The Sense of place conference organised by Auslib Press was held at the State Library of New South Wales on 5 and 6 May 2011 attracting more than 140 participants from all States (except Tasmania) and New Zealand. The theme was strategies and practices to improve local history services to communities in Australia and New Zealand.

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 Victorian contingent at the conference, 6 May 2011

What of the connection between local studies and family history? There was a general feeling there are strong links with place in any family history research. Jan Richards from Central West Libraries  in Orange, New South Wales spoke of the “intertwined nature of family and local history” while Carly Reimann of Tea Tree Gully Library in Adelaide noted that “people want to walk in the steps of their ancestors.”

John MacRitchie  of Manly Library, New South Wales spoke of his successful local studies blog but he also emphasised that it is just one of a range of tools used to promote the collection along with their website and brochures.

There is potential for using apps for local history purposes, especially for cemetery walks. Ellen Forysth of the State Library of New South Wales in her informative talk ‘A R u feeling appy : augmented reality, apps and mobile access to local studies information’ provided some examples including St Matthew’s Cemetery (Quebec)  which has an iTunes app compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Also Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, North Carolina.  Asheville Historic Tours has just released an app for the iPhone that allows visitors to take a tour of Riverside Cemetery guided by their iPhone. The virtual tour features 25 tracks and corresponding photos as well as a tour map and integrated GPS map.  The app is available for download from the AppStore or iTunes for  US$8.99. For those who do not have an iPhone or iPod Touch, an audio tour is available for download as an MP3 file at  for US$8.99 or as a cd which can be purchased for US$12.

A good example of a collection-related app is Treasures of the Bavarian State Library which features 52 collection highlights for downloading to ipads or iphones.

The conference was very well organised with a good range of papers, some 20 presentations over the two days. It highlighted for me or perhaps reminded me again of the value of local history resources for family history research. The conference proceedings will be available in July this year and I look forward to rereading some of the papers. Keryl Collard, City Librarian, Maitland City Library, New South Wales perhaps summarises the overall feeling that emerged from the conference “Place is crucial, fundemental to our sense of community”.


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