Museums of history NSW celebrating the rich heritage of NSW
April 10, 2023
We are thrilled to announce the launch of mhnsw.au, a new digital home for the collections of Sydney Living Museums and NSW State Archives. The vast amount of content is now accessible from an innovative and interactive website. The launch culminates months of hard work by our developers starting in early 2022.
The task was mammoth and had challenging time constraints. Gargantuan amounts of content to migrate and an entire state's digitised history to consider led to a huge effort from everyone involved.
Here’s how it was done.
New South Wales isn't short of stories to tell, though the fact that many of them are wrapped up in 2D images and artefacts means they don't always naturally jump out on the web.
So, we set about finding a way to help images leap, spin, flip and glide across the page, helping to draw viewers into fine detail that might have been overlooked in a static 2D image gallery.
We leveraged the Sketchfab API to build our own annotations layer on top of the Sketchfab Viewer for all 3D models on the site. This custom implementation allowed us to provide a more accessible experience for keyboard and screen reader users compared to what Sketchfab provided out-of-the-box. The end result being an intuitive navigation tool to further enhance the story-telling experience - a feature that benefits all users.
The goal was to put visitors in control of their own discovery experience, giving them the power to manipulate the pieces of history in front of them and literally look at them from every angle.
When it came to powering MHNSW (Museums of History NSW) with smart, efficient software solutions, we approached it from three angles.
The first was through the use of a CMS called Sanity: a fully customisable platform that allowed integration with the intricate taxonomy developed by digital agency Pollen, with the potential to be highly scalable and support large amounts of traffic.
With the website front-end, the decision to use Storybook at the prototyping stage allowed for fast client feedback on the evolving design, which became a hugely important part of keeping the project on track and on time. While the use of Next.js server-side rendering allowed for the delivery of a fast, responsive, SEO-optimised website.
And central to the whole process was the creation of smart middleware by our developers, custom-built to aggregate and bring together different types of data from disparate sources to feed the website, fully searchable using elastic search.
One of the most significant tasks in the entire project was handling the scale and complexity of the content migration.
Over 12,000 pages of content needed to be moved from Sydney Living Museums and the NSW State Archives Collection over to the new MHNSW.
A web scraper was used to read every single page from the two legacy sites and turn them into component pieces for MHNSW, saving many hours of time if it were all done manually.
At the same time, we also built and populated sydneyopen.com.au, a gateway for visitors to access rich content and ticketing for MHNSW’s leading architecture program, that was also served by the same CMS.
First Nations to the fore
Here at Airteam, we are proud not only to have played a part in helping to create a new cultural institution, housing New South Wales' history for generations to come, but in doing so, helped to bring First Nations storytelling to the fore by bringing greater clarity and visibility to all aspects of the state's history.
Whether you're already a NSW history buff wanting to delve ever deeper into the state's rich past or at the start of your journey into the past, you'll find it all at mhnsw.au.
Thanks to a huge collaborative effort from our development team and project partner agencies Pollen and For The People.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.