Archive for February, 2010

Tips+Tricks: Video for the Web

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

A possum and a movie camera 1943, Australian War Memorial

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

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

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

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

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

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


Powerhouse Museum Object Name Thesaurus live: Susan Davidson


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Where is the Indigenous cultural material around Australia?: AIATSIS

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

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

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


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


‘Object of the Week’ blog at the Powerhouse Museum: Melanie Pitkin

Beavering away behind-the-scenes of any museum are collections focused staff (curators, registrars and conservators) working on lively projects, exhibitions, object acquisitions and research papers. Much of this work is only ever experienced by audiences as an end product, as a display in the museum; a publication or event. In light of this and the fact that museums’ only ever have 3-5% of their collection on public display at any one time, the Powerhouse Museum has turned to collections blogging as a way of improving access, dialogue and transparency in museum practice.

Approaching our one year anniversary, the blog was initially setup by Erika Dicker (science and industry guru extraordinaire!) in March, 2009, before I joined her as co-manager a few months later. We post three times a week on all aspects of the Museum’s collection (organised by theme) including architecture, fashion, space, transport, decorative arts, health and medicine and design, along with some other quirky and insightful categories like the mystery object, meet the curator and boring looking objects that tell amazing stories! We’ve also recently started a thread with guest bloggers and curators. In other words, anything goes!

Earoscope, metal/wood, [USA], 1893, © Powerhouse Museum all rights reserved
Earoscope, 1893, USA, Powerhouse Museum, © all rights reserved

But, not only do we seek to expose our collections; it is also an opportunity for us to discover and share in the personal stories and associations our readers have had with these, and similar, objects. By blogging on our collections, we’ve already identified previously unidentified curiosities (the Earoscope), established more detailed ownership histories (the Dior suit) and fired up heated discussions (the Centenary of Powered Flight debate) thanks to the comments we receive from readers! ‘Object of the Week’ is a rich soup of objects, history, nostalgia, eccentricities and ideas.

Email Design & Society Curator Melanie Pitkin or Erika Dicker for any more information about setting up a blog.


Female factories: Taking freedom from the past

Bonney Djuric sees parallels in the lives of convict women and the recent experiences of wards of the state. The Parramatta Female Factory Precinct housed orphans, convict women, girls at risk and those in need of psychiatric care. As a former Parragirl, Ms Djuric is campaigning for the precinct to be preserved, with hopes to regenerate the neglected buildings into a cultural centre. She is looking to the project manager of the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site Shirley McCarron for guidance and inspiration. Mrs McCarron is responsible for transforming the derelict piece of land in Hobart, Tasmania into a National Heritage Site and has recently submitted an application for World Heritage status.

This video explores the lives of wards of the state and convict women through the eyes of two inspiring women Mrs McCarron and Ms Djuric.

Email Bonney Djuric if you are able to support her dream of making the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct a heritage centre. Please email Tanya Gadiel MP for a copy of the petition to sign for the protection and preservation of the precinct.


Plundering and poaching: Tasmania’s whaling history

Hobart was the biggest whaling port in the southern hemisphere in the 1800s but now is the launch pad for anti-whaling vessels, like the Sea Shepherd and Ady Gill. Maritime Museum of Tasmania curator Rona Hollingsworth worked with the Collections Australia Network (CAN) to make a video about Tasmania’s rich whaling history. While CAN was visiting Hobart to help galleries, libraries, archives and museums put their collections online, it took the opportunity to look at historical collections from a contemporary perspective.

While watching this three minute YouTube video, think about how stories in the news cycle relate to collections. What messages can be explored in a digital story that compare the past with issues in contemporary society?

Please email Sarah Rhodes with any ideas that CAN and its Partners could collaborate on.