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Lutheran Archives

Lutheran Archives

Lutheran Archives logo

Summary

Lutheran Archives holds the stories of the congregations, departments and the people of the church. Lutheran Archives gathers and preserves these stories from all over Australia and the Pacific – wherever the church is involved. A wide variety of people access these records: congregations, family historians, academic researchers, creative artists and filmmakers. These records help people to write congregation histories, fill gaps in family trees, understand our cultural diversity, further Aboriginal language research, and restore identity. 

Background

Lutheran Archives is the official archive of the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) and its preceding synods. Unlike many religious archives, it is a national archive. The main role of the organisation is preserving and providing access to the records of the church, its departments, organisations, auxiliary bodies, congregations, and people. Lutheran Archives makes these records available to the LCA, the members of the church and the wider community through onsite access, responding to research requests, talks and presentations, research articles, workshops, tours and exhibitions.

There are three paid staff: a director/archivist plus 2 archivists. All are professionally trained archivists. They are assisted by 15 volunteers who are engaged primarily in indexing, data entry, cataloguing, scanning, records arrangement, filing, transcription and translation. Until recently there were a couple of volunteers working on photo arrangement, storage, identification and description, and a volunteer working on scanning photos and photographing artefacts.

As German was the main language of the Lutheran church in the 19th Century and early 20th Century, a significant portion of the collection is in the German language.

Community Engagement and Partnerships

Lutheran Archives is a department of the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA), and works closely with the other departments of the church, providing records management and archival advice, historical information, articles, and photographs. Its current web presence is via several webpages on the LCA website.

It also provides research and access services to the general public. The main groups of researchers are academic researchers (primarily accessing mission records in relation to Aboriginal languages and communities), historians, family historians, and congregations. Lutheran Archives provides onsite access to records, responses to email and telephone research enquiries, historical information and advice, transcription and translation services, archival advice, public program of talks, tours, workshops, and a newsletter.

Lutheran Archives has a support association, Friends of Lutheran Archives, which runs a public program of talks, provides funding for special projects, and promotes interest in the work of the archives. Lutheran Archives is a founding member of the German-Australian Genealogy and History Alliance which provides a centralised genealogical and history platform and connections to other associations. It also supports the German Heritage Research Group in presenting an annual history seminar during South Australia’s History Festival, and it has a close working relationship with SAGHS German and Continental European Special Interest Group.

Lutheran Archives is actively involved in the local history community, holds several events during the SA History Festival, and has loaned items for exhibitions held by other organisations, such as the Migration Museum and Barr Smith Library. Its opening hours are 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday, and it is closed Wednesday.

Lutheran Archives team - Adam Kauschke, Rachel Kuchel (Director), Janette Lange

Lutheran Archives team - Adam Kauschke, Rachel Kuchel (Director) and Janette Lange

Collection

The extensive collection includes documents – such as correspondence, reports, minutes (over 540 shelf metres), church registers (1000+), periodicals (over 65 shelf metres), artefacts (800+), photographs (24,000+), audio-visual material (including LPs, audio cassettes, CDs, DVDs, films), books (such as bibles, hymnbooks, liturgy books), framed pictures, and born-digital material. Much of the collection dates from the inception of the Lutheran church in Australia in the 1830s, but the book collection dates from the mid-1500s. Over half of the collection is written in German. Much of this collection is catalogued in the collection management database. All the church registers have been indexed in the database. Finding aids have been created for the mission records and congregation records.

About 6% of the physical photographs have been scanned at preservation-level (600 dpi TIFFs) in accordance with set technical specifications and protocols. Several hundred JPEG scans are the result of earlier on-demand scanning; these are usually suitable for access. In the future, JPEG versions will be made of the preservation TIFFs through a batch process.  The majority of the acetate film collection has been digitised to preservation-level. This process was outsourced to DAMsmart. Some parts of some series of documents have been scanned (PDFs), primarily in response to research requests or transcription/translation projects. A range of church registers have been scanned to provide more effective access for researchers (e.g. where the original is fragile, difficult to follow, or consists of many loose pages).

Software

Lutheran Archives has been using a customised version of CAZ software RM GENI as its collection management database since 2008. A staff member of the IT support group has specialist knowledge in this software, which was an advantage. It has served the Archives well during that time. However, it does not provide a full range of archival functions, and at some point, the Archives plan to choose a system more suited to managing an archive. Currently researchers can only search certain sections of the database onsite at Lutheran Archives, not online.

Microsoft SharePoint is the document management system used by the LCA, so Lutheran Archives also uses this for storing and managing active business files and digital versions of documents in the collection. MS Excel is used for finding aids and lists, primarily for staff use. MS Word is used for creating finding aids for researchers.

The Epson Expressions 11000X flat-bed scanner that is used for digitising the photograph collection has two software options: Epson Scan and Silverfast.

Hardware

Photographs are scanned at the Archives using an Epson Expression 11000XL flatbed scanner, and a Kyocera Taskalfa photocopier/scanner is used for flatbed scanning of documents.  Lutheran Archvies is aiming to purchase a Bookeye 4 V1A Professional overhead cradle-bed scanner for bound and fragile items.

Digital Access

Lutheran Archives does not have an online portal or interface through which to make the digitised documents, films or photographs available more broadly to the public. The Archives currently only have webpages as part of the Lutheran Church of Australia website.  At the moment, access is negotiated with individual researchers and includes access onsite, via email, directly to USB, or via cloud storage. The Archives are keen to provide access online to parts of the collection, but have only just begun some initial research in terms of suitable formats for an access interface or portal. Ultimately the Archives want an interface that will be interoperable with their database and display descriptive and provenance information, as well as provide safeguards in relation to copyright, per

Process

In 2012, Lutheran Archives gained a Community Heritage Grant to fund a significance assessment of its collections. This was followed the next year by a grant for a Preservation Needs Assessment (PNA). This process was important, as it provided Lutheran Archives with a priority list of conservation and preservation projects, as well as advice on how to carry out those projects. Moreover, the completion of a PNA made Lutheran Archives eligible to apply for future Community Heritage Grants to carry out those projects.

In 2015, the Archives commenced the systematic digitisation at preservation-level of part of the photograph collection through a project in partnership with Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation, Far West Languages Centre, and University of Adelaide Mobile Language Unit. This provided the Archives with funding to purchase a high-level flatbed scanner, and volunteer support was used for the digitisation process. As a result of this project, copies of the digitised photos relating to Koonibba Mission have been provided to the Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation, Far West Languages Centre, and the Koonibba Community to better enable access for local Aboriginal people. Staff and a volunteer continue to use the scanner to digitise more of the collection to preservation-level.

Lutheran Archives’ collection of 8” and 16” acetate films were digitised in a project running from 2015-2018. The project was kick-started with two grants from HistorySA which funded the digitisation of films with South Australian content. Lutheran Archives also ran a special appeal through the Lutheran Church of Australia, inviting people to donate to ‘save’ a film at $350 per film. Descriptions of the films were listed on the website, and the Archives held a film night to garner more interest. Congregations and organisations depicted in the footage were contacted, and asked for their support. This appeal drew in several donors who had not supported Lutheran Archives in the past.

The digitisation process was outsourced to DAMsmart in Canberra. Footage output was in several formats – MP4, DVC Pro50, and QuickTime Movie. A dedicated preservation drive was created on the Archives’ server to house the footage, and they have had to expand the size of the storage considerably to do so. The digitised film footage has been used at several talks and presentations which has been helpful in gaining further support for other projects.

Lutheran Archives also scans documents or records for both preservation and access purposes in PDF format using the photocopier/scanner. Records are scanned on demand for researchers and provided to them directly on USB, by email or via cloud storage. They also scan specific series of records for preservation.

In 2015, the Archives had a series of 19th Century letterpress copybooks stabilised by Artlab through a Community Heritage Grant. Due to their fragility and bleeding ink, it was realised that they needed to be digitised using an overhead scanner to preserve the original and to provide access to researchers, transcribers and translators. While the Archives could have outsourced the digitisation of this series of records, there are many other bound records that also need to be digitised and it was realised that it was more economical in the long term to purchase an overhead scanner. During the past 18 months, Lutheran Archives has carried out research, liaised with preservation staff, and visited several organisations in Adelaide to view suitable overhead scanners. It has also taken that length of time (and several applications) to successfully negotiate funding for the very expensive piece of equipment.

Challenges

The four greatest challenges have been sourcing funding, building up digitisation knowledge (e.g. protocols, standards, technical know-how), establishing the best hardware and software solutions to meet the Archives’ situation and budget, and finding skilled volunteers to assist with the digitisation projects.

About half of the records in the collection are written in German, many of these in a German cursive that few researchers can now read. Digitisation of these records alone does not increase their access; they also need to be transcribed and translated into English.

Opportunities

Digitising the Archives’ collection has meant that the Lutheran Archives have been able to provide greater access to the collections and to commence the preservation of deteriorating items (i.e. film, photos). In the process the staff have gained greater knowledge about digital preservation and digitisation processes. Liaison and conversations with other archival and conservation organisations have helped to build closer working relationships with them, and have also increased their awareness of what Lutheran Archives is doing in terms digitisation projects.

Staff have been able to promote the collection and Lutheran Archives through the use of digitised material in talks and presentations. Digitised photos and footage have been used by several broadcasters (e.g. SBS News, ABC Compass, Selling Houses Australia). Not only does this raise the Archives’ profile with these broadcasters, it also creates awareness of the collection among researchers and the public who see the programs.  The digitisation of mission photos and footage has meant that the Archives’ have also been able to repatriate copies of material to Aboriginal communities.

Lutheran Archives have found that audiences and researchers respond in a more engaged way to photos and films. Digitisation has meant that they have been able to provide access to these records more easily.

The donors and volunteers who have helped the digitisation projects become a reality have felt like they have made a significant contribution to Lutheran Archives. Their donation or assistance with digitisation has ‘made a difference’. This has helped increase their level of connection to Lutheran Archives and support for our activities.

Ultimately these projects have enabled us to develop a systematic approach to the digital preservation of our collections, and so future generations will have the opportunity to have access to these photographic and film records.

Contact Details

If you would like more information on the work the Lutheran Archives is undertaking, please contact them at lutheran.archives@lca.org.au or telephone (08) 8340 4009.