I wrote in my very first blog post that my job, Programme Manager for Archives Accreditation, involved getting the whole archives sector to co-create a new standard which will make accreditation a reality and support archive services across the UK to deliver good quality and sustainable services. The programme partners spent the spring and early summer gathering views and discussing everything from the scope of the scheme to detailed wording of requirements. The draft archive service accreditation standard will be published shortly.
Posts under the 'Managing information' category
2012 really seems to be the year of big royal anniversaries. Hot on the heels of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, July marks the centenary of Crown copyright. It was in 1912 that that the Copyright Act of 1911 came into force and the concept of Crown copyright first made an appearance on the statute books.
The phrase ‘Crown copyright’ probably conjures up shelves of Royal Decrees and ancient parchments gathering dust in government archives. Although that is partly the case – except that the archives at Kew are in pristine condition and are anything but dusty or fusty – Crown copyright covers a wealth of government documents, both published and unpublished, produced by ministers and civil servants. So the term encompasses a huge wealth of documents including the Highway Code, Ordnance Survey maps, weather charts produced by the Met Office, government reports, government statistics and most information published on government websites. It also covers minutes written by government ministers and civil servants. This article, indeed, is covered by Crown copyright.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
- Lewis Carroll; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
I do a lot of work supporting government departments that need to migrate across information management solutions, usually because the old one doesn’t support the business / users anymore. The extract above from Lewis Carroll is a perfect explanation of why you need to understand your business requirements before piloting any software.
I wanted to bring you a flavour of what my colleagues in the Private Archives team do, because it really underlines the breadth of our work supporting the archives sector. Today’s blog is an interview with Philip Gale, Senior Adviser – Private Archives (Private and Institutional Owners). I thought you might enjoy hearing from Philip in his own words!
Philip has a particular focus at present on supporting the institutional archives of the voluntary sector, so I started by asking:
Q What is the value of institutional archives?
I’ve had this quote scrawled on a piece of Christmas wrapping paper that I’ve been carrying around since, well Christmas. Boxing Day to be precise.
It comes from Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, chapter 19, The Mold Gold Cape. He describes how the removal of the skeleton at the dig site meant that they lost so much more potential information about the way people lived at the time. The story of the cape was only half told.
“For although the precious finds will usually survive, the context which explains them will be lost, and it’s that context of material – often financially worthless – that turns treasure into history.”
You might say that for our records it’s what turns documents from Peter and Jane into Shakespeare…
We’ve already spoken of the importance of context in managing information, but this is IMPORTANT. So let’s explore further. A few days after I was leafing through someone else’s Christmas presents, The National Archives released a set of Margaret Thatcher’s files. One of the elements that caused so much attention was her hand written notes in the margins of the papers. They bring so much more context to the documents, an insight into her thoughts and personality.
Can music really contain subliminal or hidden messages? A question I’ve pondered since listening to my iPod on the train this morning…
At the heart of any archive service are its collections: if we didn’t hold historical records, we wouldn’t be archive services. A huge proportion of the work of any archive service is in making collections available – whether that means by ensuring they are in good enough condition to be handled; digitising them; supporting researchers to find and read unfamiliar sources and getting them online or undertaking exhibitions and talks to reveal the potential of our fascinating holdings.
I consider myself to be a sane and rational human being. Friends and colleagues may disagree. However, like most of us, I am a follower of the path of least resistance. I do not seek to make life more difficult for me than it needs to be.
For those of you asking what that has to do with managing records, the answer is ‘everything’. Continue reading »
The deadline for this year’s round of the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives is fast approaching. This is a programme administered by The National Archives in partnership with a group of charitable trusts to offer strategic funding to open up archive collections for research. It’s the first year I haven’t been the programme administrator, so I’m feeling a little nostalgic about being involved in something so successful and fulfilling. (You might like to take a look at the Five Year Review of the programme to see why I’ve enjoyed being part of it so much.)
I’ve also been an assessor for a wide range of archive grant programmes in the past decade, and I thought as my swansong I might share some key tips with you. These don’t appear in any guidance for applicants but they are essential to a successful application, whatever the programme and well beyond the archives sector.
It’s often the little things
You are applying for a grant of thousands, if not millions, of pounds. You’re probably very busy, and have many tasks on your plate. But taking a few minutes to proof-read your application could be the best time you spend on it. Remember you will be in a competitive application process: don’t miss out by giving a sloppy first impression.
Spelling all the names and addresses correctly; making sure your costs add up; sending only what is requested and relevant to your application (but sending everything you’re asked for); making sure you’re not sending a draft with tracked changes: these are really basic points. But you would be amazed how often they get overlooked.
In 1999 a daring young man with brilliant blue eyes stood atop the Uncompaghre Plateau in Western Colorado. Jaw held tight to stop his quivering bottom lip, he looked up to the azure sky and fought back the tears.
‘Sorry kid. The Brontosaurus doesn’t exist.’
In five simple words (and one Latin one) the last remnant of his childhood lay dashed upon the hard dirt floor of the Dry Mesa Quarry.
That young palaeontologist was me and while my site director did at least offer gentle words of condolence for my loss. I was left wanting.
‘How could there not be a Brontosaurus? Why were people not angrier about this? And if Brontosaurus didn’t exist… whose giant shin bone was I currently wrapping in plaster?’