Galleries, libraries, archives, museums and records: an introduction to Australian GLAM/R (part one)

There is a clear intersection and cross over in the work of cultural institutions like galleries, libraries, archives, museums and even recordkeeping institutions. Over the last decade in Australia, an acronym has made its way into the sectors’ vernacular to refer to this collective of cultural centres: GLAM/R. Integrating the use of GLAM/R into practice and publication has occurred alongside the coordination of localised and national efforts to establish regular industry meetings and events to provide networking opportunities. Active groups like newCardigan and GLAM Peak meet in major cities across Australia to encourage this networking and open up conversations about what it may look like in practice for these sectors to work more closely together.

However, the practical implications of the acronym are not yet fully understood – from the way collaboration can aid the different aims of collection institutions in terms of funding or service provision to the risk of failing to interrogate Western collecting practices that exclude the voices and perspectives of First Nations or Indigenous peoples.

On behalf of Archivoz, Kate Monypenny and Leonee Ariel Derr asked professionals from across the sector what GLAM/R is, what it means to them and what they hope for its future. Across two articles we explore their thoughts on these topics.

Please note, responses have been adjusted or emphasised where necessary to ensure clarity. Respondents’ views are their own, not those of their institutions.

ARCHIVOZ: What is your understanding of the origins of GLAM/R in Australia?

I hope there isn’t one understanding of GLAMR, and whatever understandings that do exist have a dynamic quality to them. Our people, processes, and practices are ever-changing – and this is a very good thing.

– Library Learning and Teaching Coordinator, Academic Library

It seems to have gathered steam in the [last decade]. I would guess that its increasing usage relates to the tightening funding environment of these allied professions, and the desire to join forces – strength in numbers.

– Rare Books Curator, State Library of Victoria

[T]he acronym and associated peak bodies and work were intended to bring together museum and archival institutions – recognising the commonality in much of the work of these institutions. It helps us to avoid the silo effect which has in my view led to the deep divide between museums, galleries and archives.

– Manager of an Indigenous Branch, State Library

[Within the acronym] A [and] R to me and for many First Nations people is founded on surveillance… [and is] how we have entered into those spaces and collections…or through intellectual nullius- the act of someone recording [another’s]…language, culture and science to claim discovery and ownership. Same with M, it is conceived for me about creating narratives about First Nations people.

– Project Officer, Libraries, archives and museums

It…reminds us that institutions that may be thought of as having quite different collections, aspirations and modes of operation… share a very fundamental common purpose…to collect, preserve and provide open access to our cultural heritage. Ideally… it’s [also] about providing access in a way that is appealing, democratic, allows for reuse and reinterpretation, and helps us to form and continually re-evaluate our identity as a nation.

– National and State Libraries Australia (NSLA) Executive officer, Library Sector

ARCHIVOZ: What does GLAM/R mean to you?
[It is] a recognition that we all work in the cultural information sector. Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Records (although sometimes you can use Research here too) are all areas which might be considered cultural repositories or organisations.

– Team Leader, Public Library

GLAMR attempts to find and develop connections, build partnerships, and identify common goals and opportunities between galleries, libraries, archives, museums and Record Keeping professionals and institutions. It is also a handy shorthand for “collecting institutions”, perceived as having separate goals but many common purposes and related practices.

– Member Services manager, Academic Library Cooperative

Separate professionalisation has value, but the process has also caused great damage to collections and collected knowledge. GLAMR can provide a space in which to discuss and think through these things.

– Archivist, Historian, and Collections Consultant, Academic Research

I think I represent what ‘GLAMR’ looks like on an individual level: I’m an historian, curator and librarian with tertiary qualifications in each, and I have worked at the National Gallery of Victoria, State Library Victoria […] various academic libraries […] and worked as a curatorial volunteer at the Melbourne Museum. The fact that one person is drawn to all these fields is evidence that there are indeed meaningful connections between them all.

– Rare Books Curator, State Library Victoria

As a professional in the health sector I feel a bit disconnected from the GLAMR sector as there is not a lot of opportunity to directly collaborate. However, a huge amount of the work we do requires drawing on the resources of other GLAMR organisations – particularly other health Libraries –  to be able to support high quality patient care.

– Digital Content Librarian, Austin Health Sciences Library

It’s a great community to be part of with excellent GLAMRous pun potential. It is extremely important to have spaces where we can come together to share, learn from and harness our unique skills and knowledge, acknowledge and reflect on common challenges, collectively workshop possible solutions, and advocate for each other in the large bureaucracies we are so often part of.

– Arts, humanities and social sciences teaching and learning liaison librarian, Academic Libraries/Higher Education

ARCHIVOZ: Have you experienced any personal benefit from your engagement with the GLAM/R sector?

I could not do my job without sharing queries with the museum, archives and records teams at my institution. Where the library ends, the archive begins. Where the art library ends, the museum takes over.

– Subject librarian, Academic Library

[It] has helped build knowledge networks and encouraged staff to move between different institutions. For me these relationships are key to leveraging the work of many of us in telling contested stories and working to decolonise much of our collections, and a bigger picture approach to these issues is the fastest way to overcome them.

– Manager of an Indigenous Branch, State Library

[The] GLAMR sector… led me to the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives [ALGA]…During challenging political times, I [found] comfort and solidarity in these LGBTIQ+ archives and with ALGA’s community of volunteers. It has been great to be part of a community led by LGBTIQ+ people dedicated to preserving and facilitating access to LGBTIQ+ histories, particularly at times when I’ve struggled to be heard and not felt entirely supported in mainstream GLAMR organisations.

– Arts, humanities and social sciences teaching and learning liaison librarian, Academic Libraries/Higher Education

[GLAM/R benefits us because] [w]ithout history, without memory, what are we? Who are we? Imagining our absence is a powerful way to understand our presence – and the multiplex benefits created from our sustained, collective being.

– Library Learning and Teaching Coordinator, Academic Library

Read part two of our series on Australian GLAMR here.

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