An interview with Vanessa Finney, Manager Archives and Records who talks about her experiences working with the Digitisation Project.

Vanessa Finney was an archivist in Archives and Records at the Museum prior to becoming its Manager four years ago. She has a Graduate Diploma in Archives and Records Administration which led to positions in a variety of small archives in Sydney.
Vanessa is a passionate archivist who has a strong interest in the Museum’s history and getting the valuable stories out to a wider audience so that they are better known and used. It is always a relief when she arrives safely on her bike to work!

What are the benefits of the project to Archives and Records at the Museum?
“The project has allowed us to digitise material that we would have been unable to do as we do not have the resources. To date, there has been a significant number and variety of archival documents digitised which has had the dual benefit of preserving fragile documents and providing potential digital access to our clients, including those who can’t come into the Archives in person. We like the fact that you are the project managers and we can concentrate on what we know best by selecting priority material for digitisation and having input into helping volunteers handle the valuable archival material.”
“Another key benefit has been having the Scott sisters’ diaries transcribed online by volunteers of the ALA Volunteer Portal project as it is something we haven’t done before. The transcripts are widening access and creating a link with the world outside our collections. These notebooks are not just heritage objects but a record of a scientific study of butterflies and moths. Your project is helping unlock their potential as scientific data. “

What are the challenges you have experienced with this project?
“A big challenge is providing material in a way that volunteers can be trained and supported to handle. An assessment of archival materials is made to determine what to send; what things do people want to access; how fragile are the materials and how are we going to get the information back into our data base. Taking the photo is the beginning of the digitisation process as we need to find a place to keep them forever and make them available as part of our heritage and natural history collections.”

What is the project’s usefulness to other museums?
“The online volunteer portal transcriptions by volunteers of handwritten, often difficult to read archival material can be used as a model for other Australian archives. Archives in Australia haven’t generally been doing this and need to be. These handwritten archives are an important part of national memory and national identity and should be accessible to modern online generations.”