Following on from my previous blog posts, I’d like to demonstrate how Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM) can overcome the difficulties of photographing lace. In particular, cream-coloured lace mounted on cream-coloured paper, is hard to photograph. The three lace designs below show how this image capture and processing technique enables the viewer to adjust the lighting to meet his or her own needs, via virtual-relighting. Lace makers and textile historians have welcomed the opportunity to adjust the lighting to see the technical features which interest them. When combined with the zoom facility, this provides a user-friendly way of studying and discussing the materials and technologies of lace. These representations of registered lace designs also demonstrate the richness of the BT Design Register as a resource for understanding the history and technology of the lace industry, particularly of Nottingham.
Posts under the 'Technology and innovation' category
A little over a year ago, we developed a new feature in Discovery (our catalogue) that allows our users to add their own tags to our records. Tags are a way for you to add more descriptive metadata to our records to make them more findable.
When we launched the feature we weren’t really sure how our users would engage with it, or what types of tags they would attach to our records. There are now over 5,000 tags attached to more than 7,500 documents, and that number is growing daily. People tag for all sorts of reasons – to bookmark records they are interested in, to help improve the findability of poorly described records, for research purposes and for fun.
We are always looking for new and better ways to make the content of the UK Government Web Archive accessible. One of the most innovative and exciting developments in this area is Memento, which was developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory in the USA.
Memento aims to add a time dimension to the web, by allowing users access to a specific web resource (for example, a web page, a document, or data) now, and at some point in the past, by using web archives. It harnesses an important principle of the web: the Unique Resource Identifier (URI). URIs identify specific resources on the web and, as the web archive preserves the original URI and ‘knows’ when that resource was captured, it can ‘slice’ into the web archive to show it to the user. Continue reading »
My role here at The National Archives is to carry out and manage customer research and make sure that the voice of the customer is heard. When I say ‘customer research’, I don’t mean the historical research that our users explore but rather researching the needs, wants and expectations of our customers. This can involve a whole host of activities including focus groups, interviews, sitting next to someone at a computer observing how they behave and even asking people to fill out diaries of their experiences for us to look at. All of which is helps us improve the services we offer, with our users at the heart of it.
One audience which has always been a challenge to get in depth and real time feedback from is the ‘online user’. A dauntingly large group which incorporates over 13 million people a year carrying out a huge breadth of tasks for a huge number of reasons. Some of them are regular visitors while some visit just once never to return again. With such a broad and diverse audience, how can we make sure individuals get their opinions heard and how can we get them more involved in what we do? Myself and colleague James Lawson set up a project team to find a solution.
Following on from my first and second blog posts, these registered designs for ‘straw plaits’ demonstrate how the image capture and processing technique of Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM) enables detailed examination of finely textured surfaces. This fosters appreciation of the exquisite quality of the ‘plaiting’ and also demonstrates the richness of the BT Design Register as a resource for understanding the history and technology of the straw hat industry.
On 6 March I attended the award-winning Digital Preservation Training Programme (DPTP) delivered in partnership with the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) and the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC). The trainers Ed Pinsent and Patricia Sleeman, digital archivists at ULCC, were both extremely knowledgeable and helpful.
As a newcomer to the digital preservation field at The National Archives, with a background of record advice/research and more recently IT, I was looking to gain a solid grounding and fundamental understanding of what digital preservation is and how it applies here. I also wanted to know what other institutions are doing to confront this challenge. There were people from various companies, organisations (big and small), backgrounds and professions from librarians to IT developers. This demonstrates how increasingly important digital preservation is becoming to many people.
This is a brief blog post about what I found most useful during the course and will hopefully make clearer to you what digital preservation is and how it all works.
Following the positive feedback from my first post, here are two further designs represented using Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM), including one application of Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI). These designs were chosen in order to explore the effects of this image capture and processing technique on shiny surfaces: a ‘gilded’ and embossed envelope showing the Crystal Palace, and knitted silk gloves with ‘floss’ silk tassels. Continue reading »
The vast collection of The National Archives includes nearly 3 million ‘ornamental’ and ‘useful’ designs, registered by the Board of Trade Representations and Registers of Designs, between 1839 and 1991. The BT Design Register, as it is commonly known, aimed to foster design innovation; put simply, registration gave copyright protection to the designs.
Many classes of materials and products were registered, including metal, wood, glass, earthenware, paper hangings (wall paper), carpets, and six classes of textiles including shawls and lace. The representations of the designs take many forms: drawings, tracings, photographs, small samples of the products, as well as whole artefacts, e.g. embossed envelopes, straw bonnets, collars, gloves and printed cotton handkerchiefs.
In the past few months, I have been spreading awareness of digital preservation via a workshop and the notion that digital material, like a word document or excel spreadsheet, is also an archive via displays to the general public.
However, focus has been shifted to the archivists themselves as they are the individuals that will be looking after the digital archives now and in the future.
In the last few years, digital preservation has become a core part of the qualification required to become an archivist, but archivists who have been qualified for longer may not be as aware of the issues surrounding digital preservation or be comfortable with the terminology used when discussing the subject unless they have actively decided to complete a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) module or taken part in training provided by The National Archives, the Archives and Records Association (ARA) or professional bodies.
It has been one year since we launched The National Archives’ blog. From the start, our writers and staff have taken a fresh look at a wide range of subjects. Our 223 posts have ranged from information management in the movies to personal stories of the First World War and Titanic, from maps to UFOs. With over 60 published authors from around the organisation, we seem to relish the chance to tell the stories of our work. And people seem to want to read them too – with around 10,000 visitors a month.
So apart from that, why do we do it? For three reasons. First, The National Archives is doing some of the most interesting work around on a whole lot of issues. Our aim is to bring some of this to the people who matter – the users, readers and researchers. We certainly haven’t always been perfect but it is all the more important that we get feedback from users to make our services as good as they can be. Second, because of the financial situation, the best way to get this feedback is not through expensive surveys or focus groups, but through the web and social media. And, third, our role is to bring the most interesting public records and information to light, objectively, and let others discuss them. Continue reading »