Session 1.2 - User-centred design thinking as a driver for innovation


Cathrin Blitzner Møller - Espen Sjøvoll, Deb Verhoeven - Alana Piper - Mike Jones - Peter Sefton, Michael Smith - Janet Villata

Date Added:

22 October 2019

Chair: Dr. Anthea Seles, Secretary General ICA​

Tuesday, October 22 2019


a. Design thinking as a driver for innovation at the National Archives of Norway by Cathrin Blitzner Møller - Espen Sjøvoll

Digitalization greatly impacts the public sector in regards to how records are created and processed. This creates a ripple effect with consequences for how we ensure that records maintain reliability and trustworthiness over time, both at the record creator's and the archival institutions. We have not kept pace with development and methods and tools are inefficient, time consuming and not capable of capturing and preserving important documentation.

Over the last few years, The National Archives of Norway have applied service design and design thinking as an approach to capture user-needs, problem-solving and development of new solutions. It has been a journey with a steep learning-curve, and our approach today is using design thinking and stakeholder involvement as a tool for innovation in next generation digital archives.

We work to bring professions such as enterprise information management, design thinking, records management, archive and enterprise architecture together. By design thinking we will reenvision the concepts of records and archive in a way that makes sense in digital surroundings and form our vision for Archive by Design. Next, we will work on different concepts for realising the vision through co-creation and initiate several pilot-projects which will experiment and prototype new methods and tools.

In the first phase we emphasize the following activities:

  • Understand the problem and its consequences
  • Engage different stakeholders in solving the problem and developing solutions for the future
  • Articulate a vision and work with concepts for realization
  • Establish a future vision and narrative for communication that triggers interest and initiative participation
  • Put in place mechanisms that stimulate innovation and engage a wide number of actors, both public and private.

At an early stage we have already identified some key issues to be addressed:

  • Few vendors and lock-ins dominate the market
  • Outdated regulatory frameworks
  • Overemphasis on compliance,  little attention on actual business needs
  • Difficulties in communicating the added value records management and archive provide.

We see this as a wicked problem, its different aspects being tightly intertwined, including a number of actors with different or contradictory interests. This in mind, we believe that involving a broad spectre of stakeholder is key in order to bring new solutions to the table. Only through a multi-diciplinary approach will it be possible to address and solve the different aspect of this complex challenge, addressing both organizational-, legal-, standardization-, semantics- and technology related parts of the problem.


Cathrin Blitzner Møller

Cathrin Blitzner Møller is project manager at the National Archives of Norway. She has a business, innovation and design background, having worked at Innovation Norway, as a management consulatant and at Design and Architecture Norway. She has extensive experince with innovation and design thinking in practice, and has been funding, following and advising cutting edge innovative design projects through Designdriven Innovation Programme.

Espen Sjøvoll

Espen Sjøvoll is director in charge of Public and Private Sector at the National Archives of Norway since 2017. Before that he was a Director in the Department for ICT and Modernisation in the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation. His special focus in recent years has been the digitisation challenges that archives and records management face. He has previously worked with ECM systems, at the National Bank, the Norwegian Competition Authority and Boston Consulting Group.

b. Designing infinitely iterative collections by Deb Verhoeven - Alana Piper - Mike Jones - Peter Sefton

Redesigning the archives for the twenty-first century requires more than just challenging existing practice. It requires radical openness, and the agility to deal with infinitely iterative collections. New developments in the Humanities Networked Infrastructure project (HuNI), in collaboration with University of Technology Sydney (UTS), provide an example of how this can be achieved.

In 2018, as part of a holistic overhaul of digital workflows in HASS disciplines, UTS launched R+amp. Using crowdfunding principles, the R+amp platform enabled academic staff to ‘greenlight’ projects put forward by colleagues, replacing a prior system where the Dean made such decisions. One successful example was the Golden Eyes Digitisation Project, which aimed to preserve and document more than a decade of digital student projects from the UTS Media Arts Program.

In the past this would have been a standalone initiative with little transparency. The R+amp process created engagement with staff from relevant parts of the Faculty and the broader university eResearch community, and ensured the project was managed in a scalable, transferable way. The result includes a ‘baked in’ preservation plan, an open source content management system (Omeka S), and a DataCrate archiving service developed by UTS eResearch staff (to create an interoperable preservation snapshot of the content independent from the source and destination platforms). When combined with interoperability standards to ensure discovery through services such as HuNI and Trove, this process has set a benchmark for future collections-as-data at UTS.

New functionality in HuNI also allows the import of metadata from such projects. Users can then create, define and contest relationships between elements within the Golden Eyes dataset, or between that dataset and elements from the many existing contributors to the HuNI platform, including Trove, Museums Victoria, AustLit, AusStage and the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Together, this is a proof-of-concept for end-to-end approaches to archives, documentation, preservation, and linked data which are transparent at every step, from the funding model and decision-making process through to the description of relations between elements. More broadly, such initiatives support the interoperation of institutional and non-institutional collections, the connection and serendipitous discovery of distributed content, and the option for infinite iterations as communities develop relational collections over time. By committing to open processes and open ontologies, the various project partners have produced a model for future digital practice.


Deb Verhoeven

Deb Verhoeven is Canada 150 Research Chair in Gender and Cultural Informatics at the University of Alberta. Before this she was Associate Dean of Engagement and Innovation at the University of Technology in Sydney. Deb was the Project Director of the Humanities Networked Infrastructure project (, a virtual laboratory interoperating data from Australia’s major cultural collections. She previously served as inaugural Deputy Chair of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

Alana Piper

Alana Piper is a Chancellors Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Public history at UTS. Her current project (2018-) uses digital history to chart the lives and criminal careers of Australian offenders across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her research interests draw together the social and cultural history of crime with gender history, legal history and the digital humanities.

Mike Jones

Mike Jones is an archivist, historian, and collections consultant with more than a decade of experience working with universities and the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) sector. In 2019 he completed his PhD at the University of Melbourne and is now based at the Australian National University in Canberra, as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Rediscovering the Deep Human Past project.

Peter Sefton

Peter Sefton is the Manager, eResearch Support at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). Before that he was in a similar role at the university of Western Sydney (UWS). Previously he ran the Software Research and Development Laboratory at the Australian Digital Futures Institute at the University of Southern Queensland. Following a PhD in computational linguistics in the mid-nineties he has gained extensive experience in the higher education sector in leading the development of IT and business systems to support both learning and research.

c. Applying User-Centred Design to Archives by Michael Smith - Janet  Villata

This paper explores how a user-centred design approach can be taken to transform archives policy, strategies, processes and systems to meet the needs of current and potential users and position the archives, ‘by design’, for the future. Based on the recent experience of the City of Sydney Archives this paper explores how this approach can provide a much more rewarding user experience. It asks (and answers) questions such as: What happens when public access, rather than archives management, drives design?

Key to the transformation of archive services at the City of Sydney was a project to design and implement a new archives management system, complete with digital preservation functionality and a publicly accessible user portal. The system design and implementation project was guided by two fundamental objectives:

  • Ensure users always remain at the heart of service design and delivery
  • Ensure that the system meets archival best practice.

The requirements and system data model for the project referenced the Australian Series System, modern metadata standards and digital preservation methodologies. Archival processes, from accessioning to conservation, were taken apart, examined carefully, documented, considered and reengineered from the ground up to ensure a high standard of process management. The resulting processes are practical, streamlined, controlled and sustainable. Incorporating user-centred design principles meant that we needed to empathise with our potential users and ask ourselves: Who are we targeting in our archives? The skimmer, the delver or the deep diver? Do we assign different values to each of these user types?

The approach challenged strongly held assumptions of archivists in areas such as appraisal methodology and the role of metadata. Some fundamental questions were addressed such as:

How do we provide visibility for those parts of the collection where we have not completed arrangement and description at the item level? Or to go a step further … DO we provide visibility to those parts of the collection?
How do we deal with the hierarchy of modern records as archives in both search and discovery and in digital preservation?

The resulting system and processes at the City of Sydney, although in their infancy, are effective in their simplicity and easily configurable to meet the needs of archives staff and internal and external users now and into the future.


Michael Smith

Michael Smith has more than 25 years’ experience in the archives and information management profession. He has been the Manager for Information Management at the City of Sydney for the past year and was City Archivist for the City for four years prior to this. Before moving to the City of Sydney Michael managed the Records and Archives Management Services unit at the University of Western Sydney for more than 12 years. He started his archives career at the State Archives and Records Authority of NSW. Michael is passionate about archival metadata!

Janet Villata

Janet Villata has been an information professional for over 25 years. She has a Masters in Information Science and a Diploma in Archives Administration. Janet’s early career was with the State Archives and Records Authority NSW, specialising in digital recordkeeping. She has also worked in information management for all levels of government. Janet joined the City of Sydney in 2015 as an Information Analyst. Last year she was appointed as the City Archivist, responsible for a team of archivists and volunteers and for the introduction of a new archives management system.