Photo Investigator is our web-based search and retrieval tool for accessing photographic images in our collection. It is quite a powerful application in that a web-visitor can use a variety of search options to find specific photos or browse a series of related images and delve further into detailed series information via links to Archives Investigator, our online catalogue.
Photographic series that have been ‘registered’ (or catalogued) into Archives Investigator can be made accessible in Photo Investigator. But what if a series hasn’t been catalogued? What if individual photos have been digitised but not catalogued, how can they be made accessible? What about digitised versions of paper records, where can these be accessed? There are many series that haven’t yet been catalogued and with around 7 million individual archival items making up these series there will be for many years to come.
Create an online image gallery
What can we do with these digital records? We created a Digital Gallery, a place on our website to showcase images and records that haven’t (necessarily) been officially catalogued into Archives Investigator. These images and records have been digitised for various reasons – some have been done for photographic orders, some have been digitised for talks and presentations…whatever the reason these images should be re-used in some way instead of living on an internal server or a CD on a shelf. Dare I say, these photos deserve to be made available to the public and are practically screaming for attention!
This mish-mash of photographs and records, of which there are many, are slowly evolving into digital albums on the Digital Gallery. Some have been catalogued but sit next to other images and records that would otherwise never be seen.
Example of an online album
One example of this is the album of the Great White Fleet which arrived in Sydney in August 1908 as part of a round the world cruise; the sixteen warships were painted white to denote peace. The online gallery was created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its visit. Some of the images are part of a series that has been catalogued and therefore are available on Photo Investigator. Other images and records, which make up the bulk of the album and flesh out the ‘story’, are not. These records include invitations to the fleet to celebratory events, itineraries of excursions to places of interest, a document about sailors who were ‘absent’ on the fleet’s departure, and letters relating to public transport hold-ups and overcrowding, not unlike today’s commuting problems.
Without the Digital Gallery, these ‘uncatalogued’ items would not be readily available.
The latest addition
Another example is a Matron’s Diary. Matron Susan Austen was chaperone to 98 single females on the ship Fitzjames which arrived in Sydney on 1 April 1857. She was expected to make daily diary entries of the work completed by the women and of her observations of the behaviour and general conduct of the young women.
This item forms part of series NRS 5329. On looking at the series information in Archives Investigator there is no way of knowing what items make up the series, let alone that this entertaining read is included (admittedly the information has been migrated from our old catalogue, the Concise Guide and doesn’t contain much detail).
Use transcriptions if needed
The Matron’s Diary diary records the dramas which unfolded during the voyage, the sea-sickness suffered during stormy weather, the tantrums and shortcomings of many of the young women, and the despair felt by the Matron at their behaviour. At the same time as the record was digitised, a transcription was made. The online album includes both the scanned handwritten pages plus a transcription for easy reading. A short ‘blurb’ also describes the page content.
To sum up
If you have digitised images and records sitting unused on a pile of CDs or on an internal server try adding them to your website. You will improve accessibility to the collection and be presenting ‘snippets’ of history for your web visitors.