Erik made me make the title shorter so it would fit on his spreadsheet. I wanted “Digital Dinosaurs vs the digital deluge and the digital blackhole: a brief overview of the opportunities and challenges for GLAM bodies in making collections accessible in an online environment”
My main experience is working with the State Archives, and I’ve been involved in digitisation and reformatting there since 1998. Between 2013 and 2015 I worked on migrating our collection database to a new open source catalogue, which meant I had to think quite a lot about how archives describe material and look at international and national standards.
I’ve also thought about how archives are both similar to and different from libraries and museums, as identified in this BOF from 2014. And from there we get to GovHack.
Govhack – I went as a data mentor for SROWA in 2013 and 2014, missed 2015 and back again this year as a data mentor for GLAM generally. GovHack is a hothouse environment, so things need to be easy to find, retrieve, copy and use.
First year – we took all our indexes in pdf, and a hard drive of imaged maps and plans. They loved the plans but couldn’t use them easily, and the pdf was a total waste of time. Second year – all indexes in xlsx. But that’s not easily transferrable, so for 2015, I set up .csv files for the same – on the hard drive, not the website… maps and plans still a hit, but I don’t think the indexes were used.
This year – data needs to be via a data portal, or linked via a data portal…. That’s the rules of the game, but the hard drive of maps and plans still loved, even if not used.
Lesson 1 – we do have cool stuff to use, but we don’t present it in a useful way, at least not for that purpose.
Some years ago, Curtin invited a researcher from Canada who was looking at WW1 records and making them machine readable. This means that the elements in an image or digital object are identified by tags, which can then be re-used and re-interpreted for analysis. This is a type of text mining, but need not necessarily be text. This was not work that could or would be carried out by the Canadian archives, but it was definitely of use to them. However, I was unable to determine if the data, and machine edited records were being returned to or shared with the archives. More recently, the SRO has been working with the Griffith University Prosecution Project. They have an ARC grant, and came to the SRO after the grant to see if we could help in their research. The answer was yes, of course, but it might take some time to organise and there were some factors that needed to be negotiated involving access. And, the product that we had, microfilm, was not cheap to reproduce either as film or digitally so their budget was affected.
Finally, some challenges… Not all gloom and doom. We can use PDFs, there are some nice datasets out there, and they are fun to play with, especially given time. Think about how the SLWA’s Post office directories, and architectural plans can be used with the SROWA plans, to create a lost Perth. Or, we could look at the ground and at various schemes to create a Perth that never was. Use the museum and other sites to find specimens and objects that can furnish a room, or a coast line – can we add bird song to that? What about a Multi user dungeon, showing where to go in the event of a disaster? (hint, SLWA’s public library dataset includes details of libraries including height above sea level).
Working with the glam sector
Making collections accessible
in an online environment