Following the launch of The National Archives’ new online exhibition ‘To Her Most Excellent Majesty’ showcasing congratulatory addresses from Queen Victoria’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees, I’d like to share my experience of working on this project.
SD – Ahead of Hack on the Record held at The National Archives back in March – the results of which you can see on our Labs website – I discussed with colleagues in the Advice and Records Knowledge department the possibility of pitching interesting and appropriate documents or record series to the developers attending the event. One suggestion regarded the catalogue data for BT 31, a series which contains the files of dissolved companies.
I’ve previously blogged about a 20th century poetic find in our collection – here’s another I came across recently from the late 18th century, coincidentally ‘echoing’ quite a similar theme…
An interesting email was passed to me a few weeks ago enquiring about searching for evidence of oral culture of those enslaved during the transatlantic trade. I expected to find very little using a simple search, as the preservation of such culture would be rare, at least without in-depth research, particularly amongst the records of the companies and governments involved in the trade for profit. However, a chance try of “slave AND song” in Discovery returned a result which sparked my interest to take a closer look.
The box that arrived is typical of uncatalogued material, bundles of papers housed together with little further information available.
With some very careful handling and the help of a colleague who passed further than “Je suis…” at school, we leafed through the papers. They belonged to one ‘Francois Lavignolle’, listed on Discovery as an administrator on a Haitian plantation, whose papers were intercepted and filed with the High Court of Admiralty paperwork.
There, amongst the accounts papers, was a little folded booklet of songs and rhymes. Continue reading »
Can music really contain subliminal or hidden messages? A question I’ve pondered since listening to my iPod on the train this morning…
Did you know there are beakers and high-tech equipment for scientific analysis here at The National Archives?
I know that the image of a scientific laboratory is quite at odds with the images that normally pop into your head when you hear the word ‘archive’, but all the same they are vital to the work that conservators undertake here every day.
Our conservation lab provides the facilities for us to evaluate materials for use in conservation, to prepare materials for use in conservation treatments and to carry out those conservation treatments that require the use of chemicals in a safe environment. To give you a little taste of the many things we do in the lab, here are a couple of examples of some of the material testing we’ve been up to lately:
Should we replace those old map folders?
As part of making a case for a re-housing project, one of our conservators is pH testing both the existing map folder materials and the new material she suggests it is replaced with. This will enable her to quantify the benefits of the project. If the current material is significantly acidic, and the new material shows an alkaline buffer, it can help give a justification for her choices in the project.
At the heart of any archive service are its collections: if we didn’t hold historical records, we wouldn’t be archive services. A huge proportion of the work of any archive service is in making collections available – whether that means by ensuring they are in good enough condition to be handled; digitising them; supporting researchers to find and read unfamiliar sources and getting them online or undertaking exhibitions and talks to reveal the potential of our fascinating holdings.
As I sit and reflect in my home one evening, thinking back to the day’s events and looking around me, I can begin to see a rich digital tapestry woven into my life. This is prompted by thinking about a conversation I was having with a colleague who was trying to understand an export he had relating to horse racing results and wondered if the data could be extracted to be of any potential use.
Looking around, I see my digital piano in the middle of the room and wonder, beyond the MIDI output I can capture, what exists within its ‘mechanics’ to enable the various functions it performs; I receive an email on my iPhone which I know is downloaded from my Gmail account which potentially means two different storage formats for that email; and I flick through the channels on my digital TV which makes me realise the data which allows me to see a seven-day electronic programme guide must actually be stored as a digital format or data structure within the box to allow it to be displayed and searched through.
Other formats that surround me in my daily life include my mp3 collection, GPS fitness information from cycle trips, and even my computer games and the data video games use, such as save files. Look around you, what formats do you see?
I’ve turned over my blog spot this week to my colleague Cathy Williams, who brings news of an exciting launch.
Cathy writes: As much as I want you to read my first ever blogpost – and believe me, it’s been a painful process so I really would like you to – I would much rather you were off exploring our new site for The Olympic Record. It celebrates the history of the UK’s involvement with the Games and is launched today as part of The National Archives’ The Record, a four-year initiative to ensure a memory of the Olympics, the Paralympics and the Cultural Olympiad.
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