Archive for December, 2009

Allsorts Online 09 on the Web

The Collections Australia Network (CAN) has posted six videos from the Allsorts Online 09 Forum in Adelaide for the benefit of those people who were not able to travel the distance. Science communicator Susannah Elliot talks about how cultural institutions can use history to look at contemporary issues. Gavin Artz explains how the arts can benefit from the disruptive digital revolution from the perspective of the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT). Gavin Bannerman offers wild and entertaining stories about a mobile hairdressing salon in Cape York from the State Library’s Q150 digital storytelling project.

The presentations are a snapshot into some of the innovative projects happening in the sector. The panel discussion at the end of the forum was a terrific debate as to where the sector is going. It questioned whether institutions should become broadcasters or whether their role should remain as collectors and preservers of history. This is an issue the National Film and Sound Archive now faces as it relaunches its website Australian Screen Online. Allsorts Online 09 was hosted in collaboration with the State Library of South Australia and the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT). Here are some photos on Flickr of the event. State Library of NSW’s Ellen Forsyth uses Twitter as a note-taking device. The Twitter hashtag for the forum was #Allsorts09.

AusStage: Collective Intelligence and Data Visualisation for Performing Arts eResearch

Dr Jonathan Bollen: Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities, Flinders University
AusStage is the Australian hub for research on live performance, linking researchers in universities, industry and government. It stimulates smart information use, promotes collaboration on innovative methodologies, and integrates access to collections. AusStage is extending its infrastructure to harness collective intelligence, to visualise the knowledge embedded in the AusStage database, and to deliver next-generation tools and services for information analysis, while continuing to populate the database with comprehensive coverage of live performance in Australia.

Jonathan plays a leading role in coordinating research for the AusStage project, with particular interests in data visualisation. He is co-author of Men at Play: Masculinities in Australian Theatre since the 1950s (with Adrian Kiernander and Bruce Parr, Rodopi 2008). His research on gender, sexuality and performance has been published in The Drama Review, Social Semiotics and Australasian Drama Studies.

Disruptive Digital

Gavin Artz, CEO, Australian Network for Arts and Technology (ANAT)
Gavin Artz’s experience in business management ranges from multi-national companies, to not-forprofit community organisations. His diverse background spans arts and commerce – with a BA in Politics; Double Bass and Composition Studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music; a Graduate Certificate in Business Management; and he is now completing his MBA. After working as a professional musician for many years, Gavin is currently pursuing creativity in business management with a focus on governance and strategy.

Digital Storytelling: Storylines – Q150 Digital Stories

Gavin Bannerman: Oral History and Digital Storytelling Coordinator, State Library of Queensland
Storylines is the State Library of Queensland’s digital storytelling project to capture the people, places and events that make up Queensland in its 150th year. Hear about the challenges of interviewing aboard moving steam trains, trying to contact travelling hairdressers in Cape York and making the outcomes accessible to the public.

Gavin has commissioned, created, acquired, registered, documented and made accessible oral histories and digital stories that relate to SLQ’s strategic objective of capturing “Queensland Memory.” Gavin is trained as an archivist, receiving a Graduate Diploma in Records Management and Archives from Curtin University. He has been involved with arranging and describing archival material, training cultural organisation staff in image digitisation, and consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities regarding cultural clearance for images in SLQ’s collection.

Open Access: Conquering Copyright

Jessica Coates, Project Manager, Creative Commons Australia and the Creative Commons Clinic, Queensland University of Technology
Navigating the ins and out of copyright law can often be the most costly and difficult part of providing open access to a collection. Jessica will talk about what can and is being done by collecting institutions worldwide to share their collections and engage with audiences in the digital era – legally.

Jessica examines the legal mechanisms that encourage innovation in the creative industries, and promote and track the implementation of the international open content licensing movement, Creative Commons, in Australia. Prior to working for the Clinic, Jessica spent most of the last decade as a copyright and communications policy officer with the Commonwealth Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA).

Web 2.0 and Social Media: Collections, Flickr and the Media

Jenny Scott, Content Services Librarian, State Library of South Australia
In her presentation Jenny describes the process by which she brought a small private collection to the attention of a nation. The collection of photos and documents that could have easily been lost or discarded over the previous 60 years became the foundation of a Web 2.0 project that gained front page media attention.

Jenny is implementing the State Library’s presence on Flickr. After completing an Associate Diploma in Photography in the early 1980s Jenny operated her own commercial photography business at Port Adelaide. In 1993 she graduated BA in History and Politics from Adelaide University and in 1994 Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Management from the University of South Australia. After three years as an archivist with State Records of South Australia in 2000 she moved to the State Library of South Australia to take up the position of Curator Pictorial Collection.

Building Relationships with Media to Promote Research

Susannah Elliot, CEO Science Media Centre, Adelaide
Mention the word science to a senior editor and you’ll see them shift uncomfortably and look around for an excuse to get away from you. But talk to them about the dust storms in Sydney, why there are more mosquitoes this year, the science of Taser guns or even the bizarre mating habits of redback spiders and you’ll have their interest.

The reason for this is that those outside the realm of science and research still see it as an academic pursuit of little relevance to their daily lives. This talk is about making research the topic of media interest by making it relevant to the current debates and the breaking news with which we’re all consumed.

Susannah works with the news media to inject more evidence-based science into public discourse. Prior to this she spent more than five years in Stockholm, Sweden, as director of communications for the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), an international network of scientists studying global environmental change. In the 1990s Susannah managed the Centre for Science Communication at UTS, where she helped establish the successful Horizons of Science series of media roundtables and was involved in numerous other initiatives such as Science in the Pub and Science in the Bush.


Seeing the Two Worlds: Dr Joe Gumbula

The University of Sydney Archives has taken a leading role in the research, interpretation and access rights of Indigenous material in Australia. The university’s first Indigenous Research Fellow Yolngu Elder Dr Joseph Gumbula worked with academic Dr Aaron Corn to research photographs taken in the 1920s and 1930s in north-eastern Arnhem Land. The images were taken during the early settlement of the Miliŋinbi (Milingimbi) community by anthropologist William Lloyd Warner in 1927-29 and the missionary T.T. Webb from 1926-1939. Dr Gumbula also looked at records created by Professor AP Elkin and Dr Annie Margaret McArthur of Miliŋinbi (Milingimbi) and Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island).

In this video, Dr Gumbula and University Reference Archivist Julia Mant talk about the Yolngu-led project that was started with an Australian Research Council grant in 2007. It covers how access rights to the university archive collection were determined – categorising the photographs into garma, dhuni and ngarra access groups according to Yolngu way. Dr Gumbula reflects on how the consultation process with the Yolngu elders, whose family are depicted in the images, has had a significant impact on the community. Not only has the project had a profound impact on him personally, but it has created opportunities for a better understanding between the two worlds.

Miliŋinbi (Milingimbi) and Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island), North-Eastern Arnhem Land

The Macleay Museum is currently hosting the exhibition Makarr-garma: Aboriginal Collections from a Yolŋu Perspective. Guest curator Dr Gumbula shares his understanding of Aboriginal artefacts in the Macleay Museum from the Yolngu perspective. The exhibition at the University of Sydney charts the course of a day using objects, artworks and natural history specimens, historical and contemporary photographs, sound and light. It will run until 15 May 2010.

The Gumbula Project team, Julia Mant (far left), Dr Joe Gumbula and Dr Aaron Corn (centre)

Further reading
Matjabala Mali’ Buku-Ruŋanmaram: implications for archives and access in Arnhem Land


PROVcommunity: a social experiment in a digital world

Asa Letourneau set up PROVcommunity for the Public Record Office Victoria just three weeks ago. It is a social networking ning for people to meet and discuss the Victorian archives. It also incorporates the PROV wiki where people can set up a topic or add information to an existing page. Asa works in the Online Access team across a range of initiatives including online exhibitions, social media applications, and website development.

More and more I have been looking at social media and considering how PROV might use these applications to increase public awareness of, and access to Victorian government archives.

To date PROV has experimented with Flickr and a wiki, however, we have not had a place where users and staff can discuss the archives free from the confines of a physical location or the limitations of Web 1.0 functionality. Given that the world of social media is so new (especially to the archives sector) and moving so rapidly, I thought the first thing I would do would be to take a leap of faith and create a PROV ning.

PROVcommunity came into the world three weeks ago and is a trial initiative to explore ways in which PROV can promote understanding of the state archives through community discussion in an online environment. It is a virtual meeting place where researchers can share, discuss and ask questions about the Victorian state archives in a relaxed and welcoming environment. Visitors can add photos and videos, check out the latest news in the archives world and hopefully get to meet some really interesting people!

Having a ning will hopefully allow PROV to not only communicate more intimately with our users, but also give us the opportunity to hear what our users are saying about PROV. What I’m personally really looking forward to is seeing the degree to which PROVcommunity brings people with similar interests together, and furthers their knowledge of the state archives.

I can see the ning providing a whole raft of learning outcomes for both public and staff alike: skills development (creating and using social media), crowd sourcing (evaluating information gaps in data sets), and opening up for public discussion draft initiatives/strategies on a scale that has not been possible before.

One of the best things about creating the ning has been the type of discussions it has already started within PROV itself: How best can we promote and make accessible the archives in a radically changing Web 2.0 environment? How are our users’ expectations changing as they become more familiar with the benefits of social media applications, that is, hyperconnectiviity, shared knowledge, shared power?

We all now have an obligation to tackle these questions in a timely fashion and I’m hoping that PROVcommunity might provide some of the answers and possibly some new questions for us all to think about!


Allsorts09: Collecting sector and media partnerships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Rhodes

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


What curators and online producers can learn from journalists in the art of storytelling: Liina Flynn

Liina Flynn works at the Tweed River Regional Museum as a curator and storyteller. She is also a journalist, graphic designer, photographer and IT consultant who has worked within the world of image and text for many years. Liina shares her experience in these range of disciplines with the CAN community.

With so many ways to deliver our messages, we need to rethink how we gather, construct and deliver stories to the world. In addition to the medium of print, the online medium is becoming a standard part of every household, and more people are combining image with text and sound to tell their unique stories and express their views of the world.

Working for a museum made up of three historical societies, I meet a lot of people interested in family histories. Many of the people working at the museum are volunteer researchers who do a great job of tracking down information, but they don’t have the confidence to put the research together into a story for publication, so I’ve attempted to put together some tips on how to think about constructing a story.

As a journalist, when I’m writing news stories, there are some basics that need to be said – what, where, who, why, and when are pretty important, but so is engaging the interest of the reader, watcher or listener. Reporting news is really telling stories about things that happen to people. When telling stories about history and object collections in museums, relating the objects to people and how they used them or were affected by them, will make for a more interesting story.

Choosing what to put in, and what to leave out.
Maybe you want to tell the story of an early pioneer to your area. With a bit of research, you find dates, ages, births and marriages. Telling the facts straight is a bit like eating dry toast – while some people may like it, it’s not appealing to most unless they are really hungry or on a strict diet. You can make the straight facts more interesting by tying in some research about the culture of the area, or other information from the era which relates to the story you want to tell.

If the scope of a story is too long and broad, you’ll need to focus on one part of it in order to keep the story short enough to make your point, without getting bogged down in too many details e.g. If your subject incorporates logging, fishing and road building, you may need to choose one of these aspects only to talk about. Are you making a movie/writing a book or a short story/one minute feature?

What do you write about and what resources do you use?
Start with what you have – photos, research, published books, borrowed images (with permission of course – make sure you give credit to anything you borrow). If you don’t have enough information, you may need to conduct your research in other organisations, or reconsider what you are going to write about. Even if you are pretty sure you think you know something is true, always check that your facts are correct.

Keeping the story interesting
When I’m reading a story, the first thing I’ll do is to read the first sentence or paragraph to see if the subject is interesting to me. Not only do you need to give the reader an idea of what the article will be about if they keep on reading, but you need to make it interesting and make them want to keep on reading past the beginning (and hopefully all the way to the end). Put the most relevant first, least relevant last, or that’s what they tell you. Sometimes it’s about finding the most interesting thing about your subject matter and leading into the story with that.

You don’t need to ‘make it all up’ yourself. Let your resources tell the story. Do your research then let the quotes from your sources, books and interviews deliver the information you want to tell – you don’t have to re-interpret and re-write all your research, you might just need to summarise concepts to link together some of the different ideas in your story as told in quotations.

When writing, use everyday language. Unless your audiences are exclusively specialists in a field, change the words you use to common terms. If a reader understands what you are talking about, they’ll be more likely to read till the end (and that’s the point isn’t it?)

If you are having trouble finding a ‘voice’ in your story, read your script / words aloud. If it doesn’t sound right or ‘flow’, re-write it until it is easier to read and sounds more like a conversational voice.

Don’t be afraid to re-write!
While we want to deliver the facts, the idea is to find some of the more interesting points behind the story you are trying to tell. Sometimes you might start with an idea for the story you want to tell, but the more you research and learn about the subject matter, the more your ideas change. When you find something really interesting, you might want to re-write and change the way your story begins to give this information first – all good writing is re-written, sometimes many times.

Always have other people read over your work – they can tell you if it reads well, is understandable or interesting. Sometimes you can get stuck on how to tell something, and a bit of feedback from someone can help you to get past the hurdle!

Whatever you do, don’t give up – keep researching and make notes of the more interesting points when you find them along with references of where they came from!

For more advice on the art of storytelling, email Liina.


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.