What does the face of NSW look like?
On the 4 October 2018 we launched a community generated, self-portrait exhibition called #NewSelfWales as part of the Library’s gallery transformation program. When we were approached by the Media and Communications team to collaborate on this gallery experience, we knew immediately that this would be a great way to show the portraits already digitised in the Library’s collection.
From our UX research and design thinking approach we knew we wanted to attract new and diverse audiences into our galleries, not only to enjoy the process of taking a ‘selfie’ and uploading it to the live feed on the projection, but also to be as welcoming as possible in the process of collecting the face of NSW.
The gallery experience is now closed, but the results have been put together in this website. Over 12,000 portraits can be viewed and searched. There are over 7000 portraits which were taken in our gallery photo booths, 1000 from Instagram and over 5000 from the Library’s collection available. You can find yourself here or simply enjoy browsing the diverse range of portraits. Use the search function or take a journey through the collection tags to experience a diverse range of portraits.
What did our visitors do?
There was a peak in Instagram submissions while the marketing campaign was active. The average number per day over the life of the exhibition was around 4. We approved almost 1000 from over 1700 added to Instagram using the hashtag. We moderated this because some people submitted multiple portraits and, on occasions, we found that some photographs were not relevant (such as landscapes or animals).
We had a much higher intake of portraits taken in the gallery photo booths. We approved over 7000 portraits, with around 50 images per day added over the course of the exhibition.
We noticed that our visitors really enjoyed photographing themselves together. Large groups of up to nine people would sometimes be submitted.
Visitors would use Instagram and the photo booth and then take another selfie when they appeared in the gallery projection on the wall. They took selfies throughout the other galleries and in the reading room using the hashtag as well. We saw how playful this experience has been for our visitors, and the simplicity of the photo booth user experience had an impact on the number of portraits submitted.
The Library is working with Dr Kylie Budge from Western Sydney University to understand more about the portraits uploaded by the public to Instagram, and what they might suggest about the face of NSW in 2018.
Early findings suggest that there is a great deal of information about identity being represented in the Instagram posts to #newselfwales. Members of the public who posted to the project hashtag want to be seen in a positive light, for example, we see more staged, aesthetically pleasing portraits rather than haphazard ones taken ‘on the go’. This tells us something about how people want to be remembered given the portraits are being collected by the Library and, if technology allows, will be accessible in 20, 50 or 100 years from now. These are some what different to the playful portraits, often with groups of friends and family, taken via the in-gallery photo booths. In the Instagram posts, there are significant traces of place interwoven with identity and much of this is about how people perceive themselves in relation to Australia.
Many of the portraits, particularly those taken towards the end of the exhibition period, were of visitors in the Library. The images, descriptions and hashtags suggest that there is a great affection for the Library (and libraries in general) and their place in people’s lives. We also see a diverse range of faces in the portraits and this tells us much about who lives and visits NSW today. More information from this research will be available over the next few months as analysis concludes.
Kylie Budge, Senior Research Fellow, Urban Living & Society Research Theme, Western Sydney University.
We hope you enjoy looking through all the portraits here and thank you to all the photographers who submitted their portraits to our exhibition. We have really enjoyed seeing all the portraits coming in every day.
We will be publishing a blog post on the technologies used in this experience also.