Saturday, October 29, 2011

State Records NSW Open Day

If an organisation is only as good as the people that  work there then State Records NSW must be a mighty good organisation. I was so impressed with all of the staff members I came in contact with at their Open Day yesterday at the Western Sydney Records Centre. Their dispositions were as sunny as the weather that greeted us at Kingswood. Congratulations to all who contributed to the success of this day.

Registration area
Registration package
On arrival visitors were directed to a registration area in the grounds where we collected a folder containing our personalised program for the day, tickets for talks and tours and a a voucher for a free sausage sizzle.

Although there were tours, workshops and seminars I opted to attend the five seminars on offer. Christine Yeats,State Records NSW public access manager,was the MC in the seminar room ensured that all ran smoothly there.

Gail Davis and Fabian LoSchiavo
The first talk "Treasures of the Archives" by Gail Davis and Fabian LoSchiavo from the City Reading Rooms who were dressed in period costume gave an introduction to the archives' collection with reference to some of the treasures held there.Gail told us that "a treasure is something that:

  • documents the history of the state,the country, your local area
  • brings you closer to the lives, events and times of the past
  • is unexpected or a surprise, particularly when you are doing research
  • has value because it is collectable
  • has to be protected and looked after (insured?)
  • documents your own history"
    Caroline Ford - Sydney Beaches
The second session was "a User's view of the Archives" in which two presenters related how they had used the archives to gain information for projects. I found the first talk by Caroline Ford more interesting because it was relevant to me, she spoke of Bronte and Maroubra  Beaches where I had lived, Bondi Pavilion where I had worked when it contained Waverley Library's workrooms and Coogee Beach where I spent many summer days as a teenager. Caroline will be publishing a book as a result of her work, that's another title to add to my Christmas list. The second speaker, Nicky, described how she had used archive material  to provide information for the Underbelly television program. The lady sitting near me and I agreed that wewould have liked to hear more about the Archives' materials and see less of the Underbelly film clips.

Directly after lunch the seminar topic was "Old records, new ways – Researching the digital era". In the first half of this session two gentleman discussed NSW historical land records available online from Unfortunately due to time constraints they were not able to fully explore their topic.

Richard Lehane then shared the wonderful news that the clunky Archives Investigator at State Records is to be replaced by a new search tool that appears to be more intuitive and user-friendly then poor old investigator. This tool has a simple search interface into which one types a search term. A list of results appears in three columns the middle of which contains the results while he left and right columns show filters that one can apply to the results.. In a quick trial of the tool last night I found a number of references to family documents that I have not been able to find previously. Another trip to Kingswood is on the cards.

Martyn Killion
In "Family History - Online Resources" we met two lively and engaging speakers who both gave handouts (gold star). Christine Yeats gave an overview of the online resources available from State Records.  Martyn Killion then shared his "10 websites you can't live without" for Genealogy on the Internet. As it's hard to choose 10 Martin immediately added an 11th. I would probably have omitted one of his sites and replaced it with Familysearch. Both of these speakers gave information that would be very useful to the novice family historian.

Anthea Brown and Fiona Sullivan provided us with a ten page handout for which they get a gold star (but couldn't you have cut the white space,saved a few trees and condensed this girls?) for "Dating old photos". They will be providing a link to a .pdf version of this on the Archives Outside Blog. I enjoyed their presentation in which they showed a series of old photos  and showed us how to look for clues from number plates, signs and clothing to date them. I am most impressed on how State Records uses Social Media to connect with the world.

Mick Reid and Bill Oates
I was blown away by content of the talk by Mick Reid and Bill Oates from the University of New England because what they were discussing was news to me. Bill, the archivist at the University, and his mate Mick, an academic, have collaborated to date photos in the collection by studying shadows in the photos. It sounded like hocus-pocus to me but after seeing their demonstration I realised that there was a strong scientific basis to the work. The book which Mick uses contains software with a spreadsheet into one which one enters data about the photo under investigation. The book by physicist Colleen Fitzpatrick is The Dead Horse Investigation is available for purchase online.

I ran into a some Genimates at  the Open Day but missed out on catching up with others.. I was particularly pleased to catch up with Cassie Mercer from Inside History MagazineBrad Argent from Ancestry and Martyn Killion from SAG but only managed to wave to Allan Murrin from the Botany Bay Family History Society.

Thanks once again to all of the people at State Records for a super day.


geneabloggers said...

Great post but I need to know what a "sausage sizzle" would be?

Bribie Family History Association said...

Sounds like it was a great day, I tried out the new search engine after your tweets and it is terrific. I get to hear Christine Yeats at Pambula in a fortnight so that will be good. I just love a sausage sizzle (BBQ sausage in a slice of bread, fried onions and heaps of BBQ sauce found everywhere in Australia).

patientgenie said...

Great post Jill, really interesting day. Must plan a trip to Sydney timed with the next open day.

A O'Brien said...

Sounds like a really interesting day! I have been to the Western Sydney Archives Centre once, but after putting a few location names into the new archives search I can see I will have to visit again!

Sharon said...

I went to uni with Bill Oates. We lived at the same university college.

GeniAus said...

@geneabloggers Shauna has explained a sausage sizzle well - when you come downunder I'll have a sausage sizzle for you at my place.

@Michelle - Hope to see you at the next Open Day.

@Sharon, Bill was such a nice bloke - as he was sitting next to me we had quite a chat

Tanya Honey said...

What a wonderful day. I'll have to look out for the next one. Thanks for the wrap-up Jill.

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