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.
"Motor Manufacturing" by Clive Gardiner for the Empire Marketing Board (ref CO 956/258)
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 »
Opening Up Archives, now in its second year, is a collaborative project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The National Archives, and a number of host organisations across the country. You’ll be hearing from most of the 13 trainees in the coming months as we share our thoughts about what we’ve learned working and training within the sector.
Part of my role here as a trainee at Nottinghamshire Archives is to investigate how digital media can be used to bring the public closer to some of the archival collections we care for, and Nottinghamshire’s history more broadly. To that end, I’ve been tweeting as a frustrated 18th century spinster, developing an online presence for a youth heritage conference, and coding away at things which I hope to share very soon. I’ve also been learning a bit about the importance of digital preservation, but there are more knowledgeable people around here who can tell you about that.
Mundaneum, early web concept - CC Matthew Burpee - http://www.flickr.com/photos/mburpee/2589663547/
Working at the intersection of old records and new technologies, I’ve been thinking a lot in recent months about how digital culture is changing the world of archives, and I was surprised to learn that these changes aren’t entirely unanticipated. In 1910 Paul Otlet, a man described as ‘one of technology’s lost pioneers’, envisioned a ‘city of knowledge’ that the Belgian government soon offered him funding to build in a wing of the Palais du Cinquantenaire, which he eventually named the Mundaneum (there’s a museum dedicated to it today in Mons). Otlet and his friend, the Nobel Prize winner Henri La Fontaine, used the Universal Decimal Classification that they had already invented to sort and store some 12 million index cards and documents at the Mundaneum, although this vast quantity of material called for an increasingly large number of workers to curate it.
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I know we’ve only just met but I want you to do me a favour. I want you to lean over and pick up a sheet of paper. Done? Excellent! Now write something on it. Great! Now put it in a box, label it and put the box on the shelf for twenty to thirty years. As long as it hasn’t rained too much you should be able to pick up the box, take the paper out and still be able to read it. A little simplistic but you’ve just taken your first steps to managing and preserving the paper record. Congratulations.