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.
The community in action
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.
Continue reading »
The weather continues to tease and tantalise – brief hints at sunshine, warmth through glass, a few spring bulbs. Sadly this is too often quickly followed by a Siberian blast and a need to huddle by the heater, nose in book, in wilful denial of the heating bill which will blight all chance of a summer holiday. However, at least now it is lighter and there is a chance of getting out. Cycling home along the river path is still a distant dream. Are you mad ? In that darkening gloom? It may be Richmond, but if you are not assaulted by the mad, bad and dangerous to know then there is fear of running into a jogger or over a duck. However, one can at least go out without the need to wear 12 layers of passion-killer thermals and that fetching scarf knitted by Gran, one finger constantly twitching over the mobile in case of travel updates from TFL which will blight forever the chance of reaching Clapham.
A bookclub meets in warmer climes - a mobile library van, Accra (catalogue ref: CO 1069/43/73)
Continue reading »
Archiving the arts
We’re embarking on an exciting new collection strategy this month, called Archiving the Arts. Our work on collection strategies generally is about identifying those areas of our society which need support to ensure that their archives survive and are accessible into the future. Those archives won’t usually come to The National Archives – very often they will be collected and held by a big range of archive services across the UK, keeping collections with relevant communities.
There can be many reasons why a collection strategy becomes essential – in the case of Archiving the Arts, it is a direct response to the needs of the arts community, who are increasingly interested in exploring a ‘second life’ for their archives and collections. They want to reuse and respond to evidence of their own artistic heritage. The arts is a complex area to archive, because arts organisations’ and artists’ heritage is more than their documents and records: to capture the essence of an art form for posterity, a variety of audio and visual media are often needed, and objects can be a crucial part of the heritage too. Though many arts archives already exist and can be very rich and exciting in content, there is a real danger that other aspects of the arts will not be accessible in the future. Continue reading »
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.
Continue reading »