Recollect Community Innovation

Prior to the ALIA Information Online Conference in Sydney last month, a group of our Australian Recollect Administrators met to discuss all things Recollect and hear from some of our customers on how they are using Recollect to allow their communities to access, discover and engage their collections.
These forums have proven to be a great way for the Recollect Community to build networks between members of the community and share ideas and projects that have been made possible with Recollect sites.

“It was really good to meet other users and learn how they are using Recollect. The forum also reinforced the commitment of Recollect to continuous improvement and I could see how developments from other sites (such as Uni Sydney) will benefit us.” Michael Smith, City of Sydney.

The day began with an overview from our General Manager, Gavin Mitchell, who discussed the recent growth we have experienced and the future of the Recollect product. There are some exciting times ahead for our team of passionate innovators and developers.Following Gavin’s update our Recollect Administrators took to the floor with some inspirational projects and uses of Recollect. They have kindly allowed us to share their projects with all of you, we think they are fantastic!

City of Sydney Archives - CAMPAS- User Centred Design

Presented by Michael Smith and Janet Villata

The City of Sydney Archives is currently implementing Recollect.
Their Collection dates from 1842 with the City Archives team established in 1976. The Collection includes 12,000 shelf metres of archives as well as digital records. The City Archives is also a collecting archive with high public interest in the collection.
The City Archives has an active volunteer program that has been running for 20 years with volunteers providing item level descriptive metadata. They also have a well-funded programme for digitising high value records. Their Recollect site will enable access to their Collection, including allowing users to access and download digital objects when they exist.

Michael Smith explained that currently the City Archives are “fairly impenetrable for users”. The City of Sydney website has 18 links from their home page with 16 options for searching the collection. The many systems that make up the archive all have different interfaces. This makes it incredibly hard for “newbies” to navigate and search.When preparing for a new system, thought went into identifying user needs and understanding how they would like to search the collection. Michael indicated that archivists tend to assume "We know who our users are and what they want" when in fact it is more a case of “we know who some of our users are and some of what they want".

A key finding from their investigations was that 80% of users wanted address and location specific archives so giving them the ability to search by location is a priority. When choosing a new archives management platform, they were looking for a system with the ability for users to engage with the Collection and easily access what they need. Michael said,When we hear a system is 'designed by archivists, for archivists' we shudder, as most users don't want that!”   
During the implementation process for Recollect, the Discovery Workshops identified key information that will allow the site to be configured to suit the City’s Collection and how their diverse users want to access the Collection. The Recollect Persona and User Experience Workshops were used to explore user requirements and make key decisions about configuring templates and search widgets. The Recollect Data Workshop focused on data migration and the metadata needed to ensure their archives are consistently searchable when uploaded into Recollect.
The City Archives are looking forward to future opportunities to extend the use of Recollect through:

  • Location Based User Experiences - a person walking down the street can look at the Recollect site and be shown items from where they are standing using their geo coordinates.
  • Photos with richer metadata - record lat/long of where the photographer was standing, the direction they were facing and the coordinates of buildings in the images – this is starting to be worked on.
  • Increasing Volunteer Activity - managing a larger team of volunteers working online, with some working remotely, to improve item level metadata.

The City Archives Recollect site is due to launch later in 2019.

University of Newcastle, IT Services (UON ITS) - Innovation Team

Deep Time - Virtual Reality Archaeology Visualisation

Presented by Gaute Rasmussen

The Recollect platform has been used to facilitate the fascinating Virtual Reality project by UON ITS Innovation Team, Deep Time, Archaeology Visualisation.Gaute describes how their team get to “play with and develop some pretty awesome technology to enrich teaching and learning”.
After an archaeological excavation was done in Newcastle, and over 5000 artefacts were uncovered, the UON ITS Innovation Team came in to see how they “could do something cool”.
Their first idea was a VR replicated dig where people were interested in discovering the original context of the items. As excavation destroys the context of the artefacts, this VR technology will allow researchers to visually understand how the artefacts spatially relate to one another.
Each item found within the site was 3D scanned and had recorded metadata of its discovered location ingested into Recollect. 3D files were uploaded to Recollect as an object file and texture file. This is where Recollect acted as the repository, as well as a place to look at a 3D object.
Then the VR application was implemented with “The Trench” – a holographic trench modelled by hand, based on the archaeological report. The artefacts were then distributed in the trench based on their metadata recorded within Recollect, allowing the viewer to see density and distribution of artefacts throughout the trench.
Find out more about the Deep Time project here.
Visit the UoN Recollect site Living Histories here.


Australian Railway Historical Society NSW

Presented by James Dalton

The ARHSnsw is a very enthusiastic community whose mission is to – Be a focus for all who are interested in railways, particularly in NSW, through shared experiences, learnings and fellowship”.
ARSHnsw are a not-for-profit society who maintains the largest private collection if railways of NSW, its people, infrastructure and operations by being a publisher, operating a bookshop and resource centre and operating rail-themed tours to help commercial and private interests with their research and / or in support of their hobby.

However, to ensure they can provide these valuable services to the members of their community they need to make money through their archives. Previously their digitised material was uploaded to their intranet, which means that it is only accessible to the public by visiting their reading room.
By implementing a Recollect site for their archives the Society will soon offer access to all their digitised material from anywhere. This is a benefit which strengthens their value proposition for current and prospective members. It will generate interest and grow an engaged community of railway and history enthusiasts and professionals. It also means staff and volunteers can spend more time focused on the maintenance and development of the collection rather than attending to minor enquiries.
If you are interested in gaining access to the Railway Resource Centre please get in touch with James here.

We want to say a big THANK YOU to these presenters for sharing their projects with us and the wider Recollect Community – we love seeing our product being used in such innovating ways to benefit all kinds of communities and collections for access, discoverability, engagement, preservation, management and learning.

Want to find out more? Get in touch with our Recollect team today!

Emerging from the Primordial Technological Ooze

Suffering from non-integrated systems that operated as part of the “primordial technological ooze” the University of Newcastle needed a single system that would make all of their digital collections accessible and easy to engage with online. After an extensive global search, UON selected Recollect to share, manage and grow their historical cultural collections. The Recollect platform allowed for a smooth and easy solution to manage their large digital collections. Recollect has made their material accessible, discoverable and engaging for communities, fellow researchers, partners and future collaborators.

Living Histories @ UON was launched in February 2017 and currently holds the digitised material of the Cultural Collections section of the University Library that includes the Archives and Special Collections. The Archives holds some 2,000 shelf metres of priceless manuscript material dating from the year 1826. These collections contain a great wealth of untapped information and have an extraordinary range and depth for research and are extremely valuable and unique to Australian libraries.

  • Over 70,000 historical collection items have been uploaded to Living Histories @ UON
  • Comments and suggested edits are captured and managed
  • Diverse media and information are all in the one place
  • Increased community engagement with their historical collections
  • Unlimited opportunities for the knowledge to grow.

The Challenge

The Librarians and Archivists were faced with the challenge of making the collections easily accessible and discoverable while recording important information and corrections to enhance the knowledge about each item.  UON were using a number of image sharing programmes and apps to expand the life of their collections and engage with a variety of people interested in viewing historical collections.

“We previously tried to bring all the digital objects under the one umbrella in a digital repository that was connected to the library catalogue, in order to have the same look and feel, and to improve searchability and findability. Ultimately, this effort was unsuccessful, because the system was inflexible, difficult to use, unattractive, not customisable and it was not easy to establish relationships between the data objects."
“For a decade, the Cultural Collections team had been using Flickr for community engagement. This has been successful with over 47 million views. Though Flickr is great for engagement, it only functions for images. We needed a platform that had the engagement of Flickr combined with a DAM (Digital Asset Management) functionality. The team trialled and evaluated a variety of DAMs and while many functioned well as ‘containers’ few had the level of interactivity we required.”
Creating awareness and interest in the collections was the main goal for using these formats. Before Recollect we used whatever technologies we could to get the resources out there and to engage with our communities. We had stuff all over the place.”

These previous formats not only created a relatively un-searchable collection of resources, but the valuable and interesting comments that were left on each image were lost in the constant stream of releasing new images.

The Solution

After attempts to find a system that would help grow their knowledge and not just share it, they chose Recollect and Living Histories was born.

“Recollect exceeded our requirements, being highly customisable, easily Google indexed, mobile friendly, using persistent identifiers and supporting a variety of media. It excels at community engagement through user contributions, tagging, curating favourites, commenting and social media integration.”
“The team at Recollect transferred 55,000 images from Flickr as well as thousands of hours of audio-visual material, publications and manuscripts onto Living Histories. They also transferred the comments and tags accompanying the Flickr images which provide contextual, searchable metadata.”

Recollect provides access to all of their digital resources such as images, documents, audio, video, and 3D files, presenting all data in the same place which can be searched using a single interface.  Plus high levels of community engagement functions and the ability to capture contributions and relationships that enhance the knowledge and information stored within Living Histories.

We have strong community relationships and the platform allows members of the public and our community "team" to contribute by adding stories and data such as geotags and other tags.”

The Success

Currently Living Histories has a growing number of over 70,000 items that have been uploaded to the site, including over 60,000 photographs, over 4,900 wine labels, almost 3,300 publications and over 1,000 audio-visual items.  

"Living Histories" is the portal through which the public can explore, discover, and engage with the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections. Recollect has helped us by providing a configured, hosted platform for storage and worldwide dissemination of UON digital assets and knowledge.”
“Recollect allows us to build stories with our content. Each digital item in the system is enriched by connections, such as people and place, which build context around the items. Recollect enables interaction between users and the site content, opening up new and exciting possibilities for sharing content and knowledge.”

Community Engagement

“We have always had strong relationships with the local communities,historical societies, local historians and members of the public.   Users have given feedback about the usefulness of Living Histories for both genealogical research and student assignments in subjects History, Geography, Architecture and Fine Arts. The quality of and breadth of information provided, searchability and ability to download high resolution files make it an invaluable resource for students.”
“The Hunter Rainbow History Group has embraced using Recollect as a “Hunter LGBTIQ archive”. They are collecting people’s memories, photos, audio recordings and news clippings. They say “It’s all about keeping Hunter stories close and accessible…”. After a little training from the Cultural Collections team, this group can now simply and easily publish their content on the Living Histories site.”

Training, Further Opportunities and Diverse uses

“Recollect is also being used as a training opportunity for our Work Integrated Learning (WIL) students. This new platform offers great opportunities for students to be given real world experience, working with GLAM professionals to create digital works and publish them. WIL students work with faculty and professional staff on real artefacts, manuscripts, publications, images and audio-visual files and publish the results on Living Histories @ UON, something that has not been possible to any extent before.”

The Future

“The flexible and customisable nature of Recollect means that the Living Histories site can grow and adapt over time to meet new ideas and trends, including further integration with Virtual Reality technologies. We envision that in the future the community of Living Histories contributors will grow exponentially as users discover the interactive features of the site.”

Living Histories @ UON has a collaborative approach to sharing knowledge and making more collections accessible.  They have and continue to partner with many different groups and individuals to support and display unique collections.  Recollect has scooped up the ooze and sculpted it into a format that provides unlimited opportunities for the knowledge to grow and help shape the future.

To find out how Recollect can grow your future, contact us for a consultation.

The Principles of Community Engagement

We believe in lasting online engagement within a community, and recognise the principles that need to be considered for capturing past and present information with a view to building identity as well as informing and perhaps setting future direction.
When deciding to invest in an online community engagement strategy, it is important to consider a number of factors to make sure the strategy will succeed. We have put together the following principles which are the building blocks for creating lasting online engagement with a community.

1. Purpose

Tweet: Effective engagement requires a clear purpose that drives the conversations and connections engagement requires a clear purpose that drives the conversations and connections between individuals and between individuals and organisations.
There may be several distinct purposes for any engagement and they should all be clearly articulated to the user community. The purpose can then be used to channel interactions and remove distractions.
Examples of purpose include:

  • Sharing Knowledge
  • Capturing Memories
  • Building identity
  • Setting future direction

2. Content

Online engagement is driven by content, the users look at content, interact with the content and interact with other users over the content. The content should include all forms of digital assets – documents, knowledge, images, videos, locations, audio, opinions, comments and so on.
Importantly the content must be meaningful, authentic and shared i.e. not from one source.

3. Users

The community are the users – without users you have site visitors who aren’t engaged. New users need to be welcomed and encouraged to participate, and power users need to be identified, nurtured and exploited.

4. User Experience

A key ingredient of effective on-line engagement is the user experience; poor experience drives users away while a great experience builds the community.
a) Make it “sticky”
A “sticky” site is one that users don’t want to leave or want to come back to frequently. This may be because the content is great, the level of interaction or simply the pleasure received from engaging.
b) Create emotion – fun, pleasure, etc
It is important to generate emotion through the experience. This could be pleasure, joy, outrage, nostalgia or any emotion that is appropriate to the site purpose, but without emotion the user has little reason to return.
c) Make it easy to participate
The experience must be simple and intuitive, any barriers to use should be removed or minimised.
d) Friendly environment
Content and interactions should be moderated to ensure that the environment is friendly and welcoming.
e) Create interest groups
Create the opportunity for users to join special interest groups in the community to focus their attention and heighten their engagement.
f) Allow subject tracking and notifications
In a similar vein to interest groups, enable the user to be notified of items of interest to them.
g) Participation creates knowledge and ownership
The act of engagement increases the knowledge of all members and importantly creates a sense of joint ownership and value in the community.
h) Reward users
Interaction must be a rewarding process, users should be thanked for contributions and should receive feedback from their engagements. This could be through a ranking system, notification of views of posts or other mechanisms.
i) Progression of responsibility
As users become more experienced in the community their contribution should be recognised with additional responsibilities such as moderators, editors, reviewers and so on.
j) Take time to go off line and engage in the real world
Finally it is important to recognise that the online world is a reflection of the real world, where possible create some real world engagement to deepen the sense of community. This could be through meetings, conferences, workshops and so on.
Contact us if you would like to discuss creating an effective online community engagement strategy.

West Coast NZ History: Community in Action

Heather Newby started a Facebook group to share her photos and memories of growing up on NZ's West Coast. The idea of a group that allowed Coasters who were "scattered, and had lost touch with each other" to reconnect and share interesting photos, articles, anecdotes and general historical tid-bits' was a popular one, and it rapidly became too popular for the Facebook Group platform to cope. Contributions came in thick and fast, and are only displayed on the timeline news feed.
Since there is no facility on Facebook to catalogue, sort, or effectively search the contributions, photographs and information was getting lost. Even just a few hours after an item is posted it is difficult to locate; worse, it looks like some contributions have completely vanished. A new solution was needed, and fast.

WCNZH and Recollect

With a kick-start fund from a generous benefactor, hours of work from a core group of volunteers, and some clever development work to extract the majority of the contributions (around 8000 images!) from the Facebook group page, the new West Coast NZ History website launched on 23 May 2015.
The new site, based on the Recollect platform, offers all the benefits of the group page (community contributions of photos and stories, image tagging, 'liking' an item, commenting on a contribution) but with full searchability and ongoing management of the content. This means the site offers many ways for visitors to search or browse content using subject tags, dynamic menus, map links and it's easy to see latest uploads.

Community Ownership

The group had a second problem - this was not a company or organisation, this was a collective of interested individuals from all over the world. How do they fund a permanent professional solution? The answer was crowdfunding. The Recollect team worked with them to find a suitable fundraising option and integrated this into their Recollect site. The core community pushed the 'little and often' message to the Group members, and reinforced what a loss it would be for the community to lose the amazing collection of history they have built.
Visit WCNZH's Recollect Website
"If 7768 members on this site donated $5 each, you would reach your target in no time... just the price of one coffee or one beer, so Coasters, let's get behind the website appeal."
M.W. - Facebook Group Member