Day one – second morning session

August 16, 2006

Where are we now?
Speakers from each of the four major collecting domains reported on Australian achievements and the ‘state of play’ in that domain. The session was chaired by Alan Dodge from Art Gallery of Western Australia. He stressed the importance of sustainability for our digitisation programs and mentioned the difficult funding choices involved, particularly for art museums – purchasing art or digitisation programs. (I’m not so sure it is still a ‘choice’ for some of us, it is now more of an obligation to be involved in digitisation and the ‘choice’ or maybe ‘challenge’ is now to decide what activities we should drop.)

. Archives domain
Tony Caravella, Chair, Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities
He had five key messages. There are many and growing (new) sources for text, sound and images based records or documents – they consititute our future history. Users now expect online access and may ignore content not already online. We must respond to and facilitate this trend!
Tony reminded us of basic archives functions – preservation, assesseing for collection development, providing access, and advising on capture. So what is the state of play (largely in the public archives domain)?
Much has been done in: advocating the early capture and creation of digital records; encouraging record keeping standards; advisng on records keeping management systems; developing standards for national and international best practice; skills ID and training;metadata development; online access of significant digital collections (eg. NAA); providing seminars, presentations and guidance; and digital preservation (since 1990), particularly in major archives.
So, the messages:
1.Culture and content is at risk – users expect it t be cared for and the loss of born digital material is a major risk.
2.There is a solution for born digital collections and archives provide leadership and expertise – solutions.
3.We are not confident of the capacity to implement solutions (i.e. for 2) in a sustainable and scaleable way. Is there the political resolve?
4.Most content is still not available online – it needs digitisation, supporting metadata and money!
5.There is an urgent need for coordinated advocacy and action across all cultural sectors.
His proposals:
He proposed an Australian Digital Archives Alliance – with broad membership, for advocacy and awareness raising.
He also proposed a National Digital Heritage Fund, eg. The UK Lottery Model.
He referred to world leading achievements of both the NAA and PRO-V.
Maybe, from the archives perspective, we fall short in services to children and our services are not yet intuitive enough.
Archivists can manage records from the past, but we won’t go backwards and need to think of future needs.

. Galleries domain
The Chair said digitising was a boon to exposing little known collections in art museums.
1. José Robertson, from the National Gallery of Australia
How to enhance understanding and enjoyment of visual arts? NGA moving from web -> digitising art -> contextualising articles (more recently), but not yet thinking of the internet as integral to business. They are now using something like Zoomify to explore detail in online images.
He spoke of adding new content to images – sound as well as text, documentaries, interviews, etc. Podcasts are now being used by the NGA and Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery to enhance the interpretive experience of online art. Onsite digital access is also increasingly being used, eg. big screens, projections, touch screens.
We need to resource these efforts seriously – what about NPG (UK)’s print on demand image sales? What about what the SMH or Age (Australian newspapers) do with their digital print-on-demand content?
2. Jonathan Cooper, Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW)
Users creating their own exhibitions? . . . ‘Meta-exhibitions’. This probably isn’t quite there yet, but AGNSW has its own ‘My Virtual Gallery’. Users, create their own exhibitions using AGNSW art images. They can: comment about the works in text panels; resize artworks; and search for other exhibitions. Some staff initially regarded the concept of untrained exhibition curators and critics as counter to our role, but it was launched. Users therefore can create new content out of existing content, but ‘be prepared for staff resistance!’.
3. Cherie Prosser, University of South Australia
Born Digital? No longer is the object the primary source of ‘art’. With sophisticated digital techniques we can conserve or migrate ephemeral works and the Tate (UK) have recently been criticised for doing just this! She used the example of Damien Hirst’s comments about his 1991 work ‘The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living’. Was it actually meant to survive beyond the thought it initially simulated? Will the preserved work be compromised by digital (or even physical) preservation?
Are we/should we be shifting acquisition more to ‘collect now’ than retrospective acquisition and what are the implications if we do this? Eg. What ACMI does. More artists are diversifying into digital media. What about temporary loans of digital works?
How important is collecting now?

. Libraries domain
1. Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, Chair, Council of Australian State Libraries
Technology has the capacity to animate our roles beyond what we can even perceive (now).
There are some stark challenges, however. Responsibilities, expectations, use and needs.
Libraries have prided themselves on collaboration and Anne-Marie made a plea for this at this forum – to transform our own thinking and expectations and to argue convincingly with Government. But we must make our case very clear and at the right time.
Is the Australia History Summit in Canberra on 17 August an opportunity to allow us to shine? And possibly the National Reform Agenda (involving all Australian governments) to address future social and economic challenges. We must have a long term perspective. It will focus on human capital, competition and regulatory reform. We relate to the first of these in our activities. A national vision is imperative and we must excite government in order to encourage them to pledge their support.
2. Warwick Cathro, National Library of Australia
Warwick quickly covered both achievements and future needs and offered a follow-up paper after the summit. There are already some plans from NSLA & CAUL and the recent Archiving the Web Conference.
Overseas models were given in our working papers. Perhaps CCA should be an advocate for all of our domains.
He then looked at some of the major challenges:
. Building digital collections. For born digital, via: harvesting – PANDORA and the .au web domain harvest, but it still needs legal deposit and direction as defined by the web archiving conference; deposit, eg. the higher education repositories funded by DEST and what about community deposit?; licenced access, eg. CAUL/NSLA, and the need for national licensing arrangement like the NZ model? And for digitisation initiatives, a funding program is needed for all cultural institutions as recommended by Senate Inquiry but how do we do this on a large scale for collections like newspapers?
. Accessing collections – eg. Libraries Australia, exposure to Google, portals, Picture Australia (including the Flickr trial), open search trial (developed by Amazon), AskNow, and the ALCC debate on copyright.
. Reducing complexity – facilitating open search, using persistent URLs, annotating discovery and community participation, copyright legislation improvements.
. Management & preservation – international collaboration (IIPC, PREMIS); PADI website; work of APSR & preservation metadata guidelines.
. Future needs – government support; sustainability; risk assessment; deployment of preservation metadata; cost models; preserving complex websites.
. Skills – there has been some skills transfer, but we really need serious development and attention devoted to this area.

. Museums domain
Tim Hart, Museum Victoria
Museums encompass many different types of collections. Museums have been experiencing fundamental changes in CMS and database design and evolution. He traced a record from an early registry entry in a log book, to a card, and finally to its brief online catalogue entry. Is it better?
Museum collections have differing needs.
Collaborative digitisation ventures are possible for the distributed national collection but probably only for the top several hundred museums.
Most museum digitisation has historically/primarily been for collection management, not access.
There is much diversity amongst museums in achievement in this sector (and this is briefly surveyed in his paper, handed out in our working papers).
Who do we digitise for? Organisational management, the education sector, the public? Each have differing needs. Have we asked them what they want? Which visitors are most valuable to us?
He stressed the importance of information, context, etc. of our collections.
He ran though regional and university museum achievements briefly.
Library collections in museums – only three online in Australia?
He acknowlwdged the development of multi-media content for our own use.
CAN (developed from AMOL) – includes small and regional museums. There are now more than 1,500 partner organisations.
He demonstrated a Flash-based tool to view and drill down into collections and exhibitions online including Zoomify, sound files and book page-turning.
Natural science collections usually work closely with research institutes. They’ve developed their own standards and taxonomies. Australia now has a fauna website and there is also a plant version.
Material culture collections have many standards. Dublin Core is now widely accepted.
Indigenous collections – have many sensitive issues and may be under-represented on the web.
Google has changed the way people come to us. Information and content is still king in the museum sector.

In summary – resources, collaboration, and many other issues seem common and recurring themes so far.

Lunchtime showcases were not recorded – I was eating and delivering one of them.


2 Responses to “Day one – second morning session”

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