All posts by millerf

New: Catalogues of the Archives of Enid Starkie and Joanna Richardson

Enid Starkie (1898-1970) was a literary critic whose love of France lead her to study and write on authors such as Baudelaire, Gide, Flaubert and Rimbaud. She was a fixture of the Oxford academic scene from her first arrival at Somerville College in 1916 until her death in 1970.

When Starkie started at Oxford in 1916 women were not allowed to matriculate and therefore could not obtain a degree. It was only in October 1920 that women were permitted to matriculate and, using their previously gained examinations, were awarded degrees for the first time. Starkie, having completed her examinations in Modern Languages with distinction in June 1920, matriculated and graduated as BA on 30 October 1920.

After a brief period away from Oxford to obtain her doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris and to teach at Exeter University, she returned to Somerville as the Sarah Smithson Lecturer in French literature. She made her home at Somerville becoming a fellow, and later reader in French literature. During her career she successfully campaigned for the Professor of Poetry at Oxford to be a poet, rather than a critic, and helped raise the profiles of those she wrote about, including securing honorary doctorates for Gide and Jean Cocteau.

After her death, Starkie’s papers were deposited in the Bodleian for use by her friend, and former student, Joanna Richardson to write her biography.

Dr Joanna Richardson (1925–2008) studied Modern Languages at St Anne’s Society, Oxford, and after graduating with a third-class degree began graduate study under Enid Starkie. Her thesis was rejected and she was not awarded a DPhil at the time, it was only in 2004 she was awarded DLitt from the University of Oxford for her published body of work. She published her first biography in 1952 on Fanny Brawne, muse of poet John Keats. This started a fascination with the subject and during her life she wrote biographies on British and French 19th-century figures including Keats, Tennyson, Baudelaire and Verlaine. She was awarded the prix Goncourt for biography for Judith Gautier, 1989, the first time someone outside of France, and a woman, won the prize.

These collections consist of Starkie’s papers, along with Richardson’s working notes, as well as some personal papers of Richardson’s.

Invasion of Ukraine: web archiving volunteers needed

The Bodleian Libraries Web Archive (BLWA) needs your help to document what is happening in Ukraine and the surrounding region. Much of the information about Ukraine being added to the web right now will be ephemeral, and especially information from individuals about their experiences, and those of the people around them. Action is needed to ensure we preserve some of these contemporary insights for future reflection. We hope to archive a range of different content, including social media, and to start forming a resource which can join with other collections being developed elsewhere to:

  • capture the experiences of people affected by the invasion, both within and outside of Ukraine
  • reflect the different ways the crisis is being described and discussed, including misinformation and propaganda
  • record the response to the crisis

To play our part, we need help from individuals with relevant cultural knowledge and language skills who can select websites for archiving. We are particularly interested in Ukrainian and Russian websites, and those from other countries in the region, though any suggestions are welcome.

Please nominate websites via:

What’s it like to be a trainee? Francesca Miller, Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2020-2022

I discovered the Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist role while looking for jobs in Oxford that gave opportunities for training and learning. Though I didn’t know much about digital archiving, as soon as I read the advert I knew it was the job for me and I was delighted when I got it. My background is quite varied, having degrees in Graphic Design and Mathematics and being part way through my MSc in Maths, all while working in the financial sector. I decided I wanted a change of direction and the traineeship was the perfect opportunity to use my skills and knowledge in an interesting and developing field.

Having no previous experience of archives hasn’t been a barrier as the work introduces you through on the job training and the PGDip at Aberystwyth University. While studying and working at the same time can be demanding, the course compliments the job and I already feel like I know so much more. While there has be some aspects of the role I haven’t be able to do, due to remote working, there is always plenty of work and I have learnt so much in 7 months. Working alongside the other two trainees has been really enjoyable and our twice-weekly web archiving session via teams has worked really well. They have both been very supportive and are always willing to answer my questions and navigate me through the complexity that is web archiving. The role has enabled me to expand on my coding skills by learning XML as part of a retro-conversion project and learn new skills around cataloguing and indexing.

I started my traineeship in September 2020 and like a lot of what has happened in the last year it hasn’t gone quite as expected! Due to the pandemic, I haven’t been into the Weston Library since my interview which took place prior to the first lockdown. Despite working from my home and not meeting my colleagues in person, I have been made to feel welcome and part of the digital archiving team. I am very much looking forward to discovering more aspects of digital archiving during the rest of my traineeship and I hope very soon to be able to experience the Bodleian Library in person!

Francesca Miller, May 2021

UK Web Archive mini-conference 2020

On Wednesday 19th November I attended the UK Web Archive (UKWA) mini-conference 2020, my first conference as a Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist. It was hosted by Jason Webber, Engagement Manager at the UKWA and, as normal in these COVID times, it was hosted on Zoom (my first ever Zoom experience!)

The conference started with an introduction and demonstration of the UKWA by Jason Webber. Starting in 2005 the UKWA’s mission is to collect the entire UK webspace, at least once per year, and preserve the websites for future generations. As part of my traineeship I have used the UKWA but it was interesting to hear about the other functions and collections it provides. Along with being able to browse different versions of UK websites it also includes over 100 curated collections on themes ranging from Food to Brexit to Online Enthusiast Communities in the UK. It also features the SHINE tool, which was developed as part of the ‘Big UK Data Arts and Humanities’ project and contains over 3.5 billion items which have been full-text indexed so that every word is searchable. It allows users to perform searches and trend analysis on subjects over a huge range of websites, all you need to use this tool is a bit a Python knowledge. My Python knowledge is a bit basic but Caio Mello, during his researcher talk, provided a useful link for online python tutorials aimed at historians to aid in their research.

In his talk, Caio Mello (School of Advanced Study, University of London) discussed how he used the SHINE tool as part of his work for the CLEOPATRA Project. He was specifically looking at the Olympic legacy of the 2012 Olympics, how it was defined and how the view of the legacy changed over time. He explained the process he used to extract the information and the ways the information can be used for analysis, visualisation and context. My background is in mathematics and the concept of ‘Big Data’ came up frequently during my studies so it was fascinating to see how it can be used in a research project and how the UKWA is enabling research to be conducted over such a wide range of subjects.

The next researcher talk by Liam Markey (University of Liverpool and the British Library) showed a different approach to using the UKWA for his research project into how Remembrance in 20th Century Britain has changed. He explained how he conducted an analysis of archived newspaper articles, using specific search terms, to identify articles that focused on commemoration which he could then use to examine how the attitudes changed over time. The UKWA enabled him to find websites that focused on the war and compare these with mainstream newspapers to see how these differ.

The Keynote speaker was Paul Gooding (University of Glasgow) and was about the use and users of Non-Print Legal Deposit Libraries. His research as part of the Digital Library Futures Project, with the Bodleian Libraries and Cambridge University Library as case study partners, looked at how Academic Deposit libraries were impacted by e-Legal Deposit. It was an interesting discussion around some of the issues of the system, such as balancing the commercial rights with access for users and how highly restrictive access conditions are at odds with more recent legislation, such as the provision for disabled users and 2014 copyright exception for data and text mining for non-commercial uses.

Being new to the digital archiving world, my first conference was a great introduction to web archiving and provided context to the work I am doing. Thank you to the organisers and speakers for giving me insight into a few of the different ways the web archive is used and I have come away with a greater understanding of the scope and importance of digital archiving (as well as a list of blog posts and tutorials to delve into!)

Some Useful Links:


Update from Carl Cooper, former Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2017-2019

On finishing the Traineeship at the Bodleian I secured a position as Assistant Archivist at the Bank of England. Currently I am working on a large scale project accessioning records from Record Management into the Archive, this involves exporting, cleansing and enriching the metadata from the Records Management Database and importing this into Calm, creating authority terms, locations and archival hierarchal structures. The material then needs to be physically moved from the Head Office Record Centre into the Archive, labelled and re-boxed. My experience at the Bodleian and from the course has enabled me to streamline and inform decisions in regards to the workflow and processes for this project. It was enormously beneficial to have previously worked on large scale collections with complex series structures. This has enabled me to tackle similar challenges in my new role. I have had the opportunity to collaborate and meet with a variety of different people whilst working at the Bank due to the varied opportunities and tasks. I recently took part in Museums at Night meeting with the public to talk about our collections and attended the ARA conference in Leeds with my colleagues from the Bank. I collaborated with Senior Management and Business Architecture Analysts on developing the Archives digital preservation and curation capabilities in which I put my knowledge and experience gained form the course and traineeship into practice to inform on standards, workflows and system requirements. I have just successfully delivered a digitisation project in which 5 volumes of the Minutes of the Court of Directors were digitised and will soon be made available online.

Another aspect of my role is to help with the Archive’s research service, researching and answering enquiries on the collection both from internal and external stakeholders, booking in visitors, processing researcher’s information and IDs, escorting visitors, retrieving material and liaising with the Bank’s information and Data Protection Teams. The traineeship was a solid foundation with a group of remarkable people in which I gained innumerable skills to be able to confidently undertake the tasks I do now at the Bank. I made some great friends in Oxford and I am sure we will assemble again in the future. In the meantime, I am thoroughly enjoying life at the Bank Archive.

Carl Cooper, Dec 2019

Update from Kelly Burchmore, former Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2017-2019

Kelly Burchmore in front of the Daniel Meadows display, Weston Library, Oct 2019

Kelly in front of the Daniel Meadows display, Weston Library, Oct 2019

In March 2019, fresh out of the traineeship, I began a 3 month Project Archivist role at Archives & Special Collections for University of Surrey. This role allowed me to both build on my cataloguing experience I had gained at the Bodleian Libraries to create a detailed catalogue of the Geraldine Stephenson archive, and to take full ownership of a project with a strict brief and deadlines. I was also able to inform cataloguing practice and processes in the department going forward, by making suggestions which were incorporated into their guidance manuals. My 3 months in Special Collections at Surrey were a great balance of experiencing how other institutions do things differently, and developing both theoretical and practical knowledge from the traineeship. One of the things I love most about working as an archivist is that you never stop learning, as the community and best practice is always developing.

My second post as a newly qualified archivist is a return to the Bodleian Libraries’ Special Collections department at the Weston Library, in the role of Newly Qualified Project Archivist. My time is split across three to four different projects, so my week tends to be really varied. For example, I have currently finished the first edition catalogue for the Archive of Daniel Meadows, photographer and social documentarist – a project which offered up various challenges, all of which I relished, including: submitting a detailed project proposal, conservation for extensive photographic material, the separation and capture of digital material and working with various stakeholders such as Daniel Meadows himself, as well as the exhibitions department. Currently I also work as a team with two digital archivist trainees on the Bodleian Libraries’ Web Archive, which means I am able to build on technical skills and applying solutions I first learned in the traineeship.

Since qualifying, the Archives and Records Association (ARA) Section for New Professionals (SfNP) is a really valuable community I have appreciated, they organise and host seminars which are a great opportunity network and meet fellow new professionals, and offer bursaries to support newly qualified archivists.

The digital archivist traineeship equipped me with the skills and attitude needed to pursue a career in archives, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. I also feel so grateful for the traineeship providing me with experience of, and exposure to, many aspects of the sector; I draw on these experiences and learning curves in my work to date.

Kelly Burchmore, Oct 2019

Update from Harriet Costelloe, former Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2014-2016

Harriet Costelloe setting up a display for an Open Day at the University of Surrey, 2019

Harriet setting up a display for an Open Day at the University of Surrey, 2019

After completing my traineeship I took up a post as Digital Development Officer at The National Archives. I developed information resources, carried out research on issues affecting the archives sector, and ran workshops on understanding archives catalogues. In this role I also had project management training and contributed to the assessments of archives for The National Archives’ Accreditation programme. I then moved to be College Archivist at Royal Holloway, University of London. As the sole archivist, I managed the acquisition and preservation of, and access to, the university’s collections through developing policies and procedures for the service, cataloguing material, invigilating in the research room, accommodating group visits and giving public talks, and teaching within academic departments. I also oversaw a move into a new store and co-curated the first large-scale archives exhibition at the university.

I am now the Archivist (Public Services) at the University of Surrey with responsibility for managing the research room, running our outreach programme and delivering archives sessions to students. I also contribute to exhibitions work undertaken by the team and am undertaking a Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching to reflect my commitment to and interest in using archives in higher education teaching. I still look back very fondly at my traineeship and am grateful for the skills I learnt and the opportunities it has afforded.

Harriet Costelloe, Sep 2019

What’s it like to be a trainee? Hannah Jordan, Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist, 2019-2021

I moved to Oxford and started working as a Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist in April 2019. I graduated in 2016 with a BA in History and English Literature and during my undergraduate studies I volunteered in a couple of different roles within the heritage sector to try and decide what career path would be the best fit for me. I decided that I was interested in working as an Archivist because it would give me the best of both worlds: working ‘behind-the-scenes’ engaging directly with historic documents, whilst still doing some public engagement and outreach work.

I came to this job with very little experience of archival work, but this hasn’t been a barrier at all because the traineeship is designed to introduce you to the basics and build on your understanding in a structured way. So far I’ve learned a range of transferable skills, including modifying XML files, arranging and cataloguing papers and ephemera, and capturing media-based archives, such as cassettes, CDs and DVDs. Once per week I also work on curating the Bodleian Libraries’ Web Archive. My work on the Web Archive has been particularly interesting, as it has been a gateway to learning about the challenges we face in trying to develop technologies and methodologies for curating and preserving the colossal amount of born-digital information that we generate every day.

Studying part-time with Aberystwyth in addition to working full-time as a trainee can sometimes be difficult, but the course readings are interesting and useful for contextualising the work that I do in my day-to-day job. Oxford has so many beautiful libraries to explore that even finding somewhere new to settle down and do my readings feels like a bit of an adventure!

Working as a trainee in Special Collections at the Bodleian Libraries is extremely rewarding. It gives me the opportunity to handle some fascinating and unique collections and to work with supportive colleagues who really love their work. I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store.

Hannah Jordan, May 2019

What’s it like to be a trainee? Marjolein Platjee, Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist, 2018-2020

Having now worked as a trainee with the Bodleian Libraries for a little over a month, I can honestly say that the job was 100% worth the move from The Netherlands to the UK. As my predecessors have written, the job is incredibly varied, interesting and very rewarding.

Like the majority of my fellow trainees I do not have a background in libraries or archives. However, I do have a background in research and using archives from work on my PhD focussing on British Popular Literature. Whilst writing my dissertation I was also working as an Information and Process coordinator. In this role I managed a number of IT related projects, including the implementation of a knowledge management base. It was this project that got me interested in knowledge and records management. So when I stumbled upon this traineeship with the Bodleian it seemed the ideal combination of my love for technology and research. As it turns out, it is indeed.

Although I have only been working at the Bodleian for a short while I have already been given the opportunity to do and learn so much. I have already been taught how to manipulate XML files, how to archive websites and how to digitize cassette tapes and other media. I am currently also being trained to assist in the reading rooms and I have been assigned my very own cataloguing project. Working on the latter has been especially exciting and surprising, as next to documents and books I have also been cataloguing merchandise which includes such ‘exotic’ items as t-shirts, jackets, corkscrews – they come in five different colours and have even been engraved – and temporary tattoos.

The distance study at Aberystwyth really prepares me for the tasks that I face in my work and therewith helps me to gain a better understanding of my job, its importance and the history behind it. It does take some self-discipline to keep up with the course work whilst working 4.5 days a week, but if you manage your time wisely it really is doable.

I look forward to learning even more over the course of the coming two years, and I am sure I will look back upon my decision to apply for this job as one of the best ones I could have made.

Marjolein Platjee, Nov 2018

What’s it like to be a trainee? Iram Safdar, Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2017-2019

Growing up in Glasgow, with regular visits to its many and varied cultural institutions, including the excellent Glasgow Life museums, meant I knew from a young age I wanted to work in the cultural heritage sector. However, it was my undergraduate degree in Digital Media and Information Studies that cemented this ambition more fully, and where I became particularly interested in how digital technologies can, and are, affecting the way we live, learn and work. This, combined with modules on digitisation and record management, encouraged me to pursue the Bodleian Libraries Digital Archivist traineeship to gain vital experience within the archives sector with a long-term aim of contributing to the preservation and accessibility of our past, for future users.

The traineeship has been meticulously organised to provide us with a diverse and comprehensive introduction to the many aspects of archival work; so far I have worked on collection appraisal and cataloguing on some fascinating modern political collections which has been especially engaging; worked in the reading rooms where it has been very rewarding to see our collections being used and appreciated and to help with this process; and have been working in BEAM (Bodleian Electronic Archives and Manuscripts) to extract digital materials for processing. Working in BEAM has been really exciting; as digital content becomes increasingly relevant to archival work, I feel this is somewhere we trainees can really contribute. As our training progresses, I’m looking forward to capturing and preserving a variety of digital material.

The Aberystwyth University Digital Curation diploma has been really useful in providing a theoretical basis to the work we have been doing; learning archival principles via the course and seeing how they work in practice during the traineeship has been invaluable to my development as an archivist. The best part of traineeship has to be working with my fellow trainees and our colleagues at the Weston Library, who have been incredibly helpful, introducing us to a range of archival roles and processes. It is great working alongside such passionate and knowledgeable individuals and I’ve really enjoyed my traineeship so far; it doesn’t feel like work, because everything is so interesting!

Iram Safdar, May 2019