“Just shoot it in your phone, it can’t be that difficult!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone say that to me, and yet after years of immersing Auckland Museum in professional photography, those comments have gone silent. I’m happy we changed things and made a difference.
Looking back at the end of 2019 has allowed me to reflect on the completion of the Museum’s Collection Imaging Project. Coming under the umbrella of the Museum’s Collection Readiness Programme of work, the imaging work formed a major part for preparation of objects within museum care to have a new life, accessible online for future generations to come. With more than four million items in the Museum’s collections across its Natural Sciences, Human History and Documentary Heritage departments, this was no small task.
One by one, items from all corners of the collection were photographed within a controlled studio environment. The aim was simple: to increase access to the collections online, so more Museum objects were available to more people, more of the time.
The project started in late 2015 and ran for over three years. It delivered more than 275,000 new images of over 67,500 items, almost entirely of three-dimensional objects. At its peak the project created about 400GB of data per day, and then we had to back that up, which made even more!
The project employed a dedicated Rights Specialist, a key role to enable accurate and clear licensing of images online to allow users to know what they can and can’t do with the images. The project followed the OpenGLAM philosophy (GLAM is an acronym for Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) and as part of that, we developed the ‘open by default, closed by exception’ mantra for the Museum. This philosophy runs in partnership with our cultural permissions frameworks, which respects taonga and their significance and facilitates appropriate access to cultural collections online. To make information accessible to all is becoming an increasingly important area within digitisation, but doing so in respect of cultural and indigenous knowledge and appropriately sharing it with the correct audiences.