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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 – Macquarie through the magnifying glass (or part 3 – research)

Behind the scenes of Macquarie 2010

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”


We are at Day 3 of the investigative report ‘Creating a Digital Gallery’ by Bea Scanned (an archive from the State Records collection). If you have only just tuned in to this series you can catch up with Part One (the planning committee) and Part Two (Conservation check) here.

5:47pm – Welcome back to my daily report, so many things have been happening to me lately my head is starting to spin. However, I’m really beginning to understand this whole digital gallery thing. And the blood, sweat and tears involved in putting it all together.

5:48pm – Today, a facsimile of myself spent quite a bit of time with the Gail Davis, the Senior Archivist Research and Publications and let me tell you it was an eye opening experience. I had no idea how much work was going on behind the scenes to make this exhibition happen while I was safely tucked away in storage.

Let’s go back to the start of the day…

Transcription print out - Image supplied by Anthea Brown

An A3 facsimile is used for Transcription

1. The ‘Big Picture’

8:45am – Once Gail and the Manager, Public Access (Christine Yeats) had concluded their planning meeting, Gail set out to select documents suitable for inclusion in the exhibition. Since the aim of the exhibition is to showcase my fellow ‘docs’ from the State Records collection the focus will be largely on Macquarie in the colony of New South Wales with a few references to Van Diemen’s Land thrown in.

8:49am – The first port of call for research is the Colonial Secretary’s Papers 1788-1825. These papers have already been indexed, described and arranged by date as part of a bicentennial project and makes Gail’s job much easier. Due to the improvements made to public recordkeeping during Governor Macquarie’s reign there is a lot of material to sift through.

2. Ask the experts

9:33am – Earlier, I overheard Gail and Christine ask staff members with expert knowledge of the collection to contribute some of their favourite selections on Macquarie. They laughingly agree it’s just like having a living, breathing Google in the office. Whatever that means.

3. Know your topic well

10:15am – Gail and Christine discuss the number of books and articles on Lachlan Macquarie that they have recently read in order to ensure the gallery is representative of his time as Governor. They have both found out more information to help describe and interpret the ‘docs’ being displayed. I mean, seriously, left-hand driving, who knew it would catch on? Research like this is also useful for tracing back references to unusual Macquarie facts documented in our collection. Sadly, this often leads to a lot of dead ends…and to the cries of citations matter too!

4. Time management is the key

12:11am – I don’t know where the staff find the time to do all this. With a limited budget State Records can only produce this online gallery using existing staff resources and it can be a bit of a juggling act when prioritising workloads. Just this morning, Gail has been called away to deal with a tricky enquiry in the reading room, respond to a subpoena and answer a publication request. Why are people working on other things? If I didn’t have my professional, investigative reporter’s hat on I would feel a bit snubbed – isn’t it supposed to be all. about. me.

Gail with magnifying glass - Image Supplied by Anthea Brown

Senior Archivist Gail Davis examines a document

1:20pm – While I am being ‘transcribed’ by Gail, I discover how lucky I am to have made it this far. Apparently, when Gail and Christine first looked at the list of possible exhibition documents there was a swag load to choose from, all with legitimate reasons for making the cut. There was a preliminary cull even before the ‘finalists’ were sent off to the Conservation Lab for evaluation. The conservation evaluation then eliminated a few other candidates for immediate use.

5. Transcription

2:13pm – So far, the transcription process has been fairly straight forward [for me at any rate]. These transcribers have an experienced eye! Most of this work is done using A3 sized reproductions of the original records. Occasionally Gail hovers over me with a magnifying glass to check something more closely. Having had a similar experience in ‘the lab’ this scrutiny no longer bother me. In fact, I quite enjoy it. I hear Gail tell one of her colleagues that for some items she will have to consult the original. I don’t think my fellow ‘docs’ would mind though, it is an outing after all.

Magnifying glass showing LM - Image Supplied by Anthea Brown

LM through the looking glass

3:13pm – I listen as some of the Macquarie ‘docs’ reminisce about the good ol’ days, known around these parts as B.M. (Before Microfilm). Researchers in the reading room would get excited to see Lachlan Macquarie’s initials “LM” personally scrawled by him across a letter or memorial that had been written by one of their ancestors.

What’s next?

My consultation transcription has finished and it’s time for me to be described and placed in context ready for the big day. Ooops wait a minute, what about my scanning……..?

Category: Digital 2.0