All posts by Matthew

Introducing the new UK Web Archive website

Until recently, if you wanted to search the vast UK Legal Deposit Web Archive (containing the whole UK Web space), then you would need to travel to the reading room of a UK Legal Deposit Library to see if what you needed was there. For the first time, the new UK Web Archive website offers:

  • The ability to search the Legal Deposit web archive from anywhere.
  • The ability to search the Legal Deposit web archive alongside the ‘Open’ UK Web Archive (15,000 or so publicly available websites collected since 2005).
  • The opportunity to browse over 100 curated collections on a wide range of topics.

Who is the UK Web Archive?
UKWA is a partnership of all the UK Legal Deposit Libraries – The British Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Libraries, and Trinity College, Dublin. The Legal Deposit Web Archive is available in the reading rooms of all the Libraries.

How much is available now?
At the time of writing, everything that a human (curators and collaborators) has selected since 2005 is searchable. This constitutes many thousands of websites and millions of individual web pages. The huge yearly Legal Deposit collections over the coming year.

This includes over 100 curated collections of websites on a wide range of topics and themes. Recent collections curated by the Bodleian Libraries include:

Do the websites look and work as they did originally?
Yes and no. Every effort is made so that websites look how they did originally and internal links should work. However, for a variety of technical  issues many websites will look different or some elements may be missing. As a minimum, all of the text in the collection is searchable and most images should be there. Whilst we collect a considerable amount of video, much of this will not play back.

Is every UK website available?
We aim to collect every website made or owned by a UK resident, however, in reality it is extremely difficult to be comprehensive! Our annual Legal Deposit collections include every .uk (and .london, .scot, .wales and .cymru) plus any website on a server located in the UK. Of course, many websites are .com, .info etc. and on servers in other countries.

If you have or know of a UK website that should be in the archive we encourage you to nominate them via the website.

Another version of this post was first published on the UK Web Archive blog.

New catalogue: Shrimpton’s Oxford Caricatures

The online catalogue of Shrimpton’s Oxford Caricatures is now available.

Thomas Shrimpton & Son published and sold photographic reproductions of commissioned or submitted original caricatures from their premises at 23-4 Broad St., Oxford, from 1868-1901, their shop window display seemingly their only advertising strategy, there being no evidence of them ever having produced a catalogue or list.

Image of Shrimpton & Sons shop window

Shrimpton & Sons shop window, with Benjamin Jowett, Vice-Chancellor and Master of Balliol College and three beadles as sandwich men advertising publications for sale, 1884. 8 recognisable caricatures are on display and are held within collection. G. A. Oxon. 4º 417, fol. 1050.

The caricatures were primarily intended for undergraduates and drawn by undergraduates, portraying the trials and tribulations of undergraduate life, as well as the delights, as seen from their perspective. Images are immediate and inventive, and often quite irreverent. Certain individuals received special and frequent attention, their identification, despite (thinly) disguised attempts to conceal their names through clever or simplistic wordplay, were only too obvious to University members. Many caricatures lack a proper caption or title, relying solely upon a pithy phrase, quotation or misquotation to assist the viewer. Some allusions are obscure or meaningless at first sight, but with thought and research their message or humorous allusion has been revealed.

The subject matter includes many aspects of University life, notably University and religious personalities. Other subjects frequently covered are ritualism, politics, aestheticism , ‘town and gown’ confrontations and women, especially allusions to their becoming full members of the University. The imagery is invariably humorous, witty and inventive, covering local (University), as well as, national events; many display learned quotations from classical authors and contemporary poets. Throughout the publishing history distinct series were produced, notably ‘Great Guns of Oxford’ (Nos. 1 – [70]) and’ Our Public Schools’ (Nos.1-27), generally representing an individual in their familiar setting, though always done humorously.  In all there are 1214 images. The 7 albums which comprise the collection would appear to represent the complete set of caricatures published. This set, together with the one in the John Johnson Collection, are the only known ‘complete sets’. I have made every attempt to identify individuals (500+), including caricaturists, locations and events in order to produce a fully comprehensive catalogue. Where appropriate, contextual notes have been added and quotations cited. The locations of the (few known) surviving, original caricatures are provided within the catalogue description.

The heyday of the publishing history of the ‘Caricatures’ in terms of output and inventiveness was 1868-84, after which new publications became increasingly erratic. There was probably a combination of reasons for this, but its long demise may well have started in earnest when Thomas Shrimpton died in 1885 aged 79. Perhaps its commercial potential was already waning. Even so they had become an Oxford institution, known by all at the University at the time and remembered fondly by many for years to come. The importance of these caricatures is not only the number of individuals represented (some of whom may have no existing likeness elsewhere), but also the context in which they appear, alluding to events which would, perhaps, be otherwise completely forgotten.

Until now their full extent could not be fully appreciated. Now, for the first time, this wonderful, visual resource for the study of various aspects of Oxford University life in the second half of the nineteenth century, has been fully catalogued.

Colin Harris

First catalogue of the Bodleian’s own historic archive now online

Today sees the online publication of the first catalogue for the Bodleian’s own organisational archive – ‘Library Records’. This archive is a unique and valuable resource which provides evidence of the activities of the Bodleian throughout its 400 year history. To this day, the Bodleian remains one of the foremost cultural institutions in the world and the archive is of particular interest to researchers considering the history of libraries and librarianship, scholarship and the transfer of knowledge, the study of the book, and manuscript studies.

The Library Records collection includes papers concerning Library finances, the construction and repair of buildings, the acquisition and cataloguing of collections; correspondence with donors, depositors and enquirers; and records of readers’ admission and book orders.

Treasures from the Library Records collection include the earliest known ‘reader’s card’ from 1613/14 and an admission register signed by Iris Murdoch and Philip Larkin, 1940.

Image of earliest known Bodleian reader's card

Library Records c. 1693
Located amongst the collection of Bodleian papers made by Bodley’s Librarian, Falconer Madan this small slip of paper gave Henry Barkley of All Souls College, Oxford permission to use the Bodleian Library. It was signed by the Registrar of the University, Thomas French, on 17 February 1613/14, and a note was added in the Library to record that Barkley was admitted as a reader the same day.

Bodleian Admissions Register signed by Iris Murdoch and Philip Larkin, 1940.

Library Records b. 521
An example of a Bodleian Admissions Register signed on the 17 October 1940 by Iris Murdoch of Somerville College and Philip Arthur Larkin of St. John’s. Despite the privations of the Second World War scholarship continued and the Bodleian remained open. Other records in the archive detail the Library’s contribution to the war effort and document Air Raid Precautions undertaken, accounts of collections taken on deposit from other institutions and lists of books removed for safekeeping to Avoncliff.

Theo Boorman and Oliver House

 

 

Farewell to the VCR!

I was interested to learn from a recent BBC News article that July 2016 would see the end for the production of videocassette recorders (VCR). Whilst this hardly comes a surprise, given that VHS tapes have long since been superseded by digital technology, it does present something of a problem for archivists.

Image of VCR

Sony Professional VCR by By Hosseinshamloo (2009). Wikicommons.

VHS tapes have had a relatviely long life (they were first introduced in the 1970s) and ensuring that important content held on them is preserved for future generations will become increasingly difficult. Without the technology to play them, we shall have no means of digitising their content. Despite the end of production, hopefully the VCR will be around for a few more years yet!

EU Referendum Web Archiving Mini-internship – Part 1

On 20 and 21 June eight Oxford University students took part in a web archiving micro-internship at the Weston Library’s Centre for Digital Scholarship. Working with the UK Legal Deposit Web Archive, they contributed to the curation of a special collection of websites on the UK European Referendum. This is the first of two guest blog posts on the micro-internship.

Web archiving micro-interns on the roof of the Weston Library, June 2016.

Web archiving micro-interns on the roof of the Weston Library, June 2016.

Using library archives for their research is not a novelty for any student or scholar. However, web archives represent a completely new dimension of swiftly evolving research methods – they intend to document what is posted online – a  relatively recent form of data collection due to scientific advancements.

For researchers used to traditional archives, the need to store and analyse this data might be not really understandable, however, web archiving, despite being relatively new, is very significant. Firstly, it allows us to store information for generations of future historians and sociologists – contrary to the common perception, many data held on World Wide Web disappears or changes very frequently and rapidly. Secondly, it might be an asset for those pursuing topical research projects in the present – recent technologies (such as prototype SHINE database for historical research) allow us to trace data trends and come to important and fascinating conclusions. Therefore, even if some might underrate web archives, it surely does not diminish their utility to academia.

In the eve of the Brexit referendum, which sparked many debates and discussions in British web space, timely creation of a web collection has proven to be very important – after all, the decision is likely to have long-term consequences for our society, economy, and legal system. Traditionally, individual narratives and civic engagement are set aside when documenting major political decisions. However, a web collection can significantly improve this situation by collecting diverse standpoints expressed in the web sphere. This, in my opinion, perfectly mirrors the ethos of direct democracy where every vote and view counts.

However, important as it is, web archiving comes with a range of practical and ethical obstacles: with huge masses of information being stored online it is very hard to choose what is worthy of being preserved for future generations. Legal restrictions, such as the recent legal deposit legislation, also significantly limit the scope of archivists’ work. During my micro-internship I, along with other interns, tried to overcome these obstacles as much as possible, minimising bias and efficiently using our time resources and server memory. Even in the era of technology, it is the human resources and individual judgment that shape the scope and direction of the collection.

Working on a web collection, especially since the campaigning has increased just before the referendum, was very challenging. However, as interns, we tackled the masses of information by focusing on individual areas of knowledge. Our work on the project was also aided by the guidance provided by our supervisors and discussions on ethical and scientific implications of our research. This was a very rewarding insight into a new area of knowledge, and I am convinced that skills and knowledge acquired and applied by me during the internship will aid me in my future research career.

Anna Lukina

What I learned in London…at the DPTP Digital Preservation Workshop!

A few months ago I applied for a scholarship through the DPC Leadership Programme to attend the DPTP 14-16 March course for those working in digital preservation: The Practice of Digital Preservation.

It was a three-day intermediate course for practitioners who wished to broaden their working knowledge and it covered a wide range of tools and information relating to digital preservation and how to apply them practically to their day-to-day work.

The course was hosted in one of the meeting rooms in the Senate House Library of the University of London, a massive Art Deco building in Bloomsbury (I know because I managed to get a bit lost between breaks!).

Senate House, University of London

The course was three full days of workshops that mixed lectures with group exercises and the occasional break. Amazingly this is the last year they’re doing it as a three day course and they’re going to compress it all into a single day next time (though everything they covered was useful, I don’t know what you’d cut to shorten it—lunch maybe?).

Each day had a different theme.

The first was on approaches to digital preservation. This was an overview of various policy frameworks and standards. The most well-known and accepted being OAIS.

No Google, not OASIS!

Oman-Oasis

Oasis, Oman. Taken by Hendrik Dacquin aka loufi and licensed under CC BY 2.0.

After a brief wrestle with Google’s ‘suggestions’ let’s look at this OAIS Model and admire its weirdly green toned but elegant workflow. If you click through to Wikimedia Commons it even has annotations for the acronyms.

OAIS-

After introducing us to various frameworks, the day mostly focused on the ingest and storage aspect of digital preservation. It covered the 3 main approaches (bit-level preservation, emulation and migration) in-depth and discussed the pros and cons of each.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a method and depending on what your main constraint is: money, time or expertise, different approaches will be more suitable for different organisations and collections. Bit-level preservation is the most basic thing you can do. You are mostly hoping that if you ingest the material exactly as it comes, some future archivist (perhaps with pots of money!) will come along and emulate or migrate it in a way that is far beyond what your poor cash strapped institution can handle.

Emulation is when you create or acquire an environment (not the original one that your digital object was created or housed in) to run your digital object in that attempts to recreate its original look and feel.

Migration which probably works best with contemporary or semi-contemporary objects is used to transfer the object into a format that is more future-proof than its current one. This is an option that needs to be considered in the context of the technical constraints and options available. But perhaps you’re not sure what technical constraints you need to consider? Fear not!

These technical constraints were covered in the second day! This day was on ingestion and it covered file formats, useful tools and several metadata schemas. I’ve probably exhausted you with my very thorough explanation of the first day’s content (also I’d like to leave a bit of mystery for you) so I will just say that there are a lot of file formats and what makes them appealing to the end user can often be the same thing that makes a digital preservationist (ME) tear her hair out.

Thus those interested in preserving digital content have had to  develop (or beg and borrow!) a variety of tools to read, copy, preserve, capture metadata and what have you. They have also spent a lot of time thinking about (and disagreeing over) what to do with these materials and information. From these discussions have emerged various schemata to make these digital objects more…tractable and orderly (haha). They have various fun acronyms (METS, PREMIS, need I go on?) and each has its own proponents but I think everyone is in agreement that metadata is a good thing and XML is even better because it makes that metadata readable by your average human as well as your average computer! A very important thing when you’re wondering what the hell you ingested two months ago that was helpfully name bobsfile1.rtf or something equally descriptive.

The final day was on different strategies for tackling the preservation of more complex born-digital objects such as emails and databases (protip: it’s hard!) and providing access to said objects. This led to a roundup of different and interesting ways institutions are using digital content to engage readers.

There’s a lot of exciting work in this field, such as Stanford University’s ePADD Discovery:

ePADD

Which allows you to explore the email archives of a collection in a user-friendly (albeit slow) interface. It also has links to the more traditional finding aids and catalogue records that you’d expect of an archive.

Or the Wellcome Library’s digital player developed by DigiratiMendel

Which lets you view digital and digitised content in a single integrated system. This includes, cover-to-cover books, as pictured above, archives, artwork, videos, audio files and more!

Everyone should check it out, it’s pretty cool and freely available for others to use. There were many others that I haven’t covered but these really stood out.

It was an intense but interesting three days and I enjoyed sharing my experiences with the other archivists and research data managers who came to attend this workshop. I think it was a good mix of theory and practical knowledge and will certainly help me in the future. Also I have to say Ed Pinsent and Steph Taylor did a great job!

Web Archiving Micro-internship – Part 2

On 14 and 15 March eight Oxford University students took part in a web archiving micro-internship at the Weston Library’s Centre for Digital Scholarship. Working with the UK Legal Deposit Web Archive, they contributed to the curation of a special collection of websites on the UK European Referendum. This is the second of two guest blog posts on the micro-internship.

The most central aspect of modern life is now the proliferation of digital technology. Since the 1990s, it has become a central mode of communication which is often taken for granted. At the start of this micro-internship, we were introduced to the concept of the digital ‘black hole’, a term used to describe the irrevocable loss of this information. Unlike physical correspondence and materials–the letters, writs, and manuscripts of earlier centuries–so much of what we write is fragile and evanescent. To stem the loss of this digital history, we were shown how the Bodleian Libraries and other legal deposit libraries use domain crawls to capture online content at pre-determined intervals using the W3ACT tool. This then preserves a screen grab of the website on the Internet Archive, namely the waybackmachine, before the website is updated.

Web archiving micro-interns working in the Centre for Digital Scholarship, Weston Libary, March 2016.

Web archiving micro-interns working in the Centre for Digital Scholarship, Weston Libary, March 2016.

The right to a copy of electronic and other non-print publications, such as e-journals and CD-ROMs by legal deposit libraries only came into existence on 6th April 2013. This meant that libraries were able to create an archive of all websites with domains based in the United Kingdom. The recent ‘right to be forgotten’ law adopted by the EU is a signal of the fact that the legal status of digital archives is nevertheless becoming increasingly complicated, particularly when compiling archives of events receiving international commentary, like the upcoming EU referendum. Each of us focused on a different aspect of the EU referendum, reflecting our individual interests, ranging from national newspapers and student newspapers to the blogs of Scottish MSPs, Welsh AMs, and MEPs, and the blogs of solicitors and legal firms’ websites offering advice to businesses and refugees in the event of a ‘Brexit’. One of the trickier views to archive was that of British expats living abroad. In this situation, unless the site can be proven to be based in the UK, we would have to write to the owner of the domain to request permission to archive the website. In a situation where permission was given but the person expressing those views subsequently wished to erase this history under the ‘right to be forgotten’ law adopted by the EU, should the UK have voted to leave the EU, this would leave the archived material in a tricky legal position. We learned during the internship that this would most likely result in the relevant archived material being deleted. However, this is exactly what the archive was set up to prevent and so the tension between the right to privacy and freedom of information on a public platform presents considerable problems to the aim of web archives to be fully comprehensive, aggravated further by the omission of websites with pay walls.

After finding this material and ensuring it was covered by the legal deposit law, it was necessary to classify the site accurately, identifying the main language, and providing titles and descriptions. For newspaper articles, this was relatively straightforward, but for Welsh and Irish-language publications produced by political parties, languages which I am studying at Jesus college, this was more complicated as the only languages available to select from were German or English–a testament to the nascent stage of the web archive’s development. In addition, classifying material was very much up to our own individual discretion and the descriptions to our own style. To complicate things further, the order in which searched-for material should be presented raises further issues, which we discussed at the end of the micro-internship. Namely whether results should be arranged by ‘most popular’, by date of publication, or any other criterion. The discussions and practical experience offered by this internship gave us an opportunity to help address the legal and administrative challenges facing web archivists.

Daniel Taylor

Web Archiving Micro-internship – Part 1

On 14 and 15 March eight Oxford University students took part in a web archiving micro-internship at the Weston Library’s Centre for Digital Scholarship. Working with the UK Legal Deposit Web Archive, they contributed to the curation of a special collection of websites on the UK European Referendum. This is the first of two guest blog posts on the micro-internship.

During a micro-internship at the Bodleian’s legal deposit web archives, focusing on the EU referendum collection, we have had an occasion to reflect on the meaning of such an archive, and particularly on its potential for creating meaning.

Web archiving micro-interns on the roof of the Weston Library, March 2016.

Web archiving micro-interns on the roof of the Weston Library, March 2016.

A web archive’s potential document base is clearly much wider than a paper collection’s. No material criteria, such as donations and physical availability, play a defining factor in the content archived. The main restriction placed on this particular archive is that of legal permission, which allows only UK domains to be easily archived. Even so, the scope remains incredibly wide.

Therefore, archiving the web implies a deliberate narrowing of choices on the archivist’s side. Much is left to their discretion.

A lot of what we know of history is defined by the material that is preserved. It is difficult to learn about the working class or women in the past from original sources, as material by and about such people is conspicuously absent from our collections. A contemporary web archivist has the chance to select material that can most broadly represent society. This will make it impossible for future historians to ignore the history of many groups, and will enable research into a variety of thoughts and experiences.

This was reflected and magnified in the approaches that the group of interns took, which evidences the importance of having a range of different people cooperate on the gathering of knowledge. One woman, for example, concentrated on the representation of the Brexit referendum in media specific to certain ethnic and religious groups, such as Judaism. Another made sure to include the views of Scottish, Gaelic and Irish media and organisations, in order to avoid an England-only approach. One of the interns chose to gather information about the way the referendum is seen in small communities, enriching the archive with small local publications. On the first day, I concentrated on the views and representation of immigrants, whose lives will be strongly affected by the referendum. On the second day, I preserved information about women’s roles and views.

Such a wide range of approaches contributes to the broadening and deepening of historical studies. It also positively contributes to contemporary social science. This can happen in two main ways. Firstly, it places virtual documents in a setting that makes their analysis easier. It thus enables social scientists to observe internet trends throughout the years, and compare them to each other. For this purpose, a wide range of archived material is essential, and again the archivist has a role in creating the foundational understanding of British society..

Secondly, and perhaps more interestingly (as the first function can be fulfilled by tools on the live web) they allow social scientists to track trends in academia. A web archive describes what subjects and focuses contemporary academia considers to be salient. It points out what we, as researchers, think is worth being saved from the internet black hole.

The defining potential of this is striking, and this internship allowed us to understand the social, political and historical role of archiving.

Zad El Bacha

New catalogue: Letters of Henry Herbert, Lord Porchester

Nineteen letters of Henry Herbert, Lord Porchester, are now available to researchers. Lord Porchester, born in 1800, was the eldest son of Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Carnarvon. He succeeded his father as 3rd Earl of Carnarvon in 1833. The letters, mainly written to his father, describe a journey Porchester took through France and Spain, 1821-1822, with Philip Pusey. The letters record his observations of the places he visited and his impressions of Spanish society. They also provide an interesting commentary on the political situation in Spain following the revolution of 1820.

A catalogue of the letters is available online.

New Catalogue: Evan Jones Archive

The catalogue of the Evan Jones archive is now online and the material available for readers to consult.

Born in 1927 in Portland, Jamaica, Jones was educated in both Jamaica and Pennsylvania before studying at Wadham College, Oxford. He graduated in 1952 with a BA (Hons) in English literature and initially went into teaching, but came to establish himself as a poet, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.

The archive consists of screenplays, typescripts, correspondence and publicity material relating to Jones’ poems, novels and screenplays, as well as audio-visual material for the films and television programmes he worked on. Perhaps most notably, the collection contains material concerning his seminal The Fight Against Slavery.

Written by Jones in 1973 and broadcast by the BBC in 1975, The Fight Against Slavery is a 6-part television series which documents the outlawing of slavery in the British Empire. The episodes are based in Africa and the West Indies and tell a story from 1750-1834, with the characters and narrative based on real people and actual events.

The archive includes annotated drafts and typescripts of the different episodes, and the later novel adaptations of the screenplays. There is also publicity material of the series produced by the BBC and printed advertisements for it, as well as contemporary newspaper reviews. The personal letters in the collection indicate that it was well-received and generated much discussion and official correspondence relays the processes behind its broadcast. VHS copies of the series are also in the archive, and will be digitised for preservation and to make them accessible long-term.

Evan Jones is a descendant of both slaves and slave owners, and The Fight Against Slavery seems like a personal effort to disclose the struggles of particular individuals to eradicate the slave trade, with Jones himself introducing each episode.

Not all of Jones’ oeuvre holds the weightiness of this dramatisation though, with films such as Modesty Blaise, a comedy starring Monica Vitti and Dirk Bogarde loosely based on a comic strip of the same name, and the television play Madhouse on Castle Street which features songs performed by Bob Dylan, also being examples of Jones’ screenwriting. As well as this, he is known for the screenplay of the film Escape to Victory. The main plot of this film revolves around a football match between the English and Germans in a German prison camp during World War II, and it stars Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone. Material on these and other works also feature in the archive, demonstrating the wide-ranging subjects and genres Jones worked on.

Outside of Jamaica, Evan Jones’ writing is perhaps not as well known as his screenplays; but since the 1950s when he wrote ‘Song of the Banana Man’ in an Oxford pub in response to a challenge to show what he thought Jamaican literature should be like, he has returned time and again to his homeland and themes of race, family and identity. Almost half a century later and the banana man’s song still resonates with Jamaicans and ex-pats alike and you can find ‘Song of the Banana Man’ featuring in the Favorite Poem Project http://www.favoritepoem.org/ of Robert Pinsky, the 39th Poet Laureate of the United States.

‘Song of the Banana Man’ was the first poem to use Jamaican patois in a way that was accessible to a broader audience and Ian Thomson[1] cites it as a major influence on the dub poets of the ’70s.

Jones was asked to write Protector of the Indians–a historical book about Bartolomé de las Casas–in 1958 but most of his other literary papers remained unpublished while his career in screenwriting took off. Aside from a series on West Indian history and folklore for children (1989-1991)[2] for Macmillan’s Caribbean Writers collection that is still taught in classrooms today, he has mainly focused his energy on film and television; though he had always had the time to write articles and editorials about Jamaica for various publications.

However, in the 1990s he set out to write a novel because there was a story inside him that wanted to be told. Stone Haven (1998): a fictional historical epic with a semi-autobiographical core, chronicles the lives and loves of the Newton family as they rise to political power. Jones’ close ties to and abiding love for Jamaica informs its pages and it has drawn critical praise for its realistic portrayals of life on the island.

This diverse collection of papers and audio-visual material spanning over six decades of Jones’ life will be a great resource for future researchers.

[1] Thomson, I. The Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica (2009)

[2] Jones, E. Tales of the Caribbean (1989-1991)