CHG Assessors:

  • Daina Harvey (Department of Communications and the Arts)
  • Rosemary Turner (NLA) (Chair)
  • Tania Cleary (Tania Cleary Museum Services)
  • Denyl Cloughley (NLA)
  • Shelly Grant (NLA)
  • Julie Heffernan (NFSA)
  • Tamara Lavrencic (Museums and Galleries NSW)
  • Tania Riviere (NMA)
  • Melissa Thomas (NAA)

CHG Staff:

  • Fran D’Castro (CHG Coordinator)
  • Margaret Thompson (CHG Assistant)
  • Veronica Smith (NLA)

Assessment Process:

In 2016, the Community Heritage Grants program received 172 applications. Seventy-seven applications were selected for funding.

All eligible applications were initially assessed by two external consultant assessors. Tania Cleary assessed the national significance of the collection. Short-listed applications were then sent to Tamara Lavrencic who assessed each project’s feasibility, value-for-money and the degree to which the project might benefit the collection.

Training projects were assessed primarily on the merits of the proposal including: the expected benefits; the quality and appropriateness of the training; the credentials of the trainers and the perceived value-for-money of the proposal. The national significance of the collection material that will benefit from the training is still important to the assessment.

A second short-list of applications underwent further consideration and a final funding recommendation was made by a panel of expert assessors comprising historians, preservation specialists, representatives from cultural collecting organisations and the CHG partners. The assessment panel considers the reports of the first two assessors as well as each application individually.

This report provides general feedback from the CHG assessors.

Tania Cleary (Significance Assessor)

This year I assessed 166 applications for the Community Heritage Grants program. I worked through the applications in the following manner: I initially read the application to determine what the project was; I reread the application with a focus on the collection description and the claim for national significance. I cross checked the collection items described in the application with the collection items described in the significance assessment and preservation needs assessment reports.

I referenced the ‘significance statement’ from the significance assessment report. If the significance assessor determined the collection was of local, regional, state, national or primarily historical significance, the collection was assigned a comparable rank and in some cases this resulted in a change to the significance rank to which the collection may have previously been assigned.

At the end of the assessment process I reviewed all 166 applications to ensure that I had maintained consistency of approach throughout the process and, as a consequence, adjustments were made to the significance rank in a few cases. During this review stage I assessed the training projects, read the training quotations and associated documentation and assigned a rank to each training project as per the pre-determined A-C scale.

This year I was asked to assess the applications and apply the following ranking system to each collection:

A - the collection is of ‘national’ significance because the applicant could demonstrate the collection had historic, social, spiritual, scientific or research significance. The applicant could also demonstrate that the collection contained rare or unique material with a clear and strong provenance, was in good condition or had interpretive potential;

B - the collection was less nationally significant, however it could demonstrate historic, social, spiritual, scientific or research significance in addition to sound provenance and interpretive potential;

C - the collection may be of ‘national significance’, but the application did not express this well, or the collection demonstrates historic and social significance, good provenance and interpretive potential however the application lacked adequate supporting information; and

D - the collection has clear local or regional significance. The collections demonstrated historical or social significance to a smaller community, they demonstrated poorer or limited provenance and interpretive potential. THESE APPLICATIONS ARE EXCLUDED FROM FURTHER CONSIDERATION.

Applications were assigned one of four ranks: A, B, C or D. The applications that were assessed and ranked:

(A) reflect a previous assessment rank, the conclusions of a recently completed significance assessment or my assessment against the criteria. In all cases the collections satisfy most, if not all, primary and comparative criteria.

(B) reflect a previous assessment rank, the conclusions of a significance assessment or my assessment against the criteria. In all cases the collections satisfy some of the primary and comparative criteria.

(C) reflect a previous assessment rank, the conclusions of a significance assessment or my assessment against the criteria. In most cases the application lacked collection description detail or supporting information.

(D) reflect the conclusions of a significance assessment or my assessment against the criteria. The collections were either poorly described or defined, uncatalogued, demonstrated unstructured or miscellaneous content, demonstrated few of the primary or comparative assessment criteria needed to make a claim for ‘national significance.’ Similarly, the collection focus was local or regional, community recognition was limited and access was restricted.

In most cases I assigned the significance rank to the ‘entire’ collection as per the description provided in the CHG application. In cases where the applicant requested a significance assessment for a specific sub component or particular items in its collection, the assessment rank related wholly to that component or to those items.

For National Significance I assessed whether the applicant had, to the best of their ability, addressed some or all of the CHG prompt questions listed in the application form. I made a note in the SmartyGrants Assessment window if the national significance claim was ‘poor’ or not attempted.

The number of applications assessed in 2016 (166) is higher than 2015 (146) and represents a 13.7% increase over last year. The 2016 applications reflect established distribution patterns: New South Wales submitted the greatest number of applications followed by Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory, ACT and Norfolk Island. The total number of applications from most States was up from last year though application numbers from Queensland were down and the number of applications from the ACT, Tasmania and Norfolk Island were steady.

2016 Evaluation

The following evaluation provides an overview of the type and range of applications received from each State and Territory. This year 58 or 35% of the 166 applications were from organisations requesting Community Heritage Grant assistance for the first time. There was another overall increase in the number of requests for training projects across all States and Territories with the exception of Queensland.

This year there were essentially 3 types of application: The first type is from new organisations.  The second type is from organisations that had been successful in a previous grant round, for example, organisations requesting a Preservation Needs Assessment following a Significance Assessment or conservation treatment/conservation materials following a Preservation Needs Assessment. The third type is from organisations requesting conservation treatment without the requisite Significance Assessment or Preservation Needs Assessment.

I assessed 19 training projects, paying attention to the merits of the proposal, the quality and appropriateness of the training, the credentials of the trainer and the perceived value for money. I was asked to make the following recommendations:

A – Fund, B – Fund if funds permit, C – Do not fund

In cases where a compelling ‘need’ case was mounted for specific training, for example disaster training, hazardous materials identification, collection care and handling, textile care and handling, photography care and handling, digitisation of collections for preservation and access and collection management basics, and the training represented effective service delivery and value for money it was ranked (A). Training scored a high rank if it provided a solid foundation for volunteers engaged in a range of tasks identified in either the Significance Assessment or the Preservation Needs Assessment

Issues

Most issues to emerge from this year’s assessment of the CHG applications have as much to do with the art of grant writing as they do with more basic collection description. Many collections were ranked C as a result of poor or general collection descriptions (books, letters, maps, photographs, memorabilia etc. with no attempt to disentangle issues such as copyright or quantity) and weak linkages between the collection as described and the national significance statement.

I am particularly mindful of the D ranked collections and the challenges of ‘national significance’ claims especially when the applicant has self assessed its collection as historically significant to a local community. There were many instances this year where the local/regional nature of the collection was clearly stated and where the collection was poorly described because, in the main, it was uncatalogued or partially catalogued. Often there was no evidence or proof of adherence to standard collection management procedures or likelihood of adherence given that most organisations had few trained staff – volunteer or otherwise. Most D collections reflected miscellaneous or haphazard collecting practices while others were entirely representative collections i.e. almost every region in every State has similar undocumented items.

In a few instances there was a total disconnect between the Significance Assessment request and the stated proposed project outcome such as cataloguing artefacts, transporting artefacts, improving display case lighting etc., indicating to me that the applicant did not appreciate the nature of a Significance Assessment or the competitive nature of the CHG program. In cases where the applicant was requesting a second Significance Assessment or specific conservation treatment(s) assessment difficulties arose where sections or pages of Significance Assessment and Preservation Needs Assessment reports were uploaded rather than the entire reports.

Conclusion

A significant proportion of the 2016 applications were of high quality. A and B ranked collections were distributed throughout the nation and ranged from intact and comprehensive organisational archives that demonstrate clear and strong provenance to object and paper-based collections that largely reflect adherence to organisational acquisition policies

Undoubtedly one of the great successes of the 2016 CHG program is the increased number of training projects demonstrating not only the extent of community readiness to preserve Australia’s national heritage but also the community determination to do so.

Tamara Lavrencic (Budget & Feasibility Assessor)

There is still a predominance of applications for significance assessment and preservation needs assessment. Together they make up 53% of the applications that make it through to budget & feasibility assessment. The number of applications for Preservation Needs Assessment as a follow up to Significance Assessment continues to well represented.

The trend noticed in 2015 of the emergence of applications requesting funds to reassess significance or preservation needs continues. Some of the 2016 applications made stronger cases for reassessment based on substantial growth of collection over 10 years and relocation to new facilities.

The number of applications for implementing recommendations from a Preservation Needs Assessment has risen a little and the applications on the whole have improved.

The number of applications for training projects has improved considerably since 2015, up by more than 100% and the quality of the applications has improved markedly to the point where there are none that could not be supported.

As always it’s been a pleasure and an honour to be involved with this highly valued program and the many people who contribute to and benefit from it.

General notes:

  • Organisations that were able to prepare a more considered response to Section 6 National Significance usually succeeded in satisfying the criterion ‘may be nationally significant’.
  • Applications that clearly and concisely describe the significance of the collection, public access arrangements and exactly why the funding is required and what it will achieve, supported by a well-considered budget are more likely to succeed.
  • Do not leave writing or submitting applications to the last minute. Allow enough time to proof read the application and double check spelling and budget calculations.
  • Applications that are proceeding through a planned, staged process are strongly supported, e.g. commencing with a Significance Assessment, then Preservation Needs Assessment (PNA), and then implementation of recommendations prioritised in the PNA.
  • Always include quotes to support your budget, unless you are applying for the standard fee for a Significance or Preservation Needs Assessment. A considerable number of applications omitted to include quotes or provide sufficient detail of the funding requirements of the proposed project.
  • Don’t request miscellaneous budget items to take a grant request up to the maximum $15,000. Ask for what is needed, making sure it is well researched and supported by quotes.
  • As outlined in the CHG guidelines, public access is taken into consideration. Collections that are accessible to the general public are more likely to be considered for funding than collections that have limited accessibility.
  • The use of a museum professional such as a Museum Development Officer or a Museums Australia Officer to assist with the completion of the application often results in a more considered application.
  • Training projects that involve and benefit several groups or organisations are strongly supported.
  • Organisations applying for funding for digitisation projects should investigate the options for using a commercial digitisation service prior to applying for funding. This can help organisations evaluate their options for best completing the project.
  • Digitisation projects where the outcome is partly or fully for preservation should include information on how the digital data will be managed into the future so that it remains accessible.
  • Digitisation projects should also address how the originals will be preserved.
  • Projects to duplicate (either in analogue or digital format) audiovisual recordings, including private recordings of public performances, need to include evidence that the proposers of the project have rights clearance to do so.
  • Organisations considering applying for funding for collection management software should investigate freeware software (software that is available free on the Internet) and seek advice as to suitability for their needs.
  • Ensure that your response to the section of the CHG Application form about the size of the collection is completed adequately. Without this information, it is difficult to assess the significance of the collection, the feasibility of achieving the project outcome and the value for money of the project.
  • Applicants must answer the section of the CHG Application form relating to the funding of their organisation. The assessment panel give consideration to whether or not the project could go ahead without the support of a grant.
  • General character references and political letters of support add very little value to an application. Letters of support by curators, researchers, historians, conservators, librarians and other heritage professionals carry more weight, especially if they articulate a real understanding and familiarity with the collection that is the subject of the application.
  • Consult Significance: a guide to assessing the significance of collections 2.0. Applicants could improve their applications, and their significance statements in section 6, by focusing on the significance criteria and including at least some reference to the terms: historic, social, research, scientific, spiritual, rare, representative, and interpretive and condition.
  • Statements of significance in section 6 should relate to the specific component of the collection to which the application applies. For example, don’t describe the significance of the building/ books/archives when seeking funding for a textiles collection.
  • Photographic collections: include as much information as possible about photographic collections. For example, are the photographs originals or copies? Does the organisation own the copyright? Can people, places and events be identified and described? Who was the photographer? What is the condition of the photographs? Applicants often fail to link the subject matter of the photographs to their significance.
  • Indigenous collections: identify the region the cultural material comes from, the production date, how it was acquired and why it is significant to the community and the nation.
  • Military collections: provide as much detail as possible on the provenance and use of military collections. For example, does the material have significance to a particular unit, battalion or conflict? What is the purpose of the collection – research or display? Has the collection been used in the past and who has access to it?
  • Paper based collections: where possible, provide details on the nature of any paper based collections. For example is the book/map/plan/record/document held in other collections? Is the material an original or a recently obtained copy? Are books held in other library collections? How has the material been used by the organisation? Who has access to the collection?
  • Local history collections: many local history collections sound similar on paper. Distinguish the collection by establishing the connections between their collection, the history of the area and the significance criteria.
  • Multicultural community groups: ascertain if a similar cultural group already exists in your city, state or interstate. As it is difficult to assess significance without knowing what other similar collections might exist and how they might be regarded as different.
  • If the organisation or archives belongs to a particular network, for example a church archivists group or a school archivists group, use these networks to consider and assess the significance of the collections together. On paper, many of these collections appear to hold very similar material – coordinating significance research would identify collections that would benefit most from grant funding.

All applicants are encouraged to contact the CHG office to obtain specific feedback on their applications:

CHG Coordinator
Community Heritage Grants
National Library of Australia 
Canberra ACT 2600
02 6262 1147

chg@nla.gov.au

CHG is funded by the Australian Government through the National Library of Australia; the Department of Communications and the Arts; the National Archives of Australia; the National Film and Sound Archive and the National Museum of Australia.