Isobel Siddons, Head of Engagement
A few months ago, my blog post focused on the work of the Private Archives Team. It seems like a good time to introduce another way that The National Archives is working in its archive sector leadership role. So I talked to Isobel Siddons, Head of Engagement, about how our work is developing in this area.
Q: What’s new and different about how The National Archives is working with the archives sector through engagement?
Isobel: The National Archives has a longstanding relationship with the sector around regulation of the keeping of public records and support for development against best practice standards. We want to maintain that, but within a context of engagement for sector development. We are taking a broader focus than preservation and access of collections, taking a step back to see archive services in context – if you like, turning the telescope round! In particular, we want to work with parent bodies of archives, what their priorities and challenges are and how archives can help; to identify local opportunities and broker partnerships; and to highlight new ways of working.
The National Archives also has a longstanding commitment to supporting services in crisis, which we need to maintain. But we also want to work with services to support innovation and positive developments. That will help us to highlight good practice, identify the ingredients for success and suggest models to follow.
So there’s a new range of relationships added to The National Archives work, and we aim to use our position as lead sector body to talk with senior managers, funding bodies, politicians and others who can open doors for archives.
I’m going to start this post off by saying I really don’t like bugs! Little creepy crawlies give me the shivers and at home I have to have my husband take responsibility for evicting any spiders that might have strayed into the house. However, at work I have to resist the urge to freak out at the sight of insects as monitoring them is regularly part of the job. From my point of view I’m thankful it’s not something I’m directly involved in and my thanks go out to my colleague Hannah Clare for the text below.
Collection care team identifying insects
The Collection Care Department manages an insect pest monitoring scheme that uses over 120 insect blunder traps. These have no attractant pheromone lure and simply collect insects as they walk across the trap’s sticky surface; they are the most commonly used insect traps in museums, libraries and archives as they provide a reflection of the number of insects to be found in a particular area.
The traps are laid out in a grid-like fashion in all document storage areas at The National Archives and once every quarter a team collect all the traps and exchange them for fresh ones. Then the process of examination of the traps, identification of the insects, counting and recording all the data begins. To help us identify what type of insects we have on the traps, we use a set of images of the most common pests found in heritage collections and compare them to what we see under the microscope. We have to research any we don’t recognise to make sure we identify all our finds correctly.
Tomorrow, Wednesday 12 September, is Green Day at The National Archives! We will be celebrating our environment between 10:00 and 14:00 and learning how we can all better look after it .
Meeting the beekeeper at Green Day 2011
Continue reading »
Checksums, dark archives, OAIS, trusted storage and ingest packages. No, these are not the vital components to some epic science fiction novel – although they are all terms that were completely alien to me before I started my Opening Up Archives Traineeship at Gloucestershire Archives. My Name is Tom Charnock and since April I have been working with all of these terms (and more!) on an almost daily basis as a large part of my traineeship is focused on Digital Preservation. Before I started at Gloucestershire, my knowledge of Digital Preservation was fairly minimal – I’d never even heard the phrase before. I did have a good idea what it the term meant when I was introduced to it, seeing as I have a fairly good grasp of computer technology, software and am a bit of a tech geek at heart…but as far as being actively involved with Digital Preservation? No.
Gloucestershire Archives' building
That’s changed quite a bit in the five months that I’ve been at Gloucestershire. The first thing I had to learn to appreciate was what exactly the term ‘Digital Preservation’ actually means. At the most basic level, it clearly involves the preserving of digital objects, but there is so much more to it than that and, even though the learning curve has been a pretty steep one, I feel I’ve grasped both the concept and the actual practical implementation of the concept quite well.
Continue reading »
Detail from an embossed 'tactile' map printed at the Glasgow Asylum for the Blind, 1839, showing London (reference: MPI 1/63)
Like my colleague Jenni Orme, I’ve taken a lot of interest in the Paralympics and I was fortunate to get tickets for a few of the events, including my new favourite sport of goalball. Continue reading »
On Thursday 30 August, we hosted a Twitter chat @UkNatArchives to talk about issues around digital archives. You can read more about the background to the #digtaltrail in our previous post Beyond paper: The digital trail, as well as listen to or download the June discussion on the paper trail and the national collective memory that prompted our Twitter event.
For almost two hours, experts from The National Archives, including Head of Digital Preservation Tim Gollins and Research and Policy Manager Valerie Johnson, engaged with colleagues, peers and members of the public using the hashtag #digitaltrail. The discussion ranged from DNA data storage, through serendipity and marginalia, to the role of the archivist in the digital age.
You can search for all related tweets using the hashtag, or check out our Storify summary.
Storify of Beyond paper: The digital trail
Continue reading »
Ask anyone in our department at The National Archives and they will say I’m never short of words… Okay, ask anyone out of half a dozen or more departments at The National Archives and they’ll pretty much agree too! Well, that was up to today I suppose. Perhaps it’s writer’s block, perhaps it’s just the natural wrapping up of my duties given that (note it down Wikipedia!) tomorrow, 7 September, is my last day at the organisation. It has been three years, three months and seven days since I started, a fresh-faced C++ developer from the Midlands. My humanities background was Digital Culture at Kings College London and, between you and me, I think I might have confused digitisation with digital preservation at my interview (they let me through the net though!)
In three years, I’ve seen quite a lot happen in the world of digital preservation. I thought my last blog post for The National Archives might be an opportunity to put a shout-out to some of the existing community projects and initiatives which have already done enormous amounts for the cause and look set to continue this trend for a long time.
Digital Preservation Coalition - Save the Bits
Digital Preservation Coalition
While I am sure I was introduced to the Digital Preservation Coalition long before this, in February 2010 Planets held one of its ‘The Planets Way’ training events in London. The first day of the event was in a conference format and, just after lunch, William Kilbride from the DPC took the opportunity to say a few words about the work they do. The statement he made to the room that resonated with me to this day, and a sentiment that can make us all smile in digital preservation, was (to paraphrase):
“Once you solve the problem of digital preservation, I can retire.”
Continue reading »
As a sector, archives are well aware of the impact of the changing way we record and share information. The digital challenge is something that concerns us all. However, it may seem almost too daunting to start, particularly for those archivists working in smaller, less well-resourced archive services. Luckily, it has been a good summer for advice and guidance to help us all to tackle this challenge.
A screengrab of Manchester Archives+ flickr photostream: digital engagement is becoming a vital part of archive work across the UK
The Heritage Lottery Fund has published Thinking About Good Digital Practice, a guide to support their new policy which for the first time opens the fund to primarily digital projects. The guidance is helpful well beyond those intending to bid for Lottery funds, as it encourages effective planning and advises on how to get the best out of a project involving digital content. It outlines different options for digital projects and reminds us all of some of the key points to planning successful projects, particularly: what do you want to achieve and who is your target audience? Answers to those questions are critical if your work is to have the impact you hope and to justify the investment you are planning. Some of this advice is important for any project, digital or otherwise, but the guidance also gives a host of digital-specific information such as example costs for aspects of a digital project, good practice for file names and metadata, and some really helpful guidance about rights and permissions, issues which can seem very intimidating to newcomers to the subject. The guidance also helps to identify the staff and skills needed, the options for digital outputs, and how to keep digital outputs accessible, safe and findable in future.
Continue reading »
Opening Up Archives, now in its second year, is a collaborative project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The National Archives, and a number of host organisations across the country. You’ll be hearing from most of the 13 trainees in the coming months as we share our thoughts about what we’ve learned working and training within the sector.
Part of my role here as a trainee at Nottinghamshire Archives is to investigate how digital media can be used to bring the public closer to some of the archival collections we care for, and Nottinghamshire’s history more broadly. To that end, I’ve been tweeting as a frustrated 18th century spinster, developing an online presence for a youth heritage conference, and coding away at things which I hope to share very soon. I’ve also been learning a bit about the importance of digital preservation, but there are more knowledgeable people around here who can tell you about that.
Mundaneum, early web concept - CC Matthew Burpee - http://www.flickr.com/photos/mburpee/2589663547/
Working at the intersection of old records and new technologies, I’ve been thinking a lot in recent months about how digital culture is changing the world of archives, and I was surprised to learn that these changes aren’t entirely unanticipated. In 1910 Paul Otlet, a man described as ‘one of technology’s lost pioneers’, envisioned a ‘city of knowledge’ that the Belgian government soon offered him funding to build in a wing of the Palais du Cinquantenaire, which he eventually named the Mundaneum (there’s a museum dedicated to it today in Mons). Otlet and his friend, the Nobel Prize winner Henri La Fontaine, used the Universal Decimal Classification that they had already invented to sort and store some 12 million index cards and documents at the Mundaneum, although this vast quantity of material called for an increasingly large number of workers to curate it.
Continue reading »
I think that was the quote we were looking for? Ok, maybe not but If I mention the word DROID you might figure the right one out!
Tenuous links over, in Digital Preservation today we’ve released a new version of the DROID (Digital Record and Object Identification) tool – version 6.1. We’ve spoken about the tool before when I blogged about the PRONOM and DROID user consultation we held at The National Archives last year. The day resulted in a consultation wiki where contribution is invited by all members of the public with an interest in a potential DROID 7. The wiki page lists requirements that users of the tool have for DROID 7 and all future versions.
DROID 6.1 User Interface