Q&A with V.C. Browne

DigitalNZ is turning six years old this February! As part of our birthday celebrations, we decided it was high time we had a chat with some of our amazing content partners, fans, and people using the DigitalNZ API.

We were keen to get their thoughts on DigitalNZ, how they came to work with us, and what they think will be most exciting about DigitalNZ in the future—also, it's a good excuse for warm fuzzies all round.

15118 Timaru

Image: Timaru, 1973, V. C. Browne and Son Aerial Collection: http://www.vcbrowne.com/Detailprom.aspx?RID=15076&PID=15118

First up is Roger Barclay, coordinator of the vast V.C. Browne & Son Aerial Photography collection. We first blogged about the V.C. Browne collection in April 2013. Here's a little more of the history of this growing collection and its close relationship with DigitalNZ:

What motivated V.C. Browne to join DigitalNZ?

I had been scanning negatives for the collection from about 2004 and by early 2009. I had completed enough to justify developing a website where people could view and purchase the images.

My next challenge was to get people to come to the website. I proceeded to locate and contact various organisations that might provide some sort of referral service for the website and it was from a conversation with Alison Stevenson, the Director of the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, then the suggestion came to contact DigitalNZ. I contacted Virginia Gow at DigitalNZ and received an enthusiastic response. The rest is history.

0007 Kiaora

Image: 'Kia ora', V. C. Browne & Son Aerial Photography Collection, roll: Bluff Oamaru Grassmere Kiaora, http://www.vcbrowne.com/Detailprom.aspx?RID=PB0506&PID=7

Has DigitalNZ made a difference to V.C. Browne's digital collection?

I have always marvelled at the fact that DigitalNZ appeared at just the right time to help me get the www.vcbrowne.com website known. My website went live in July 2009 and DigitalNZ first incorporated our metadata around November 2009. My website statistics showed a huge jump in traffic as we went into 2010 and for the next 2.5 years the majority of the traffic to the website came via DigitalNZ.

Today, almost 5 years later things have changed a bit. The collection and website are quite well known and the majority of traffic comes either directly to the site or via one of the commercial search engines, such as Google.

DigitalNZ continues to play an important role, but it is a different role. Apart from the big search engines, most referrals now come from organisations that have been influenced by DigitalNZ in some way. Such as those that have picked up the DigitalNZ search widget, or use the metadata API.

Back in 2009, we really didn’t know what interest there was going to be in the V.C. Browne & Son collection. Today it is used by a diverse array of organisations and people, such as:

• Planning for the rebuilding of Christchurch
• Planning for contaminated site remediation
• Undertaking heritage architecture projects
• Supporting special interest groups e.g. Historical societies, Traction Engines, Cust Grand Prix, Rail enthusiasts,
• Or simply resurrecting a personal view of a world that has long disappeared

I doubt this would be happening if not for DigitalNZ’s existence.

Chch Boys High School

Image: 'Christchurch Boys' High School', V. C. Browne & Son Aerial Photography Collection, roll: Millers Mill N & Sth Brighton, http://www.vcbrowne.com/Detailprom.aspx?RID=0577&PID=630

What do you think is the most interesting/exciting aspect of DigitalNZ?

I particularly like the way DigitalNZ provides a portal service that makes similar content from different providers available to people who are looking for that content. A good example is the way that a user searching for an aerial photograph of Palmerston North will be offered images from V.C. Browne & Son together with the Whites aviation images provided by the Alexander Turnbull library. One interface to two different providers.