The Channel Museum is staffed by local volunteers, who have worked extensively to catalogue and digitise the broad museum and library collection. Though the collection is not yet publicly available online, digital access is one of the Museum’s longer term aims.
The aims of the Channel Museum are to preserve the documents and artefacts that relate to the history of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, and to promote an interest in the culture and history of the industry and lifestyle of the people who built this area to locals and tourists alike. ‘The Channel’ in this context refers to the area from Tinderbox to Margate to Gordon.
The Channel Museum is owned by the Kingborough community, and managed by the Channel Historical and Folk Museum Association (CHAFMA). It is staffed by local volunteers, who are mainly retired people from the area. There are several types of volunteers – the meeters and greeters, those who work in the library, and others who specialise in some of the equipment and artefacts in the Museum (for instance the extensive camera collection).
CHAFMA was established in 1975 by Jim (John Basil) Waldie, with a group of local interested people. The first museum was opened on 24th February 1979, housed at the Waldie’s property in Lower Snug. Jim was a merchant seaman who was influenced by the American idea of a ‘folk museum’. When he was 80 (in 1978), Jim transferred the deeds of his property in Lower Snug to CHAFMA, which was now an accredited museum with the Museums Association of Australia (now Museums Australia).
In 2006 a special meeting of members explored moving the museum to a new site in Margate. In 2009 CHAFMA received a State Government grant, and work commenced in 2010. In 2011 the Snug property was sold, the museum packed up and moved to Margate; in 2012 the museum displays were set up, with CHAFMA’s Channel Heritage Centre officially opening in June that year. In 2017 CHAFMA changed the name of the museum to the Channel Museum.
The Channel Museum is governed by the CHAFMA Committee, and has about 30 volunteers.
Community Engagement and Participation
The Channel Museum is open every day from 10 am to 4 pm (except for some public holidays). There is no charge for viewing the Museum (though an entry fee has been under discussion).
The Museum liaises with local schools and there are often groups of school children, mainly primary school children, who come to the Museum to have a look at local artefacts. The Museum has a program for them, and the Museum receives $2.00 for each child who undertakes this program.
The Museum also regularly holds special exhibitions for various local artists, artists’ groups (e.g. quilters), or on special subjects (e.g. remembering the 1967 bushfires at Snug).
The bulk of the Library’s published resources have been simply catalogued into an Access database, which is separate from the database used for the bulk of the Museum’s accessions. Other print resources have been catalogued as well, with the hope that web access to this database can be realised. At the moment only a print catalogue is available. There are about 1500 books.
The bulk of the historical photographs are on an Apple Mac machine on iPhoto. There are about 6,500 digitised photographs on this machine, along with about 240 folders of family history photographs. The Museum is gradually photographing objects in the collection – about 2300 out of approximately 6000 have been photographed and added to the database so far.
Most of the Museum folders in the Access database have been compiled by volunteer members of CHAFMA. The folders include family histories, place histories and information on Channel industries. Many of these folders have been scanned for security purposes, and in the future to make accessible through the web, though there is some resistance to making some resources accessible.
Some oral history has been done, but the audio files are scattered on the file system of our Windows PCs. They are being collected into one folder on the file server. The Museum also has less than 100 video files which are held on a Windows 10 machine.
The Museum uses Microsoft Access 2010 to index museum resources; there is a retrieval system to access these records also using Access. The retrieval system is based on four main categories of records.
Museum folders - contain photographs, newspaper clippings, documents and written histories of places, families, industries, sports, schools, churches, clubs etc. They have been extensively indexed so that researchers can search for them by any word, piece of text or, specifically, by a name or location. There are currently nearly 20,000 records in this collection.
Books - includes the books in the library, and also the DVD collection, maps and the folders mentioned above.
Acquisitions - includes the historical objects on display in the museum or in storage. The database can be searched by the acquisition number to find out more about the object. Searches can also be done for text, e.g. object name or description, donor’s name, provenance. Most acquisitions have now been photographed and the images are gradually being added to the database so that they can be displayed in search results.
Photos – includes scanned and digital photographs. There are over 5,000 images, which have been indexed on the database.
There are 5 Windows PCs, mainly using Windows 7, with one Windows 10 machine. These PCs are networked and able to access a shared drive. There is one Mac machine which has access to the internet but is not networked with the other machines.
Digital capture equipment includes a still camera, movie camera, digital voice recorder and three multifunctional printers used for scanning. One of the printers can scan up to A3 sized documents.
The Museum has information across two websites: the Channel Heritage and Folk Museum website, which covers the historical society, the library, the café and the gift shop; and the Channel Museum website, which is a newer website that includes a greater focus on the Museum. The Museum would like to be able to organise their digital resources and make them accessible through the internet.
The Channel Museum does not have a discovery layer for its systems, to allow outside access to the collections which have been digitised. It is recognised that the collections may not be ideally organised for digital access either.
There are some access issues that need consideration prior to the provision of digital access:
- There may be some privacy issues with the family history information and resources.
- There is a need for a better understanding of copyright implications, particularly relating to the indexing of articles in the local Kingborough newspaper.
- The technology is not currently available to the Museum to digitise some formats, including 8mm and 16mm film.
Digitising the collection had permitted the Museum to be able to share content online with interested users, though it is currently on an individual basis via email.
If you would like more information on the work Channel Museum is undertaking, please contact Dorothy Burford, the Museum’s secretary.