Located in Australia’s Western Sydney, Blacktown City Libraries has a comprehensive archive full of photographs, oral histories, audiovisual material, maps, posters, military heritage, cemetery records, and digital timelines. The vibrant and culturally diverse city, home to 375,000 people, needed a robust online platform that could sustain an eclectic assortment of formats to capture their unique heritage and growing history. Community learning coordinator for Blacktown City Libraries, Mary Ternes, reveals,

“we launched our Recollect site, Blacktown Memories, in February 2019 to serve as a one-stop-shop that could display our collections and provide easy access for our community.”


Above: Main Street, Blacktown. Blacktown City Libraries. 1961. Ref no. 015352

An Online Vision

Blacktown Memories was born from a desire by Blacktown City Libraries to increase community engagement and accessibility of their collections. Most of their digitised material was dispersed across several siloed online platforms. They were only accessible through links on the Blacktown City Council webpage and there was often storage issues or upload constraints across the various platforms. The dispersal of resources was incredibly time consuming while assisting customers, staff, and council with research — every resource needed to be accessed separately and it proved difficult to keep track of their location. Recollect was chosen because it can be configured to provide consistency across a range of activities, including how items are recorded, classified, and kept.

Recollect gives Blacktown City Libraries the space to share their digitised collections and other historical material with their community. Blacktown Memories displays cultural history in a more engaging way to transport people back into the past so they can explore topics like their family history. Recollect facilitates the creation of digital collections that are usable, searchable, and a living document in and of itself.

Blacktown’s community is constantly growing and becoming more culturally diverse as a result of things like immigration and urbanisation. Recollect helps Blacktown Memories align this growth with the increase of their collections documenting the city’s distinctive history. Things like oral histories or historic photographs capture the essence of Blacktown’s community and with Recollect they can share these important stories.

Mary Ternes, notes,

we have a lot of new arrivals in our community, and our communities have changed so much...Recollect shows them what we were and where we come from. It gives them the opportunity to know where they now are and how they belong to this community.”

Blacktown Memories:
The strength of branding

The Blacktown Memories brand was established to represent the Blacktown City Libraries local history and digital collections on Recollect. The brand has a strong online reputation and is instantly recognisable to their community. The local government area (LGA) and community know they can trust Blacktown Memories for access to accurate local history.

The logo was designed to represent a honeycomb, which is indicative of the boundaries of the LGA and tells a visual story of the area’s growth from Shire to Municipal to City, reflecting changing boundaries as Western Sydney communities grew. It communicates that things are not set in stone; a honeycomb is moveable, it grows, and each section is supported by those that surround it.

The branding enhances the unique identity for Blacktown Memories and the community collections it preserves. It is used consistently across all internal and external communications, as well as in promotional material or other information relating to the Blacktown Community. For example, Blacktown Memories printed their logo onto a wall within their purpose-built traveling oral history studio and in their photographic scanning pod that moved throughout the LGA collecting stories and historic images. The library wanted to make sure that all material sourced for Blacktown Memories existed under the same brand “umbrella” to build up a strong identity.

Implementation and configuration

The implementation process was straightforward and the Recollect team made sure digital collections on Blacktown Memories were made available quickly so they could begin making a positive impact on their community. As Blacktown City Libraries digitisation project progressed, additional resources (including maps, plans, posters, and film) were made available to Blacktown Memories, and Recollect quickly helped move these resources online. The collections have gained exposure and highlight the diversity of Blacktown Memories.

Mary Ternes recalls,

“the Recollect team were in constant communication, suggesting changes, clarifying data etc. The team had a good understanding of our vision for the project and the importance of the resources we wanted to add to Blacktown Memories.”

Recollect is a flexible platform, it allows for collections to be configured into customisable “Recollect item type” templates that can display unique sets of metadata and information. During Blacktown Memories’ implementation process, three local history resources were moved into specially configured Recollect templates: military heritage, history pin tours, and council timelines.

Uncovering Diverse Collections

Digital Storytelling with Oral Histories

Blacktown Memories has an incredible range of material within their collections that encompass local stories, people, and places. The ‘collection’ feature on Recollect has been incredibly helpful to organise and display their archives and has been used extensively on Blacktown Memories. They have a number of important oral history collections that highlight Blacktown’s diversity, such as the Sudanese Stories and From Farms to Freeways.

Engaging students to build knowledge into the collection

The library and Western Sydney University have a collaborative arrangement that allows journalism students to conduct local history interviews for Blacktown Memories. Library staff identify potential interviewees, provide biographical and background materials on each person, and supply a venue for the students to record oral histories. These subject specific oral histories, and in particular the Sudanese Stories, have filled gaps within their living heritage collections.

Growing and maintaining identity

An important part of Blacktown Memories vision was to make sure that their community continued to feel like they still have ownership of material. They always acknowledge the ownership of items that are donated and emphasise that their primary goal is to help the community and give back.

The Les Tod collection shows how Blacktown Memories works directly with their community to enrich their collections. A Blacktown local, Les is passionate about the area’s history and has even won the Mayoral History Prize several times. He is an avid photographer and generously donated almost 700 images of the local area to Blacktown Memories. Les, who is also a volunteer with Local History, is currently working on the Simpson Family collection.

Jan Herivel explains, “the Simpson Family collection features a range of material from this local family with connections to the Blacktown area for around a century. The collection contains over 500 items including subdivision maps and plans, images, ephemera, documents, and letters that highlight the family’s commercial and social activities in the Blacktown Shire. The versatility of the Recollect platform enables us to connect the various formats and showcase this collection as a whole.”

Growing the Community and the Collections


As part of a “phase two” plan, Blacktown City Libraries wants to use their Recollect site, Blacktown Memories, to support moderated real-time engagement. They hope that this will boost community participation, stimulate conversations, as well as drive awareness about the digital collections. 


There are five historical societies and organisations within the LGA who Blacktown Memories works with closely. They are currently investigating the potential that the societies and organisations could contribute some of their local history collections to Blacktown Memories — this would provide a more integrated source for Blacktown’s history and heritage. The centenary of the Blacktown Soldiers’ Memorial provides a recent example: John Horne and the Blacktown and District Historical Society members created a book detailing the history of the memorial which was then uploaded to Blacktown Memories.

Awareness and Engagement

Leveraging social media to reach out to the Blacktown community has been great way for Blacktown Memories to generate awareness and engagement with their online collections. Their “Throwback Thursday” posts in particular have inspired a lot of comments, re-sharing, and positive feedback. People can even supply additional information about the material shared by revealing a photograph’s location or the names of people present. Sharing items from their collection on social media has delivered some impressive results, it drives traffic back to Blacktown Memories and increases community engagement exponentially.

Jan Herivel explains, “recently one of our videos, ‘Blacktown City, the place to be’ filmed in the late 1980s, was posted on another Facebook page. The post had 22 comments, 27 shares, and generated over 1,400 page views. Comments included:

‘took me down memory lane’


‘born 1973 and raised in Blacktown…only a kid when this was made…wow!’

This video certainly tapped into people’s memories.”

Page views per day
April 2020


This graph shows the spike in visitor traffic to Blacktown Memories’ Recollect page after posting a particularly engaging video.

Blacktown Memories is continually searching for new material to add to their collections.
Please contact them through their feedback link if you would like to donate material related to the Blacktown community.