Wednesday, June 27, 2012

anARCHIVE: mock-up of an information retrieval system

The latest assignment for my Masters asked students to create a mock-up information retrieval system (IRS) of a collection of our choosing. It was to take the form of a proposal, and include information on metadata standards, how information about an item (or surrogates in the lingo) is retrieved (such as search, browsing, recall, precision etc) and 10 examples using a wiki or other means to illustrate our IRS in action.

I chose to catalog my zine collection as I'm sure I'll need to do it for Katipo or some other group down the track. It was cool because I got to look at examples of zine libraries around the world and how they cataloged, described and provided access to their zines. I also got to pretend that a functioning anarchist archive in CHCH existed by using a wiki!

Here's my assignment in PDF form, complete with links to 3 example zine collections (Bernard Zine Library, Anchor Archive Zine Library, Salt Lake City Zine Library) and my mock-up IRS, anARCHIVE. I post it because good examples of zine/anarchist archives in practice are hard to find or light on information around how they do things (except for the examples I used, which were great). I also think the metadata fields I came up with are pretty good (although my lecturer suggested I could have used more administrative metadata on when the record itself was created, updated, that sort of thing). Might come in handy for any radical groups out there wanting to catalog their stuff.

View proposal online or download from Issuu:

AnARCHIVE wiki (not an actual archive!)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Where's the Section on Censorship? A Personal Encounter with Provenance

Some of my writing published by Archifacts October 2011-April 2012 (Journal of the Archives & Records Association of New Zealand).

On the eve of his execution in 1915, Joe Hill—radical songwriter, union organiser and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)—penned one final telegram from his Utah prison cell: “Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”1 After facing a five-man firing squad Hill’s body was cremated, his ashes placed into 600 tiny packets and sent to IWW Locals, sympathetic organizations and individuals around the world. Among the nations said to receive Hill’s ashes, New Zealand is listed.

Yet nothing was known about what happened to the ashes of Joe Hill in New Zealand. Were Hill’s ashes really sent to New Zealand? Or was New Zealand simply listed to give such a symbolic act more scope? If they did make it, what ever happened to them? These were the questions I set about trying to answer late in 2009 as a first-time researcher, initially out of curiosity and then predominantly out of obsession. In the process I published my first book,2 learnt a great deal about the treatment of New Zealand’s radical labour movement during the First World War and gained valuable research skills. I also gained an awareness of the power of archives and the importance of archival theory.

Before I began my research on Joe Hill’s ashes I had only visited an archive once—way back in 2002 as a graphic design student at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts. Navigating Archway, reference interviews and the concept of provenance therefore, was an entirely new experience. It must have proved fruitful however for I now find myself immersed in a Masters of Information Studies at Victoria University, majoring in archives. The program has given me a theoretical lens into the past, facilitating some interesting reflection about my personal archival interaction. What follows is that reflection: my encounter with archives as a (inexperienced) user, the discovery and use of provenance search methods and grappling with archival gaps.

Archives, Archival Theory & Archway

New Zealand has a small but strong community of researchers focused on labour history. Yet much of this history “remains undocumented and unpublished. New Zealand work practices and cultures are relatively unexplored compared with other fields of social history.”3 Likewise, only recently have works appeared on transnational aspects of our working past—the transient nature of the early twentieth century workforce, interactions between national movements and the influence of ideas across borders. My work on Joe Hill’s ashes is a material manifestation of such migration and is reflected in part by the archival records I encountered throughout my research.

Joe Hill’s ashes, if they did make it to New Zealand as claimed by a long line of historians, would have arrived by way of post. On 20 November 1916—one year after his execution—Hill’s ashes were given to delegates present at the Tenth Convention of the IWW in Chicago. The remaining packets were then posted around the world on 3 January 1917. According to the minutes of the Chicago Convention, held at Wayne State University, no New Zealander was present. These records, and the fact that the New Zealand IWW had been receiving a steady stream of radical material in the post since 1908, seemed to suggest a postal possibility.

With the help of my friend Mark Crookston—who, at that time, was the Senior Advisor at the Government Digital Archive Programme (Archives New Zealand)—I began to canvas what kind of potential ‘hot spots’ could be present at the National Archives. Discussions with Mark also helped me come to grips with concepts like ‘original order’ and ‘provenance’ and prompted thinking about the postal systems of the past. However my initial experience with the physical archive was accidental. Due to its upgrade the Alexander Turnbull Library had just moved into Archives New Zealand’s Wellington premises—the ever-informative Bert Roth Collection having encouraged me to leave Christchurch and visit the capital. After finishing with the collection early I decided to make use of the Archives New Zealand reference room, and it was here that I experienced the uniqueness of archival principles and the concept of provenance firsthand.

My reference interview at Archives took place early on in my research, so my understanding of the postal system during the war years was still pretty limited. It was also my first archival reference ‘in the flesh’. As part of the Google Generation, my natural approach to Archway and the archivist was that of subject keywords, with a vague notion of their wider context. I quickly realised that simply punching ‘Joe Hill’ into Archway or asking for the ‘postal censorship section’ at the reference desk was not going to cut it. As we discussed my needs the archivist related them to the archive’s series system through looking into the records of the Customs Department. My subject-based enquiry became one of provenance, although I did not understand it fully at the time.

As a new user of archives I found this experience both confusing and fascinating. I had a loose idea of original order and provenance thanks to those late night, kitchen-based discussions with Mark, but I did not realise that description of records would be based on such principles rather than subject. Likewise, employing provenance was a new concept. Thankfully my introduction to archival theory in practice was made a lot easier due to the excellent service I received during that first visit. To cut a long interview short, the result of that experience left me with the seeds of a powerful search method that soon became crucial to my research.

The Power of Provenance

Provenance gave me a powerful framework to use when searching for possible documentation of Joe Hill’s ashes in New Zealand. I began to tease out ideas around records creation: who would have maintained the record/s I needed to uncover in order to show what happened to his ashes, and where would these records fit within the function and structure of its parent organization? If not explicitly described in a finding aid, where could they be located instead? This led me to gather contextual information about how censorship was instigated and operated during the First World War.

Censorship during the Great War has, unfortunately, been written about very little.4 The lack of information is probably due to the complex system of control put in place by the Massey Government and the confidential nature of its implementation. This confidentiality made an understanding of provenance even more pressing, as structural/functional information was simply not available.

Through the few secondary sources available and many hours on Archway I identified four key players with regard to wartime censorship: the Customs Department, the Post and Telegraph Department, the Army Department, and Sir John Salmond—Solicitor General of New Zealand from 1910-1920. Each was the creator of separate series of records, though provenance (and to an extent the administrative histories provided on Archway) helped make visible the relationships between them.

Legislation was the first signpost. The Customs Act of 1913 prohibiting the entry of ‘indecent’ literature into the country soon lead me to an Order in Council of 1915. This Order of Council specifically amended the Customs Act and addressed the material of the IWW directly, “prohibit[ing] the importation into New Zealand of the newspapers called Direct Action and Solidarity, and all other printed matter published or printed or purporting to be published or printed by or on behalf of the society known as ‘The Industrial Workers of the World.’”5 This legislation connected the Customs Department to the Post and Telegraph Department, and gave me a number of record series to research. For example, I found memorandums within the Post Department explaining the 1915 Order in Council and its implementation, highlighting key agents within the department’s structure to watch out for.

I then tried to focus on the relationships between these two record creators. Both Customs and the Post and Telegraph Department had a number of censors working within their ranks, the latter including the Deputy Chief Censor, W A Tanner. But I discovered that it was the military that managed censorship during the War. A number of key records (memorandums, reports on the British censorship model and how to apply it) helped me establish a sense of how censorship functioned: Tanner and other censors located across the country answered directly to Colonel Charles Gibbon, who was both Chief Censor and Chief of the General Staff of the New Zealand Military Forces. Censors were mostly officers of the Post Office and worked in the same building “as a matter of convenience”, but censors acted “under the instructions of the Military censor. The Post Office is bound to obey the Military censor.”6 It was therefore the records of the Army Department and a chain-of-command leading to Sir John Salmond that became a focus of my archival trawling.

Salmond, author of the stringent War Regulations imposed during the First World War and keen censor of socialist material, directed wartime censorship through Colonel Gibbon and his own Crown Law Opinions. When Joseph Ward, the Postmaster General, asked Salmond whether American socialist newspaper the International Socialist Review fell under the 1915 Order in Council, Salmond replied:

there is not sufficient evidence that the International Socialist Review is in any way connected with the Industrial Workers of the World. Nonetheless this publication is of a highly objectionable character advocating anarchy, violence and sedition. All copies of it therefore should without hesitation be detained…7

Similar correspondence between Salmond and various departments is archived in both Archives New Zealand and the Crown Law Library—painting a picture of a comprehensive system of censorship and completing the puzzle that faced me when I first visited Archives New Zealand. While subject keywords played a small part in locating information at a records level, provenance search methods made sure I did not overlook the key player—Sir John Salmond.

Further traces of IWW censorship are evident in a number of other records. In a file titled ‘Miscellaneous Administration Matters—Prohibited Literature—“Janes Fighting Ships”, Newspapers and other Printed Matters’, a worker at the Post and Telegraph Department reported the withholding of 8 bundles and 14 copies of IWW newspapers; while Salmond, in an Opinion to the Commissioner of Police, arranged “with the Post Office to have all correspondence addressed to [Wellington anarchist] Philip Josephs whether within New Zealand or elsewhere stopped and examined. It may be that such examination will show that Josephs’ is an active agent of the IWW.”8 In the same Crown Law Opinion to Ward referenced earlier, Salmond instructed that the International Socialist Review “should merely be detained” but that “all IWW publications should be destroyed.”9

Remains to be Seen

The outcome of my research is essentially about the records I never found—the lack of any record documenting the detention or transmission of the packet containing Joe Hill’s ashes. This archival gap—or what remained unsaid—suggested a pretty clear fate. In tandem with found documentation on IWW censorship, the overbearing absence of any records on Hill’s ashes themselves suggests that they never made it beyond the national border. The monitoring of correspondence that existed in 1917 alone is enough to warrant such a conclusion. That Sir John Salmond, War Regulations, and Orders in Council specifically targeted the IWW on a number of occasions (as further examined in my book) surely sealed the deal. It would have been a small miracle for the ashes of Joe Hill to see the light of day in the Dominion.

Yet I would never had identified this gap if I had not embraced the concept of provenance and delved into the functions and structures of the relevant records creators. Subject keyword searching may have turned up important records but, on its own, did not fill in the blanks.

Provenance gave me a tool in which to navigate the previously hidden relationships between the departments and their agents in charge of wartime censorship. It allowed me, as the user, to get a better picture of where the interaction between Joe Hill (through his ashes) and the New Zealand State may have taken place, and how the preservation of that interaction through time and space is due to archival principles such as provenance.

It is clear, having now spent a solid amount of time on Archway using provenance search methods, that provenance is a powerful tool for the user. The initial confusion around its meaning and the coming to terms with Archway is worth the potentialities they both uncover. What I gained from an understanding of the functions and structures of relevant record creator/s confirmed that ‘The Power of Provenance’10 is more than just a snappy title.


1 Joyce L. Kornbluh (ed), Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology, (Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1964), 130.
2 Jared Davidson, Remains to be Seen: Tracing Joe Hill’s ashes in New Zealand, (Wellington: Rebel Press, 2011).
3 Labour History Project, Membership Brochure, (Wellington: LHP, 2010).
4 By far the best source on the subject is John Anderson, “Military Censorship in World War 1: Its Use and Abuse in New Zealand,” (Thesis, Victoria University College, 1952)
5 The New Zealand Gazette, September 20, 1915.
6 Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1917, F8-8.
7 J W Salmond to Comptroller of Customs, November 29, 1915, Crown Law Office, Wellington.
8 J W Salmond to Commissioner of Police, October 20, 1915, “Opinions – Police Department 1913-1926,” Crown Law Office, Wellington.
9 Ibid.
10 David A. Bearman and Richard H. Lytle, “The Power of the Principle of Provenance,” Archivaria 21 (1985-86): 14-27.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Batch #4: Addington Pale Ale (APA)

#4: Addington Pale Ale

Thought I'd better update you all on the beer front (super important stuff, I know). Here's some pics of #4—the Addington Pale Ale—and its 'metadata'...

Batch #4: Addington Pale Ale (APA)

Method: Kit + Enhancer + Hops
Ingredients: Muntons Traditional Bitter Kit (35-45 EBU, 27-33 EBC), Copper Tun English Bitter Enhancer, NZ Cascade Hops & Golding Hops (2.0oz + 0.5oz pellets each as a tea), NZ Cascade Hops (1oz pellets, dry hopped)
Original Gravity: 1040
Final Gravity: 1020
ABV: 3.5%
Bottles: Glass (500ml, 330ml).
Bottled: 04-05-2012

Same process as #3, but with different hops. Funny, even though I added more hops it seems less hoppy when drinking it? Maybe it's just the hop variety? Or mix of hops? Anyway, it's 5 weeks old now, has a nice colour and head and is tasting like a well balanced, slightly (but not too) bitter beer with a nice aroma and Cascade flavour. It's definitely less 'tangy' than #3—whether that's to do with temp control or not is anyone's guess (I kept it lower this time, at 18C-20C). The fermentables were the same, although I want to try Coopers Enhancer #2 next time round, as it's got more malt extract than dextrose (the Copper Tun is mainly dextrose, from what I've read online).

As you can see the lacing is great, and retains head all the way down—yay!

Batch #5 is a Muntons Wheat Beer kit my neighbour threw in the fermenter a month back, and then the next brew I want to try is the Coopers Brewmaster Pilsner with Enhancer #2, just to see what difference the malt extract ratio will make. Might also use a different yeast to reach the target gravity. After that, who knows? Maybe some extract brews!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Participatory Digital Collections? Web 2.0 and Cultural Heritage Institutions in New Zealand

Been a bit slack on posting these up. Here's an essay from a few months ago, as part of my MIS studies.

With the ever-developing digital realm comes the raised expectations of the user—a click of the mouse can purchase a pizza, book a holiday offshore, or access previously unattainable informational materials. As part of this development repositories offering digital collections, and specifically designed digital cultural heritage libraries, are increasingly common on the World Wide Web. Digitalised records—once seen in terms of preservation only—have opened the virtual door to the archive, increasing awareness and use.

Along with expectations of accessible digital collections, pressures of becoming more user-centric has meant cultural heritage institutions (CHIs) need to explore ways to encourage higher levels of user interaction, engagement, and participation: “our patrons are used to being able to review books on, comment on the musings of a friend as posted on their blogs, or contribute what they know about slavery in the antebellum South to a Wikipedia entry… they expect to be able to do similar activities when they encounter our Web-based content” (Daines & Nimer, 2009).

One way to do this is through well-designed interface, but it is primarily through Web 2.0 functionalities that CHIs can move beyond merely disseminating information to creating participatory virtual spaces. Interactive web tools are “changing the ways that archivists interact with their patrons,” and how patrons “approach archival research and how they view their archival interactions” (Daines & Nimer). As a result, if CHIs are to be sustainable and have a lasting impact in the ever-changing digital realm, the facilitation of participation should inform any digital project.

However, it seems the benefits of user participation is not fully realised by CHIs, especially in New Zealand. Although there are numerous digital libraries with a rich field of accessible content (such as the Alexander Turnbull Library’s Timeframes, Discover, and Papers Past; the University of Waikato’s New Zealand Digital Library; or the Digital Library of the Auckland Museum), the combination of access and user participation via Web 2.0 is relatively rare. This could be the result of managerial, technological, or financial barriers, or simply due to the young age of the field. As Sharma points out,

Academic literature addressing the use of Web 2.0 applications and principles by CHIs has only lately started moving beyond conceptual explorations of its meaning, benefits, challenges and implications for the industry… little research has been found that focuses solely on exploring the use of Web 2.0 applications and principles in online digital collections” (2011, p.2).

Whatever the barrier, their overcoming will facilitate egalitarian possibilities in the digital realm.

This essay hopes to highlight the concepts posited above, through the analysis of New Zealand three digital collections—Passchendaele Casualty Forms, Find, and Ceismic: Canterbury Earthquake Digital Archive. The first is managed by Archives New Zealand for a very specific user— genealogists—and is indicative of a use-centric digital collection, while the National Library of New Zealand’s Find is a finding aid for various digital collections that allows the user to tag digital objects. Ceismic is a very different digital collection, designed to capture and archive stories relating to the Christchurch Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 that, due to its purpose, has a very interactive component and highlights the potential of user participation with digital libraries. These very different collections represent the wide range of Web 2.0 capabilities that, unfortunately, are yet to be harnessed by many New Zealand digital collections.

Digital libraries and the potential of participation
 According to The Digital Library Federation:

Digital libraries are organizations that provide the resources, including the specialized staff, to select, structure, offer intellectual access to, interpret, distribute, preserve the integrity of, and ensure the persistence over time of collections of digital works so that they are readily and economically available for use by a defined community or set of communities (2006-2008).

As well as ensuring access and use over time, digital libraries can serve other purposes. In the context of North America but with international relevance, The Association of Research Libraries argues that digital libraries can:

expedite the systematic development of: the means to collect, store, and organize information and knowledge in digital form; and of digital library collections in North America; promote the economical and efficient delivery of information to all sectors of North American society; encourage cooperative efforts which leverage the considerable investment in North American research resources, computing and communications network; strengthen communication and collaboration between and among the research, business, government, and educational communities; take an international leadership role in the generation and dissemination of knowledge in areas of strategic importance to North America; and contribute to the lifelong learning opportunities of all North Americans (1995).

However, digital libraries have the capability to go much further than search and access, facilitating “the creation of collaborative and contextual knowledge environments” that can “match and indeed dramatically extend traditional libraries” (Lagoze, Krafft, Payette, & Jesuroga, 2005). The advantages of technology means digital libraries can transcend the constraints of the physical environment, allowing collections to be collaborative, participatory, and user-centric.

As well as sound interface design, the development of blogs, social media, wikis, and tagging—referred to as Web 2.0—can be employed by CHIs to encourage user participation and collaboration. Theses changes in digital technology enable software developers and end-users to use the World Wide Web in new and innovative ways to what it was originally intended (Wikipedia). As a result, “Web 2.0 technologies have transformed the Internet into a participatory experience” (Daines & Nimer), offering “archives the chance to develop new and innovative ways of conveying their message,” as well as allowing users “a greater exploratory and active role, thus enhancing the learning experiences available” (Lester, 2006, p.88).

Blogs—websites formatted to provide diary-like entries of an individual or institution—and social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook, can be used by CHIs to publicize digital collections while allowing for networking and questions from users. Tagging and collaborative websites (wikis) that allow users to add or modify content on a repository’s finding aids or records, aids both the usability of the collection and increases user participation—drawing on the users knowledge of certain collections and their own search methods to provide a wealth of new information.

Research has shown that Web 2.0 does in fact “engage users online and encourage the development of an active community”—systems that allowed users to tag or create and edit content had significant positive effects on the participation of the user when compared with non-Web 2.0 enabled systems (Sharma, p.7). Unlike Papers Past, users of the National Library of Australia’s Australian Newspapers can “interact with its collections through tagging, text correcting, and commenting”—the tagging feature was found to be a real crowd-pleaser (Holley, 2009, as cited in Sharma, p.9), creating the growth of an active community of users engaging with the collection.

Despite the positive effects of Web 2.0 CHIs, particularly archives, have been slow to implement it: “findings suggest that the cultural heritage sector has been comparatively slow in making digital collections Web 2.0-enabled though a large number of institutions have started exploring Web 2.0 for other purposes” (Sharma, p.69). Barriers to implementation are many, and includes the need to know the “audience and objectives before launching any Web 2.0 initiatives” (Daines & Nimer), the blurring of lines between the professional custodian and the user, issues of authenticity and intellectual property, potential obsolescence of Web applications (through technical or social factors), balancing participation with privacy, and crucially, winning over CHIs staff and management (Sharma, p.8).

A quick scan of the New Zealand environment confirms this claim. Many New Zealand digital libraries lack Web 2.0 applications—the only collections I found with wiki/comment capabilities were NZ On Screen ( and the Audio Visual Archives ( Even collections with a strong user-focus and an understanding of how and why the collection will be used did not contain Web 2.0 functions. An example of this is Passchendaele Casualty Forms, a digital collection managed by Archives New Zealand.

Passchendaele Casualty Forms
Archives New Zealand

In 2005 the personnel files of those who served in the New Zealand Defence Services, namely in the South African War and the First World War, were transferred to Archives New Zealand (Lafferty-Hancock, 2006). Passchendaele Casualty Forms ensures these significant digitalised war records are available as an easy to use digital collection.

The collection’s home page greets the viewer with a simple interface and an explanation on the records original source and the selected files on show. The records are accessed through an alphabetically organized list of soldiers (of which there are close to 700). These are then displayed to the left of a generic description on how to use the hyperlinked finding aid (Archway) in order find out more on that particular soldier, or wider contextual information.

The usability of the collection is excellent. A clean and concise layout, coupled with an alphabetic menu and linear process enables the user to understand the collection, control the search system, and easily find the records on show. The viewer is given information about the records and what they contain (such as name, date of birth, rank, and the movements of the individual). This simple, informative interface allows for easy navigation, and ultimately, user satisfaction.

The collection’s interface suggests a user-centric premise, highlighting Archives New Zealand’s digital collection of personnel files and their availability to genealogists. In this sense, the collection management is rather successful in meeting its intended users—research into how genealogists search for information revealed that, “genealogists… wanted lists of names, or names indexes, or search engines that retrieved by name to facilitate their research” (Duff & Johnson, 2003, p.85). The alphabetical structure of the records and the encouraged use of names in Archway ensure these needs are met.

However the collection’s usability and simple interface comes at the expense of user participation—there is no space for comments or other participatory functions. The key features of online participation identified by Sharma—‘join, converse, collect, critique, create, and compare’ (p.50-62)—are not applicable to the collection, which is a shame considering the passionate and ever-growing community of genealogists. And while hyperlinks allows for further context, the user cannot tag records to enhance the search and retrieval process, or add their own context for others.

National Library of New Zealand

Designed by the National Library of New Zealand, Find is “a discovery tool that spans multiple catalogues and digital collections” (National Library of New Zealand, 2011), allowing the user to extensively search and access almost all of the National Library’s digitalized collections. These include Papers Past, Timeframes, Publications NZ, and Discover.

The home page is simple, easy to comprehend, and prominently displays a customizable search box as the main feature—allowing various entry-points into the collections. A sidebar menu contains links, login details, and a ‘User tags’ hyperlink, conveying that users can have some kind of personalized interaction with the collection from the beginning. An informative ‘Help Menu’ has been developed after detailed discussions with 27 Find users, offering a swag of valuable content.

Once the user is logged in they can view their search history in a ‘Favorites’ folder. Accessed items can also be saved to this customizable folder, allowing objects to be viewed, emailed or printed at a later date. Users can also ‘tag’ objects—adding unique keywords to items that can personalize search language and make “collections more accessible to the average user,” creating “a dialogue between the piece of art being described and the user” (Daines & Nimer). For example, on the description page of a 1970 photograph of Karori Mall, Wellington, users have created tags for the types of cars in the picture, adding a level of depth not given in the original metadata.

Find can tick the ‘join, collect, create’, and ‘compare’ boxes on Sharma’s list, although ‘converse’ and ‘critique’ are left to the private realm of emailed feedback. Having a publicly accessible wiki or blog would greatly improve the conversational aspect of Web 2.0 participation, as would more prominent menus on tagging and Web 2.0 in general. Nonetheless, Find is one of the few New Zealand digital collections that allows user tagging, and is more participatory than Passcehdaele Casualty Forms and many other digital collections.

Ceismic: Canterbury Earthquake Digital Archive
University of Canterbury

Ceismic: Canterbury Earthquake Digital Archive has been initiated by the University of Canterbury to act as a “comprehensive digital archive of video, audio, documents and images related to the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011” (University of Canterbury, 2011). As an online collecting archive its content (and success) relies heavily on input from the user, and even though the project is at an early stage, already enables an impressive level of participation not present in other collections.

The aesthetically pleasing and functional homepage signals the library’s intention: easily accessible content by and for the user. The homepage itself is customisable—background images form a slideshow that can be changed by the user—and features links, information, and social media updates such as Tweets. Its three main collections—Quakestories, When My Home Shook, and Kete Christchurch—are all signified and easily accessible.

Quakestories, an online forum for the collection of personalised stories relating to the two earthquakes, allows the user to directly create for, and converse with, the collection. Previously collected stories are displayed which creates a conversation and a sense of community that typifies the best of Web 2.0 functionality. Similar to Quakestories is When My Home Shook, but this collection focuses specifically on the participation of children. Finally, Kete Christchurch is an online basket for collecting a range of materials relating to the earthquakes, from oral histories to photographs.

How the collected digital objects will be accessed and used, and whether Web 2.0 capabilities will be available in the final form of Ceismic is yet to be seen. However its current use of Web 2.0 is at a level of user interaction, engagement, and particpation not encountered in the examples cited above, firmly placing the user at the centre of the collection and beginning a conversation that should be fruitful for generations to come.

Digital libraries can be more than search and access portals to information. Through well designed interfaces and Web 2.0 capabilities, digital libraries and their collections can extend the role of the physical library—building communities, encouraging participation, and engaging users in informative and exciting ways. Collections that enable the user to join, converse, collect, critique, create, and compare have been shown to create positive effects for both the user and the CHI.

Despite this, many digital collections in New Zealand do not have Web 2.0 capabilities. The digital collections highlighted above are representative of the wider environment—little or no use of Web 2.0, or when it is used, falls short of a full Web 2.0 experience. The adolescence of Web 2.0, or issues of around the user, professionalism, authenticity, obsolescence, privacy, and acceptance could be some reasons for its slow uptake in New Zealand.

Yet these barriers are not insurmountable, and CHIs need to engage with Web 2.0 and its challenges: “Archivists need to actively experiment with Web 2.0 technologies in order to discover which of these tools will best meet our needs and the needs of our patrons. In order to make rational decisions about which technologies to experiment with, we need to understand what Web 2.0 is and how it can potentially be used to augment our services” (Daines & Nimer). User-surveys and a focus on a collection’s primary audience would go a long way in determining if and how Web 2.0 could be implemented; clear guidelines and boundaries around the user/custodian roles would highlight professional and authenticity issues; good policies and project management would counter obsolescence and privacy issues (or at least put plans in place to deal with them); and finally, research, advocacy, and awareness-building could help tip the balance in the staffroom towards Web 2.0 implementation. Whether they want to or not, CHIs need to deal with these barriers to keep up with user expectations. Or less politely, “harness the new collaboration or perish” (Daines & Nimer).


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Holley, R. (2009). Many Hands Make Light Work: Public Collaborative OCR Text Correction in Australian Historic Newspapers.

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