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For people who love, use and manage archives

Archives Outside - For people who love, use and manage archives

Creating a digital gallery (part 1 – the planning committee)

Behind the scenes of Macquarie 2010

We hope you enjoy the latest “Day in the Life of…” from an archive in the State Records NSW collection. This informative series focuses on how to add a digital gallery to your website, featuring our latest online exhibition “Lachlan Macquarie: visionary and builder”. A major online gallery such as this requires adequate time for planning, conservation, digitisation, transcription and web development. This blog series goes behind-the-scenes to see how the gallery was designed and developed.


Before I start my report, I should introduce myself. My name is Bea Scanned and I live at State Records NSW. You can find me in the Index to the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 1788-1825 where I’m delightfully described as a:

Government and general order for persons driving vehicles to observe regulations in force in England to keep to the left side of the road, 15 August 1820.

Actually, I’m quite special: I’m still of significance today in terms of road rules in Australia, and; I’m signed personally by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Around here, though, they simply scream out Keep To The Left! when spotting me.

as directed in England, by keeping and driving their carriages of whatever description, on the own left side, commonly called  the near side of the Roads, on pain of being fined by a bench

as directed in England, by keeping and driving their carriages of whatever description, on the own left side, commonly called the near side of the Roads, on pain of being fined by a bench

I’m speaking in hushed tones as I don’t want ‘them’ to know that I know what’s going on. In fact, I don’t know what’s going on but I will find out. My report follows:

9:05am – I’ve been summoned to a ‘meeting room’ against my will. I was removed from my box-housing, placed into a folder, popped onto a trolley and wheeled far from my local surrounds. The last time this happened to me was back in the 80s when I was microfilmed as part of the Archives Resources Kit (ARK).

9:08am – I heard muffled voices saying just now that it was something about ‘quality control’. I wish I’d read my friend Ann Item’s series a bit more closely now; I might have a better idea of what’s about to happen.

1. Start with an exhibition team

9:27am – There are two people in the ‘meeting room’. They are part of a larger syndicate group called the ‘Exhibition Committee’. Members come from far and wide across the organisation – I hear talk that they each represent a different phase of the project.

Tram drivers instruction school at Randwick

Set up a planning committee for large scale digital exhibitions

The Committee members are:

  • Manager, Public Access (heading the committee)
  • Senior Archivist, Research and Publications
  • Senior Conservator
  • Project Archivist, Digitisation
  • Project Archivist, Online Services

This group ‘meets’ much of the time via telephone and email – one of the challenges for an organisation with two or more offices is actually being able to meet in person. Instant Messaging wouldn’t go astray here.

2. Make a wish-list

9:29am – This is the first ‘in-person’ meeting between the Manager, Public Access (Christine Yeats) and the Senior Archivist, Research and Publications (Gail Davis). They are here to determine both the quantity and quality of Macquarie-related material in the State Records collection.

It appears the initial plan was to select 12 items for a digital gallery, to represent the 12 years of Macquarie’s governorship in New South Wales. Much to their delight, however, there was far more material than they first thought. In the end a wish-list of 35 Macquarie-related items was created. I’m part of that list and if I pass the ‘Conservation check’ then I’ll be short-listed. I’m not sure what that means but I will find out.

Central Railway Station, Sydney - beverages price list Digital ID - 17420_a014_a014000085

A wish list...of sorts

9:43am – I have discovered that the online gallery is also a way to explore and showcase many facets of a subject, in this particular case it is the varied activities on which Macquarie made decisions or implemented change, such as: the emancipation of convicts; establishment of the Native Institution; town planning and construction; moral behaviour of citizens; exploration; and, of course, road rules.

Christine and Gail also seek to include records which ‘sit outside’ the traditional topics, such as Lachlan Jnr’s attack of [ahem] worm fever. They look for a balance between the physical condition of the records to the appeal of the content to the audience.

3. Use existing resources

A tip to remember: tight budget = making use of the existing resources.

9:51am – I’m like a fly on the wall, listening quietly as Christine notes that a larger budget may have allowed for a physical display to be set up by an exhibition curator. She adds that it would also have also required far more conservation work and with limited resources to hand the online exhibition option proves to be the most appropriate form of display. It will prove to be advantageous as further content can be added as it is discovered. It will also be accessible to anyone, anywhere, with Internet access.

4. Liaise with other agencies (for large scale events)

10:29am – It appears I may not be so special after all as I discover that State Records is not the only agency setting up an online display to celebrate Governor Lachlan Macquarie. For an anniversary such as this one there is an official Macquarie Committee and an official Macquarie 2010 website.

A large scale celebration/anniversary does require liaising with other agencies. Christine tells Gail she met with other agencies to discuss what each is planning. It’s a good way to ensure each exhibition will be different. OK, so maybe I still am a little unique!

Liaise with agencies doing similar projects

Liaise with agencies working on similar projects

5. Promote the gallery

10:33am – Christine and Gail are ‘going for gold’ with this one. Promote the new gallery using the website, they say, and Facebook, Twitter, the blogs, posters, the talks and seminars, newsletters (e-newsletters even), word-of-mouth.

These words and concepts sound foreign to me.  Twitter? Isn’t that what the birds do? And blog? That’s just sounds plain silly! Then again I’ve been living in a box for almost 200 years. Strange as it may be, I am intrigued and hope I make the ‘short-list’ to see this story through. We’ll find out tomorrow.

Category: Digital 2.0
  • Fort Lauderdale Pain Clinic says:

    It is a nice digital gallery. I am following your blog since an year. I got lot of information and yet have to know a lot.

    August 3, 2010 at 12:02 am
  • Frances Barnes says:

    I’ve been following your steps ans so far, its has been pretty helpful. Very good points and learning.

    September 8, 2010 at 4:38 pm