Wireless Institute of Australia
Wireless Institute of Australia
The Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) is a national organisation that represents all Amateur Radio Operators in Australia to the various government bodies in Australia. The WIA has been working to digitise its collection to enable better access in the longer term.
The origins of the WIA date back to 1910, when a meeting of like-minded radio experimenters met to form the very first body to represent interests of wireless experimenters to government. Other state based organisations followed suit and a federation with each of the state organisations was later established.
Over the early 2000s significant reform occurred to the Radiocommunications Act and to amateur radio licensing worldwide. In 2004 a new single, national organisation ‘The National Wireless Institute of Australia’ was formed to meet the ongoing emerging challenges. The Wireless Institute of Australia is today a member of the International Amateur Radio Union and represents all Amateur Radio Operators in Australia to the various government bodies in this country.
The WIA has a Board of Directors and then a series of committees, who undertake the work of the organisation. The Historical and Archives Committee comprises 10 people. This committee includes a historian who has gathered most of the material, an IT expert, another historian who has done some data entry, and two people who have done scanning and indexing of Amateur Radio.
The WIA archive has no formal open hours, and most enquiries are managed via the Internet.
The WIA has a small room of books, minutes of meetings, photographs and newspaper clippings. The WIA also holds a set of Amateur Radio, the journal of the WIA, which covers approximately 100 years, and about 80 annual call books, which list the call signs of people who hold an amateur radio licence. The WIA has a collection policy which defines what the Institute collects.
Most issues of Amateur Radio have been scanned and most of the call books. The aim is to have these searchable, and some of them have been scanned using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software which enables this.
There is a small collection of photographs, about 100 older prints, that have been scanned and around 1,000 newspaper clippings, of which roughly 20% have been scanned.
The collection also includes 50 audio CDs, many of which are oral histories. A large number of the recordings remain to be digitised. About 200 items are from the South Australian Division, ranging from early minute books to advertising posters and photographs. Around 10% of these items have been scanned. WIA also holds about 20 years of the South Australia Wireless Institute Journal, and about 200 books. The WIA does not intended to digitise the books.
The WIA has been using Excel up to now. The Institute recently purchased Inmagic, through a private donation, to provide enhanced searching of the material, and in the future to provide remote access. The book collection has many entries in the Inmagic database as part of the first trial of using the software.
The historian has scanned many items and two volunteers have scanned journals. There is a group of four volunteers who are trying to get the scanned items on to Inmagic.
The scanned items are held by the historian and a copy is held on a hard disk drive at the Archive. Some material is also backed up using multiple CDs to ensure data is not lost.
The WIA is conscious of being a national organisation, but currently the material is held in Melbourne and is only accessible there. The Institute wants to make their content available nationwide.
In the first instance, the WIA want to provide digital access to the Historical and Archive Committee but it is their intention to make the scanned resources available to members of the WIA with some access to the general public via the WIA website’s history pages.
There is currently some minor access to a number of history pages available on line, which include brief stories about early experimenters, clips of audio files, early photographs and general historical information about amateur radio in Australia and the WIA.
The main challenges for the WIA is that most of the work is undertaken by four volunteers, who are not based in the same state. Furthermore, as the volunteers are of an older age, as retirees, their time working on the WIA collection can be diminished by conflicting priorities.
The WIA wants to develop a standard for scanning items. This is a task that can be distributed and easily managed if everyone does it to the same standard.
The WIA has produced three CDs and two books, using material from the collection. Two of the CDs are of a narrative nature using historical audio clips, the first produced as a cassette tape for our 75th Anniversary and the other for our 100th Anniversary. The third CD is a data disc containing scanned copies of Amateur Radio magazine, 1933 to 1939.
‘WIA Book Volume 1’, produced by a previous historian just prior to our 75 Anniversary in 1985, and ‘Wireless Men and Women at War’, have used the historical collection. Other smaller publications have also been helped over the years by content in the collection. Most of these items are normally sold to members and others.
The WIA has been contacted by a number of historians, writers, and film producers seeking information mainly as a result of our history pages on the WIA website.
If you would like more information on the work that the Wireless Institute Australia is doing, please contact Linda Luther.