ARMS/Thomson Reuters Award

Very proud of my team this month. We were recognized at this years Australasian Research Management Society (ARMS) meeting for “working smarter”.  In 18 months we trailed 18 new programs, the most successful of which forms the backbone of our current activities. Good job team!

“Re-inventing the Museum”

The Street Museum app overlaps historical scenes onto real life street views. Any reader of the AAM’s Museum Magazine recognises this project as one of the Museum of London’s outreach programs designed to move the museum collection out of the “box” of the museum building and into the lives of Londoners and international visitors; and more importantly, non-going museum audiences. StreetMuseum is celebrating 500,000 downloads.

The driving force behind this brain child, Antony Robbins, is in town this week for the digital GLAM event: Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums. 

Tonight’s lecture was really just the kick off for tomorrow’s symposium, held at the University of Melbourne’s star attraction, the Melbourne School of Design.

Wilson’s Promitory

imageTo the east of Melbourne lies “the Prom”, one of the first National Parks in Victoria, reserved in 1898. Kangaroos, wombats, wallabies, emus and rosellas freely wander through an incredible array of habitats from coastal heathlands to fern-strewn rainforests. Melbournianites have only to travel two hours out of the CBD to visit the best of the continent’s south. Nearly half of all the birds in Victoria are found here, including the most rare. It’s Victoria’s Garden of Eden and people revere it as such. The guide book cautions: “The Gunnai and the Boonerwrung people have always held the Prom in great awe, and treated it with uncommon respect. We should tread lightly here.”

In just seven hours we covered the “first tier” of tourism at the Park, and enjoyed a 12 km hike.

Stop 1: Tidal River, Normandy Bay

Traveling through the park, you are driving on the 1942 road; first built to access the Prom’s southern beaches and train commandos in secret. You arrive to the base buildings now used as a visitor centre and continue on to the beach at Norman Bay. This beach is known as one of Victoria’s most beautiful, and a good source of shell fish and fishing grounds. In one of the last Ice Ages, the sea level was nearly 150m below today’s levels, and Wilson’s Prom and Tasmania were linked by a land bridge. Over time, wind swept sand from the exposed ocean bottom built up and formed the plateau through which Tidal River now flows. Today, some of the plants on the Prom are only also found in Tassie.


Granite rocks at Squeaky Beach

Stop 2: Squeaky Beach

Here on Squeaky Beach, 380 million year old granite formations break down and form the beach. If you get the friction just right you can hear the squeak of pure quartz crystals rubbing against each other. Tidal River and Squeaky beach actually represent a divide between white sandy (quartz) beaches to the east and yellow shelly (calcareous) beaches to the west. You can also notice a brown tinge to the water, a tannin leached from the nearby swamp paperbarks. Fish use the calm waters to lay eggs and wombats, possums, gliders and bats live like kings among the coastal scrub and messmate forests (a type of stringy bark).

Stop 3: Hike from Darby Saddle to Tongue Point

imageI will now call this “the hike with views that get better and better”. This walk starts at Darby Saddle, a previous watering hole for early 1900 visitors, meanders up to Spark’s lookout. A park ranger for many years, I imagine this was one of his favourite spots, lending an amazing view of the rocky islands and Tongue Point. One more “up” to Lookout Rocks and then you descend to a coastal heathland. Wombat lairs line the seldom used trail (for Prom standards) and looking back on the Prom gives  a rare view of the coastline. After dead-ending at a tiny rock protrusion, I continued back to the main trail, but went a little further to visit Fairy Cove. This tiny beach had a late afternoon visitor, which made the return climb back up to Darby Saddle (300m straight up) worth the trip.


It’s rare treat to see a wombat so out in the open.

Stop 4: Sunset over Bonsai Mangroves


Emu tracks in the damp mud of low tide.

An easy 2km walk bring you in close counter with wallabies in messmate forests, opening out on to Miller’s landing. Here, lies the southernmost mangroves in the world. Tracks are easy to spot in the soft sand and mud and it’s supposedly a good place for bird watching. When we arrived the beach seemed deserted, but the sunset was a pleasant end to the day.


Sunset over the southernmost mangroves in the world.


100 year plan

I got this email today:

Hey there! Neal’s cooking food and a clay pot in the fire pit and I’m remembering when you first started building it with a pick axe. Thinking of you, hope things are going great. Everyone here still asks how you’re doing-Betty says hi!

It’s important to me that I have built something people use. It was a team effort to get it finished, but it’s a great feeling to be remembered as a part of the beginning.

Sustainable use of fire pit: firing ceramic art while making dinner .

Shared Services at the University of Melbourne 

Right as I started in June, the University of Melbourne initiated it’s Shared Services Implementation Plan in my division, University Services.  I was brought on to the “Smoother start ups for research projects” initiative as a subject matter expert – which is a bit of a farce since I’m clearly not an expert at the University’s business (yet). But at the time, I was walking around trying to streamline our team’s local record keeping and no one else wanted the job of representing the International Grants team. There are, however, a few skills acquired along the way that make me useful for a project of this scope. Here’s me doing first take of my 5 second sound bite for the promo video:


Nailed it.

Exhibit Development


Design, review, iteration, iteration, iteration

In Feb 2013, the IVDM approved a final design for the new 8,000 sqft permanent exhibit. It is now in fabrication.

All the narratives, images, objects, concepts & interactives – so carefully deliberated – are becoming real.


From collecting content to interactive software


From mockup to final panel

The Most Important Collection

IMG_6788Geoglyphs, or ancient earthen art, are rare expressions of human interaction with the landscape. One of the most recognized examples are the Nasca Lines of Peru. Imperial County is home to the largest collection of documented humaniod geoglyphs in the world. The oldest dated geoglyph is estimated at 6,000 years old.

The head of Imperial Valley College’s Archeology Department, Jay von Werlhof, lead a team of local researchers in documenting these internationally significant sites for over 30 years.

Harry Casey was a key member of the team, lending his private plane, piloting experience, and photography skills … often at the same time (taking photos through a custom cut hole in the floor of the plane).

The Imperial County Geoglyphs are still a mystery to the research community, and until recently, there was no accessible research on the subject.

IMG_6985In 2014, the IVDM began receiving Harry Casey’s full body of research – over 3,000 images of geoglyphs and rock art sites from the region and around comparative collections from across the world. From June – Decemeber, myself and the IVDM archivist conducted oral interviews and took detailed notes to build an accessible reference guide to the collection and creating context. As Mr. Casey pointed out what he considered to be the most important aspects, I created notated images to reference what he discussed. Meant to be viewed along with the audio interview, Harry Casey’s “lessons” are now a permanent part of the IVDM collections.


The Hitch’s Book Club

BernadetteTo: Simon, Katie, Mom, Sarah, Barb, and Patricia
From: Jessica
Subject: Hi from the desert

I have just finished reading a book for Book Club and, there being no one else around, I thought I’d write and tell you my thoughts. (You have just joined Book Club.) There are only two standing members of Book Club: me and Lucas Hitch, my boss’ middle son. Here’s how it goes:
1) Lucas reads an interesting book from an obscure publisher.
2) I hound him about what book I should read next until he finally relents and gives me a title. Usually one where the main character is a 25 – 40 something opinionated feminist searching for the meaning of life. He thinks I’ll relate. He’s usually disappointingly right, but those are not my favorite stories, I’ll have you know.

Sometimes Book Club has a guest reader. Usually it’s Lucas’ dad, Neal, who gets tired of not knowing what we are talking about in the car. Lucas works at the Museum over the summer and we ride back and forth from town to Ocotillo and back, a captive audience for Neal’s terribly interesting and knowledgable lectures. That is only a little bit sarcastic. I tell people I’ve been in a PhD program for 5 years now, by virtue of listening to Neal, and I think my latest work, of which I’m very proud, shows the profit.

I digress. Once in a while, in the car, I manage to bring up my analysis of the book I just finished reading and tell Neal now he’s three books behind for Book Club. Even though Neal doesn’t have time to read because he’s too busy try to keep both a Museum and his family afloat on this non-profit crazy train, he enjoys the pay-off to Book Club, which is intellectual discussions. Other guest readers could be a Museum intern, someone we hike with all the time and again gets tired of not knowing what we are talking about, or sometimes my mom, if I think she’ll like the last book we read. This is one of them. The book I just finished reading is written almost entirely in emails, texts, and documents relating to a slightly off-kilter genius artist, her daughter, husband and what happens to an artist when they stop creating (mayhem). I highly recommend it. It’s called Where’d you go Bernadette? by Maria Semple (Back Bay Books, reprint 2013). I spent the morning polishing off the last 50% of the book (it’s a percentage only because I can’t figure out how to get the Kindle to show page numbers. When did technology get away from me? I’ve given up on TV remotes entirely. I just ask someone else to change the channel, skip the commercials, change to the AV source, whatever. If I try myself it usually ends in me disconnecting the satellite, which means a twenty minute re-boot that was all my fault while everyone waits to see that show we all sat down specifically to watch. Embarrassing.)

Last night was my first night back in Ocotillo alone after spending three weeks almost entirely with the Hitches, and, no reflection on the Hitches, I had a leisurely morning in bed, enjoying the quiet, and finishing Where’d you go Bernadette? When the book ended, it was time for coffee.

The first thing I did, which is what you do in a trailer in a desert that has been unoccupied for a while, was check to see if the ants that I had battled last night (first with lemon juice and dish soap, and then finally, heartlessly – not in my BED! – with flying insect spray I found in a closet at the Museum) had moved on to taking over the kitchen while I slept. Getting up and checking for bug outbreaks as the first thing on your morning “to do” list made me think, not for the first time, that I could write a book about this. It would probably be a lot like Bernadette’s story: privately languishing in self pity, looking for redemption in the wrong places, and finally, just living off the adventure. I bet we have all done that – all of us involved in the Hitch’s 10 year adventure – we all think we could write a book about this. Where’d you go Bernadette? made me want to tell my story about the crazy little places you can go in the world. They all have their own quirks, but they are essentially all the same. More than write it, I just wish I could share that experience with you. Today I miss you all very much. This adventure is so much more fun when there is company.

On the other hand, there are hazards to having company on a non-profit adventure – you own nothing and share everything. Today, I woke up relaxed in my trailer, finally alone in my desert oasis, and walked over to the other trailer to make coffee because that’s where the Hitches left the only coffee pot. The bottom of my feet burned on the way. Oh right. It’s summer. In the desert. Duh. I put the coffee on and nimbly ran back to my trailer for milk and flip flops, and picked up my computer so I could write and tell you about this crazy place I am living. Did you know that you cannot wear jewelry here in summer? It will burn you. The ambient temperature is so hot it heats up earring hooks, necklace chains, and watch backs to a very, very uncomfortable temperature, causing you to rip them off as quickly as possible in shock, alarm, and finally, with the realization that you should have known better. When I first arrived here someone described the summer heat as pointing a hair blow-drier in your mouth while you hold a hot iron up to your face. Imperial County is the hottest place to live in the US, second only to Death Valley. We should make “I survived” t-shirts for the Museum.

Anyway, so I went to get milk and flip flops. I looked for the sugar, but in its place is a giant container of salt. In my absence, Anne has made the trailer her own. This is the problem with sharing an adventure. Every thinks they own something here, and really we all own nothing. The Hitches, I think, are disappointed that I’m going to stay in their trailer (giving up the place I think of as home here: my imitation NYC loft that makes the whole trailer mine by virtue of I sleep in the common area), but neither Anne nor I, I’m sure, wish to live together again. Not because there is animosity, but because you own nothing and share everything and can’t I just get a second to myself once in a while! It eats you up slowly. Trust me, it’ll be better for our work productivity if we don’t live together.

This trip to a crazy place is different from all the rest – it’s a return. We are all experienced desert adventurers now. There is no new intern to show around town. No one that needs entertaining. We all know where everything is (bank, casino, hot springs, hiking) and where to get it. Now we just have to orchestrate getting what we want with one vehicle and seven different ideas of how to do it. Thank heavens there is a hierarchy or we’d never make it. Rule #1: Deneen (matriarch) gets what she wants. Neal (Museum Director) provides us with jobs, direction, and housing so he’s #2 on the list. It gets fuzzy after that. Your place in line can change based on the project we are working on, whether it’s your birthday, are Deneen’s child, or have just returned from vacation. And, if you have gone somewhere nice for vacation you are lower on the list than everyone because you did something fun without us. And worse, experienced luxuries that just don’t exist here. Like shop at an H&M (where the boys are getting suits for the Hitch’s oldest son’s wedding and, which has resulted in no less than 3 trips to San Diego to accomplish that feat). Imperial County is actually a step up from the Turks and Caicos where eating beef off island without bringing some back with you could get you cold-shouldered for days. Until we all went swimming. When you come out of those waters everything is a crystal clear clean slate. (I don’t think slate can actually be clear, but that doesn’t make a very good story, now does it?)

In these crazy little places we adventurers come and go so frequently that we hardly matter, but we don’t realize it. We become so involved in our projects and our lives that we share with just a few people that we think we become a part of the place. We don’t. You don’t. You do not make a mark on the place. The place makes it’s mark on you. Your job is to carry the lessons forward.

All of my latest adventures are to the Hitches credit. Their family is born out of a communal lifestyle I never quite understand, but enjoy living in. You own nothing, but share everything. It’s a lifestyle that reaches through the people it touches to touch other people. It’s part of a 100-year plan. And it’s working. Now I tell the Hitches that my life is a giant inside-joke-with-no-one about their lives. The life they share with me. No one knows the jokes outside of our museum-living circle, but I tell them anyway. I travel around so much it’s a way of bringing the familiar with me. The stories make me laugh and make me feel closer to my friends, even if I get funny looks: “I’m just trying to give directions, why are you talking about a telephone booth?” On Grand Turk a telephone booth was damaged and removed, but locals still give directions by where the telephone booth used to be. If you don’t know where it was, you are sh*t out of luck.

What’s funny is that the stories are spreading. Just before I left New England somebody else told one of Neal’s jokes. I was taken aback – how did she know? – but I guess that’s how often I talk about my past lives: they are becoming other people’s stories. I think that people think I’m trying to live in the past, but really I’m trying to bring the past into my present. The lesson I carry forward is that life can be fun if you manufacture opportunities to make it so. Telling stories of a time when all we did everyday was turn massive amounts of hard work into massive amounts of really fun work reminds me that I can make life what I want it to be; all the power rests in my hands. Powerful stuff, no? Worth remembering.

As always in Book Club, that’s not very much information about the book, but lots about what the book brings to mind. Want more? You can read a review here: or an interview with the author here:


P.S. Some of you may see this duplicated in a blog post.

New England Archivists Conference

Two really great sessions amidst a flurry of networking:

1) International colleagues representing the International Conference on Archives and their respective countries. Switzerland just passed a law that will help support “dangerous records” from being destroyed in their country of origin. All of Germany’s archivists study at the same school. Canada’s national archives associations are advocating for archives to be treated as not just important for future generations, but for building identity today. Israel’s official documents are processed into the archive within 3 years, decreasing the chance of losing important context information. The Netherlands are working on a national electronic depository. Norway is championing the combination of records management and archival techniques to smooth the transition of active records to archives.

2) College and High School Outreach programs: Colby-Sawyer and MYTOWN
both projects had student presenters participate in the session

A) COLBY-SAWYER COURSES, Kelli Bogan archivist
1) Rebuild college history (last history researched in 1937 for centennial)
2) Train researchers (current students) in using archival material

Class structure: Two seminar classes Junior then Senior year.
Year one
“History Detectives 101” Prof Randy Hanson: Process a small collection, intro to archives/information literacy
Year two
Research projects: 1) Create Virtual Exhibit 2) Simultaneous Oral History project Includes: in-class practice with a former CS college professor (80 years old and encouraging kids to ask follow-up questions); Group projects developing 15 min oral history interviews, used on Alumni weekend to gather information (called “guerilla interviews”)

Student Evaluation:

  • The Student presenters stressed they gained
  • Connection to college (even students not interested in archives)
  • Practical Research skills
  • Student expectations and interest is low at the start of the course, but grows with “touching” archives (in experiencing firsthand sources and in developing historical narratives)

NOTE: Alumni weekend materials contained information about project with a note that they should expect to be approached by students with buttons; permissions signed before interviews

a 501(c)3 with the mission to connect students to Boston’s contemporary history: Hires high school students to learn about Boston, their hometown, and give history tours to public (paid tours). In 15 years of operation they amassed an archive of youth-authored materials. Future organizational goals – Current students teach next generation

NOTE: people interested in taking the tours from students generally already have some knowledge or interest in the subjects, forcing students to have deep knowledge

Student job description:
1) review, research, and share MYTOWN archives
2) develop a research question/ revive tours
3) document your family history
4) keep a daily blog of your research, tours, and photos

Example Subjects: bussing in boston (ending school segregation), Mel King (former major); Puerto Rican neighborhood Villa Victoria (resisted urban expansion)

Student evaluations: I learned the…
– ability to master a subject
– confidence, speaking skills, communication
– patience/flexibility in working with existing historical information
– empathy with other points of view
– “never stop asking questions”/love of learning
– develop your own opinion and be an advocate for that point of view (critical thinking/story development)
– glad to have an opportunity to learn local history

– formed institutional loyalty (future MYTOWN employees and advocates)
– forms socially responsible, thoughtful citizens with a life-long love of learning

Program structure:
– found an interesting item in the collections
– developed a research question
– archive research was followed with visits to locations relevant to the work
– researched subject outside archive by partnering with three university archives/libraries
– developed an online exhibit
– including an audio file where the student “speaks” as an inanimate object present at the event ie. A pen: “Mel King gripped the pen with frustration” (a school building in Bussing Boston, the ground at the Villa)

Little Creatures Brewery

Little Creatures just opened up a brewery location in Geelong. With the recent push for a cruise pier in Geelong’s harbor, their renovated warehouse isn’t just a brewery, it’s a destination.