Patrick Durack, the eldest of four sons was sent in 1886 to the head-station, Argyle Downs, arriving just in time for the Halls Creek goldrush. As a pastoral entrepeneur, Durack developed overseas markets for his cattle from the Philippines and Brazil. He became a leader of his community as justice of the peace and in 1917 entered State parliament as a Nationalist member of the Legislative Assembly for Kimberley. Under his guidance, Argyle Downs was known for looking after its Aboriginal employees.

This passport was issued to Tommy Chrongen 4 August 1904 by Michael Patrick Durack stating the bearer was returning to his native country for two moons holiday and for anyone on the way to assist with food and transport if required and bill to Argyle Downs Station.

South Australia
Kapunda Historical Society collection on CAN
Kapunda_bagot
Kapunda has the distinction of being the oldest copper mining town in Australia – the birthplace of Australia’s commercial mining history and key to the early development of South Australia. In 1842, Charles Hervey Bagot’s youngest son discovered an outcrop of copper ore in Kapunda. Bagot’s management of the mine hauled South Australia back from the brink of bankruptcy and helped finance the construction of some of the most impressive buildings in the State. The town gave the Captain Bagot a sterling silver cup on his retirement and departure back to England for his role in the mine’s success, known as Bagot’s Cup.

Doctor Matthew Blood was the first official doctor at the mines and first resident general practitioner in the district. He also became renowned as an enthusiastic amateur photographer. Blood was mayor of Kapunda when the Duke of Edinburgh visited the town and the mines in 1867. In 1859, the Reverend William Oldham took over the management of the Kapunda mine from his retiring friend of many years and ran Mine Rifles Company.

Queensland
Discover Eumundi collection on CAN
Samuel_Kelly_portrait
Samuel Kelly left Ballydrain in Northern Ireland in 1871 with his family when he was just five years old and developed a taste for the working the land in Geelong. When Samuel was sixteen his family decided to return to Northern Ireland and he stayed on to forge his future in becoming a pioneer in the Eumundi area. fire in his belly and a sparkle in his eye, the young twenty year old man started his career by transporting felled trees by bullock and by water to Pettigrew’s Mill at Maroochydore. The timber industry was flourishing and within a short period of time he purchased 20 acres of land for herding his bullocks. Kelly turned his attention to grazing and dairying, leaving the operation of the bullock teams to his three sons. Over the next forty years was an active member of Caboolture Divisional Board, now known as the Maroochy Shire, the dairy industry, school, farmers’ co-operative, community hall. He even set up a butcher shop. The Eumundi Discovery Centre has an extensive collection of settler stories like this one of Irishman Samuel Kelly.

Victoria
Central Highlands Regional Library Corporation collection on CAN
Niven_historyofBallarat
Francis Wilson Niven left Dublin for Victoria with his wife Elizabeth Close in search of gold in the 1850s. After limited success, Niven purchased a small lithographic plant for £40, and despite having no practical knowledge of the art, taught himself lithography. Soon he was able to import one of the earliest known commercial steam lithographic presses into Australia. He produced the beautiful History of Ballarat by W. B. Withers and The Cyclopedia of Victoria which provides an extraordinary resource of historical and biographical information, now in the Central Highlands Regional Library collection. Niven & Co also produced mining plans, maps and panoramas of Ballarat that contributed to extension of the mining industry. This is the first issue of the first edition of the History of Ballarat published in 1870, with the coloured title page and colophon F.W. Niven Steam Litho.

Tasmania
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery collection collection on CAN
MartinEdwards_view
Martin Edwards was convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment on 17th August 1819, and transported to Van Diemen’s Land, when he was 19 years old. His crime is not certain, but it was possibly forgery. He is listed in convict records as an assistant teacher in a school in Dublin but he was also described as a labourer. He became a fairly prominent landowner and businessman in Launceston, Tasmania, within two years of the expiry of his sentence, and was regarded as a ‘gentleman’. The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery have photographs of his premises taken by Frank Hurley and the original land grants.

This map of Launceston, Tasmania 1856 is a land survey map showing the land grants for Martin Edwards at the corner of Wellman and Arthur streets and on the corner of Brisbane and Charles Streets.

ACT
National Gallery of Australia collection online
Death_of_Constable_Scanlon
Sidney Nolan, Death of Constable Scanlon, 1946, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, gift of Sunday Reed 1977

Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series is a significant part of the National Gallery of Australia’s collection. It can be accessed through the gallery’s own collection search, on the CAN database and through Picture Australia on CAN.

Ned Kelly won the hearts of the common people by reacting against the unscrupulous squatter practices of forcing small selectors off their land. He justified the thievery by playing up to his Irish heritage and claiming that he, and others like him, were victims of their establishment and anti-Irish police – even though 80% of police were Irish at the time. and his brothers were forced to resort to stock stealing and other unlawful activities just to survive. Glenrowan, the hometown of the Kelly family and the place where most notorious bushranger had his last shoot-out, boasts a striking seven metre high statue of Ned Kelly with his rifle. At Stringbark Creek, Kelly shot two of the four policemen dead including Constable Scanlon which became the subject of one of Sidney Nolan’s paintings began his best known series of works based on Ned Kelly and the bushranger legend in 1945, which were exhibited in Paris in 1948. These two artworks are part in the National Gallery of Australia.

Northern Territory
Katherine Museum (secondary material not online)
Timothy_OShea
In 1909, Timothy and Catherine (O’Keefe) O’Shea arrived in Port Darwin ready to start prospecting for gold. They found their way to Pine Creek where they built a home and pegged down the rights to the Enterprise Mine. O’Shea then went on to build a billiard saloon, a hotel and worked on the railway line from Pine Creek to Emungalan from 1917 to 1926.

Timothy O’Shea is pictured standing beside his wife on their wedding day with very dusty shoes. They had walked from Tralee to Killarney in Ireland to the ceremony in 1907. He hired his suit, hat and gloves for the occasion. They went on to have six children.

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The Eco Museum in Fairfield

cedirc
Fairfield Museum and Art Gallery Director Cedric Boudjema

An Eco-Museum is being developed in Fairfield as a strategy to represent the most diverse municipality in Australia. When director Cedric Boudjema took on the Fairfield Museum directorship in November 2008, he saw the need to collaborate with the community to build a more reflective collection. The Fairfield City Museum and Art Gallery collection was primarily objects from white settlement yet the municipality is Australia’s most culturally diverse — 52 per cent of the population is overseas born and home to more than 50 nationalities.

He borrowed the ‘eco museum’ model, developed in France in the 1970s, with its main aim to preserve tangible and intangible heritage. Mr Boudjema wanted to record the objects migrants arrive with in Australia. He is also interested in what happens to a language and culture when it is influenced by living in another country. ‘The Uruguyans arrived in the 1960s and when they came, they played the drums. Now they play with Australian kids and it is no longer just for their community,’ Mr Boudjema said. ‘I want to look at how a group of people manage this transformation process when they arrive in a new place.’

One of the first major exhibitions, Fairfield has developed, using the ‘eco museum’ philosophy looks at traditional costumes from 50 migrant groups. Curator Janise Derbyshire is working with Mr Boudjema to develop the exhibition and public program using the whole municipality as its exhibition space. Photographer Danny Huynh is taking portraits of each of the communities wearing their traditional costume in front of their houses (to become part of the exhibition). Textile workshops will invite different nationalities to share their techniques. The costumes will be on display in as many locations as the museum can develop partnerships with so that it can make the shire a living museum.

hmong
Image by Danny Hunyh, Hmong community (Cara Yang, Bruce Yang, Sarsha Yang, Pa Yang & Madelin Yang), Courtesy of the artist / Fairfield City Museum and Art Gallery

Not only is Fairfield Museum taking its collection into the community, it is also inviting communities to borrow the objects. The Museum will teach those interested about how to care for the artefacts and then encourage them to use the collection items as part of their own customs. This philosophy was developed by Julian Spalding while he worked at the Glasgow Museums Service. Another example of this practice is at the Albury City LibraryMuseum. They act as a caretaker for the community’s possum skin cloak so the Elders can collect it from the Museum and take it to schools or wear it in ceremonies. Mr Boudjema said, ‘the living heritage museum is about this accessibility of the collection. The collection is no longer destined to the museum only but to the communities.’

Cross-pollination is the idea that underpins the Collections Australia Network’s (CAN) strategy. It values sharing methodologies, resources and knowledge between the gallery, library, archive and museum sectors. Fairfield Museum uploaded a selection of objects from its collection onto CAN last month.

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Collectors: Keepsakes and Mementos

The Collections Council of Australia

The Collections Council of Australia (CCA) closed on 30 April 2010. It seems a fitting moment to reflect upon the nature of collecting and acknowledge the energy, support and intellectual insight Margaret Birtley and her team at the Council brought to the business of collecting in Australia.

Collections Council of Australia (CCA)

The CCA have found two new custodians for four of its major projects: the Department of the Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts (DEWHA) and The Powerhouse Museum. Significance 2.0 and Australian Collecting Organisations Register (OZCOR) are to be handed over to DEWHA. Collections Law: Legal Issues for Australian Archives, Galleries, Libraries and Museums and SAGE (a.k.a Standards And Guidelines: an E-directory) are to be handed over to the Powerhouse. The CCA website remains up and it has been archived in PANDORA by the National Library of Australia. The CCA versions of these sites will be accessible via the Council’s static website until further notice.

 

Sector Events – Preservation

In the next two months there are two collecting sector events focusing on preservation – a symposium in Melbourne ‘Between Creation and the Collecting Institutions’ 3 June 2010 and a conference in Sydney ‘Digital Preservation: Ensuring the Longevity of Born-Digital Records’ 12-14 May 2010.

Digital Preservation conference 12-14 May 2010

The symposium in Melbourne focuses on two aspects of art collection: the benefits of keeping collections ‘today’s creations are tomorrow’s heritage’ and that most art is not held in national collections, it is held in private hands and by small associations. The conference Sydney focuses on the ‘how’ of digital records management, looking at approaches, methods and tools. These two events raise the same questions: what is kept?; what is discarded?; who keeps it?; how do they keep it?; who gets access to it?; what it costs to keep it?; and why keep it?. These can be hard questions to ask let alone answer. In the realms of digital preservation it is worth noting a change in directorship from Chris Rusbridge to Kevin Ashley in the Digital Curation Centre in the UK and checking out the news on the Twitter archive recently donated to the Library of Congress recently in the National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation Program. It is also worth looking at the tools page on the DCC and NDIIPP sites to see just what resources are out there. While the realities of physical collecting are being solved, the realities of virtual collecting remain a challenge.

 

Putting Collections Online

Last year at the Allsorts Online forum in Adelaide collectors from the arts, media, academy and the GLAM sector were represented as presenters. The presenters talked about their online projects and making collection items available online. Whether these practitioners see themselves primarily as collectors, researchers, broadcasters or publishers of collection information is another debate. The aim of having the discussion was to get those actively and those incidentally in the business of collecting in the same room to share thoughts about what happens when organisations put collections up online. For example, an implicit expectation that a collection is ‘a click away’ is set up in the mind of the searcher or researchers online that seems to be quite different to the reality of of actually accessing a collection. For collections filled with moving image, images and text there is some ready translation into the online world via the computer screen. For artefacts, the representation is mostly 2D with some representations that permit zooming and rotation.

 

The physical spaces of libraries particularly are changing to enable a space that once housed more physical collection material to house searchers and researchers to access the collection online in the library space (or beyond its walls and anywhere). An historical society might find itself in very different circumstances in that they seek a basic requirement, i.e. a permanent home to store the precious local history collection they’ve gathered up with the help (often) of volunteers. The extent of difference in challenges faced by collecting organisations reflects the wonderfully diverse and the highly practical nature of collecting…the intriguing aspect of collecting lies in the collection items themselves and in the kernel of intent embedded in the rationale for collecting.

Maize kernel

 

Collection Policy
Archives of data, footage, images, and records and artefact and library collections are often developed as an adjunct the the core business of an organisation. This is why having collection policy is so important to enable the brief for collection management to be identified and guide decision-making. The strategic and operational policies express the rationale and identify constraints which can give direction on how issues on legislation, scope, location, access, preservation, assessment, retention and deaccession can be resolved. An opportunity arises through short term gathering or incidental collecting to make use and enjoy the benefits of artefacts and resources close at hand. At some point an assessment of what to let go and what to keep is needed to be more efficient with managing the collection, to change what is collected or made accessible because of a change in collection focus or governance; or to accept a fate of reduced means or recognise the significance of what is collected and to disperse, dispose, sell, or donate a collection.

 

The Collection Horizon
Meanwhile, across the Tasman in New Zealand there are moves to integrate the National Library of New Zealand and Archives New Zealand into the Department of Internal Affairs. The strategic intent behind keeping these collections is enshrined in legislation and this forms an important aspect of societal fabric and democracy. One of the key issues raised in this process of integration are the statutory independence of the National Librarian and the Chief Archivist and statutory provisions for the role of a Chief Librarian for the Alexander Turnbull Library. In the light of two reports published recently: Culture is not a Department: The Role of Governance in National Cultural Institutions and A Balancing Act: Balancing the need to Protect Collections and Save the Earth – the horizons seem to be changing in Australia too in the collecting sector.

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Putting collections online: a state of mind

Baseline is a perfect example of what an organisation can do when there are a few staff members who are passionate about making collections available online. The Land and Property Management Authority (LPMA) launched its beautifully designed online database last week. The LPMA, like the Western Plains Cultural Centre, Manly Regional Art Gallery and Mundaring Shire Art Gallery have overcome any potential obstacles, like staff and budget shortages, to make their collections available in stages.

KennedyandForbes_lr
Nicola Forbes and Susan Kennedy built the LPMA online collection website Baseline in just one year

As soon as Corporate Records and Information Services Manager Nicola Forbes started at the LPMA in 2007, she wanted to make the photographs, surveys, maps and land grants, sales and auction posters and survey drafting equipment available to regional audiences through an online database and virtual exhibitions. It was also a good opportunity to start cataloguing the collection – one that had grown by virtue of being one of Australia’s first government agencies.

josephbanksauction
Auction Poster for Sir Joseph Bank’s Estate, Botany, 1921

Within months of working in the beautiful Lands building on College Street in Sydney, Ms Forbes found the first land grant New South Wales’ first governor Lachlan Macquarie issued stored in the chemical cupboard for ’safekeeping’. It was a major find as it was signed on the day Governor Macquarie stepped off the boat – researchers had always believed he started issuing the grants the following day.

Ms Forbes is extremely proud of Baseline. When asked how it came about, she says: ‘It was an act of love because we really wanted to do it. My two staff did it in their spare time’. As soon as the project was approved in principle, she hired Susan Kennedy and together they drafted a project brief. Then they bought collection management system KE EMU, a digital camera and Adobe Creative Suite – a software package used to build websites. Ms Kennedy designed the site in accordance with the State Government’s CSS guidelines.

soldierssetllement1
Mullumbimby Soldiers’ Settlement Estate

It became a very organic process. They had to work backwards. First building the website. Second, methodically adding artefacts to EMU. ‘We don’t know what we have so it is like being a bower bird,’ Ms Kennedy said. The team enter significant items into the CMS as they come across them, realising it will take years to complete. Narratives have always been an important part of the website for Ms Forbes and so she has designed a section on baseline for virtual exhibitions when they come across interesting collection of material, like the soldier settlement images.

Ms Forbes and Ms Kennedy gave themselves a one year deadline to launch the site in time for the exhibition on Governor Macquarie, 1810: Expanding Sydney, at the Museum of Sydney and last week’s FIG Congress in Sydney. The secret to these impressive young women’s success has been to use their skills and resources to build the site in-house. Of course, this meant working on weekends in the last few months to achieve their goal.

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A museum without a collection: National Automobile Museum of Tasmania

Imagine a museum without a collection or a conservation department. A museum that does not require a storage facility and has the luxury of being able to change its exhibitions every three months. A not-for-profit heritage organisation that financially is self-supporting. When curating its temporary exhibitions, the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania (NAMT) treats its network of car enthusiasts as its collection, inviting car clubs to lend their cars and motorbikes.

Ford1928 A Model Ford (owned by Tasmanian bushwalker and photographer Frederick Smithies O.B.E 1885-1979)

Museum manager Phil Costello also relies on car enthusiasts who offer their treasures after visiting the museum. One Sydney man was visiting the Museum while on a driving holiday around Tasmania in his 1982 De Tomaso Pantera GTS and decided to offer his sports car as a short-term loan in the permanent display of 50 cars and 50 bikes. Within a few months, he decided to sell it through the museum. It is one of a few exhibits for sale where the Museum will take 2.5% commission.

Police1929 Harley Davidson J Model used as a New York Police Department vehicle

The Automobile Museum owes much of its financial success to merchandise sales in the shop. It has grown so much that a motorbike has replaced the display car and now there are plans to build a glass showroom to the west of the building and expand the shop presence. NAMT also relies on the admission fee and modest private donations. The only Government funding the Museum receives is the use of the building from the Launceston City Council.

This is an interesting example of how a museum can operate commercially and raises the question of the importance of holding a collection. For more information on how a museum likes this works, email Phil Costello.

BrockRichards1977 A9X Torana Hatchback

Temporary exhibitions in 2010
April – June: The Swinging Sixties
July – September: The Art of the Coach Builder
October – December: American Independence

VW1964 Volkswagen Samba featured in the Swinging Sixties exhibition

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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
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.

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MONA: “a subversive Disneyland for adults”

Mona2

David Walsh played ping-pong in the wharf that hosted his Festival of Music and Art (MOFO), wearing a t-shirt with: ‘I am listening to bands that don’t even exist yet’ written across his chest. This conjures an image of a man connected with his community and with the contemporary art scene. Mr Walsh invited Brian Ritchie, formerly the frontman of the Violent Femmes, to curate the annual festival exploring how art and music inform each other. International artists flew in from Serbia, Germany, the US and UK to perform, including eighties hip-hop artist Grand Master Flash for one of Hobart’s biggest concerts of the year. Even after 3000 people registered for the free event, there was still enough demand for people to colour photocopy the wristbands so they could watch the master of the turntables. Money could not buy a ticket to the event. The city felt a little tired on Friday. Many were hanging out in the Princes Wharf (PW1) resting easy on big pink beanbags watching video art from the Venice Biennale, enjoying a wine tasting comparing international wines with his Moorilla winery’s cloth label 2000 pinot noir or watching a cooking demonstration by the head chef at Moorilla’s award-winning restaurant. Whatever the activity – it was all free – accessible to everyone. But the cost of a one way ticket to Hobart last week was $450.

Mona5

FOMA is the beginning of a major injection of art and culture into Tasmania. The goal is to make people to think. The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is currently being built with the launch date to coincide with the third MOFO festival in January 2011. The museum’s name does not let it be categorised beyond being a museum of art. Walsh is often heard saying, one of our philosophies is to have no philosophy. If people walk away hating it, at least they have talked about it and have formed an opinion. The Hobart businessman who has made his fortune by gambling online has turned his efforts into building one of the most exciting art and cultural environments in Australia. MOFO is attracting cool crowds. Some looking to understand the link between music and art, others starved of live music and the rest just wanting to be part of the energetic vibe emanating from Princes Wharf (PW1), the site of the Taste of Tasmania, on Salamanca.

Mona3

Mr Walsh likes to challenge conventions and demands those who work for him to do the same. His staff must research and interrogate how things are done in the cultural sector nationally and internationally, as well as in other domains. H4, the web development company hired to build MONA’s web presence, has never built a museum website before. With one year the until launch date, they have put all of their clients on hold so they can give MONA 100 per cent of their attention. They are building the online collection and linking their web presence to the visitor experience in very exciting ways. Librarian and Information Manager Mary Lijnzaad described the process of developing the website as a partnership. It is a collaborative process, looking at what other people are doing and extrapolating that out.

Mona4

Just to illustrate the extent Mr Walsh will go to challenge ideas, he has hired architect Nonda Katsalidis, known for Australia’s tallest building Eureka Tower to design the museum underground. Most museums command attention, they are monuments to themselves. Ms Lijnzaad said, Mr Walsh wants the public to feel underwhelmed when they arrive at MONA. Taking the lift down to the lower levels symbolises going down into the subconscious. The museum’s floorplan has been designed so that it is easy to lose yourself, creating an environment so that people are open to new ideas and experiences. He wants it to be a subversive Disneyland for adults, Lijnzaad said.

Sarah Rhodes

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Long Tails: Why Participate Online?

While pondering the few gem-like comments on the CAN blog some questions arose about the type of action, participation and commentators (and commentary) is out there in the Australian collecting sector via social media. There are guidelines aplenty online to help people to establish and participate in social networks using social media tools – see Darragh Doyle’s how to comment on a blog and Caroline Middlebrook’s blog commenting strategy as just two examples. There are blog lists relating to the Australian collecting sector I’ve scooped up as a small sample (e.g. archives, museums, libraries) to reflect the diversity in a part of the Australian collecting blogosphere. There are also some useful guidelines readily available online aimed at particular collecting domains or organisation types — see the blog about a social media manual being developed in the UK by Jim Richardson which appears to be drawing upon these institutional policy documents and guides for the museum sector.
The Long Tail and Learning

 

What seems to be missing is the discussion of the ‘why would I/we?’ factor and what those motivations and (in)actions reveal about the participants and the wider community. Nina Simon discusses this question at the tail end of a blog on the use of social media by museums and some interesting debate crops up in the comments on this blogpost. There are different questions to ask of oneself about what the motivations and benefits are in establishing or participating online and using social media, for work, or as a citizen. Noticeably (and impressively) there has been strong online feedback on the Australian National Cultural Policy (dialogue open until 1 Feb 2010). Glancing over the open feedback gives an immediate sense that these open online commentators are confident in their thoughts about policy direction and in using social media as citizens in a democratic manner. It would seem unusual to have anything but strong feedback in any case (perhaps worth remembering the polarised nature of public comment or feedback on issues of public interest is about asserting ones views rather than about neutrality and acquiescence). It is though useful to be reminded that what is openly available is not the total picture of the feedback offered and the open commentary may at this point have a certain characteristics of its own by comparison with feedback not published online.
The Long Tail of Fans

 

The larger questions potentially are: how much of Australian digital/social activity is through social media technologies per se and how much is happening through the collecting organisations, the practitioners and the interested public to make for thriving onsite and online communities? An allied question is how big are Australians on offering opinions and dialogue – and is that rate and type of commentary different and/or similar to other cultures? There are theses to be written no doubt in time on that front (if not already written or in process) on patterns particular to Australian participants. A search on Google and then on the Australian Digital Theses Program reveals a doctoral thesis developed at Griffith University by Gordon Fletcher about the cultural significance of web exchange through analysing popular search terms. To quote from Gordon Fletcher’s thesis abstract:

 

“Critical analysis of these higher order categories reveals six cultural traits that predominant in the apparently wide array of search terms; freeness, participation, do-it-yourself/customisation, anonymity/privacy, perversion and information richness. The thesis argues that these traits are part of a cultural complex that directly reflects the underlying motivations of contemporary western mainstream culture.”.

 

There are very good practical reasons to examine the resources committed to onsite and online priorities. Necessarily those priorities are linked to the strategic objectives of organisations and less formally so the aims of individuals. There are also cultural reasons for people to be quick or slow to comment, happy with openness or privacy in offering commentary, and desire and/or comfort levels with particular levels of openness or privacy. In terms of balance I am reminded of the value of perceiving consensus (some kind of peak in the bell curve or cluster of opinion) and the value of diversity, that is, what the long tail of commentating and commentary, and diversity in commentators, online can offer.

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Allsorts09: Collecting sector and media partnerships



Commercialising publicly-owned content. Feeding cultural heritage collections into the news cycle. Profiling the eccentricities of curators. Sharing collections with ABC Online. Cultural collectors as producers and broadcasters. The ideas discussed in the Allsorts Online 09 panel discussion, in Adelaide last week, challenged conventions and offered new perspectives on how the cultural sector operates. Allsorts09 drew on different media, arts and academic practices to start thinking about the future of the collecting sector in new ways. The sector will be able to contribute to Australia’s National Cultural Policy through the Government’s current public consultation process.


Chris Winter (ABC Innovation), Sandra McEwen (Powerhouse Museum) and Angelina Russo (Swinburne University). Photography by Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Social Media Co-ordinator Brent Blackburn

Swinburne University academic Angelina Russo opened the discussion on the future of cultural institutions by focusing on the connections between broadcasters and the collecting sector. She suggested the future of the museum will be as publisher and broadcaster. Curators will become commissioning editors. Ms Russo cited four examples where relationships have been built between media organisations and cultural organisations.

*Smithsonian Channel set up with an online television channel with Showtime Networks to capitalise on it extensive collection.
*Who Do You Think You Are? BBC and SBS broadcast archival material into living rooms about the family history of celebrities. This brought amateur genealogists back into the collecting sector as they researched their own histories. Who Do You Think You Are? strengthened the relationship between museums, archives, the offical sponsor Ancestry.com and the BBC and SBS.
*Origins of Australian Football website looked at the history of AFL using the State Library of Victoria collection. The library used a major celebrity (AFL) to push content out and then drew on people’s curiosities to bring the audience back in.
*Te Papa and the Colossal Squid. Te Papa filmed the public defrosting of the squid donated to the museum frozen using a web cam. Discovery Channel was invited to make a documentary and TV journalists were also present. Te Papa web team blogged, tweeted answering an active respoionse from the international scientist community. This built strong public interest in the lead-up to the exhibition over the next six months. The exhibition was tied in with public lectures, a children’s programme and an online 3-D game involving building your own squid.

The Allsorts09 panellists were: Susannah Elliot from the Science Media Centre suggested a Sarah Keith (SBS), Ingrid Mason (Collections Australia Network), Sandra McEwen (Powerhouse Museum), Fee Plumley (Australia Council), Angelina Russo (Swinburne University) and Chris Winter (ABC Innovation).

ABC Innovation Manager New Services Chris Winter has been actively working to remove the boundaries between the collecting sector and the national broadcaster. He believes collecting institutions like the Powerhouse Museum and State Library of NSW see the ABC as an attractive platform to showcase its material through projects like Sydney Sidetracks. Mr Winter also looked at the changing way broadcasters present stories. Four Corners, for example, airs its documentary on ABC1 while repackaging it for the web with timelines, maps, edits and behind-the-scenes interviews. These different formats attract different age groups. Ms Russo agreed that broadcasters and the collecting sector are natural partners. They need to support each other but do not necessarily need to collaborate. She also identified republishing and repurposing as the next point of tension.

SBS National Manager Client Solutions Sarah Keith agreed with Mr Winter that broadcasters have become a content delivery business and can no longer afford to look at themselves as producing television and web material separately. SBS focuses on content and audience as an overall brand approach. SBS no longer has a Director of Television and a Director of Online but it has a Director of Content. This wholistic approach operates in the advertising department where the SBS sales team sells across platforms. They look at which audiences SBS needs to connect with and who they want to partner with.

The cultural sector is going through an identity crisis, says Collections Australia Network National Project Manager Ingrid Mason, who believes cultural institutions need to ‘get to grips with what they are actually supposed to be doing’ onsite and online. They should be drawing on skills used in the media, the arts and academia to achieve its core function. The blurring lines between these sectors is a necessary function for success, Ms Mason says.

The role of Web 2.0 in the collecting sector has increasingly significant in the last few years. Creative Commons Clinic Project Manager Jessica Coates remembered only a couple of years ago people were worried that posted comments would undermine a curator’s authority. Now conversation has come a long way. A speaker in the audience articulated the importance of museums positioning themselves as an authorative figure in the education system as students needed trusted sources.

Arts Council Digital Programs Officer Fee Plumley stressed that people find their own trusted sources. ‘We find an aggregator that provides reliable information. We are all experts in something. The didactic approach of only one expert is outmoded. It is great that we all get to be experts in one field,’ Ms Plumely said. She also emphasised that as more people participate in the online environment, traditional sources will be more highly valued. People will want to pay for high resolution photographs as more low resolution photographs are seen on the Internet.

Museums take authority very seriously, says the Powerhouse Museum’s Prinicpal Curator Sandra McEwen. There is a need to maintain boundaries yet museums realise people are learning in different ways and so they need to deliver truth in an entertaining way. The ABC has come to realise the way news has to be delivered is based on social capital. There is tension between social capital and maintaining the brand, says Mr Winter.

Science Media Centre Chief Executive Officer Susannah Elliot’s is wary of the blurring lines and news services maintaining credibility. Lobby groups infiltrating the news broadcast process. Ms Elliot stressed the need to ensure separation between lobby and evidence-based information.

Allsorts Online 09 ended with some exciting possibilties for future partnerships and collaborations with the collecting sector and the media. Both entities need to have a conversation with its audiences and both draw on archives to share and preserve cultural heritage. Web 2.0 has made way for an exciting future and a new way of looking at collections.

Sarah Rhodes

Top image caption: High heeled shoe on tricycle, `Liquorice Allsorts’, designed by Ross Wallace, used in `Parade of Icons’ Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony, Sydney 2000. Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. Part of the Sydney 2000 Games Collection. Gift of the New South Wales Government, 2001.

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Virtual Museum of the Pacific pilot launched

The Virtual Museum of the Pacific was launched for community consultation at the “Access to Cultural Collections” seminar yesterday. Pacific Islander arts and community development representatives met at the Australian Museum to offer feedback on how they will use the website and whether it suits the Pacific Islander way of approaching navigation.

Australian Museum Director Frank Howarth opened the “Access to Cultural Collections” seminar by saying that the future of cultural institutions lay in ‘facilitating debate’ and ‘connecting with communities’. He stressed the importance of taking these objects back to their communities virtually. “The knowledge and power in these objects is immense”and they have the potential to enrich lives. The Museum has been collaborating with the Juvenile Justice Department to help make connections with cultural identity. Welfare workers were keen to take laptops into jails and community centres so that the Virtual Museum of the Pacific could help revive knowledge, skills and reconnect to cultural beliefs.


The interface of the Virtual Museum of the Pacific. Photographer: E Furno © Australian Museum

With the help of an Australian Research Council (ARC) linkage grant, the Australian Museum (Vinod Daniel, Melanie Van Olffen, Dion Peita) and University of Wollongong (Prof Amanda Lawson, Prof Peter Eklund, Prof Peter Goodall, Dr Brogan Bunt) started designing and building the website in December 2008. The first step was to build a prototype site displaying 427 of the Museum’s 60,000 objects in its Pacific Collection. They used high quality images and well-researched collection item descriptions.

It is well-known that museums are moving away from just displaying objects and are actively trying to capture people’s attention online. The Virtual Museum was designed so that the Australian Museum would use its traditional categories alongside user-generated tags, in different languages and specific to different regions. Information about the objects is available through a variety of mediums from catalogue descriptions and wiki annotations, to audio interviews, transcripts and video so that all of the ways a user communicates are met. Mr Howarth hopes in the future there will be the ability to search for objects using motifs or designs and move away from the reliance on language.


Detail of a record in the VMP of a Solomon Island comb with basic metadata and tags. Photographer: E Furno © Australian Museum

The biggest issue that came out of yesterday’s community consultation was the navigation of the website. Canberra academic Siosiua Lafitani descibed the Pacific view of space and time as circular – everything has a relationship. While the Western concept of space and time is linear. Hyerpace allows people to connect past and present knowledge remotely in a circular way but the design of the navigation tools would need to enable this.

Museums are finding themselves asking the eternal question: How can museums provide access to collections while respecting traditional owners and uses? How can the rights and needs of creators and preservers be balanced? Chief Marcellin Abong, from the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, reinforced that under Pacific Law both the object and the spirits associated with the objects need to be respected. In the complex traditional rights system used in the Pacific, copyright is paid with respect. Spiritual law would need to be understood before the consultation period is finished and more objects were uploaded onto the site.

Over the next three months there will be extensive community consultation and feedback before the project moves to the next phase of development. It is also starting to looking for future funding streams as the ARC grant finishes in December 2010.

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Revealing the Arts: a snapshot


The biggest problem the arts community faces is that it is not part of the political or social agenda, the head of ABC TV Kim Dalton said at the Revealing the Arts conference yesterday. He expressed his frustration at how the sector was not being taken seriously while the Federal Government pledged $4.7 billion to the National Broadband Network, $22 billion in “nation building infrastructure spending” and $3.1 billion over four years on innovation. Mr Dalton invited all arts organisations to work with the ABC and the Australia Council to lobby the Government and put the arts back on the agenda.

Mr Dalton saw the ABC as a laboratory for creative projects. It has the branding and platforms to be the ideal partner for creating new work and attracting new audiences. He believed the feeling in the room was that there finally was an acceptance of the digital era as a platform in its own right rather than it just being a marketing tool. The ABC was ready to collaborate and partner with the arts community to explore this new medium.

The ABC and Australia Council hosted Revealing the Arts to enable the arts community to engage in ‘creative conversations and solutions for the digital era’. The two-day conference embraced a Web 2.0 philosophy with host and ABC journalist Virginia Trioli involving the audience and Twitterers in a dialogue with panellists after each keynote speaker’s address. A live webcast encouraged the public to answer questions ranging from ‘Show Me Your Arts’, ‘Show Me How’, ‘Who owns Your Arts’, ‘Get ‘Em While They’re Young’ and ‘Show Me the Money’.

Michael Lynch, who has just returned from an eight year reign over the South Bank Centre theatre venues in London, and is now an ABC board director, says it is time for arts institutions to engage differently with governments. No longer can they rely on governments to come up with legislation and funding. The arts need to be more proactive and ‘push and pull governments to work for arts institutions’.

Wollongong University Head of Music and Drama Sarah Miller believed that it was time to build relationships across all platforms and ‘give up the silos’. Physical TV co-founder Richard James Allen agreed it was time for traditional and new media to be seen as their own categories and and to allow the bridge between both to have a place as well.

After intensive and often heated discussion around the lack of representation of artists in the room, whether there should be open-access or copyright is a legitimate income stream, the conference concluded with Australia Council CEO Kathy Keele and Mr Dalton drafting a to do list they could work on together to create a better environment for artists to work in the digital era.

The three main themes discussed througout Revealing the Arts were:
• Co-operation and partnership
• Sharing rights and access
• Digital world exists in own right with own set of values and potential

As the conversation invariably came back to the issue of rights, Ms Keele believed the Australia Council and its arts community needed to work to create better conditions for artists working in the digital era. How can the public access the nation’s archives and collections? Can an artist use these archives in their artwork? How do artists’s protect themselves? Rights training for arts organsations and fostering stronger relationships between arts organisations and artists was also a priority.

In an Australian first, the ABC launched its raw news footage of the Brisbane Zombie Walk under a Creative Commons licence onto its collaborative website Pool. The ABC has embraced the Govt 2.0 movement of sharing its resources by licensing its raw news footage under a Creative Commons licence.

The ABC has also just launched its arts portal ABC Arts.

Sarah Rhodes

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News cycle and collections

GLAMs can set up their own little media empire online using YouTube and a blog. Web 2.0 has made traditional media platforms like television, radio and print available to everyone to utilise. Now there are opportunities to engage new audiences by tuning into the news cycle and analysing how a collection fits within this framework. Making a collection relevant beyond its cultural heritage.


Tram in Loftus St (detail), photographer unknown,1955. Len Stone/Vic Solomons collection, City of Sydney Archives.

Shooting Through was a beautiful exhibition of old photographs, tram conductors uniforms, tickets, destination boards, historical footage and interiews about the trams in Sydney at the Museum of Sydney. What made the exhibition especially interesting was Historic Houses Trust and Sydney Tramway Museum’s contemporary approach to the subject matter by trying to “reignite the debate for light transport in Sydney”. Bob Carr was chosen to open the exhibition as he was responsible in 1997 for the only light rail in Sydney. Within the exhibition, Lord Mayor Clover Moore talks about her vision for Sydney and advocates for the development of light rail to improve the public transport system.

As you may know, CAN is hosting a forum in Adelaide that will look at how collecting institutions are becoming cultural producers. If you are interested in using online publishing to get your stories out, then it will be worth the trip to South Australia to meet like-minded people and share ideas.

Allsorts Online: the collecting sector, academia, the arts and the media.
Date: Tuesday, 1 December 2009
Time: 8.30am-5.00pm + drinks
Cost: Free
Place: State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia
Enquiries: enquiries@collectionsaustralia.net
Registration: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/189943/canforum

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