The Bulk of the Iceberg: What’s NOT On Display at the Museum

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Green job-fish (Aprion virescens). ANMM Collection 00019588. Gift from Walter Stackpool. Reproduced courtesy of Dr Jane Stackpool.

One of the issues we readily face in the museum world is how to increase the proportion of our collection that is accessible to the public. The unfortunate reality is that due to collection size and the display space available the percentage of the collection on display at any one time is limited to approximately 9%.

The solution: digitise.

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Digital preservation

Examples of the scanned image quality from degraded negatives. Images: © Estate of Denis George / ANMM Collection ANMS1274[615] and ANMS1273[043].

Examples of the scanned image quality from degraded negatives. Images: © Estate of Denis George / ANMM Collection ANMS1274[615] and ANMS1273[043].

It’s in the nature of all materials to degrade and break down, some faster than others. Even with our conservation, preservation and archiving techniques designed to slow that degradation, objects from our collection need a bit of extra help to survive. While digitising the National Maritime Archive last year, I came across a surprising discovery: a collection of photographic negatives that were degrading while in our archive storage. Continue reading

Sailing away into Sydney Harbour’s past with Britannia

Hi! My name is Geneviève Bourgon or ‘Gwen’ and I’m a museum studies student at the University of Sydney. I am currently interning in the Registration department of the Australian National Maritime Museum.

My project is to digitise an archival collection of photographs, postcards and sailing programs associated with Britannia, an 18ft sailing vessel and its builder, owner and skipper  ‘Wee’ Georgie Robinson. Digitising a collection makes all the information about the objects more accessible, 22,000 collection objects have been release on the museum’s collection website for everyone to access.

The collection I am cataloguing dates from the 1920s through to the 1960s. The majority are sailing programs of weekly sailing competitions on Sydney Harbour, special championships and anniversary regattas. They begin as a single page and double sided program and evolve into massive 100 page booklets filled with interesting events surrounding the regatta and advertising.

Flat bed scanner

Flat bed scanner

First, I scanned the items using a flatbed scanner, and then I created an image and a PDF of pages scanning them as an optical character recognition (OCR) file to enable searching through the text on individual pages which are combined to form a single PDF document. Information is added to the collection management database where all 140,000 objects in the museum’s collection, are catalogued.

Second, I update any missing cataloguing data from the records such as: the object measurements, update its title, what it’s made of, and what it looks like. Continue reading

That’s a wrap! History Week 2013

Lead imageLast week we had the pleasure of hosting a History Week event here at the museum – From Glass-plate to Cyber-space. As the theme was Picture This, we decided to talk about how sharing the museum’s collection online has completely transformed it and we invited representatives from other cultural institutions to do the same. As promised, we organised our photographer *cough* absolute lifesaver *cough* to record the event for those of you who couldn’t make it along. Enjoy! Continue reading

Discover your past: Inside History Magazine’s Q&A

Inside History Magazine's Expert Q&A with ANMM, December 2012

Inside History Magazine‘s Expert Q&A with ANMM, December 2012

On 13 December 2012, my colleague Penny Hyde and I participated in Inside History Magazine’s weekly Expert Q&A hosted on their Facebook page. For weeks prior to the forum, we brainstormed the kinds of questions people were likely to pose. Nothing, however, could have prepared us for the deluge of interesting questions and comments posted over just one hour! One thing certainly became clear throughout this experience, and that is, there is a growing network of people present online who are passionate about all things genealogy and family history. This is an audience hungry for information and willing to delve into the various research tools open to them. We enjoyed ourselves so much, in the end, we’re not sure if we learned more from them, than they did from us! Continue reading