AIATSIS digitisation specialists visit New Zealand

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Friday, 24 February 2017

Late last year, Daryl Ciubal and I were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel to Wellington, New Zealand for a week as part of the National Digital Forum at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa – an annual conference bringing together people across the Galleries Libraries Archives & Museums (GLAM) sector around enhancing digital interaction with culture and heritage. We also visited some other organisations to gain a greater understanding of their digitisation practices and participated in the annual NZ Photographers of Cultural Collections Forum.

Wellington
City of Wellington from Mt. Victoria lookout. Photo by Daniel Walding

The National Digital Forum is an annual conference that has been running since 2002 which brings together a range of professionals in the GLAM sector and wider industry to discuss current projects, new technologies and future directions. Our focus was on the digitisation stream, which had a range of interesting topics.

Some of the highlights included (When) Do we need a 3D Digitisation strategy? A panel which looked at how the GLAM sector engages with 3D content of their collections for both public engagement as well as preservation. This is something that can offer far greater experience of collection items when done right and allows for more accurate preservation of collection items with three dimensionality characteristics than traditional image capture methods – where often only a 2D photographic representation is created of a 3D collection item.

Dave Sanderson from the Auckland Museum presented an interesting paper titled Collection Imaging: From public spaces to factories. He walked through the transformation he is involved in to implement a large scale digitisation project as their museum embarks on a range of large projects over the next decade. It was great to see their implementation of a range of technologies and the focus on defining exactly what the digitisation team did and didn’t do in order to best maximise their resources and throughput. The vastness of the Auckland Museum’s collection dictated a modular studio arrangement to deal with tiny items such as microscopic bugs all the way through to large scale Maori Waka (canoes).

Following the conference we participated in the New Zealand Photographers of Cultural Collections Forum at the Te Papa collection store - a small gathering of imaging specialists from a range of cultural institutions and the private sector across NZ. It was great to hear some of their perspectives on similar issues we face here and there was some consensus around better connecting our respective national groups to further discuss things like standards and equipment in the future. Myself and Daryl gave a short presentation on our recent efforts to implement a multi-use studio digitisation space at AIATSIS, as well as a short history of the organisation and some of the collections we’ve been involved working with during our time at AIATSIS.

Daryl Ciubal & Daniel Walding presenting
Daryl Ciubal & Daniel Walding presenting. Photo by Mark Beatty

We spent the next morning with Kate Whitley from Te Papa, who allowed us to spend some time touring their digitisation and studio facilities, as well as discussing some of their workflows and procedures. Kate also arranged for us to take a tour of the Maori collection vaults with Shane James - Kaitaki Taonga (Collection Manager) of the Maori collection. We took part in a traditional welcome ceremony with a Putatara shell instrument before entering the vaults and were shown a range of Maori collection items that Te Papa holds. The vaults are designed in such a way to allow transparent display and visibility and can easily be accessed by groups or individuals wishing to spend time with aspects of the collection relevant to their culture and heritage.

Llewelyn Jones
Llewelyn Jones demonstrating the capture stage for large format panoramic negatives. Photo Daniel Walding

After our morning at Te Papa, we headed over to the National Library of New Zealand for the final visit of our trip. Claire, Mark and Llewelyn in the Photographic team were kind enough to host us and despite the recent earthquake closing all public access to the library we were lucky enough to be allowed to spend some time there in the afternoon. It was great to see the range of facilities and spaces they have for their large and varied collection. We were very impressed with their customised capture station (panorail) for digitising their large format panoramic negatives from the Robert Percy Moore collection. We also spent time discussing at length some of the different equipment both our teams use, as well as talking about future plans for digitising photographic film, as legacy scanners continue to age and become harder to support.

Daryl Ciubal, Daniel Walding & Llewelyn Jones
Daryl Ciubal, Daniel Walding & Llewelyn Jones at the National Library of New Zealand. Photo by Mark Beatty

Daryl and I would like to thank AIATSIS for its support in undertaking this trip, as well as the NDF conference organisers, Kate Whitley (Te Papa Tongarewa), Claire Viskovic, Mark Beatty & Llewelyn Jones (National Library of New Zealand) for hosting us.