Rising to the challenge: Recap of the 2023 Australian Society of Archivists Conference

What is an archive? What are the challenges facing archives in 2023? How can we help archivists do their jobs better? – these are some of the questions that went through my mind on my flight from Perth to Melbourne for the Australian Society of Archivists annual conference.

Earlier this month Piers Higgs, Sarah Aldrich and I took a trip to Melbourne to attend the Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) 2023 conference at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). With a sense of enthusiasm on the flight over I was keen to get down into the details about archives and solve some challenges with my fellow conference participants.

My trip started Monday at Perth airport grabbing a coffee with Piers before our flight to the great city of Melbourne. Upon arrival in Melbourne we met up with Sarah, one of Gaia Resources’ Collection Analysts based in Canberra, and headed to our hotel located near the MCG. After a social dinner we cracked down on what our plan for ASA 2023 was, who is attending each session and what we wanted to learn. A screenshot of the event agenda can be seen below.

DAY 1:

An early morning run was the start of the day for Sarah, Piers and I decided to keep it a bit more relaxed… We met Sarah for coffees and breakfast at a local cafe then got ready to attend ASA 2023 – Rising to our Challenges. Upon arrival I was amazed to see the variety of archivists from all over Australia and even from Singapore, archivists representing the state archives around Australia but also archivists from local historical societies and schools. Day one had a focus on first nations archives and living history, as well as discussions on the use of AI in archives and the challenge for institutions in archiving big data. 

Day 1 Pre-conference selfie L-R Piers Higgs, Luke Connelly and Sarah Aldrich

Day one went by in a flash, there was a flurry of activities, plenty of notes and a new perspective on the challenges that archives are facing. After wrapping up the day the Gaia Resources fly-in team caught up with some of our Melbourne based team members. An interesting dinner in Federation Square was followed up by some ‘team-building’ at a few bars in the Melbourne CBD. Although Gaia Resources is an online based company it is great to meet co-workers in person and learn more about their lived experiences.

L-R, Sally O’Callaghan (Past Gaia Resources Employee, now working for the NAA), Drew Robinson, Sarah Aldrich, Luke Connelly, Piers Higgs

Day 2:

After a relaxed morning and breakfast, day two of the conference began with a panel discussion from the Queer Archives of Victoria. Then we began our sessions for the day covering digital preservation and digital transformation, with sessions hosted by the National Archives of Australia and the Public Records Office Victoria. It was great to see how archives benefit from technology like the ones developed by Gaia Resources. At the conclusion of the conference we heard from two industry experts, Pia Andrews and Barbara Reed, discussing governance in record keeping and how to personally stand out in archives. The launch of the 2024 ASA Conference wrapped up the final day and Gaia Resources may be heading off to Auckland next year…

Each of us also tried to put together a short summary of our conference highlights, including:

It’s been 8 years since my first archives conference, and as an IT professional I find that I’m still learning more about how archives undertake their practice – but I’m glad to keep learning from them and trying to make sure we can deliver even better solutions for their problems.”

  • Piers Higgs

Having worked as an archivist prior to pivoting into tech, attending the ASA conference gives me the chance to act like a kid in a candy shop. It’s always a pleasure to connect with archivists, hear about their wins over the past year, talk shop, and discuss how tech can work to their advantage. I enjoy learning and keeping up with the current practices.

  • Sarah Aldrich

“The ASA Conference gave me insight into the challenges that archives are facing and how Gaia Resources can help these organisations grow through custom technological solutions.”

  • Luke Connelly

In wrapping up my brief conference breakdown here are some key learnings highlighted by the Gaia Resources team from the 2023 ASA Conference:

  1. Archives are essential to preserving our history both personally and on a government level: each record has at least one person attached to it, we must remember the importance of each record and the personal value attributed to it.
  2. Conversations around digital preservation and technology such as AI are progressing. 
  3. There’s still work to do around bridging the gap between Collecting organisations and technology solution providers. 
  4. Gaia’s work and with our clients has demonstrated innovative solutions in the forefront of the field, notably our implementation of the archival management and digital preservation system for QSA and our work on Clio.

If you would like to know more about our digital preservation services and archival storage solutions please don’t hesitate to contact me or start a conversation with us on one of our social media platforms TwitterLinkedIn or Facebook



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