Wednesday, 29 November 2017

East Coast Heritage Museum: Case Study

Opera Glasses in leather case (SHC2015-14). One of the objects digitised
and available to view online from the collection of this small yet very active museum.

Maureen Martin-Ferris, the curator of the East Coast Heritage Museum presented a case study at the Digital Access to Collections Workshop held in Hobart. We met Maureen as one of interviews undertaken for the Museums Standards Project and know her (along with Maree her colleague) to be incredibly inventive when presented with limited financial resources (yet a generous volunteer pool and community). Here she gives us some insights into using cost effective methods to digitise and give greater access to, and promotion of, a small museum collection. Maureen acknowledges and thanks volunteer Russell Abbott and his hard work in photographing the collection.

East Coast Heritage Museum from Helen Whitty

Maureen demonstrating her handy portable scanner to a participant at the Digital Access Workshop

Thankyou Maureen!

St Helens History Room Digitisation Case Study

Welcome to St Helen's History Room
The History Room is part of and supported by this Council

The St Helens History Room ​has more than 1000 artefacts displayed thematically to represent the various stages of settlement of this charming town sitting snugly into the north east corner of Tasmania. The History Room houses an extensive photographic collection of around 20,000 + images including individual collections of state significance. 

The curator Kym Matthews prepared this informative presentation shown at the Digital Access to Collections Workshop  and has kindly agreed to share it with you. It shows how the collection sits within their Digital Plan including potential future access. Glyn David Johnson one of the two volunteers working on digitising the collection (mentioned in the powerpoint) attended the Hobart workshop. 

St Helens History Room from Helen Whitty

Note: These blog posts also generate an email to subscribers. If the above powerpoint does not (mysteriously) show in the email simply click on the header and it will take you to the actual blog.

I noticed that the 3 audio visuals from the Digital Access to Collections Workshop did not translate from blog to email (sorry folks). Here are their direct links to Vimeo.

Eddy Steenbergen- Family History Society of Tasmania:
Fiona Gleadow- Port Arthur Historic Site:
Mary Fraser- Wingfield Library DHSS:

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

GLAM Peak Digital Access to Collections Workshop


Your roving reporter was fortunate to attend the Digital Access to Collections Workshop held in Hobart from the 16-17 November. This post is my impressions from the event.
Attended by workers from small to large museums across the state the two days were designed for: better understanding of existing digitising tools so they can be applied; and to encourage regional hubs and networks so museums, galleries, libraries and other collecting institutions can help each other. 

Eddy Steenbergen, "...
Tasmanian IT professional who has been in the business far longer than he cares to admit. Family history researcher" from the Tasmanian Family History Society outlines in one take the usefulness of digitising the records of their institution.

Tasmania is a fine place to be wrt digitising collections. GLAM PEAK is supporting the development of State and Territory Digital Plans, and an integrated approach to digitising collections. Tasmania is the pilot for this national program. Recently another Tasmanian Collection pilot project was developed by TMAG, Heritage Tasmania, LINC and Tourism Tasmania yielded promising results to collect and promote the state's cultural and moveable assets. More about this in a blog post to come.
 With UTAS recently published 'How the smallest state in Australia ended up leading in the Australian GLAM sector: the power of collaboration when you only have a small project budget" featuring the work of UTAS' s Special & Rare Collections the workshop was timely.  

Plate XLII, from May, W.l. An Illustrated index of Tasmanian Shells, Hobart, Government Printer 1923
University of Tasmania Special and Rare Materials Collections

What is GLAM Peak?

The Digital Access to Collections project is an initiative of GLAM Peak – which would have to be one of the sexiest acronyms around. GLAM stands for galleries, libraries, archives and museum with the 'peak'  being the buy in from the heavy hitters from across Australia intent on sharing their skills and aspirations across the sector. Driven by Museums Galleries Australia and National and State Libraries Australasia the peak bodies’ members include state, territory and local institutions as well as major national institutions: the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, CSIRO, the National Archives of Australia, National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, National Gallery of Australia and National Library of Australia. For more. 

The workshop was run by Wendy Quihampton and Lucinda Davison both practical, informed and attentive to our needs. 

Wendy, currently Project Manage, Digital Access to Collections (DAC )at Museums Australia
and previously at Moreland City Council and the State Library of Victoria
Lucinda, doctoral candidate at ANU, co-Instigator/Editor at State of the Arts digital platform AND DAC Trainer 

All tweets from the session used #digaccess_tas. Lucinda's tweets suggested she was very much 'in the room' as well as easily occupying the online space.  One of her tweets (@lucindadavison) identified the marsupial in the room--yes the Hobart workshop had it all including cardies and cute joeys.

Ellie Panarettos from
The Hutchins School and her latest charge.

The two days spent at TMAG

The workshop followed the steps of Plan, Prepare, Digitise and Share that can be found online on the DAC website at its Digital Toolkit. This Toolkit comes in print friendly version and I encourage you to take a look.There is a wealth of material, contacts and exemplars. These are the advantages to being in the room. 

A. Meeting colleagues and their need for digitising the collection. 

Here is Mary Fraser (the manager of the Wingfield Library, which is part of the Tasmanian Health Service and Department of Health and Human Services) talks about a part of this collection which is a rich and valuable resource that is currently unknown--if only it were digitised. 

B. Meeting colleagues and what they do with their collections once they are digitised.

This is Fiona Gleadow, the Resource Centre Officer from the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority. 

C. Meeting software providers

We heard from MOSAiC, The Collecting Bug and MAXUS.


IST operates MOSAiC Collection and MOSAic Web. Rew spoke about the former. From its website MC is 'fully searchable data, with built-in and user-definable reports and data export functions.  Pre-loaded with industry standard validation lists, but fully customizable by yourself.' An internet connection is not required, but if available, your collection data can be easily uploaded to the internet for searching by the public (or just your staff). Fully-Functional and free Evaluation Packs are available online.

The Collecting Bug
Philip describes his " web-based collection management system for small museums' based on Share, Organise, Connect. There is a free and professional plan accessible from their website. "You'll end up with a searchable, visual, organised collection website, ready to share with fellow collectors around the world!"

Maxus Collections is specifically tailored for museums to manage a range of items including objects, books, newspapers, articles, paintings and photographs. The package was jointly developed by Maxus Australia Pty Ltd and Museums Australia Inc. (Victoria Branch). The structure is based on worksheets in the Small Museums Cataloguing Manual published by Museums Australia (Victoria Branch).

D. Meeting related agencies

Victorian Collections

Belinda Enso, the Development Manager presented
The Victorian Collections program, a partnership between Museums Australia (Victoria)and Museums Victoria. She and the program was inspiring. I noted that her top tips for success are:
1. Don't use software you find complex
2. Ensure you are supported in your efforts
3. Take  a whole collection approach to your plan incorporating your collection management systems
4. Build your community
5. Connect and contribute to TROVE even if its only a few objects

Victorian Collections is a free, web-based collections management system that allows collecting institutions to publish their records online. Online exhibitions can also be created. The site recently welcomed its 100,000th object to its site with over 450 collecting organisations, including museums, historical groups and societies, Indigenous keeping places, community groups and RSLs, using this site. The project is backed by ongoing support, site visits and training programs throughout metropolitan and regional Victoria. 

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander Studies

Lyndall Osborne from AIATSIS spoke strongly about the need to seek community permission before using images of Indigenous people or objects. This involves understanding your collection and to which group it may belong to. Remember to:

-Create a museum that is based on the principles of self determination for Aboriginal people. This space is welcoming to these communities through sound documentation of their collection as well as display practices.
-Consider using warning message
-Have a web take down policy
-Work with local people on your exhibitions (co-curate)
-Make a Reconciliation Action Plan and consider a local Aboriginal reference groups
-get the book (see below)
"There is information that is restricted, that our children cannot learn about, there is information that is restricted even to adults, there is information that is of a secret or sacred nature, that many people have no knowledge or access to. That knowledge is only there for certain people to have access to." 
quote displayed by Lyndall by Galarrwuy Yunupingu, 1986.


Pru Mitchell the President of Wikimedia Australia and Manager Information Services, Australian Council for Educational Research promoted respect for copyright but also consideration of making collections as open as possible through a Creative Commons License. There are a host of wikimedia projects (see These services rank very highly in the online useage tables. With so many eyeballs trained at these pages the link back to GLAMs sources and metadata become even more valuable. One example spoken about at length was WikiTowns and Toodyaypedia and its useage of QR codes around the town  which could be used in any Tassie town. See

E. Talking over real issues

Maureen Martin Ferris the curator of The East Coast Heritage Museum presented a wholes series of museum 'hacks', cost effective ways to photograph the collection. Glyn David Johnson brought along an overview of the St Helens History Room and digitisation by the curator Kym Matthews. We all stuck our teeth into questions relating to equipment, metadata, file naming and access. 


We agreed that the person who wrote the name of the photographer, the people in it, the place and date on the back of any photo was indeed rare and probably an asset to any family let alone a museum. Failing having this person we need to become them. How far or fast we go with our Digital Access Plan is up to each institution but it is timely to progress thinking about looking into how each collection could contribute to the Tasmanian and ultimately Australian story. 

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Digital Humanities Pathways Forum

This free event features the Museums Australia (Tasmania) Committee President Janet Carding giving the Opening Keynote address. 

This Forum has humanities, arts and social science (HASS) researchers and the cultural collecting sector (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) professionals speaking about the links between research, data, and national infrastructure. Run by eRSA, it is your opportunity to find out about contemporary data and technology intensive research and collection practices.

Date Friday, 1 December 2017
Time 9.00am - 3.45pm AEDT
Location Medical Science Lecture Theatre in Menzies Institute for Medical Research, Medical Science Precinct, 17 Liverpool Street, Hobart, Tasmania

From the eRSA invite

The aim of this forum is to enable an exchange of ideas and discussion around current research, data management practices and infrastructure, and explore future possibilities of interoperable national research infrastructure in service of humanities, arts and social science. 

9:00am Coffee pre-meeting
9:30am Introduction
  • MC: Ross Latham
  • Intro: Professor Kate Darian-Smith
9:45am Opening Keynote
  • Janet Carding, Director Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG)
10:15am Cultures and Communities: Background into the Cultures and Communities project, DH Pathways events and HASS collaborative research infrastructure landscape.
  • Professor Mark Finnane, Griffith University - Prosecutions Project
  • Caroline Homer, TAHO
  • Alexis Tindall, eRSA - Cultures & Communities 360 data sharing model
11:20am Tasmanian Digital HASS - Local lightning presentations
  • Jessica Walters, Tasmanian Name Index - transcribing and working with population datasets
  • Craig Dow Sainter & Stephen Thomas, Roar Film - SteamPunk Tools for Convict Records
  • Hamish Maxwell-Stewart & Christopher Lueg - A Dictionary of the Damned: using algorithms to assist citizen transcription
12:55pm Custodian/GLAM Panel Session: Cultural institutions in the Tasmanian GLAM sector speak about their collections and how they make them available to researchers. 
  • Wendy Hoyle, UTAS Archive
  • TMAG
  • Jai Patterson, QVMAG
  • Caroline Homer, TAHO
1:40pm Projects Showcase: Exploring digital HASS research in Tasmania, highlighting institutional activities, indicative leading projects, and challenges.
  • Richard Tuffin, University of New England - The eye in the sky: LiDAR, surveillance and convict landscapes of punishment and reform
  • Svenja Kratz, UTAS - Art-Science: Provocations for Immortality
  • Mike Charleston, UTAS - Using Ecoacoustic Analysis to identify birdsong
  • Jenny Fewster, AusStage - The use of gallery spaces to showcase items in geographically dispersed performing arts collections
3:00pm What's Next for digital HASS infrastructure?: An interactive session on cloud-based research and the upcoming developments and challenges facing Digital Humanities.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Sharing values

Image by BK (
Original photo credit: Jeong Eem Lee. Licensed via
What are the values of Museums Galleries Australia?  Reviewing and holding to these values is key to making changes to our professional association. Read the draft proposition presented here in blue and think about these questions. We would love to hear what you think so please post your comments to us at with 'Review' in the subject line.

1. What do you think of the draft value proposition?
o Does it communicate our identity/worth/values?
o How would you change it?
o Is there a need to change the name to better reflect our identity or purpose? Why/why not?

2. What you want/get?
o What are your most pressing needs (as an institution/individual museum worker)?
o What are the most significant issues in the sector?
o Do you get the level of services that you want from your local/state branch?
o Do you get what you want from the national body?

3. What you give?
o What do you contribute to your local/state/national body?
o Are there other/better ways of contributing?

4. What should MGA be doing more or less of?

5. Being a member
o What’s your main reason for being a member?

o If you are not – what would change your mind?


Our purpose / Why we exist
We are a membership-based advocacy body for the museum and art gallery sector in Australia. We are where organisations and individual members, professional or volunteer, connect with others, raise issues, increase their knowledge and skills, and contribute to their sector’s ability to speak up and influence critical debate.

We are the national voice representing the diverse Australian museum sector that reaches across the entire country and internationally.

Our value / What we do
As a membership body we provide advice, representation and services to enable organisations and individuals to thrive; and as a peak body we advocate on behalf of the sector with the aim of communicating the value of museums and galleries, raising professional standards, informing policy, and promoting ethical practice.

Our promise / How we deliver
We provide valuable resources and development opportunities for our members to learn and network, and forums for raising and solving issues and concerns. We bring our sector’s interests together to deliver clear messages and advice to governments and the public, and we reach out to the broader collections and cultural sector to collaborate on projects that enhance, protect and promote Australia’s cultural resources.

The new national council is committed to undertaking a strategic review of Museums Galleries Australia. MA conducted an environmental scan which is the most current survey of information specifically influencing the sector. You can catch up on the latest in the sector at this link.

Who we are
MA was formed in 1994 as a deliberate single national membership organisation for the museum and gallery sector to strengthen the national voice and enable greater collaboration and service provision. This builds on a history of museum professional association activity that extends back to the 1930s.

Museums Galleries Australia (MA) is the national membership association and peak advocacy body representing museums and galleries. We encompass a wide and diverse range of national, state, regional and community museums, galleries, historic sites, botanic and zoological gardens, research centres, Indigenous cultural centres, and Keeping Places across Australia.

MA is also a service and professional development organisation. We seek to enhance the value of Australia’s collections and stories by sharing knowledge, developing skills, inspiring innovation and providing leadership and the authoritative voice in protecting and promoting our arts, science and cultural heritage.

MA partners with the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Australia. We encourage and support international exchange of ideas and expertise.

Stats at a glance
664 organisational members of MA (covering up to 7,000 professional museum/gallery workers and up to 10,000 volunteers)
663 individual members of MA
One national office based in Canberra, 8 state/territory branches, 14 regional chapters and 12 national networks of shared disciplines and interests

Our most recent achievements
MA initiated the first ever collaboration of GLAM Peak (galleries, museums, libraries and archives’ peak bodies) that is focusing on an integrated approach to expanding Australia’s digital access to collections and meeting the 21st century’s requirements for a knowledge economy. A series of projects is delivering training and strategic direction to the sector.

MA has provided leadership training for practically all the directors of museums and galleries in Australia and New Zealand through the internationally recognised Museum Leadership Program. Supported since its inception by the Gordon Darling Foundation, it has just been announced that the 8th program will be delivered in 2018.

MA successfully delivers outstanding annual national conferences (most recently, Brisbane in May 2017 and jointly with Museums Aotearoa in Auckland in 2016), along with a range of locally developed and delivered events and professional development programs in every state and territory. 

Thank you for reading this far and even more thanks for letting us know what you think via the Facebook Page or

Monday, 6 November 2017

Visitor Services Workshop: some impressions and thanks

Workshop participants
In October Arts Tasmania, Museums Galleries Australia (Tasmania) and the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) presented a Visitor Services Workshop to members and others at the Port Arthur Historic Site (PAHS). As a workshop participant here are my impressions from a most satisfying day.

At the outset a big thanks to PAHSMA staff particularly the presenters and Melissa Smith (MGA Tas Committee Member and Arts Tasmania Roving Curator) who put it all together. To quote Melissa, 'The site was looking absolutely stunning, despite the shipping container entrance experience which couldn’t be avoided when a major new visitor’s centre is being built!!" PAHS is pumping with 350 000 visitors per year to cater for. Visitors arrive by car, bus and cruise ships and the existing facilities were no longer the right fit for the 21st century visitor. The planned opening date is the 18 December 2018 and the centre will have new dining, shop and orientation/interpretation facilities. For more information about the upgrade check this out ( In light of competing demands it was especially generous of the staff to share their considerable skills and experiences. The growth in numbers is testimony to PAHSMA's successful approach largely predicated on superior customer service before, during and after each visit. This customer service extends to product development and various cross promotions at play in and around the site.


Jodie Steele/Gemma Davie – Heritage Programs
Jake Bradshaw– Guiding
Maria Stacey – Visitor Services Manager
Ann McVilly – Tourism Operations

Ann and Maria

Ann (left) and Maria (right)
Here are notes from their talk. Often visitors arrive not knowing anything about the site simply that it is a 'must see'. Therefore a kind of concierge service operates from the carpark where a member of staff greets you to direct to the ticketing office but also to answer questions. Ticketing staff then need to be able to quickly describe the range of experiences to get the best match for that visiting group. PAHS has ticket sales by internet (see and also available through other agencies). Ann and Maria spoke about providing various products for different ages, tastes and visiting time frames such as the boutique Commandants Carriage Tour, the entertaining Ghost Tours, the exclusive behind the scenes tours, theatre productions, artists in residence, site specific installations, technology tours with an iPod as well as the Introductory tour and roving shuttle bus for tired punters (see The Site works at a regional tourist level and for example has adjusted its opening hours to cater for later arrivals due to other attractions on the Peninsula.

At the end of the day each visitor package is to honour the World Heritage listed site and the dark stories it tells. Staff are continually balancing the tension between maintaining the integrity of the site and catering to the growing numbers of visitors. The Site is remote and therefore cannot rely on a stable internet connection which makes Wifi enabled interpretation both problematic and an advantage as 'old school' analogue techniques must be relied upon. High value is placed on the archaeological and historic research and staff want visitors to tap into this expertise and care. Two key tips arose:
* A living person available to answer visitor questions is better than signage but if you can't have a person make the signage tell a personal story
*Visitors are reassured by staff that they are in the right place even if they are lost--its just a matter of re orientation and continuing on 


Jake has a teaching background and so is well placed to both train guides but also be sensitive to the learning needs and interests of visitors. So dedicated he came to speak with us on his day off! Things I remember from his talk:
·    *The aim for each guide is for them to find their passion with the place and in turn help the visitor find their own connections with the Site.
*   * Recruit well from the beginning. Guides tend to be born and not made. In other words content can be learnt but not the interpersonal empathy required to make the connection between guide, visitor and site. In-depth specialised content is of no real benefit unless it can be successfully conveyed to the visitor.
*    *Jake starts new guides off with a basic script. Once guides (and their manager) are confident they are encouraged to personalise their tours. Staff believe that telling the story of the site through the experience of an individual is very powerful. Visitors are then better able to make their own personal connections.
*    *Guides are subject to ongoing review. It is essential that feedback be developmental rather than purely critical.
*    *Guides become experienced at deflecting questions from an individual in the group that is dominating discussion by explaining that they have a way to go and it is best if they can speak after the tour. The size of the group will dictate the style of presentation with smaller groups lending themselves to conversations and larger groups turning the guide into an engaging lecturer.

Jodie and Gemma

Gemma's work is with school students visiting on an excursion as well as school holiday activities. The site is best matched with Years 5 and 9 where the Australian National Curriculum specifically targets convict history. The Site sends out Discovery Boxes as an outreach program to Tasmanian schools. Innovative programs include designing convict tattoos, writing letters, outdoor and indoor historic games, making connections with authentic trades, creating tussymussy's from Port Arthur flowers (though not picked from the actual gardens). She uses the skills from all sorts of staff to develop these activities such as a guide who is also a landscape painter.

Jodie contributed throughout the workshop. At one point she discussed the 2014 site signage overhaul which reviewed placement and content of signs. Content moved away from dates, facts and VIPs to more personal stories. The signs were still packed with information but were made more reader friendly and concise. The popular Lottery of Life convict cards will still be used as an interpretive tool but new characters were added to take the history beyond the 1840s. The site is also experimenting with the use of scents and sounds. For example an outdoor 'smellarama' to evoke the scent of baking triggered as you cross an entry door.


As I walked around the site taking pictures, thinking about the workshop, appreciating the beauty of the landscape and the poignancy of the stories it started to rain. I had no umbrella. But then a staff member came by in the shuttle bus and said in a most cheery tone 'do you want a ride? I'm going back to the centre.' As I travelled back in style I considered the various ways that staff can make an experience that much more memorable and enjoyable.

Helen Whitty (committee member & workshop participant)