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.
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.
Continue reading »
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.
Continue reading »
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.
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 »
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
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.
Continue reading »
…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.
That looks very dramatic, doesn’t it? But I assure you that we have very amicable relations with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and have never had to think about, let alone resort to, violence!
However the relationship is complicated because although we occupy some of the same space – we both deal with information in various ways – we are usually doing different things in that space. Take regulation: ICO regulates our handling of personal data and our performance under FOI, but we regulate their performance under the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that we might find ourselves simultaneously dealing with a complaint against each other – but fortunately that has not yet happened.
Continue reading »
Hardly a day goes by without some email, text message or document, found or lost, hitting the front pages and rocking the foundations of some of our largest institutions, government and the media.
Knowing what to keep is critical for an organisation’s compliance, business continuity and reputation, but do you sometimes wonder what is lurking on your backups?
What follows is a rough guide to one of these potentially unmapped territories in your information landscape – the backups created and maintained for business continuity and disaster and crisis management.
Continue reading »