Sometimes, when searching through the catalogue (inevitably for other things), files leap out that simply have to be investigated. For instance HO 199/301 “British bombs and other devices accidentally dropped on England by British aircraft” (somewhat shamefacedly subtitled “also British mines”) does essentially what it says on the tin. But it’s an intriguing tin. However, even better is the neighbouring file from 1942, the bafflingly monikered “Journalistic astrology”. I wanted to know what journalistic astrology was. My guess was that newspaper columnists were making uncomfortably accurate predictions of military decisions but the truth is slightly stranger.
Posts from June 2012
I’ve had this quote scrawled on a piece of Christmas wrapping paper that I’ve been carrying around since, well Christmas. Boxing Day to be precise.
It comes from Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, chapter 19, The Mold Gold Cape. He describes how the removal of the skeleton at the dig site meant that they lost so much more potential information about the way people lived at the time. The story of the cape was only half told.
“For although the precious finds will usually survive, the context which explains them will be lost, and it’s that context of material – often financially worthless – that turns treasure into history.”
You might say that for our records it’s what turns documents from Peter and Jane into Shakespeare…
We’ve already spoken of the importance of context in managing information, but this is IMPORTANT. So let’s explore further. A few days after I was leafing through someone else’s Christmas presents, The National Archives released a set of Margaret Thatcher’s files. One of the elements that caused so much attention was her hand written notes in the margins of the papers. They bring so much more context to the documents, an insight into her thoughts and personality.
When I tell people that I work at The National Archives they tend to automatically assume that I work with dusty paper records. It is sometimes quite a struggle to explain that I deal with archiving websites and rarely enter the repositories they have seen featured in TV history programmes. Other posts in this blog have explained that The National Archives preserves a diverse range of records which are not all paper based. We hold such things as a glove, a leather case and of course a wide range of digital records including a perhaps surprising number of video games.
My earlier post noted that UK Government began using the internet to communicate with citizens in the mid 1990s. As web technology developed and more people began to use the internet, government organisations started to develop different types of content aimed at particular sections of the population. This included the development of several video games which were hosted on government websites. In some cases we have been able to capture the games and add them to the web archive.
Many of these games were aimed at children, such as the games on the Hedgehog family website, which we archived in November 2008. The Hedgehog family was a Department of Transport initiative which aimed to educate children about road safety. A variety of different types of media were used. The Hedgehog family was replaced by a new initiative called Tales of the Road in November 2008 and the website was removed from the live web. We are pleased that this example of how government used technology to communicate with children has been captured for long term preservation.