Forgotten or forgone?

Existence is no more than the precarious attainment of relevance in an intensely mobile flux of past, present, and future.

Susan Sontag

Last July I was standing in an op shop in Greytown, which is sort of up from Wellington. Wendy and I had headed out for the day, driven over the pass (bit scary), had an excellent lunch of pumpkin soup with a cousin and uncle. With said cousin in tow we  hit up the local op shops.

There was no dawdling, cousin needed to be dropped back for school pick up and we needed to head back over the pass before it got too late. The three of us are seasoned op shoppers. We can swoop in, disperse to our areas of interest (me = vintage linen, kitchen stuff, vinyl, books) and with eagle eye know if there is anything for us. The last shop of the day, dusty counter of a shop crammed full I spotted two boxes of lantern slides.

Lantern slide box



I didn’t actually care what was on them, there was never any question that they weren’t coming home with me. The only time I have come across lantern slides in my professional life, they had been carefully wrapped in tissue, neatly stored in acid free boxes. Appraised and important. These two boxes were discarded, definitely neglected and forgotten. There was a light dusting of green mould on one.

A few months ago I got them out and decided to try and give them life. I’ve been studying them at my kitchen table in the mornings and posting my favourites on instagram. I’m fascinated by what I have been able to identify by just the images, the age/ model of the plane & cars, what people are wearing (or in a few, not wearing – more on that later) but frustrated by lack of anything approximating provenance.

Lantern Slide #4 - Anonymous Child with FlowerLantern Slide #2 - Anonymous Woman Latern Slide #6 - Anonymous Woman

Most recently I’ve started examining my discomfort about having taken them out of New Zealand (if anyone wants to help me unpack that one let me know) and having posted them on social media without attribution. I own the slides, but do I have the moral right to post those images? Without knowing how these images stopped being part of a family collection, how do I know they weren’t disposed of as a conscious un-remembering?

There are some parallel lines forming about the right to be forgotten, and a new story emerging. The boxes and their contents have been transformed by their participation in my story, my friendship with Wendy and our shared meaning. They have been altered, digitised, discussed. The meaning of that is still revealing.

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Cardi Party

galilioes finger

Galileo’s Finger and my response to the current political situation.


On Friday night I presented to the New Cardigan July gathering. Regular readers won’t be hugely surprised to learn the subject of my talk included tea rings on archival records, floppy discs, and how we retain the material elements of archives when we digitise.

We also explored what archival access might look like in the future, once emerging technologies like Virtual Reality have made it easier to read text and become more user friendly for glasses wearers.

Discussion afterwards was engaging and broad, there was a lot of talk about how we curate our own archive of born digital material (and gain control of it). I had a fascinating chat about how we might unintentionally impose archival gatekeeper mentality into the design of digital experiences. This all definitely needs some more talk.

I’ve include the links to the slide pack, notes and the storify of the twitter conversation. Thanks to everyone who came, it was fun!

Materiality and the Emotions of Access – Michaela Hart – New Cardigan Talk July 2016 –

Slide Pack – New Cardi Presentation – Materiality and the Emotions of Access

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Oculus Rift

Last week  two colleagues and I headed off to the National Trust to see their latest exhibition  Virtually There. I particularly wanted to check out the Virtual Reality simulations of Old Melbourne Gaol and Rippon Lea.

We were led into a room full of all the things you would expect, antiques, creepy oil paintings of children and dolls. And in the middle of the room, two egg chairs flanked by two young lads holding VR headsets.


The first simulation I tried was Old Melbourne Gaol. I found myself standing outside a cell, looking down the heart of the jail. There a blue dots, well, dotted about the simulation and you quickly figure out that to move, you need to align your sight line with one. Woosh, you are moved forward. It takes some time to adjust, going up stairs I felt slightly dizzy and at times a bit nauseous. The sensation of moving through a wall is ethereal and very weird.

As an early adopter, I feel obliged to be excited by the possibilities of VR. It feels like the Commodore 64 of my god children’s generation. The technology they will look back on with the same nostalgia 70’s babies do games like Night Driver.

Still, using the headsets is not without frustrations. Wearing glasses is next to impossible, they fog up, the headset fogs ups. You can’t see anything anyway. I took my glasses off, which meant I could make out all the architecture but when it came time to reading signs there was no joy. I guess this answered one of my questions about using this technology for archival access. There is still some way to go.





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For whom the bell tolls.

Another Sunday morning has come without me stepping foot in my local Catholic Church. Or quietly climbing the steps in my beloved bell tower to ring the bells.

chapel steps

Its been nearly a year. Pretty soon I’m going to need to remove Bell Ringer from my twitter bio.

I managed for years to separate, however awkwardly, my queer feminist politics from the reality of being a Catholic. Actually, separate is not really the right word. It was more like a chaotic maelstrom of morally indefensible positions bashing against my spiritual heart.

But no more.  Or at least not for now. The stories of abuse and the Church’s continued failure to offer any meaningful contribution towards justice and reparation have revealed it to be an organisation that is rotten at its core. If we are eating an apple that we discover is rotten, we don’t keep nibbling at the edges. We throw it in the compost and get a new apple.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m off to find a new apple.

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Scratched glass

This afternoon I am trying to kick-start my brain. It has been quite a week. Of deadlines and meltdowns, job applications, hugging strangers and deep, hard conversations. And dinosaurs!!

On Friday night I went to Jurassic Nights at the Museum and I wanted to compare a couple of things.

I had as my companion a fellow curious spirit, someone I’m not shy being stupidly excited in front of. This is important if you want to tap into your inner 5 yr old. While we were waiting for our allotted dinosaur time we wandered into the discovery centre*. It’s a great space, with drawers to open and things to magnify and rocks. I know 43 yr old introverts aren’t necessarily the target audience, but I love it in there. 

Then we lined up for the Jurassic experience and the jostling for selfie space began. Seriously people, put your fucking phone away! I swear, about 80% of the people there weren’t actually present. They were filming their own experience, to be watched later in the comfort of their dinosaur onesie.

It’s so difficult to write about this without sounding like a middle-aged curmudgeon but I suspect I’m not the only one thinking it. It has taken me years to train my brain to find the quiet in the crowd. Amidst moments of shared joy and snippets of conversation, the memories I’m left with are where we just stopped. And stood. And stared. Moving through this exhibition, that took some effort.

Exhibitions like that are designed to capitalise on large volumes of traffic and big impact. The technology that went into the creation and staging of the dinosaurs was pretty impressive and I know the whole thing is required to turn a profit for the Museum. Maybe one day when the introverts rise up we will have special ‘no phones and inside voices only’ sessions at these things.

*It’s ok Nicola, the python wasn’t there.

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Rainbow connection

Five point plan for coping with the horror of today;

1. Send a blast of empathy and love across to Orlando.
2. Be discerning about how much time you spend online.
3. Be critical about what you read online.
4. Make some time to cuddle a cat, baby (insert thing of choice).
5. Repeat.

**** Lets face it, there is also a good chance I will comfort bake. You have your own thing. Do that.


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Suffrage project update

A tweet from Mike Jones last night reminded me that I still haven’t written any updates on the Suffrage petition project. A timely reminder to keep it alive and a neat parallel about staying vigilant about women’s history.

A quick recap. I wanted to explore ways of using the data in the Women’s Suffrage Petition Database to animate some of the stories and I enlisted friend and historian Sarah Green to help. The petition project is on hiatus until next summer, but Sarah and I did make some progress (before retiring to the pub to discuss our findings).

Using our neighbourhood (Abbotsford), we took a print out of all of the houses where women had signed the petition and quite literally took to the streets. We were curious to see how many of the houses were still standing and, in a neighbourhood with so much heritage housing not surprised to find most of them were. It was slow going, we had Alfie (aka Historydog) along. It was windy and hot.

There was a power in standing in the street, looking at the signatures and there are more questions than answers at this stage. Why a whole strip of houses signed but nothing on the other side of the street? Who were the women pressing the pavement to collect the signatures? Were they given any training, a script? Answering those will need some time in the archives and some conversations with the right people.

We also spent quite a bit of time bemusing our neighbours, loudly playing homage to Jane Anderson, Annie Victoria Bakewell, Eliza Moran, Annie Muntz, Georgina Boyle, Mary Ann Brooks, Marie Mills, Susanna Hocking, Nellie Howard, Louise Northcott, Maria Jolliffes, Lizzie Keele,  …… (just to name a few).



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