Archive for May, 2009

Part 4: CAN interviews the Hurstville City Library, Museum and Gallery

Opportunities have opened up for the Hurstville City Library, Museum and Gallery since they have made their collection searchable alongside national institutions, like the National Museum of Australia. Since the Hurstville City Library, Museum and Gallery uploaded their collection to CAN last month, it has started to attract more academic attention. Curators, professors and students can now research objects that were previously not accessible to the public.

Historical and cultural services co-ordinator Gemma Beswick and technical and online services co-ordinator Luke Carter explain why they uploaded their collection to CAN and suggest new ways CAN can build and strengthen relationships between its partners.

Excerpts from the interview can be watched on the collectionsaustralia YouTube channel and you can read the transcript below.

Gemma Beswick: The Hurstville City Museum and Gallery has been in this position for four years but we were previously called the St George Regional Museum and before that the Centennial Bakery Museum. So a huge part of our collection is from the bakery objects as well. I am the Historical and Cultural Services Coordinator for the Hurstville Library Museum and Gallery.

Luke Carter: My name is Luke Carter and I am the Technology and Online Services Coordinator for the library, museum, and gallery.

How do you use CAN?
Gemma: We love CAN. It has been a great experience to upload our collection and finally see it online. So we use it for the public to look at our collection but also our peers.

Was it difficult to upload your collection onto CAN?
Gemma: It was not difficult to upload to CAN. It was more an errand. The process of going through and selecting the objects to upload was a bit time consuming. But after that process, once we sent the CD off, it was not a problem.

How do you think it will affect your stakeholders or the people that you’re trying to connect with? Who do you think it will reach and what impact will it have?
Luke: Coming from a marketing perspective it was really interesting to see the museum’s collection go online. Catalogues, collections and online is something we’re really familiar with in the marketing world. So I was very interested to see how the objects were going to be displayed. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a great display. There is a lot of focus on the image and a lot of detail about each object.

But I can see how we can grow that because we have a lot of customers now that expect a variety of formats when looking at each item. So with a bigger audience for these museum objects, we see that these records could include audio files, video files, just to meet that expectation the customers have.

So you want CAN to be a little bit more analytical, as well as just presenting the objects?
Luke: Exactly. I think there are so many catalogues out there and online provides that format. I think this is something that we need to do just so we stay relevant. Certainly the library catalogues, for instance, are trying to go in that direction and it is something that our customers are requesting from us.

When you hope to see these new things online, what format would it be?
Luke: Some oral histories, they could just be oral files off the web downloadable to people’s PCs. We could have files of events. I mean a catalog needn’t contain just objects. It could actually be a catalogue of events, exhibitions; actually feature exhibitions grouped together under a theme and this could include video of the exhibition, the opening, and each object in that exhibition.

Gemma: Shared research, I think would be a great idea. So research from not only our institution but other institutions on similar objects or a similar group of objects. Pooled together, that would be a great research tool for each other and people studying and looking for that information. Discussion boards sort of thing or blog, something similar, that would be useful as well.

Luke: I think that’s a key point. I think with Web 2.0 technology, to make it a bit more interactive is key. And you could have a blog with each object and have people comment about their experiences with it. And to make that field searchable. So your advance search, to actually be able to keyword search the comments users have made about each object.

Sarah: Who are you hoping to reach through CAN?
Gemma: We’re hoping to reach students studying who need it for research or anybody for that matter who is using it for research, but also our peers in other museums who might be trying to look up or figure out a mystery object they have. Maybe they could look at ours and it could help them.

If CAN took a little more of an analytical approach to the collections, how many resources could you put in and how much would you expect CAN to put in, for example geo-mapping objects?
I suppose CANs role would really be to provide their expertise support. If they could supply expert advice, we could take on that responsibility. But, certainly, I think there is a certain knowledge gap existing in a lot of work places about how to actually do a number of these things. So just expert advice would be, I think, the key from CAN.

What events led you to the decision to make your collection online?
Luke: I think access is a key goal for us in nearly everything we do, and collections is one of our most important resources. So to make collections more accessible seems a no-brainer for us, and CAN certainly helps us do that.

Interview by Sarah Rhodes
May 15 2009


Part 3: CAN interviews The Rocks Discovery Museum

The Collections Australia Network plays a different role for each of its Partners. For some it helps build a reputation as an active loan institution. For others, CAN’s aggregate search function brings collections to life by comparing objects between institutions. The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority uses CAN as a resource that answers initial collection enquiries. The SHFA runs The Rocks Discovery Museum which attracts researcher, curator and general public attention from across the world. Artefacts online and special project heritage officer Zachary Lambert believes the museum and CAN will be able to collaborate more closely with the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies. User-generated content would create opportunities for deeper analysis of The Rocks collection. It would also develop stronger links between heritage institutions.

An excerpt of Zac’s interview can be found on the collectionsaustralia YouTube channel and the full transcript can be found below.

I am the artefacts online project officer, special projects heritage officer. I am the project manager for getting 10, 000 artefacts onto the CAN website.

Why did you join CAN?
We joined CAN because it’s a great benefit to us in meeting all our educational requirements as a statutory authority. We can really deliver much more information out to the public domain and we don’t have to hire an IT team to make a whole new website. We can simply send all our information to CAN and they can upload it. That’s a great benefit to us.

What do you think being on CAN means for your stakeholders?
For our stakeholders, it means that tenants, our board of directors, our managers can see that the history of The Rocks is available on a website they can access immediately.

It also means that our workload is reduced. We are not answering enquiries about our artefacts. That means we can help researchers by giving a lot more information much more easily than before. Our stakeholders get to see that we are meeting much more of our educational requirements.

Was it difficult to upload your collection to CAN?
No, very easy. As they got us a covenant for myself to be project manager, I simply worked on compiling all our current information into one central database. I was able to send that to CAN and that’s a very very simple process.

That was a great benefit to the SHFA because we don’t have to do any database work. We don’t have to do any website work. We simply put it into one easy file or if there was a collection management system, we could export it out of that and send it off to CAN.

What other sort of platforms do you think would be good for CAN to use?
I think as a video delivery system, possibly, CAN could be quite useful, in that sense. Snippets of stories and videos and audio links and podcasts would be good on CAN.

We have already investigated different areas of multimedia use for our collections and how we can broadly get the stories out at The Rocks. There are a lot of fascinating stories and we’d love to get them out there. If that is something CAN can provide, we would probably start to investigate that pretty seriously.

There are institutions around The Rocks that have information which would complement your collection? Do you think it would be interesting if CAN curated little stories using different people’s collections?
I think as far as professional development goes between organisations that could be very strong. There is always, especially with The Rocks collection and our Darling Harbor collection, that link back to the past with state records and harbor institutions that they can provide more information for us.

Now we can curate small or temporary exhibitions either online or in a temporary exhibition space such as this. So there certainly is avenues that could be explored should CAN want to make professional partnerships online. I think definitely it all links and especially to expand the contextual information between institutions. If we can reduce the silo mentality between institutions and create something together – a strong story with links. That would be really interesting for people and a massive benefit.

The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority appreciates the chance to release this information without too much backend work from us. Sure we are compiling all our information and that means we can get archaeological reports, conservation management plans, artefact database information and more into a single resource for people. That way people can simply click on something they want to see, like the history of Cribb’s well artefacts on display here in the museum and see it immediately. They don’t have to make a phone call. They don’t have to email us. They can simply go to the website and get that really interesting information really quickly.

Another benefit of that is simply that we can put extra contextual information. So you are not just looking at an artefact record saying this is Cribb’s well relating to his drunken behavior back in the day. We can relate that further to the development of alcohol in The Rocks and the history and importance of alcohol in The Rocks. So that’s really important for us to really get a lot more information out that isn’t simply this is a pot, this is a piece of stone.

Geotagging is a vital thing, I think, for the future. Just to really expand the information that we can give. Instead of something standing by itself, we can put it into an immediate location that you can visit. You can have some text in front of you while you are visiting it, or you could have a podcast. So if we could relate it back to that, or a specific area, I think it could quite good benefit.

What audience should CAN be targeting?
I think as broad of scope as possible to be honest. If it was pure academic, you wouldn’t get the public use, I don’t think. They might come after the pictures but they might not read as much text. A lot of the information that is within institutions is very academic.  I don’t think the public on a broader scale would really appreciate that or even want to get into that – it’s just too much.

In some instances, I’ve had people come to me and say “I read your report about this specific archaeological dig. It was very interesting but it was far too ambitious, ” for the light person of course. So it has a specific purpose. So if CAN could reach as broad of audience as possible, but in saying that, having links at the bottom to reach the specific institutions or a report. An archeological report or something, additional information that if a university researcher wants to find out, that’s even better. If you start out possibly with too much of an academic approach, it may become a bit too niche.

Who do you think it targets now?
At the moment I’d say professional and curators within the industry. It serves its purpose quite well right now. It’s very easy for people to link to someone else and say “Hey I found this really cool object, an artefact.” That is one of the strengths with the Powerhouse Museum collection online. People can add information or they can link someone to that information really quickly.

So currently, I do think CAN is quite professionally-based, and has a professional target audience. But what we regularly hear in the museum industry is: “How do we get more information out? Ho do we make it more accessible?” So I guess that’s where I’m coming from in my response.

I would like to mention the wealth of information that’s out there. How do we put it in a form to allow people to understand it easily without feeling overwhelmed? That’s one of the things The Rocks Discovery Museum is really trying to do. We’ve given options for people to go up to the interactive. They find more information when they can keep clicking through, so it’s not like a big wall of text.

Interview by Sarah Rhodes
May 15 2009


Part 2: CAN interviews the Newcastle Regional Museum

In the second interview with our CAN partners, Newcastle Regional Museum curator Julie Baird talks about how CAN has significantly raised the profiles of many collecting institutions.

Julie explores the idea of how aggregating collections can lead to opportunities and partnerships with other heritage institutions. She explains how CAN has led to the Newcastle Regional Museum loaning objects to a significant number of insitutions around the country and, in turn, building the collection’s reputation. She also believes the development of Web 2.0 technology has also opened up exciting opportunities for CAN to meet the needs of researchers, curators and the general public.

Excerpts from her interview can be viewed on our collectionsaustralia YouTube channel.

The edited transcript of the interview can be found below.

My name is Julie Baird and I am the curator at Newcastle Regional Museum. I’ve been here six years. We’re a small institution – we’ve only got a staff of 11 – so even though I’m curator I end up doing pretty much all the collection management work, a lot of the media work, an awful lot of public outreach, as well as the usual sort of curation exhibition development writing.

What is your role using the Internet?
I’ve been the one making sure that our collection is on the Internet and trying to project manage changing over to a new collection management system. I’ve been the port of call as far as CAN and long ago in the past AMOL (Australian Museums Online).

What were the steps involved in uploading your collection to CAN?
We’re lucky because our collection’s been online for a long time. So for us to get onto CAN wasn’t too hard at all. But I have been with institutions that have picked five objects and put them on. And it’s just as easy as that really.

We have got a new collection search online and that makes it a lot easier for the visitors. It also makes it easier for us because there’s some things that slip in and some things that change. Being able to sit at your computer, change something, and you know that the object’s safe and in the right spot, the story is right and there is no embarrassing phone numbers or valuation details. You know that the correct information instantly that goes out there. You don’t have to worry about updates or how long has it been since you’ve let it go. You’re always too busy when you’re working in a small museum to think about updates. So going live is a heck of a lot better.

CAN’s played an interesting role for Newcastle Regional Museum because we had so much of our collection online early on, a lot of the importance of CAN has been generating loans. So for a small museum with 10,000 objects, 11 staff, we’ve had objects on loan to National Museum Australia, National Maritime, and then also to really small regional museums like Cootamundra – and a lot of that has come through CAN.

People can type in a search and pull them up. We’ve also had things like authors find objects. They want a photo of a light globe in their book. Where are they going to find it? They find it on CAN. They come to us that way. So it’s made us, for a small local government museum, it’s made us a bit out there because we can offer that kind of facility.

It’s also been really important because we have an oral history collection that a lot of people didn’t know about. It started operating in the ’70s and ended in the late ’80s. So there’s a lot of people that did those oral histories that died without ever telling their family. Now with that resurgence in family history, we get an awful lot of interest through CAN of people searching for that. So really people find us when they didn’t know they were looking for us, and that’s what CAN does.

Do you have any suggestions for how CAN could improve?
I think some of the way that CAN could improve is picking up some of the things that museums do well, not only collecting, and make some of those links. These days I don’t think people have ideas in boxes anymore. I think they sort of cross over broad areas. So try to pick up some of that story telling. There are some stories that you can tell across a lot of institutions and a lot of different mediums.

Make CAN more accessible to the public rather than the professionals and the volunteers. I think it’s that storytelling that’s really got to come through. And also the ability to download soundbites, videos and images and all those kind of things I think would be very useful.

Perhaps CAN needs to come up with some of those broader narratives in a Picture Australia way. If there are set tours that could go through CAN. Then have the resources to say look, can you please write a story about light bulb manufacturing in Australia? Ask people to contributend tell a story about lighting in Tamworth. That kind of thing.

Then I think that each institution will do a little bit of work and CAN will do a little bit of work, and you’d end up with a nice finished product. Well, I think that that is a role for CAN. It also makes it a little bit like a virtual museum. If you can have researchers, if you can have museum academics, if you can have people that are writing and then actually putting those writings and that narrative online.

If I’m doing an exhibition on BHP, I can search and find a fascinating paper that I didn’t know existed at the same time as I can find a photograph that I didn’t know existed. I can also find out that somebody holds an object.

Because there’s a lot of objects everywhere and because we’re doing this museum redevelopment, I found an awful lot of Newcastle objects all over Australia. Some of them I didn’t even know still existed but I found them through CAN. So if you can do that you can find those stories as well as the objects then I think it makes it a lot more accessible to people that perhaps are wanting to do research or finding things out. Rather than just using it to set-up an exhibition, you’ve got to look at the whole picture and I think that that’s an opportunity for CAN probably to grow.

What impact do you think the collection of information available online has had on other stake holders?
I think it’s actually quite nice for donations. I think that people like the idea that what they’re doing is important and that they’re being remembered. In larger institutions sometimes they get lost in that story and I think the ability for people to go online and see there’s granddad’s medals that I gave to the war memorial. Or there’s things that I gave to this museum. I think for a lot of people that’s really important. So the stakeholders and our donors quite like it.

I think also our educational stakeholders like it and I think that that’s a good useful thing for CAN. And I think that certainly tertiary students need to use it more. I think that museum studies needs to encourage the use of CAN to do some of those projects. Rather than expecting to hit different museums all the time, you should be able to hit CAN and get that kind of information.

From a governmental standpoint, local government love anything that’s across different governmental lines. So being on CAN early on and being quite well represented actually buys us political points with our council. And because they fund us, that’s very important.

Interview by Sarah Rhodes
May 13 2009


Part 1: CAN interviews State Records NSW

The first interview in our series focuses on how documents and records can be brought to life through the Collections Australia Network’s online collection database. State Records NSW public access manager, Christine Yeats, talks about how an aggregated search will pull-up a list of related objects held by the SRNSW and other collecting institutions, bringing stories to life. Christine believes CAN complements the SRONSW’s goals and explains how she sees the future direction of the partnership.

An excerpt of her interview can be viewed on the collectionsaustralia YouTube channel.

The transcript is available below.

My name is Christine Yeats and I manage public access here at State Records. I look after the public side of the operation, the reading rooms, the inquiry services, the publications, the web presence, to all of those sorts of things.

State Records holds the archives created by the government from 1788 until present day. The convict indents are one of the highlights and in fact all of the convict records were inscribed on the Memory of the World Register which is in UNESCO. We are a member of the World Register which equates to a World Heritage listing for a geographical site.

Becoming a CAN partner
We have information about the collection on the website but the opportunity to join CAN gave us a much wider audience and a much greater profile within the research community.

It also allows us to capture people’s interest and capture them as users and draw them into our own site where they can do more research. For our purposes, we see this great chance to be a partner and we also see it as a great chance to show the world that State Records is alive and well in the electronic environment.

It was a fairly straightforward process. We already had as I mentioned, our own website so it was really a fairly automated process of getting a presence on CAN and building up that collaborative relationship.

Benefits of the relationship
I think the first thing that it’s done is to show people that we’re really quite genuine about moving into the whole world of technology beyond just simply adding to our own website.

It’s about engaging with our stakeholders and engaging with the research community. It’s building up that collaborative partnership. We see that as being very important because one of the concerns that archives and State Records has is that so often archives are ignored.

There is a perception of archives as being dry, dusty records that nobody would be really interested in. That’s probably one of the downsides in terms of how you promote a collection which is boxes and boxes of records which contain fascinating information but you actually have to do research and go through the boxes to identify them.

Future direction
I have always thought that objects supplement the story. They actually help to breathe life into our archives.

The whole idea of Google Mashups would be very appealing for us. We would be certainly interested in being part of that. We wouldn’t be able to, I don’t think, be able to put a huge amount of resources into it but certainly we could begin in a way that was manageable and go from there, because it would provide not only an object in time but also in place. That’s one of the big things that a lot of researchers actually want. They find material about an event or about a person but what they also like to be able to do is to link back to place.

I think a lot of people would find that quite engaging principle to be able to play around and identify that this happened here. That here are the records and this is the place now.

I think that some of the areas where we could get greater benefit from our relationship with CAN would be the development of some blogs and even a Wiki.

All of those web developments I see as providing an opportunity for people to be able to engage with the collection and give user content and user comment. That’s what brings the collection alive as well. Not only linking collections to objects or to images but also bringing peoples own responses and their experiences. I think that all of those tools have the possibility of achieving that.

An individual could do distant research, again let’s say the fireman example because that’s a good one, and build up a mini exhibition, which was the basis of their research.

It could have a list of likely records; it may have images of, as I mentioned, perhaps fires or fireman, uniform changes and uniforms over time. Maybe particular objects that are associated with an individual, perhaps a medal for bravery or something of that type.

It could be in essence, I wouldn’t say a Mashup, but it’s a compilation of someone’s research, someone’s story on a particular topic. It would be fantastic if that drew on all of the resources of all of the CAN partners. That way it’s giving other users and other visitors a chance to see what can be achieved.

Often times that’s all that’s needed. People see something and they say, “I could do that. I could do that. That’s a fantastic idea.” Then they go and copy. I see having that space, that public space for people to put up their research as being a very positive thing. Relations to objects or images but also bringing people’s own responses and their experiences. I think that all those tools have the possibility of achieving that.

It could even be one of the CAN partners who decided to do some small displays on our digital gallery. We could decide that we wanted to do a little tiny display, very small, very modest let’s say but a display drawing on the collections of all of the partners to tell a particular story.

It could be used both by individuals, or research, or academics as you mentioned or it could be by a CAN partner, or it could in fact be another small institution that doesn’t have a particularly strong web presence or perhaps doesn’t’ have one at all.

They could do, this is the story of gold mining at whatever place and presented to you by whatever. Local historic records has a You-Tube presence and State Records has a Flickr presence. We also offer RSS feeds.

I think that would be a great opportunity if CAN were to provide as sidebar option. Perhaps on a rotational basis featuring each of the different CAN partner institutions and what they’ve done in the multimedia world.

A lot of the museums of course have done an awful lot of work. They have really gone out there into the Web 2.0 world and offered different sorts of tools, all of which have that basic aim of getting people to come back to use archives and to think of archives as a resource.

To build another portal into the work that we’ve already done would be a relatively straightforward process. It wouldn’t be resource hungry. The resources have already been used to create the Flickr presence and also the You-Tube presence. In fact, it would be building on what we’ve already achieved.

Interview by Sarah Rhodes
May 8 2009


Interview series: CAN plans for the future with its partners (introduction)

Collections Australia Network has been interviewing several of its partners to establish how well we are meeting your needs and what we can do to improve our service. While everyone so far has embraced what CAN has to offer, people have had some interesting ideas about the future direction of the heritage collection database. Please use this opportunity to offer your own suggestions and opinions.

The interview sessions were conducted with:
1) State Records Office of NSW public access manager Christine Yeats
2) Newcastle Regional Museum curator Julie Baird
3) Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority artefacts online special project heritage officer Zac Lambert
4) Hurstville City Museum, Library & Gallery historical and cultural services co-ordinator Gemma Beswick and technology and online services co-ordinator Luke Carter

Excerpts of the video interviews will be posted on YouTube and a full transcript will also be available on this blog over the next few days. The interviews with Christine Yeats and Julie Baird will be the first and second in the series and have already been posted on our YouTube channel.


CAN memory sticks at the MA conference

CAN is giving away USB sticks at the Museums Australia conference this week with instructions on how to upload heritage collections to our database. The memory stick is divided into an E-drive and an F-drive. The F-drive is a read-only drive with three pdf documents on it explaining the simple process.

The files are called:
1) MA Conference 2009 which outlines how to update your organisation’s content on CAN and how to make your collection accessible through CAN Collections.
2) CAN Collections Database Registration Form.
3) CAN Collections Upload System explained.

The E-drive is a read / write drive where you can store your own material.

CAN is working hard to unite Australia’s heritage collections in its database. The National Museum of Australia has just joined the Powerhouse Museum, Museum Victoria, State Records of NSW, Picture Australia and several other institutions in making its collection available to be searched live through CAN. This is an extremely simple process. There is no reason why an organisation with its collection online should not already be part of CAN’s OpenSearch.


Search the National Museum of Australia collection live on CAN

You can now search the National Museum of Australia collection on CAN’s online database. This is particularly exciting news because the searches are live using RSS feeds, otherwise known as OpenSearch. This means as the NMA add images into its collection management system EMU, they are immediately searchable on CAN. Curators and the public can feel safe in knowing that when records are updated in EMU, the changes are immediately available to the public.

The NMA has made 25,000 objects from 1003 collections accessible on its Online Public Access Catalogue. Several teams are working hard to make the other 90% of its collection available. They are using the Powerhouse Museum’s object thesaurus to facilitate an easier search for specific items. This thesaurus will be available on the CAN website. CAN already offers links to other thesaurus standards.

NMA collection information and digitisation manager Helen Ludellen stresses the importance of knowing how to search effectively and how to refine a search. She suggests people should use single quotes for two co-located words to pull-up both of their search terms.

CAN is participating in a Federated Open Search Project that aims to allow the public to search collection records from libraries, galleries, museums and archives all across Australia through a single search.
George Serras.
Captain James Cook’s magnifier from the Australian Journeys exhibition at the NMA. Photo: George Serras

CAN has been an early implementor of the OpenSearch. Our current strategy is to host collection data for smaller institutions on our central database, while supporting distributed search access to larger institutions using the OpenSearch protocol.

As a result of these developments, it is now possible for anyone to search across the central CAN database, the Powerhouse Museum, Museum Victoria, Picture Australia, Libraries Australia, State Records of NSW and now the NMA in a single search. Furthermore, as larger museums, archives, libraries and galleries implement the OpenSearch protocol in their collection management systems, it should progressively become possible for anyone to search across the entire community of Australian collecting institutions.

The OpenSearch protocol is relatively easy to implement and provides a simple keyword search that can be applied to discovery services in any sector including government and universities, as well as subject-related search services in a broad range of areas including health, scientific and statistical information.

CAN’s online collection database is a current and reliable resource for researchers, cultural institutions, curators and the general public.

Sarah Rhodes


Public / Private collaborations II

The relationship between public collector and private institution generated a wonderful discussion in CAN-notices last week. We opened up that dialogue in the previous post but here we will look more closely at the reasons why it causes such controversy.

The main issues are:
1. What kind of connections are appropriate between private collectors and public museums?
2. To what extent do public institutions depend on valuable private collections?
3. Should private collectors use public institutions to build their own reputations?
4. Or is the real issue that private collectors do not need the not-for-profit sector and can hold their own exhibitions in the commercial spaces?  

Directors of galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAMs) are focused on developing strategic relations with private collectors and philanthropists. GLAMs have been built on donations by private interests for centuries. The United States-based Association of Art Museum Directors published an article in January 2007 titled Museums, private collectors and the public benefit supporting public and private partnerships. AAMD believe private collectors and philanthropists are responsible for the ‘unprecedented growth of art museums.’ To ensure our cultural institutions grow, museum directors must be focused on ‘the development and cultivation of strategic relationships’. The flaw in this argument is that institutions become reliant on the commercial sector. This global recession has made many GLAMs reconfigure their funding models.

The Art Newspaper says that while the strong relationships built between wealthy art collectors and museums in the 19th century were taken for granted, recently questions have been raised about the kind of connections that are appropriate. Last year, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art courted controversy when it hosted an exhibition of comedian Cheech Marin’s private collection of works by Chicano painters. Online blogger Hoogrrl suggested: ‘He (Cheech Marin) should direct his efforts at helping LACMA mount a Chicano art show that is curated and scholarly instead of a mere exhibition of his own collection, which I understand is not the best representation of Chicano art anyway and may actually diminish the importance of this these artists in the history of contemporary art. The mission of a public institution is going to be different from that of an individual, therefore, individual collectors should find creative ways to show their collections and promote their goals by using private funds, in private settings.’

The Leipzig Museum of Contemporary Art director Barbara Steiner plans to follow LACMA’s initiative and host a series of shows by private collectors rather than curate the exhibitions using their works as a foundation. She says it is ‘open experiment in the way that public and private resources can be used together.’ Steiner believes it does not blur the boundaries between public and commercial interests but sheds light on the issue that private museums are increasingly ‘manouvering public institutions out of the limelight’.

Munich’s Haus der Kunst director Dr Dercon argues: ‘You can raise questions about public and private museums, but what we need to discuss is the usurping of intellectual power by the commercial world.’

Collectors give the public access to some of the world’s finest masterpieces but public institutions need to work together to better define their benefactor’s role. Hooggrrl agrees with Dercon that the modern issue lies with private institutions. ‘The “undue” influence of collectors and dealers is less of a threat than the noticeable tendency for these parties to lose interest in public institutions. If a director feels the influence of a collector or dealer in a particular proposal is too great, then he or she should simply say “no”. The real problem is that private collectors no longer feel the need to put pressure on museums to gain influence over them. They simply build their own exhibition spaces and appoint directors of their choice. This loss of interest is slowly manoeuvring public art institutions out of public visibility and away from social recognition.’

Here are several examples of cross-sector collaborations in Australia:
Case study 1: The Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney is an example of a private not-for-profit institution in Australia. Its mission statement is to exhibit significant works not easily accommodated in private galleries, contemporary art spaces or the museum sector’.

Case study 2: Larrakitj, Kerry Stokes Collection and the Art Gallery of Western Australia
The Art Gallery of Western Australia presented the exhibition of Indigenous sculptures Larrakitj from the Kerry Stokes Collection. It was curated by the Kerry Stokes Collection associate curator Anne Brody.

Case study 3: John Kaldor and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
In 1995 the MCA exhibited John Kaldor’s private collection, John Kaldor Public Art Projects and Collection, to coincide with an exhibition of Jeff Koon’s work and the latest Kaldor art project, Puppy.

Case Study 4: James Fairfax and the Art Gallery of NSW
One of this country’s greatest philanthropists James Fairfax donated his entire European art collection to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2003 transforming the gallery’s collection. Works by van Ruisdael, Rubens, Canaletto, Claude, Boucher, Amigoni, Domenico, Tiepolo, van Mieris and drawings by Ingres, Watteau, Fragonard and Greuze have been displayed in the galleries that bear his name.

The gallery’s press release says, ‘These gifts have enriched the collection of the Art Gallery of NSW and provided impetus and direction to the development of this previously under-represented aspect of the Gallery’s collection … The quality and distinction of the works he has acquired would grace any of the world’s great public institutions.’

Sarah Rhodes


Public / Private collaborations I

There has been frequent dialogue in CAN-notices this week surrounding the idea of private collections being exhibited in public institutions. I thought I would transcribe the dialogue to show how useful CAN’s discussion lists can be and point to this interesting idea of collaborations between the public and private sector. In the next post, we will examine issues surrounding the private collector’s relationship with public institutions.

Lisa, of Artcell wrote on 29 April 2009:
Perhaps an odd question:
Does anyone know if a regional gallery in Australia has exhibited artworks belonging to a private collection that was (co-) curated by an employee from a state institution.

National Gallery of Victoria’s Information Officer Belinda Ambrosia replied on May 1 2009:
Here are some suggestions from the Exhibition Management department:
*Maybe the Westfarmers collection in WA… you would need to ask AGWA
*The UBS collection (sort of – currently held at Latrobe Regional Gallery and curated into their permanent collection)
*John Kaldor’s works at AGNSW (before they were gifted)
*ACMI (Kubric Archive – estate)
*ACMI the tv50 exhibition borrowed from the privately run museum down on Mornington Peninsula – curated by ACMI staff.

Managing Consultant Helena Sahm, of the SWAY South West Art agency wrote on May 4 2009:
As far as I am aware all the private collections in WA (Westfarmers, Stokes, Holmes a Court, Horne collections) have either their own curators or have employed freelance curators. Collaboration or partnerships with public galleries have occurred through the exhibition process rather at the curatorial stage.

Simon P Wright, director of the Griffith Artworks & QCA GALLERY replied on May 5 2009:
The Holmes a Court Collection (Heytesbury Pty Ltd) toured ‘Rover Thomas: I want to paint’ to NGV, AGNSW, Bendigo, AGSA, AGWA and QCA Gallery between 2003-2005. The Kerry Stokes Collection has also developed some great shows, which have been staged at AGWA, MCA, Brisbane City Gallery, other state galleries etc.

Sarah Rhodes


Kia ora, Greetings..

Ingrid Mason: CAN National Project Manager



I started last week as the national project manger for CAN. I decided it would be good to put a face to a name, and I look forward to meeting some of the CAN Partners at the Museums Australia conference in Newcastle in a couple of weeks (16-20 May) in Newcastle, NSW.


As you know, CAN is posited in the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney and CAN service reach out across Australia and beyond. The Powerhouse Museum is familiar territory for me – I worked here as a web content editor and reference librarian about six years ago.  The rest of the community out there however are a big ‘unknown’ and I hope to become better acquainted with you.. and to learn some more ways of saying ‘hi’.  My latest acquisitions are ‘buongiorno’ and ‘privet’ thanks to Italian and Russian colleagues at University of Sydney (where I’ve just been working). The greetings above though, along with talofa lava, malo e lelei, kia orana, are a means of giving you all a hint that I’m from Aotearoa – New Zealand and I am an Australian citizen, with a soft spot for Pacific culture, and a love of diversity, different cultures, and things digital.


Work-wise, gladly, I am in very good hands: Seb Chan from the Powerhouse Museum is briefing me on where CAN is at strategically, Joy Suliman (now in the SoundHouse Vector Lab at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney) is in the process of handing over CAN operations to me, Luke Dearnley is slowly acquainting me with things technical and Sarah Rhodes is easing me into the CAN website and blog.

Professional Background

To give you a bit of professional information about me: my background is in library and information management and I have interests in technology and research and a background digital cultural heritage and business development.  Prior to taking up this role I worked as the special projects manager (Digital Innovation Unit) at the University of Sydney.  In previous roles I have: managed a university digital repository, lead a web archiving team, and contributed to developing the requirements for the National Digital Heritage Archive in New Zealand.  So… I have a bit of cross-sector experience.. and I’m keen for more…and I look forward to working with the CAN community and across sectors.