The National Archives of Australia will support a groundbreaking project that uses creative visualisation to interpret large sets of archival data, with its 2008 Ian Maclean Award.

National Archives Director-General Ross Gibbs has congratulated the award recipient, Dr Mitchell Whitelaw, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Design and Creative Practice at the University of Canberra, who will undertake the project.

"The proposal is to research and develop techniques to visualise large-scale sets of data, in order to support and inform both archivists and archive users," said Mr Gibbs. "This is a burgeoning area in the field of online access and discovery."

The practical outcomes of the project will be prototype interactive, browsable maps of the National Archives collection that apply these techniques at different structural levels. A map of the whole collection will show the "big picture" – the size, scope and historical distribution of different series of records, the relations between them, and their corresponding agencies and functions. A more detailed map will focus, as a test case, on a single series, accumulating data from individual records to reveal the distinctive ‘shape’ of that series.

"Creative visualisation will be seen as increasingly important in years to come. As more archives are digitised, collections become available as large, rich datasets. While individual records are readily accessible, it is more difficult to gain a view of the whole and for users to orient themselves. The problem is not one of access but of presentation."

Source: idm.net.au