Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) ‘Designing the Archive’ International Conference 2019


Dr Ann Hardy’s audience for her presentation on user survey of the GLAMx Lab UON

On 21-25 October 2019, the ‘Designing the Archive’ Conference was held in Adelaide, South Australia. It was joint international conference bringing together archivists, librarians, records specialists and GLAM professionals from across the Asia-Pacific and around the globe, representing 176 countries under the auspices of the International Council on Archives (ICA) Australian Society of Archivists (ASA), Archives and Records Association of New Zealand Te Huinga Mahara (ARANZ), and the Pacific Regional Branch International Council on Archives (PARBICA).

The Aus-Archivists-TV YouTube playlist of video recordings containing over 18 hours of conference presentations is available here:

To access the Twitter diary of tweets (#DTAAdelaide2019):

Delegates from the University of Newcastle who attended the conference included Gionni di Gravio (University Archivist, GLAM & UNISIG Convenor ASA), Dr Ann Hardy (Co-ordinator GLAMx Lab) and Zane Metcalfe (Archives Officer). It was a great honour that both Ann and Zane were invited to deliver papers on the work of the University Library’s Cultural Collections and GLAMx Lab. We are also very proud that Zane was one of three recipients of the ASA’s Shaman Award conference bursary. We thank the Australian Society of Archivists in helping our young professionals attend and present before such international audiences among their peers.

President of the Australian Society of Archivists, Julia Mant with Zane Metcalfe, Archives Officer at the UON.


Dr Ann Hardy at the Designing the Archive Conference, Adelaide 2019


Gionni Di Gravio, Chair, with Nyree Morrison, University Archives SIG, Australian Society of Archivists, October 2019. (Photo courtesy of International Council on Archives – Section on University and Research Institution Archives.)




@gionnidg Opening Tweet

The theme of the conference was ‘Designing the Archives’ and included International delegates who spoke a wide range of themes. Many of the keynote speakers were from other countries, some speaking about their very personal journey’s that led them to the ‘archives’, whilst others discussed ‘big picture’ ideas associated with new innovation and digital technologies, such as Professor Marek Kowalkiewicz (Chair, Digital Economy, QU Technology’s research) who described the distinct difference between ‘digitisation’ and ‘digitalisation’ something that we have often grappled with.

@gionnidg Oppression Tweet

“On awakening from the theme of ‘oppression’ haunts me across what was an exciting spectacular. Oppression by word, language, gender, race, religion, politic, algorithm, code of conduct, user centred design, smile, wealth [insert ideology here] etc etc. Dissent.”

From Session 6.3 – Reconciliation and Decolonization of National Archives
Presenters: Normand Charbonneau, Richard Foy, David Fricker, Inga Marja Steinfjell (23/10/2019)


Gionni’s question to the National Archivists. How can you decolonise the archive when your own definition of what an archive is, is euro centric and does not recognise the knowledge structures and formats of first peoples as an evidential archive?


From Session 6.3 – Reconciliation and Decolonization of National Archives
Presenters: Normand Charbonneau, Richard Foy, David Fricker, Inga Marja Steinfjell (23/10/2019)


From Session 6.3 – Reconciliation and Decolonization of National Archives
Presenters: Normand Charbonneau, Richard Foy, David Fricker, Inga Marja Steinfjell (23/10/2019)

For those interested in Aboriginal, First Nations peoples check out the Opening Ceremony and Welcome to Country by Kaurna Elder, Michael O’Brien, 22 October 2019,; Loris Williams Memorial Lecture: and Keynote Address by Camille Callison,

For those interested in themes of access to information, decolonising the archives, feminism, human rights, patriarchy see Michelle Caswell’s Keynote Address; Diversity of Contexts session 1.4

For care Leavers, see Professor Elizabeth Shepherd’s Keynote Address:

For next big things, see Our Digital Future by Professor Marek Kowalkiewicz, Keynote Address:

For people doing big things on shoestring budgets see:

The FULL Conference programme, with links to abstracts, presentation slides and videos is here:

ASA ‘Designing the Archives’ Conference, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, South Australia. Zane Metcalfe (UON) presenting.


Session 2.4 ‘Digitisation Strategies’ (Dr Ann Hardy)



Presenters at this session included Inga Bolstad, Director of National Archives Norway, Ann Hardy. University of Newcastle, and Detlev Lueth, Assoc. Director Preservation & Digitisation at National Archives of Australia. Session Chaired by Somaya Langley, Digital Preservation Specialist, University of Cambridge, 23 October 2019.

ASA ‘Designing the Archive’ Conference. (L to R) Inga Bolstad, Director of National Archives Norway, Ann Hardy, UON and Detlev Lueth, National Archives of Australia. Chair Somaya Langley. Adelaide, October 2019.

Ann Hardy presented at this session.

This paper reviews survey responses from Work Integrated Learning (WIL) students and volunteers at the GLAMx Living Histories Digitisation Lab at the University of Newcastle, Australia. The GLAMx Lab was established in 2017 as a pilot to support students in WIL programs across a range of schools and disciplines.

In 2017 the GLAMx Lab was established for students in the UON’s WIL programmes, this was a new venture for the Library to promote and augment the established WIL course in the BA.
However, since the Lab’s establishment WIL opportunities for students in other faculties have also been realised with students from communication and business school participating in placements.

GLAMx Living Histories Digitisation Lab
The lab provides a unique opportunity for students to engage in practical education and learn the technical knowhow to be able to transform any physical format into a digital object, and access to the entire gamut of GLAM professions across many areas. In total 35 WIL students have participated in the Lab.


Two major projects at the Lab brought specialised types of digitisation and opportunities for students, as featured in the video:-
Deep Time Project requiring 3-D scanning technology, aboriginal stone tools
NBN Television archive the audio-visual digitisation.

About the Lab

  • Operates all year round during weekdays (except official shut down period).
    Users are supervised and have access to staff in UONCC.
  • 3 rooms. main lab has 10 work stations each having computers and flatbed scanners, a Virtual Reality (VR) and Oculus Rift set up where VR and 3-D projects can be viewed on a large screen.
  • The Artefact Conservation Atelier is a smaller Lab containing a 3-D scanner, reflective 3-D scanning lightbox and turntable, and laptop computer with Artec Studio software. This is where Aboriginal artefacts for virtual reality (VR) simulation is a done (Deep Time Project).
  • Lastly there is the audio-visual digitization Lab housing the NBN Television archive, also has specialised digitisation equipment providing for the various (at risk) film formats.

What is needed to co-ordinate WIL Program

Supervision – In setting up the program it was important that students were accommodated in a safe work environment.

  • This is to ensure that the students are properly cared for, and that the WIL programs are regulated to provide the skills, education and experience in a safe and inclusive workplace environment, and not subject to exploitation.
  • WIL facility and training environments need to be fully compliant with the relevant legislation and regulatory standards in Australia that govern the University’s academic courses through which WIL students are placed. (TEQSA, 2011) Tertiary, Educ, Quality and Standard Agency.
  • WIL students are given an induction to the Library, introduced to work colleagues and invited to meetings and interact with community members and academics.
  • The Lab co-ordinator ensures computers and other technical devices are working and administrative needs of the student are met.Why are WIL opportunities important ?


A Census Report (2016) following young people’s journey over a decade found that barriers to finding full time work included,

  • not enough work experience
  • lack of career management skills and not enough jobs.
  • A major issue for students entering the workforce after finishing university is their lack of practical skills.

We have attempted to provide work experience and career development for our WIL students specifically interested in gaining valuable practical and professional skills in GLAM sector, that we acknowledge continues to emerge, and that there are changing and developing roles. Many universities, including the UON are currently revising their courses to align with ‘employability’ , building ‘resilience’ and introducing WIL across all faculties – ‘WIL for all.

WIL students are invited to share their work with meetings of the Hunter Living Histories group – held monthly, and publish projects on the group’s website.
Survey since 2017 there have been 36 WIL students (80 hr placements)

The following slides show some results of the survey conducted with UON WIL students who undertook placements in the Lab.


In concluding, the key findings of the survey has shown that the majority of users found that their experience as WIL students was positive.

Many of the WIL students continue to volunteer in some capacity after their placements. Students appear to stand taller, see subtle changes in how they conduct themselves.

The location of the Lab in the library seems to be ideal, it is conducive to having students from many faculties come in and work collaboratively – on cultural projects – Survey comments showed students valued collaboration – spoke about teamwork.

A real strength is the inclusion of students from particular fields and how they are matched with specific collections and projects – value of multi-disciplinary interactions
The Students are also our best advocates, often going back to their faculties and sharing with colleagues and educators the work they are doing in the Lab – podcast.
Several former WIL students have been employed through the VDRHF working on digitisation projects – most recent was The Store oral history project – industry partners

Finally, I’d encourage other institutions to consider what they have in their holdings relating to their region, where students and the wider community can engage in digitisation projects – and also integrating WIL programs.

I think by tapping into the rich archives and collections that are unique to a region can deliver meaningful projects and offer valuable experiences to students that they will be able to take with them in their careers. (Academic article –  In Press)

Dr Ann Hardy
GLAMx Lab, University of Newcastle (Australia)

Dr Ann Hardy’s audience for her presentation on user survey of the GLAMx Lab UON


ASA ‘Designing the Archive’ Conference. (L to R) Inga Bolstad, Director of National Archives Norway, Ann Hardy, UON and Detlev Lueth, National Archives of Australia. Adelaide, October 2019.


ASA ‘Designing the Archive’ Conference. (L to R) Ann Hardy, UON and Detlev Lueth, National Archives of Australia. Chair Somaya Langley. Adelaide, October 2019.


Session LT 1 – Lightning Talks (Zane Metcalfe)

Zane Melcalfe presented at this session, his paper titled “Front Desks and Reading Rooms: How Inviting Public Spaces Encourage Archival Use, Discovery and Visibility”. Co-presenters included Catherine Elliot (National Archives of the United Kingdom), Elizabeth Nichol (University of Auckland, NZ), Yujue Wang (Wuhan University, China) co-authored with Shi-Yujue Wang.

ABSTRACT – This talk discussed an often forgotten place in public archives – the spaces in which archivists interact with the public. Compared to libraries, archival public-facing spaces are often obscured and underutilised. This contributes to the image of the archive as unknowable and intimidating. This talk discusses why sterile public-facing spaces both obscure archival services and disincentivise their use from the the general public and how adopting aspects of library design-philosophy can encourage public engagement.

Zane Metcalfe at the Designing the Archive Conference, Adelaide 2019

Zanes reflection  – International Conference of Archivists 2019 – Solidarity Forever

The 2019 International Conference of Archivists was a fantastic opportunity for professional development, speeches and networking. Much has already been written on the conference’s fantastic speakers and presenters so I will be brief in my recap of them.The experience was incredibly valuable and I am grateful to the Australian Society of Archivists for allowing me to take this opportunity.

What I wish to focus on in-depth were the professional development opportunities and many conversations I had with our fellow archivists. I had the good fortune of meeting a great many wonderful people and skilled professionals and spoke at length with most of them. In all our conversations, we addressed and readdressed opportunities and challenges of modern archival work. Despite coming from a variety of locations and backgrounds, many of us had the same story.

I had known for a great many years (even prior to entering this profession) that archivists are poorly funded, underappreciated (if not invisible), direly overworked and under-resourced. But, my discussions with others in the industry showed me the extent and scale of these challenges.

I spoke to representatives ranging from the most wealthy and powerful banks in the nation, to prestigious sandstone universities, to the tiny local historical societies and national institutions. Despite this variation, we all had the same story. Each and every single person I spoke to had horror stories of invisibility and under-resourcing. To highlight the lack of exposure we get even in the information sector (let alone the general public), one person related to me an anecdote about an anonymous librarian being convinced that GLAM stood for Galleries, Libraries And Museums.
In the broader spheres of life, very few people respond knowingly when they ask about my job and I reply that I’m an archivist. I’ve taken to telling people a shorthand of “I’m like a librarian for dead people,” which is deeply imperfect, but much more comprehensible to someone on the street. The public at large does not understand our mission, and I strongly feel that the key to funding and resources is being in the public eye and letting people know about our mission. If they know, they will care. If we are visible, our communities will support. This was most clearly illustrated by Timoci Balenaivalu from the National Archives of Fiji – his talk was about a distrust of government institutions. By going out into the field and showing the community the value of archives they were able to dispel mistrust and build support.

As archivists, there is a deep solidarity amongst us. It is not a poetic exaggeration to say that we are the last line of defence between history and obscurity, fact and myth. We share the bond of this important work, as we share our current hardships. I can say with utmost certainty that none of us are in this profession for the money.
Seeing this solidarity in purpose, solidarity in woeful material need, was for me the single most valuable experience the International Conference of Archivists offered. I return to my work with a great number of questions. Why are we so universally overlooked? Why are people only interested in preserving the past when it is too late? It’s a question that keeps me up at night. At a time of great disruption in how we live and work, a seismic shift in information creation and transfer dwarfing the effect of the invention of the printing press; our work is more important than ever. The endless format-treadmill of digital technology and the depreciation of analogue techniques are proving to be a difficult challenge in preserving our collective heritage. Yet despite this pressing need we – universally – fight for funding, for space, for recognition. Many talks were about the reinvention of material space. Mine was alongside Peter Lester from the University of Leicester and Odile Welfelé from the French National Archives. Perhaps our spaces are our first steps in finding our recognition.

The 2019 International Conference of Archivists was a wonderful opportunity. I met so many dedicated and passionate people who I have every confidence will prosecute their duties to preserve the past with the utmost zeal. But I cannot help but worry. Zeal will not clear space for more records.By collectively advocating our mission to everyone who will listen, and to those who need to listen we can improve our collective lot and carry out our task – preserving our past for the good of our future.

In solidarity,
Zane Metcalfe
Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle (Australia)

Zane Metcalfe’s presentation on Archives Reading Rooms

Further information about the Australian Society of Archivists is HERE

The Aus-Archivists-TV YouTube playlist of video recordings containing over 18 hours of conference presentations is available here:

Notable Tweets
(from @gionnidg)

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