If you’re a regular follower of this blog you will have gathered that we are obsessed with records. Whether finding, caring for, managing or coming up with exciting ways to use the information they hold, we live and breathe archives.
This passion extends across the country. We are lucky to have a network of archives looked after by people who work hard to preserve the records in their care, and make them accessible to everyone who needs them. Where there are archives in businesses, charities, country houses, universities, local authorities and many more, there are people who are fascinated by records. At The National Archives, our aim is to support this network of archives to be the best they possibly can.
In April, my colleague Melinda talked about our developing role as archives sector leader for England, and how we would continue to support archives and their funders to demonstrate the valuable contribution they make to society.
With this in mind, we’ve recently updated our action plan for archives, which helps archives providers use the resources they have to strengthen and develop their services within the current challenging economic climate. The action plan builds on the government strategy for archives, Archives for the 21st Century and sets out The National Archives commitments to archives over the next three years, but also asks the archives sector to think about ways in which they can work, with the resources they already have, to build innovative, sustainable services.
Continue reading »
Hardly a day goes by without some email, text message or document, found or lost, hitting the front pages and rocking the foundations of some of our largest institutions, government and the media.
Knowing what to keep is critical for an organisation’s compliance, business continuity and reputation, but do you sometimes wonder what is lurking on your backups?
What follows is a rough guide to one of these potentially unmapped territories in your information landscape – the backups created and maintained for business continuity and disaster and crisis management.
Continue reading »
When I first heard about The Olympic Record, a site dedicated to making a selection of The National Archives’ records on the Olympics available to download, I thought it sounded like a brilliant idea. With London about to be the only city to ever host the Games for a third time, it seemed like a great way to celebrate and showcase the records at The National Archives and to connect this summer with the past. In fact, so good an idea did I think it was that when The Olympic Record team started to look around for a records specialist who would be prepared to discuss the records held here for any press interviews, I felt compelled to say yes!
Continue reading »
My name is David Clipsham and I have been employed as the File Format Signature Developer for a month, having previously worked as Customer Service Manager for the cross-government social collaboration tool, Civil Pages. My role is to improve the coverage of The National Archives’ PRONOM file format registry. The internal and external signature information contained in the PRONOM registry is utilised by our file format identification tool DROID, which is used to identify file formats so we can make informed decisions about the long term preservation of digital records.
My day is typically spent researching obscure and not-so-obscure file formats, picking through the internal code of each format and identifying the key characteristics that make the file format what it is, as described in Ross Spencer’s recent blog post. I then recreate the key byte sequences, test them against sample files and upload them to PRONOM, ready for our bi-monthly signature release.
How do I focus my research?
Continue reading »
Last week, some of us from The National Archives were privileged to spend a day in Cambridge with over 50 people from the heritage spheres gathered for the Digital Preservation Coalition event, Links that Last.
(For those new to the concept of linked data, I have no hesitation in recommending this Wikipedia article: ‘linked data describes a method of publishing structured data so that it can be interlinked and become more useful. It builds upon standard Web technologies such as HTTP and URIs but rather than using them to serve web pages for human readers, it extends them to share information in a way that can be read automatically by computers.’)
As the Links that Last programme puts it:
‘The emerging ‘Linked Data’ approach … challenges us to think about preservation in new ways. Simultaneously, the digital preservation community has put considerable effort into the development of persistent identifiers, services that seek to ensure that essential links are not lost and … that the highly distributed contexts in which information is presented are protected against the vagaries of time and obsolescence’.
Over the last few years The National Archives has been highly successful in expanding its partnerships with universities by co-sponsoring a number of collaborative doctoral award students. We currently have four students working with us and two more that will be starting their study next term. Their research covers the disciplines of history, technology and archives and information studies.
Recently the first of our collaborative doctoral students, Jenny Bunn, was awarded her PhD.
Jenny tells us more about her experience…
My colleague looked at the article with a mixture of surprise and mild horror.
We were part of the way through an afternoon of Wikipedia training and she had decided to have a gander at the article on Historical geography. Take a look if you like. It won’t take long, it’s only about four paragraphs and that’s a paragraph longer than when she found it – which is the point I’d like to make. When confronted with a hopeless Wikipedia article (and goodness knows there are plenty of those) there are really two reactions. One is to tut, mutter darkly about the deficiencies of crowdsourced knowledge and consider another source of information. The second is to fix it.
At The National Archives, after some consideration, we’ve decided to take the second option. We’re going to train more staff and run more projects across Wikimedia Foundation websites. We’ve already started. Today you can stand next to Domesday Book, scan a QRpedia code with your phone and access information on the book from Wikipedia in 40 languages – a forest of labels we could never produce on our own.
The Sunday River (CO 1069/214), from The National Archives and now also South African Wikipedia
Continue reading »
Spinning mules from Chambers' 'Information for the People' 1856
A century and a half ago, the American Civil War was well under way, and its devastating consequences for that country are well-known. But the conflict had serious repercussions on this side of the Atlantic, too. The cotton industry in north west England was dependent on supplies of raw cotton from the southern states, and when this supply was interrupted there was real hardship in some places.
This led to the fear of civil disturbances in some towns, including Hyde in Cheshire, where the authorities were sufficiently concerned to swear in a number of special constables to keep the peace. This document (Ref HO 45/7523) comes from the treasure trove that is Home Office Registered Papers 1839-1979, series containing more than 26,000 boxes and files.
When most people think of the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force in the First World War, it is invariably of aeroplanes and pilots. Whilst it was possible for a pilot to just jump in a plane and fly off, unless he was very quick and agile when starting his plane, it usually took at least one other person to swing the propeller to start the engine.
Since the advent of military aviation, all units operating not only aircraft and boats but also radar stations and a myriad of other tasks associated with aviation have always had a complement of officers and other ranks (airmen).
Continue reading »
WorldPride 2012 was celebrated in London last week and so I thought I’d use my blog today to draw attention to an exciting area of research that is truly uncovering some of the hidden areas within the records.
Rainbow flag (CC source: Ludovic Bertron www.flickr.com/photos/70313016@N08/6381004581/lightbox/)
LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) history is a steadily growing research area. At The National Archives, largely due to the nature of the records we hold, research in to this area has been challenging. As true ‘hidden histories’ in the records, it can take a lot of thought and digging to uncover examples of LGBT histories in government files. In the case of gay history, it is often particularly difficult to uncover records free of negative connotations, such as criminal prosecution. This is often a question of the language used to describe homosexuality during different periods, when it was considered a crime or illness (for example ‘gross indecency’ or ‘unnatural practice’), and the interpretation of documents themselves which may or may not refer to gay or lesbian issues explicitly.