Everyone's Story Is Important: Collecting and Sharing Western Australian History

The State Library of Western Australia believes everyone’s story is important. The State Library has a commitment to ensuring that our collections represent the diverse voices of Western Australians – past, present and future. This presentation will provide a practical case study of how we have adopted a holistic approach to collecting and sharing the State’s history, working collaboratively across collection and engagement teams to implement a lifecycle approach to collection, interpretation and engagement practices to address omissions, gaps and biases, to ensure voices are heard and represented.

In 2022, the State Library adopted an updated Collections Strategy and introduced a Collections Interpretation Strategy. Both strategies were developed in tandem and are underpinned by community consultation which informed the direction the Library would take in the collecting and sharing of Western Australian stories. Overwhelmingly, the community wanted to recognise themselves, their communities and their experiences and voices in our collections, exhibitions and programs. Based on this feedback, the first principle in both Strategies is ‘Everyone’s story is important’. This principle is embedded throughout the collecting lifecycle, from strategic decisions about collection development and curation and interpretation, ethical collecting and Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property, to operational matters regarding stewardship of collections, assessing significance, collection plans and focusing resources, and engaging the wider community with collections through our website or in our building.

In line with the Collection and Collection Interpretation Strategies, a thematic framework was developed to provide a number of lenses to interpret Western Australian stories to encourage t different perspectives. The framework also aids in the identification of omissions, gaps and biases and identifies opportunities for collection development.

This presentation will look at three case studies to demonstrate how the Collection Strategy, Collection Interpretation Strategy and the thematic framework have been put into practice: Game Changers: Trailblazing Stories of WA Women in Soccer To coincide with the FIFA Women’s World Cup coming to Australia, the State Library wanted to celebrate the contribution of Western Australian women to the world of soccer. However, very little was identified in the existing library collections.

The State Library commissioned a series of interviews documenting the experiences, achievements and challenges of trailblazing women in soccer, complemented by an outdoor photographic exhibition on a mini soccer pitch. Laurel Nannup: What Road Are You Going To Take? An exhibition of original artworks by Noongar artist Laurel Nannup telling her personal story of being taken from her family and growing up on a mission in regional Western Australia. The exhibition was lovingly curated by the artist’s son, and the artworks were accompanied by State Library photographic materials. Froth (working title): Beer and Brewing in Western Australia Beer is synonymous with the Western Australian lifestyle – beaches, barbeques, football and the Sunday session. But beer has a much more pervasive history. The exhibition will explore the history of beer and brewing in WA, covering social and economic history, agriculture, health impacts and even land rights.

Barbara Parnaby

Manager Collection Services, State Library of Western Australia

Author Bio

Barbara Parnaby has 23 years’ experience in libraries in the UK and Australia, across government, academic and GLAM sectors. Barbara is now in her fourth year as Manager Collection Services at the State Library of Western Australia, where her focus is on building collections through growing and sustaining relationships.

Susan McEwan

Director Library Services, State Library of Western Australia

Author Bio

Susan McEwan has over 15 years’ experience in the GLAM sector and is committed to delivering value to the community through the arts and particularly library services. Susan has held the positions of Director Collection Services and Director Library Services over the past three years and has had the opportunity to work closely and collaboratively across these teams to develop new strategies and ways of working to ensure diversity, inclusion and representation across collection, interpretation and engagement activities.