Hidden Heritage

Preserving, presenting, and reusing personal collections

School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington

Welcome to Website for Hidden Heritage, a research project examining the heritage potential within personal collections of significant individuals and issues people face when organising personal collections.

Using the links above you can learn about our project, meet and contact the research team, and view our call for participation. Below you can find summaries of the project's recent activity, milestones, and outputs.

Study updates

5 August, 2020

From September 2019 until February 2020, we collected data from ten participants through several rounds of interviews, email conversations and observation. Four New Zealand artists participated in our study (a writer, a sculptor, a musician, a performer), four significant individuals from the public sector (a researcher, a psychiatrist, a peace activist, a leader of a renowned NGO organisation) and two family members with inherited collections of significant individuals.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we have so far been restricted from collecting further data. Still, we analysed collected data and wrote a paper on personal collections and personal information management in the family context, submitted to a special issue of Library Trends on family information management. In this paper, we draw on the fascinating findings from our interviews thus far to discuss how collections of significant individuals are organised, preserved and shared between family members, and what issues significant individuals and their family members experience when they want to donate their personal collections to organisations such as galleries, libraries, archives, museums and record units (i.e. GLAMR). The issue will be published in the fall of 2021 (Volume 70, Issue 2).

We also developed a software for annotating and maintaining digital collections with future preservation, information legacy, and re-use in mind.

We are continuing with data collection and looking for new participants. If you are interested in participating, learning more about the project or have ideas to share, please contact us.

Study recruitment - frequently asked questions

30 September, 2019

We are looking for participants who have personal collections that they value and think are worth preserving for the future. Our focus is on collections within the public or creative sectors. We welcome any type of collection, no matter if it is digital, stored in boxes in a garage, or well organised in your home or office. This research also includes participants who have inherited collections from family members who they may consider are significant individuals. If you are interested in participating, or simply would like to know more, please contact Maja Krtalic at maja.krtalic@vuw.ac.nz

Below you will find more detailed answers to questions about participation.

What does significant individual mean?

This question is very hard to answer and there is no right answer. We have interviewed individuals and family members. Some have been writers, visual artists, public officers, peace activists and others who have had more regular jobs. The degree of significance of your collection may vary, for example you may be an emerging or well-established in your field. Some individuals have already had interest from libraries and archives to store parts of their collections, while others have been less succesful. We want to talk to you about your experience.

If you or someone you know, have created a collection of important works which should be preserved and accessible to future generations, or if you have a great story to tell about your life and work, please contact us to discuss your collection.

What can I expect from participating?

If you decide to participate, a member of our team will contact you. We cover the Wellington, Auckland and Canterbury area. If you live elsewhere in New Zealand or overseas and would like to participate, we can still meet online via email or messenger services with your approval.

Our interviews aim to learn about who you are, what you do, what kind of material you have in your personal collection, the value you place on your collection and whether you think any of it would be valuable for society now or in the future.

We will also ask you details about your collection. This may include what do you do with your documents and objects, how you organise them, wether you describe your documents in any way, wether you create back-up copies and do other members of your family have access to your collection. We will also talk about any issues and obstacles you might experience when handling or managing your collection, for example, any emotional reaction, any legal uncertainties such as intellectual property rights, etc. We can discuss these and other related topics that might arise from our conversations.

Prior to beginning this interview we will ask you to sign a consent form and ask for your permission to record the conversation. The recording is used only for the purposes of transcription and analysis of data. We delete all recordings on completion of the research. You can also change your mind anytime up to two weeks after the interview and pull out from the research.

If required we may need to conduct a series of interviews.

If portion(s) of your collection are digital and stored on your computer or external hard drives we may invite you to use and provide your thoughts on software we have created that allows for annotating your collection for future use.

Will my name or any personal information be mentioned anywhere?

Your identity is confidential. When we publish research articles, we combine participants’ responses so your name or any personal details are not mentioned. We might use quotes from the interview but these quotes are presented as anonymous. However, if you want to mention that you are a participant in this project or share details of your participation, you are free to do so.

Will you help me to organise my collection?

After the initial interviews, you may want advice on how to organise, describe, digitise, preserve, cull or share your collection. We are happy to offer you guidance, but we cannot organise your collection for you. We can spend up to 30 hours with you observing and guiding you work on your collection. During that time we will make notes about your comments and actions, maybe ask additional questions and also answer any question you might have or assist you with some of the tasks. We cannot make any decisions on your behalf, but we are happy to advise how to proceed in case of any uncertainties.

In this process we aim to raise your awareness about the importance of telling your story and preserving your collection. We wish to help build your skills and empower you to take action yourself. We believe that taking ownership and investing in the preservation of your own collection will be beneficial to you, your family and the society in case you wish to conserve parts of your work for the future. This process may help you negotiate more successfully with libraries, archives, and museums, if you choose to do so.

What will be the outcomes of the project?

There are two categories of outcomes. First, we aim to create and share a set of guidelines on how to organise and preserve personal collections. The guidelines will be easily understandable, practical and openly accessible to anyone. Based on the findings from the research, we’ll aim to answer common questions and provide guidance for different scenarios, from very simple to very complex.

Second, we aim to publish research papers which will be of use to libraries, archives, and museums when organising their services, and of use to wider research community in the field of information sciences.

Project Website founded

26 August, 2019

We're happy to celebrate the creation of our project Website with this inaugural news item.