Sidetracks launches

Drum roll…

After a period of gestation, Sydney Sidetracks has been launched by ABC Innovation in partnership with ABC Local Radio 702 Sydney. You can read more background information about Sydney Sidetracks on this website here.

Here’s some excerpts from the media release of 10 November 2008.

Discover history where it happened with ABC Sydney Sidetracks on your mobile or online at

Uncover Sydneyâ??s hidden past â?? the people, buildings and events that shaped a town â?? by visiting

Sydney Sidetracks is a new multi-platform, interactive project from ABC Innovation which enables audiences to discover history where it happened on the streets of inner city Sydney. It is a unique service showcasing a rich range of historic audio, film, text and images all accessible via an interactive map, which can be seen on a mobile phone while out and about or online at

Sydney Sidetracks uses new technology to explore some of Sydneyâ??s oldest inner city suburbs; Circular Quay and The Rocks, Kings Cross, Paddington, Pyrmont, Redfern, Surry Hills, Sydney CBD and South and East Sydney.

“This is the first offering of its kind in this country. By combining the resources of Australia’s oldest broadcaster with the incredible collections of other great cultural institutions it starts to build an interactive social history of Australia’s oldest city”, says Sarah Barns, concept developer, researcher and content producer on Sidetracks.

British Library Sound Archive: Unlocking Audio

In 2009 I presented the Sydney Sidetracks project to a British Library conference called Unlocking Audio – Connecting with Listeners.

Here’s a copy of the presentation plus a bit of a potted summary of what I said.

Sydney Sidetracks: Exploring a city of lost sounds

View more presentations from Sarah Barns.

The central focus of the conference was the uses of online platforms for sound archives and their listening audiences. With participatory or social media being the current buzz, many of the presentations dealt with ways to incorporate and present sound archives for use in social networks.

My presentation was a little different – I was there to present some emerging opportunities that mobility and context awareness offer to sound archives, as listening platforms.

My presentation focused mainly on the outcomes of the ABC Sydney Sidetracks project. This is a pilot multi-platform initiative that provides map and mobile access to the archives of the ABC, along with the archives held by a number of other organisations like the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) and the Powerhouse Museum.

Working with the conference theme of ‘connecting with listeners’ offered the chance to present on the listening aspects of this project – these are central to the doctoral research from which this project has arisen, but have often been overlooked to date.

So while the initiative looks a bit like what one blogger called ‘an intriguing twist on the mash-up genre’ and Seb Chan from the Powerhouse Museum has called a ‘mobile heritage project’, this conference gave the opportunity to discuss more of the project’s audio aspects, rather than the visual map interface or the specific technology issues.

Continue reading