ResearchSpace for ‘Mobilising Aboriginal Objects’


Daniel Simpson


November 23, 2021


The project: ’Mobilising Aboriginal Objects’

Museums in Britain, Ireland and Europe have objects in their collections that were made by Aboriginal people along the New South Wales coast in the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s. Very little is known about these objects, a lot of knowledge has been lost. This project hopes to find out as much as possible about where, how and why certain objects were made, used and collected.

Project workshop

The workshop aims to introduce members of the La Perouse community to the research undertaken thus far by the project, and to discuss the next steps.

The objects found so far will be exhibit to provide an opportunity for community engagement and discussion and to inform decisions about taking these same objects to Australia for local in-person events.

ResearchSpace for the project research and workshop

ResearchSpace [RS] played a very important role in the project workshop.

Prior to the event, we used RS to help us to identify objects of similar kinds and to categorise them by geographical origin using the clipboard feature and linked knowledge maps [KMs]. The latter were helpful to add notes and to retitle the objects specifically for the workshop without altering their core data fields.

Having done this, we used RS to assist in the creation of a PDF object catalogue that was distributed to workshop participants before the event.

At the workshop we used RS to exhibit the objects we have found. These were grouped by clipboard and KM into categories including geographical origin and institutional affiliation. These KMs were displayed on separate browser tabs, and we shared the screen during a Zoom meeting. We used a dedicated account which had permission to save KMs but not to alter core data – this worked really well.

The high resolution image viewer also appeared highly effective: participants benefitted from being able to see and draw attention to multiple images at once (displayed and previously sorted on a KM). It was helpful to be able to zoom into particular object tiles on the KM but we also magnified images as full screen when needed.

It was particularly good that we could select one image from the KM and then quickly display various representations of the associated object. The system loaded images quickly and coped fine with being loaded onto eight separate tabs. At one stage a participant asked for the comparative sizes of two similar objects, and we were able to pull up the dimensions information very quickly.

During the workshop I was also able to use RS to draw up information relevant to the discussions, for example to bring up all clubs, and to find visual representations (drawings) of objects we were discussing.

It is my view that particular reflexive tasks performed by RS during the workshop (especially, e.g, to display all objects of a certain type, or within a certain museum) would have taken perhaps an
hour using conventional software and so would be impossible to perform without the RS software.

In other words the ResearchSpace offered vital and novel functionalities which greatly aided and possibly defined the event. Notwithstanding the important role it played, the visual appearance of RS and its KMs were slick and unobtrusive – this allowed conversation to flow, and the objects to take precedence, in a very effective way.

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