While the vast majority of content in the UK Government Web Archive is presented in English and Welsh, there is a substantial amount in other languages. This post offers a brief introduction to the variety of other language content in the collection. As yesterday was The European Day of Languages, this post seems quite timely.
Presenting content in multiple languages means that content creators can engage with both wider and more specific audiences. The necessity to produce such content online is as varied as in non-digital formats. The aims can range from improved community engagement through dissemination of information to celebrations of the diversity of cultures in the UK; from fire safety advice to recruiting intelligence officers.
British Council website from 2006, in Chinese
As part of my Opening Up Archives traineeship at the West Yorkshire Archive Service, I am looking into the world that is Digital Preservation. Similar to a fellow trainee, my knowledge of digital preservation was pretty much nonexistent. When presented with the term, although I had my assumptions of what its true meaning was, I didn’t want to rely on that alone. With a background in IT and languages, getting to grips with digital preservation was a little easier than learning about archives as a whole. Digital Preservation, as mentioned in the previous Trainee Tuesday blog post: Tales from the Dark Archive, is the challenge to preserve digital material so that it can be accessed in the future.
In May, I attended the Digital Preservation Training Programme (DPTP) and it brought clarity to the concepts, models and acronyms associated with digital preservation. Practical activities enabled the other attendees and I to think about the subject, what issues there are surrounding it and to see if we could relate the topics to what we do in our own organisations. One benefit was that the OAIS functional model was broken down into sizeable chunks and discussed in great detail. The Open Archival Information system (OAIS) model is a reference model created to give understanding and knowledge of concepts and processes of digital preservation.
Now after five months, I am comfortable talking about checksums, ingest procedures and software involved as well as knowing how an archives works thanks to a lot of reading on my part and a lot of patience from my colleagues.
A packed out room of eager listeners
So this week at the Our Stories Community Archives Conference 2012, I was asked to deliver a workshop for community groups on digitising collections with regards to planning and long term care. This was a great opportunity because it was my first time delivering a workshop at a conference and I could put my knowledge to good use.
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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.
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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
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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.”
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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.
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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
In June, we hosted a discussion between Professor Lisa Jardine CBE and Professor the Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield sub-titled ‘openness and the national collective memory’. The distinguished historians explored the value of our archival heritage and considered why ‘sustaining the collective memory of the nation is a first-order requirement’.
The event was live-tweeted with the hashtag #sptrail and, while lots of digital topics were touched on, we want to re-visit and expand on some of the key themes that were raised. On Thursday 30 August, between 13:00 and 14:00 BST, we will host a live Twitter debate on the #digitaltrail @UkNatArchives featuring contributions from our Director of Technology David Thomas, Head of Digital Preservation Tim Gollins and Research and Policy Manager Valerie Johnson.
Listen to the podcast of the original debate and please do join us on Twitter on Thursday, using the hashtag #digitaltrail, for an undoubtedly fascinating review of our digital past and future.
Topics that we’re keen to discuss include:
Quantity – will there simply be too much information?
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Not long after I joined The National Archives someone asked me whether I thought there was any point archiving the ‘job vacancies’ or ‘careers’ sections of government websites. The person who asked felt these sections contained current information which would not be of interest once the posts advertised had been filled. As someone with an interest in both family and social history I disagreed. Although the ‘current vacancies’ section of a website archived 18 months ago probably would not be the most popular resource, I believe that this and other content related to work and employment captured in the web archive will be invaluable to the historians of the future.
The world of work is hugely important to family and social historians. A person’s job can tell us a great deal about their life. It can indicate their status in society, what quality of life they had and how educated they were, amongst other things. Most family historians researching in the UK will first find out about the occupations of their ancestors from a few words on a birth, marriage or death certificate or from a census return. Sometimes it is fairly obvious what the job entailed: my own family tree features a bus driver, a chauffeur, a cricket ball maker and a vast number of agricultural labourers, but some are more of a puzzle . The first image below is taken from my grandparents’ 1941 marriage certificate. My grandmother’s father’s occupation is given as ‘Carter’. A quick poll of colleagues in my office (none of whom are family history experts, I hasten to add) demonstrated that none of them knew what being a carter would entail. Continue reading »
TS – Have you ever wondered what happened to those departments that suddenly disappeared years ago? Or perhaps you are trying to find out which department does what Department ‘X’ used to do?
'Foreign Affairs' Visualisation
We have produced the first of a series of visual representations of how government departments change over time to help you access our records and sate your curiosity.
Why is this necessary? Well, The National Archives looks after government departments’ historical records and provides access to them. Departments are created and abolished, and their functions transfer frequently between them. Many of these changes take place at seemingly random points.
Users of our records often need to have an understanding of what changes take place, when, in order to find what they want. We aim to produce accurate representations of this specialist knowledge online.
This information exists in Discovery and colleagues here at The National Archives have unique insights into this specialist area. We hope that visualising this in both a striking and accurate way will open up access to this knowledge still further.
Last year, we gathered data about changes to departments since 1997 to support our Semantic Knowledge Base project. Displaying this graphically is a whole different challenge.
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