Enabling better data discovery of records across archives, institutions and libraries

Enabling better data discovery of records across archives, institutions and libraries
January 31, 2017 Lauren Attana

The below is the abstract successfully submitted for the THETA 2017 conference

Enabling better data discovery of records across archives, institutions and libraries

Presenters: Sarah Nisbet, Mark Finnane, Michael McGuinness
Authors: Mark Finnane, Jeroen van den Muyzenberg, Andy Kaladelfos3, Alana Piper, ,Sarah Nisbet, Michael McGuinness



Making use of a purpose-built structured database with the flexibility to capture data from a variety of different sources and jurisdictions, and enabling a productive partnership between researchers and volunteer transcribers, the Prosecution Project is a platform for revolutionising our understanding of criminal justice histories. We plan to extend the functionality of this database by operationalising a national, sustainable and scalable API standard that will allow data (and metadata) sharing and transfer between archives, institutions and research projects (such as Tasmanian Archives  and Heritage Office, The Prosecution Project, Trove, Queensland State Archives, HuNI and the ALA).


Criminal justice history is a substantial research field, with a vital international community of scholars among whom Australia holds special interest given the convict origins of European settlement, as well as the impact of colonisation on the contemporary challenges of Indigenous crime and incarceration rates. The research field has significant inter-disciplinary connections to a range of other humanities areas  including criminology, gender studies, law and psychology.

The Prosecution Project is a major initiative in this research field. The project is digitising large-scale criminal justice record sets in Australian jurisdictions to enable new research, quantitative and qualitative, in the history of prosecution and the criminal trial.

Historically, archival records have been hidden away in different archives across the country. To access them you need to physically visit the archives, copy the original records and then transcribe the data. With the advances in digitisation and digital archiving solutions, data can be made accessible to the national and international community, and related records can be linked across multiple institutional repositories

In this presentation we will discuss how the Prosecution Project and Griffith University are working collaboratively with archival institutions such as the Queensland State Archives and the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office to enable better access to archival data. The Open API project is currently investigating a standardised method of accessing archival data. For example, this API will enable access to the Prosecution Project’s transcription of court records alongside the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Offices’ digitised records. This method of providing data as service, once created, will be able to be exploited by discovery services such as the National Library of Australia (NLA), national and state archives.

The issues of how institutions (through their library and IT departments) can help researchers to leverage open standards and APIs, and share our consideration for providing support models for these tools will also be addressed. This presentation will discuss the project and the planned objectives in detail.  

Author biographies

Mark Finnane, Professor, Griffith University

Mark Finnane is ARC Laureate Fellow and Professor of History at Griffith University, where he works as a researcher in the Griffith Criminology Institute. Mark’s doctoral research on mental illness is the foundation for his later work on the history of policing, punishment and criminal justice. His most recent book is (with Heather Douglas) Indigenous Crime and Settler Law: White Sovereignty after Empire (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), a study of the criminal law’s response to Aboriginal crimes of violence over the last two centuries. In 2013 he was awarded an ARC Laureate Fellowship (2013-18) to research the history of prosecution and the criminal trial in Australia.

Jeroen Van Den Muyzenberg, eResearch Specialist, eResearch Services, Griffith University

Jeroen Van Den Muyzenberg is an eResearch Specialist in eResearch Services at Griffith University. He has worked in various high performance computing and eResearch related capacities since the early 1990s. He has worked at various Australian universities as well as the CSIRO over that time, providing research support to a diverse range of disciplines and research groups. Jeroen specialises in a range of web technologies, data and information management, and computational workflow frameworks.

Andy Kaladelfos, Research Fellow, Griffith University

Dr Andy Kaladelfos is an historian and Research Fellow on ARC Laureate Fellowship ‘The Prosecution Project’ at the Griffith Criminology Institute. Andy is co-author with Lisa Featherstone of Sex Crimes in the Fifties (Melbourne University Publishing 2016); and co-editor, with Yorick Smaal and Mark Finnane, of The Sexual Abuse of Children: Recognition and Redress, (Monash University Publishing 2016). Andy is Chief Investigator on the ARC Discovery Project ‘Sexual Offences, Legal Responses, and Public Perceptions: 1880s-1980s’.

Alana Jayne Piper, Research Fellow, Griffith University

Dr Alana Piper is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Griffith Criminology Institute. Her fellowship project on the social and legal identities of thieves in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Australia is part of the ARC-Laureate Fellowship project, The Prosecution Project.  In 2014 she received her PhD in history from the University of Queensland for a thesis examining female criminal subcultures in Brisbane and Melbourne, 1860-1920. Her work has appeared in such publications as Cultural and Social History, Law and History Review, Journal of Social History, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, Criminal Law Journal and Journal of Australian Studies. She has a broad range of interests across gender history, cultural history, criminal justice history and digital humanities.

Sarah Nisbet, Marketing and Communications Manager, eRSA

Sarah Nisbet is eRSA’s Marketing and Communications Manager. Sarah began her career delivering communications solutions in the health care sector where she mastered the art of working across institutions, departments and organisational silos.

Sarah has a Bachelor of Media from the University of Adelaide and an Industry Certificate (Festival & Event Design & Management), she is also a member of the Australian Science Communicators and the Public Relations Institute of Australia.

She specialises in delivering creative and innovative marketing and communication solutions and has managed local and national projects for eRSA, NeCTAR, NeAT, AeRO and the State Government of South Australia. Having successfully deployed a new tier 0 user documentation system at eRSA, Sarah was the project lead for the tier 0 development for core NeCTAR services, supporting a national initiative to provide world class user support for the Nectar Cloud.

Michael McGuinness, Senior Analyst, eResearch Services, Griffith University

Michael McGuinness is a Senior Analyst (undertaking Business Analysis and Project Management activities). Michael began his career as a windows server systems administrator in the corporate sector where he was able to work with clients to meet their needs using analysis and server design skills.

Michael has a Bachelor of Information Technology from Griffith University and Industry Certificatification in Project Management and Business Analysis, he is also a member of the International Institute of Business Analysis and the Project Management Institute.

Michael works using agile methodologies to constantly gather requirements as the project is progressing and undergoing changes throughout it’s lifecycle. This includes using scrum methods to track tasks allowing all stakeholders to be aware of the current progress of the project. Michael was a member of the project team conducting data migration for all staff and student data across Griffith University, winning a team award for Outstanding Client Service by a team (Presented by Griffith University).

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