Opening Access to Australian Archives
The internet, digital recording devices and the ready availability of content production software have together drastically changed the creative landscape. As a result, linear models of knowledge and cultural production and commercialisation are rapidly being supplanted by more distributed, collaborative, user-generated and open networking models. Yet Australians wishing to participate in this new digital culture have great difficulty gaining access to quality content about their own culture and history that can be legally and safely used and re-used. This limits our ability to access the full benefits that could be provided by new technologies to the fields of education, the creative industries and business innovation.
As the recent Venturous Australia report prepared by Cutler & Company for the Review of the National Innovation System pointed out, Australia’s cultural and collecting institutions have the ability to fill this gap by opening access to material that is owned by the Australian people or has fallen into the public domain. Although a number of individual institutions are taking innovate steps to increase online access to their collections, factors such as strict copyright laws, lack of funding and little policy guidance continue to create problems for realising the full potential of this content.
The Opening Australia’s Archives project is an initiative of the Centre of Excellence for Creative Industry and Innovation’s Digital Liberty research program which aims to explore opportunities to increase the public’s ability to access and reuse our national collections through coordinated sector-policy, implementation and advocacy approaches. As a starting point, it will be running a series of meetings around Australia aimed at facilitating discussion between representatives of the cultural sector on this issue. For full details of the meetings, including minutes, see below.
The first major output of Opening Australia’s Archives is the release of the Open Access Principles for Australian Collecting Institutions, Version 1. These Principles aim to articulate best practice standards for providing open access to material housed in institutional collections.
In late 2009 the Opening Australia’s Archives research project conducted a series of industry forums across Australia. These forums aimed to bring together representatives of Australia’s galleries, libraries, archives and museums with copyright experts to discuss open access: what it is, how it works and how it can help collecting institutions connect with their audiences. More information about the forums and their minutes can be found here.
Below are links to submissions and other formal documents prepared by the project.