Holbrook Submarine Museum
The Holbrook Submarine Museum (HSM) provides a wonderful novelty of a real submarine in a park in an inland town in regional New South Wales. Through the support of grant funds, HSM is cataloguing and digitising its collection and exploring ways to provide digital access.
The main focus of the Holbrook Submarine Museum is Australian submarines and submariners from World War I and onwards. The Museum has been undergoing a major facelift for some months and there has been a big turn-over of memorabilia from exhibition to archives/archives to exhibition.
The Museum has a core group of 3 volunteers including the Curator. Nine other volunteers assist in various roles including volunteering to staff the opening hours and providing guided tours, undertaking the physical work around the Museum, and participating in the decision making at Committee level.
Despite being a “whistle-stop” on the Hume Highway, the visitor numbers for Holbrook Submarine Museum are high each year. The Museum is open 7 days a week from 10am to 4pm to the public.
HSM houses a wide range of objects, from the physical Control Room equipment from a submarine, through to paintings, photos, books, manuals, commemorative items, uniforms, and badges. As the collection is still being entered into the Museum’s system, it is difficult to estimate the size at completion. However, as a small snapshot in the section with manuals, newspapers, books and brochures there are over a thousand items.
Originally, there was no cataloguing or system for storing or retrieving the many hundreds of items donated and stored upstairs so the whole process had to be started from scratch.
Grant funds from the Australian National Maritime Museum allowed the Museum to purchase collection management system software, and for 2 volunteers to receive training in the use of the programme. Mosaic was selected to manage the collection, as it was determined to be most suitable software when the grant application was submitted.
It was originally the Museum’s intention to make at least some of the collection available online through the Australian Maritime Museum at a future date. However, the plans for this have not been formalised.
One consideration in providing digital access to the Museum’s collection is the small possibility of some of the holdings being still “classified” by the Navy. The Museum needs to consult with Naval personnel on this issue before any moves online.
As a part of the Greater Hume Council, the Committee will also consult with Council in regard to using their facilities to provide public access to our Museum. The Council already provides storage for the Museum’s images, and the Museum’s Committee is a Management Committee of the Council.
The Holbrook Submarine Museum Facebook page provides the capacity to promote the Museum, the Museum’s shop, events and some of the Museum’s fascinating collection items.
Once the collection management system was set up, the cataloguing and digitisation commenced. However, it became necessary to use the grant money to engage an independent person to drive the work as the project stalled with the use of the volunteers. This provided scope for the Museum display items to be fully accessioned, and a start made on the Archives.
Unfortunately, the project stalled again. The holdings had not been sorted in any way, and the collection of thousands of photos presented a very long and tedious challenge.
Recently, with a new Curator on board, work has recommenced to thoroughly sort the Archives and resume cataloguing. At this stage, it is estimated that the majority of the collection is digitised. The catalogue record is added to Mosaic, and a large image is stored separately so that the Museum will be able to go online in the future. Originally the images were stored in ‘the Cloud’, but the Museum now saves the images to the Shire Council network which they feel is more suitable.
Until recently there was no donation policy in place for the Museum, and as a result the Museum and Archives were over-run with memorabilia and clutter. The items had to be assessed, categorised, and appropriate archival storage ordered before they could be entered into the Mosaic collection management system. An additional issue was finding shelving and storage that suited space and budget requirements.
The biggest challenge identified for the Museum - past, present and on-going - is the time everything takes to undertake planning, sorting, assigning numbers, scanning/photographing, through to entering data onto spreadsheet in readiness to digitise. The lack of volunteers who are willing and technologically able to assist in any meaningful way adds significantly to the time factor, and the existing volunteers face the real likelihood of "burning out”.
One of the best outcomes acknowledged by the Museum to date has been developing an understanding of where the collection has shortfalls. As a direct result, the Museum has been able to target potential sources for items to fill the gaps.
This is a summary of the full case study. Download the PDF below to read more about approach to making its collection digitally accessible.