ARANZ/ASA 2014 Conference

By Sue Hanham, Archivist, Waimate Archives

I was fortunate to attend this combined NZ/Australian Archives conference held in Christchurch. I found the conference a thought-provoking, stimulating and positive experience. It was also rejuvenating and exhausting at the same time – if that makes sense.

The web has changed access to archival material – the expectations and abilities. There is a need to find a balance between providing access and following best practice and standards. It is all very nice putting images online for people to see, but there needs to be clear and consistent messages on what people can and can’t do with them. Many organisations are now starting to develop policies and procedures on use/reuse.

A couple of presentations that were particularly memorable include:

Riding Past

This was the name of street exhibition where cycling images from archival collections in Australia were made into posters and pasted onto walls around prominent locations in Adelaide. It aligned with a local cycling event, and started a conversation with other communities by taking the archive collections out to new audiences.

The exhibition used Google maps and drop pins – you could go online to plan a cycle tour around the posters and also click the drop pin to see extra information about the poster. The public could contribute their own photographs via a Flickr website. These photos may have been items from their own collections, a comment about the poster or a selfie by the poster. The use of Flickr helped to measure the engagement and success of the exhibition. Surprisingly, one of the most popular images viewed online was a photo of the person putting up the posters. Costs for this exhibition were minimal – poster prints and then flour and water to put up the posters.

Jeremy Sibbald from the National Archives of Australia, Adelaide office, pasting up a Riding Past poster, January 2014. Photographer: Sara King.
Jeremy Sibbald from the National Archives of Australia, Adelaide office, pasting up a Riding Past poster, January 2014. Photographer: Sara King.

Crowdsourcing and Gamification

Most of us know that crowdsourcing involves harnessing an online workforce. ‘Gamification’ might not be a word, but is about making work fun. In recent years many GLAM organisations have developed a wide range of crowdsourcing websites in an effort to capitalize on public interest to enhance and enrich collections. Zoe D’Arcy from the National Archives Australia presented about using an online voluntary workforce to transcribe records.

If you want people to get involved then your project needs to be relevant and of interest. Records are assigned a difficulty rating and a category. Participants earn points and these can be used for purchasing prizes. You can view your success on a leader board. One person asked if they could be removed from the board as they were embarrassed about how much time they had been spending doing this.

I have since explored organisations that harness a voluntary online archival workforce. There are many and varied projects. My thoughts now turn to how small organisations with limited resources can adopt similar projects.

Small NZ Community Archives

Sarah Welland talked about her investigation into ‘The role, impact and development of Community Archives in New Zealand’. It is hoped that what is learnt from the first phase of her investigation will enable some of the issues surrounding small community archives to be more clearly conveyed, leading to a better understanding of whether their practices enhance or detract from the development of community memory.

So far her findings have identified that Community Archivists are generally a sole person and part time. Success comes from an archivist that is willing to learn, is a good communicator and has tenacity. Access to collections is limited due to lack of time. I liked Sarah’s analogy of an archives version of Burt Munro. Are community archives the Burt Munros of archives? Are people starting to notice what they are doing? What can the archive community learn from the community archive? I look forward to hearing the results of Sarah’s research.

Jeremy Sibbald from the National Archives of Australia, Adelaide office, pasting up a Riding Past poster, January 2014. Photographer: Sara King.
Jeremy Sibbald from the National Archives of Australia, Adelaide office, pasting up a Riding Past poster, January 2014. Photographer: Sara King.

Sue travelled to the ARANZ/ASA 2014 Conference (Archives and Records Association of New Zealand and Australian Association of Archivists) on 30 September- 3 October 2014, with support from National Services Te Paerangi through the Travel Subsidy Grant.