No. 33, August-September 1994 ISSN 0811-4757
Edited and published by Tim Sherratt (Tim.Sherratt@asap.unimelb.edu.au) for ASAP.
ASAP Annual Report 1993-4
The last twelve months have seen ASAP consolidate its aims, and put considerable energy into developing the products and services we offer. While maintaining a commitment to our original charter, the preservation of Australia's technological and scientific heritage, we have expanded the ways in which we help people access this information in innovative directions. Since last year, there are now two ASAP offices, the original Melbourne Office based in the University of Melbourne's HPS department, and the Canberra Office in the Australian Academy of Science Dome building. Both offices continue to work on the processing of archival collections, but beyond this, have developed areas of specific expertise.
Tim Sherratt in the Canberra Office has devoted himself to increasing the accessibility of information about the history of Australian science and technology, and its important place in our culture. To this end, he has created on-line access on the internet both to ASAP and related resources; talked and published extensively in the scientific, school, and wider communities; and developed a proposal for Bright SPARCS, a multimedia resource kit. This resource kit will incorporate the information already collected by ASAP in RASA, the Register of Archives of Science in Australia, as well as biographical information for individual scientists and stories which place their work in context. He continues to edit the History of Australian Science Newsletter, which is now published electronically as well as being sent to a mailing list of over 1300.
In Melbourne, the day to day running of the Project has been handed over to the new coordinator, Lisa O'Sullivan, who also acts as the contact point for enquires about ASAP's work. The Chief Archivist, Gavan McCarthy has become increasingly in demand as a specialist consultant, advising on the organisation and preservation of the archival collections of individual scientists, large scientific organisations and industry. The tools he has developed during this work have been consolidated in the ASAP Archival Data System (ASAP ADS), which has become the lynchpin of our work.
Both offices act to support each other in achieving ASAP's overall aims. ASAP aims to continue and expand its work as an information centre for Australian science and technology, able to help individuals and corporations gain more access to their history, and aiding the decisions they make about their future.
Consultancies have become a bigger part of the ASAP work, as large institutions and organisations become more aware of the value of their records collections, and their need to be able to control them. For ASAP these consultancies provide a means of ensuring the preservation of the information which is generated by science at work. We see these as being as important to our understandings of science and its place in society as the records of individual scientists. They also contribute financially to the Project, sustaining it in the longer term. Our main tool for information management, ASAP ADS has been developed partly in response to the needs of our consultancy clients.
At the other end of the information production line, ASAP is also dedicated to ensuring that the knowledge we, and others, produce about Australia's science and technology is made accessible to as many people as possible. To this end, Gavan McCarthy has been engaged on a consultancy with Australian Archives, aimed at enabling the transfer of data between RASA, ADS and Australian Archives systems, with the view to facilitating the production of new subject-oriented national guides.
ASAP's Archival Data System is a sophisticated information management system developed by ASAP in response to the collections we have had to deal with. As a result, it is highly flexible, able to deal with collections of any size, and from a broad survey level to highly detailed description. Its also designed to deal with collections that may contain a variety of record formats and artefacts, which may be located in different places. It has developed from survey sheets which record information about the context of the records (provenance and series) as well as describing the records themselves (at item level). The methodology that has been developed enables teams of people to work on a collection simultaneously, considerably speeding the processing time, and providing a hard copy trail of all the data collected. All the information is entered into a database, from where it can be manipulated to provide hard copy finding aids organised along different lines or accessed directly on-line. Ultimately, as the cost of PC notebook computers reduces, it will be possible to have teams processing directly into the database. However, the development of the paper version is an important part of the ADS, as it gives it the flexibility to be used in a variety of environments.
CSL Plasma Products Facility
After a successful initial analysis of the CSL Inc, Plasma Products Facility, Broadmeadows, ASAP were engaged by CSL to tackle the more detailed task of controlling the vast bulk of vital records created during the design, commissioning and contruction phases of the project. Dani Zephyr was employed to take on the role of Project Archivist at the CSL Broadmeadows site, a demanding role she has taken on with great dedication. Other staff members employed at the CSL site during the year were Lisa Cianci, Val Cook, Simon Eastman, Milly Fels, David Fowler, Julie Gleeson, Geoff Gray, Catherine Green, David Hudson, Fiona Kinsey, Jason McGlone, Marie Steer, Georgina Stewart, and Graeme Tucker. We would like to thank all for their commitment and enthusiasm. This has been the first large scale project using ASAP ADS, and the input of staff and users has contributed a great deal to its continued development.
Hazelwood Power Station
Processing of the records of the Hazelwood Power Station commenced at the end of January 1994 using a team of employees provided by the Station under the direction of the Chief Archivist, Gavan McCarthy. The team has worked at an extremely consistent rate over the past six months and has achieved much. A variety of strategies have been employed to deal with the disparate records, in very varied conditions, but the outcome for all records has been entry onto the Hazelwood ADS database. The newly found control over the archival records (records that could be vital to the future maintenance and running of the Station) has already been aptly demonstrated. Whereas it had taken up to three days to find important instrumentation charts in the past they have now been located in under ten minutes. The Hazelwood Power Station Archives Project provides ASAP with a highly successful model for running Projects in which it provides management and training skills to client employees. It has demonstrated the flexible and user-friendly nature of ASAP ADS
Australian Archives Feasibility Study
The Chief Archivist conducted a feasibility study funded by Australian Archives looking into the possibility of producing a guide or guides to the records of science and technology in the custody of Australian Archives. Clearly, this is potentially a mammoth task which could only be achieved realistically if it were possible to transfer the relevant data from the Australian Archives databases to a system better suited to the production of subject guides. The study demonstrated that data could be taken from the Australian Archives systems and added to the recently modified ASAP national register, RASA. From RASA it has already been shown to be a relatively easy task to produce both hard copy and on-line guides. Funding will now be sought to advance the process to the next stage and ultimately the production of the guides.
ASAP's archival work consists both of on-going projects, and self contained collections. Also important is the training of staff or volunteers of small institutions, to enable them to maintain order over their own collections. ASAP ADS has been used successfully at all these levels, and is continuing to be upgraded. Thanks must go to all the users of the system whose contributions to this development have been invaluable.
Historic Places Section, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
ASAP was engaged by the Historic Places Section of DCNR in a short term project to rebuild its resource collection through the creation of a meaningful system of organisation which will not be made redundant by administrative or governmental changes. Stewart Brash, rapidly becoming our environmental science expert, worked on-site in the department for several months.
Phyllis Margaret Rountree
The Ian Potter Foundation donated $2000 towards processing the records of the eminent bacteriologist Phyllis Rountree. In November 1993, Tim Sherratt and Lisa Jooste surveyed the records on-site at Dr Rountree's house in Sydney. The collection was then transferred to the ASAP Canberra Office where Lisa completed the detailed listing and indexing of the collection. Final proofreading of the guide is nearly completed and it is expected to be published in the next few months. The records will then be deposited with the Mitchell Library in Sydney. This was the first collection of an individual scientist's records to be wholly processed using ASAP ADS - the system proved itself to be quick and effective.
Ernest William Titterton
In July 1993, Mo Yimei was employed by the ASAP Canberra Office to continue the work on the Titterton collection begun by Anne-Marie Condé. Yimei made substantial progress before leaving ASAP in March 1994. Basic information - such as a summary of contents, date range and file size - have now been entered into the database for every file in the collection (there are approximately 1600 items in all). The next stage is to determine which parts of the collection require more detailed descriptions. The listing will then be completed, indexed and a guide published. The Australian Foundation for Science is seeking funds to enable this important project to be completed.
Dewar Wilson Goode
This year saw the final completion of the listing by Stewart Brash of this extremely comprehensive collection. This will be one of our largest ever Guides to an individuals work, and will prove an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history of land management and conservation in this country. Currently, the listing is being edited and we hope to publish in the second half of the year. The collection will be deposited with the LaTrobe Library.
This is only an extract!
For the full, unexpurgated version of the ASAP Annual Report just contact either our Melbourne Office on (03) 344 6557 or our Canberra Office on (06) 257 7985.
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