Thursday December 1, 2011

Mosman Faces at #SWITCH2011

Mosman Faces – taking you behind the scenes as Mosman’s story goes online through filmed interviews and images

SWITCH 2011 Public Libraries Conference and Exhibition
22 November 2011

Way back in August 2009 the seed was planted for Mosman Faces at our weekly staff meeting. Ideas were being canvassed in response to management suggesting we apply for a Library Council of NSW Library Development Grant.

Our suggestion from Local Studies was to develop a website using images from our collection and featuring filmed interviews of people who have played a part in Mosman’s rich history.

We wanted to build on our existing websites Mosman Memories, which is a space for past and present residents of Mosman to share memories of their street and Mosman Voices that provides access to our oral history collection and also made possible through a Library Council of NSW Library Development Grant.

That afternoon we got the OK from management, unfortunately not in time to take part in the State Library workshops on grant writing, but we had a month to apply, we had the grant guidelines and we had the idea – now to pad out that grant application and get a few more people to think it was a good idea too!

A frenzied four weeks followed as we developed our idea, our purpose and our plan of action. Quotes, quotes and more quotes! We sought out people to support our plan and people to put that plan into action and of course all within a time and budget framework.

Looking back on our grant application so many ideas came and went but the one constant was our purpose to tell Mosman’s story, to tell it through people.

Certainly many of the early residents are not around to tell their own story, but there are those who have an intimate knowledge of a time, a place, a person, that has shaped Mosman’s rich social history and it is these custodians, these storytellers that bring a past and present Mosman to life on Mosman Faces.

In March 2010 we received our grant and it was time to put the verboseness of a grant application into action – Local Studies at Mosman Library hit the ground running.

And that is what I am going to talk to you about today. To take you behind the scenes to a lively atmosphere of innovation and inspiration, support and setbacks, frustration and failures but ultimately success as we recreated and retold Mosman’s story onto our fabulous website

A couple of introductions before I take you behind the scenes; There were other people on staff who were key players in the production of Mosman Faces, they were Donna Braye, Mosman’s Local Studies Librarian who assisted in research and management and Bernard de Broglio, Mosman Council’s Internet coordinator whose IT skills know no bounds. And not on staff but certainly an integral player was filmmaker Damon Girbon from Filmview.

There were six key elements in the production of Mosman Faces: –

  • Research
  • Video production
  • Creating an identity
  • Publicity
  • Launch
  • Sustainability

Some of these elements needed more work than others. As this was the first of an ongoing series, the research for ten interviews, the filming and editing and creating an identity for the Mosman Faces site were all very time consuming. Over time, as more ‘Faces’ are added; publicity and sustainability will be ongoing key elements. As for the launch everyone loves a good party and what better way to welcome our ten faces, ply them with food and drink and start scouting around for more stories.


Mosman is a suburb rich with historical material….. So where to begin?

40000 years ago the Borogegal tribe inhabited the Mosman area and at Balmoral Beach field work revealed one of the richest excavation sites in Sydney dating back almost 4000 years.

Rock engravings and cave stencils provide clues to life in pre-European Mosman but it is the words and stories from the European observers and early settlers that start to bring the stories of early Mosman to life.

So let’s fast forward to 1788. I chose to start my research here. Research that would be twofold, firstly identifying the main features that distinguish Mosman from other municipalities and then think about the storytellers, the ‘Mosman Faces’ who would do justice to these aspects of Mosman’s rich history.

So let’s look at the main features…

Mosman goes way back, Governor Phillip was even there before the settlement at Sydney Cove. The following year Mosman Bay was home to HMS Sirius when it needed repairs. Mosman Bay was chosen by virtue of it being a ‘convenient retired cove’ and the men were ‘less likely to meet with temptation to idleness and bad company’.

Mosman’s seeming remoteness and the perceived threat of the Australian bush meant any settlement was slow to start but it also meant it was perfect for the first defence site to be built outside Sydney Cove in 1801. This military presence really preserved the bush and Mosman still boasts virgin bush along its foreshores.

Mosman Bay took its name from Archibald Mosman who set up a whaling station in the 1830s. Mosman constructed five buildings, one of which, now known as ‘The Barn’, still stands fronting the bay, the last remaining maritime building in Sydney.

In the latter part of the 19th century fresh air, clean beaches and virgin bush started to attract pleasure seekers, followed by property developers Richard Harnett and his son and at the same time Balmoral became the site of the first permanent artists’ camps.

With a newly formed council in 1893 Harnett Jnr became Mosman’s first Mayor and the Harnetts’ pioneering work stretched beyond the commercial to supporting religious, educational, social and sporting bodies to advance the amenities and attractions of the young Mosman.

Early in the 20th century Mosman became the site for Sydney’s most famous park, Taronga Zoo. Well known for its inhabitants the site also captured the beauty and serenity of the foreshores still pristine today.

Well I am not going to advance the cause of Mosman’s history any further. As you can see these main features paint a picture of a suburb rich with historical material.

I certainly spent time researching Mosman as my vision for Mosman Faces at this stage was to tell Mosman’s story documentary style. A narrator would link the ‘Faces’, our image collection would be showcased and a little music to enhance.

As fantastic as I thought my idea was the end result was a different story but at this early research stage it was still necessary to have the background to Mosman’s story.

These key features I described would provide the framework for each chapter in Mosman’s story and these chapters would come alive with our storytellers, our Mosman Faces, whatever way they were presented!


We did know the Faces would be online and on film, that was a certainty. Their knowledge would be freely available and would provide a significant public benefit for the Mosman community and beyond, that was a certainty too!

In selecting the interviewees, as I mentioned earlier, I chose people who have an intimate knowledge of a time and place in Mosman. It was time to match the ‘Face’ with a place in Mosman’s ongoing history.

I chose the following ‘Faces’.

Gavin Souter, a journalist, historian and author of Mosman: a history and classed as a guru on Mosman’s history.

Colleen Godsell who led the charge and succeeded in her fundraising campaign to save ‘The Barn’, the building I mentioned earlier from Mosman’s whaling station days.

Paul Delprat, a local Mosman artist was able to extol the virtues of Mosman from his great grandfather’s days at the Balmoral artists’ camps to his more recent reminiscences of Mosman’s art world.

To talk about his time on Mosman Council and also the very first Mosman Council I chose Barry O’Keefe who served Mosman for a record ten terms as Mayor and even shed blood for Mosman’s bushland.

And then I chose several people who represented clubs, clubs that are still very much active in the community, having been established in the early 1900s.

Judy Gibson was chosen to talk about her long association with the zoo and Councillor Dom Lopez whose family established a fruit shop way back in 1935 was chosen for his passion for Mosman and his knowledge of retail development in Mosman.

A late addition was Marlene Reid who lived and worked in a boatshed for over 40 years at The Spit, in her eyes the most beautiful entrance to Mosman but often overlooked and neglected by the rest of Mosman.

Matching the ‘Face’ was done, sounds so simple now but it took time as it was important that they were not camera shy, that they (and we) felt they had a story to tell and they believed in their story and even better if they believed in it with passion!

They all responded with enthusiasm to the Mosman Faces project so what followed was pre interview meetings, sometimes in person or sometimes by phone, as I researched their story and formulated questions that would bring that story to life on screen and online !


Next challenge was what images were there in the Local Studies collection to add to Mosman’s story, as after all what’s a story without pictures?

Mosman Library’s Local Studies image collection consists of well over 2000 images that are catalogued including photographs, artworks and maps from 1789 to the present day and there are just as many that are not catalogued.

Unfortunately all these images are not yet in one big digital management system although recently we have installed Cumulus to manage all Mosman Council’s images including Local Studies images so the job of selecting images for Mosman Faces will get easier in years to come. But for me it was anything but!

Our images are basically in three places, on our website, hard copy and digitized on Cumulus.

Some of the interviewees also had their private collections of photographs and memorabilia that were made available to the project and ultimately included in the Local Studies resources, thus enhancing the project and the collection.


Meetings, emails, phone calls with Damon, the filmmaker, websites perused for ideas of presentation, dates, times and venues organized, we were ready to roll.

The original plan was to film ‘on location’, two interviews a day allowing two hours for each interview. After the first interview at Paul Delprat’s home where there were delays with setting up equipment and, despite a sumptuous morning tea, we knew with our tight time frame and the possibilities of things going wrong the relative calm of our Library meeting rooms was more desirable.

Five days were allocated for the interviews over a two-week period.

Our crew worked well, besides me as interviewer, there was Damon who was filming live and taking stills and Donna who was taking extra stills, taking notes and prompting me for any questions I may have missed.

With Damon and Donna bringing the ‘Faces’ to life through film, my task was to get the words flowing and bring to life the stories that would end up on film and online for all to share.

Looking back the interviewing was the simplest task,. All were keen to tell their stories, no one held back. No short sharp answers from our ‘Faces’, their stories were colourful, entertaining, informative and never dull.

As the interviews drew to a close I realised we had a lot of material to work with. I was also beginning to realise these ‘Faces’ didn’t need a narrator, they were telling their stories and their stories were Mosman’s story.

After discussions with Donna and Damon the documentary style was ditched, my academy award aspirations dashed but the show must go on!

I understood it would be easier and less time consuming for the user to access each chapter and the website would be more sustainable in the future when adding more ‘Faces’ to Mosman’s ongoing story.

However, what would be harder and more time consuming would be the selection of images. The focus on the ‘Face’ meant the selection of images had to be rethought.

Instead of choosing images to complement the big picture, Mosman’s story, I now had to choose images that complemented each interview but first the interviews had to be edited.

As I said the simplicity of the interviewing was in stark contrast to what followed in postproduction.


The videos of each interview were sent to me initially and a second copy was sent to the transcriber. We use this transcriber regularly for our oral history interviews and she was happy to be putting the words to a face for a change.

However, there were some unforeseen problems. There was equipment malfunction at her end that led to her record of time codes taking on a life of their own and spelling errors gave a new identity to local people and places. Not major issues but very frustrating and very time consuming for me in my new editing role.

Creating a paper edit is a tedious task. With one eye on the time code so Damon would know the exact frames to cut, one on the transcript, hoping the time codes matched and an ear on the interview. I learnt quickly precision was not a luxury to be dispensed with but indeed a necessity!

Once my paper edits were complete the time codes and the text were sent to Damon to edit on film.

If you think this looks complicated the next task was the selection of images to match each of these excerpts from the 10 interviews.

Besides turning our own collection inside out and upside down and every which way for relevant images we also had access to our interviewees’ private collections.

Images had to be researched, identified and cleared for copyright before scanning. We did manage to save on the funds by finding a volunteer to do our scanning in house which saved money but not always time.

Our scanner is in the public area of the Library so images for each interviewee were scanned onto one of the public computers saved onto a USB and then downloaded to my computer.

The images had to be high resolution and we scanned them as Tiff files because we wanted to archive at best quality. (Jpeg images are compressed, and inevitably lose some quality when saved in this format.)

Over time my computer became overloaded so we purchased a portable hard drive which has proved beneficial not only for the project but for our oral history collection.

Images were sent through to Damon using the file sharing website – with each interview averaging 100 images they were far too big for email!

As well as sending the numbered images through to Damon he needed the accompanying paperwork so he could match the images with each excerpt.

As well as having images to complement the ‘Faces’ I also purchased licenses to use old newsreels with footage on Taronga Zoo, Balmoral Beach and Australian cricket greats visiting Mosman Oval. This was expensive but we thought worthwhile since it added interest and enhanced the visual appeal of the stories.


With all this hands-on technical side of the project I was becoming a whiz at editing, at scanning, at image resolutions, at Jpegs and Tiffs, not to mention licensing agreements, copyright requests and budgetary constraints.

But we needed publicity too so at last the creative juices would be given an opportunity to flow, the world needed to know what was happening behind the scenes. The ever vibrant Mosman Library had a story to tell, a story to share and we needed an audience!

Blogs on the Mosman Library Website, featured articles in the Mosman Daily, the Mosman Library and Council newsletter and in-house publicity on the library’s electronic screen were all ways we promoted and publicized Mosman’s story. Where interviewees represented clubs and associations flyers were sent to these organizations and publicity through their websites and newsletters was obtained.

At this early stage publicity was about the progress of Mosman Faces and requests for images, home movies and “Snaps” that would add to our story. “Snaps” is a feature on the Mosman Faces website that gives members of the community, along with our 10 ‘Faces’, an opportunity to say in ‘one word’ what they like about Mosman.

We needed volunteers for our ‘snaps’ so publicity went out via the web, the Mosman Daily, flyers and our electronic screen and on the designated day of filming it poured with rain so the response was a little light but with the help of friends, family and innocent library users and staff we managed and the result – Mosman says it in a snap!

My original idea for these ‘one – worders’ was to have them as an opening page, a chequer board montage, consisting of many Mosman faces, not just our ten interviewees. However we decided it might be a bit arduous every time you logged on you had to sit through this Brady Bunch style intro, so it was canned. But as our IT man Bernard says, anything is possible in the future, just like Mosman’s story – Mosman Faces website is never static!


The more we publicized the more we were creating an identity with our words and our images but we needed a logo and an effective web design. We wanted instant recognition for our project, one that would ensure its sustainability within the Mosman community and out there in cyberspace.

After briefing our graphic designer on colours and ideas for designs she came up with a simple and effective logo that could be used on the launch invitations and flyers and we just had to provide the words and images.

The logo was also integral for the Mosman Faces website which Bernard was about to build. Jennings Homes would have been proud of him with the speed our site was constructed but Bernard wasn’t completely happy as with almost everything in this project we seemed to be chasing our tails… but this is just stage 1 and there is plenty of room for renovation!

Bernard used simple, open source blog software called Textpattern to build the site. He says it was easy and fast to set up, and apart from the cost (i.e. free), it allowed us to have the transcript and room for comments beneath each video. The website was hosted on Council’s server, and of course the videos were hosted on YouTube. Not only does YouTube provide our video platform, it also puts the videos into a busy and popular web community.

The site is well indexed by Google and although we don’t always come at the top of a search results screen, Mosman Faces does appear in the first couple of pages. This is thanks to the transcripts that – Bernard tells me – are search engine friendly!

We’ve made a link to a Flickr photo group that allows us – and anyone else – to post a photo to the Mosman Faces site.

So the website was in Bernard’s capable hands, text was added, snaps were added, a logo was added and wait for it – the day of the launch the films were added!


The day of the launch Monday 23 May had arrived.

The plan was guests arrive 6:30 for 7pm start.

Approx 100 guests would arrive. I greet the guests give a thank you for coming and thank interviewees with a few brief comments about the project. The Mayor welcomes and launches the project then hands over to Damon or Bernard to put on the promo. Promo plays approx 2 minutes and then we would have computers available with headphones for individual access to our new website. And of course plenty of food and wine and the words would flow.

Now the real story

May 23 –

Films of the ‘faces’ were being sent through all day and Bernard was loading them on the website

The public access computers had their filters removed to allow YouTube but unfortunately audio was only available on two out of the five. Who knows why?

5:30 put my glad rags on and speech rehearsed…

5:40 time was ticking on and no alcohol. A phone call confirmed the worst, they’d got the day wrong aaahhh but said they could get the drink, ice and glasses there by 6:30 and indeed they did even if it was the neighbouring pizza delivery boy who obliged rather than the cellar man!

Drinks were being poured at the rate of knots – any sign of the pace slackening and the mob would have turned!

Time was ticking on and no sign of Damon and no sign of the promo – I finally got a lengthy text at just before 7 – no show in more ways than one.

All was not lost …

We had the music, we had the food and we had the wine now we needed some words …

I started the ball rolling with a thank you to all and this was followed by the Mayor Anne Connon who spoke about the Mosman Faces project and launched the website …

This could have been it, as we had no promo and no filmmaker, but I said to the Mayor,’ maybe we should get people to share their stories?’ She said ‘yes, yes!’ and so it was on!

We opened up the floor to stories of Mosman, one story led to another, slow to start at first but one person’s memories would trigger another – all united in their love for living in, working in and growing up in Mosman.

Despite last minute madness we did have people queuing up to have a peek at Mosman Faces which we managed to run on 3 out of the 5 computers but we need more than a party to spread the message that Mosman’s story is alive we need sustainability !


As I mentioned earlier the plan is for Mosman Faces to be ongoing and a complement to our other websites in Local Studies.

Mosman Faces has a different goal to Mosman Memories. Although both are interactive, Mosman Memories is a conversation of personal reminiscences whereas the ‘Faces’ for our stories are chosen.

Both sites have their part to play in keeping Mosman’s story alive but I like to think of Mosman Faces as a gateway to the living history of Mosman. The Faces are not hefty security guards guarding the gates but we do want them to be visible as they secure our history online.

This visibility needs to be managed and sustained through ongoing publicity and regular promotion .One of Mosman’s community environmental groups is using the site already with an online guide to one of their walks they link to one of our ‘Faces,’ Gavin Souter, talking about the military history of Middle Head.

On the technical side, the website design, development and hosting is handled in-house by our Internet Coordinator, Bernard, so we have continued support to improve and expand the site. By using YouTube, we are not bearing the cost of bandwidth or requiring specialist video streaming skills. For the moment, we think YouTube and Google are not going anywhere. But who can tell the future? So in our archive we retain copies of the rushes and the final video at best quality.

Our ten faces were the first in a series and our plan is to add two ‘Faces’ each year.

We have the time and resources to achieve sustainability in Local Studies but all Library staff, all Council staff need to be aware of Mosman Faces to help spread the joy, to find new ‘Faces’ and of course to promote Local Studies as a vibrant community resource using online initiatives to celebrate Mosman’s heritage.


As you can see it was not all a bed of roses behind the scenes but Part 1 of Mosman‘s story has been recreated and retold by our Mosman Faces. It is on film and online, it is interactive, it is sustainable and it informs and entertains so log on to


In the meantime we finally did get our promo. The music for our promo came from The Internet Archive,, a site that specializes in out of copyright music and Benny Goodman fit the bill beautifully. Take it away Benny.

— Posted by Mary Lou Byrne in  |  Permalink





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