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Australian Science Archives Project

Annual Report

ISSN 0817-7174

Projects and
Professional Services

Science, the Scientific Community, and Industry
Information Services

In 1996 ASAP continued to offer high quality professional advice and project management services in archives, records management and information services to science, technology, and medicine-based organisations and institutions. ASAP's services have been specifically developed with the needs of the scientific community in mind. Our work incorporates projects in a variety of areas: from the records of individual scientists; advice and support to scientific societies; the provision of archival tools to scientific and medical institutions; and the planning and management of large-scale archival projects for our clients in industry. This year, ASAP completed successful projects for archival repositories, scientific institutions, a variety of heritage organisations, and the power and pharmaceutical industries.

Science, the Scientific Community, and Industry

ASAP's original brief concentrated on the documentation and preservation of the records of Australian scientists and scientific institutions. Our work in the industrial sphere has not led to neglect in these areas; rather, it has been used to increase our activities in these areas by providing avenues to access the records of significant individuals within organisations. ASAP has also endeavoured to increase the time and resources we are able to offer to scientific societies that hold records of value but may not have the resources to deal with them themselves. As always, we also attempt to educate those working within science, technology and medicine about the importance of their records and the need for preservation strategies.

ASAP's professional advice and project management in archives, records management and information services generally take the form of projects involving program planning, provision of software, and advice and support for clients. Our clients may require advice on many scales; from the fate of the few boxes that may be the only records documenting a lifetime of scientific work, to dealing with the classification and processing of many kilometres of records.

In 1996, we provided our clients with project planning and implementation, provision of software, and advice and support on a range of archival, project management and technological issues. Every project is different and poses particular problems, so ASAP has concentrated on developing flexible processes that can handle the records of both large-scale and complex organisations, or small sets of personal records.

Scoping projects have been undertaken for numerous clients, allowing ASAP to establish the amount and type of records involved in a potential archival project. ASAP has developed a means of gaining control of records in situ, using archival methodology and ASAP ADS tools, which provide organisations with overall control of their records and a clear work plan for future work.

ASAP's contracted work incorporates project planning, management and implementation. Contracts are normally undertaken by ASAP in order to provide clients with methods of management for large backlogs of uncontrolled records, but may also include the construction of on-going records systems. ASAP also provides on-going archival and records management services to a variety of organisations - in particular scientific, technical and medical institutions.

The need to work on a variety of scales, and to varying levels of details has been one of the influences in developing our Archival Data-management System (ASAP ADS). In the ASAP ADS, we believe our archival practice and research has resulted in the development of a groundbreaking tool for archival management. We are continuing to extend the capabilities of ASAP ADS to include the use of the WWW; the integration of documentation of records, artifacts and related materials to provide multiple access points for current and future use; and the capture of images, sound and text in electronic databases. We aim to offer services at the cutting edge of the profession, which provide our clients with the best possible products and allow us to fulfil our heritage commitments while contributing to the archival community.

Information Services

Complementing ASAP's efforts to preserve the records of science is our commitment to making them accessible - to communicating something of the richness and depth of Australia's scientific heritage. Over the years, ASAP has broadened its activities in this area, undertaking a series of important and on-going tasks such as: the development of the Register of Archives of Science in Australia (RASA); the publication of detailed guides to archival collections; and the publication of the History of Australian Science Newsletter. More recently, efforts have focused on the development of resources for the World Wide Web (WWW). Through our WWW site - ASAPWeb (http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/) - we reach a national and international audience. ASAPWeb has become one of the principal sites in the world for information on the history of science, technology and medicine.

ASAP's central WWW resource is Bright Sparcs, a detailed and innovative online facility providing information on the history of Australian science, technology and medicine. While it has grown out of RASA, Bright Sparcs is more than just a database. Taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the WWW, Bright Sparcs provides access to a range of biographical, bibliographical and archival data sources, to create a rich research environment.

Over the past year, there have been substantial changes to the design and content of Bright Sparcs. A grant under the Australian Vice Chancellors' Committee's Improved Information Infrastructure program has enabled much needed consolidation and maintenance work to take place. In addition, funding provided by the Australia Foundation for Culture and the Humanities has made it possible for us to further our outreach efforts, developing exhibitions and guides that will encourage exploration and use of Bright Sparcs, particularly in schools.

As an early leader in the use of the WWW, ASAP has sought to provide advice and encouragement to archival, scientific and heritage groups seeking to develop their own Internet presence. ASAP has established WWW sites for the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and has worked with the Australian Society of Archivists to create an online version of its Directory of Archives in Australia. ASAP also hosts WWW sites and email discussion lists for a number of like-minded organisations.

ASAP continues to explore new avenues for the promotion of Australia's scientific heritage. The Cabinet of Curiosities, a project developed under the NewIMAGES program, is a good example of ASAP's commitment, flexibility and imagination. The Cabinet will provide many opportunities for ASAP to further its aims - opening Australia's scientific past for exploration by a much wider audience.

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Published by the Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 23 January 1998
Prepared by: Elissa Tenkate