Posts Tagged ‘CAN’

2011 Disaster Management – Conservation Resources

There are numerous sites from across the Galleries Libraries Archives and Museum sector offering advice on how to deal with water damage and CAN has compiled a list of some of these below.

NOTE: advice on the correct handling of water damaged photographs by freezing while sound for paper based photographs is not correct for glass plate negatives.

• Advise on stabilising and drying methods from the NSW State Records office

• Library of Congress – Emergency drying procedures for water damaged collections

• Sate Library of Queensland Salvaging water damaged collections

• Conservation Centre For Art and Historical Artefacts – Salvaging art on paper

• Conservation Centre For Art and Historical Artefacts – Salvaging books

• Conservation Centre For Art and Historical Artefacts – Salvaging photographic collections

• American Institute of Conservation – Salvaging photographs after the flood

• AICCM – Information, Factsheets on salvaging keepsakes and records after floods

• The Image Permanence Institute – A consumer guide for the recovery of water-damaged traditional and digital prints

• National Archives of Australia – Recovering flood damaged records

• National Archives (USA) – Saving family treasures guidelines

• National Film & Sound Archive – Stabilising audiovisual objects affected by floods

• Canadian Heritage Emergency Treatment of Water-Damaged Paintings on Canvas

• American Institute of Conservation – Tips for the Care for Water-Damaged Family Heirlooms and Other Valuables

• American Institute of Conservation – Salvaging Water Damaged Textiles
• U.S. National Park Centre – Emergency treatment for water soaked furniture

• Northeast documentation centre

Another useful resource is the book just published by Heritage Preservation Implementing the Incident Command System at the Institutional Level: A Handbook for Libraries, Archives, Museums, and Other Cultural Repositories, by David Carmicheal, Director of the Georgia Division of Archives and History, and published in cooperation with

YouTube & Video Conservation Resources of Interest

Smithsonian how to remove your photographs from a sticky album

Smithsonian how to store your photographs

Salem Witch Museum repairing water damage to old masonry

Salem Witch Museum Restoration Project: Roger Tremblay demonstrates casting stone

Cleaning water damaged mobile phone LCD

How to fix a wet cell phone

Heritage Conservation U.S. – Coping with Water Damage 10 min video for museums archives and libraries

Disaster Management Plans

Unesco disaster Recovery Plan

A Disaster Recovery Plan for The Australian National Herbarium
May 2008 A. Newey, B. Lepschi & J.Croft


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.


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


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.


Podcasts on museum entry experience

There has been some interest on the can-talk listserv in podcasts on the museum entry experience. We have had a little dig around and come up with a starting point for further investigations in this field, including a YouTube search. When making a list of interesting videos from YouTube, CAN imagined some of the issues the current redevelopment of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery might be considering.

Podcasts and videos on museum entry experience

1. Experienceology
2. Museum Mobile
3. “Innovation in Museum Design” [Redesigning the Louvre and Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)] Part I
“Innovation in Museum Design” [Redesigning the Louvre and Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)] Part II
“Innovation in Museum Design” [Redesigning the Louvre and Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)] Part III”
4. Broad Contemporary Art Museum LA with architect Renzo Piano: YouTube
5. Designing a museum experience: YouTube

CAN Partners also sent through links to resources on how to make podcasts and vodcasts. David Milne, at Queensland Museum, sent through an excellent link to Apple’s Guide to Making a Podcast and tips on how to make them rank highly in searches. Apple also offers a guide to finding your favourite podcast.

Here is the link to a list of museum podcasts CAN published in its Outreach Blog early last year. NSW-based museum consultant Desmond Kennard sent through museum pods 2008 list of top ten podcasts. It also hosts podcasts as an alternative or complement to iTunes.

Sarah Rhodes


Radiology collection online and on-site

Archivist Nyree Morrison talks about how she built a display to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists and then made the material accessible to researchers online. Ms Morrison worked with the Collections Australia Network (CAN) to put the archives relating to the formation of the radiologists college on the national heritage collections database.

Nyree Morrison, reference archivist, RANZCR

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists celebrate its 60th anniversary this year. However, the College was originally an association and known as the Australian and New Zealand Association of Radiology (1935-1942), and the Australian and New Zealand Association of Radiologists (1942-1949). The College has undergone three further name changes since it became the College of Radiologists (Australia and New Zealand) in 1949. For this anniversary, a small display was planned for the Combined Scientific Meeting (CSM) to be held in Brisbane in October this year. I would put the exhibition together but would not go to Brisbane to stage it. I was therefore relying on someone else to put the display together.

Telegram sent by Dr Nisbet to Dr John O’Sullivan on the occasion of the inauguration of the College, 5 October 1949. Dr O’Sullivan was the last president of the ANZAR. Drs Nisbet and O’Sullivan were instrumental in the establishment of the College. Telegram conveyed by Commonwealth of Australia Post-Master General’s Department.

Before it was decided what to display, I had to find out what the facilities were at the convention centre. We were given display panels which were 2 metres in width and just less than 1 metre high. The College does not have that many aesthetically pleasing items and I was very conscious that as the exhibition would be small, it had to be as eye catching as possible. In liaison with the College’s Communications and Membership Team who is responsible for organising the annual meetings, I would show them the layout of the display and we would photograph it so that it could be put up by them in the same chronological order.

I decided to display College documents that chart its history since becoming a College over the past 60 years, with brief captions underneath. Eleven documents, ranging from A4 to A5-6 in size were taken to a professional high street copying firm. They were all individually encased in mylar, with one also being wrapped in acid-free paper and strict instructions were given that they be handled with care. The copies were ready to be picked up the next day, and I must admit I did have a moment of fear when I was handed a plastic document holder and saw the documents in them. It was then I realised they were the copies – they were that well done. For less than $50 we had copy documents and a disc containing the scanned images. We already had a colour copy of the College’s Armorial Bearings and so I decided to use that too.

I printed off a copy of the documents so that I could handle them and measured out an area on one of the Archive walls (actually the cupboards as they were the only part of the Archive with nothing on them that I could use!) to the dimensions of the display board so I could move the documents about as much as I wanted. I also needed a banner for the display board so I used the same company that I used for the documents, and within five hours had a banner made to my requirements for $90.


I decided to use only seven of the copied documents and the image of the armorial bearings. I numbered the captions and noted what item they correlated to and drew a plan of the display. The display was photographed and I handed over all the material to the Communications and Membership Team, which was couriered to Brisbane a week before the College staff arrived.

The display was mounted with no problems what so ever and was placed in an area of the concourse outside the exhibition hall that everyone had to walk by to attend their various seminars. I was assured that a good number of people stopped and had a look.

I have to admit that putting on this very small exhibition was time consuming as I only work one day a week. Searching to find interesting relevant material was trying, but I feel that it all worked together and was relevant. As the display was of a small scale, there were no obviously no problems encountered in putting it up. Yes it did cost under $150, however the results were excellent and the copied documents are being framed and put on display in the College offices.

For more information, email Nyree Morrison


Tips+Tricks: Photographing collections

Powerhouse Museum Photography Manager Geoff Friend offers tips+tricks on how to photograph heritage collections. Geoff has worked at the Powerhouse Museum for 26 years and in that time has built a photographic studio that would make any organisation envious. But in this article he offers suggestions on how to make-do with limited resources. It can also be downloaded from Sector Resources on the CAN website.

“Necessity is the mother of all invention” – Thorstein Veblen

Powerhouse Museum Photography Manager Geoff Friend

Ideally images should be taken with a digital SLR as they have better noise processing; which means the pixels do not appear rough when shooting in low light conditions. The digital SLR should have a full-frame sensor. A non-full-frame sensor has a multiplying effect so a 35mm wide-angle lens becomes a 52mm lens.
(Geoff uses a Canon 1DS Mk3 and Canon 5D)

If the budget only allows for a compact camera, it should have at least 10 megapixels to ensure high resolution images. These cameras are good for photographing events and exhibitions for the organisation.
(Geoff uses a Canon G10)

Most digital cameras have video capture which is great for the web.

Use a low ISO (film speed) such as ISO 100 to achieve the finest resolution.

Lighting_setup Lighting set-up to photograph the chair pictured below

The Powerhouse Museum uses professional electronic studio flash equipment – Broncolour floor packs with separate flash heads. The team uses a 1m x 1m softbox with a diffusion screen placed 50cm from the flash head to create a soft yet directional light source.


When using lighting equipment, avoid bare heads pointing at the object. Pulling the light source back from the object reduces the intensity of the light so that the detail is not burnt out. Angle the light so that it picks up the texture and pattern on the object if desired.

When photographing two-dimensional objects, make sure the light source is even. For example, place two lights on either side of the item at 45 degrees. Make sure the plane of the camera lens is perfectly parallel with the object.

If an artwork is behind glass, it is preferable to remove it from the frame. If it is too difficult, then cut a small hole in a piece of black velvet and shoot through the hole.

If the organisation cannot afford sophisticated lighting equipment, then it is a good idea to use natural light with the camera on a tripod. In this case a cable release cord or self-timer function on the camera should be used so there is no camera shake causing blurry photos. Avoid using the tripod’s centre column extension because it is unstable.

Please email Geoff Friend at the Powerhouse Museum for any technical questions.


The experience of building the Virtual Museum of the Pacific: Peter Eklund

Professor Peter Eklund talks about the development of the Virtual Museum of the Pacific – one of the first projects run out of the recently established the Centre for Digital Ecosystems, at the University of Wollongong. He and Peter Goodall built the website using Web 2.0 principles so that people of the Pacific could access their own cultural heritage collected by the Australian Museum since its inception in 1845. In this article, Professor Eklund gives CAN readers an insight into the technical issues that had to be considered and some of the challenges the virtual museum will face in the future.

Late 2006, I pitched the idea of a Virtual Museum of the Pacific to the Australian Museum. I had been working for many years developing a navigation paradigm using concept lattices. My PhD student Jon Ducrou and I had developed and evaluated several prototypes but what we needed was a real collection to work on. Australian Museum Director Frank Howarth and then Deputy Director Les Christidis were keen to do something “experimental” in the Museum and Web space, over and above their existing corporate Web-site efforts that are themselves innovative.

We applied for a University of Wollongong new partnership grant which paid for a DHTML prototype and allowed us to encounter first hand some of the issues that would later become central to the successful development of the Virtual Museum of the Pacific. On the back of this, in the following year 2008, we finally received backing from the Australian Research Council (ARC) for the Virtual Museum project.

I decided that we needed a very experienced hand to manage the project so I hired Peter Goodall who had nearly 30 years experience in the IT industry, Peter had worked in start-ups in Silicon Valley, for IBM in the US and most recently at Objective Corporation. Peter’s job was to work in the Museum on the project using an “insourcing” model of customer engagement. It allowed the Virtual Museum to be owned by the Australian Museum – not driven by outsiders.

An early issue for the Australian Museum (AM) and the research team was what would be in the Virtual Museum? The Pacific collection seemed a good starting point for a number of reasons but the collection was vast, containing nearly 60,000 objects of which only a small subset could be sampled.

Peter and I decided on an early increment that would get the content ball rolling. We proposed to sample 10% of the objects (about 40 objects) before Christmas 2008, we argued that this would be used to measure the overall time cost to the museum for processing 400 pacific objects. It also started the object selection process. The first 40 objects were from diverse locations, made of many different materials and represented a broad range of domestic and cultural objects. This was ideal for navigation using concept lattices. Melanie Van Olffen, our collaborating anthropologist at the Australian Museum, established this selection pattern and it continued to the project conclusion with great success.

Another piece of detective work for the research team involved understanding the corporate taxonomy used by the Australian Museum to classify their collections. The metadata used by the Virtual Museum for navigation and discovery within the collection is imported from the Australian Museum’s collection management system. The current collection management system is the Museum’s third generation of systems computerising its records of the Pacific collection.


To understand the evolution of the Pacific collection’s metadata we give an overview of the typical life cycle of their records. The Australian Museum acquired the objects in its Pacific collection from many sources over 150 years. The process of adding an object to the collection is reasonably uniform and easy to illustrate by example. The ‘fish hook’ was entered into the Australian Museum’s ‘Register of Ethnology’ on September 22, 1971. This entry is the first association of collection metadata with the object, and allocates its registration number. At some later point an index card was created which included the object’s provenance, and more detailed descriptive text, and (on its reverse-side) the object’s physical dimensions.

Later, as objects are added to the content management system, they are further described, and have a simple, practical corporate taxonomy applied to them. The spreadsheet documenting the Museum’s taxonomy presents the ‘organisational warrant’ for the metadata, the normalized way of describing things at the Museum. The Australian Museum’s “Archaeology and Anthropology” taxonomy is two-level, with 27 categories and 709 object types distributed across those categories. The development of the current taxonomy for the cultural and archaeological collections was developed by the Australian Museum’s Stan Florek, as an alternative to large general systems which tend to ‘lose’ objects in their many alternate paths.


From information collected during preparation of an initial 400 objects for the prototype of the Virtual Museum, we estimate that only about 45-50 percent of the objects in the collection have an entry in the electronic collection management system, a common problem with all large historical collections. Nearly all objects need metadata “scrubbing” to bring them up to a uniform exhibition standard.

Scrubbing involves normalising spelling and thesaurus checking, for instance testing whether “mother of pearl” or “pearl shell’ should be used or whether a “dagger” should be a tag or whether “knife” is preferred. The Virtual Museum project revealed that an average of one hour’s effort per object is required for basic metadata entry and scrubbing, and another hour to write an interpretive label (reminiscent of the descriptive card in a museum exhibition case).

So, while the metadata and photography adds enormously to the value of an object for research and Web-based exploration, there is a significant cost involved in establishing an adequate information base for it.

In reality there is very little ‘overhead’ in preparing objects for publishing using the current Virtual Museum infrastructure. Nearly all the museum’s effort goes directly to improving the documentation of the collection – which is its core business. Also, the fact that this improved information can be immediately published to the Web without a lot of intervention by technologists, rather than lying relatively hidden in the collection management system, is a great motivation for the museum staff.


In short, a key finding of the Virtual Museum of the Pacific is that the completeness of the metadata for the Pacific collection is enormously variable and therefore considerable work has to be done by the Museum and its staff beyond that performed by the Virtual Museum developers. We expect that this observation applies equally to other museum collection content and is an important consideration in developing Web-based Virtual Museums.

Peter Eklund


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.