One of my highlights for 2017 was my involvement in an Agile project to create software for the bulk ingestion of digital collections into a digital preservation system. This was my first time coming across Scrum and Agile, as well as being involved in software development. While I had not previously had direct involvement in the big project management framework used by my organisation, the amount of effort required in planning, as well as its rigid structure and inability to deal with rapid changes in requirements, was understood. One of the first things I realised with the Agile approach was the ability for the project and the developers to adapt quickly to changing requirements while still delivering a minimum viable product (MVP). As the project progressed, we understood what was achievable and adjusted the MVP accordingly with the knowledge that it is not the completion of the project.

From a future user and subject matter expert point of view it was really engaging to see my input affect the development of the software, from the user interface to how the system deals with digital files. It was satisfying working collaboratively as a team, with regular meetings for sprint planning and review as well as regular stand-up meetings to keep the conversation going. 

Since I am not a fan of sports ball, Scrum terminology is lost on me. But the methodology is not. It is a lightweight process for managing and controlling software development in rapidly changing environments and is an intentionally iterative, team-based approach (Cervone 2011). It is relatively simple with clearly defined roles for each team member. It also provides the ability to quickly develop and test features before moving on to the next task and once again it was great to see my feedback from testing applied directly and quickly to the product. 

I look forward to continuing work on this collaborative project in 2018. It will be exciting to see its impact on workflows going forward, with the aim for more automated and less human intervention for the preparation and ingestion of files into the digital preservation system.

This post is my contribution to the GLAM Blog Club December theme: 'Collaboration'.

Further reading and references:

Cover image credit: British Rugby Union football players in a scrum, New South Wales, ca. 1930 [picture]. National Library of Australia.

GLAM Blog Club provides a great opportunity to interact with the professional community while also presenting a topic and deadline to keep me active with my blog posts each month. It also provides a challenge in regards to the balance between professional and personal with topics such as "how I ended up here" and "identity". I made the decision early on that my blog would focus on the professional side of things, but some of the topics this year have really pushed that boundary and I have had to make a conscious decision on the amount of details I provide in my blog posts when verging on the personal.

It is really important to understand who your audience is when writing a blog post. That audience is essentially anyone with an internet connection. You never know who may come across your blog and that includes work colleagues, your boss, family and recruiters. I was really struck by Edward Shaddow's July blog post discussing identity and the use of real names on the internet. My earlier years on the internet involved the use of a pseudonym and I am now thankful for that. My angst-filled Livejournal posts are not linked to my name (I am glad Facebook did not exists when I was a teen). The internet does not make a distinction between personal and professional, so it is important to understand what you are putting out into the world and the implications it may have on your professional life when someone searches the internet for information about you.

To keep the balance in favour of professional, I try and relate my posts to my work as much as possible. Any excuse to write about digital preservation. And the great thing about GLAM Blog Club is that there is no problem with that. While some of my posts have verged into the personal realm, discussing my career or my identity in the information management profession, they were written with all of the above in mind.

This post is my contribution to the GLAM Blog Club November theme: 'Balance'.

I have been to several career development events for young professionals over the last year or so and have been surprised that most keynote speakers have said that they didn't necessarily plan to be where they are, or they fell into a role and went on to success. There were a lot of comments on how one job led to another and how climbing that ladder of success was not a direct route. While I agree with these sentiments, I am yet to hear someone say that they are exactly where they planned to be.

I am fortunate to not only know what I want to do for a career but also be working in a role that is in line with my career aspirations and keeps me passionate and interested. Having said that, this has not always been the case. While I am exactly where I planned to be, it was not a direct route and I didn't always know exactly what I wanted to do. 

I finished high school with no idea. The only thing I did know was that I did not want to go to university (and incur the debt) unless I knew 100% that I would not only finish the degree, but be interested and passionate about it. I was lucky to apply for and make it into the traineeship program at my local council when I finished school, and was excited to be placed in the library. This sparked my interest in libraries as a place of work and was a great introduction to the workplace in general.

Halfway through my traineeship I started to become interested in photography. This interest guided my decision several years later for further study, which culminated in graduating with distinction from RMIT University with a Bachelor of Arts in commercial photography. I have previously mentioned that I finished with the skills to take a professional photograph but no idea how to make a living out of it, with the lesson learned that one should be working in the industry while studying because ultimately experience is more important. Another point worth mentioning here is that freelance work takes a certain kind of person - and that is not me. I thrive in a structured work environment and those types of photography roles (ie working for a studio) are few and far between.

Like a lot of people, once I finished my undergraduate degree I ended up in a dead end job where I felt under-appreciated and wondered whether all that sweat and tears for a Bachelor of Arts was worth it. After my traineeship, I always had it in the back of my mind that I would return to libraries so I decided it was time to go back to university for postgraduate studies.

I was lucky to begin my Graduate Diploma in Information Management at the same time that I started working in digitisation. Learning from my undergraduate degree, I decided to engage with employment full time and undertake my studies part time. While this dragged out the course to double the amount of time it would have taken to complete full time, this allowed me to work in the industry and target  my studies towards areas I knew would be useful for career progression. I was also excited to be working in a role that utilised my undergraduate degree and that these skills were also useful for my studies.

This is the point where my career planning began. That was only possible because I worked for an organisation that valued professional development. The move from contractor to ongoing staff member was instrumental, with the ability to document my performance and career goals within the organisation and have a structured conversation with my boss. This is also where I learned to be vocal about my career goals. As Adele Walsh said at NLS8 this year when discussing how to shine a light on what you do, "if you don't ask they don't know".

So how did I end up here? I planned, I studied, I asked and I accepted when things did not go my way. I determined what my career aspirations were and asked to be involved in anything even remotely related. I asked to act in other roles when the opportunity arose. Of course you need to be thoughtful and realistic in what you ask for and accept when you are not successful or someone says no, but no one can read your mind and understand your career goals unless you talk about them.

With the guidance of a supportive workplace and support from a loving partner (who helped me get through two degrees!), the last six months has been a big shift in career direction for me. I have gone from working on exciting digitisation projects such as the reconstruction of the Holtermann glass plate negative, to a specialist role in digital preservation with a focus on born-digital collecting and the implementation and management of associated systems, policies and guidelines.

 What comes next? Watch this space...

This post is my contribution to the GLAM Blog Club October theme: 'How I ended Up Here'.

Cover image: my paternal grandfather, part of my family negative collection I have been progressively digitising

Fixity in digital assets is important for long term digital preservation. You need to be able to trust that any digital object has remained unchanged and can be accessed in the future. I previously discussed  how to ensure trust in digitisation techniques using a camera as part of GLAM Blog Club and alluded to a follow up post relating to trust in digital preservation - the September theme of "Safe" provides the perfect opportunity.

Knowing that a digital file remains exactly the same as it was when received is a bedrock principle of digital preservation (Bailey 2014). It is also important to know that the file is the same as when it was sent. This is where checksums come into play. Often referred to as a 'digital fingerprint', a checksum is generated using a cryptographic algorithm (such as MD5 as seen in the image below). There are many open source programs available that can do this for you, but you need to understand what they are and how you are going to use them before you begin.

Checksums are a fixed length string with hexadecimal characters 0-9 and A-F. The length of the string is determined by the algorithm and the longer the string, the longer it can take to generate. Theoretically, a checksum is unique to each individual bit stream of a file. Any change in the file, whether it is a single pixel in an image or character in a text document, and the checksum will change. Because a checksum is generated from the content of the file, changes to file name or metadata such as timestamps will not result in a different hash.

Example manifest from a bag conforming to the BagIt standard, utilising the MD5 checksum algorithm.

While on the topic of safety, it is important to note the difference between using checksums for fixity and using checksums for security. While weaker algorithms such as MD5 and SHA1 are suitable for fixity, they have known vulnerabilities and are not suitable for anything that requires secure transfer or use in a legal setting. The vulnerabilities allow those with malicious intent to create collisions (where two files have the same checksum) or make changes to a file while retaining the original checksum. While the risk of collisions occurring naturally are quite low (theoretically, 21 quintillion files needed for a collision with MD5), this risk can be mitigated by the use of multiple checksums in a digital repository.

A lot of the work I have been doing over the past six months has revolved around checksums and their use for both born-digital and digitised workflows. On the back of research into the BagIt standard towards the end of 2016, I have been involved in implementing its use for born-digital acquisitions as well as outsourced digitisation projects at the Library. The standard allows us to validate checksums of each "bag" every time it is moved or copied. These means we can safely transfer the contents from physical media (external hard drive, usb etc) to our internal network storage, move it from one network location to another, and ingest digital assets into our digital repository with the ability to validate the original checksum at every step.

Checksums are not the only way to ensure fixity. The BagIt standard also includes a payload-oxum which provides a record of the bag size and file count - this is useful as a quick, first check before beginning the process heavy checksum validation and is advantageous when dealing with larger digital assets such as audio or video.

Cover image: courtesy of

References and further reading:

File names. They are important. I would prefer they do not contain symbols, diacritics or weird characters in them but that is one of the many challenges with digital collecting. Ignoring the fact that I work with digital collections professionally, for some reason it has taken me a while to come to the realisation that giving a file name some meaning is not only useful in general, but gives it context and a voice when it ends up somewhere else. It should not come as a surprise that completing an information management degree and working in a library has that affect.

As a photographer, I have been taking digital photographs since the early 2000s (although I would not have called myself a photographer back then). Somewhere along the line I decided that the file name assigned by the camera was important so I never renamed files once downloaded onto my computer. At least I had the common sense to begin organising my files in folders based on year, month and day at some point while studying photography but the earlier images are just in one folder for the entire year. What happens when IMG_0458.jpg finds itself on my desktop, in an email to someone else or orphaned out there in the digital world? My earlier digital cameras did not embed technical metadata into the file so the various dates (such as date created, or date modified) are not reliable indicators of its creation date. It also does not let me know what the photograph is unless I open the file to view it.

I have just over 2TB of digital photographs from 2002-2017 so it is definitely possible for files to lose their context given the amount of computers I have had during that time. Migrating data always involves risk, from data loss to files ending up in the wrong place. A couple of years ago I created my own file and folder naming schema for my digital photographs and I have progressively gone back through my archive to rename files and folders to give them more meaning (still more work to do there).

Example of my folder and file naming structure
The above example shows how the file name includes a date as well as a short description (in this case, my cat's name!). The folder structure keeps the files in an organised structure where I can easily find something if I know the rough date it was taken, and the descriptive name in both the folder and file name enable me to understand what it contains without opening the file first.

In the context of collecting institutions, file and folder naming conventions will be based on given systems and repositories. For example, folder names for born-digital acquisitions at SLNSW are based on the reference code assigned by the catalogue system (for either published or unpublished material) and we encourage our clients and donors to use descriptive file names where possible.

Using descriptive file names that includes both a date and short description ensure that digital files can speak for themselves without any in-depth analysis. It is also important to follow general file naming guidelines which include:

  • Follow basic computer system rules for file names. This includes only using alphanumeric characters, using hyphens or underscores instead of spaces, ensure file names end with a file extension
  • Use a unique name for each file
  • Append file names to distinguish originals from derivatives
  • Be consistent with file names
  • Do not use multiple names for the same file
Adapted from

This post is my contribution to the GLAM Blog Club August theme: 'Silence'.

Cover image: Any excuse to use a cat photo. This is 170302_Jade002, as seen in the naming example above.

I had the time to do some testing on a new Windows-based digital acquisitions computer last week. With word that there is a "MacBook" in the collection that needed to have a disk image created, I thought I would take the opportunity to do some testing on our own early 2011 MacBook Pro before the other device was taken out of storage for me to have a look at.

I was fortunate enough to complete advanced digital forensics training back in June this year and set out to work out the logistics of the task at hand - how can I create a forensic disk image of an Apple Mac computer using a PC running Windows?

My research led me to the discovery of Target Disk Mode (TDM) on Mac computers, which provides the ability to connect two computers using FireWire, Thunderbolt 2, USB-C, or Thunderbolt 3. While this is designed to connect two Mac computers, it also provides the ability to mount the drive on any other computer that has the ability to both connect to and read it. The challenge with a Windows-based machine is the ability to read Mac HFS file systems.

Hardware and Software

In my case, the digital acquisitions PC is running Windows 7, utilising FTK Imager to create the disk image. FTK Imager can detect and image Mac file systems without installing any additional software. If you want to mount and read the disk image, this requires the installation of drivers or other software. 

It is possible to download the HFS+ drivers for Windows, which will provide read-only access to the disk image or any HFS formatted storage media on a Windows machine. It is important to note that if you do this, you need to remove any other programs you might have installed to read HFS formatted drives.

Hardware based write-blockers are always recommended for any digital preservation/digital forensic work where possible. This is because hardware is more reliable than software when it comes to ensuring no data is being written to the target drive. I used a Tableau Forensic FireWire Bridge T9 to connect the Macbook to the PC.

You need a Mac computer with the ability to boot in TDM. It is also critical that FileVault is not turned on, otherwise the filesystem will be encrypted. If the disk is encrypted and you have the login details you can turn FileVault off, otherwise you will need to look into decryption. It is important to have these things in mind when laptops are acquired as part of a collection.

Disk Imaging

Once I had everything connected, and the MacBook booted in TDM, I used FTK Imager to create a physical disk image. With a 500GB hard drive on the Mac, I left the default image fragment size of 1.5GB which divides the image into a series of sequentially numbered files all 1.5 GB in size. You can set it to create one single file, but with restrictions on file sizes on various file systems it is best to break it down into smaller chunks.

The disk imaging process was roughly four hours, and due to the fact that I only had a couple of 256 solid state drives on the PC, I needed to split the output of files across the drives by adding an overflow image destination.


I tried mounting the disk image through FTK Imager before I had installed the HFS+ drivers. This meant that Windows could not read it, and asked if I wanted to format the disk when trying to access it through the Windows file browser. After installing the drivers and re-mounting the disk image I had no problem browsing through the files and folders.

Once you have created the forensic disk image, you now have the ability to analyse it using software such as Forensic Toolkit (FTK) or BitCurator. Unfortunately I did not select a good target machine for analysis as the MacBook Pro had been reformatted and not used in a while so it did not contain enough content to warrant analysis.

Future Challenge

After successfully testing this method for remotely disk imaging a Mac computer, the aforementioned "MacBook" in the collection was located in storage and found its way to me. It turns out that it is actually an Apple iBook G3/366 SE (Original/Clamshell) that does not have a FireWire port or the ability to use TDM. On top of that, it also has no power supply and the battery has previously been removed because it was expanding and had damaged the laptop body.

The first step will be sourcing a power supply and determining whether the machine will turn on as well as what operating system it is running. Then it will be a matter of determining the best way to create a disk image. The last resort will be removing the hard drive if it is determined that the laptop is just a physical carrier and the content is considered the collection item. If anyone has experience with this, I would love to hear from you!

Further reading and resources:

Image credits: MacBook icon designed by D3Images / Freepik, Tableau forensic bridge icon designed by Matthew Burgess, PC computer icon from yED Graph Editor

I work in a library, I completed an information management qualification and I am a member of  the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). But I do not identify as a librarian. With a background in photography, my library career has revolved around being a photographer (digitisation) but now my career path is shifting towards digital preservation and digital curation - what does that make me? A hybrid photographer/librarian/digital something or other? Because I don't identify as a librarian I often feel like an imposter at some professional events, such as the New Librarians Symposium. That is not to say I do not feel welcome - one of the things I like about this industry is the eclectic mix of both individuals, backgrounds and roles within organisations. I also find events like these to be relevant and a great networking opportunity.

I have always identified libraries as a comfortable space, whether it was in primary school where I volunteered as a Library Monitor or my first job after high school as a trainee at my local council library. Although I have never been much of a library user per se, I have always been drawn to them and have admired librarians but never aspired to be one myself. My job has a huge impact on my identity and I am always excited to talk about what I am doing at work. So when people ask me what I do for work, or what I was studying, I sometimes struggle to find an answer. "I work in a library, but I am not a librarian", "I am studying information management, but I don't want to be a librarian". I wonder whether people outside of the GLAM sector even understand what I am saying with words like "digital preservation" and "digital collecting" and I generally keep talking in the hope that something makes sense.

This post is my contribution to the GLAM Blog Club July 2017 theme: "Identity".

Cover image credit: Yes, I still have my library monitor badge.

Fear in the workplace. It's something we all might experience at one point or another to varying degrees. Perhaps it is your first week in a new role and you are suffering from the dreaded Imposter Syndrome, or you are standing by yourself at a professional networking event and would rather walk out the front door than approach a stranger. It is often something that happens when you are out of your comfort zone, experiencing something new or possibly have a phobia.

I have experienced several of these situations over the past two months in my new role, but the fear is often what drives me forward and I was in those situations by choice. The only way to break the cycle of fear is to confront it head on. In the past two months I have given a guest lecture to undergraduate university students, attended my first conference (NLS8) and have taken on a new role in my organisation that sees me engaging with people a lot more than my previous role. All of these opportunities have been exciting, daunting and sometimes fear inducing, but I am tackling them head on with the knowledge that it will be that little bit easier the next time I am in that situation.

Some of the big takeaway themes from NLS8 was "do something" and "say yes" to as many opportunities as you can. Public speaking has never been a strong point for me but I have found that when speaking about topics I am passionate and knowledgable about that the only thing I am fearful of is my actual speaking and presentation abilities. The only way to improve these skills is to just do it! Practice makes perfect. My aim this year is to take every opportunity available to speak and present. It is the only way I can gain confidence in my abilities and push the fear of public speaking aside.

This post is my contribution to the GLAM Blog Club June 2017 theme: "Fear".

Cover image credit: Uilen op een tak, Theo van Hoytema, 1873 - 1917. Rijksmuseum.

I cannot say I have given much thought to what the GLAM sector, and libraries in particular, will be like in 3017. I can't even comprehend what it would be like in 100 years time, let alone 1,000. But it is in my new role description to ensure digital content being acquired today will be accessible in the future, so how can I not? You can't talk about the future of archives and libraries without discussing digital preservation and the fear of a black hole in time due to a lack of physical evidence or inability to read and access digital content.

While I can't predict what file formats will be suitable for access in 3017, I can ensure that what we have today is accessible in the foreseeable future and facilitate migration to appropriate formats as needed. Digital objects are more fragile than their physical counterparts in that they rely on computers for access. With rapid changes in technology comes the risk of losing content and context. Digital preservation is not only concerned with keeping the data, but also ensuring trust and authenticity as well as the context of the data and its dependencies.

DCC Curation Lifecycle Model.

With the amount of data being generated in todays world, let alone in the future, there is a significant challenge in determining what is important for digital preservation. The Library of Congress (LoC) Digital Preservation Outreach & Education (DPOE) program focuses on six easily understandable topics, where identify and select form the beginning of the overall process. Each institution will have its own collection strategy to provide scope for this challenge. Digital preservation is complex and involves more than just storing data, as shown in the DCC Curation Lifecycle model. Access is also important, with an ongoing discussion in the digital preservation community regarding migration versus emulation.

It is hard to discuss the future without the fear that humans will be replaced by robots in the workplace (and in general). It is happening already. While I think there will always be the need for human interaction within our cultural institutions, I wonder whether the physical will be replaced by the virtual with the current trend of immersive virtual reality. What place will physical objects have in the GLAM sector in 3017? Will items be scanned for virtual access and relegated to storage thereafter? How will clients discover content? The GLAM sector is more than the objects they hold. In my opinion, there will always be a need for physical, public spaces to engage with both collections as well as other people in the community.

This post is my contribution to the GLAM Blog Club May 2017 theme: "GLAM 3017".

Cover image credit: Förbjuden värld 1959. Teknik- och industrihistoriska arkivet / Tekniska museet (ARK-K3587).

I have been involved in many interesting digitisation projects over the past three years, working with collections rich in history and intrigue. When I found out there was a box of negatives that belonged to my paternal grandparents, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew how to do it but I faced the dilemma of trying a DIY approach without access to the professional equipment I take for granted at work.

Before I discuss how I have been progressively digitising these negatives in an ongoing personal project, I thought it would be worth mentioning that digitising this sort of material yourself is time consuming, requires a certain level of knowledge in photography and also requires a decent camera and processing software such as Adobe Photoshop and Bridge. With a professional background in digitisation, this is something I am comfortable with, and as a photographer I already have the equipment necessary to do it according to the high standards of cultural institutions. You need to weigh up your options in terms of your expertise, equipment, time and financial limitations. Decide on the level of quality you are after and outsource to a professional where required.

It is not a picnic without cats! Date and location unknown.
Ideally, the first thing to do before beginning a project like this is to assess what you have. How many negatives are there? What type? Colour? Black and white? 35mm? 120? I have not had the time to go through the entire content of the box I am digitising, but had a quick look through to get a rough idea of the different film formats. Since the act of digitisation involves looking closely at the entire contents of the box, I decided to use the process as a way to provide an inventory as well.

When working with a large number of negatives, using a camera and a lightbox can be much quicker than a scanner. It also has the added benefit of being able to digitise the whole piece of film, including the rebate, and having more control over exposure. This is a process I am very familiar with, having used it at work with medium format cameras and a professional lightbox to digitise anything from small to large glass plates and various other negative formats.

There are a lot of blogs about this process across the internet and there are a lot of different ways you can digitise film in a similar manner. If you are doing this yourself, you need to work out what works best for you. I am going to avoid getting bogged down in the technical details of my process at this point to avoid a massive blog post, but may come back to that at a later date. My equipment list includes:
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III with EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens
  • Tripod with geared head (inverted so the camera is below instead of on top)
  • Kaiser Slimlite Plano 2453 LED lightbox
  • Computer for tethered camera operation and camera live view
My setup on the dining table.
For the best result, it is recommended that you use glass to flatten the film and black off the lightbox around the negative to reduce flare. I decided not to do this because I wanted to get through it as quickly as possible, and the lightbox seemed to have enough static to hold the film down in most cases. I tried to photograph in batches that were the same size so I did not need to adjust the height of the camera.

It was important to ensure both the camera and lightbox did not move while working on a batch of negatives. I captured two reference images for each batch I digitised. The first is a photo of the lightbox without anything on it. This is important to even out the lighting across the frame using a technique detailed here. The second includes the lightbox itself and the ruler on the side - this is for white balance and scale reference.

Lightbox reference for white balance and scale reference.
For every packet of film there are master files and comaster derivatives in a tif format. The master file is a representation of the negative itself and includes the rebate where possible. The comaster is inverted and has been processed for viewing (with levels in Photoshop). I have also created jpeg access copies from the comasters to pass along to family members.

Master image. Frame includes the full rebate of the film and is a representation of the negative itself. 
Comaster image. Inverted, B&W and levels adjustment in Photoshop (without clipping any details).
While I used a camera to digitise the negatives, I decided to use a flatbed scanner for the packets that each group of negatives were stored in. Ultimately I was not so concerned with the quality of these images, and decided that a scanner was satisfactory. I included a QPcard 101 for colour and scale reference, and scanned each packet inside and out (opened). I also used the packets to catalogue the negatives as I went, giving each a call number to associate the files with (eg, ON 18 shown below, where files were named ON0018_0001, ON0018_0002 etc). This will be helpful in the future if anyone wants to find the original.

Front/back of a packet of film.
Some of the first packets of film I digitised happened to contain photos from my grandparents' honeymoon. How do I know this? I posted a photo on Facebook without any idea of its provenance and a friend told me it was taken at the Conservatory at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Prior to this, I had randomly searched on Trove and found an article discussing my grandparents' wedding and subsequent honeymoon which included a trip to Hobart. Fast forward to March 2017 and I made my way there to recreate the photo on my first visit to Tasmania. This never would have happened if the box of negatives was still sitting in a cupboard.

Conservatory at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. February 1948.
Conservatory at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. March 2017. 
At this point, I think I have digitised just over half of the box. That equates to 541 images (including the packets) and 80.92GB of data. As I get further through the box, I am starting to come across colour film. This is where the differences between using a scanner and a camera for the digitisation process is a little more complicated. Colour conversion is a difficult process and even in the professional setting there is no specific way to invert colour negatives that have been digitised with a camera. It is ultimately a matter of trial and error as well as a working knowledge of colour. This is where scanning software has an advantage, particularly in the processing side.

The age and deterioration of the film itself means processing of digitised colour negatives can be difficult.
It has been a great experience digitising these negatives, trying to work out who is in the photos and seeing a family resemblance. Once I finish digitising the contents of the box, the next phase of the project will involve fully cataloguing the negatives (with the help of family) and rehousing them in a more appropriate archival storage solution. Perhaps to be continued in another blog post...

The box containining my grandparents' negative collection. 30 April 2017.

If you are interested in reading more about digitising negatives, here are some links you may find useful:

Cover image: Some of the negatives and packaging from my family collection. 30 April 2017.

GLAM institutions are the custodians of knowledge and culture around the world, where each organisation has a particular focus and collection strategy. There is a growing argument for free access to digital copies of public domain works and there is hope for an open future with more organisations making this a reality every year. It is important to note that open access is not just about providing digital copies. OpenGLAM champions the principles of access to metadata, digital representations, making explicit statements on conditions of reuse and repurposing, using open file formats which are machine-readable and pursuing novel ways to engage audiences.

While public domain has no restrictions and open source has varying conditions, they both provide the public with the ability to remix and reuse material legally without cost. The results can be amazing, with the Rijksmuseum and its Rijksstudio awards a great example. Restricting access restricts both creativity and research capabilities. I am always excited when I hear of new collections being made available online such as NASA's image library and the New York Public Library's public domain collections.

In a world of budget cuts and uncertain funding futures in the cultural sector across the globe, it is understandable that organisations are hesitant to stop charging for a service. Digitisation comes at a cost and so does the act of digital preservation of these digital assets and providing access (systems). Each organisation needs to determine the best approach for their situation. There is evidence that providing access can actually increase revenue in this area, such as Rijksmuseum previously offering medium quality jpegs for free and charging for the master tiff file (Pekel 2014, p. 11). As these collections become available online there is an increased interest in the collections. Rijksmuseum now provides master tiff files for free, along with many other organisations such at the Library of Congress and State Library of Victoria.

In providing access, organisations also need to make these resources searchable. There is a growing number of portals on the internet to help people search through these vast resources of freely available content. These include Trove, Europeana, Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Search, Flickr Commons and DigitaltMuseum (to name a few).

While copyright laws are still a point of contention in some jurisdictions, the GLAM sector is taking onboard the principles of open access and there is hope for an open source future.

This post is my contribution to the GLAM Blog Club April 2017 theme: "Hope".

Cover image credit: Flowers, anonymous, c. 1700 - c. 1799. Rijksmuseum

I only recently completed a Graduate Diploma in Information Management. In fact, I need to register to graduate today! Having said that, I can already make some comments on what I wish they taught me in GLAM school and also what it would take for me to go back and complete a Masters degree.

I completed my qualification at a slow pace while working full time, only taking one subject per semester. While this dragged it out over three years, I was fortunate enough to be working within the GLAM sector while studying which gave me insight into what skills I needed to develop and potential areas of future employment. It also enabled me to grow within my current role as well as pursue development opportunities in other areas of the organisation.

Before I discuss what I wish they taught me, I just want to emphasise how important I think it is to be working in the industry while studying. It doesn't matter if the job is not your end goal or has no relation to what you want to do, or you don't even know what you want to do - in the end, experience counts for a lot and you may be surprised at how transferrable your skills are and how the people you meet can provide pathways to success. This was the lesson I was taught after completing my undergraduate degree in photography - I finished with the skills to take a great photograph but no idea how to make a living out of it.

So, what do I wish they taught me in GLAM school?
  • Project management. While I understand that there are entire degrees dedicated to this, I think it is important to have an understanding of this within the context of the GLAM sector. I know this is offered in some information management courses but unfortunately it was not an option for me. While it was briefly discussed in some subjects I do not think there was enough emphasis on its importance, particularly within the government sector.
  • Less of an emphasis on becoming an academic or librarian. This is a tough one. Perhaps there is an argument that one shouldn't do a postgraduate degree if they don't want to become an academic. It could also be argued that I chose the wrong course to begin with, but I definitely felt that the degree was encouraging students to continue on to a PhD, or become a librarian. In fact I was told that I should only be considering Masters if I was interested in becoming an academic (after trying to work my first point into the qualification).
  • How to engage with workplace and GLAM communities, including how to put together a proposal to attend a conference or development opportunity as well as professional social media interactions and engagement.
With that said, I gained a lot from my qualification. I was interested in most of the content and continued research and gaining knowledge in my areas of interest based on the foundation that the overall course supplied. I met some great people from within my organisation as well as the sector. Even though I went into some subjects thinking they were a waste of time, I gained something useful out of every single one in some way or another. One thing I love about information management is that you can come from any background and still utilise those skills and knowledge, you can find a role within the industry that makes use of your past experiences and build upon those with new skills and knowledge. 

What would it take for me to go back and complete a Masters? The opportunity to complete a research project with practical outcomes for an organisation and the ability to take part in an internship or work placement. Both of these provide practical experience grounded in theory. While I know these are possible, I think at this point I need to take a break from studying and focus on gaining more experience in the workplace as well as taking some time out for myself. Time out for me means personal projects (hopefully some blog posts on that at a later date) as well as continuing to research, learn and participate in activities related to my professional areas of interest.

This post is my contribution to the GLAM Blog Club March 2017 theme: "What I Wish They Taught Me in GLAM School".

Cover image credit: Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. Library for the Blind, Wrapping Books Retrieved from
Digital cameras are often used for digitisation projects instead of scanners for various reasons, including speed and handling requirements of fragile material. If you are using a digital camera you may be wondering whether you can trust that it produces an accurate representation of the original. So can you trust your camera? The short answer is no, but there are steps you can take to ensure accuracy and trust in your digitisation techniques and processes.

The amount of accuracy or trust you need in your images depends on your intended use. There are some circumstances where it is not important, but there is also a strong argument where your aim should always be to do it once and do it right. The majority of my work in digitisation is for access and this means capturing the most accurate representation possible. It should go without saying that images from a digital camera require processing after capture and this is especially important for colour accuracy.

To provide trust and accuracy in digitisation you need to include some sort of reference in your photograph - a known value that can be used to measure and assign settings like colour balance and exposure either before or after capture. There are several ways you can do this, where the easiest and most useful method is to utilise something like the QPcard 101 neutral reference card. Aside from the ability to use the neutral grey as a white balance for colour accuracy and measure of exposure, it also contains a ruler which is useful for working out size and pixels per inch (PPI) for reproduction purposes.

Photograph from my family collection, utilising a QPcard 101. Date and photographer unknown.
To ensure you can trust in the reproduction of colour it is also recommended that you also create a custom colour profile for your camera. If you are using a DSLR, you can use something like the ColorChecker Passport. It is important to remember that these profiles are specific to the camera body, lens and lights you are using so if any of these aspects change then you need to create a new custom profile.

In some circumstances you may not actually want to show an object as it is. The image at the beginning of this post shows an example where the original photograph has degraded with what can be called silvering or silver mirroring (as seen in the middle slice of the photograph). To combat this a technique called cross polarisation is utilised to remove reflections, as seen in the left slice of the photograph. It is important to consider the use of polarisers in copywork as it not only increases contrast but could also be misleading if the digital copy is being used for collection care and assessment purposes.

Other factors to consider when using a camera include lens distortion and the alignment of the camera to both the object and capture surface. Both of these factors can distort the shape of the object so it is important to address them. It is recommended that you use a quality lens (preferably non-zoom) on a copy stand and use a spirit level or other devices (such as a Zig-align) to ensure camera alignment.

Colour accuracy is important for drawings such as this one from Ornithology of Australia by Silvester Diggles (PXA 1525 / vol. 1). Image courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.
I have avoided discussing in-depth, technical details with this post as it is more of a general overview of what you need to consider when looking at trust and accuracy for digitisation. I have not discussed issues relating to file formats, software and file management which are also important factors to consider. If you are interested in reading more detailed information, I recommend the following resources:
Now that you can trust your camera, can you trust in the integrity of your files? Keep an eye out for my next post as part of #GLAMBlogClub discussing trust in digital files. 

This is my first post as part of the GLAM Blog Club. With the February 2017 topic "trust", I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get involved and share my thoughts. I also hope to write a second post for this month as trust is at the forefront of what I do for work, not only in digitisation but also the long term preservation of both born and turned digital assets.

First image caption: Left: polarised and colour balanced, middle: without polariser, right: incorrect colour balance. Original image courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.