Online museum and archive now live
3 April 2009
Sydney Medical School Online Museum and Archive is now running live off the Medical School’s main website. This online medical museum is the first of its kind for a university in Australia, combining a range of text, images, sound and video that highlight the history and achievements of our Medical School and alumni. The project began in 2007 after the Medical School’s 150th celebrations and has been in development during the last two years.
Essentially it has been driven by Dr Lise Mellor who says: “The museum essentially strives to document the development of the Medical School since 1856 and to represent virtually some aspects of the Medical School now so that it’s relevant to those interested in our history as well as current and future students. So alongside the historical information are virtual exhibitions of artefacts and images and visual tours of buildings today. You can virtually go inside a dissecting room and have a look around, for example, as well as look at artefacts that are physically on display in one of our museums. It’s fun, but it’s also an educational resource.”
She adds: “I wanted to build something that could be a more dynamic representation of the achievements of the Medical School and alumni than was possible through the printed medium alone. I wanted to initiate something that could be grown indefinitely and allow for diverse perspectives and input from other authors and researchers. There are multifarious storylines to be told in this Medical School and the format of the museum allows for history to be told through individual biographies, articles, images and oral histories as well as the usual chronological overview.”
Daniel Burn and Sydney Medical School’s Web Development Team have masterminded the information architecture for the site. Daniel says: “It’s a huge site with over 21,000 pages with a variety of media and data format. The biggest challenge was finding the appropriate technologies to manage the vast content of the site as well as integrate it with the look and feel of the rest of the University.”
The site is designed in a Wiki format to allow for the data to be cross-referenced and searched in ways that the university CMS format can’t manage. However, it sits behind the usual CMS pages of the Medical School site and users can move in and out with ease.
Some features of the site:
- Historical overview of the Medical School
- Biographies of Medical School staff, alumni and benefactors
- Lists of graduates since 1856
- Digitised publications, including Senior Year Books from 1922 to 1970
- Examination papers from 1880s to 1950s
- Virtual tours of buildings
- Virtual exhibitions
- Artefacts online
- Medical Heritage Trail
- Photo gallery
This year Lise will begin consulting with Heads of Schools, Disciplines and Units to further document the history of each field. In addition she is recording oral histories of our very senior Medical School members.
As well as representing the Medical School’s history, the site functions as an archive housing Medical School publications and images. Behind the public viewing capacity is attached an enormous storage capacity so that publications and documents can be stored for future viewing.
“In order to write history in the Medical School we need to start in the present moment, to make sure that we record information and events as they happen. History is a funny thing. You forget that what we are doing today will be considered historical at some point. In this Medical School particularly, the achievements and medical questions of today are grounded in the legacy of the past”, says Lise.
Tim Harland will be working on the team to produce virtual tours of the clinical schools. “Last year we focussed on Central Campus, but it will be great to be able to show viewers the inside of our other clinical schools. The virtual tours need to be filmed in a room empty of people, which is a logistical challenge in hospitals”, says Tim.
Lise comments that what she has created is an umbrella structure; she encourages others in the Medical School to contribute to it. “I will continue writing biographies and researching history, but the real wealth of knowledge resides in the minds and memories of many of our staff who have been here for decades. Ideally I will begin function more as a managing curator”, she says. She will also accept submissions for biographies from researchers outside of the Medical School.
If you are interested in submitting an article, biography or photographs and documents of historical interest you can contact Dr Lise Mellor on 9114 1164 or
Visit the Sydney Medical School Online Museum and Archive.