Auckland War Memorial Museum goes digital to last the test of time
In a dark room in the depths of an Auckland museum musty artefacts are being brought to life online.
Auckland War Memorial Museum is contributing to Collections Online, an initiative designed to put natural science and human history artefacts onto the web.
Since 2015 the museum has been expanding its online presence and now has more than one million records catalogued on its website, from great white shark jaws to the museum's entire armoury.
Its goal is to eventually have every artefact free for all to view, and the majority free to download and reuse.
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The museum also linked with Google's Cultural Institute, a not-for-profit initiative that partners Google with cultural organisations to bring heritage around the world online.
It is New Zealand's only museum to be part of Google's endeavour and sits it alongside London's Natural History Museum and the American Museum of Natural History.
Its artefacts receive about one million views from around the world every month.
Project leader Dave Sanderson said the initiative was honouring the museum's aspiration to create a digital museum outlined in the Future Museum Strategy.
"This museum is just like any other, you can come in here and you'll see what we've got but you'll only see a fraction of a fraction," Sanderson said.
"We're trying to make it more available more of the time."
The museum has four photographers who aim to take 100 high resolution photos per day.
By default copyright was not applied to images unless there were special circumstances, Sanderson said. This means most images in the catalogue could be used by anyone without encountering copyright issues.
The museum's digital collections manager Adam Moriarty said the online focus made the collections like a social network.
"As a user you can find your own start point, jump in there and start exploring," Moriarty said.
He said the initiative was changing the very nature of museums.
"We've been cataloguing for 160 years and for 158 of those years we were cataloguing for us, for museum people, for the curators, it was never designed to be published like this.
"It's a real shift for museums to start doing that, to put everything out there and let you start exploring."
Moriarty said the museum was the only one in New Zealand that allowed all the data around objects to also be freely downloaded.
Early this year it was recognised as an example of best practice by the World Wide Web Consortium.
The consortium sets standards that help make the web work and provides ways to share data to maximise the internet as a platform.
Moriarty wasn't worried that its online coverage would stop people visiting the museum.
"For an audience who can never visit us it's perfect."