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FAHS Survey of Historical Societies

Report on Stage 2 (Collections management)





 Summary of results



Q3 Do you have a collection?


Nature and size of physical collection and progress with cataloguing


Q4 Is any part of your collection catalogued


Q6 Paid contractors for cataloguing?


Q7 Are you converting a catalogue?


Q8-16 Summary - software used in cataloguing


Q8 Photographs


Q9 Maps


Q10 Books


Q11 Newspapers or newspaper clippings


Q12 Newsletters, magazines or journals


Q13 Manuscripts (documents, letters, diaries, etc.)


Q14 Audio/visual items (e.g. cassettes, tapes, records)


Q15 Artefacts/objects


Q16 Costumes/textiles


Q17 Types of items not covered above


Q18 Relative importance of items


Q19 Significance assessment


Q20 Storage of collection


Digital preservation


Q21 Born-digital items


Q22 Converted-to-digital items


Q23 Digitisation methods


Q24 Use of standards when digitising


Q25 Output file formats for images


Q26 Support for digitisation


Q27 Reasons for digitisation


Q29 Catalogue of digitised items


Q29 Backup and recovery


Q30 Future plans for digitisation


Collection policies and accessions register


Q31 Collection policies


Q32 Accessions register


Access to your collection


Q33 Who manages your collection ?


Q34 Access to catalogue


Q35 Search function


Q36 Metadata standards


Q37 Items viewable via society's website


Q38 Items discoverable or viewable via TROVE


Q39 Charge for access or copies


Q40 Obstacles/challenges with collection management


Forward planning


Q41 Succession planning


Q42 Disaster recovery plan


Q43 Interesting uses of your collection


Q44 Future plans for collection management


Additional comments


Q46 Anything further you wish to add ?






This survey (both Stage 1 and Stage 2) was conducted on-line using Survey Monkey.


Stage 1 (General) of the Survey was launched on 29 February 2016. A report on Stage 1 has been produced and can be viewed at


This Stage 2 (Collections management) was launched in December 2016.


After eliminating duplicate responses, and responses lacking enough detail to be included in the analysis, we have at this stage responses from 96 societies, 62 of which previously responded to Stage 1. This report concentrates only on the Stage 2 data, although it will be possible to combine the data of the 62 societies that completed both Stages 1 and 2 to draw wider conclusions.


At the start of the survey, it was made clear that we were not only seeking responses from bodies that had the words "historical society" in their name, but also from bodies with similar aims such as small museums and bodies with an interest in "heritage".

Of the 96 responses analysed in stage 2:

65 had the words "historical society" in their name

7 had "history"

5 had "heritage"

8 had "museum" but none of the above.

This already accounts for all except 11 of the respondents.


In this report, we frequently refer to "societies" but for some variety we also use "respondents". In all such cases, we are referring to the totality of the 96 bodies that participated and whose responses were analysed.


We were hoping that the survey would reach every historical society (and similar body) in Australia. The exact size of this population cannot be known exactly, but we generally assume that it is about 1000.


301 responses were analysed in Stage 1 and 96 in Stage 2. This corresponds to a response rate of about 30% and 10%. For on-line surveys, a response rate of 20% considered to be good. On this basis, caution should be used when making generalisations about the results of Stage 2.


In this report, we frequently quote the actual responses to the open-ended questions (without identifying respondents). These quotes have no meaning statistically, but in many cases are interesting, relevant and useful.


We have speculated as to why Stage 2 attracted less responses but have not drawn any conclusions about it that can be backed up by hard evidence.


This report will be updated and extended from time to time, as more responses come in, and as the responses are further analysed. The Stage 2 survey can be taken by using this link:


The FAHS is very pleased to see that, as with Stage 1, the overwhelming majority of respondents have continued through to the end of the survey, and we are also very pleased with the high quality of the information that has been provided.


We are very grateful for the time and effort that respondents have devoted to contributing to the survey.



Summary of results


Nature and size of physical collection and progress with cataloguing


Of the 96 societies that responded to the survey:

84 hold photographs

79 hold books

73 hold artefacts/objects

72 hold maps

67 hold audio-visual (e.g. cassettes, tapes, records)

63 hold manuscripts (documents, letters, diaries etc)

58 hold costumes/textiles

57 hold newspapers

55 hold newsletters, magazines or journals


The responding societies estimated the number of individual items of each type that they held, totalling about 1,430,000 items. Extrapolating this number nationally gives an estimate of 14.3 million items held by historical societies across the nation, of which:

46% are photographs

18% are newspapers or newspaper clippings

12% are books

9% are artefacts/objects

8% are manuscripts (documents, letters, diaries etc)

4% are newsletters, magazines or journals

1% are maps

1% are costumes/textiles

0.4% are audio/visual (e.g. cassettes, tapes, records)


Progress with cataloguing

81% of costumes/textiles have been catalogued

77% of books

63% of audio/visual (e.g. cassettes, tapes, records)

62% of maps

62% of manuscripts (documents, letters, diaries etc)

59% of artefacts/objects

55 % of newsletters, magazines or journals

50% of photographs

38% of newspapers or newspaper clippings


Overall, 52% of the approximately 14 million items held by historical societies have been catalogued.

Looking at this another way, about half of the items held by historical societies have not been separately identified in a way that would enable a searcher to find items of relevance They are, for practical purposes, inaccessible.


The lowest level of progress in cataloguing was for "newspapers, or newspaper clippings" with only 38% catalogued. While this is serious, we fortunately have an alternative way of accessing a large proportion of Australian newspapers - those that have been digitised and are available for searching through Trove.

But for six types of items, forming the bulk of the items held, between 37% and 50% of items remain uncatalogued - and effectively inaccessible.


Software used for cataloguing

Of the 96 societies that responded to the survey 92 answered at least some of Q8-16 relating to the numbers and types of items collected and their cataloguing, and of those, 76 identified specific software that had been used in cataloguing. Of the 76, 53 mentioned only a single item of software and 23 mentioned multiple items of software. For each of the 76 societies, we made an assessment of what software was used for the bulk of their cataloguing, resulting in a list of 18 items of software, 10 of which appeared only once in the list. DB/Textworks topped the list with 20, Excel 15, Collections MOSAiC 11, Access 7, FileMaker Pro 4, Victorian Collections 4, Word 3 and "Microsoft Office" 2. When Excel, Access,Word and Open Office are lumped with Microsoft Office, that combined total becomes 28 which comfortably then tops the list ahead of DB/Textworks with 20 and Collections MOSAiC with 11.


It should come as no surprise that when a society takes its first steps into cataloguing parts of its collection, it is likely to choose office software with which people are already familiar and which the society may already be using for other purposes. A question was asked about societies in the process of converting from one format to another and 35 (38%) answered Yes of which some gave further details. Six societies said they were converting from paper records, of which 5 were converting to Excel (2), Access (2) and Word (1) and one to Collections MOSAiC. A further nine were converting from existing software to different software, specifically to eHive (2), Collections MOSAiC (3), Victorian Collections (1), Filemaker Pro (1), Spydus (1) and Access (1).


Relative importance of item types

Societies were asked to assign the numbers 1 to 9 to indicate the relative importance of the nine types of items

. Photographs clearly emerged as the most important item type

. Manuscripts (documents, letters, diaries etc) appear to be the next most important item type

. Maps, newspapers or newspaper clippings are relatively important

. Books are relatively important but less often in the number 1 position

. Artefacts/objects are of lesser importance but there is a spike at the number 1 position

. Newsletters, magazines or journals, audio/visual and costumes/textiles seem to be of the least importance


41 societies had carried out significance assessments

50 had not.


Digital preservation


Born-digital items.

Respondents were shown a list of 10 kinds of born digital items and asked to indicate which of them they hold. Of the 83 who responded, 12 said they had no born digital items, and 71 ticked at least one of the boxes.


Converted-to-digital items and digitisation.

Of the 78 responses, 67 societies had digitised photographs (of which 31 had digitised more then half of their photographs). The number of societies having digitised the item varied between 11 (costumes/textiles) and 34 (manuscripts). For all types of items other than photographs, the proportion of societies that had digitised more than half of their holdings of a particular item type was significantly lower than for photographs, with one exception - (costumes/textiles) where 6 of the 11 societies had digitised more than half of their costumes/textiles.

The results show that societies clearly have a preference for digitising photographs as opposed to other types of items. This may be due to the process of digitising photographs being generally more efficient than for other types of items, enabling greater numbers of items to be digitised.


Digitisation methods

75 societies had used scanning

63 had used a digital camera

24 had converted analogue audio/visual items to digital.


Use of standards when digitising.

Approx. 50% yes, 50% no.


Output format used when digitising photographs.

75 responses were received, with 64 societies showing that they had used JPG, and 30 indicating TIFF. There is some correlation between this and the preceding question. Of the 29 who used standards, 20 produced TIFF output, whereas of the 20 that did not use standards, only 7 produced TIFF output.


21 societies received support to digitise parts of their collection

58 did not.


Reasons for digitising (in decreasing order of importance):

. Preserve fragile or heavily-used items

. Allow access on society's premises

. Allow online access

. Recover from unexpected loss of items

. Save space


80% have backup procedures for data

75% use them regularly

34% have recovery procedures

15% have tested recovery procedures


Collection policies and accessions register


78% have a collection mangement policy

91% have an acquisitions policy (for accepting and rejecting items)

70% have a de-accession policy

53% have a disposal policy (for phyical removal of items)


76% have accessions register

26% have accessions register in digital form

55% have documentation for ownership

24% have documentation on transfer of copyright


Access to your collection


91% of societies manage their own collection


Searchable access to catalogue.

53% for members

41% for researchers

35% for general public

51% in-house

15% online.


What is search function activated by?

75% by keyword

61% by subject

49% by author/title

17% by themes

9% by metadata tags


20% have collection standards for metadata (e.g. Dublin Core)

80% do not


Are any of the items in your collection viewable online following a search on your society's website?

17 yes

61 no


Are any of the items in your collection discoverable/viewable through Trove?

17 yes

60 no


Societies were presented with eight possible obstacles/challenges with collections management. The one most frequently chosen was availability of volunteers to do the work, well ahead of learning/training required by volunteers, which was itself well ahead of all the others


Forward planning


Succession plan regarding the management of the collection

55% have no plan

23% are in the process of developing one


Disaster recovery plan for physical collection

31% have one

69% do not


Open ended questions


The survey gave respondents many opportunities to provide open ended answers. Such replies are difficult to summarise, but we have made reference to them in the more detailed reports which follow. In many cases we have reproduced the open ended replies as they were received.


Q3 Do you have a collection of any materials of historical interest (e.g. photographs, books, diaries, journals, newspaper cuttings, oral history recordings, objects, artworks, etc. etc.)?


All 96 societies answered "Yes" to this question.



Nature and size of physical collection and progress with cataloguing


Q4 Is any part of your collection catalogued? By "catalogue" we mean anything that has been created to help the user find items of interest in the collection.


89 answered yes and 7 answered no


Q6 Have you paid contractors to do any of your cataloguing


Nine societies (9%) responded "Yes" to this question, and 86 (91%) responded "No"



Q7 Are you converting a catalogue?


Q7 - Converting catalogue



93 societies answered this question, of which 35 (38%) answered Yes.


Respondents were given the opportunity to provide further details.


Six societies were converting from paper records to, respectively,


Excel (2),

Access (2),

Word (1)

Mosaic (1).


A further nine indicated that were converting from one software package to another, as follows:


Mosaic to eHive

DB/textWorks to eHive

Excel to Mosaic (2)

Excel to Victorian Collections

Mosaic to Filemaker Pro

Access to Mosaic

Amlib to Spydus

Excel to Access


Two societies commented here that they were currently deciding which software system to adopt, but from responses to other questions in the survey, it is clear that many more than two of the responders were thinking about this.


Others comments were:


Moving data out of DBTextworks. No decisions about a new catalogue format yet.


Starting Mosaic System


Paper and Word to an undecided system. Photos on Mosaic.




Q8-16 Collections - nine types of items


In order to gather detailed information across the different types of items likely to be found in historical society collections, the same set of questions was asked about each of nine separate types of items:


Q8 - Photographs

Q9 - Maps

Q10 - Books

Q11 - Newspapers or newspaper clippings

Q12 - Newsletters, magazines or journals

Q13 - Manuscripts (documents, letters, diaries, etc.)

Q14 - Audio-visual (e.g. cassettes, tapes, records)

Q15 - Artefacts/objects

Q16 - Costumes/textiles


In each of the above questions, respondents were asked for:


    Rough estimate of the number of these

    Rough estimate of percentage catalogued

    What software was used to catalogue them

    Any comments you wish to add



Q8-16 Summary - estimated number of items of each type



Q8-16 - Total item numbers


The above figures should be regarded as indicative only, because societies were asked to provide their best estimate of item numbers, and in most cases this resulted in round figure answers such as "100", "500", "2000", etc.


While most of the item types are relatively easy to identify (such as photographs, maps, books, cassettes, objects, costumes), others were more difficult. For example, newspapers can be held and identified as single issues, annual bound runs, or as individual newspaper clippings. Manuscripts can be held and catalogued as individual items or as collections such as bundles of letters or as archive boxes in which the individual contents of the box are not separately identified.


The extrapolation factor of 10 was chosen because there are about 1000 historical societies in Australia and about 100 of them responded to this Collections survey.


Q8-16 Summary - percentage of items catalogued


It can be concluded that roughly half of the collection items held by historical societies are effectively hidden from view, not only by the general public but also by the members of the societies holding the items.


The above estimates for "% catalogued" are probably under-estimated by a factor of perhaps 5% because in a small number of responses, the number of items were estimated but not the % catalogued. We included these responses in the number of items but they were not included in the calculations of "% catalogued".


The opposite also occurred in a few cases - i.e. respondents gave a figure for "% catalogued" but did not give the number of items. Such responses were excluded from the analysis entirely.


Q8-16 Summary - software used in cataloguing


92 societies answered some or all of Questions 8-16, but only 76 of them identified specific software by name for any type of item. Of the remaining 16, some had computerised catalogues but did not tell us what software was running them, some had manual catalogues (e.g. cards), and some had no catalogue of any kind.


23 separate named software packages or programs were mentioned as being used for cataloguing by the 76 societies. To this should be added a further two un-named items of software (for different societies) that were custom-built but in both cases were not used as the main software for cataloguing for the respective societies.


53 of the 76 societies only mentioned a single item of software, but in some those cases the societies only did so in relation to certain types of items in their collection while not identifying software for other types of items in their collection.


23 of the 77 societies mentioned using more than one item of software


By examining the responses of each of the 76 societies in turn (across all nine types of collections items), we were able to identify the software that appeared to used for the BULK of their cataloguing, resulting in the following list of 19 items, along with the number of societies, for which that software is the main one used (note: the last 11 items on the list, starting with Open Office, are each the main software used by 11 different societies)


Q8-16 - Main cataloguing used for cataloguing


The following four items



are not included in the above list as they did not appear to be being used for the bulk of the cataloguing for any responding society. In Q7 respondents were asked "Are you in the process of converting converting a catalogue from one format to another (eg paper based to Excel: Word list to Filemaker Pro: Collections Mosaic to eHive)?", we received 35 positive responses indicating a variety of conversions taking place, including one society converting from Collections MOSAiC to eHive, and another converting from DB/Textworks to eHive.


When Excel, Access, Word, Microsoft Office and Open Office are all lumped together as "Microsoft Office", the top three items become

        Microsoft Office                              28

        DB/Textworks                                 20

        Collections MOSAiC                       11.


One small museum mentioned that it had used PRISM to fully catalogue a collection of 40 photographs, 200 artifacts and 10 textiles , adding that "This is a software package that we have developed ourselves". We checked the museum's website, which reveals that PRISM was built by a software developer after he became secretary of the museum and is now being offered to other museums at an "attractive one-time price", with all proceeds going to the museum.





Q8 Photographs


 If you have photographs in your collection
        Rough estimate of the number of these
        Rough estimate of percentage catalogued
        What software was used to catalogue them
        Any comments you wish to add


In terms of the numbers of individual items being reported, photographs are far more numerous than any other of the nine categories of items in this survey.


Q8 - Photographs numbers summary




Software used for cataloguing photographs:

Q8 - Photographs software


Only a little over half of the societies that estimated the number of photographs in their collection also identified specific software used for cataloguing them.


Selected comments about photographs:

Excel is quite clumsy


It will take a long, long time to catalogue


Only 2 members can use the program, and we are trying to catch up on a 30 year Collection with proper storage.


All in online DropBox


This is a software package we have developed ourselves


software far too expensive for volunteer museums, and so far, not enough volunteers with computer experience


Digital images are stored in a tree structure of folders, with only some individual files named. Hard copy are stored in alphabetical folders; albums in archive boxes, so are listed. Works for now, as we have only 1.5 people who run the collection in their spare time.


We can't afford to purchase the software



Q9 Maps





Software used for cataloguing maps:

38 societies specified the software they used, which is a little over half of the societies that provided estimates of the number of maps held.


Q9 - Maps software summary



Selected comments about maps:

Too busy cataloguing photos to get to the map collection


Stored suspended in 2 locked steel map cabinets 


The same method is being used for maps as for photos and they will also be uploaded to Victorian Collections


DB Textworks has been selected as the preferred software for xxxx Hist. Society. It is fairly cumbersome for small Collections; but we are stuck with it, and it will be used when we get to cataloguing anything in our Collection



Q10 Books


Q10 - Books numbers summary



Software used for cataloguing books:

57 societies specified the software they used


Q10 - Books software summary



Selected comments about books:

All of the society's books were donated to the local history section of the local library


We are fully scanning some  and others we are indexing and inputting into our database


Only significant books catalogued


All books are accessioned and catalogued before placing in the library collection.


books used as reference library


Mechanics Institute library collection in Access, preliminary catalogue of rest made in Excel in 2016


Library catalougue. Most books are not for loan but can be viewed in the library


Books are in our reference library which are listed in a word document for our own records


Books not catalogued not of great interest




Q11 Newspapers or newspaper clippings


Q11 - Newspapers and newspaper clippings - numbers summary


Software used for cataloguing newspapers:

Q11 - Newspapers software summary



Selected comments about newspapers:

We have some newspapers, but none appear on the catalogue and they are not used.


bound annual volumes of 4 titles


All digitised


News papers have been read and summaried on to CD


We have papers dating from 1904 and have just finished putting them in order and boxing them in acid free storage boxes. They have not been catalogued individually
Cuttings are filed in family/ organization files


No priority to catalogue since they are stored in boxes by year & only one main title


We also have most of our newspapers available on micro film for use on Scan pro computer


Newspapers are stored in archive boxes by year for all local papers - Trove used to pinpoint dates etc plus partial index of BDMS etc



Q12 Newsletters, magazines and journals


Q11 - Newsletters magazines and journals - numbers summary



Software used for cataloguing newsletters, magazines and journals

Q12 - Newsletters software summary



Selected comments about newsletters, magazines and journals:

Not satisfactory, word with hyperlinks.


we only catalogue our own newsletter. Journals (as in historic items) are catalogued within our paper based index


Some are being itemised with view to an index


Work for the Dole project through the local Resource Centre


Most are stored in boxes. We deem it more important to catalogue individual articles of local interest.


This is hardcopy newsletters only = we currently have no plan for archiving digital copies




Q13 Manuscripts (documents, letters, diaries, etc.)


Q11 - Manuscripts - numbers summary



Software used for cataloguing manuscripts:

Q13 - Manuscripts software summary



Selected comments about manuscripts:

Filed but still being indexed


3 x 4-drawer filing cabinets - too big a job


some manual indexes at collection or document level


most digitised


We usually give them to the xxxx Community Museum


These are set out in a series within the index 


Documents, court records are all listed by storage place at this time


Collection held by (xxxx University) Regional Archives


Not sure how to approach


We usually attach them to either the place, business or person


This is a figure for dropfiles, many of which contain more than one item.


Many are photocopies ?   Delicate


Mainly Minutes of meetings plus reports, member records and a small quantity of correspondence


Mainly we digitise and return the original to the owner, these are not included in this count




Q14 Audio-visual (e.g. cassettes, tapes, records)



Q14 - Audio-visual - numbers summary


Software used for cataloguing audio-visual items (selection):

Q14 - Audio-visual software summary


Selected comments about audio-visual items:

These have been digitised


Videos need to be put onto DVD's


Available to members only on the society's web page


Have cassettes, CDs and now nearly all are digital, backed up on M-discs as well as server


Cassette tapes, videotapes and a few 16mm and 8mm movie films




Q15 Artefacts/objects


Q15 - Artefacts-objects - numbers summary



Software used for cataloguing artefacts/objects:


Q10 - Artefacts-objects software summary



Selected comments about artefacts/objects:

Have been photographed and donated to library


Because we have a very limited space for our Collection, we largely accept only documentary material.


ceased cataloging the artifacts due to software issues and staffing


Only incidental to our collection. 


We started out with Museum's Aust (Vic) forms, and backed up with Inmagic software when it became expensive we turned to adding our objects to Victorian Collections 


This is 700 catalogue entries. Many single entries are made up of multiple objects - eg 20 sample bottles in one series.


Artefacts/objects were collected years ago, now we have a Collection Policy and a clear focus as an archive, we now rarely accept these items and are slowly de-accessioning artefacts/objects with no relevance to our area.




Q16 Costumes/textiles



Q16 - Costumes - numbers summary



Software used for cataloguing costumes/textiles:

Q16 - Costumes software summary



Selected comments about costumes/textiles:

An 1854  waistcoat with excellent provenance conserved


We have 1 set of a Marching Girls' costume.


War uniforms  Hope to catalogue soon




Q17 Any other categories of items not covered above? Please describe


All 27 responses to this question are listed below, exactly as they were entered (except for one that we edited slightly, in line with our promise not to reveal details that relate to identifiable societies)


It illustrates the diversity of collections in historical societies.


Clearly, there are many types of items that would not fit into any of our nine categories. It should be noted that none of these contributed to the estimated total count of items held by historical societies.


On the other hand, there are no types of items that appear repeatedly in response to this question, apart from machinery (mentioned 3 times), ephemera (mentioned 4 times), and artwork (mentioned 3 times), so we must have got it somewhere close to right in devising our nine categories.

We keep a vertical file (4000 items) of pamphlets, ephemera and articles (periodical articles, reports etc). We also have a collection of family information sheets (Historical Pioneer Register) (3200 sheets). Vertical file and pioneer register appear on the eHive
catalogue. Also 1300 framed and unframed artworks catalogued with DB Textworks (to be converted to eHive)


original artwork, various ephemera

Medical collection

Glass lantern slides

Engines;tools;art work;buildings

Printed ephemera

Microfilm, microfiche, CD's - Over 10,000 microfiches

Plans, flow charts also in collection currently investigating a software program suitable to our needs



models of xxxxxxxxx shops about 1/24 scale these are stored in their own special built boxes

Mining machinery

Weapons, vehicles, medals, badges

Digital Lists of Dreadnought Boys (incl. some details)

Machinery and buildings

20 paintings, drawings

21 small number of glass slides and negatives.

Family Cards and information

Taxidermy collection

Digital audio-visual items / paintings

Monuments, Cemetery transcriptions, off site items

Local council archives, Rechabite Lodge archives

Audiovisual presentations and images in digital format

Ephemera, framed artworks.

Art work, paintings about 30 included in or collection caterlogue in Mosaic

Architectural plans - collection of about a 1,000, not catalogued.



Q18 Relative importance of item types in your collection


Please place the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (where 1 is the most important, as far as you wish to go) in the boxes below to indicate the relative importance that you place on different categories of items in your collection.


86 societies answere the question, but only a little over half of them (46) answered it in the way intended, which was that no number could be used more than once - as, for example, when filling in ballot papers in elections for parliament. Two societies, for example, recorded "1" against every type of item, and commented "We consider them all a 1. There are degrees within categories however". "Another society recorded, 2"1", 2"2" and 3"3" another, 6"1", 1"3", 1"5", 1"8".


The following table shows the number of times each of the numbers 1, ... 9 appeared against each of the nine categories.


Q18 Relative importance of item types



In spite of the misunderstanding about how to answer the question, some conclusions can be drawn, when looking at the distribution between 1 and 9 for each type of item. It seems fairly clear that photographs are generally regarded as the most important items held in collections, with a very large number of 1s and only four societies giving them and number between 5 and 9. Next to photographs, manuscripts seem to be the next most highly regarded, with good numbers of 1s and 2s and with only six societies assigning a number between 7 and 9.



Q19 Significance assessment


Q19 - Significance assessments




Q20 Storage of collection


Of the 91 societies that answered this question, 85 had a physical collection that they accessed on a regular basis. The remaining 6 had a collection that was fully digital or digitised, including one where "in most cases originals returned to owner" and one where "all stored in boxes at a home address".


                 General description


This was an open-ended question that elicited a wide range of answers. It is rather difficult to summarise them, and this has been postponed for now.


The following is a small selection of responses.


At committee member's home 


Held in various locations as no central storage area is available


In various rooms in multiple buildings some in cabinets


Photographs and documents in locked storage in council library, artefacts in museum. Further documents and books in museum.


archival boxes on shelves or compactus


some in preservation storage right down to not protected at all



                 Is it easy to locate and accessible?


71 respnded "Yes" or (generally) words to that effect.

6 responded "No".

6 responded "partly yes, partly no" or words to that effect.



                 Is it maintained?


68 positive responses.

7 negative.

Remainder mixed.



Some specific responses:


Yes, although not to the Museum standards that we would like. 


Main focus on digital records


An Executive Officer has been employed in 2017 to help with managing the collection including preventive conservation and maintenance.



                 Do you have any environmental controls?


16 yes.

42 no.


Several implied in their answers that the conditions were satisfactory without the need to take special steps.


Some specific responses were:


Built to highest standard we could afford to maintain seasonal environmental stability.


Few - try to maintain constant temperature, but dealing with humidity is more of a problem..


fireproof room keeps temp steady


Humidity check


mud-brick walls on the cottage


no other than black out blinds on the windows


None allowed as heritage listed building


only no direct daylight


paper based - yes, remainder - no


Secure storeroom with well-ventilated dry shelving and sealed plastic storage tubs but not to archival standards. 


Yes - 24/7 Airconditioning & Fans



Digital preservation


Q21 Born-digital items


Q21 - Born-digital items

Q21 - Answer choices - A

Q21 - Answer choices - B




Q22 Types of converted-to-digital items


Please indicate which of the following converted-to-digital items you hold, and please roughly estimate the percentage of items of each type that have been digitised in each case. For example, if about 10% of your maps have been digitised, your response for maps would be 10.


The categories of items used in this question are the same as those in Q8-16 which sought details on the extent of holding of these types of items, with progress in cataloguing, and software used to catalogue them, and in Q18 which asked for the relative importance of these same categories. This question looks at the same categories from a different angle - that is, the extent to which they have been digitised, and the progress with digitisation.


78 societies answered this question and 18 skipped it.


For each of the 78 societies, we have counted the number of times a non-zero answer to % digitised was given to one of the nine categories. This gives a measure of how much actual digitisation has been done across the nine categories, and for each category we also give a rough indication of the extent of progress (i.e. the % digitised). We also show the number of societies reporting more then 50% progress in digitising (this figure is not exact because a few societies did not give a % number but instead gave some other indication of progress, such as "Yes" or "some" or gave an answer in terms of numbers of items)


Q22 - Converted-to-digital items



Earlier in the survey photographs emerged as not only the most commonly-held type of item in society collections, but also the type of item that societies generally considered to be the most important. Now photographs are at the top of another list - this time as the type item most commonly digitised. They are no doubt helped along in that regard by being easier to digitise than most, if not all, of the other types.



Q23 Digitisation methods


Q23 - Digitisation methods




Q24 When digitising, did you use standards? (e.g. image quality controls; unique descriptor; print & digital versions)


72 answered this question. 25 skipped.




29    responded     Yes

30                          No

1                            yes and no

1                            Not sure

1                            Unknown

1                            Yes, minimum of 10Mp

1                            no which is why we are starting again


Did you use your own standards? if so, please describe.


27 responded "Yes" to this question, and of these, 24 gave further detail. All 24 are reproduced below:


1. Used for website and members have expressed interest

2. Scan at 300dpi where poss, convert audio to wav file

3. Photoshop Elements 11/15

4. For photographs -used Adobe Photo shop

5. yes, those that were set by manufacturer and their best DPI available e.g. scanner

6. image quality controls

7. very basic eg preferred resolution

8. All photographs are being scanned at the highest quality and kept in tiff files

9. All scanning is done at 300dpi unless small photos when they are scanned at higher rates
         depending on photo. No other standards used.

10. Print and digital versions

11. Used own standards. As high as practical or possible.

12. low res images for storage, unique descriptors

13. Collection care

14. We used our own. Difficult to describe quality control, just visual.

15. minimum of 300dpi and saved as TIF

16. yes 300 dpi

17. Size of photographs

18. Best available result

19. Minimum dpi of 1200 saved as both JPG and TIFF

20. Using the best settings on printers and scanners

21. As determined by the software

22. Yes but I can't describe them.

23. Yes - best fit - what we could best do at the time

24. Yes tif format


Did you use the standards of particular institutions or expert bodies? If so, which institutions/bodies?


13 societies said "No".

15 societies said Yes, including:


National Library of Australia (2 mentions)

State Library of Victoria (2 mentions, one of which was in regard to using the SLV's naming conventions)

Museums Australia (2 mentions)


and one mention each for the following:


State Library of SA

State Library of WA

Picture Ipswich




Australian Pictorial Thesaurus [withdrawn from public access from 31 August 2015]



Q25 Output file formats


Q25 - Output file formats


Most societies mention having used JPG in their digitisation, but given the widespread recommendation to use TIFF for master digital images in archival situations, and that the TIFF format has for a long time been made available by scanner manufacturers and software developers, it is surprising that less than half of societies are reporting that they have used TIFF.


But it is in accord with the results of the preceding question (Q24) which revealed that 30 of 59 respndents were not using standards when performing their digitisation, and it is further confirmed by combining the answers to the two questions: of the 29 who said that they used standards, a solid majority (20) said that they produced TIFF output, whereas of the 30 that do not use standards, only 7 said that they used TIFF as an output format.


Two of the respondents to this question commented that they saved as both TIFF and JPG (one of these respondents is saving at a minimum of 1200dpi, no less). Seven societies ticked TIFF but not JPG or JPEG2000. JPGs, because of their much smaller size, are more convenient to use in many situations (such as displaying on websites), can be generated from the TIFFs at a later stage, but it is also common to produce both at the time of digitisation.


Four societies commented that they also use PDF as an output of their digitisation. We should have included PDF as one of the answer choices in the question, as it is commonly used as the output when digitising textual documents.


Q26 Support for digitisation


Q26 - Support for digitisation



Q27 Reasons for digitisation

For the digitisation carried out by your society, please place the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6 against the following reasons for digitising (where 1 is the most important). Please number as many items as you wish.


73 responses were received to this question, although in some responses numbers were placed against only some of the options.


As in Q18, many of the responders did not limit themselves to using each numeral only once. As a result, the number of appearances of "1" exceeds the number of societies that responded to the question.



Q27 - Reasons for digitisation


Based on the above distribution of numbers, we can rank the five reasons for digisation in the following decreasing order of popularity:


1. Preserve fragile or heavily-used items

2. Allow access on society's premises

3. Allow online access

4. Recover from unexpected loss of items

5. Save space


Four of the responses, instead of placing a "1" against one of the five options, placed a "1" in the box Other (please specify) together with the following reasons for digitisation

1 As resource for authors of a book

1 Donation from local newspaper

1 Income

1 To permanently back up items in an accessible format as original formats become obsolete and unreadable.

Another responder did the same but with a "2":

2 Ease of access for researcers within the society. Also backup - surprised you have not mentioned that as an option.

[There was an option "Recover from unexpected loss of items" which probably covers what this responder has in mind. Note that one the "Other" responders above used the term "back up" to mean providing for the possibility of the original format becoming unreadable]


There were a further nine responses in Other (please specify) , as follows (one from each of nine societies):

Allow access to public in museum

Digitising material which is on loan only - mostly photos

Ease of access

Easier accessibility, images available on computer, instead of retrieving album, finding photo, etc. then putting it all away again.

Enable reproduction

For use of images in the society's publications



To make documents searchable


Q28 Catalogue of digitised items


Q28 - Catalogue of digitised items



Q29 Backup and recovery


Q29 - backup and recovery




Q30 What future plans do you have regarding digitisation?


73 responses were received to this question.


7 replied "None" or words to that effect.


3 replied simply "To continue"


5 gave the impression that they are so busy trying to keep up that they don't have time to make plans. Here is one:

You don't make plans when you are 2 part-time volunteers who do all the research enquiries, organising, collecting, copying, web page, etc etc


1 replied

Requires personnel time and funds


9 societies replied that their long-term goal is to digitise their entire collection


4 societies specifically mentioned digitisation of photographs (starting, continuing or completing).


There was a wide range of responses. The following is a selection of some of them.

To have the collection professionally advised upon and guided by the recommendations

Where the digitised items are photos or other documents, we try to make hard copies of them, and file them in the Collection.

We would like to learn more

Continue, prefer to collect born-digital in archival formats

When we can purchase more computers and attract volunteers with computer skills, we do intend to start an Excel process to put all records, artefacts and associated things on that data base

We plan to make available the collections on-line

We are installing Archivematica & Access to Memory on our server for preservation of digital master files of images, manuscripts and the society's organisational archives.

We plan to investigate what we could be doing and initiate a project to digitise any at risk material in our collection

Mainly to continue with digitisation of newspapers

looking for suitable software ; future grants

Rare items in the collection will be digitalised.

Have applied for grant to purchase computer equipment, copy stand & lighting, camera, case for image based digitisation

Conversion of remaining audio tapes to digital format

We are looking at digitising our film and audio tape collection in the future because of the redundancy of equipment to access these

Keep photgraphing our rate books


Collection policies and accessions register


Q31 Collection policies


Q31 - Collection policies



Q32 Accessions register


Q32 - Accessions register



Access to your collection



Q33 Who manages your collection?


Q33 - Who manages your collection?



Q34 Access to catalogue


Q34 - Access to catalogue



Q35 Search function


Q35 - Search function



Q36 Metadata standards


Q36 - metadata standards



Q37 Items viewable via society's website


Q37 - Items viewable via society's website


Q38 Items discoverable or viewable via TROVE


Q38 - Items discoverable or viewable via TROVE



Q39 Charge for access or copies


Q39 - Charge for access or copies




Q40 Obstacles/challenges with collections management



Please rate the following possible obstacles/challenges by placing the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 in order of importance for your society (where 1 is the biggest obstacle/challenge).


77 societies answered this question.


To date, we have only analysed the "1"s - that is, the answer choices that societies identified as their major obstacle or challenge.


Please note that, as with similar questions earlier in the this survey, we did not make it clear enough that respondents should use each numeral only once when indicating their order of importance. Some did use each numeral only once, but others indicated that more than one of the answers were (equally) their top obstacle or challenge.Consequently, there are more appearances of "1" in the results than there are societies answering the question.


Q40 - Obstacles-challenges with collection management


16 societies added notes in the Other box.

Of these, seven societies advised that their major obstacle/schallenges was not one of the nine we offered, but were:

Age of members is our main problem

1. Lack of time within other duties.

lack of prioritizing the management of the collection 1

Main challenge is the amount of cataloguing we still have to do to make our collection even more accessible and useful.

Space, or lack of it, is our biggest problem, closely followed by a small membership.

We have 12 memebers only about 4 of those are active participants and of those some are working and time is our biggest problem. We are looking at paying someone to catalogue but finding someone suitable within community is difficult

We have ample software, equipment and volunteers (gradually receiving training), our major issue is managing many collection projects, and dealing with new material while giving sufficient attention to retrospective cataloguing work an application of standards.

The following brief comments from four societies do not indicate how these problems rate in comparison with our nine answer choices, but there is a commonality about them:

Lack of time


time and funds



Forward planning



Q41 Succession planning


Q41 - Succession planning



Q42 Disaster recovery plan


Q42 - Disaster recovery plan



Q43 Please tell us about any of the interesting ways that your collection is being used by the community or the membership.


53 societies answered this question. We have selected nine of the reponses below.

We get all kinds of requests - too many to list really, but they range from basic reference requests to substantial research for publications and university study.

photograph used for wall paper in a house

At each meeting we give a 10 min slide show and talk on something from the collection, or personal account, before the guest speaker.

Used widely as an education facility by schools

We supply information on local history to our local schools and to Uni. students doing research. We use multiple copies of our newspapers as items of interest when we speak to local organisations. We provide copies of photos from various eras inthe town's history for people to use for birthday parties, and for anniversary celebrations for local organisations. Our "Gazette"uses info. and photographs from the Collection in its articles, and we include a list of those who have died in each edition as well as an annual article on the changes in the district. These in turn, become a record of change in the community, and the Obituaries we print also become part of the Collection as they record the lives of the people in the district.

The collection is about a timber milling village, the life of the people and the mill. It is said to be the last intact village and mill left in WA and therefore plays an important part in the history timber milling in WA. The museum is currently located in a classroon of the village school and is open to day trippers to the village as well as to those who have rented one of the timber cottages. The Collection will also be show cased through being aprt of the National Trust Heritage Festival for 2018 inviting the public to come and be part of an open forum hearing about the life of women in a timber milling village and working in the mill. The museum is also to have an official opening in 2018 to help bring awareness that a very important part WA Timber Milling History is available to the general public to view. Over time the museum will show case different aspects of the village life, the people and the mill with special one off events.

Nothing comes to mind.

The bird taxidermy collection is on public display at the bottom of the xxxxxx water tower

Many local schools visiting museum as part of their learning ciriculum plus development of themed exhibitions and items in local paper about historical items places and people


Q44 What future plans do you have regarding collection management?


Note previous Q30 focussed on plans for digitisation.


This Q44 relates to collection management. 54 societies answered it. We have selected 11 of the responses below.

Now that we have our new system we can clear backlogs in some collecting areas, we have further records to be transferred to the new system and we hope to have everything transferred before the end of the year. Our test harvest to Trove is complete, and pending our feedback, our eHive records will be discoverable on Trove in the near future.

heaps, we are so remiss regarding our custodial-ship for our community

We have listed it as a priority to address and commence collection management.

To try and limit excess material being off loaded on the society and to properly preserve and maintain what we have

Our Association is likely to merge or fold in the next 12 months

Complete the accessioning and start on de-accessioning

Seeking advice on how to maintain the taxidermy collection and then funds to support the maintenance of the collection

The aim is to make the catalogue more user-friendly and to have all items in the collection fully catalogued.

Get as much done while we can with the volunteers we have available - the rest can not be planned for

We plan to tidy up, digitise, and write policies for its long term future.

No plans in place, continue doing what we do now


Additional comments


Q46 Is there anything you wish to add regarding collection management or any aspect of this survey?


Apart from 11 societies that answered "No" or "Not at this stage", 29 responses were received and all are shown below (except that four have been edited so as not to reveal the identity of those making the comment)

A lot of the questions did not relate to our small group

Again lack of personnel to do the work

Amateurs find upgrading of knowledge and skills to be a daunting process.

Aspects of security for collection

have a nice day - Good survey.

I think it is useful to define up front what sort of a history collection you have. Unlike many local history groups we are an archive rather than a museum.

Is it possible to have a print out of this survey ?

[Yes. if you contact us, we can send a PDF of your society's response to the email address we have on file for your society]

is there a course/lecture on collection management?

It would be great to work with other like minded groups in the town ie. National Trust and Community Library

Local library have control of most of our collection, no access policies, no computer for digital access, they say no money.

MAVic Accreditation process, fully held since 2001, has been instrumental in upholding the standards of collection management.

Need for leadership and co-ordination suitable for collections that are primarily reference as opposed to 3D objects

not enough professionals available.

Our collection management is in the process of being revised.

Thank you for doing it

That the survey had automatic save to allow you to come back to a page. A one stop all point that helps a new organisation find all the relevant links e.g. starting a museum, National Standards, possible software programs

There is a lack of leadership in Victoria to counter Victorian Collections, which does NOT suit a Society collection, as they are usually blended collections. There is a lack of expertise and understanding in collection management in both societies and the peak body.

xxxxx manages a complex entity and expended considerable financial and volunteer energy in preserving the buildings and precinct surrounding the xxxxx Museum. Recently, xxxxx has been able to devote more time and resources to the collection, its preservation and its accessibility, 'live' and on line.

We are more on the promotional side.

We have recently engaged a professional curator to advise on better display of items in our museum. Her report is now to hand and our members hope to bring modern display methods into practice using her guidelines.

We would welcome some advice in regard to the best way to put a strong collection management system in place.

While there seems to be a lot of emphasis on Societies sharing their collections online, nobody is offering to come and do the work, pay for internet access or explain how free access online still enables us to earn an income to pay bills & buy resources needed

would like some feed back on availability of catalouging advice

Would love to see more training. We no longer have the museums course at xxx so there is nothing for regular volunteers.

Yes. We are aware of how things should be, and discuss it frequently. It will be a slow process to achieve changes. We are also aware that it would be easier to carry out our activities if the collection was documented, digitised and entered into an appropriate control system. We are not willing to give up the research and outreach activities so that we can quickly implement a new system. We are aware that this slows the process, but that's the way it is.

You did not ask the size of each of our societies. This would reflect a different range of problems. Also you need to know where the Collections are housed and how this affects what they are able to accept.

[We asked about the size of societies in the previous Stage 1 of the survey, and close to two-thirds of the societies responding to Stage 2 also did so in Stage 1, and so for 66 societies it will be possible to make correlations between the two sets of results]