Information management can be difficult to sell. It shouldn’t be – the benefits are very real and are there to be exploited. The truth is, however, that during busy periods it can be low on the list of priorities for those who are in sitting front of computers creating information.
So the question is, how do you instil a culture of good information management, and how do you reverse the bad habits which have crept in during the digital age? This is the conundrum facing information and records staff across every organisation and, having spoken to many across the UK Government, one answer comes up time after time: Senior buy-in.
Senior management support for information managers is crucially important because to change organisational culture they need influence.
So taking ‘influence’ as the theme for today’s blog, I’ve drawn out for you a few key messages from some of the most influential people in the world of politics, literature and pop culture. Some of these individuals are fictional creations, but hopefully you’ll agree that the messages they can carry are just as important.
‘It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.’ Sherlock Holmes – A Scandal in Bohemia, 1892
Quite often I’m asked, what do the files actually tell us? Do aliens exist and have they been visiting us in UFOs? And has the government hidden that fact from us for decades as some conspiracy theorists believe?
The Ministry of Defence first began to investigate UFO reports from credible sources at the height of the Cold War when, in 1950, it set up a ‘flying saucer working party.’ But files at The National Archives suggest MoD ‘s real concern at that time was invasion not from outer space, but from behind the Iron Curtain.
Collection Care is often about finding solutions to difficult problems and I addressed this theme in my last post when I talked about a project currently underway treating a particular series of photographs. Well, this problem-solving approach applies not only to our conservation treatments of the collection, but also to how we deal with things on a large scale – how we manage our collection.
What is in all the boxes?
One of the big questions we’ve grappled with as part of this project has been: what do we have? Oh, we know we have 11 million entries on Discovery, 13,000 series of records, etc. But to effectively manage the risks to our physical collection we need to know what types of materials we’re dealing with and how many of each we have. Tackling this question required extensive data gathering and some visual ingenuity.
On Monday 28 May 2012 The National Archives played host to a feature film crew, who had come to shoot a feature film called ‘Still Life.’
It was quite exciting for me because I have never done anything on this scale before - The National Archives exterior was once used as a shopping mall in ‘Spooks’ and we came very close to being part of the movie ‘X-Men: First Class’ as an unnamed government building, but those were both before my time.
Searching for the Higgs Boson is not just a case of shooting particles around that collide somewhere under Switzerland (a lay person’s grasp of particle physics), CERN has to collect, analyse and manage all of the data this generates.
Big Data is a big thing just now. In the wake of the Government’s Open Data White Paper, Government departments have just published their Data Strategies, including their plans for Big Data - defined as: ‘data which is routinely collected and held by a department as part of its everyday activities’.
I wrote in my very first blog post that my job, Programme Manager for Archives Accreditation, involved getting the whole archives sector to co-create a new standard which will make accreditation a reality and support archive services across the UK to deliver good quality and sustainable services. The programme partners spent the spring and early summer gathering views and discussing everything from the scope of the scheme to detailed wording of requirements. The draft archive service accreditation standard will be published shortly.
2012 really seems to be the year of big royal anniversaries. Hot on the heels of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, July marks the centenary of Crown copyright. It was in 1912 that that the Copyright Act of 1911 came into force and the concept of Crown copyright first made an appearance on the statute books.
Catalogue reference: WORK 25/69/B1/PR/3
The phrase ‘Crown copyright’ probably conjures up shelves of Royal Decrees and ancient parchments gathering dust in government archives. Although that is partly the case – except that the archives at Kew are in pristine condition and are anything but dusty or fusty – Crown copyright covers a wealth of government documents, both published and unpublished, produced by ministers and civil servants. So the term encompasses a huge wealth of documents including the Highway Code, Ordnance Survey maps, weather charts produced by the Met Office, government reports, government statistics and most information published on government websites. It also covers minutes written by government ministers and civil servants. This article, indeed, is covered by Crown copyright.
I work in the bookshop at The National Archives. You didn’t know we had a bookshop? Shame on you. It really is an undiscovered gem, well worth a visit in its own right. But of course I would say that. I love it. Tucked in the corner just off reception and opposite the coffee bar, the bookshop is a little treasure trove.
A great place to visit, if you do some preparation first
It’s obvious from the comments, tweets and other feedback that we’ve had about our blog that its readers are a diverse group. Some of you have a lot of experience of doing research and others have none.
This post is mainly aimed at readers with little or no experience of visiting archives to use original, paper records, but who think that they would like to do so. If you’re thinking of visiting The National Archives or another archives at some stage, you might find it useful to bear in mind the following hints. Continue reading »