Archive for March, 2010

How one Australian museum has taken flight in the social media skies: Hayley Dean

Marketing expert Hayley Dean has grown up around aeroplanes with her grandfather a former RAAF officer and father a curator at the Australian Aviation Museum in Bankstown. Now she manages the AAM’s communication and publicity on a pro bono basis. It is fascinating and inspiring to watch Hayley use Twitter and Facebook – to see how she is building a community network around the aviation collection.

Marketing and social media expert, Australian Aviation Museum, Hayley Dean

The Australian Aviation Museum (AAM) located at Bankstown Airport has been operating since the 1990’s and is home to some of Australia’s most historic Aviation memorabilia. But despite its impressive collection, the museum was aware that it was time to address a decline in visitor numbers and their lack of awareness by the Australian public, outside of the aviation & historic community.

The answer came in the form of a 21st century version of a lamington sale, a social marketing campaign on Twitter (AustaviationMus) and Facebook. Rather than simply tweeting aviation facts and aircraft photo’s, the AAM has created a connection between their museum and current new stories…. and it’s working.

Australian Aviation Museum volunteer team

The key is ‘connection’. When Calvin Klein (CK) showed his latest bomber jacket collection at New York’s fashion week, the AAM mentioned their CK collection, that being our Charles Kingsford Smiths flying jacket and the number of female followers increased.

When O week began, the AAM wished all aviation students good luck and we connected with each university offering the degree, and when Hollywood honoured their greats during Oscar week, the AAM honoured a great man who befriended the stars and flew them in boats and the socialites began to listen. In only a short few weeks, by talking to an audience that once showed little to no interest, the AAM has had a number of small successes in once unreachable avenues. Thanks to the support of their wonderful volunteers, the sky is no longer the limit for the AAM with plans for their social marketing to grow ever bigger.

Based in Sydney’s Inner West, Hayley Dean is the owner of me marketing agency, specialising in social media management and marketing communications. She has worked on numerous marketing initiatives for not for profit organisations including that of the AAM’s and so is well placed to offer advice to other museums. Email Hayley for advice on how small organisations can use social media effectively.

The Australian Aviation Museum is located in Starkie Drive, Bankstown Airport. For more information visit or phone (02) 9791 3088….or follow them on twitter ‘Austaviationmus’ and facebook.


The Paphos Theatre Dig online: Craig Barker


Craig Barker runs an archaeological dig in Cyprus when he is not working as the Education and Public Programs Manager for the University of Sydney Museums. His true love is archaeology. All of his annual leave is spent in the little Mediterranean town of Paphos researching the ancient Hellenistic and Roman period theatre. Many of the pieces found in the 650 year-old Paphos Theatre are similar to those in the Nicholson Museum so it is fitting that Craig is developing an education programme around the Nicholson – home to the largest collection of ancient artefacts in Australia.

The next trip to Cyprus is scheduled in October by which time Sydney University Museums will be online. Craig will use the Paphos Theatre dig in the university’s education programme drawing on the online collection, using a similar approach as the British Museum’s Explore site. Craig will set-up a blog with archaeologists and architects sharing experiences about their own specialities – whether it is glass, pottery, bones or buildings. He will then draw on the Nicholson Museum online collection for examples of artefacts they have found.

Craig is also working closely with University Collections Manager Maree Clutterbuck to develop a broader education programme around the online collection as it covers an enormous breadth of disciplines from natural history and sciences, Indigenous art and artefacts right through to contemporary art. Craig is an advocate of using available resources. The university has a wealth of postgraduate students in a broad range of disciplines who would be keen to develop web-based narratives for school students as part of their coursework. The development of a school-age education program that interprets the university museum collection will be based on the philosophy of lifelong learning. Craig hopes that once students become familiar with the collections when they are 12 years old, Sydney University will be their first choice when they need to choose a tertiary institution.

Sarah Rhodes


Where are the police watchhouse books?: Liz Marsden

Since 2006 Victoria Police’s Historical Services has been undergoing a massive registration program of its entire historical and archival collections. As part of this process we are interested in documenting the location of other significant police holdings, specifically Victoria Police Station Watchhouse books.


Established in 1853, Victoria Police have been present at all the significant milestones in Victorian history, including the Gold Rush, the Eureka Stockade and the notorious Kelly gang Outbreak. Documents created by this government organisation, often reflect the values and issues faced by people through these turbulent times.

Police watchhouse charge books document the formal moment of arrest and contain invaluable personal information about the accused and their crime. As such these large ledgers contain a wealth of information, invaluable to social and local historians as well as family researchers.

Whilst Victoria Police holds the majority of these records, we are aware that some of these permanent records may have slipped through the cracks and been donated or loaned to regional historical societies in the past.

These items remain the property of Victoria Police and as such we need to know where they are located. Our main concern is ascertaining where these items are and ensuring they are well cared for. The inclusion of these books in one uniform database will increase the accessibility of these records and benefit future historians and researchers.

If you are able to help with this important project, or have any questions, please contact Liz Marsden at the Victoria Police Museum by or phone (03) 92475213.


Join us in #collectionfishing on Twitter

The Collections Australia Network has been collectionfishing on Twitter. Each day a different organisation organically comes up with a theme for the day. Participants fossick around online collections for related material. Synesthesia took hold of the cultural sector online last week with the days of the week taking on different colours. Te Papa, New Zealand, started the week off with blue, Museum Victoria saw Tuesday as blue / red and Wednesday as red, CAN nominated Thursday as green and Friday yellow.

CAN is using #collectionfishing as a form of collection research, as its starting point for sourcing psychiatric hospital collections that could be uploaded to the CAN collection database.


Monday / Blue: @staterecordsnsw licence for the Coolamon Golf Club (Blue Light Disco)
Tuesday / Blue:@museumvictoria Oh the nostalgia, a lovely Bondi Blue iMac
Wednesday / Red: @CAN001 Old Gippstown on CAN A slightly different drum with red and blue
Thursday / Green: @CAN001 from the UTAS Fine Art Collection on CAN, thanks to Rachel Rose, Spit Bay, Heard Island
Friday / Yellow: @TePapaColOnline What will make you iron faster? Yellow racing stripes Iron, His Masters Voice, circa 1955

@MigrationMuseum, South Australia, took photographs within its exhibition space of a collection of items from the Polonia Soccer Club and uploaded it to Twitpic. Very resourceful – proof that anyone can play this game and participants are not confined to those with collections online. @lifeasdaddy, aka Bob Meade, is a well-known citizen researcher of cultural collections. He has been yelling out cries of encouragement from the sideline but we would love him to search across the nation’s collections on CAN and tweet them.

To participate, search a cultural collection online with the theme of the day in mind. Briefly describe the item, add a tinyurl to take the reader directly to the artefact (shorten the web link at the website and finish the tweet with #collectionfishing. Remember, CAN is looking for any reference to mental illness or psychiatric hospital collections.


Tips+Tricks: Creating and keeping digital treasures


The State Library of Western Australia (SLWA) has just published an excellent resource on how to create and keep digital treasures. It is a very comprehensive 19 page pdf that can be downloaded from the SLWA website. It covers extremely important issues like creating several copies of digital files and storing them in different locations, ensuring preservation copies can be read using open source software, keeping file formats current, periodically checking access to digital files and creating a metadata system.

Download here

World’s Columbian Exposition: Ferris Wheel, Chicago, United States, 1893. Flickr Commons / Brooklyn Museum Archives


Two perspectives on putting collections online

The Collections Australia Network (CAN) takes two approaches to putting collections online. Exporting the entire database into an Excel spreadsheet with images or selecting a minimum of five items to be uploaded. Here are two case studies demonstrating both strategies.

RACHAEL ROSE University of Tasmania Art Collection online
rachael rose
University of Tasmania Fine Art Collection registrar and keeper Rachael Rose has successfully uploaded the entire art collection to CAN. Even though she only has general computer skills, she was able to export the whole collection into an Excel spreadsheet without any difficulty. Rachael approached CAN for a little Outreach support. Now researchers and curators can search the whole university art collection online. Email Rachael Rose if you would like to know more about her experience of preparing the university art collection for CAN.

DAVID HARDHAM Glen Eira Historical Society collection online
David Hardham is an IT professional who volunteers for several historical societies in country Victoria. He has been working with the Glen Eira Historical Society in Victoria to raise the profile of the organisation. His first step was to put the collection online in phases so that the society could assess the impact of going online. One of its greatest concerns was the impact on photo sales but the society was reassured that there would be more likely to be a positive impact on this revenue stream. Email David Hardham if you would like to know more about his experience of preparing the Glen Eira collection for CAN.

How did the organisation upload its collection to CAN?
DH: We selected a sample collection to upload rather than our entire database. We did this to see what the impact would be and the effort required to do this as we have approximately 2000 items that is increasing every week.
RR: Exported 1270 records in the database onto an Excel spreadsheet, then matched images, copied them and sent through on a separate disc.

Does CAN’s metadata suit the organisation’s catalogue fields?
DH: Generally yes.
RR: Yes.

What was the impact on resources in preparing the collection to be uploaded?
DH: The time taken in extracting the information from our existing database and re-formatting to the required metadata structure. Now that we know how to do that, we can tailor our database extract to the same order and fields as the metadata and that will make further extracts a lot easier.
RR: Time- although most of the information was in the database, I discovered that over the years and with different people entering data there were discrepancies, typos, and missing details which all needed to be corrected and then checked. It was a fantastic opportunity to get the database into shape, but took a lot longer than I first anticipated. Also matching up images which could be copied across took some time, as many had to be rescanned or photographed. Until this point the database has only been viewed by the curator managing the collection, and so many of the images were only snapshots for identification purposes. To get better quality images for online use meant a little more time and work, but it was well worth the effort.

What was the biggest challenge in preparing the collection spreadsheet?
DH: CAN can only hold one record per item, we have a number of single entry items that have one or more photographs, so we have to replicate the spreadsheet line so that there is only one photograph per line. An example is that we have a single entry that has over 200 photographs associated with it.
RR: Checking all the information was correct against other records – with so many entries it was fairly time-consuming but it also meant I learnt a lot more about each individual artwork in the collection.

What will be your approach moving forward?
DH: Using the answers from the two questions above as a guide, we will probably upload our data in stages rather then an entire database at once.
RR: Learning how to use social media.

What will be the potential benefits in having the collection on CAN?
DH: Provide access of our collection to a wider audience, especially the photographs we have.
RR: People often enquire about what works we have in the Collection, so it will be helpful having an online presence to refer them to. I hope it will bring the Collection to a wider audience for general appreciation and also to aid researchers and other artists.

To what extent will social media be used to share stories about collection material?
DH: It is an evolving story that will expand as more data is catalogued and recorded and made available. We see it as a key item in making the general public aware of what we have and what we do.
RR: This is not something we use now but certainly an interesting possibility in the future.


Pioneer Wendy Hucker celebrating domestic life

Wendy Hucker has carved a place in Australia’s cultural heritage to celebrate ordinary women’s domestic objects. When she moved to Tumburumba, near the Snowy Mountains, in the 1980s she was appalled to see women discarding their old aprons and wash tubs, preferring to have everything new. Mrs Hucker started the movement to celebrate domesticity through the setting up of the Pioneer Women’s Hut, National Quilt Register and several consultancy projects, including with the National Museum of Australia. From her home in Goulburn, she talks about the influences on her life and her involvement in preserving and celebrating domestic objects.

Listen to interview

Edited transcript
I became really interested in ordinary women’s domestic life and the more you looked at it, the more you saw that the written history was about important women or women who made a contribution during the war. Often they were rich, but not always. But it was never their ordinary life that was even touched upon.

Domestic objects historian Wendy Hucker
Domestic objects historian Wendy Hucker

I think the interest came when I moved to the Tumbarumba district and I went to the tip. The tip was actually at Rosewood and I was so appalled at what families were throwing out like an old sugar bag apron and rough mended quilts and kitchen utensils made from tins that I went away and thought about it a lot. It was almost as though they were saying that these things were not worth saving and you could go down the main street of Tumbarumba and buy a really nice patterned apron in a sort of Liberty print very cheaply. So a lot of stuff was being discarded and when I spoke with local women they confirmed this, ‘new is best’. So after lots of discussion a group of us realised that ordinary rural domestic life was a neglected area of history. This was probably about 1983 or ‘84 and the Pioneer Women’s Hut emerged from this period.

Domestic objects, photography by Sarah Rhodes

The Powerhouse has certainly led the way in highlighting domestic life and they had for one wonderful short period a domestic history section. Out of that came a seminal exhibition called … never done …, that really had a huge influence. I think that city women’s things somehow were often kept, maybe, more than the country women’s. In the country there were many domestic and farm processes that needed to be recorded while they still existed or were at least in living memory. Many of these were pre electricity like sewing with a treadle machine, making butter by hand, cooking on a fuel stove and hadn’t existed in the city for a long time. Wash day was another one, because until not so very long ago, women improvised with coppers and did the washing outside. Sometimes the pegs were even handmade. That thing of washing just didn’t apply in the city, or not at that period, anyway. You had the tyranny of distance in the country, and that led to in the early days, of course, horse drawn vehicles. So there were whole areas that didn’t apply in the city.

At the Pioneer Women’s Hut we were always interested in informal ways of tapping into women’s history, though that’s just a grand term for women’s lives. As time went on we promoted a policy we called our NON acquisition policy as we realised how important it was for families to retain their own things and hand them on in the family and regard a museum as a second best option. Even if the things were just milk jug covers or hand made toys or copper sticks. These represented their personal past not that grand thing of ‘the’ past.

So in line with our non-acquisition policy we decided we would ask women to record details of their quilts. We only selected quilts as they were something that was fairly universal and covered a wide range that were hand made. The National Quilt Register is the result. So it’s a way of women sharing information but retaining their own heritage and I think it has been fairly successful. This way is more common now of course of sharing information but not putting an object in a museum and the National Dress Register is another example. A bonus is that the cost of looking after any sort of object, even the most simple domestic one is now getting huge. By the time we make sure it is very simply conserved and it’s catalogued and it’s stored its all become really expensive and it is much better for families to care for their own things and hand them on in the family.

(I also worked on) ‘The Material Culture of Backyards’ , a consultancy for the National Museum. So I was looking at the role of backyards within a family and gender issues such as who used the space most and for what. This included things like why men cooked the barbecue and never cooked anything else, which is very true. I think women like it that way. Despite the ever popular men’s shed I found backyards were much more women’s and children’s space despite being traditionally regarded as the men’s domain.

When I was a child, my parents had one of the radio licenses, commercial licenses, in New South Wales. It was about 1932 and the Depression was on and they had both been school teachers in Narrandera and gave it up to start a radio station. They couldn’t afford to employ anyone so everything on air in those first years was by my Mother or my Father or later on I helped too. So when it was decided to start a children’s session and I was about 5 by then, I couldn’t go on air because I couldn’t read without stumbling occasionally and my Father was absolutely pedantic. He had been a school teacher and there was no way I was to go on air until I could read properly.

As soon as I could read fluently I was an essential part of the children’s session and I used to read Enid Blyton’s ‘Sunny Stories’ of which I still have some. I was also trying to teach our dog, we had 3 Fox Terriers and Gay was one, to bark on command on air but she wasn’t so good at that.

And we used to send birthday presents out. That was a big part of the children’s session. So it would be little Jamie’s birthday and you’d say ‘Jamie, if you look behind the lounge, you might find something there’ and Jamie would look behind the lounge and there would be the present. So all that was good fun.

I think that early period stood me in good stead for a lot of things, one of which was seeing my Mother combine domestic life and an exacting job without making any real distinctions. The radio station was on air from early morning until about 10 pm Monday to Sunday so her two roles had to be juggled in terms of priorities at the time. Most of my long working life I have followed that and not made clear divisions between work and leisure.

Interestingly, in those early days of radio there was no soundproofing of studios so when I was on air I loved opening the window so you could hear the swans on the lagoon. It was quite a different way of looking at radio. It wasn’t that sort of ‘no background noise at all costs’ but rather that radio was a part of people’s lives then much more than it is now and everyday sounds were part of that. Anyway, it was also good fun.

To learn more about the importance of ordinary domestic objects, email Wendy Hucker.

Music with thanks to Miriam Venus for The Flight with a Goddess.