The Stratford Historical Society and Museum and Maffra Sugar Beet Museum join Old Gippstown (Heritage Park) in uploading their collection to CAN. This great achievement is due to the dedication and vision of Linda Barraclough who supports a number of collections in Central Gippsland. Ms Barraclough has developed an online strategy to promote the stories behind the collections through her four blogs and various social media applications.
What is your online strategy to promote the collection?
I come from the craft sector where blogging is very popular. There’s a very strong community of people who look at others’ work and comment on others’ work. It’s a very visual form of blogs, not perhaps like the political blogs that rarely have illustrations. So, I run four blogs — two for Old Gippstown. One is just a general cataloguer’s blog to let people know what we’re up to. One, which is Old Gippstown Object of the Week, which is inspired by the absolutely glorious “Powerhouse Museum Object of the Week” blog, and a a blog for Stratford, and a blog for Maffra.
In what other ways do you promote collection items through social media?
Backing up the blogs, we need to have Flickr pages that actually host our photographs. As part of that, you form groups. One of the groups that we have there is Objects in Australian Museums: Help Needed. We post mystery objects there in the hope that people can identify them. Sometimes it’s quite embarrassing. I posted one of this strange object that I found in the kitchen collection that I couldn’t work out what it was. Someone quite firmly said, “Do you realise that’s a hat pin stand?” There’s others, such as something that was catalogued here as a pasta maker that turned out to be a home shaver for an Edison phonograph but was rather beautiful. We posted that.
On the Maffra blog we just put a photograph up there with three young women in neck to knee bathing costumes. Beside it, we put up the scrawl on the back that we couldn’t quite decipher. I use the RootsWeb email lists a lot. We put it up on the Gippstown list and said, “Look, go and have a look at the scrawl. Go and have a look at the people. Can anyone recognise them?” and we finally decided, yes, this has got to be these two young women. A whole community of interest gets involved in things, and then they go off on a different red herring and bring back more information about them. The family historians are really wonderful for that sort of thing.
Do you find the audience is mainly in Gippsland or do you reach broader Australia?
We’ve got two sorts of audiences, or three sorts of audience to do with each of the different social media streams. RootsWeb, where we use the email, this is a bit like the CAN discussion list. That audience is anyone interested in Gippsland anywhere, so you’ll have people just as interested who are in Queensland, New Zealand, and Canada. The Flickr one is definitely international. People search that one, and you have to be very wise in what words you put in there, because you need to think what people are going to search by. So, if you put up a steam traction engine, you make sure you use that word “steam” and “traction” and people come, using a popular search engine, come streaming in on that.
We’ve been posting on the Old Gippstown blog about our tinsmithing collection that we’re going to have up soon. That would be one of the more searched for terms for our work here.
I’ll get up, and each morning when I check the stats, I’ll find some very obscure European countries, and a lot of Americans, and a few Canadians, Turkey, and Istanbul, and all that sort of thing, have been searching on the term “tinsmithing.” We’ve got an international audience. With the blogs, I can’t really define the audience yet, and it’s still developing. It’s still a growing thing.
Is this a paper clip? Or a Boone spa soda siphon?
What is the benefit of putting your collection on CAN
Within about the first week we had the email on, I opened my mailbox and I found an email from Ingrid that said, “We’ve got your connection up on CAN.” We ran up and down the corridors here screaming and dancing and no one could understand what we were carrying on about. It was the most wonderful thing to be able to turn on our computers here and suddenly see our stuff up there on CAN.
We’ve had a few times when we’ve run up and down the roads out there screaming. One of them was when we reunited a sewing machine with its base and getting the collection up on CAN was one of the others. We’ve only got, I think, 1,600 items up there. It’s a small part of the collection. We’ve got 7,500 objects in the catalog. We’ve had a couple of direct contacts from people who’ve got the same sort of thing, and said, “What can you tell me about my Boones Bar Soda Siphon?” and we’ve said, “Well, not a lot, but what can you tell us about yours?”
It’s got potential to bring in those sorts of relationships. We’re also hoping that people might look at it and say, “Well, that was my grandmother’s, and this is the story behind it.”
We started in 1968 and the recording of objects wasn’t good enough for us to have caught all the stories for everything that comes in. We’re hoping that people are going to see the objects and tell us the stories.
Links to culture in Central Gippsland
Gippsland Heritage Park Blog
Gippsland Heritage Park Cataloguers Blog
Stratford Historical Society and Museum Blog
Maffra Sugar Beet Museum Blog
Old Gippstown Flickr account
Old Gippstown Flickr group – public can upload pictures
Objects in Australian Museums – Help Needed Flickr group
Australasian Heritage Parks Flickr group
Photo at top: Old Gippstown Manager Michael Fozzard and Collection Management and Team Leader Linda Barraclough at the Heritage Park