Two years ago, the Museum embarked on a major website architecture project aimed primarily at delivering an external website that could provide rich content for its diverse audiences and enable it to engage directly with users, and they with the Museum. The project was scoped in two stages: Release I and Release II. The first stage of the Museum's revised website was launched in November 2003 with the initial suite of functionality (Release I) and a new look and feel.
During 2004-2005, work progressed on the second stage of functionality (Release II). This is expected to significantly extend the range of information and services available and provide the technical capability to create a website that is not just transmissive but interactive. Significant features of Release II include: online retail facilities for the Museum Shop, sophisticated search functions for collection records, and a subscription-based visitor interaction function that will enable visitors to engage directly with the Museum and other visitors. The new website was due for release during 2004-2005, however, because of technical difficulties, the release is now scheduled for early 2005-2006.
As well as developing new functionalities, the Museum continued to develop its online content including exhibition and collections material, schools resources and visitor information.
Online exhibition sites were developed to support the Museum's major temporary exhibitions, Extremes: Survival in the Great Deserts of the Southern Hemisphere and Behind the Lines: The Year's Best Cartoons. Online versions of the Nation gallery's Looking around exhibits were also made accessible through the Museum's website, as was a selection of photographs from the Snapshots of Remote Communities outreach project. The exhibition featured farming activity, local landmarks, pets and people captured by students from regional schools. It is expected that schools in remote communities in other Australian states will be represented on the website over the next four years.
Another significant addition to the website included the Pass the Salt online exhibition undertaken by the Museum in collaboration with the Murray-Darling Basin Commission and the Museum of the Riverina. The exhibition explores places, examines objects and tells people's stories about salinity in the Wagga Wagga region, New South Wales. It is part of a Museum initiative exploring how local communities respond to large-scale environmental change.
A new online educational interactive Aussie English for the Beginner was inspired by a display in the Museum's Nation gallery and the Museum's Aussie English book series. Other classroom resources online included an interactive designed to help students critically analyse and assess museum displays.
Work continued on a collaborative online learning project in partnership with the Learning Federation. Under this project the Museum produces web-based interactive resources that explore different themes in Australian history, in line with primary school curriculum guidelines.
Overall visitation to the website continued to grow, with 795,000 visits in 2004-2005, comprising 383,000 unique visits.
The Museum commissioned a range of video, interactive and web-based multimedia projects for exhibitions. The major project for the year was the production of two audiovisual displays for the Extremes exhibition. In the first display, three desert people from South America, central Australia and South Africa took viewers on a journey through the archaeology and landscapes of the great southern deserts. The second display showcased key archaeological finds through high impact photography of desert rock art images and dramatic music.
The Museum's Photography section continued to produce high quality and innovative images to support the Museum's communications activities and corporate and public events. This year more than 240 photographic assignments were completed, producing approximately 3000 images. These images contributed significantly to the Museum's recent publications Ernabella Batiks, 23° South and In Search of the Birdsville Track.
Feature photographic projects this year were:
- comprehensive photography of the Springfield property, including documentation of its significant historical collection and sheep station activities
- photography of over 300 bark paintings.
Copyright and reproductions
Strong, dynamic images are essential for the Museum to use in its exhibitions, publications, website, marketing and public affairs material. Throughout the year, the Museum's Copyright and Reproduction section (previously called Image Delivery and Intellectual Property) processed more than 3000 requests for images and copyright clearances for the Museum's use, along with an increasing number of external requests for the use of images owned by the Museum.
The Museum also continued to participate in an intellectual property, education and networking group, Copyright in Cultural Institutions, across national cultural institutions in the Australian Capital Territory.
Collection information system
The Museum's new collection information system, Opal, was successfully launched in July 2004. This system is a version of the Australian product EMu (Electronic Museum) developed by Melbourne company KE Software.
The Opal system is used to manage a wide variety of daily tasks associated with the documentation, research, exhibition and preservation activities of the Museum's object, image and multimedia collections.
This year's activities centred on the technical bedding down of the system, including the initial warranty period, and the training of users. Opportunities to implement change management and improved business processes were realised as a result of using a consolidated database. A variety of internal reports, drawing from the data in the system, have improved the capacity to report on the collection.
The governance and aspects of the project were internally and externally audited throughout the year. The KPMG internal report returned a range of positive findings in relation to the overall management of the project and the subsequent training program for staff.
Testing on the replication of a subset of data from the Opal system to the Museum website's content management system is almost complete and online public access to collection information will be provided in the upcoming financial year.
A one day forum, A snapshot on managing digital or media asset collections, or... 'What is everyone else doing?', was held at the Museum in September 2004. The forum was attended by approximately 100 people from museums and art galleries from across Australia and New Zealand. In his opening address, Museum Director Craddock Morton recognised that while digitisation is an excellent addition to the tools a cultural institution has at its disposal for researching and providing access to its collections, it should never be seen as an end in itself. It must remain supporting of those key principles that shape cultural institutions such as scholarship and documentation, management and preservation, and access.
Institutions presented their own experiences to the forum in a case study format. The day was well attended and a CD of the presentations and digital collections survey information was provided to all participants. The Museum continues to collaborate with other major cultural institutions on the best way to develop digital collections management strategies.
The Museum's Library collects material in the areas of museum studies, conservation, Indigenous Australians, Australian history and the Australian environment. It currently holds more than 30,000 books, journals, photographs and audiovisual items. The Library is open to the public Tuesday to Friday.
This year the Library operated from its new premises in the Annexe at Acton and achieved an increase of more than 120 per cent in public use.
Donations from Andrew Reeves and Dr David Ride increased the Library's special collections. Work on cataloguing and organising these materials has been a priority project this year.
A new library information system was installed in mid-2005, with plans to go live in early 2005-2006. The system offers improved internal and external access to the online Library collection, more end-user self-service options and improved functionality to streamline Library services and operations.
Work during the year focused on improving end-user satisfaction and delivery of major IT projects. In 2003 the Museum changed its IT service provider. There followed an intensive period of consultative and administrative change, with emphasis on raising the level of service provided to IT users across the Museum. The number of calls logged and the number of calls outstanding demonstrates dramatically improved customer satisfaction and confidence. Comparing June 2004 to June 2005, users are now logging 68 per cent more calls and there has been a 92 per cent decrease in the number of requests outstanding. In addition to these customer service improvements, the new IT service provider continued to take over operational management of the Museum's IT infrastructure.
A number of IT projects were brought to a satisfactory conclusion during the year. These were:
- the Museum's internal intranet project, Museum Central, was reviewed and a new implementation strategy developed. This enabled the release of a completely new intranet in the middle of 2005. Content includes key procedural and support information from nine business units contained in some 400 pages
- the Employee Resources and People Development group specified and purchased a new human resources system. As well as providing standard human resource functions such as payroll, the new system supports rostering, recruitment management and employee self-service. This system will enable significant improvements in ERPD service delivery and easier staff access to HR functions and records
- IT security continued to be a major focus for the Museum. A comprehensive IT security policy was drafted and infrastructure improvements were completed to enhance overall security
- Museum IT staff continued to contribute to government IT management development and collaboration through active participation in the Commonwealth Chief Information Officer Forum and the Cultural Management Facility/IT group.
Work continued on the Museum's new software development to enhance the website. Following intensive testing of the technical aspects, the site is scheduled to go live later in 2005.
The Records Management section undertook a comprehensive stocktake of Museum files. A formal process for sentencing files was established and a number of older files disposed of in accordance with Commonwealth recordkeeping requirements.
Records Management established a project to enhance the Museum's recordkeeping practices using the DIRKS methodology recommended by the National Archives of Australia. Step A, the Preliminary Investigation, was completed in June 2005 to be submitted to the National Archives of Australia for approval. Further steps are planned for 2005-2006.
Records Management's recordkeeping software, TRIM, was upgraded to the latest version. This provides a more reliable database platform, allows for easier and more meaningful reporting, and offers increased functionality that will allow the Museum to embark on electronic recordkeeping later in 2005.