During October 2012, the 60th anniversary of the train disaster at Harrow and Wealdstone in October 1952 has been commemorated. This was a truly horrific accident; a total of 112 people lost their lives, and 88 required hospital treatment.
At 08.19 on 8 October 1952 three trains collided with one another at Harrow and Wealdstone Train Station, some 11 miles to the north of Euston Station in London. One of the trains was a local passenger service taking early morning commuters from Tring to Euston, and the other was a passenger service from Perth to Euston. A third train, the 08.00 express travelling from Euston to Liverpool and Manchester ploughed into the wreckage created by the initial collision of the trains travelling from Perth and Tring.
Photograph of the crash site in MEPO 11/95
A combination of poor weather (patchy fog), misread signals and inadequate equipment led to a disaster that was only exceeded in scale by the disaster at Gretna Green in 1915, when 227 persons, mostly soldiers heading to the Front, were killed. The carnage of Harrow and Wealdstone can be comprehended if one considers the effects of a crowded passenger train (the Liverpool express) steaming into the shattered remnants of trains already wrecked and with their passengers and their effects strewn across lines. One disaster fed into another disaster. The casualty figures, high enough, would have been higher still were it not for the swift attention of passing detachments of the United States Air Force, who rushed to the scene of the disaster and applied life-saving field techniques learnt in wartime.
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The new Hull History Centre: an example of a transformational new archive building
It’s been a good few weeks for news of new developments for archive services across the UK. With the invaluable help of the Heritage Lottery Fund there has been a series of announcements of substantial support for some key projects which will ensure safe storage and high quality access for important collections. Among the recent good news stories are Manchester Archives+ , the project to transform the historic Central Library; West Yorkshire Archives Service’s Wakefield development and the funding for the Battersea Arts Centre. Experience from across the sector shows how new archive buildings can also reinvigorate services: acting as beacons to highlight the potential of the collections they hold, freeing up staff time from managing an inconvenient former home and offering scope for new activities where once the premises were too cramped to contemplate such work.
Designing a new or converted archive building is exciting, but also challenging. What goes into an archive building? The simple answer is: space for researchers, space for staff and space for collections. But exactly what that comprises depends on the space available, the collections to be housed and the activities it will host. The building needs to be well specified, to cover all the functions it will deliver, but not over specified, full of specialist spaces that are underused.
Peter Rabbit has been in the headlines in the past few weeks with the publication of Emma Thompson’s book The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit and an exhibition in Glasgow marking his 110th anniversary. His exploits in the great outdoors are well-known, but the notorious carrot thief and scourge of Mr McGregor’s garden, who finds himself in Scotland in his new adventure, also has a more sedate existence among the shelves at The National Archives.
Toy registered by Frederick Warne and Company on 28 December 1903.
These people are 'archivally intelligent'. Are you?
My inspiration for today’s blog post comes from three things that I’ve been involved with over the past few weeks.
The first was helping to teach on a training course run by the Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management about using archives. The second was taking part in our new ‘live chat’ service. Both of these set me thinking about the kinds of advice that I give people daily as part of my job. The third was that, alongside other members of the Cardigan Continuum reading group, I read an article by two American archivists, Elizabeth Yakel and Deborah Torres . I found that this provided a useful structure for my thoughts.
Yakel and Torres explore what it means to be an expert user of archives and identify three distinct kinds of user-expertise, which they call subject knowledge, artifactual literacy and archival intelligence. In this post, I’ve interpreted these three in my own way. Continue reading »
The recent passing of the eminent historian Professor Eric Hobsbawm precipitated a flurry of tributes acclaiming his qualities as a scholar and writer, as a literary and academic giant, and as an engaging conversationalist. And these tributes came from across the ideological divide, for it seems as though it is not possible to talk about Hobsbawm’s writing without talking about his Marxism. Indeed, when his own texts form a dialectic – from The Age of Revolution (1962) to The Age of Extremes (1994) – the political dimension of his view of history was never obviously repressed. A selection of files found amongst our records relating to Professor Hobsbawm show that the UK Government of the late 1960s found it difficult to look past his politics too.
'Eric Hobsbawm, the Marxist philosopher and historian - FCO 61/581
April 1970 marked the centenary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin, prime theorist behind the October Revolution in Russia in 1917 and first leader of the USSR in the early 1920s. Accordingly, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) decided to hold a symposium to celebrate his ‘great contribution to the development of education, science, and culture,’ to be held in Finland in April.
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The latest edition of The National Archives’ research newsletter will be out on Monday. We’ve decided to give you a sneak preview by publishing one of the articles for today’s blog!
Victoria Lain, Research and Grants Advisor
At the beginning of September 2012 the Research Team at The National Archives grew exponentially from two people to three! Victoria Lain has joined us as the new Research and Grants Advisor. I spoke to Victoria about her thoughts on her new role.
What were you doing before you joined the Research Team?
Prior to this position I worked for four years at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History as head of the Teaching American History Grant Department. I worked with school districts across the United States to apply for federally funded Teaching American History Grants from the Department of Education. We would then use the funds from these grants to organise workshops with historians and teachers from the school districts to enable them to improve their content knowledge and, hopefully, pass that along to their students.
Before that, I worked for a financial/publishing company to organise events. These were mostly for investors and financial managers and I got a lot of experience in how to arrange a successful conference. The fact that they took place in Grand Cayman, Bermuda and California didn’t hurt either!
What attracted you to your new role?
The idea of working in the UK grants world was very attractive, as I am mostly familiar with the US landscape for funding, so it seemed like a great opportunity to broaden my own knowledge. The National Archives also has such gravitas, and that was appealing in itself. The broad reach of the role meant that the job would require working with lots of different people, scholars, and organisations which would be a change for me, and something I look forward to.
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Much of the information stored in the workplace holds some information about who created it automatically stored in its metadata. In Office applications this is usually applied through Active Directory (AD) – the permissions and access tool. What AD often doesn’t know is a person’s job description or title and so over time the names of people associated with your content becomes meaningless.
Organograms (maps that display the structure of an organisation) show us who carries out the organisation’s functions, their formal relationships with others. This can provide a conceptual aid in the classification and discovery of content and data over time.
Using content analytics tools that offer text-mining and machine learning technology (artificial intelligence) we can identify, structure and enrich information, facts and events and enable top-level classification. These tools can support records managers, archivists, historians and social researchers as they explore and discover meaning in our information overload.
Organograms stored as data files (see data.gov.uk/organogram for a good example of this) and maintained over time as a living record of the organisation’s functions and who was responsible for carrying them out, can link these forgotten people to your business’ actual functions.
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At last, a hero who was a data specialist: Christopher Tietjens in the recent BBC adaptation of Parade’s End, four partially autobiographical novels by Ford Madox Ford, beginning just before the First World War.
BBC omnibus editon of the four Parade's End novels
Tietjens is a civil servant in the newly created Department of Imperial Statistics: ‘a first class government office’ no less. In truth, there’s not much data crunching in Parade’s End, although more so in the books than in the television adaptation: one doesn’t feel that mugging up on standard deviation was a vital part of Benedict Cumberbatch’s preparation. But is there anything in The National Archives that could shed some light on what Tietjens and his department were doing?
I supposed the Department of Imperial Statistics to be a fictional version of what is now the Office for National Statistics. In 1912, the ONS predecessor was neither newly created, nor was it anything other than home based, indeed at this time it was under the parochial charge of the Local Government Board. We even have real some data from that era: the historic mortality files from 1901 – 1995 in RG 69, part of our National Digital Archive of Datasets (NDAD) collection. But Tietjens wasn’t tabulating native mortality; his masters were after the population of British Columbia and British North America. At the time of the high water mark of the British Empire, and all the administration and trade that went with it – if there wasn’t a Department of Imperial Statistics, you’d surely need to invent one… Continue reading »
WORK 29/3284 Time passes: for the clock face of 'Big Ben' as for the rest of us!
It’s a year today since The National Archives formally took over the sector leadership responsibilities of the former Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. It seems like a good moment to reflect on what has changed and how far we have come.
What’s happened since then? Quite a bit!
- We’ve refreshed the action plan to accompany the government policy Archives for the 21st Century, taking account of changes to the sector and renewing the deliverables to take us up to 2015.
- We’ve launched a new section of The National Archives website, to support our work with the archives sector.
- We are developing our work with partners, including building key relationships with Arts Council England, the Archives and Records Association and the Local Government Association. In these challenging times, working in partnership is more important than ever if we’re to deliver our remit.
- We’ve continued to create and deliver key initiatives. We are now well into piloting the new archive service accreditation programme after an extensive co-creation exercise with the UK archives sector.
- We’re developing our engagement approach for the public archives sector while continuing our longstanding role in support of private archives.
- We’re delivering the Record of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, bringing core organisational records to The National Archives and supporting collection of records in local areas to document this memorable experience. Continue reading »
‘Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding’
This inscription from the Book of Proverbs can be found in the Great Hall of Manchester Central Library. I’m an Opening up Archives trainee, based in Manchester Archives, which is a part of Manchester Libraries. Today, many archival institutions have a social media presence; they tweet, blog, have a Facebook page and a Flickr Photostream, but to what extent do they help us get wisdom? I’d like to concentrate on three different, emerging, and perhaps misunderstood, online-based channels which offer the potential to produce an engaging, interesting and accessible online narrative.
Augmented Reality (AR), as I understand it, involves the combination of a real world view with a virtual scene generated by a computer, augmented with additional information which is viewed through a smart phone or tablet. I’ve written about AR previously on the Manchester Archives blog, in which I discussed what AR could add to this pictorial poster (below) produced for the Manchester Corporation Transport Department by E. Wigglesworth in the early 1930s. The potential and possibilities for contextualising an item or collection appears endless.
Manchester Corporation Transport Department poster by E. Wigglesworth (GB127 M29 File 71J)
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