GLAM – Digital Access Meeting, Melbourne Museum, Melbourne 25 February 2016
We attended the fourth meeting of the representatives of national GLAM (i.e., Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) sector peak bodies in Melbourne. The purpose is to advocate for the open access and discoverability of Australia’s cultural collections. We represented the Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) and University of Newcastle (Australia)
CATALYST APPLICATION – DIGITAL ACCESS TO COLLECTION (DAC)
Frank Howarth (President, Museums Australia) and Dr Alex Byrne (CEO, State Library of NSW) provided a brief overview of the outcomes of the three meetings in 2015.
Sue McKerracher and Alex Marsden provided a background to the $1M Catalyst Funding Application that they prepared on behalf of the GLAM peak bodies.
3 year Project Overview
Year 1 Development of a Strategic Framework
– How are we going to enable people to access, use and build on collections?
– How are we doing access now?
– How are we planning to build access across sectors/nationally/globally?
– Identify enablers/barriers/solutions/create a toolkit for small organisations
– provide evidence of positive impact
Year 2 Rolling Digital Access out across the GLAM Sector
– Establish regional clusters/partnerships with tech suppliers/training institutions/public awareness
Year 3 Public Campaign
– Publicise, get media on board to promote message across nation
GLAM roundtable – who can assist with the Governance? Administration? Travel? Accommodation? Meeting Rooms? Etc
DAC project team – 4 positions – Project manager (1)/researcher(1)/ trainers/ presenters(2)- all partners need to feel ownership, have input into recruitment process
DAC Partner – Calculate in kind support e.g., airfares/accommodation/time etc in coming to meetings.
MEETING OF CULTURAL MINISTERS (MCM)
DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES WORKING GROUP
Briefing by Chris McDermott over Final Report. There is never enough money, so it is important to engage Cultural Ministers and provide arguments to ehance the relevance and importance of GLAM sector to innovation/environmental sustainability/ community mental health agendas. Make it crucial and essential as HEALTH or EDUCATION. Why do we lie outside education?
By far the greatest area of public collections are the public records/archives comprising an estimated 200 million items. Most of the areas of the pie chart presented such as photographs, ‘social history archives’, natural history etc could also fall under ‘archives’ as well.
Thoughts: The archivists need to be fully engaged with this, and involved in all aspects of GLAM digital strategies as well as physical. I could see a real confusion of the “stuff” in the breakdown of the piechart with cultural material raining down across Australia and falling into archival institutions, public and private libraries, museums, keeping places, historical societies, sheds, personal homes, galleries. Everyone views it differently, so we do need a return to the Significance 2.0 work that sought to find an overarching methodology to dealing with it. The greatest volume lies with the public records archive, which along with the museum objects and art works technically creates the bedrock of knowledge that is theoretically distilled into new works, “the book”, the multimedia presentation, the “CREATION”.
Jessica Coates & Derek Whitehead from the Australian Digital Alliance (ADA) http://digital.org.au/ signalled possible changes to Copyright Act:
1. Preservation Copying will be possible for anything you wish for preservation purposes.
2. Unpublished and orphaned works from perpetual copyright to be treated as “normal works”
From 1st June 2018 a massive chunk of historical GLAM material will legally go into the public domain.
For the future they wish to tackle the FAIR USE provisions to bring it in line to US provisions. The keywords for FAIR USE are: INNOVATION + CHANGE = FLEXIBILITY for DIGITAL AGE = FREES UP. There will be issues to be worked through with the copyright owners.
Questions were asked about the nature, funding & activities of the ADA: The ADA consists of corporate members, GLAM sector bodies, and individuals who work towards more flexible and more balanced Copyright law. They are funded in the main by memberships. They have achieved a high level of credibility advocating constructively towards legislative change, and organising campaigns with ALIA such as the “Cooking for Copyright” to make information sessions about copyright more “sexy”. It is of interest to any organisation that has an interest in copyright reform.
GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE
Dionysia McPherson briefed us on the origins of the Google Cultural Institute
– Brainchild of Amit Sood https://www.ted.com/talks/amit_sood_building_a_museum_of_museums_on_the_web?language=en who wished for one stop place to view the cultural treasures of Museums around the world.
– At present they are focused on Museums and Art Galleries collections providing inhouse virtual experience of the collections.
– Founded in 2011, everything is free, high resolution, 34 partners in Australia (mostly museums)
– Today there are over 1000 cultural institutions, 240,000 digitised artefacts, 6 million ‘archival’ artefacts
– They help provide institutions with google tools such as content management software, create online exhibits, mobile apps etc.
– Provide innovative virtual experiences such as street view, card board 3D stereoscopic viewer, Google Expedition Virtual Reality
Are your high resolution digital art images available through Google Image Search? I don’t know
Are the physical and contextual intrinsic provenance of the cultural archival objects mapped to place in Google Earth? No. It is an inhouse virtual experience of a ‘collection’ or performance.
Google Cultural Institute is only able to integrate content directly from partners’ Collection Management Software and Apps where they have an open API.
I asked whether it would be possible to find someone in Google to talk about mapping archival materials to the physical geo referenced points on the earth that they relate to, across time and space, along with the creating of virtual historic landscapes to contextualise the archival materials that relate to the periods.
AUSTRALIA AS INTERGALACTIC ARCHIVE
While discussing digital storage space issues over lunch with Andrew Young, (Atlas of Living Australia) he remarked that space is not an issue for the CSIRO, as one of the facilities they recently met at was in the process of downloading 3-4 pedabytes of data from the planet Mars. This statement made an impression. I realised that we were not only safeguarding the archival heritage of Australia, but also of Mars. Australia is part of an intergalactic archive.
FINAL TAKE HOME MESSAGE TO ALL ARCHIVISTS
After this meeting, I went home a little overwhelmed and dejected. Overnight, clarity ensued, and I woke up to the very sharp focus of why it is important for archivists to “come out of the tent” and get involved across the GLAM sector organisations.
The one fundamental reason for forming the Australian Society of Archivists (according to the interviews with the original ASA pioneers), was in order to differentiate the ‘work’ of archivists from that of librarians. 40 years of wandering in the desert was long enough for the Israelites, and I believe it has been long enough for archivists. We now should well and truly know who we are, what we do, and how to do it. Now is it is time to rejoin our colleagues across the GLAM sector and help them out, get into the thick of it, and share our light, as many are struggling with understanding the context of their collections and how to portray them digitally.
There is a great metaphorical memory palace being built here, that will help ensure the open and free access of Australia’s cultural materials in digital form to everyone everywhere in Australia, no matter where they live. To help inspire, educate, and most importantly, survive into the future.
I return to the pie-chart in Chris McDermott’s MCM Final Report. The biggest chunk representing over 200 million items lies within the public records. Arguably everything pretty much. Yet “the stuff” is scattered across a myriad of institutions and individuals grappling at how best to deal with them. Archives, the documentary records, are products of creative life on Earth, and are raining like confetti across all of Australia (even from our planetary intergalactic neighbours). It is falling into people’s back yards, their labs, their libraries, historical societies, their art galleries, their museums, their sporting clubs, their RSL bars and their backyard sheds.
How people make sense of this, is where archivists can really help. We can help them identify where it came from, how best to describe it, conserve, give it its intellectual shape. But we have to be there, in the thick of it to help. Once that archival process stage has been completed, it can then be beautifully digitised into whatever format human communications can take into the future.
Gionni Di Gravio
Councillor, Australian Society of Archivists
Chair, Hunter (Living) Histories Initiative