Ignore me - filler


Ignore me - filler
Australian Science Archives Project

Annual Report

ISSN 0817-7174

Projects in Detail

Information Services


The development of ASAPWeb has proceeded rapidly since the establishment of ASAP's own dedicated WWW server in July 1995. As well as the specific projects listed below, there have been many enhancements to the site. In particular, the new home page design by Griffiths & Young provides a clear but attractive entrance. As well as our publicly accessible resources, we have also been extending the use of the WWW for internal ASAP purposes. Guillaume Mallet developed a number of information sharing utilities, while Victoria Young and Elissa Tenkate have maintained the social side of our virtual office.

Australian Society of Archivists - Directory of Archives in Australia
Rosanne Walker, Guillaume Mallet, Tim Sherratt

In 1995 ASAP approached the Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) with a proposal to create a WWW edition of its Directory of Archives in Australia. ASA agreed to fund the project and organised a mailout to repositories seeking up-to-date information to add to the Directory. In the first phase, the existing Directory information was converted into a database to allow for easy management and conversion into HTML. Rosanne Walker then entered updates and corrections. Over 350 of the 470 entries in the Directory were updated and, where appropriate, e-mail addresses and URLs were added. The structure and organisation of the WWW edition were carefully designed to provide ready access to the data. In addition, Guillaume Mallet developed a new search interface, providing users with the choice of a full text or a fielded search. ASAP also added a new section to the Directory listing Australian archival resources on the WWW, including a hyperlinked list of all archival repositories with WWW sites, and a listing of finding aids on the WWW. The Directory was formally released to the world in late May 1996 and has attracted considerable interest, both in Australia and internationally. It can be accessed at on the WWW at: http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/asa/directory/

Bright Sparcs

Bright Sparcs underwent a series of major redevelopments from late 1995 through 1996. This work was made possible by grants from the Australian Vice Chancellors' Commission Improved Information Infrastructure program and the Australia Foundation for Culture and the Humanities. In addition, ASAP's improved financial security has enabled us to commit significant resources to the on-going maintenance and development of Bright Sparcs. Bright Sparcs' future as an innovative, accessible and informative resource seems well assured.

Developments occurred in many areas: our systems for managing data input were rationalised; our WWW design was overhauled; new resources were created; and new links were established to other facilities, publications and sites. Rosanne Walker took over the job of maintaining the data within Bright Sparcs, with Victoria Young and Denise Sutherland creating an exciting range of additional resources. Work was overseen by Tim Sherratt and Elissa Tenkate, with technical support provided by Guillaume Mallet and Robin Stephens.

Bright Sparcs - Site Redesign
Tim Sherratt

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The 'front end' of Bright Sparcs underwent some much needed renovations in 1996. Tim Sherratt's original Bright Sparcs logo was finally put out to pasture, replaced by a much more exciting design by Griffiths & Young. This changeover provided the inspiration for a more fundamental redesign of the WWW pages, aimed at presenting the information in a more attractive and compact way, while enhancing its ease of use. A series of additional navigation pages, including a site index and a What's New? page, were also created.

Bright Sparcs - New Search Facilities
Guillaume Mallet, Tim Sherratt

In late 1995, Guillaume Mallet began work on a new search facility for Bright Sparcs. The original, admittedly primitive, search script had already been replaced by a third party keyword search product, but we were keen to develop something that would enable users to generate complex fielded queries - for example 'female geologists born in Australian before 1900'. After exploring various options, Guillaume adapted the Harvest system to provide the flexibility we sought. Some fine tuning is still required, but the new facility adds considerably to Bright Sparcs' ease of use.

Bright Sparcs - Data Entry
Rosanne Walker

Rosanne Walker has taken on the role of Bright Sparcs 'Registrar', ensuring that the core data which constitutes Bright Sparcs is properly maintained. Rosanne has already worked through the backlog of corrections, and is now adding new entries from the material which has accumulated since the last systematic updating of RASA in 1991. Our methods of reporting errors and noting possible additions have also been streamlined. The provision of resources to enable the maintenance of the database is vital to Bright Sparcs' continued value.

Bright Sparcs - Users' Guides
Denise Sutherland, Elissa Tenkate

In order to familiarise users with the contents and structure of Bright Sparcs, Denise Sutherland has developed an online 'Users' Guide'. This Guide provides a tour of Bright Sparcs with examples of how its resources can be utilised. More than just a 'Help' file, the Guide will hopefully encourage visitors to Bright Sparcs to extend their explorations. To provide more specialised advice, Denise is also working on a 'Teachers' Guide'. Drawing upon Australian science curricula, the Teachers' Guide will provide a series of suggestions for using Bright Sparcs in an educational setting. Information about the Teachers' Guide, and Bright Sparcs in general, will be distributed to teachers in 1997.

Bright Sparcs - Exhibitions
Tim Sherratt, Denise Sutherland, Elissa Tenkate

One of our main aims in promoting the use of Bright Sparcs is to draw in people who have had little previous contact with the history of Australian science - who, indeed, might be surprised to find Australia has a scientific heritage. To help achieve this, we are developing a series of online exhibitions, extensively cross-linked with Bright Sparcs, but designed to reach out beyond the narrowly defined history of science community. It is expected that these exhibitions will take two forms:

  • short presentations created to highlight or link with specific anniversaries or events; and
  • detailed, stand-alone, exhibitions exploring topics in considerable depth.

The first mini exhibition was created by Denise Sutherland to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of pioneer naturalist Amalie Dietrich. It can be found on the WWW at: http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/bsparcs/exhib/dietrich/

Denise has also developed a detailed exhibition examining the design and manufacture of optical munitions in the Second World War. The optical munitions story is a fascinating one, involving a number of the major figures in Australia's scientific community. Denise has assembled a set of comprehensive resources, providing information on the people and institutions involved, and incorporating little seen photographs from the Australian War Memorial and Mount Stromlo Observatory. This exhibition will be known as The Giant's Eye: The Optical Munitions Exhibition and will be formally launched early in 1997. It will be found on the WWW at: http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/bsparcs/exhib/omp/

Bright Sparcs - Bibliography of the History of Australian Science
Guillaume Mallet, Tim Sherratt, Karl Slotte

Bright Sparcs has always provided information on archival or unpublished sources of information, but what about published material? Published bibliographies, particularly those by Ann Moyal and Laurie Carlson, have existed for some time, but they needed to be brought together to provide detailed coverage of the history of Australian science. In late 1995, Karl Slotte began entering data from these existing published bibliographies into a database. By the end of 1996, there were over 2,500 entries, and Karl had begun to supplement the published bibliographies with data from other sources. Care was taken to tag articles with the relevant Bright Sparcs ID numbers, thus enabling easy cross-linking between the two databases. This bibliography of the history of Australian science will be made available on the WWW in 1997. It will be accessible both via a dedicated search/browse page, and through the Bright Sparcs entries of individual scientists. This resource will greatly add to the value of Bright Sparcs as a research and reference tool.

Bright Sparcs - Memoirs of the Australian Academy of Science
Rosanne Walker, Victoria Young

The scanning and processing of the biographical memoirs of the Australian Academy of Science published in Historical Records of Australian Science was completed by Victoria Young in February 1996. This was a considerable task and has made available over eighty detailed biographical articles, all fully cross-linked with Bright Sparcs. It is intended that future memoirs will be added to this important collection.

Bright Sparcs - Directory of Archives in Australia
Tim Sherratt

As reported elsewhere, ASAP has developed a WWW edition of the Directory of Archives in Australia. This was also important for the on-going maintenance of Bright Sparcs, as the Directory has replaced the repositories database that was included in early editions. Considerable work was required to synchronise the data and to establish appropriate links between the two databases. This work will ensure that Bright Sparcs always provides up-to-date information with minimal duplication of effort.

The Cabinet of Curiosities
Tim Sherratt

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Greg St John's design of the
Cabinet of Curiosities

The idea for the Cabinet of Curiosities arose out of discussions between Peter Vallee (Executive Secretary, Australian Academy of Science) and Tim Sherratt in January 1996. The replica Endeavour was sailing to the UK later that year, and the Academy of Science and the Royal Society of London were seeking ideas for a science related event or project that could be tied into its voyage. Inspired by various historical and contemporary sources, Tim suggested that the Endeavour carry a Cabinet of Curiosities. Just as Banks's voyage and collections marked the incorporation of Australia into western science, so the Cabinet would provide a new 'collection' - a representation of the way science had developed in Australia over the intervening two hundred years.

Tim's one-page project outline was taken up by the British Council under the NewIMAGES program, and in October 1996 RTZ-CRA agreed to sponsor the project. ASAP was engaged by the British Council to see the project through to completion. Time was limited, and it was decided that the Cabinet would join the Endeavour in Madeira, its last stop before London in March 1997.

What is the Cabinet of Curiosities? It is, in essence, a work of art, or rather an art exhibition. Tim has developed themes and stories exploring aspects of the history of Australian science. These are being allocated to eight artists around Australia who will develop works based on their responses. Their artworks will be enclosed in a magnificent cabinet, designed and built by Greg St John at the Canberra School of Art. We hope that the Cabinet will encourage those who see it to undertake their own explorations of the history of Australian science; that it will be a work that inspires both fascination and, of course, curiosity.

After a brief sojourn in London, the Cabinet will travel back to Australia as part of the Kaleidoscope of Life exhibition being developed by the Australian Museum and the Natural History Museum. It will be exhibited around Australia throughout 1997 and 1998, before returning to Britain, where it will be formally presented to the Royal Society of London as a gift from the people of Australia.

Further information about the Cabinet of Curiosities and its schedule will be made available through the Cabinet's own WWW site: http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/cabinet/

History of Australian Science Newsletter

ASAP's plan is to transform the History of Australian Science Newsletter (HASN) into an electronic magazine which will be printed and distributed at regular intervals. It was hoped that the first edition would be available by mid-1996, but this has not been possible. However, Griffiths & Young have put together some great design ideas and it is expected to be operational by June 1997.

The electronic version of HASN will go by the name of The Duckbill Messenger - but it will be more than just an electronic HASN. It will include many links to ASAP's range of resources, thus providing an alternative gateway to both Australia's scientific, technological and medical history, and to ASAP in general.

The Journal of Syms Covington
Victoria Young

In August 1995, ASAP published on the WWW The Journal of Syms Covington, Darwin's assistant on the voyage of the Beagle. This journal is held by the Mitchell Library, and was transcribed and annotated by ANU researcher Vern Weitzel. Vern approached ASAP about the possibility of publishing his work on the Internet and we gladly obliged. Victoria Young undertook the processing and design of the WWW edition, which includes images of some of Covington's own sketches. As far as we know, this was the first complete manuscript from an Australian repository to be made available on the WWW. It can be found at: http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/bsparcs/covingto/

WWW Guides to Collections
Guillaume Mallet, Tim Sherratt

Tim Sherratt developed a package of macros, reports and queries to automatically generate WWW editions of Guides from ASAP ADS. In addition, Guillaume Mallet modified existing WWW indexing software to provide a search facility that links users to the contents of individual files within the collection (rather than simply to blocks of text or complete data files). The first Guide to be generated in this manner was the Guide to the Records of CSIRAC, which is available on ASAPWeb at: http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/pubs/guides/csirac/

Other guides successfully published in this manner this year were:

WWW Site Development
Guillaume Mallet, Lisa O'Sullivan, Tim Sherratt, Victoria Young

ASAP Canberra's Information Services consultancy with the Academy of Science continued this year, with ASAP redesigning most of the Academy's WWW site. Lisa O'Sullivan and Guillaume Mallet developed a prototype of 'Science in Action' - a new science education resource - for demonstration at the Academy's Annual General Meeting in May 1996. Academy staff have now taken over responsibility for the day-to-day editing and creation of their WWW materials. ASAP continued to provide Academy staff with training, advice and backup throughout the year.

ASAP is also assisting the Australian Academy of the Humanities in the development of their own WWW site, and provides advice and assistance to a range of other organisations, including the Australian Science Communicators and the Australian Society of Archivists.

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