Archive for the ‘future trends’ Category

CAN GLAM Sector News 18 Nov 23 Nov 2010

News from our @Can001 twitter feed

Where do good ideas come from? 1-6 • Ideas don’t come from watching television • Ideas sometimes come from listening to a lecture • Ideas often come while reading a book • Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them • Ideas hate conference rooms, particularly conference rooms where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks or boredom • Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide – I thought Seth Godin’s list of was a good way to start this weeks CAN news update there are more at

Geocommons – this is an amazing development and probably my pick of the week as far as occupying my time. This is an online repository of all kinds of database which you can add in layers to make up your own geo-coded maps. I made up a quick one on Museum Attendance Europe 2008 at and I am working on one for Locations of GLAM sector in Australia which will be great if I can get it to work.

Turing Papers a few weeks back I posted a link to Christie’s auction of these papers and on Tuesday Google announced it was contributing $100,000 to help Bletchley Park acquire them.

The British Library announces its adopt a book program

The Portable Film Festival, an online film festival

Herbarium Information Systems Committee meeting in Christchurch NZ. Agenda and evolving meeting notes

Australian Government funding for schools —the first comprehensive government appraisal of school funding since the early 1970s. In 2009, the Australian Government restructured its funding for schools, particularly for government schools, as a result of a new federal financial relations framework established by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) through the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations.

Sad News – fire destroys the Western Australian Town of Claremont library and council offices in Perth

Congratulations to Perth Zoo Category 1 Major Tourist Attraction Gold Medal, Western Australian Museum Geraldton & Silver medal WA Tourism. Category 2 Tourist Attractions Western Australian Museum – Geraldton

iPhone Photography Accessories – mainly tripods etc.

Crash Course in Social Media for Community Engagement: 50 Tools and Methodologies slide show

Evolving Face of Community Care NSW Conference Sydney 2 May 2011

Position Vacant – HEAD OF CREATIVE LEARNING – Museum of Contemporary Art MCA – Sydney

Position Vacant – Director- Human Resources – Department of Culture & the Arts – Perth×7tglh

Job – Curator Role at RMITs Design Hub Melbourne –


Institute of Museum and Library Services selects 5 US libraries and 5 US museums for the 2010 National Medal see what they are up to at

Australian National Data Service cranking up –

The History of Social Media:

Join designer Orla Kiely as she discusses the inspirations behind her vibrant pattern designs. Fri 3 Dec, 7-8.45pm.

Interested in TV drama and doco funding? See Screen Australia’s new draft blueprint for funding

EXHIBITION: Annie Leibovitz – A Photographer’s Life, starts today @ MCA

Calling contemporary musicians who want to get a little experimental – Soundclash grants close 6 December

H.P. Lovecraft meets TINTIN?

The Nature of Connectedness on the Web

Art-youth-culture report and Arts Council response

A competition for urban photographers: HHT is running a competition with a Nikon D3100 up for grabs:

AUSTRALIAN ANTIQUARIAN BOOK FAIR was on 23 24 25 Nov Melbourne

University of technology Sydney – Design ’10 Exhibition showcases the…

Scientist Fenner dies aged 95


Arts & Culture in Australia: Statistical Overview (Part 1)

Keyboard, photograph by Geoff Barker, 2010

On the 19 October the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) published its 8th Australian Bureau of Statistics report on Arts and Culture in Australia. Drawn from a range of sources, including the CAN-Partners list of Museums and Galleries. It is an attempt to provide a unified body of information relating to the those industries defined as being in the ‘Heritage’ or ‘Arts’ sector.

This post is my attempt to compile a bit of an overview of this rather lengthy report and hopefully encourage others to plumb its depths to drag out some of the interesting stats to be found in it. The main area that attracted my attention was Part B Profiles of the Cultural Sectors – 8.0 Museums, 10.0 Libraries and Archives, 12.0 Performing Arts, 13.0 Music & 14.0 Visual Arts and Crafts.

The first thing I noted from the table on page 11 – AVERAGE TIME SPENT ON SELECTED CULTURE AND LEISURE ACTIVITIES – was that in 2006 the GLAM sectors main competitor for leisure activity was still the TV with Australians over 15 spending just under 3 hours each day watching or listening to TV. The most popular cultural venue was the cinema and this perhaps accounts for the table noting that Australians spent triple the length of time visiting entertainment and cultural venues than they did attending Sports Events, although presumably many, like myself, tend to vegetate at home and watch the event on TV. Also I wasn’t sure if this included Australians visiting overseas events.

But even so it is an interesting statistic given the general perception that Australians would prefer to attend a sporting event rather than a cultural one. The reason for this is perhaps the definition of cultural venues which include 36% visiting zoological parks and aquariums 34% percent visiting local, state and national libraries, 34% visiting botanic gardens, and 25% visiting a popular music concert. Art galleries and Museums were next in line in terms of attendance.

It should also be noted that across the board women were more likely to attend a cultural venue with the visit to the library showing the largest discrepancy. In 2006, the ABS Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey found that reading was a favourite activity for 61% of people aged over 15 years. The activity was a favourite for 73% of females surveyed – compared with this sad indicator my genders general bookish interests – 50% of males.

Strangely in the period leading up to middle age (i.e. 44), people were more likely to visit museums and after this Art Galleries assumed the ascendance. I was surprised because of it is often the museum that is associated with the older market and the Art Gallery with the younger one … Hmmmmm? Also noted that Museums tended to get more one-off visits while galleries, libraries get more repeat visits.

The second table discussed is the 2009 OVERSEAS CULTURAL AND HERITAGE VISITORS. Arranged by activity we find 57% attending Museums and Art Galleries but the greatest number 62% visit historical/heritage buildings, sites or monuments. I’m thinking the Sydney Opera House and other major heritage building may have been responsible for quite a few of these however.

Australians took around 66 million overnight visits and 9.3 million of these visited: the theatre, a concert, performing arts, museum, art gallery, Art, craft workshops, festivals, fair, cultural event, Aboriginal displays site or community, or a historical/heritage building, site or monument.

When it comes to government funding the main part of Federal revenue, $1,391,100,000 goes to Radio and TV services while State and Territory Government spends the most on Performing Arts venues $241,200,000. By comparison table 4.1 with 2008-2009 figures shows

Heritage Expenditure by Australian Government in millions followed by %
Archives 105.4
Libraries 60.0
Environmental heritage 207.0
Other museums and cultural heritage 266.0
Art museums 91.5
Total heritage 729.8

Heritage Expenditure by State and territory Government in millions
Archives 65.9
Libraries 337.4
Environmental heritage 1,397.0
Other museums and cultural heritage 338.3
Art museums 175.2
Total heritage 2 313.8

Arts Expenditure by Australian Government in millions
Other arts 136.3
Multimedia 6.2
Film and video production and distribution 115.5
Radio and television services 1,391.1
Design 0.2
Visual arts and crafts 33.4
Music composition and publishing 0.7
Performing arts venues __
Other performing arts 7.0
Music theatre and opera 24.0
Dance 21.6
Drama 28.3
Music performance 59.3
Literature and print media 31.2
Total arts 1 854.7

Arts Expenditure by State and Territory Government in millions
Other arts 124.2
Multimedia 5.9
Film and video production and distribution 122.7
Radio and television services 1.7
Design 4.9
Visual arts and crafts 41.1
Music composition and publishing 0.5
Performing arts venues 241.2
Other performing arts 34.6
Music theatre and opera 16.9
Dance 18.2
Drama 30.1
Total state and territory government 3 033.7

Totals for Heritage and Arts expenditure were as follows: Australian Government 2,584.500,00 and State and Territory Government 3,033,700,000.

There are % figures on this but I have not included them as I wasn’t sure how they were worked out but if any one else can work out how they are arrived at please let me know.

I’ll leave it here for now and try to get out Part 2 on the report next week. All the best Geoff.


Museum3 – from network to not-for-profit!

Museums 3 Ning Logo 2010

Post by Associate Professor Angelina Russo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Museum3 –

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, you can find us at

All thoughts and comments greatly appreciated!

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

Phone +613 99252753


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.


Rebranding the State Library of NSW

There has been fierce debate across the globe about the future of libraries in recent months. Fox News recently announced libraries are a waste of money and should be closed and the Chicago Public Library has come out fighting against this claim. There is a long trail of online articles on this issue so the CAN Outreach Blog decided to interview the design agency responsible for rebranding the State Library of New South Wales (SLNSW) to hear their thoughts on the public’s perception of libraries.

Cat Burgess, Frost Design

Vince Frost and Cat Burgess, of Frost Design, believe people are consuming information in new ways and libraries can be part of that. While libraries are in the knowledge business, they offer an experience that search engines cannot. They believe Google cannot replace the physical form. Librarians are enthusiastic and passionate about their ability to facilitate research. When Frost Design was given the brief of redesigning the State Library of NSW’s identity, the first question they asked themselves was – ‘Do they need a rebrand?’.

Vince Frost, Frost Design

Environmetrics were commissioned to carry out qualitative and quantitative research with focus groups of existing and potential users. The psychographic tests came up with two main profiles – academics and researchers who are looking for information and don’t care where it comes from. The library’s branding does not influence this demographic. The other group are culturally motivated, seek out interpretive information like exhibitions and public programs, and so are heavily influenced by the brand. They would like to visit the library but were intimidated and put off by a perception that the library is only a destination for academic pursuits. Once they were actively engaged they found the library welcoming. So the rebrand needed to focus on this second group.

Frost Design’s biggest challenge was not to undermine the strength of the brand while giving it an open, accessible and contemporary feel. Mr Frost came up with the concept of ‘a sense of surprise’ which was conveyed through the logo. Mr Frost believes online does not have the same respect as the onsite experience and so the goal was to encourage discovery in the library.

Links of interest
‘Which Future for Libraries?’,
‘The Future of Libraries’, ABC Radio National, 30 June 2010

Tips for designing library websites


Crafty ways to communicate: Catrina Vignando

Craft Australia is using social media as a gateway to its collection while it researches how to put the collection on its own website. The peak body uses Flickr to host part of the National Historical Collection and is systematically digitising images dating back to the 1960s. Another Flickr set is trying to crowdsource funding for image preservation.

General manager Catrina Vignando has been experimenting with the opportunities the Internet has to offer Craft Australia since 2003. Their first foray into Web 2.0 was with open access journals and online forums – the former provided a place for researchers and practice-based artists to be published with academic rigeur. The forums offered a chance for artists and arts workers to form a community and share ideas.

Ian Mowbray, Spine Platter 2, 1988, Flickr / Craft Australia, (c)

One of the most successful projects is the National Forums that are held every two years. Ms Vignando set them up to overcome the issue of geographic isolation and to open-up possibilities to connect with international audiences. right way: the future of indigenous craft uses the Ning network to host conference videos and discussion forums. Youth@craft·design: Creating and making a living in the arts today was the focus in 2006 and in 2004 Craft Australia looked at contemporary craft in a digital future.


Museum Victoria deploys citizen scientists


Victorian school students will participate in a citizen science project that allows them to learn about their State’s fauna later this year. The Biodiversity Snapshots program will provide students with a tool that can be used on a mobile device like a smartphone or laptop. The tool will include a simple field guide to common species and a way of recording observations of species they see around them. The observations collected will be uploaded into a central database where they can be analysed as a classroom exercise or sent on to be used by researchers as part of the EarthWarch Institute’s ClimateWatch program.

The mobile learning kits are being developed for the school syllabus by Museum Victoria and will be incorporated into school assignments. Museum Victoria is basing the kits on 300 species from its natural sciences collection – focusing on marine, possum and geological species. It will avoid dangerous fauna like venomous snakes. The data collected will also contribute to the Museum’s natural science collection level description.

Museum Victoria Collection Information Management Systems Manager Ely Wallis has been managing the initiative, in partnership with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Atlas of Living Australia (a biodiversity data management system). The Museum started work on the project last November and will be launched mid this year.


Game-based learning in a Floating World: NGV

The Floating World, the National Gallery of Victoria’s (NGV) latest online initiative, has just been recognised as an example of innovation and excellence by the world’s leading authority on emerging technologies in education. The US-based New Media Consortium described the project as an example of how games can be used in learning to achieve exciting results through research, creative thinking and problem-solving. This reflects particularly well on the NGV as the education sector is still a few years away from embracing games as mainstream practice.

Find more videos like this on The Floating World

The NMC’s Horizon Report 2010 identifies game-based learning, multiplayer online games in particular, as having an ‘enormous potential to transform education’. Students have the opportunity to take ownership of the subject matter — deepening their understanding of the syllabus. Other benefits are: collaboration, problem-solving, public speaking, leadership, digital literacy and media-making.

NGV multimedia manager Jean-Pierre Chabrol worked with the gallery’s Asian art curator Wayne Crother, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and Multimedia Victoria’s Broadband Innovation Fund to create The Floating World. The NGV’s collection of Japanese woodblock prints were used as the basis for students to build animated digital ‘Stories of Old Japan’.

Teachers are able to share and learn from each other’s experiences on The Floating World Ning that was set up. ‘We wanted to bring part of the collection to the kids to be analysed,’ Mr Chabrol said. ‘They can build, describe, animate, script and add music to make a story. And then they can bookmark and share.’ In 2009, twenty schools in Victoria took part in the drag and drop animation game; involving forty-five teachers and 500 students. The resources have now been made available to teachers across the world.


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.


Macroscopic Views? Allsorts Online!

Matt Webb, a British designer for Berg a design consultancy company, gave the keynote presentation at the Web Directions South conference in Sydney (October 2009). Matt had some good points to make about design per se and the direction of web design in general and in playful ways used both science fiction and hiking as pivot points to discuss design. He used his experience of crossing and seeing the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in the USA more poignantly to illustrate the idea that design is part of a significant grander scale shift socially that is only perceptible over long distance and time.
Matt is inspirational, because he is passionate about design and underlying that passion is a very clear understanding of the principles of flexibility and efficiency in form which underlies great design. The examples Matt drew upon were intriguing and unexpected. Public housing in Levittown, developed in the late 1940s for returned servicemen in the USA was his standout example. Matt drew parallels between the modularity and utility in the modern design of these homes; the potential to extend and modify and decorate was left in the hands of the owners – a point of difference for each family.

Levittown, PA

Levittown, PA

So… how does this relate to the collecting sector? Rather than get into great discussions of aesthetics, function and form in relation to web design and development…what I think also can be taken from Matt’s talk is the need for strong but flexible foundations that can evolve as needs evolve from the community or consumers or sector or industry you serve. I drew out this point in a presentation called ‘Eternal Cities?’ about moving from – being online – to – living online at the National Digital Forum in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand in November. Using a quote from a text called ‘Design and the Elastic Mind’ (based on an exhibition at MoMA in 2008) I hoped to get the practitioners from across the collecting sector in the room to think about what it takes to be practitioner (or designer/shaper of collections and access to them online) in a time of great social change. of design’s fundamental roles: “the translation of scientific and technological revolutions into approachable objects that change people’s lives and, as a consequence, the world. Design is a bridge between the abstraction of research and the tangible requirements of real life.” Foreword, Glenn Lowry, Director, MOMA, Design and the Elastic Mind, 2008.
The Allsorts Online forum organised by CAN in partnership with the State Library of South Australia and the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) in Adelaide this week (1 Dec) at the State Library of South Australia was also kicked off with this quote. The forum was organised to allow diverse practitioners from across the collecting, academic, arts and media to step back and take a macroscopic view and spend time thinking about what it means go to online and how the lines between different sectors and professions seem to be blurring (or is it just that we are using the same tools of trade and having similar experiences and our points of difference remain intact?). The Twitter hashtag #allsorts09 from the forum is a cascade of tweets documenting the many ideas and diverse perspectives offered by the participants (audience, presenters and panelists) on the day.
While forum participants pondered and asked themselves questions, having listened to a mixture of experiences in working online, elsewhere, and earlier, debate about social change and what working and living online means had already emerged at Sydney Media140 focused on the future of journalism (as another profession heavily implicated in this shift to operating online). Seems digital culture is high on allsorts of minds… people are online and finding out what that means and/or well past wondering – see Stephen Collins’ acidlabs blog in response to Lyndal Curtis’ column ‘Too tired to tweet’ (ABC) for different perspectives on this.

Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. Part of the Sydney 2000 Games Collection. Gift of the New South Wales Government, 2001.

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.


Finding Common Ground between the web and the museum: Powerhouse Museum

Finding common ground between the visceral and the virtual is the next challenge for cultural institutions as they work hard to engage new audiences and meet the needs of existing ones. As curators, public program developers and web teams collaborate on innovative projects, institutions are finding themselves participating with communities in a way they never have before.

Common Ground at the Powerhouse Museum, digitally altered, courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum

In one of the most exciting applications of social media to date, cultural institutions across three continents are joining forces to project the Flickr Commons community’s favourite images in one worldwide outdoor event. The Powerhouse Museum and the State Library of New South Wales will work together to invite their online communities to the front steps of the Powerhouse. The State Library of Queensland and the Australian War Memorial will be hosting their own Common Ground. In the United States, George Eastman House, State Library and Archives of Florida, the Oregon State University Archives and the Brooklyn Museum are taking part. The Swedish National Heritage Board, is representing Europe. The festival of photography will happen simultaneously across the US, Australia and Scandinavia (according to the timezone, October 3 @ 6.30pm).

Election night crowd, Wellington, 1931, William Hall Raine, Alexander Turnbull Library, Flickr Commons / National Library NZ

Dubbed as a community-curated event, photography-lovers will congregate on the Harris St forecourt to watch their favourite images projected onto the Powerhouse Museum’s façade. There will be talks by curators and the Museum’s Flickr community. Principal Curator Matthew Connell will tell the stories behind some of his favourite images while Assistant Curator Geoff Barker will explain how to look after an historic photography collection. Bob Meade will talk about how his involvement in Flickr has turned him into a detective or citizen journalist. National Library of Australia web developer Paul Hagon will discuss his project that enables the community to geo-tag contemporary images alongside historic images on Google Streetview.

Participatory experience researcher Nina Simon wrote in her blog Museum 2.0 that there is ‘a problem of making the visceral as relevant, dynamic, and interesting as the virtual. If you do fabulous things online and not onsite, your online audiences will show up and be disappointed. They will feel deceived’. She used the Powerhouse and Brooklyn museums as examples. ‘You join the Brooklyn Museum’s posse. You tag your brains out on the Powerhouse online collection database. And then you show up in person and feel jilted.’ Institutions worldwide are uniting tomorrow night to find Common Ground.

Take a look at the images from the Common Ground event on the Flickr Commons discussion board or the Indicommons Blog next week.


‘Now and Then’ wiki launched: Darren Peacock

Web developer Darren Peacock takes CAN Partners behind the scenes to explain what was involved in designing and building the Mallala Now and Then wiki. The innovative community heritage wiki website, launched last week, uses the principles of crowdsourcing to gather material about the small South Australian township of Mallala. This pilot project was developed by the Collections Council of Australia (CCA) and there are plans for it to be rolled out to other towns across the country. Darren tells the CAN community a little bit about how he built the wiki and what he expects to come out of the project.

Mallala is a small township of some 500 people in rural South Australia, with an active group of volunteers running the local museum. The Collection Connections project, funded by the CCA with a grant from the .auda Foundation, worked with the Mallala Museum volunteers to explore new ways of recording, preserving and sharing local history using Web 2.0 approaches and technologies. The objective of the project is to develop a sustainable business model and technology platform to enable small collecting organisations to create and manage participative online heritage projects. The wiki website that has now emerged demonstrates the potential of wiki-based collaboration to create and nurture communities of interest, enliven the presentation of history and develop new information management and knowledge sharing paradigms and practices for small, volunteer-based, collecting organisations. Through this pilot implementation at Mallala, the project aims to investigate the factors which contribute to the success of such online initiatives and to identify those which inhibit or impede its success.

The potential of wikis as knowledge sharing platforms for cultural heritage has been discussed for some time, but we believe this is the first time in Australia such an approach has been used.

Grace Plains Football Team

The Now and Then website was developed on the MediaWiki platform, an open source wiki software which provides the basis for the world’s most famous wiki, Wikipedia. While Wikipedia draws on the efforts of millions of volunteers from around the world, the Now and Then wiki is powered by the efforts and enthusiasm of a small, but growing number of local volunteers. The wiki platform for Now and Then is integrated with content sharing sites Flickr and YouTube, as well as delivering RSS from the museum blog which has been established by the project using the Wordpress tool. Google Maps is used to display content articles in an interactive map that provides a geo-spatial dimension on the area’s history.

Charles Osborne Trounson was promoted from Mounted Counstable to Foot Police in 1885 and worked at Mallala Police Station between until 9 November 1887 and 30 June 1888.

Content in Now and Then is organised into topic based ‘articles’ like Wikipedia. The articles are organised into the categories of places, people, organisations, events and things. Of course, many items provide rich links of association across these categories, which encourages lateral and serendipitous searching across the site.

Registered users of the site can add, edit and comment on the articles within the wiki and discuss them with other users. In this way, the wiki opens up a lively discourse about local history and promotes extensive knowledge sharing and information exchange. Even at this early stage, a much richer picture of the connections amongst local history, heritage and memory is emerging for this community.

The model underpinning Now and Then is highly extensible and can be replicated across any number of other communities. A design decision was made to employ MediaWiki’s semantic extension to ensure that the content created within the Now and Then wiki is available for aggregation and reuse across regions or particular items of interest, such as buildings, collection objects or organisational histories.

The pilot implementation of Now and Then is an action research project, exploring potential applications of Web 2.0 technologies in a volunteer-run collecting organisation. The key design considerations for the project were creating an appropriate business model, effective participation design and long-term sustainability.

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Architectural drawings for flour mill, Mallala

So far the Now and Then site has been well received within the local community and is generating high levels of interest and participation. The museum is experiencing significant new levels of engagement and receiving more visits and offers of historical images, objects and information.

The success of the initial implementation of Now and Then in Mallala provides confidence and a practical research basis to proceed with further implementations in diverse communities across Australia once further sources of funding are secured.

Darren Peacock, Sweet Technology Pty Ltd
Project Manager, Now and Then
For Collections Council of Australia

If you would like to know more about wikis or the ‘Now and Then’ wiki project email the Collections Council or Darren.


Digital experiences in the landscape

Digital media arts organisations and advertising agencies are developing digitally driven experiences to take art and cultural heritage to the streets. Garrick Schmitt wrote in the Advertising Age this week that a ‘host of artists, programmers and marketers have melded art and science to create new, digitally driven experiences that are redefining the way we think about our urban and personal landscapes’.

Digital art is not limited to large-scale projections on buildings. The Historic Houses Trust and media arts organisation d/lux/MediaArts recently experimented with the Justice and Police Museum’s digitised photographic collection to create Razorhurst – a mobile GPS game set in Darlinghurst, Sydney. The HHT will host a forum next Friday (September 11) to discuss future creative applications for mobile devices with guest speakers from d/lux.

Take time to explore Garrick’s blog post. He offers a comprehensive look at different projects around the world from Project Blinkenlights which transforms office buildings in Canada into digital interactive installations to the Livestrong Chalkbot – Lance Armstrong’s robot that chalks messages of cancer survival on the road. The 555 Kubik project is similar to Project Blinkenlights in that uses 3D projections to transform a building’s surface into an artwork.

555 KUBIK_ extended version from urbanscreen on Vimeo.


Archival knowledge and know-how…and collection level description..

There is nothing more satisfying than to hear collecting experts talk about what they know, how they go about doing what they do — sharing their knowledge and know-how. Archival theory is fascinating…and a domain language emerged immediately: evidence, entities, relationships, data models, ISAD(G), ISAAR(CPF), ISO 23081, ISO 15489, Continuum, InterPARES, end-of-life, fonds, series, files, documents, records…and these words are loaded with particular meaning to archivists, archival collection management systems and archival practices.

Birmingham Central Library, Photo Archives


I had the pleasure of attending the Standards, Software, and Strategies – A & D in Action seminar put together by the NSW Branch of the Australian Society of Archivists on Wednesday 29th July hosted by State Records of NSW at the Sydney Records Centre in the Rocks.

Sigrid McCausland (Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga) chaired the event and the talks and speakers (aka leading lights) were:

National and international descriptive standards – Kate Cumming (Government Recordkeeping, State Records NSW)

Archival software – Mark Stevens (City of Sydney Archives) – Archives Investigator, Anne Picot & Julia Mant (University of Sydney Archives) BOS/TRIM – , and Chris Hurley (Commonwealth Bank) – MS Access, Lyn Milton, (The Fred Hollows Foundation) – Tabularium, Michael Smith, (University of Western Sydney) TRIM, Prue Heath, (SCEGGS Darlinghurst) – Archive Manager and Judith Seeff, (Sydney Theatre Company Archives & Australian Theatre for Young People Archives) – FileMaker Pro

My thoughts in the main after a day immersed and amongst these professionals was how much talent and experience the archival community has to offer in terms of developing a community of practice. There were presentations from archivists working in entirely different contexts. The benefit of this exchange is sometimes just the perspective I suspect, rather than the exact solution to any immediate challenges.

some leading lights in archival practice


Collection Level Description
I raised some questions about what is happening with the Register of Australian Archives and Manuscripts (RAAM) and where the archival community is heading with standardising different levels of description. My theory is that collection level description is where the single most benefit may arise for cross-sector searching. At the moment it seems that the diverse domains in the collecting sector are wrestling with describing collections at item level. My personal view is that the archival community have the head start and are well-practised at describing collection material at various collection levels. This is not to diminish the value of item level description…each description level has a place and value to searchers and researchers alike.

The international (though locally oriented) leading light (for me) as far as offering comprehensive collection level description goes is the Southern Cross Resource Finder that lists collections that hold information useful for studies on Australia and New Zealand. A local leading light for me is also the ANDS project, in particular the Register My Data initiative…more on that another day.


Podcasting open-access and the commons

ABC Radio National is closely following the development of the Creative Commons and how it affects both the creator and the end-user. Future Tense host Anthony Funnell interviewed David Bollier for the show titled The future of the commons. Bollier is an activist and public policy analyst who talks about the premise behind his new book Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own. For further reading, click on the links at the bottom of the ABC page.

Others may like to watch Bollier on YouTube – there is no shortage of videos to choose from.