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City of Armadale, History House Museum

City of Armadale, History House Museum 

Summary

The collections of History House Museum tell the story of the people and events that have shaped the history of the City of Armadale from before the arrival of European settlers in 1830 to today. Established in 1967 by the Armadale-Kelmscott Historical Society, History House Museum is now managed by the City of Armadale.

Background

The City of Armadale (COA) is located in the south eastern metropolitan corridor, 30km from Perth. The region is one of the fastest growing local government areas in Western Australia with a population of over 92,000 in 2017. The museum is part of Libraries and Heritage which sits within Community Services Directorate.

The role of the Heritage team is to collect, interpret and preserve the history of the City of Armadale as defined by its currents and historical local government boundaries. The museum focusses on the movable heritage of the district and the local studies library focuses on archival material, photographs and oral histories.

The Heritage team manages three sites - History House, Bert Tyler Vintage Machinery Museum and the Birtwistle Local Studies Library, as well as overseeing the City’s Plaques for Parks and Heritage Sites Plaques programs. The Heritage team consists of a museum curator, local studies librarian, education officer and a small number of support staff. Added to the staff, the Heritage team is assisted by around 20 volunteers.

The City’s art collection is managed by a different team within Community Services though the collection management responsibilities are currently being done by the museum curator.

Community engagement & partners

History House, Bert Tyler Vintage Machinery Museum and the Birtwistle Local Studies Library (BLSL) are all open to the public and their location and opening times can be found at www.armadale.wa.gov.au.

History House offers a range of activities from permanent and temporary exhibitions relating to aspects of the history of the COA, Western Australian curriculum-based education programs, school holiday activities and a range of public programs that range from talks, musical concerts, craft activities and comedy shows.  The BLSL provides a dedicated space for members of the community to conduct research into either their family history or the history of the local area as well as a program of presentations, often on local history.

The COA Heritage team have worked in partnership with a number of community organisations to promote local history either through the collecting of significant material, developing exhibitions or creating new programs. History House is playing catch up with the local studies library as its catalogue is already a part of the City’s library catalogue and includes digitised copies of the City’s historical photograph collection. There are plans to include within the catalogue digital copies of maps, significant documents and oral histories.

In 2017 History House created its first on-line exhibition which partnered with an exhibition at the museum. Both exhibitions interpreted the museum’s collection of Ben Strange cartoons and their relationship to World War One. The on-line exhibition included images of objects from the collection, interpretation and short films about Ben Strange and his cartoons. There are also plans to create a wiki page about Ben Strange, making the museum’s collection more accessible on-line.

Collection

History House contains primarily a social history collection relating to the people, places and organisations that have either made the COA their home at one time or impacted on its development. The two museums have over 5000 objects in their collections and the local studies library has over 5000 items in its collection.

Over 90% of the objects at the museum have an accompanying digital image and are on the MOSAIC database. The collection at the Bert Tyler Vintage Machinery Museum is in the process of being entered onto the MOSAIC database and being imaged. All items at the local studies library are on the on-line library catalogue which includes links to digitised copies of the historical photograph collection. The local studies library has also digitised its maps and oral history collection though these are not available on-line yet.

The City’s art collection includes 145 pieces and all have an accompanying high and low resolution digital image.

Software

The museum uses the MOSAIC museum collection database. This system meets the vast majority of the needs of the museum when it comes to managing the collection. The local studies library uses the Spydus library management system.

Over the past few years History House has undertaken a program to ensure all of the objects in the City of Armadale’s moveable heritage collection are catalogued on the MOSAIC database. This program also includes the taking of ‘collection management’ digital photographs and ‘publicity’ digital photographs of the collection. The museum is also in the process of digitising all donor forms as well as other collection management documentation in accordance with the COA’s recording keeping policy.

The museum is currently exploring its options relating to making the City’s moveable heritage collection available online. Currently the preferred option is to transfer a copy of the collection onto the City’s library catalogue. One reason for taking this path is that the library catalogue has over 2,500 views a month and it also mean that the City’s museum and local studies collections will be available on the same platform. This integration of the two collections with the library’s own collection means users of the library catalogue researching a topic such as transport or World War Two would find a range of books, photographs, maps and objects available to them.

The City also has an art collection with is catalogued on the MOSAIC database. The collection has recently been professional photographed with the aim to make the collection available online. 

Hardware

At the museum we use a Nikon SLR digital camera with a normal lens and a macro lens for small objects such as medals and coins and an A3 size scanner.

Digital Access

Currently the museum collection is not available online. The local studies library collection is available on the City’s online library catalogue. The City’s art collection is not available online.

Process

Objects are entered onto the MOSAIC database and their digital image is taken and logged by a team including museum staff and volunteers. This is all covered within the museum’s collection management budget, including the purchasing of new equipment. The COA’s library services will also cover within its own budget the transfer of data from MOSAIC to the Spydus library management system.

At the local studies library, a Community Heritage Grant through the National Library of Australia, in addition to City funds, was used undertake the initial digitisation of the historic photograph collection. Now the digitisation of new donations is undertaken by staff and volunteers within the local studies library’s operating budget.

The City also funded the digitisation of the art collection and the digitisation of future works is now built into the art collection budget.

Challenges

One of the key challenges in digitising the collection has been ensuring there is a consistency to how the data is created, recorded and stored. With a number of individuals involved in the process there has been the need to develop clear guidelines on what needs to be recorded, how it is filed and how it is stored.

The other challenge is exploring ways to ensure that people can easily discover and access the collection online. The library catalogue path, we believe, is one of the best ways for the local community to discover and access the collection as they are already familiar with searching for information at their local library. Through the library catalogue, if a student is looking for information on World War One they will see a list of books in the library, images and diaries at the BLSL and associated objects at the museum. Through MOSAIC updates, we will also be able to link selected objects to TROVE making the collection available to a wider audience.

Opportunities

Digitising the collection provides a number of opportunities both internally and externally. Opportunities include:

  • Taking numerous digital images of an object and linking them to the object record reduces the need to physically interact with the object and subject it to potential damage.
  • The collection becomes more accessible to people who cannot physically visit the museum.
  • The collection becomes more accessible to people with disabilities who may not be able to interact with a traditional display i.e. 3D printed model of an object or a thermally printed photograph (thermal printing creates raised lines on paper).
  • The collection can be manipulated and played with by the public in a way that allows them to take a sense of ownership of the collection.
  • We can have fun with the collection via social media.
  • We can promote the collection easier by producing postcards, posters online exhibitions or education programs.

 

Contact Details

If you would like more information on the work that the History House is doing, please contact the Christen Bell on (08) 93945670, or via email.