Cataloguing in Gippsland

Musings of a Cataloguer at Large in Gippsland. Just personal thoughts - absolutely no bearing on the thoughts of any organisation with which I am working.

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Location: Victoria, Australia

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Etiquette for Visiting or Accessing Collections

It is a really wonderful experience to be able to visit where your ancestors settled, and often this includes a visit to a local historical society and/or museum. I did it a lot when I started off on family history, and had a wonderful time. And found heaps. But this is a post I have been meaning to write for some time, after speaking about it at the GSV a couple of years ago. Because I am now on the other side of the counter, and I think there are a few things that need to be said. Make a cuppa, settle in, and feel free to add comments.

Firstly, this is a really hard post to write in a positive manner, so please bear with that. It is not intended to be negative, and helping visiting family historians is usually a pleasure - it is the ones where it is not that stand out though.

What to do before you visit? The best thing is to write or e-mail where you are visiting, with sufficient details about your family so they can give you best advice, or connect you to the best people. Just phoning does not work - and neither of the collections I work with will do family history over the phone, no matter how demanding people are. And sometimes they are, and I have seen elderly volunteers reduced to tears. Phoning to confirm times (after you have written) is fine - demanding family details over the phone is not. Write about a month ahead, with full details of anticipated time of visit. You should try to fit the normal opening hours, and understand if there is no-one available to drop everything for a time that suits you.

When you do arrive, please bring with you a family chart - you may understand your family, but telling people is no substitute for handing them a chart. Give a brief outline of your family, and then ask specific or general questions about the family, and listen to the answers. This is not an opportunity for you to talk to a captive audience at length about your family. If you arrive without notice, you cannot expect whoever is on duty to be able to access the computer to assist you.

Both collections I work with currently do not allow outside flash drives to be used with our computers as, virus concerns aside, too may people are out there boasting about how they have stolen entire databases and indexes off computers because they have been left alone with computers by unaware people on duty. For the same reason, we will not allow the use of portable scanners with archived photographs without prior arrangement and payment of a reproduction fee per photograph. The volunteers involved have been fund-raising for years to maintain these records, and should not be expected to hand them all over just because people do have the ability to copy them on the spot. There are also records that need to be checked to ensure there are no restrictions on reproduction. Many collections will not allow photography at all at the collection. If there is no signage, it is polite to ask first.

Once you have visited, send an update on the family for the collection's files. Please provide material in A4 format, or smaller. If you are sending digital material, send it as a widely accepted word processing document (eg many do not have Publisher). Do not set material up for display (eg as posters or framed) and expect it to be put on display. Make sure that you include your snail-mail address (e-mail addresses change), and give permission for the details to be given to anyone else enquiring about the family.

The bottom line is - how you interact with us will influence our actions if we find any further material on your family. If you have been courteous, filed material on your family and paid your way, there is every chance we will contact you again. If you are like one recent visitor, who went to both collections, and then wrote to each one complaining about the other, there is not a lot of chance we will.

Negative? Probably - but there comes a time when it has to be said. And it does need to be said that we get great pleasure from many of the family historians who visit. Just sometimes a little more thought about what you are doing makes it possible (or easier) to find information for you.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Gippsland Mercury online

The Gippsland Mercury from Sale is now online through Trove for 1914 - 1918.

And Wellington Shire Heritage Network are gearing up to raise funds to have the Gippsland Guardian, published at Port Albert 1855-1868 placed online. They need to raise $7,300, and are awaiting the result an application for a Council Community grant. This is Gippsland's earliest newspaper, and an online index October 1855 to October 1857 can be found HERE.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Trove Tuesday - Hotels and More Hotels

Trove Tuesday is when bloggers of a certain ilk post something about finds on Trove.

Mine for this Tuesday is the absolutely unbelieveable story I found when I put "Shakespeare Hotel" Stratford into Trove for the Maffra Spectator and for the Gippsland Times. (I have just learned, in passing, that unless it is The Times of London, one does not capitalise or italicise "The" in front of newspaper. Nice to know. Thanks Trove Forums)

Not only up came the Shakespeare Hotel, and there is was losing its licence in 1886, but also it was part of the very first successful Local Option vote in the state, aimed at decreasing hotel licences. We definitely didn't know that. As we followed its fate through the hearings, and then the compensation hearings, we found two other hotels we had never heard of that also lost their licences, plus saw a lot of others we knew about losing theirs. In many cases we were given wonderful detail of number of rooms, types of customers, if the police had reservations about how the hotel was run, etc etc.

In the end, of the 19 hotels in the Stratford Licensing District, nine lost their licences, to rationalise them down to nine (one seems to have gone first of its own volition). And we ended up with a book. We definitely wouldn't have known about this if it had not been for Trove. To read the publicans, some of them women, speaking in their own voices in the hearings, as they fought to keep their hotels, was precious beyond belief.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Flip Pal Scaner

Yesterday, I bought a new toy. A Flip-Pal Mobile Scaner. Along with a lot of others, I fronted up to Gould Books at the Family History Expo at Cranbourne, and said "Give me one". I bought it with a bag (purple, for those who know me), for $259.00. Prices HERE.
This is totally portable, and I have already mastered scanning little snapshots (above), and photos up to postcard size and slightly above. I have yet to learn the "stitching" function, where you scan larger photos bit by bit.
(For the observant - yes, the photo should be face down - I have already scanned it, and am recording the details on the reverse).

I have also mastered taking off the lid and turning the scanner upside down, one of the functions I really wanted, for scanning snapshots pasted in albums, or even with corners, where they may be damaged taking them in and out. Just a quick scan at the start, so I know what I have, without removing it from the album. The Historical Society at Maffra has a huge, fragile album with all photos pasted in - it can only be photographed at the minute, which is okay, but not as crisp as a scan.

The photo above? One of my mother, with a clock given to her at her workplace as a wedding present. One wag, on seeing it asked if she couldn't get a wristwatch, and had to carry this around.

It scans at either 300 dpi or 600 dpi, and produces a good scan for working purposes at those resolutions. It works immediately, without further programming, but I needed to print the User's Guide (put the card into my computer), which is also available by download from Flip-Pal, to be able to work out how to move from 300 dpi to 600dpi. Not a problem.

But what has me most excited is that this does not need to be connected to a computer, and is one-touch (just push the green button) operation. Another volunteer will be able to work with this while I am on the computer, and I then just take the card out of the scanner, download them to my computer and manage them from there. It is going to solve a lot of our problems with scanning small photos.