Uncovering hidden treasures – Australian culture goes digital

23 Jan 2020 | 2 mins

A collaboration including all five WA universities, the WA State Library and the WA Museum will establish a world-class, archival-quality Digitisation Centre to record significant humanities, arts and social sciences collections.

The project was made possible by a $1.1 million Australian Research Council Linkage Infrastructure and Equipment grant to help preserve Australian culture and history, particularly Indigenous artefacts, for years to come.

Previously publically unseen items such as archaeological seeds, archival documents on the Women’s Rights Movement, and ethnographic films will soon be available online in digital format to guarantee their longevity for future generations.

The Centre will have the capacity to digitise all significant cultural artefacts and research collections held by participating institutions within a decade.

UWA Professor Benjamin Smith, who is leading the project, said the Digitisation Centre would allow people to view images and information from all over the world.

“The digitisation of cultural artefacts will make them publicly available and accessible, perhaps for the first time for the items too fragile to be handled or transported,” Professor Smith said.

“At present these are not available online and are mostly accessible only to the small number of local researchers able to visit these collections.”

The first phase of the project will target a set of legacy collections within three broad themes:

  • ‘Archaeology’ – including rock art recordings; archaeological seed, charcoal, stone implement type specimen collections at UWA and the Western Australian Museum; and the archaeology of first European WA settlement collection held at Notre Dame University;
  • ‘Ethnography’ – including objects from the Berndt Museum, one of the most significant Indigenous ethnographic and art collections in Australia, and the Blacking Collection of Indigenous African Music, both at the University of Western Australia; the Alpers Melanesian Film Archive at Curtin University that contains some of the earliest ethnographic film recordings from that region; and the Nonja Peters collection of migrant cultural heritage artefacts from Edith Cowan University;
  • ‘The Development of Western Australian society’ – including the papers of the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library; archival documents relating to the Women’s Rights Movement from the Irene Greenwood Collection and the Atomicalia Collection of objects from nuclear test sites held at Murdoch University; the Early Western Australian Map Collection and the Summerhayes Architecture Collection at Curtin University; The ECU Art Collection, the Historic Costume Collection and the Audio Collection of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts from Edith Cowan University; The Oral Histories Collection at the State Library; and the Historical Furniture Collection at the Western Australian Museum.

The next steps will be to establish a lab in the Barry Marshall Library at UWA with specialist equipment to record digital images by July 2020.

Media references

David Stacey (UWA Media Manager) 08 6488 3229 / 0432 637 716
Professor Benjamin Smith (Project Lead) 08 6488 2097 / 0497 090 097

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