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Speaker: This is your National Library

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  • Joe Wylie,

    Thanks for that Gordon.
    Something I'm not entirely comfortable with at the moment re. the Nat Library - is it perhaps just a touch Wellington-centric? Right now there's a very laudable Canterbury earthquake-related initiative underway to "help the people of Christchurch and Canterbury and other New Zealanders make sense of what happened and provide a disciplined record of the progress of recovery. It has received significant funding from the National Library of New Zealand and the published photographs will be permanently available in the National Digital Heritage Archive."

    The Library appears to have engaged photographer Ross Becker, who would seem to travel regularly from his Wellington home to carry out his assignments. While it's great that his technically excellent work is being made available online, it's a documentation that records very little of the human aspect of what's happening in Christchurch.

    There are very few people in Becker's shots, and events of special significance to Christchurch people, such as the ongoing demolition of the Barbadoes St basilica, are portrayed from a largely engineering point of view .

    It would have been great to have a rather more humanised record, with some involvement from local photographers. Instead the Library appears to be producing the kind of record that perhaps should have been CERA's responsibility. A great initiative, but shaping as a missed opportunity.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3505 posts Report Reply

  • Fi Rigby,

    A more up to date link to NZGOAL for you:http://nzgoal.info/

    Wellington • Since Jul 2011 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Lyall,

    Sounds like things are very promising, small example of problems I'm encountering with Wikipedia. A project I'm working on right now is to get photographs of all New Zealand MPs (past and present) on their wikipedia pages. This involves getting "CC-By" or better pictures of each.

    This is proving surprising hard. For the current parliament the National and Labour are unable to give us photos ( Act and the greens have been very helpful though ) so we are having to go to public events, source photographs from overseas (The main photo on John Key's wikipedia page is from the Chilian govt!) or ask MPs directly ( I just got two photos from Jamie-Lee Ross a few minutes ago).

    For MPs who are no longer active/alive but whose photos are "in copyright" things are much harder. The Horowhenua Historical Society made a generous donation from their archives which enabled us to have photos of David Lange, Rob Muldoon and (and exterely low quality one of ) Bill Rowling but getting these is very hard and a manual process.

    I'm hopefully that NZGOAL will eventually result in photos from the vaults of government being released ("MP opens New Building" or "Minister poses with staff" are the ones I am after).

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 21 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Apropos of the culinary tips for emperor penguins, I had hare at the White House in Greytown a few weeks ago, and can well recommend it.

    Should another penguin wash up our shores, cooking and eating it (assuming one can find a way of overcoming the described recalcitrance in being slaughtered) would seem to be a plan. It would certainly be more humane than keeping it at the Zoo as a political distraction for weeks on end.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4459 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Dunno about adult/adolescent birds, but penguin chicks (like albatross & titi chicks) were highly reguarded in days of yore & gore...melt-in-the-mouth delicious.
    I'm told.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Thanks, Gordon. I'd be interested in hearing more about the logic behind restricting access to digital taonga rather than encouraging it. What cultural base is the policy drawing on?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16665 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Sacha,

    I'd also, as an enrolled Kai Tahu, be extremely interested in knowing who the gate keepers are...

    Joe - we both know CHCH photographers with literally decades of experience in & around the city - so, Gordon - just how did this photographer get selected? And just who drew up the access parameters?

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to Simon Lyall,

    A project I’m working on right now is to get photographs of all New Zealand MPs (past and present) on their wikipedia pages. This involves getting “CC-By” or better pictures of each.

    Hi Simon:

    I'm not sure how much we'll be able to help you with recent material. There will of course be a lot of images in the ATL Photographic Archive, though most are donations that come with conditions. I speculate that in most cases we'd still be looking at CC-BY-NC or even -ND (though I might be wrong). I do know there is at least one effort underway to identify completely open material, but it's usually not something we can do automatically.

    On approach would be to try asking: we offer online service where you can Ask a Librarian for help with a general research question.

    I assume you know that photos published before 1944 are out of copyright so you should have no problem before that date. DigitalNZ explains.

    I wonder if ArchivesNZ might be a better source of material for you? A lot of past politicians will have lodged their papers with ArchivesNZ. They may well have similar concerns about re-use to the National Library. On the other hand, they do have a very different approach to collecting and access to us, so you may be surprised.

    Gordon

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Islander,

    I don't begrudge Ross Becker his gig. For the type of work he does he's a superb photographer. It's the top-down nature of how the project seems to have been commissioned that bothers me. Shouldn't the people of Christchurch have been involved in telling their own story when government funding is involved? Such a major event needs a variety of voices, particularly those who can bring an empathy derived from living here. For example, this would probably have gone unrecorded save for the efforts of someone with a deep connection born of experience.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3505 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    O forfend I'm begrudging anyone Joe - it's just there are (at least 3) highly experienced photographers I know who are CHCH born & bred who dont seem to have been approached - and they are STILL living in the city or environs...

    as you say: " top-down nature of how project...commissioned..."

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Something I’m not entirely comfortable with at the moment re. the Nat Library – is it perhaps just a touch Wellington-centric?

    Absolutely! However, I did not expect that opening to lead to:

    It would have been great to have a rather more humanised record, with some involvement from local photographers. Instead the Library appears to be producing the kind of record that perhaps should have been CERA’s responsibility.

    which I tend to agree with, but know nothing about. I do note that CERA does seem to be involved.

    Islander:

    we both know CHCH photographers with literally decades of experience in & around the city – so, Gordon - just how did this photographer get selected? And just who drew up the access parameters?

    Sorry, I have no idea. I don't know how this project came about (I saw those pictures at home before I heard that the National Library was involved).

    I do know that since the first quake the Library has been intensively collecting Christchurch-related material in many formats, as well as providing advice and assistance where that is helpful and the photographs are likely to be related to that project.

    I could speculate that it was an opportunistic thing, in the sense that this particular photographer was contactable and available right away, whereas photographers in Christchurch may have been difficult to engage right after the quakes, and may had other priorities. But I stress that's speculation.

    Gordon

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to paynter,

    Thanks for your response Gordon: I do know that David Alexander was available (among the 3.) I 'd appreciate hearing your feedback re gatekeeping at some time in the future. N/n Keri

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    I do note that CERA does seem to be involved.

    There's no mention of CERA funding the project, though understandably it would be carried out with their co-operation and protection. As it happens there's some rather nice work being done by local photographers, mostly unremunerated, and without the benefit of the kind of exclusive access that comes with Nat Library endorsement.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3505 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    the top-down nature of how the project seems to have been commissioned

    That really suprirses you with this government?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16665 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to Sacha,

    Thanks, Gordon. I'd be interested in hearing more about the logic behind restricting access to digital taonga rather than encouraging it. What cultural base is the policy drawing on?

    Ooh that's a tough one. There's a whole body of research about why cultural instituions might choose to restrict access to collection items.

    First, it depends what you mean by access. I'm going to assume you mean online access, and refer specifically restrictions on reproduction and re-use.

    My feeling from the discussions thus far are that we the National Library have a couple of key concerns. One is our donors. All collecting organisations take donor obligations and expectations extraordinary seriously, so as to enhance the reputation of the organisation and encourage future donations. (Nobody wants this.) A second is that we're obliged by the Act to treat documents "in a manner consistent with their status as documentary heritage and taonga", which can be interpreted to mean that they ought not to be made available in such a way that they can be treated disrespectfully, particularly if they're pictures of living people, ancestors, or symbols. That's potentially a real showstopper for online access to many items. A third is that the ownership of the Turnbull collections is complex. (I don't understand it fully, but the Crown owns them and ATL manages them on the Crown's behalf, and there are limits to what we can do to the Crown's property. Also, the implications for management accounting are mindbending.) And then there's all the other issues noted above, which make us want to increase or restrict access.

    I'd also, as an enrolled Kai Tahu, be extremely interested in knowing who the gate keepers are...

    All our decisions are guided by the Access policy, but (as noted above) it needs a refresh. The Access policy is a fundamental document for the Library, and will have to be signed off all the way to the top, so I would say that ultimate responsibility will lie with Bill.

    There's probably a whole other post in this topic, but I'm wary of speculating too much further while our thinking is still being formed.

    Gordon

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Pete Sime,

    It was a bit of a surprise to open my favourite blog and encounter something about my workplace. Nice one, Gordon.

    To everyone else, there might be other National Library staffers who are reading over these comments. We might not be as responsive to comments as you might hope - there are rules about public servants making media commentary related to their roles (including on blogs, messageboards and even social networks). It's all part of maintaining political neutrality in the public service. But I know I will be paying close attention to any feedback people on PAS might offer even though I can't really engage in discussion.

    Dunedin • Since Apr 2008 • 144 posts Report Reply

  • paynter,

    the kind of exclusive access that comes with Nat Library endorsement

    A career in libraries may not be as glamorous as you imagine.

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Sacha,

    That really surprises you with this government?

    Perhaps I should be surprised then that the National Library is still engaged in the worthy work that Gordon's taken the trouble to tell us about.

    I'm not really surprised that even the official recording of our own story has been outsourced and portrayed as little more than an exercise in civil engineering, leavened by "evocative" shots of poignant tat hung from the barriers we're forbidden to cross. Let's not forget the remarkable photographic legacy of the recovery effort from the great depression. Of course it's too much to expect our quasi-corporate decision-makers to show even a fraction of the inspiration of Roosevelt's Farm Security Administration.

    the kind of exclusive access that comes with Nat Library endorsement

    A career in libraries may not be as glamorous as you imagine.

    The farthest thing from my imagination. I'm talking about the privilege of photographing in restricted areas.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3505 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to paynter,

    which can be interpreted to mean that they ought not to be made available in such a way that they can be treated disrespectfully, particularly if they're pictures of living people, ancestors, or symbols. That's potentially a real showstopper for online access to many items.

    Thanks for the response. If items were published digitally before you 'collected' them, doesn't that make a difference? And is the notion of 'ownership' affected by the ability to make endless copies wihtout affecting the physical integrity of the source?

    I certainly understand the onus when you've been donated items, although again there would seem a difference if they have already been made available digitally beforehand.

    I guess the Library may need to revisit as part of the Access review what rights and obligations to impose conditions are conferred by the act of collecting and curating. And even what 'respect' means in digital cultures. Those social media guidelines for public servants are one example of adapting moral codes to modern times. Kaitiakitanga offers other lessons.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16665 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to paynter,

    I'm wary of speculating too much further while our thinking is still being formed

    Isn't that how ideas are teased out?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16665 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Almost forgot to say how great Papers Past is. Joel Crayford's recently pulled some excellent Christchurch quake-related material from the vaults.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3505 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Am I the only person whose brain immediately supplied the followup: This is your National Library on drugs?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2965 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Simon Lyall,

    Simon - some suggestions
    -John Martin is the parliamentary historian and if anyone knows where MP photos are, he probably does (and there are many historical ones adorning parliamentary walls).
    -Before the shift out of the building I used the uncatalogued Evening Post photo collection quite a lot, but I'm not sure whether it is currently accessible. Lots of MP pictures in them and because EP no longer exists many are out of copyright, (unless photographer named, but staff have lists of copyright holder addresses).
    -There are many great photographer collections in the Turnbull such as that of SP Andrew who photographed many MPs in the first part of the century.
    -Don't forget the Cartoon Archive collection. Politicians are a popular subject.
    Only a fraction of the Turnbull collection is yet digitised, so, as Gordon says, ask a librarian.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Am I the only person whose brain immediately supplied the followup: This is your National Library on drugs

    That phrase did drift through my head, actually.

    I should also point out that the feature picture on the home page is Alexander Turnbull, chillin' with some homies in the parlour.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18888 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4861 posts Report Reply

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