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Memento : Issue 29
The National Archives’ Documenting a Democracy website is having a makeover. First launched in 2000, the website was the product of an innovative Centenary of Federation project which made Australia the first country in the world to provide online access to its founding constitutional documents. In the rapidly changing world of website design and technology, however, it wasn’t long before Documenting a Democracy began to show its age. The website now has a fresh new design and two other important new features. One of the aims of Documenting a Democracy is to provide access to Australia’s founding documents – not just to their content, history and significance, but to digital copies of the original documents themselves. Before launching the website in 2000 we scoured through each of Australia’s government archives as well as many archival collections in the United Kingdom to find the original documents. But despite our best efforts, a small number of documents continued to elude us. Last year, most of these reluctant luminaries were finally unearthed in the UK National Archives in London and are included for the first time on the revised site. The Documenting a Democracy website is a joint project between the National Archives and the state and territory archives. It originally featured documents showing the constitutional development of the Commonwealth, each state and the Northern Territory. Since then, the Territory Records Office of the ACT has been formed and a new section on the ACT has been developed for the Documenting a Democracy website. The revamped website – and its new inclusions – will be launched in July 2005. Many teachers have a passion for archival records but are frustrated by the difficulty of accessing them. Vrroom – short for ‘virtual reading room’ – is a new Archives’ website for primary and secondary teachers and students that gives instant access to archival records. It offers an interactive online experience aimed at helping teachers teach and students learn about history, politics, communications and archives. To create Vrroom , the Archives collaborated with teachers, students, curriculum developers, a research institution, and a web developer specialising in education and the arts. While we set out to produce an online journey of discovery for teachers and students, creating Vrroom was a journey of discovery for us too. Our original plan was to construct virtual stacks of records on vast topics, such as immigration, and to provide pathways into the stacks for students to discover records of interest through Research Modules. We consulted teachers and although they liked the idea, especially for their advanced students, they also told us of a more basic need. Teachers know very well how to use primary sources in their classroom practice, but they desperately need easy access to records on a range of topics. To meet this need, we devised two simpler components of Vrroom – Quick Picks and Document Studies. Searchable by subject and location, Quick Picks offer speedy access to individual records that can be printed out and used in the classroom. The other option, Document Studies, provides a set of records on a topic and lists key issues and ideas for discussion. The test version of Vrroom is live at vrroom.naa.gov.au. We invite you to road test Vrroom and we welcome your feedback. revving up! Online discovery for students Facelift for democracy Autumn–Winter 2005 MEMENTO 7