INTRODUCTION History SA welcomes the opportunity to comment on the 2011 draft Strategic Roadmap for Australian Research Infrastructure Exposure Draft. We strongly endorse the inclusion in this Roadmap of two additional capabilities – Understanding Cultures and Communities and Digitisation Infrastructure, which we believe have the capacity, if funded, to strengthen significantly the capacity for multidisciplinary research in Australia on issues of national import.
HISTORY SA History SA is a statutory authority of the South Australian Government, with a unique brief to research, interpret and preserve the history of South Australia. It was established in 1981 to further community understanding of South Australian history and to safeguard the material history of the State. It is the only such organisation in Australia.
Although focused on the past, History SA has always looked to the present and the future, believing that the past holds the keys to understanding in the present and to seeking meaningful solutions to major social questions in the future. We also have a commitment to interdisciplinary research. Areas of research focus at present include migration studies, studies in material culture and everyday life, and urban
At a business level History SA manages three historical museums – the Migration Museum in Adelaide, the South Australian Maritime Museum in Port Adelaide and the National Motor Museum at Birdwood in the Adelaide Hills. An increasingly important component of our business is the development of digital history resources, including providing access to archival material and material culture collections. As an active member of the Council of Australasian Museum Directors we have participated in collaborative projects which aim to enhance the discoverability of our collections online for humanities and other researchers. One current project is the Museum Metadata Exchange project, funded by the Australian National Data Service.
One of the great strengths of History SA is its Community History Program, which maintains close links with the State’s network of regional and community museums and historical societies. In this way we provide a link between evolving historical research and the broader group of community researchers, many of whom are based in the regions.
Understanding Cultures and Communities History SA is particularly pleased to see the inclusion of a specific research capability for Understanding Cultures and Communities. We believe that the title of this capability accurately captures the significant role that research in the humanities and social sciences can and should play in both defining and safeguarding Australian society and culture. Creating and maintaining inclusive, tolerant societies and minimizing social disadvantage are important goals of government, dependant on robust, multidisciplinary research strategies. Research into questions of identity and citizenship are particularly relevant at present. Increasingly such research programs require technical infrastructure with the capacity to store, manipulate and exchange data on a large scale and in varied formats, designed with the specific requirements of researchers in these disciplines in mind. While we think it is important to ensure that researchers from these disciplines inform research in other capability areas, we do not believe that the existing capabilities have the capacity simply to expand to incorporate humanities and social science research readily.
History SA is also pleased to see the acknowledgement that museum collections are important research source material and that collecting institutions are active contributors to research activity in Australia.
Atlas of Australian Life We support the concept of a project like the outlined Atlas of Australian Life and believe that the existing Atlas of Living Australia has demonstrated the clear benefit of a similar approach in the human sciences. It has the capacity to bring multidisciplinary researchers together within a shared platform, encouraging innovative problem solving and exchange, and uniting the academy and the collecting institutions in a shared collaborative purpose.
Digitisation Infrastructure We strongly endorse the suggestion that a Digitisation Infrastructure capability be funded. Many of those who responded to the Discussion Paper noted the need for a comprehensive digitisation program to enable Australian researchers the kind of access to research collections that researchers elsewhere increasingly enjoy.
The potential for such a capability has been clearly demonstrated by the recent collaborative project involving CAMD museums with humanities and social science collections – the Museum Metadata Exchange Project. This project has exported data on more than 900 collections into Research Data Australia, and the evaluation conducted with researchers to date has been very positive. The capability outlined in the Exposure Draft would expand the benefit to researchers exponentially and bring Australia closer to a competitive advantage internationally.
Future Funding History SA agrees with the principle addressed in the Roadmap(p.9) that future funding programs should support all aspects of research infrastructure, including capital costs, technical support, operations, maintenance and effective governance. We also urge that the costs of maintaining collections (as research infrastructure) and data should be acknowledged.
Review We agree that a review of the Roadmap every three years should be sufficient to ensure currency, while allowing for a proper assessment of existing priorities. We also believe that there is merit in reviewing the National Research Priorities as part of this process. Incorporating a priority to reflect the Understanding Cultures and Communities is a more urgent priority.
History SA also supports the points made in the response submitted by the Council of Australasian Museum Directors.
Margaret Anderson Chief Executive Officer Ph: 08 8203 9884. Mobile: 0401 128 582