Monday, March 22, 2010

Disaster Proofing Heritage Collections

The Australian Library and Information Association is hosting a symposium on "Disaster Proofing Heritage Collections" (registration) with Blue Shield Australia & DISACT, 6 May 2010 at the National Library of Australia, in Canberra.

Recently the International Council on Archives passed on a request to the international community for assistance in preserving the cultural heritage of Haiti. In addition to physical work to shore up buildings damaged in the recent earthquake and to remove cultural materials to safety the Statement of Requirements identified the need for IT staff and equipment to assist in digitising and recording cultural materials. When visiting Samoa to teach information technology for Museum staff, I heard of instances where artefacts were removed to "safety" because of a disaster, but were never seen again. As there were no good records, it was not possible to know what was missing or if it was stolen, or mislaid in a warehouse somewhere. Thus the need for records.
Developing updated guidelines for environmental conditions in collecting institutions
Julian Bickersteth
Guidelines for environmental conditions in collecting institutions have for the past 40 years or so been defined within fairly narrow parameters. ...
AICCM has established a Taskforce to develop guidelines for Australian conditions based on current international standards, which are changing as a result of these pressures. Julian Bickersteth is the chair of the Taskforce and will be detailing the progress that has been made to date on developing these guidelines ....

AICCM Victorian Division’s Response to the Victorian Bushfires of 2009: After Disaster Struck.
Alexandra Ellem
This paper presents key aspects of AICCM’s response to communities affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires and the unique role conservation can play regarding disaster response and cultural heritage. ...

Centre for the National Museum of Australia Collections: a proposal for sustainable collections storage and management.
Greer Gehrt and Eric Archer
The National Museum of Australia (NMA) recently completed a functional design brief for the design and development of new storage and collection management facilities for the National Historical Collection.
As part of this process, the NMA has undertaken extensive studies into the use of passive building technologies. ...

Alert But Not Alarmed: A decade of the Disasters ACT Network.
Bernard Kertesz
DISACT (the DISasters ACT network) is a network of disaster preparedness practitioners operating in south-eastern New South Wales and centred in the Australian Capital Territory. Although largely driven, resourced and enabled by the major Commonwealth cultural collecting institutions, the network participants represent more than 25 Commonwealth, ACT Government and private sector organisations. ...

Meeting and Reporting “Conservation Standards” for Environmental Conditions; The Government’s Key Performance Indicators Versus The Real World
Jennifer Lloyd
It is not unreasonable that the Commonwealth Government expects the custodianship of the nation’s heritage collections to be a responsible one. Maximising the life expectancy of these collections is a priority for all cultural collecting institutions. ...

Blue Shield Australia - Building Disaster Resilience into the Australian and Asia-Pacific Heritage Sectors
Detlev Lueth
The Blue Shield is the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross. The distinctive emblem was specified by the UNESCO’s 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. It is also the name of the International Committee of Blue Shield (ICBS), set up in 1996 to advise UNESCO on the protection of the world's cultural heritage threatened by wars and natural
disasters. With the permission of the ICBS in 2005 Blue Shield Australia was established. BSA’s vision is to influence disaster preparedness and emergency management in Australia in order to ensure the
preservation of cultural heritage within Australia’s areas of responsibility and influence. ...

Not If But When! Some Observations on Collection Disaster Preparedness Around Australia.
Kim Morris
Disaster planning for collections has been a feature of cultural activity in collecting institutions in Australia since 1985 when the National Library suffered a serious and devastating fire. Major national and state institutions recognised the need to prepare for collection disasters and began developing
response and recovery plans. ...

AICCM and a National Response Network
Kay Söderlund
Spurred on by the year that saw the Victorian bush fires and the Queensland floods, AICCM has started work on a project to develop a National Response Network in order to more effectively help communities and museums that have been devastated by disasters. Kay Söderlund, National President of AICCM, will briefly outline the project and the plan for the coming year. ...

Planning for Floods in a Drought: Cooperative Regional Responses to Disasters
Roger Trudgeon
The secret to good risk management is planning to deal with events that you would normally deem to be impossible. In the midst of the state’s worst drought in years, the Gold Museum, Ballarat was flooded on New Year’s Day in 2007. In the context of climate change and the increasing likelihood of extreme weather events it is essential to think ahead as to how we face such catastrophes. ...

From: Paper abstracts and biographies, Disaster Proofing Heritage Collections, Australian Library and Information Association, 2010

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Monday, March 15, 2010

ONE hundred exhibition

The State Library of NSW has the free ONE hundred exhibition on until June 2010.This is for the centenary of the Mitchell Library. There will be something to interest everyone from a manuscript hand written by Capitan James Cook to the manuscript of Reedy River for the New Theatre production. This is not on the scale of the National Library of Australia's 2005 Treasures exhibition, but still worthwhile. Unfortunately the state library exhibition is hampeed by a poor quality web site, which lacks an index to the exhibits.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

IT to Rescue Haiti Heritage

The International Council on Archives has passed on a request to the international community for assistance in preserving the cultural heritage of Haiti. The Statement of Requirements details the immediate need to shore up buildings damaged in the recent earthquake and to remove cultural materials to safety where this is not possible. There is a need for IT staff and equipment to assist in digitising and recording cultural materials. When visiting Samoa to teach information technology for Museum staff, I heard of instances where artefacts were removed to "safety" because of a disaster, but were never seen again. As there were no good records, it was not possible to know what was missing or if it was stolen, or mislaid in a warehouse somewhere. Thus the need for records.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

2009 Wilkinson Lecture at University of Sydney

Greetings from Law Lecture Theatre 101 at The University of Sydney where Richard Francis-Jones, Design Director of Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (fjmt) is about to deliver the 2009 Wilkinson Lecture. The topic is "Identity Crisis: Dilution of public domain & the rise of the art museum as urban panacea of our time". This seems to be about museums becoming more commercial, but that should become clear as we go along. There will be a podcast available after the talk and I will provide a link to it.

The Wilkinson Lecture is named in honour of Professor Leslie Wilkinson the architect who was responsible for many of the early campus buildings. Richard Francis-Jones is architect of the new law building at University of Sydney, were the talk is being held.

Mr. Francis-Jones started with a grim monochrome view of the Sydney skyline. He argued that we should not see the commercialisation of the modern city as entirely negative. He then argued that virtual public spaces, such as Iranian Internet protests, were positive. He related this to the boulevards of Paris, which were part design to control protest.

Shopping centres and airports are, argues Mr. Francis-Jones, pseudo public spaces, having the appearance of public but being design for turbo-consumerism. He argues that architects have become enamoured of designing such spaces, which like Dubai, which has no social answer to spiritual needs and becomes a city of consumer junkies in a consumer monoculture.

Mr. Francis-Jones sees the public library and art museum as a bulwarks against the advance of the shopping centre. He used the example of the Blacktown Public Library. He argues that the art museum is the temple of the 21st century city, but while becoming a public brand for the city with a landmark building by a well known architect.

The example used was the "Bilbao Effect" named for the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by architect Frank Gehry. This one building is credited with boosting the economy of the city and region around it. The Sydney Opera House is a global brand now for Sydney.

Mr. Francis-Jones then attempted to draw a distinction between the artistic integrity of the Sydney Opera House and Bilbao as architecture as sculpture. Is the art building just a "decorated shed"? I think he is on very shaky ground here: the Sydney opera house is not a very functional building and far from just a shed to put art in. Also he seems to forget that a museum building is not a museum, it is a building for some of the artefact's and functions.

The discussion became even more shaky by comparison of buildings with Uluru (Ayers Rock). Uluru is a sacred and supernaturally constructed object to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people. To compare this with architecture might be too much like seeing architects as gods.

Mr. Francis-Jones then got onto firmer ground by showing his designs for the extensions to the Auckland Art Gallery (Toi o Tamaki). This will have a floating canopy of kauri. The design has received positive, if sometimes grudging, comments.

One questioner asked if the law library in this new building should be so noisy. The architect argued the library should have different spaces with different acoustic qualities. There are "live " spaces designed for silence and other softer spaces for conversation.

I asked if the western idea of an art museum was too pure. In 2005 I spent a week in Samoa teaching web design to museum staff from across the pacific for a UNESCO project. One aspect of this was that many of the museums represented were commercial and craft workshops. They did not just display old objects and high art, there were contemporary items on display. These museums also held cultural events, with dance and music as well as provided facilities for works to be produced and sold. Mr. Francis-Jones pointed out this was a complex issue and that he illustrated his talks with many art works which were in public spaces, not isolated in galleries.

The host ended the evening by pointing out it was brave for an architect to give a talk in his own building. This was a useful reminder that whatever architects might say, it is by the buildings they build they must be judged. The extensions to the Auckland Art Gallery look interesting, but I am not so sure about the new University of Sydney Law building. Perhaps this is what the client wanted, but it is a huge imposing structure, not on a human scale. From the outside it is not clear how to get into the building, or if there are actually any people in there. Inside the corridors outside the lecture theatres reminded me of a modern railway station, with vast expanses of very wide corridors. I feel very small and isolated, wandering along looking for a toilet.

Lecture theatre 101 was well designed and equipped. I found the pull out table on each seat was just the right size for my netbook, but there were no power points (I had to plug my 3G wireless station into the podium at the front of the room, which the average student could not do). However, it is not clear to me what exactly is supposed to happen in these big rooms: surely the University is not expecting to provide education here?

The University of Sydney Law building reminds me of a 19th century factory building where rows of workers used to labour. New methods of production have been developed which have rendered these buildings obsolete. In the same way new methods of university education have arrived which have rendered large lecture theatres full of rows of students obsolete. It is handy to have a large room for the occasional public oration, but in educational terms this is an obsolete facility.

The university would have been better off with a more human scale (and cheaper) multi purpose building with a flexible learning centre. Rooms with flat floors are adaptable to multiple uses and refurbishment. It is going to be very difficult and expensive to refit the University of Sydney Law building to be used for modern education. It would be a shame to have to demolish a new building, but that might be the most economic option.

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Art museum as urban panacea

Richard Francis-Jones, Design Director of Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (fjmt) will speak on "Identity Crisis: Dilution of public domain & the rise of the art museum as urban panacea of our time", 1 October 2009, University of Sydney. It is a little had to work out exactly what he will be talked about from the description give, but it seems to be about museums being more commercial.

In 2005 I spent a week in Samoa teaching web design to museum staff from across the pacific for a UNESCO project. One aspect of this was that many of the museums represented were commercial and craft workshops. They did not just display old objects and high art, there were contemporary items on display. These museums also held cultural events, with dance and music as well as provided facilities for works to be produced and sold. In this way they were far in advance of museums and art galleries in Australia, as well as being much more interesting. I ended up learning as much from my students, than they learnt from me.

ps: Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (fjmt) appear to be having an identity crisis of their own, with a poorly designed web site. This home page depends on the use of Flash, making it of limited value. The web site doesn't appear to have provision for those with Flash to use the web site, nor for those with disabilities. The home page scored only 62/100 on the W3C mobileOK Checker. However, the page appears to consist mostly of a link to Flash content and would be difficult, if not impossible to use without it.

Identity Crisis: Dilution of public domain & the rise of the art museum as urban panacea of our time

1 October 2009

2009 Wilkinson Lectre
Identity Crisis: Dilution of the public domain and the rise of the art museum as urban panacea of our time
RICHARD FRANCIS-JONES, Design Director of francis-jones morehen thorp
Introduced by Professor Alan Peters, Chair of Urban & Regional Planning

Richard Francis-Jones will discuss the nature of the public building as a social representation and fundamental transformations of the public realm within a contemporary condition where identity is blurred with consumption. Within this blurred context he will present recent Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp investigations into the nature of the art museum and public building.

Brief Bio
Richard is the Design Director of francis-jones morehen thorp (fjmt), a practice noted for its commitment to the enhancement of the public domain. He has led the design of many international competition and award-winning projects. Commissions have won the highest Australian Institute of Architects awards: the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Buildings; the Sir John Sulman Medallion; the Lloyd Rees Award for Excellence in Civic Design; the Lachlan Macquarie Award for Heritage; and the Greenway Award for Conservation.

Recent completed projects led by Richard include the University of Sydney Law School, the Surry Hills Library and Community Centre, and the Mint. Projects currently in construction include the Auckland Art Gallery, Chatswood Civic Place and the six GreenStar Darling Walk commercial campus.

Richard is a Visiting Professor at UNSW and has taught architecture at many universities in Australia and abroad. He is an editor of Content, a critical journal of architecture, has written theoretical papers for several journals, was President of the AIA (NSW Chapter) from 2001-2002, and was Creative Director of the 2008 AIA National Architecture Conference: Critical Visions.

He studied architecture at the University of Sydney, receiving the University Medal for Architecture upon graduation. He subsequently completed a masters degree in architectural design and theory at Columbia University in New York. He is a registered architect in all Australian states and New Zealand.

Time: 5.30pm drinks, 6.30-7.30pm lecture

Location: Faculty of Law Lecture Theatre 101, The University of Sydney

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sophistry and the New Acropolis Museum

Last year I visited the New Acropolis Museum in Athens and had some criticism of the design preferring the well proportioned Delphi Museum. However, this was mild compared to the attack mounted by Alexandra Stara in "The New Acropolis Museum: banal, sloppy, badly detailed sophistry" (The Architectural Review, June 2009).

There is something in Stara's comment the banality of the museums spaces. When I visited, the museum had not yet been op opened and so perhaps I forgave the large empty spaces. Staracriticises the building's use of low cost materials, whereas I liked the stripped classicism, including suggestions of Greek columns in modern material. The building is basically a rectangular box with a smaller glass box on top, rotated about 15 degrees to match The Parthenon.

The time it took to build the building was due to finding archaeological ruins underneath (but how could you dig a hold in Athens and not find ruins?) and planning issues with surrounding building, these are not the fault of the architect. Also the critic seems to confuse the architect's rhetoric about the building with the building itself. Many architects are inclined to use flowery language to describe all sort of theoretical concepts not evident in their buildings. Provided the building functions, doesn't fall down and the roof doesn't leak, the designers can be forgiven these literary indulgences.

Stara invokes the name of Plato, accusing the architect of sophistry. However, the word has two meanings, one an illogical argument for deception, the other, older meaning, is wisdom.

ps: See also Curating Architecture and the City by Sarah Chaplin and Alexandra Stara.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Australian National Portrait Gallery

The Australian National Portrait Gallery was opened in Canberra by the then new Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd on 3 December 2008. The building has an excellent cafe, with an outdoor terrace. This reminded me of Café Blom at the Swedish Museum of Architecture, Stockholm. The bookstore is good, but not great. The most disappointing feature of the Gallery is the web site which has an annoying and dysfunctional splash page with large images. The user has to know to click to get to the useful information, such as where the gallery is and when it is open. The gallery must be loosing a very large number of potential supporters due to this poor web design.

The architect, Richard Johnson of Johnson Pilton Walker, has managed to place a large building unobtrusively into the parliamentary triangle. Unlike the adjacent High Court (which is high), the bulk of the gallery seems to disappear. From a distance it is so unobtrusive as to be hard to find. The building makes good use of concrete (polished lower down) and engineered wood. There is filtered reflected natural light to the exhibition spaces, reminding me of the Delphi Archaeological Museum.

One practical problem is that some of the fire exists in the galleries are disguised in the walls, with only the fire exit sign above to indicate there is a doorway, let alone a fire door. This is a hazard as in the event of a fire those attempting to escape will have difficulty seeing the doorway. The exit sign above the door is not sufficient, as similar signs are used to point to a remote doorway. It is very likely someone attempting to exit in the smoke and confusion of a fire will not see the door at all.

Steve Vogel notes in his book "The Pentagon: A History" on page 484: "... how chaotic and difficult it had been to get out ... Exit signs above the doors had proven largely useless ... The smoke had descended so rapidly that workers in office bays were unable to see any signs and had been completely disoriented ...". Like the Pentagon, the portrait gallery is a government building in a national capital and therefore a potential target for terrorist attack, as well as accidents.

The Pentagon: A History by Steve VogelThe door should be painted a contrasting colour. A tactile strip should be placed around the door to distinguish its edge and allow it to be found by touch. A push plate should be placed on the door to indicate it is a door and where to push to open. While the architect and curator may feel this harms the aesthetics of the blank walls, they may prefer this to defending their decisions in the ACT Coroner's Court.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

New Acropolis Museum

This week ABC TV is featuring the New Acropolis Museum (Greece - Losing their Marbles , Foreign Correspondent, Reporter: Helen Vatsikopoulos, 07/10/2008). Earlier in the year I visited the museum , when only the foyer was open and the exhibits were stacked in crates. The building reminded me of Parliament House Canberra. There is a risk the scale of the building will overwhelm the exhibits.

The building is conveniently located near a metro station at the base of the Acropolis. It is built on concrete columns over an archaeological site, discovered during construction. Glass panels in the floor outside and in the foyer of the building allow the site to be viewed beneath your feet. This can be a little disconcerting. More seriously, the steel mesh in the floor at the front door is open to the site below, so that dirt and debris will fall down and contaminate the site.

The building foyer has good circulation space, but the lack of facilities such as toilets may be a problem. The grandeur of the entrance is spoilt somewhat by a row of ticket turnstiles, making it look like a metro station. In fact some of Athens metro stations look more like museums than the museum does, with materials discovered during metro construction on display.

While large, the building is not overly lavish. There is good use of modern materials in a stripped classicism style, including suggestions of Greek columns in modern material. The building is basically a rectangular box with a smaller glass box on top, rotated about 15 degrees.

When filled with antiquities, the space should work well. But I would have preferred something less grand, such as the more modest, but well proportioned Delphi Museum. Rather than one big building, the resources could have been spent in improving archaeological exhibits accross Greece and in particular on the Acropolis itself. What is needed is better interpretation of the material, particularly using computer based displays.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Twelve Canoes

Twelve Canoes is a multimedia web site following on from Rolf de Heer's film 10 Canoes . It features short multimedia works with the Yolngu people of the Arafura swamp. Wile the audio and visual content is breathtaking, the site is let down by poor web design. The designers shopuld implement accessibility features for the site and correct the errors in the HTML code to allow the site to be more widely used for education.

The site assumes a high spped Internet connection and even in Canberra on my wiless Internet link I had diffciulties. The web site has some text for display (excerpts below) to those who are unable to see the video. However, this is not normally apparent to the viewer, who will have to wait for video to download, unless they are using a text only or specially adapted web browser. It would be better if the site offered a text menu which allowed skipping the video rich content, for those on a slow link.

Some years ago I was invovled in projects to provide indiginous ciolutural content online,. Those suffered from taking too academic and textural approach to web based content. Twelcve canoes goes to other extreme and suffers from too little thought as to text and indexing inforamtion.

Unfortunately the web site has invalid HTML markup and some accessibility problems. When I attempted an accessibility test of the site, all I got was the message "Parked Page for".

We are the first people of our lands.

These are some of our stories from where we have lived so long.

We welcome you to know about us, about our culture, this way.

12 Canoes

This website is built for us, for everyone.

There are 12 stories here about where we live, about how we came to be, about our history and about how we live now.

  • Creation
  • Our Ancestors
  • The Macassans
  • First White Men
  • ThomsonTime
  • The Swamp
  • Plants and Animals
  • Seasons
  • Kinship
  • Ceremony
  • Language
  • Nowadays


There are many artworks (by many artists), photos and music here about where we live, about how we came to be, about our history and about how we live now. ...

Gallery > People & Places

There are over 60 photos here about where and how we live.


About > Meanings

Yolngu: The literal translation of Yolngu is simply, "the people", but it is used nowadays as a term to describe the group of Australian Indigenous people (Aboriginals) living in or originating from central and eastern Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory.

Balanda: A word meaning "white person(s)", derived from the word "Hollander"...the Dutch were the first white people to come into contact with the Yolngu.

Macassan: The Macassans, from the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia began visiting the north coast of Australia centuries ago. Their trade made the Yolngu a very powerful grouping economically. Such trading was stopped by the government in the 1906-07 season, and the economy of the region was destroyed by the imposition of Balanda law. ...

About > The People

We are the Yolngu people of Ramingining, in the northern part of Central Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory.

Ramingining is a town of about 800 of our people. More of our people live on outstations different distances from town. Also about 50 Balanda live here.

The nearest other town is Maningrida, more than two hours drive away except in the rainy season, when we can only fly there.

In Ramingining we have a store, a clinic, a school, a new police station, an arts centre, a resource centre, houses and not much else.

But we have history and culture here, that our ancestors have been growing for more than forty thousand years.

They passed that culture on from generation to generation. Now it's our turn to pass it on, not just to the next generation, but to people everywhere, all over the world.

That's because our way of life is changing fast now, and what you're going to see is for every generation to remember and keep our culture alive.

About > Where In The World

Ramingining is in the northern part of Central Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory.

Ramingining is a town of about 800 of our people.

About > Study Guide

This section coming soon. ...


We are proud of our community. We are proud of our history and our present.

We are proud of our children, and our artists, and our songmen, we are proud of our whole place.

Because we are proud of all these things, we are sharing them with you. We are glad that you are interested enough to be here.

We hope that if you like them, the paintings or the stories or any of it, that you will share them with other people who are interested in learning about us...

From: Twelve Canoes: Introduction, Indigemedia Incorporated, Christensen Fund, South Australian Film Corporation and Screen Australia, 2008

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

High-tech access for heritage sites

While in Greece I noticed that some cultural sites and museums were not opened at the advertised times. According to a recent media report, this is an embarrassment to the Greek government ("Run-down heritage sites embarrass the Greeks", Helena Smith, The Guardian, June 23, 2008). The solution given in the article was longer opening hours and more staff, but I am not sure that is the correct approach.

The sites tend to open early in the morning and close in the afternoon (8am to 3pm). The media article claimed this was due to public servant working hours. But in the hotter months, it makes sense to be outdoors during the cooler early parts of the day. If the outdoor sites were open in the hottest parts of the afternoon, many tourists, particularly those getting off air conditioned cruise ships, would suffer in the heat.

One tip I do have for tourists to Delphi, and similar places in the hotter months, is to tour the outdoor sites as soon as they open in the morning. You usually have an hour of the monuments to yourself between 8 and 9 am, before the tour buses arrive. Then when it starts to get hot, go indoors to the air conditioned museums.

Don't be put off by the gates being closed. At a few sites the staff did not get around to opening until they saw they had some customers. In one case the gates were firmly locked and no staff were about. But after a five minute visit to the adjacent souvenir store, the site was then open (with some of the people who were sitting in the store now on site).

At the excellent Folklife and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia at Thrace, there was a sign on the side gate pointing to the front door, and a sign on the front door which said it was closed. Going back to the side door, there appeared to be people in there and having gone in I found the museum open with several staff waiting to assist. One staff member then went around turning on video introductions and interactive displays. On exiting I noticed the sign on the side gate had been changed to say to enter there.

More use could be made of computers and technology at major Greek cultural sites. In particular the Athens Acropolis needs something to stop it crumbling under the feet of thousands of tourists and to give them better access. Even the path marked for disabled users is made of slippery and uneven marble, polished smooth by many feet.

People Movers for the Acropolis

One solution for the Acropolis would be to install small automatic people movers. These would be a high tech version of the tourist trains commonly used to ferry tourists around the streets. In place of the noisy diesel engine they would have electric power. The units could run on a safe low voltage electric track, or be battery powered on rubber tires, or a combination of both.

This would require minimal alteration to the site and cause far less damage than have tourists wandering everywhere. Staff costs would be reduced and the individual cars could be equipped with commentary in different languages. Using computer control each car could be individually controlled, so that tourists would not have to wait for a whole train to be full.

Web Displays for Greek Museums

Another useful feature would be to provide more computer based displays for the museums. This would allow for more languages to be provided. The Folklife and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia had an excellent display of the history of the pot in greece, but all of the captions were only in Greek. The information could also be placed on the web for information. The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has attempted to provide details of museums on their web site. But this is a very large task. Being able to use the same information in the museum and on the web would make the task much easier. The Wikipedia has also attempted to catalog Greek museums, and it might make sense to combine the two efforts.

Online information for museums could be downloaded into the visitor's mobile phone. Existing web based services could translate the captions into any of dozens of languages and the result could even be turned into an audio commentary automatically. These are all features which major museums already have, but are prohibitively expensive to develop for every display in minor museums. However, free web based services can now be used to provide it if the museum information is on the web.

Cafes at Museums

One surprising lack in most Greek museums and monumental sites site is a cafe. Apart from the
National Archaeological Museum of Athens
which has a cafe with a courtyard which is a work of art in itself and the Delphi Archaeological Museum with an outdoor cafe, most Greek museums do not have cafes. The traditional approach seems to be to have the cafes outside the gate. However, better integration might help keep the sites open longer and cover the costs.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

No Flash Stickers for Museums

Post It NotesThe constant sound you hear in many museums is "No Flash!". A solution to this would be to issue the staff with red post it notes to stick over the flash of cameras.

Many museums allow photography, but not flash photography, due to the risk of damage to light sensitive items and the distraction to other visitors. But many people have difficulty turning off the flash on their digital cameras.

My suggested solution is to issue the museum staff with red "Post It" note paper. When the staff see someone use a flash, they could stick one of these over the flash unit. The red coloring would block out most of the light of the flash and particularly the harmful UV light. When the person left the museum, they could remove the tag, with no harm to their camera.

If this became popular, Post It notes with "No Flash!" printed on the could be specially made for museums.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Byzantine Monuments Thessaloniki

There seems to have been an international standard established for tickets to museums, such as the Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki. Each issues a ticket about the size of a bank note. The ticket has a larger portion with a photo of the museum or of an artifact from it. There are then perforated sections at either end, which are torn off and retained by the attendant at the door. Museum complexes may have multiple tear off sections (one had five) for different exhibits.

The tickets have some of the anti forgery features found on a bank note. All the tickets have micro printing in multiple colors as a backing to the ticket to make them difficult to photocopy or reproduce on a laser printer. The more expensive and popular museums have holographic strips and watermarks.

The tickets could make good souvenirs of a trip, when all placed in a frame together. However, one omission is that many do not say exactly where they are. After some weeks of traveling, you can forget which museum is where. For example, where are the Byzantine Monuments? The ticket has an image of gold and enamel bracelets from the White Tower, Thessaloniki, but where is the museum they are in?

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Australian interactive cricket web site

The National Museum of Australia have issued a request for tender for someone to build them an interactive display about Australian cricket. This is likely to create a lot of interest from cricket mad web developers in India. ;-)

The tender calls for Flash. Developers need to keep in mind that Australian law requires that such services be accessible to the disabled, which requires a little extra work when using Flash.

The National Museum of Australia seeks the services of an appropriately qualified organisation to develop the Australian Cricket Flash-based interactive for the new Australian Journeys gallery at the National Museum of Australia. The required services will comprise of:

  1. Creative concept development
  2. Functional and technical specification
  3. Interface design
  4. Post production of archival film
  5. Programming and development of the interactive in Adobe Flash ...
From: Australian cricket interactive, ATM ID NMAT0708/14, 20-Mar-2008
They also have a tender for "European Voyages interactive".

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Ten Canoes: From Samoa to Arafura Swamp

Ten Canoes Study Guides
The Australian movie "Ten Canoes" is set in the Arafura Swamp of the Australian Northern Territory. The film is inspired by a photograph of 10 canoeists of the the Yolngu people in the swamp, taken by the anthropologist Donald Thompson in the 30s.
The film has won three AFI awards and is Australia's entry for best foreign film at the 2007 Academy Awards.

What has this to do with Samoa? In 2005 I made a nine day visit to Apia, Samoa, at the request of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). It was to conduct a five day workshop for staff from museums around the South Pacific region on the use of computer and telecommunications technologies.

My report pointed out that many of the museums of the region were too small to support their own IT systems. It made sense for them to use a common system which could also share data. On my return to Australia I had ANU students do projects on how to accomplish this. I reported this work at the Pacific Museums in Sustainable Heritage Development, Asia Pacific Week in January 2006.

I was then contacted by a project attempting to combine data from two Australian museums. One of the students who worked on the pacific island project with me went to work on the Australian project. Another student build a demonstration system using test data from the museums. Their presentation, report and open source software are available.

It turned out that one of the museum collections for the project is the Donald Thomson Collection at University of Melbourne, with the photographs which inspired "Ten Canoes".

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