Some responses are not too hard to interpret: Do you keep an accessions register?
I posted back in November about our annual survey, Accessions to Repositories, which maps new material taken in by archive services across the UK. I also mentioned that we were asking the services who participate in Accessions to Repositories to tell us how they find the experience, and what we can do to help them. We now have the results, and they make interesting reading.
I’m glad to say that over 100 archive services took the time to respond – that’s over a third of the total who participate in the Accessions to Repositories exercise – and that there was a good mix of types of archive: local and specialist, national and higher education archives were all represented. We’d like to thank all who responded.
“Claiming our history, celebrating our past, creating our future!” is the motto of LGBT history month which begins today.
LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) history has been in focus at The National Archives for a while now and we have many things going on to contribute to the aim above, and encourage future research in the area.
The rainbow of LGBT can be found in many archives and libraries. Source: www.flickr.com/photos/bluemarla/229631339/in/set-72157608188767044/
Today sees the re-launch of our Gay and Lesbian history research guide which has been updated and streamlined to make it more user-friendly for those starting out in their research. It suggests a number of areas where users may wish to begin, but also, importantly, it suggests historical terminology to use in our online catalogue.
New Year Openings at The National Archives are a time for looking back at the world of 30 years ago, marvelling at how much has changed, or, as a recent blog post on Renewing the Values of Society demonstrated, how much has stayed the same.
What government was doing about the web in 1982 hasn’t received the publicity of the Falklands files. Mainly because, you might think, in 1982 the World Wide Web was little more than a gleam in the eye of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, called ENQUIRE. But while war was raging in the Falklands, a group of civil servants from the government’s Central Computing and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) were trying to second guess the future (BN 120/8 and BN 120/9).
Pre-web, there was plenty of computing going on in government departments; most of it hidden away on the one large machine each department had, with a scattering of terminals that connected staff in distant offices to the machine. The CCTA were trying to establish how much need, if any, there would be to transfer data from one government department’s machine to another. Another 1982 anniversary was the official adoption of the TCP/IP protocol, building block of the internet, by the US Department of Defense. In 1982, data was being exchanged across the world, but the internet was still very much part of its US Cold War communications origins. In the UK civil servants were speaking not of nets, let alone internets, but packet switching. The climate for building networks was not very encouraging. There was a waiting list for new telephone lines – which it was hoped the privatisation of British Telecom would address – meanwhile the first Data Protection Act (1984) was stirring in Parliament; there was an awareness of the public’s reluctance to have their personal information shared across departments by these worrying computers that sent you gas bills for £1,000,000,000.99p. And cost was a major factor: to save taxpayers money data from local benefits offices was sent by the cheaper overnight tariff to the DHSS central computer in Newcastle.
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.
Jargon. Everybody loves a bit of jargon don’t they?
Whatever your job role you’ll no doubt have developed a set of letters, phrases or codes you use every day, perhaps without realising that someone outside of your circle wouldn’t have a clue what you’re talking about. It starts from an early age too – would anyone over the age of 25 know what ROFL, TBH or AYTMTB means? 1
Lost in a sea of jargon?
This blog is meant to be the start of an information management ‘jargon busting’ glossary. Hopefully it will highlight some of the confusion that can be caused by misunderstanding different terms, but it should also serve as a reminder that digital information needs to be labelled carefully if we’re going to find and understand its value in the future.
1. ROFL = Roll on the Floor Laughing; TBH = To Be Honest; AYTMTB = And You’re Telling Me This Because. Give yourself five points for each correct answer. Please note that points do not mean prizes of any kind. ^
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.”
The Ministry of Defence first began to investigate UFO reports from credible sources at the height of the Cold War when, in 1950, it set up a ‘flying saucer working party.’ But files at The National Archives suggest MoD ‘s real concern at that time was invasion not from outer space, but from behind the Iron Curtain.
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.
My name is David Clipsham and I have been employed as the File Format Signature Developer for a month, having previously worked as Customer Service Manager for the cross-government social collaboration tool, Civil Pages. My role is to improve the coverage of The National Archives’ PRONOM file format registry. The internal and external signature information contained in the PRONOM registry is utilised by our file format identification tool DROID, which is used to identify file formats so we can make informed decisions about the long term preservation of digital records.
My day is typically spent researching obscure and not-so-obscure file formats, picking through the internal code of each format and identifying the key characteristics that make the file format what it is, as described in Ross Spencer’s recent blog post. I then recreate the key byte sequences, test them against sample files and upload them to PRONOM, ready for our bi-monthly signature release.
For the last 18 months we have been working on Finding Archives which is part of the Discovery project. Finding Archives focuses on the bringing together information describing records held in other archives with the information about The National Archives records so that users can access this in one place, simply and easily-a ‘one stop shop’ for access to records relating to UK history wherever they are held.