One year ago, on 1 September 2020, Coffs Collections was launched. It was the work of a two-year small-team project to prepare digital cultural infrastructure for digitising and sharing the cultural and historical collections of the Regional Museum, the Regional Gallery and the Library. One member of that team shared her view of the outcome:
We have never had all our records or images in one place before, and they’ve never all been publically available before. Coffs Collections has been a breath of fresh air in managing our content!
(On a personal note, it has also meant that I could find sustainable employment in my home town.) I’m so excited for our first birthday!
Nerida, Digital Cultural Collections Specialist
The new service is already starting to make an impact, on Council colleagues and the wider community. Local ABC Radio has created snippets of the interviews to replay each week. Donations, including one recently made by videographer Graham Bell, and research such as an exploration of the Glynn’s cordial factory have been inspired by the easy availability of our local history.
I use Coffs Collections to get a sense of how the environment has changed over time – i.e. have fish stocks (quantity and size) changed, what did specific places look like in the past etc. We then incorporate this information into the tours that we guide.
Elisabeth, Sustainable Living Programs Officer
The interest in preserving Coffs’ identity over time started in 1952, when members of the Country Womens’ Association decided to record information and gather artefacts about the town’s and district’s history. Their enthusiasm, combined with that of educators such as George England (high school teacher), resulted in the development of an historical society for the region in 1955. [Coffs Harbour Vol II : 1946 – 1964, Yeates, 1993, p.167]
Mr England was keen to capture the area’s earliest history too. Another educator, Neil Yeates (university lecturer), subsequently documented the histories of Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga in three volumes. Much of the raw materials they used and the information they captured are stored in or linked to by Coffs Collections. This service is an expression of our gratitude for their work.
In the years leading up to 2001, and with the support of ambassadors the Banana Twins, the region’s artistic endeavours were drawn to a dedicated facility. As a result, the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery is celebrating its 20th birthday this year. All of the exhibitions held by the Gallery are available for viewing as a timeline in Coffs Collections.
The first Coffs Harbour City Council digitisation project curated the photographic collection of the Regional Museum, and culminated in the Picture Coffs Harbour service in 2008. It was switched off and integrated into the new service last year.
The community is fortunate to have this very accessible platform – a foundation for the discovery of our identity – which we continue to build on.
Debbie, Local Studies & Digitisation Librarian
When Create NSW funded the project to build Coffs Collections, no one had foreshadowed the impending pandemic lockdowns. The grant opportunity became even more significant, and resulted in a rare example of a merged regional gallery and museum service envied by many other cultural agencies.
Capturing local stories in this single convenient web location will soon be reflected in the co-location of the three cultural facilities – Library, Gallery and Museum – at one physical destination in 2022. We look forward to a shared future.
Coffs Collections makes researching our collections so much easier and more pleasurable. There is so much rich material to be explored and real gems to be found. Prepare to be taken by surprise as your view of Coffs’ history is upended!
Jo, Gallery & Museum Curator