On Wednesday we released ‘Asia through a lens’, the latest batch of Colonial Office photographs in the CO 1069 collection.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the project, over the past couple of years we have been releasing parts of our CO 1069 photographic collection on Flickr. The photos are from the colonial period and feature images taken by government staff from all over the world. They range from around 1860, to when many colonies gained independence in the 1960s. You can read more about the project on my previous blog and our news story.
So far we have released images of Africa, the Americas and island territories (including the Caribbean) and the latest set released online on Wednesday are of Asia.
This set of photographs hasn’t disappointed – it is a beautifully diverse collection, with plenty of panoramic scenes, everyday life and events alongside the more unusual examples of typhoon damage, theatre performances and celebratory ‘bun mountains’! We also see a number of beautifully coloured prints that have inspired staff to order copies for themselves!
While the vast majority of content in the UK Government Web Archive is presented in English and Welsh, there is a substantial amount in other languages. This post offers a brief introduction to the variety of other language content in the collection. As yesterday was The European Day of Languages, this post seems quite timely.
Presenting content in multiple languages means that content creators can engage with both wider and more specific audiences. The necessity to produce such content online is as varied as in non-digital formats. The aims can range from improved community engagement through dissemination of information to celebrations of the diversity of cultures in the UK; from fire safety advice to recruiting intelligence officers.
British Council website from 2006, in Chinese
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to fly? I know I have. Imagine being on the wing from birth and remaining there for the next three years or so. Well in that case you need to imagine you are a swift.
Swift photos by David Moreton
Each year swifts leave the skies of Southern Africa flying 14,000 miles to arrive here in the UK for three months and have done so since the time of the Romans. Noticing them flying above the ponds here at The National Archives a few years ago, I contacted Edward Mayers at the Swift Conservation Trust. I wanted to see if we could do more to help them, as the swifts are on the Amber List for endangered species. Edward came along for a visit to survey the site and, last year, we put up eight nest boxes and a couple of speakers to play the call of the swift – this encourages them towards the boxes. There’s an article about this on the Swift Conservation Trust news page as well as further information on how we can all help. Continue reading »
As part of my Opening Up Archives traineeship at the West Yorkshire Archive Service, I am looking into the world that is Digital Preservation. Similar to a fellow trainee, my knowledge of digital preservation was pretty much nonexistent. When presented with the term, although I had my assumptions of what its true meaning was, I didn’t want to rely on that alone. With a background in IT and languages, getting to grips with digital preservation was a little easier than learning about archives as a whole. Digital Preservation, as mentioned in the previous Trainee Tuesday blog post: Tales from the Dark Archive, is the challenge to preserve digital material so that it can be accessed in the future.
In May, I attended the Digital Preservation Training Programme (DPTP) and it brought clarity to the concepts, models and acronyms associated with digital preservation. Practical activities enabled the other attendees and I to think about the subject, what issues there are surrounding it and to see if we could relate the topics to what we do in our own organisations. One benefit was that the OAIS functional model was broken down into sizeable chunks and discussed in great detail. The Open Archival Information system (OAIS) model is a reference model created to give understanding and knowledge of concepts and processes of digital preservation.
Now after five months, I am comfortable talking about checksums, ingest procedures and software involved as well as knowing how an archives works thanks to a lot of reading on my part and a lot of patience from my colleagues.
A packed out room of eager listeners
So this week at the Our Stories Community Archives Conference 2012, I was asked to deliver a workshop for community groups on digitising collections with regards to planning and long term care. This was a great opportunity because it was my first time delivering a workshop at a conference and I could put my knowledge to good use.
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September 1752 was a very short month. In fact, it was 11 days shorter than the average September, to bring the United Kingdom into line with most of the rest of Europe. In fact, there were three separate calendars in use in 18th century Europe; Catholic states had generally adopted the new (and astronomically more accurate) Gregorian calendar in place of the Julian calendar the 16th century, Protestant states took it up in the 18th century while the Orthodox Christian countries of Russia, Greece and the Balkan states did not come into line until the early 20th century.
This can lead to misunderstandings over dates in historical documents, especially before September 1752. In that year, 2 September was immediately followed by 14 September, which must have caused some difficulty for anyone for whom one of the ‘missing’ days had some significance, like a birthday or a legal contract. As well as the loss of 11 days to bring the days into line with those countries already using the Gregorian calendar, the other major change adopted was that the start of the year was now 1 January, and not 25 March, or Lady Day.
Independent chapel Wrentham, Suffolk: baptism register
If you look at early church registers of baptisms, marriages and burials you can easily see when the new year begins, as in this example from the baptism register of the Independent chapel at Wrentham, Suffolk. But if you see a reference just to a single entry dated between 1 January and 24 March, perhaps on a family tree, it might not be obvious whether the date is exactly as it appears in the register, or has been adjusted to conform with the Gregorian calendar. This is where the ‘double-dating’ comes in. To avoid any ambiguity, the correct way to express one of these dates is in the format ‘20 March 1698/99’. This register also provides an interesting example of ‘double-dating’ at the bottom of the page, in acknowledgement of the fact that there was an alternative system of dating in existence.
From 14 September onwards dating is a much simpler business, but there was still scope for confusion. Countries where Orthodox Christianity prevailed continued to use their own calendar for much longer, so dates of events taking place in those countries need to be treated with care. Registers of British consulates and churches in those countries habitually used both dates for events registered there, such as this entry from the register of the British consulate in St Petersburg recording the death of Henry Thornley, who died on 19 or 31 March 1872. Continue reading »
As young children around the country write and draw about their holiday experiences, with concentrated stares and sticking-out tongues, I too reach to the what-I-did-on-my-holidays September staple.
General Map of Abyssinia - Africa Through a Lens (CO 1069/7/2)
Or, rather, I found inspiration from my recent trip to Ethiopia to take a look in some Foreign Office files relating to the country. My time there – alongside regular rainfall and cool temperatures (just like earlier in the summer here, really) – was dominated by the period of mourning following the passing of the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
One piece of information particularly interested me: that Meles attended the British-funded and -inspired General Wingate Secondary School just outside of Addis Ababa (which, incidentally, my father also attended, two years his senior). The school had been in somewhat of a decline but was rescued due to an injection of finances from the British Council in the early 1960s. Consequently, a number of records – mostly relating to the financing of the school – are available here at The National Archives, as a result of discussions between the British Council, the embassy, and the school itself. A quick search in Discovery provided an intriguingly titled record: ‘Wingate School, Addis Ababa: student disturbances following Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence’ (FO 1043/53).
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Managing email is often subject to contradiction:
1. It is the solution to all problems, saves money, saves time and makes everyone so happy they want to high-five each other.
2. It is a burden that even Hercules would call in sick to avoid.
Obviously both those statements contain a little hyperbole, but in the age of email there aren’t many of us who haven’t come unstuck because someone else has the crucial email stuck in their [inaccessible] inbox. Even here at the Information Management Service we face the many headed Hydra that is the email inbox.
Yeah, I'll file those emails.. just after I've taken the dog for a walk!
The trick to successful email management is to find a middle ground (preferably closer to the first view than the second!) where your colleagues don’t mind filing things, and don’t see it as an extra thing on the ‘to do’ list. With email this can seem near impossible because it requires the action of moving the email to another location into whatever system or drive you use to share your business information. It all comes down to being able to demonstrate that actively managing email is worthwhile and not at all like the aforementioned Hydra.
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… when it’s really just beginning! My colleague Cathy Williams brings you her final update on The Record of London 2012.
Cathy writes: My first – very first – blogpost in May posed questions about the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games pre-London 2012 and the promised legacies post-2012, but this time I want you to think about what the questions might be in the future about London 2012. What will researchers want to know or uncover? What will they want to analyse or interrogate? What sort of data will they need and in what form?
Perhaps they’ll want to focus on the stiff and highly visible security measures implemented at all venues? Or consider the accusations of cheating levelled by the French at GB’s high-performing cyclists? (Did they really imagine our wheels could be ‘more round’ than theirs?!) or maybe question the anglocentric themes of the Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies? or measure the impact of the Paralympics on the way society views disability or physical impairment?
Before the Games began, they were being touted as the ‘Digital Games’, the ‘Green Games’, the ‘Legacy Games’ … but after the event, they might be better labelled as the ‘Yorkshire Games’ with a massive medal haul for the county at the Olympics? Or more seriously, as the ‘Women’s Games’?
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Like many others I have spent the summer in awe at the courage and dedication of the Olympians and Paralympians, sharing in the national pride of the incredible achievements of TeamGB and ParalympicsGB. I’ve been equally inspired by the outpouring of support and appreciation for the volunteers who helped make both Games such a great success.
Africa Through a Lens (Reference: CO 1069/135)
The National Archives has a very long and successful relationship with volunteers, stretching back over 20 years. Traditionally, volunteering has taken place at Kew, making an invaluable contribution to our work, helping to catalogue and conserve thousands of records. In more recent times our focus has broadened beyond paper and parchment to online records. In 2010-11 we delivered over 120 million records to over 20 million online users, and for every document delivered in our reading rooms at Kew, 200 were delivered online. This wider notion of participation, combining traditional volunteering activities with virtual collaboration, is at the very heart of our newly published approach to engaging with volunteers.
A long and successful relationship
In 2011, volunteers from the Friends of The National Archives completed a lengthy cataloguing project of record series WO 97, WO 119 and WO 121, resulting in the addition of more than 20,000 soldiers’ records to the catalogue. We’ve worked with volunteers from the National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS) since 1997. NADFAS volunteers have contributed around 2,500 volunteer hours per year to conservation activities such as ordering, numbering, dry surface cleaning, encapsulating and re-housing. 200 project volunteers, from across the country, came together to describe poor law records in our record series MH 12, adding 4.6 million words to our catalogue.
I have just been to hear Anne Sebba talk about her book That Woman on the life of Wallis Simpson. This is one of a series of authors’ talks which we plan to make a more regular feature at The National Archives. Books should, and do, stand by themselves and sometimes seeing the author in the flesh can be a disappointment. Am I alone in thinking that Nigel Slater, possibly the greatest food writer today, worthy heir to Elizabeth David, should never, never be let near a television camera? However, this was a treat.
That Woman by Anne Sebba
Slightly spookily Anne’s dress almost exactly mirrored the one Wallis is wearing on the cover of the book but once over this I was captured by her words. Wallis Simpson’s story is extraordinary and Anne elaborated on her view of Wallis’ life: a tragic love story if not the one you’d expect. She read from letters Wallis wrote to her second husband Ernest at the time of the divorce which showed a woman trapped by her own schemes, horribly alone and in love with a man she can no longer have.
In putting the abdication crisis in its historical context Anne showed how horrified the royal family had been by Edward’s actions. The country had just come out of the First World War a time when the country had responded to a call to duty and paid with their lives, now ‘the family’ who have possibly the most engrained sense of duty ever, were looking to one of their own asking what they saw as a small thing and he wouldn’t do it. As you know there is nothing like the opprobrium heaped on someone by their own family if they think they are letting the side down. The mistresses, the weekend parties, the gin, the madness they could deal with all that –almost de rigeur for a king you might say- but one must step up to the plate and do your duty, not throw your toys out the pram if you can’t have ‘the woman you love’. In Anne’s final slide of Wallis’s coffin being carried out followed by members of the Royal Family, the look on the face of the Queen Mother said it all.
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