Australian Society of Archivists Conference 2023
We are delighted to announce that the Australian Society of Archivists National Conference 2023 accepted our Conference abstract. It’s called The Immortal Archive, Vita Brevis Ars Longa or how to build resilient memory palaces . The Australian Society of Archivists conferences attract delegates from metropolitan, regional and remote Australia, the Asia-Pacific and International. It is a great honour to address our colleagues working across GLAM in institutions large and small.
Rising to our Challenges – Archives at the ‘G’
This year’s theme is Rising to Our Challenges, i.e. how we:
- value archival organisations;
- respect our professional knowledge and skills; and
- adequately resource and support recordkeeping functions.
Our paper explores these matters from a regional institution’s perspective.
The University of Newcastle’s Archives held in Special Collections Auchmuty Library holds the Hannan Photographic Archive. It spans an almost unbroken photographic record of the Hunter Region, Australia from 1953 to 2011. It consists of over a million negatives documenting all spheres of human activities from family, business, industry, and public events.
We have also been active in safeguarding the audio visual history of Newcastle and the Hunter Region dating back to at least 1915, as well as assisting with the digitisation of the NBN Television Archive dating from 1962, and spanning over a million feet of film and magnetic tape.
The work involved in processing both these archives will take generations to accomplish, hence the need to discuss the measures that need to be in place to meet the challenges, threats and opportunities in the creation of an immortal archive for future generations.
The Immortal Archive
The Immortal Archive, Vita Brevis Ars Longa or how to build resilient memory palaces
Many donors bestow their cultural treasures to our safekeeping, believing that they will be safeguarded in perpetuity. But how can we guarantee that our memory institutions will survive into the future?
Besides the ongoing threats of funding, resourcing, environmental disasters, political instability & upheaval, cultural institutions in recent years have also had withstand sustained economic, political and religious ideological attack as well as rise of managerialism, incompetence and digital dystopia. Funding threats to such an established public treasure as TROVE has brought home that it may all disappear.
With specific reference to the experience of a regional archival institution, we look into what we need to do to ensure two of its most at risk and formidable archives; the NBN Television and Hunter Valley Film Archive and the Hannan Photographic Archive consisting of hundreds of thousands of hours of film and magnetic tape footage and over a million+ images and respectively, has a succession plan for a sustainable future, akin to the building of a pyramid or a cathedral.
How can we create a sense of immortality in our cultural memory institutions? Immune and able to withstand the vagrancies of the philistines who to paraphrase Marie Coleman AO “are no longer at the gate, but are now inside and wrecking the place. “ (ABC The Drum July 6, 2021)
Gionni Di Gravio OAM, is our University Archivist. Gionni’s work is focused on preserving our region’s rich cultural heritage and making the archival research treasure of the University accessible to local and global audiences. Gionni is a strong advocate for supporting Aboriginal history. In 2020 he received an OAM in recognition for his dedication and many years of work towards preserving our local history as an archivist.
Dr Ann Hardy, is Co-ordinator at the University of Newcastle’s GLAMˣ Living Histories Digitisation Lab. She supervises Work Integrated Learning (WIL) students on placement in the GLAMˣ Lab (Galleries, Libraries, Archives & Museums) and collaborates on cultural heritage projects with students, colleagues, and the wider community. Projects often have a multidisciplinary focus that aims to preserve and unlock the region’s rich history.
Dr Amir Moghadam is a conservator at the Special Collections, University of Newcastle. Amir’s work is focused on investigating historical narrations and the care and promotion of the region’s visual memory. He is interested in and has worked on exploring the use and possibilities digital technology provides for the research and documentation of historical material.