Picture Coffs Harbour is an online picture library which chronicles the history of the Coffs Harbour region. This joint project between the Coffs Harbour Library and Coffs Harbour Regional Museum aims to not only digitally preserve the Museum’s photographic collection for future generations, but also to vastly improve access to the collection using the powers of the world wide web. Well, that’s all very interesting, but how did it come about?
Coffs Harbour Museum was handed over to the Council in 2005, following the disbanding of the Coffs Harbour Historical Society. It was not long after Council assumed ownership that staff were amazed to discover the extensive photographic collection held by the museum. It was from this discovery that the concept of Picture Coffs Harbour grew. It was immediately recognised that there was a need to preserve this precious history, as well as make it more accessible to our community, and the wider community. What to do?
As you can imagine, much discussion ensued! But based on a similar project in Queensland, called ‘Picture Maroochy’, a plan was hatched and the library and museum embarked on a very exciting but ambitious path to see this project bought to fruition. The evolving capabilities of the Spydus Library Management System being used at Coffs Harbour Library lent itself to this particular project, especially the well-designed web catalogue interface which allowed for custom interfaces and filtered searches, as well as thumbnail/full picture display of images.
First thing – Money! Yes, the root of all evil (apparently), but very necessary to get this project off the ground! The Library secured a $64,000 grant and work began in earnest from January 2008. The Library hired Pat Bailey, cataloguer extraordinaire, whose experience at the National Library of Australia was integral to the development and implementation of the necessary procedures and policies associated with this project.
The scanning of the Museum’s photographs began in July 2008, with museum volunteers responsible for creating high quality scans of each image, as well as creating a basic catalogue record. The baton is then passed to library staff who complete the cataloguing process, adding subject headings and making each image fully accessible to researchers via the Library’s web catalogue. Currently there have been more than 5000 images scanned, with many more to go!
Picture Coffs Harbour was officially launched on 8 September 2009 and has been a significant local history resource which has been well utilised by not just our own community, but people right around the world. The project is one that Coffs Harbour City Council is justifiably proud of as we continue to make accessible images of Coffs Harbour and its surrounding district – many of which have been largely unseen by the general community.
Written by Liz Thomas