Jargon. Everybody loves a bit of jargon don’t they?
Whatever your job role you’ll no doubt have developed a set of letters, phrases or codes you use every day, perhaps without realising that someone outside of your circle wouldn’t have a clue what you’re talking about. It starts from an early age too – would anyone over the age of 25 know what ROFL, TBH or AYTMTB means?
Lost in a sea of jargon?
This blog is meant to be the start of an information management ‘jargon busting’ glossary. Hopefully it will highlight some of the confusion that can be caused by misunderstanding different terms, but it should also serve as a reminder that digital information needs to be labelled carefully if we’re going to find and understand its value in the future.
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For all those still suffering with Olympics withdrawal symptoms, never fear – the Paralympics are here!!
In their honour, my blog today is dedicated to the story behind the London 2012 Paralympic mascot – Mandeville.
Mandeville mascot image from UK Government Web Archive
This cute little drop of steel from the Olympic Stadium (that’s what he is, apparently – you can learn more about Mandeville’s creation), is named after the original home of the Paralympics – Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, on which we hold a number of files.
Sir Ludwig Guttmann was a pioneering doctor at the hospital in the 1940s who recognised the importance of physical activity in the rehabilitation of injured soldiers during and after the Second World War.
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In June, we hosted a discussion between Professor Lisa Jardine CBE and Professor the Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield sub-titled ‘openness and the national collective memory’. The distinguished historians explored the value of our archival heritage and considered why ‘sustaining the collective memory of the nation is a first-order requirement’.
The event was live-tweeted with the hashtag #sptrail and, while lots of digital topics were touched on, we want to re-visit and expand on some of the key themes that were raised. On Thursday 30 August, between 13:00 and 14:00 BST, we will host a live Twitter debate on the #digitaltrail @UkNatArchives featuring contributions from our Director of Technology David Thomas, Head of Digital Preservation Tim Gollins and Research and Policy Manager Valerie Johnson.
Listen to the podcast of the original debate and please do join us on Twitter on Thursday, using the hashtag #digitaltrail, for an undoubtedly fascinating review of our digital past and future.
Topics that we’re keen to discuss include:
Quantity – will there simply be too much information?
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Not long after I joined The National Archives someone asked me whether I thought there was any point archiving the ‘job vacancies’ or ‘careers’ sections of government websites. The person who asked felt these sections contained current information which would not be of interest once the posts advertised had been filled. As someone with an interest in both family and social history I disagreed. Although the ‘current vacancies’ section of a website archived 18 months ago probably would not be the most popular resource, I believe that this and other content related to work and employment captured in the web archive will be invaluable to the historians of the future.
The world of work is hugely important to family and social historians. A person’s job can tell us a great deal about their life. It can indicate their status in society, what quality of life they had and how educated they were, amongst other things. Most family historians researching in the UK will first find out about the occupations of their ancestors from a few words on a birth, marriage or death certificate or from a census return. Sometimes it is fairly obvious what the job entailed: my own family tree features a bus driver, a chauffeur, a cricket ball maker and a vast number of agricultural labourers, but some are more of a puzzle . The first image below is taken from my grandparents’ 1941 marriage certificate. My grandmother’s father’s occupation is given as ‘Carter’. A quick poll of colleagues in my office (none of whom are family history experts, I hasten to add) demonstrated that none of them knew what being a carter would entail. Continue reading »
TS – Have you ever wondered what happened to those departments that suddenly disappeared years ago? Or perhaps you are trying to find out which department does what Department ‘X’ used to do?
'Foreign Affairs' Visualisation
We have produced the first of a series of visual representations of how government departments change over time to help you access our records and sate your curiosity.
Why is this necessary? Well, The National Archives looks after government departments’ historical records and provides access to them. Departments are created and abolished, and their functions transfer frequently between them. Many of these changes take place at seemingly random points.
Users of our records often need to have an understanding of what changes take place, when, in order to find what they want. We aim to produce accurate representations of this specialist knowledge online.
This information exists in Discovery and colleagues here at The National Archives have unique insights into this specialist area. We hope that visualising this in both a striking and accurate way will open up access to this knowledge still further.
Last year, we gathered data about changes to departments since 1997 to support our Semantic Knowledge Base project. Displaying this graphically is a whole different challenge.
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Undercover TeamGB supporter
My colleague Cathy Williams is making another of her guest posts about records relating to London 2012.
Cathy writes: I’m hoping that Channel 4 won’t mind my borrowing one of their Paralympic slogans as they build on the enthusiasm of the UK public for the Olympics and stir up as much passion and support for ParalympicsGB athletes as for our TeamGB competitors already at home, polishing their medals or wondering where it all went wrong!
By most accounts it all went very well and, having been lucky enough to enjoy events at several different venues, I would certainly agree: there were no hold ups at security and even arriving at and leaving the Olympic Stadium with 80,000 other spectators didn’t mean horrendous delays. Ok, so after the rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony we were funnelled uncomfortably down one of Westfield’s shopping streets for over an hour … but when the Games actually began, that didn’t seem to be a problem.
So I have loads of personal memories in my head and on my camera, loads of memorabilia and mementos including tickets and flags and sundry other branded items which I need to sort through and organise and store, if I want to keep them. But multiply those memories by the millions of global spectators and you’ve an unimaginable mountain of stuff all somehow contributing to the history of London 2012.
And that’s before you consider the official histories of agencies involved in preparing and delivering both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Cultural Olympiad.
Basically, we’re looking at millions and millions of records of all types – but where are they all going? That’s exactly why we began The Record over four-and-a-half years ago … and why we continue to work to ensure that those records are not lost.
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Every morning when I turn on my computer, one of the first things I fire up is our environmental monitoring software so I can have a look at the temperature and relative humidity (RH) across our storage areas.
Screenshot of environmental monitoring data
Every institution caring for any kind of cultural heritage collections makes it a priority to monitor environmental conditions such as temperature and RH (an expression of the amount of moisture in the air) where their collection is stored or displayed. This is because incorrect temperature or RH (too high or too low) can cause or accelerate the breakdown of materials, not only the paper and parchment support of documents but also other materials important to the portrayal of information, such as inks and the dyes used in colour photographic prints.
Monitoring environmental conditions has got to be, on the surface, one of the least interesting or celebrated parts of a conservator’s job, since it requires looking through and assessing long lists of numbers (we have over 180 different sensors in our storage areas), however, this kind of in-depth monitoring has proven truly invaluable to us here at The National Archives. We not only keep track of existing environmental conditions, but also collect data that will enable retrospective analysis. This data allows us to develop a better understanding of our building here at Kew so we can provide the best preservation environment possible for our records while at the same time ensuring that our solutions are sustainable. I’ve highlighted a couple of the projects that we’ve been busy with over the last few years below, including links to papers we’ve written that go into greater detail about the specifics of what we’ve done. Continue reading »
August is always a quiet month in bookselling. The heady rush of pre-holiday sales when customers stock up on the latest hysterical/historical bodice-rippers and secret squirrel espionage titles to doze over by the pool is over now. Of course I don’t mean everyone, you are better than that, I know you bought Anthony Beevor’s worthy tome on The Second World War and are currently spilling sangria on pages devoted to the Soviet invasion of northern China.
The National Archives' Bookshop
But go on, admit it, you secretly hanker after a peek at Shades of Grey (in the interest of research naturally) don’t you? I speak as one who spent a month in the Himalayas with a friend whose idea of holiday reading was a history of the Hapsburgs (volume two naturally) so often left ostentatiously by the campfire whilst he read my trashy novels. And of course printed book summer sales are declining anyway as Kindles come into their own at holiday time. You need no longer run out of clean underwear five days up the mountain because you had to carry an extra book in case it rained.
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Image from Stephen P. Anderson's Poster from IA Summit 2009
As many of you may know, The National Archives has launched a beta product called Discovery. Discovery is not only a replacement for our current catalogue, but it will eventually provide a platform to enable searching across the many different databases and datasets held at the archives.
The aim of Discovery is to create an effective and enjoyable user interface through an understanding of who our customers are: their tasks, expectations, capabilities, limitations, preferences and context of use. The best interfaces are known to not only support goals and tasks but also recommend interactions that extends users’ activity in ways that makes their journey more effective and satisfying.
To achieve this, our design and development process has involved users from outset and where feasible, as active participants. We have used multiple methods over the last few years, such as interviews, diary studies, surveys, workshops, focus groups, web log analysis and user testing to acquire understanding and empathy towards the needs of our customers.
Graph showing research strategies: Christian Rohrer 2008
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…In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…’
Portrait of William Shakespeare. Catalogue reference: PRO 30/25/205
So starts Shakespeare’s classic tale, Romeo and Juliet. Most of us are familiar with this tale of star-crossed lovers and I want to use it as an analogy for another relationship between two key parts of every business that often struggle to work together.
With a little less drama, this is a relationship I see every day that has the potential to cause significant disruption to most organisations*. This can go unnoticed and unchecked for some time until it comes to reviewing / refreshing information management systems.
It is a long established and widely accepted fact that Information Management (IM) and Information Technology (IT) inevitably fall out and disagree on how information should be viewed and managed. A latter day Capulets and Montagues going to great lengths to obstruct one another in a battle for supremacy.
That may seem a touch dramatic, but in this blog post I hope to show you why it’s actually this serious and why, if left unchecked, it can expose organisations to any number of risks associated with not securing and managing information correctly.