ID: 221



Associate Professor Gavan McCarthy is Director of the University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre in the University Library foundered in 2007. His research is in the discipline of social and cultural informatics with expertise in archival science and a long-standing interest in the history of Australian science. He contributes to research in information infrastructure development within the University and his projects highlight strong engagement with community. His distinctive cross-disciplinary research reaches into other fields such as education, social work, linguistics, anthropology, population health and history. He re-examines theoretical foundations and tests new theories through practical interventions with a focus on public knowledge domains, contextual information frameworks and knowledge archives.


Enabling Archives to meet Community Needs in Australia: the Find and Connect Web Resource

Brief summary:

This paper explores work on the technological underpinnings of the user-focused interface of the Find and Connect web resource for Australian children who experienced out of home care in the 20th Century. The need to make a complex archival world understandable was paramount but as important was the use of tested standards especially ISAAAR(CPF).


Archives can be strange, confusing places for inexperienced users. To the uninitiated, complex finding aids, archival metadata and access conditions can be perplexing barriers. Yet in Australia, national, state, organisational and community archives hold records of enormous value. For example, many of the estimated 500,000 Australian individuals who experienced institutionalcare’ as children during the twentieth centuryknown as Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrantsseek documents, photographs and related records to help them reconstruct their personal narrative and identity. Archival records may also be evidence of crimes or human rights abuses and can be vital when seeking redress, or when making contributions to formal inquiries. The Find & Connect web resource (, funded by the Australian Commonwealth Government, is an attempt to utilise existing archival standards combined with new technologies to make these vital records more discoverable and understandable via a single, structured online contextual information network. Archivists, historians, social workers and others work as an interdisciplinary team to map the history of out-of-home care in all states and territories, gather information on relevant collections, series and records, answer questions from users, and (where possible) provide support and advice to organisations working with care leavers and their records through workshops and regular communication. In presenting this paper, we seek to take this work to the international archival community, to explore the conceptual underpinnings of archival practice, and to engage with the community to foster awareness of the importance of these types of records.

Scientific contribution:

The Find &Connect web resource has been developed using a contextual information management database tool called the Online Heritage Resource Manager (OHRM) which has been developed by the eScholarship Research Centre and its predecessors at the University of Melbourne. The OHRM informatic structures were derived from the two ICA standards ISAD(G) and ISAAF(CPF) with the focus being on the latter. The conceptual development of the OHRM was driven by the need to link up distributed collections and the believe that this could be more effectively achieved by systematically documenting 'archival authorities' as 'boundary objects' to interconnect dispersed related materials. In 2000, the OHRM was able to export this ISAAR data as Encoded Archival Context xml and this was subsequently chosen by the National Library of Australia as its standard of choice for data transfer with Trove.


Encoded Archival Context; Contextual Information Management; Public Knowledge Resources; Distributed Collections; ISAAR(CPF); Knowledge Archives; Web Publication