When you work in an archive, a certain amount of shelving is, of course, unavoidable, and as a word, I always feel ‘shelving’ has quite a pleasant ring to it. But while it’s euphonious, it’s not positive in every context. It can imply something interrupted, put to one side, and it’s just life that this is what happens, in a world of competing priorities, to some projects that seemed like good ideas at the time.
Posts from May 2012
The next phase of Discovery, our new catalogue, has launched with the addition of a delivery service for digitised documents. David Thomas, Director of Technology at The National Archives, explains why we’ve built a new catalogue and how it will help us provide more access to our records than ever before.
The only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated was Spencer Perceval, and The National Archives has marked the 200th anniversary of this event, which occurred on 11 May 1812, by digitising two key documents about the murder.
Among the papers of the Treasury Solicitor is a fascinating plan showing the House of Commons lobby which is where the assassination occurred. It shows all the ‘key players’ at 17:15 on 11 May 1812 by means of a coded system – circle no 1 is Spencer Perceval, having just entered the lobby, and circle No 2 is the assassin, John Bellingham, a merchant from Liverpool with an obsessive grievance against the government. This plan, which is part of the trial papers for John Bellingham, looks strangely ‘modern’ in a sense. Dotted lines show the routes that the assassin took immediately after shooting Perceval at point-blank range: Bellingham returned to the bench where he had been lying in wait earlier, making no attempt to escape. Continue reading »
I recently enjoyed a weekend away with some friends in Carlisle, in the north-west of England. One of the places that we visited was Lanercost Priory, about 13 miles (21 km) east of the city. Once an important medieval religious community, the priory was dissolved under King Henry VIII. Part of the building has been restored for use as a parish church and the ruins of the rest are preserved by English Heritage as a historic monument.
I was particularly struck by a sign on one of the walls warning visitors not to write on or scratch the stonework. The Ministry of Works, which put up the sign, was a government department that used to be responsible for both modern government buildings and historic buildings in the government’s care 1. Continue reading »
- 1. One of the difficult things about finding and using 20th century records is that some government departments changed their names and areas of responsibility several times. The Ministry of Works only existed under that name between 1943 and 1962, although earlier and later Works departments existed with slightly different names. ^
The theme of my next couple of blog posts will be about reconstructing the world we currently live in. Over the bank holiday weekend I attended an event that gave me new insight into a, for me, little-known digital world and gave me lots to think about in my work in digital preservation.
It has been 30 years since the release of the ZX Spectrum. To celebrate the impact this device has had on the UK in that time Imperica, the online magazine, held an event entitled Horizons. The theme, apart from reflecting on the ‘Spectrum at 30’, was very much binary, reflecting the past, and, exploring the future of computing.
The UK Government Web Archive is one of the world’s largest and most used. Not only do we take regular snapshots of websites to guard against contemporary government information being permanently lost, we also use the collection to help our colleagues across government in their efforts to keep historical information truly accessible through the principle of Web Continuity.
Central to this is having an effective and consistent method for capturing this content.
If you take a look on our website you’ll see that we have a number of boards and advisory groups that work with The National Archives.
One of those groups is the Forum on Historical Manuscripts and Academic Research (a bit of a mouthful). This particular forum is a subcommittee of the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives.
I consider myself to be a sane and rational human being. Friends and colleagues may disagree. However, like most of us, I am a follower of the path of least resistance. I do not seek to make life more difficult for me than it needs to be.
For those of you asking what that has to do with managing records, the answer is ‘everything’. Continue reading »