Supporting Local History Groups

This blog post was first published at Yarra Plenty Regional Library, 12 December 2018

I recently attended a half day seminar presented by Museums Australia (Victoria) on supporting Local History Groups. The seminar was primarily aimed for local government employees, but would have been of interest to people across the GLAM sector (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums).  The seminar was held at the Kathleen Syme Library, Carlton. A number of speakers were on the program.

Gabby Haynes, Community Heritage Officer, Creative Communities, Yarra Ranges Council

Gabby facilitates about 15 local history groups who represent about 55 townships in the area. They have recently produced a Guide to Heritage in the Yarra Ranges (A PDF is available here and hard copies can be collected from Eastern Regional Libraries)

Gabby outlined some particular qualities needed working with local history groups:
Be prepared for long time frames, in developing a Memorandum of Understanding It took a number of workshops addressing the specific language of the MOU in addition to one on one meetings over three years to get all groups on board. The document addresses such things as cross promotion, use of shared facilities and following museum standards. The MOU was seen as a framework of trust and the council seen as valuing the work of local history groups.
Realising that heritage is personal but it is not about you.
Build with a commitment of money and time. Yarra have employed local historians as paid consultants. Council staff have helped sort collections and supported grant applications
Gabby discussed a case study when the Council re-developed the Healesville Memorial Hall 
Towards the end of the development, it was realised (brought to the attention of the Council) that there was no recognition that the Hall was indeed a War memorial  a hall built by public subscription. As a result a public art sculpture was commissioned.

Sally Robins, Local History Co-ordinator, Mornington Peninsula Shire
The Mornington Peninsula Shire Local History Network meet six times a year. The network is supported by the Local History unit at Council which provides services to groups including cataloguing, digitising, managing communications, policy and procedures, grant applications, project management and any business related to the use of Council buildings. They have been involved in major events such as township celebrations, tree planting ceremonies and time capsule projects.  A travelling postcard exhibition resulted from 8 groups working with a professional Curator to highlight local stories the groups wanted to tell. Together with a professional designer, education kits and a DVD were also developed. Visit the Culture Victoria portal.

The network has undertaken oral history projects resulting in a DVD and videos online. Transcripts of the interviews were also undertaken and personal copies given to the subjects who were nominated by the local history groups. A documentary is being considered as a follow up project. They have supported improving the presentation of marketing collateral and signage including onsite heritage markers.  Training has been provided to groups in the areas of cataloguing, collection policy, exhibition development, conservation, significant assessment and joint ventures.

A digitisation service is available for groups to book the local history officer to book an on-site visit with equipment to digitise collection items. Attention is also given to converting older formats. Reach has extended to identifying and scanning private collections, including a local fire brigade and a church group archive. Digital items being retained by the relevant local history group. 

Cameron Auty Burke Museums Indigo Shire
Cameron spoke at short notice off the cuff when a scheduled guest speaker failed to appear. Cameron has worked previously with Victorian Collections. He has observed a pressing need for local history groups to future proof – protect, preserve and share their collections – which they can do via digitisation. He has facilitated a grant project to put together a digitisation kit which together with onsite training can be rolled out to interested groups. This empowers groups to undertake their own digitisation programs and to develop policies for this.
Local History networks can include community collecting organisations such as RSL’s and Schools.

Kitty Owens Exhibitions Services Manager, Museums Australia (Victoria)
Kitty outlined some useful resources available via the Museums Australia (Victoria) website. Click on the “Resources” tab.  These include but are not limited to the Small Museums Cataloguing Manual and National Standards for Museums and Galleries.  The Museum also facilitates the Museums Accreditation Program. A framework used by museums, galleries, historical societies, heritage sites, and archives to improve operations and increase organisation profile.

Victorian Collections includes a story telling platform. (The most recent story is Prisoner of War & Internment Camps: Tatura and Rushworth) and a training program to use the free collections management system.
Other sources of information include 

Western Australia Museum See links from “Support” tab – “Community Museum Support”

Royal Historical Society of Victoria 

National Archives of Australia 

National Library of Australia Community Heritage Grants

PROV Local History Grants 

The Bendigo Post Office Gallery is a terrific model. A renovated rejuvenated space with rotating exhibitions of local interest.

Kitty also highlighted some ideas drawing on local history collections including our very own Wikinorthia – Documenting life in Melbourne’s north. A partnership between Darebin Libraies, Moreland Libraries and Yarra Plenty Regional Library.

Museum Australia (Victoria)’s reminsicences kits

Reminiscence Cottage – Geelong Wool Museum

Grandmothers Project 

Hoardings Artwork – City of Sydney 

City of Yarra Public Art Project for 100 years of Maternal Health Service

State Library Victoria on Instagram #vicinpics #remixvic

Simone Nolan, Gallery Director, Wangaratta Art Gallery
Wangaratta Stories 

Simone has supported council partnerships with local history groups and organised exhibitions. Grant applications need to refer to the organisation plan, strengths of the collection (for example in Wodonga it is industrial history) and significant items (A lutheran bible and a collection of glass plate slides)
Simone also reminded us that local history group networks can go beyond local history groups and can include schools and RSL’s and noted that many sporting groups are celebrating and approaching centenary anniversaries.

The afternoon was very enlightening and validated the work YPRL is doing as co-facilitator of the Yarra Plenty Heritage Group which was formed in 2006.

Photo: State Library Victoria image digital pool

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Library Programs: Consider an alternate way of thinking

This following post was first published at Yarra Plenty Regional Library September 17, 2019

The Inaugural Public Libraries Victoria Conference was held at the Arts Centre Melbourne in September.

It was an opportunity to connect and re-connect with library colleagues and industry leaders.

Among the keynote speakers, guest speakers and presentations – You Still Can’t Do That in a Library! Breaking library stereotypes to welcome and inspire our communities from Tea Tree Gully Library, South Australia colleagues David Brooks and Symon Williamson resonated with me.

David and Symon with their library team manage community events and local history services. They challenged the audience to consider an alternative way of thinking in presenting programs. Programs do not have to be in the library space and consider associating the library with community events. They have showcased the 1980s where an event was held in the local roller rink. A “Tanks at the library” event out the front of the library drew the attention of a new male demographic. Yes, assess the risks of such an event, but what is the risk of doing nothing? Focus attention away from the risks and instead focus on the benefits. Relationships have been developed and strengthened with council colleagues. Their program “Library up Late: Gold Class” has been a program to acknowledge their library customers holding events in the evening outside opening hours, including dressing up, performers and cocktails. This template has been so successful that other libraries are also embracing the concept.

The library’s echidna mascot was also a guest at the conference. A partnership with a local group of amateur radio enthusiasts already meeting in the library saw a project to send the mascot into space. Other events they have tried include “Crappiest Art Night”, welcome dinners to new residents, Harry Potter Day with a Dr Seuss Day coming up. Lego Day, an historical car show and cemetery tours with photo projections. 

Library programs provide a space, a safe place and an expectation that you do not have to spend money to get a benefit from the library. David and Symon’s advice was to take small risks, build on that and make bigger ones. Break the old fashioned library stereotype and attract new audiences and create real connections with your local community.

To learn more about what happened at the conference check out #PLVconference on Twitter. 

See photos and updates on facebook.

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Thing 12: Open Educational Resources

OERs are Online or digital materials that have been licensed to allow for re-use. The University of Edinburgh have a number of courses that caught my interest including:

How to make video content

Wikipedia editing video tutorials

And Wikipedia training lessons

Gif it up, create your own Gifs

This course The 23 Things for Digital Knowledge is in fact an OER

MOOC’s  Massive open online course were a new thing a few years ago.  University of Tasmania have offered their Understanding Dementia course for a while now and I see now there is another one around Preventing Dementia.

Open Education Database claims to “feature a collection over 10,000 free open courses and interactive resources from top universities around the world”

Education and the Internet go hand in hand, there should not be any excuse to be board in retirment or have nothing to do when there are so many opportunities such as Open Educational Resources available.

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Thing 11: Copyright

The creative commons search website is new to me. I found it easy to use and will bookmark for future use. I am already familiar with Flickr Commons and Wikimedia commons. The site has a search guide and I like the way searches can be filtered by licence and source.

A note on searching and search strategies. Lots of old family photos come up for a search of term genealogy. Of course the search is only going to capture these images if the subject / keyword has been attached to the image. I bet there are thousands more genealogy related themed photos available by Commons licences but they have not included this term in their metadata. A similar search term is family history.

Searching Pidgeon resulted in 6,514 images. 18 of the 20 images on the first page were of the bird which should be correctly spelled as Pigeon.

So, although not directly related to Thing 11, finding what you are looking for can be just as important and this is why broad thinking and different spellings used in searching can produce different results.

I have chosen this image to highlight in this post (it is also the featured image):

“rare editions of local interest” by circulating is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 I must also attribute the photo to Iris Shreve Garrott as it is in her Flickr feed and I presume that she is the photographer. I have not made any changes. Further terms include that it is NonCommerical and ShareAlike with no additional restrictions.

It was harder to find an audio or video media file via this website. The site itself states CC Search searches across more than 300 million images from .. So it does not include audio or video.

However from linking through to a Flickr user who has posted content relating to the place/subject Eltham I searched, I found he has added a video : 2017-07-25 Down Xtrapolis train in Eltham this is a 20 second film of a train in operation. It has been given the same licence as above. The credit or attribution should go to Glenn3095

All the train enthusiasts, trainspotters and railfans will like that one.

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Thing 10: Wikimedia

I am a wikipedia editor, dare I say a wikimedian or perhaps a wikipedia librarian.  For the last two years I have facilaited training and encouraged and supported staff in my organisation to learn more about wikipedia in particular and participate in the #1lib1ref project. Like a lot of things, the more you “do” the more you learn.

Here is our report on our most recent experience. We encouraged staff to add citations for local place names within the local government areas in which our regional public library provides service and used the Victorian Heritage Database as a source. I created a new page for the first time – which was accepted and I also added images to Commons for the first time too.

I explored the links from the projects page in the reading and while I knew about Wikimedia and some of its products such as Wikipedia and Wikicommons. Wikinews was news to me! I like the concept of the Wiki Loves Monuments, the worlds largest photography competion.  I hope it comes back this September. What a great project to help preserve cultural heritage.

Like editing Wikipedia, exploring Wikimedia products is a great “rabbit hole”. I found a reference to a a relative in Wikibooks. 

I love quotes so went down a rabbit hole searched Wikiquotes and found some good ones for the subject Kindness.  Not so many for the subject Learning.  No pages for Genealogy or Family History. Bingo for Ancestry which redirected to Ancestors. Lots for the subject Death . Looking at the content, it is all very old. Thinking on this I searched Oprah Winfrey so was pleased to see quite a few there. I was looking for a quote that is approximately: “When an old person dies, it is like a library has burned down” but could not find it. There is a page for libraries and a page for quotes from The Librarians TV series which inspired me to see if there is one for Dr Who, the character is known for many quotes but alas, there is a page but not actual quotes from the character itself. Some Whovians better get on to it.

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Thing 9: Video Hangouts, conferencing etc.

I am not familiar with Google Hangouts, mainly because I do not have an android advice. I watched the Google Hangouts short video via It looks pretty easy and straight forward. I like the idea of a chat aspect without the actual call to the person as well (ability to multi task).

Since working from home I have mainly using MS Teams, which I like but it took a little bit of getting used to. I have also been invited external to my organisation to attend meeting via Zoom and Bluejeans. I have also attended a couple of live webinars and I have enjoyed the chat function and information by participants sharing while the presentation is on. eg. a website link.

I tried briefly to add a background on MS teams but found it frustrating to sort out so I gave I gave up.

Universal features such as chat function, mute video or audio options are easy to manage.

I have never heard of Collaborate Ultra (probably because it seems more
popular in an academic setting). I understand that Zoom is the commom platform for Australian / Victorian tertiary institutions.

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Thing 8: Facebook

I am on Facebook and consider myself an intermediate user. I read more than post. I find it a useful source of information for local and family history. I am a member of a number of groups. I do get frustrated at times so I am considering this an oportunity to vent. History “group” pages and others, including libraries and staff in my own organisation who post images without source or tagging the source of the collecton
where it came from – and with it any associated information, as if it is the personal photo of the person who submitted it.

This is an interesting blog post about the subject: Editorial Identity theft are you a witness to it

I also get frustrated on family history groups where a question is asked and then answered – and then the same answer or variation is repeated again, often several times because the submitter is too lazy to read the answers already given. I also get frustrated with the same questions being asked (just google it!) and / or not enough information provided – such as “where can I find the census?” – the librarian in me wants to know what location – country – and time frame before responding. I note that people in one particular country are very parochial around this.

So FB frustrates me. But I acknowledge its value to keep in touch with friends. Like Twitter, it is a platform where you are constantly sorting out the wheat from the chaff. I came across a photo of relatives in a group photo posted by a (real in-person) local history group I follow recently which was great.

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Thing 7: Twitter

I am on Twitter and use it most days to read and post in a professional capacity. I also have a personal account which I do not use much. I am also a contributor to two other organisation accounts. I have recented started to use tweetdeck again recently. A great tool if managing more than one account.

I also use Buffer to share and schedule tweets.

I had previously set up lists but do not tend to look at them a lot. I had also previously set up analytics which I also forget to look at. This is really interesting to see what has been popular.

I am not as familiar with Twitter’s newest feature bookmarks which was not
mentioned in the reading, but it looksfairly straight forward. I think this is a great way to go back to links you don’t have time to explore at the time. In the past I would email the link to myself especially if I was on my phone.

I am also not real clear on the “moments” feature. Is this like a gallery of your all time great tweets? This is Twitter’s own advice.

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Thing 6: Accessibility

As a person who creates online content, more in the form of blog posts and articles I am interested in this subject quite a bit. But at the end of the day, I think I score fail.

As I am the manager for this local history site, I took Wikinorthia as an example to test the digital accessibily and was surprised in one way of the glaring errors hightlighted.

The site sits on the WordPress platform and as such some aspects highlighted are part of the inbuilt templates and structures of the platform that I do not have the expertise to change – or in fact understand. For example there is an “unordered list” on the home page, which is considered not cool. I can choose the articles which are highlighted here from the dashboard but I cannot sort them alphabetically. For me this “randomness” is OK as far as the user experience goes though anyway.

For me”Wordpress” should be held more to account to make their content management more accessible. According to this Wikipedia article – they are.

I have been reminded about the importance of “alternative text”. I have often ignored this aspect in the past but have a renewed commitment to focus on this moving forward, especially if I want the content promoted (via Search engine optimisation) and accessed. As far as this series of blog posts go, I don’t think it is as important.

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Thing 5: Diversity

I have never been big on the use of emojis. It is probably a generation thing for me. I have always considered them an informal part of the communication, used to impart humour or affection with family and friends

The discussion around diverse representation online is valid but the use of an emoji is first an option and bears the risk of possibly being misunderstood.

I did not know about the Emojipedia referenced in the reading, which I looked for and found interesting to explore. Can I copy and past an emoji for my blog post? 😀

Are emoji’s the new clip art? This website also has a news feature if you are really into this sort of thing.

I decided to create a bitmoji. It certainly stands out and there are lots of options to use.

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