Category Archives: Activity

Archives Unleashed – Vancouver Datathon

On the 1st-2nd of November 2018 I was lucky enough to attend the  Archives Unleashed Datathon Vancouver co-hosted by the Archives Unleashed Team and Simon Fraser University Library along with KEY (SFU Big Data Initiative). I was very thankful and appreciative of the generous travel grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that made this possible.

The SFU campus at the Habour Centre was an amazing venue for the Datathon and it was nice to be able to take in some views of the surrounding mountains.

About the Archives Unleashed Project

The Archives Unleashed Project is a three year project with a focus on making historical internet content easily accessible to scholars and researchers whose interests lay in exploring and researching both the recent past and contemporary history.

After a series of datathons held at a number of International institutions such as the British Library, University of Toronto, Library of Congress and the Internet Archive, the Archives Unleashed Team identified some key areas of development that would enable and help to deliver their aim of making petabytes of valuable web content accessible.

Key Areas of Development
  • Better analytics tools
  • Community infrastructure
  • Accessible web archival interfaces

By engaging and building a community, alongside developing web archive search and data analysis tools the project is successfully enabling a wide range of people including scholars, programmers, archivists and librarians to “access, share and investigate recent history since the early days of the World Wide Web.”

The project has a three-pronged approach
  1. Build a software toolkit (Archives Unleashed Toolkit)
  2. Deploy the toolkit in a cloud-based environment (Archives Unleashed Cloud)
  3. Build a cohesive user community that is sustainable and inclusive by bringing together the project team members with archivists, librarians and researchers (Datathons)
Archives Unleashed Toolkit

The Archives Unleashed Toolkit (AUT) is an open-source platform for analysing web archives with Apache Spark. I was really impressed by AUT due to its scalability, relative ease of use and the huge amount of analytical options it provides. It can work on a laptop (Mac OS, Linux or Windows), a powerful cluster or on a single-node server and if you wanted to, you could even use a Raspberry Pi to run AUT. The Toolkit allows for a number of search functions across the entirety of a web archive collection. You can filter collections by domain, URL pattern, date, languages and more. Create lists of URLs to return the top ten in a collection. Extract plain text files from HTML files in the ARC or WARC file and clean the data by removing ‘boilerplate’ content such as advertisements. Its also possible to use the Stanford Named Entity Recognizer (NER) to extract names of entities, locations, organisations and persons. I’m looking forward to seeing the possibilities of how this functionality is adapted to localised instances and controlled vocabularies – would it be possible to run a similar programme for automated tagging of web archive collections in the future? Maybe ingest a collection into ATK , run a NER and automatically tag up the data providing richer metadata for web archives and subsequent research.

Archives Unleashed Cloud

The Archives Unleashed Cloud (AUK) is a GUI based front end for working with AUT, it essentially provides an accessible interface for generating research derivatives from Web archive files (WARCS). With a few clicks users can ingest and sync Archive-it collections, analyse the collections, create network graphs and visualise connections and nodes. It is currently free to use and runs on AUK central servers.

My experience at the Vancouver Datathon

The datathons bring together a small group of 15-20 people of varied professional backgrounds and experience to work and experiment with the Archives Unleashed Toolkit and the Archives Unleashed Cloud. I really like that the team have chosen to minimise the numbers that attend because it created a close knit working group that was full of collaboration, knowledge and idea exchange. It was a relaxed, fun and friendly environment to work in.

Day One

After a quick coffee and light breakfast, the Datathon opened with introductory talks from project team members Ian Milligan (Principal Investigator), Nick Ruest (Co-Principal Investigator) and Samantha Fritz (Project Manager), relating to the project – its goals and outcomes, the toolkit, available datasets and event logistics.

Another quick coffee break and it was back to work – participants were asked to think about the datasets that interested them, techniques they might want to use and questions or themes they would like to explore and write these on sticky notes.

Once placed on the white board, teams naturally formed around datasets, themes and questions. The team I was in consisted of  Kathleen Reed and Ben O’Brien  and formed around a common interest in exploring the First Nations and Indigenous communities dataset.

Virtual Machines were kindly provided by Compute Canada and available for use throughout the Datathon to run AUT, datasets were preloaded onto these VMs and a number of derivative files had already been created. We spent some time brainstorming, sharing ideas and exploring datasets using a number of different tools. The day finished with some informative lightning talks about the work participants had been doing with web archives at their home institutions.

Day Two

On day two we continued to explore datasets by using the full text derivatives and running some NER and performing key word searches using the command line tool Grep. We also analysed the text using sentiment analysis with the Natural Language Toolkit. To help visualise the data, we took the new text files produced from the key word searches and uploaded them into Voyant tools. This helped by visualising links between words, creating a list of top terms and provides quantitative data such as how many times each word appears. It was here we found that the word ‘letter’ appeared quite frequently and we finalised the dataset we would be using – University of British Columbia – bc-hydro-site-c.

We hunted down the site and found it contained a number of letters from people about the BC Hydro Dam Project. The problem was that the letters were in a table and when extracted the data was not clean enough. Ben O’Brien came up with a clever extraction solution utilising the raw HTML files and some script magic. The data was then prepped for geocoding by Kathleen Reed to show the geographical spread of the letter writers, hot-spots and timeline, a useful way of looking at the issue from the perspective of engagement and the community.

Map of letter writers.

Time Lapse of locations of letter writers. 

At the end of day 2 each team had a chance to present their project to the other teams. You can view the presentation (Exploring Letters of protest for the BC Hydro Dam Site C) we prepared here, as well as the other team projects.

Why Web Archives Matter

How we preserve, collect, share and exchange cultural information has changed dramatically. The act of remembering at National Institutes and Libraries has altered greatly in terms of scope, speed and scale due to the web. The way in which we provide access to, use and engage with archival material has been disrupted. All current and future historians who want to study the periods after the 1990s will have to use web archives as a resource. Currently issues around accessibility and usability have lagged behind and many students and historians are not ready. Projects like Archives Unleashed will help to furnish and equip researchers, historians, students and the community with the necessary tools to combat these problems. I look forward to seeing the next steps the project takes.

Archives Unleashed are currently accepted submissions for the next Datathon in March 2019, I highly recommend it.

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

Display – Wilfred Owen: The Pity of War

The last photograph of Wilfred Owen, Hastings, 30 Aug 1918

The last photograph of Wilfred Owen, Hastings, 30 Aug 1918

A hundred years ago, at 11 a.m. on 11 November 1918 (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month) the Armistice was signed, bringing to an end the First World War. As the celebratory church bells rang out, a telegram was delivered to Susan and Tom Owen informing them of the death of their eldest son, Wilfred, one of 17 million casualties of the Great War to end all wars. He had been killed at the age of 25, just seven days before the Armistice. Owen received the Military Cross for gallantry, but was unknown to the public as a poet: only five of his poems were in print before his death. Today he is recognised as one of the greatest writers of war poetry in the English language.

To mark this double centenary the Bodleian has mounted a display of original material from the Owen Collection, which was given to Oxford University by Owen’s sister-in-law, Phyllis, in 1975 and transferred from the English Faculty Library to the Bodleian in 2016. Included in the exhibition are manuscripts of ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’; editions of the Craiglockhart Hospital magazine which Owen edited while being treated for shell-shock in 1917, and a selection of photographs and personal belongings preserved by his family.

Curated by Judith Priestman and Andrew Wheale

Wilfred Owen: The Pity of War
26 October – Christmas 2018
Proscholium, Bodleian Old Schools Quadrangle
Free entry

Attending the ARA Annual Conference 2018

ARA Annual Conference 2018, Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow

ARA Annual Conference 2018, Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow

Having been awarded the Diversity Bursary for BME individuals, sponsored by Kevin J Bolton Ltd., I was able to attend the ARA Annual Conference 2018 held in Glasgow in August.

Capitalising on the host city’s existing ubiquitous branding of People Make Glasgow,  the Conference Committee set People Make Records as this year’s conference theme. This was then divided into three individual themes, one for each day of the conference:

  • People in Records
  • People Using Records
  • People Looking After Records

Examined through the lens of the above themes over the course of three days,  this year’s conference addressed three keys areas within the sector: representation, diversity and engagement.

Following an introduction from Kevin Bolton (@kevjbolton), the conference kicked off with Professor Gus John (@Gus_John) delivering the opening keynote address, entitled “Choices of the Living and the Dead”. With People Make Records the theme for the day, Professor John gave a powerful talk discussing how people are impacting the records and recordkeeping of African (and other) diaspora in the UK, enabling the airbrushing of the history of oppressed communities. Professor John noted yes people make records, but we also determine what to record, and what to do with it once it has been recorded.

Noting the ignorance surrounding racial prejudice and violence, citing the Notting Hill race riots, the Windrush generation,  and Stephen Lawrence as examples, Professor John illustrated how the commemoration of historical events is selective: while in 2018 the 50th anniversary of the Race Relations Act received much attention, in comparison the 500th anniversary of the start of the Transatlantic Slave Trade was largely ignored, by the sector and the media alike.  This culture of oppression, and omission, he said, is leading to ignorance amongst young people about major defining events, contributing to a removal of context to historically oppressed groups.

In response to questions from the audience, Professor John noted that one of the problems facing the sector is the failure to interrogate the ‘business as usual’ climate, and that it may be ‘too difficult to consider what an alternative route might be’. Professor John challenged us to question the status quo: ‘Why is my curriculum white? Why isn’t my lecturer black? What does “de-colonising” the curriculum mean? This is what we must ask ourselves’.

Following Professor John’s keynote and his ultimate call to action, there was a palpable atmosphere of engagement amongst the delegates, with myself and those around me eager to spend the next three days learning from the experiences of others, listening to new perspectives and extracting guidance on the actions we may take to develop and improve our sector, in terms of representation, diversity and engagement.

Various issues relating to these areas were threaded throughout many of the presentations, and as a person of colour at the start of my career in this sector, and recipient of the Diversity Bursary, I was excited to hear more about the challenges facing marginalised communities in archives and records, including some I could relate to on a personal and professional level, and, hopefully, also take away some proposed solutions and recommendations.

I attended an excellent talk by Adele Patrick (@AdelePAtrickGWL),  of Glasgow Women’s Library, who discussed the place for feminism within the archive, noting GWL’s history in resistance, and insistence on a plural representation, when women’s work, past and present, is eclipsed. Dr Alan Butler (@AButlerArchive), Coordinator at Plymouth LGBT Community Archive, discussed his experiences of trying to create a sense of community within a group that is inherently quite nebulous.  Nevertheless, Butler illustrated the importance of capturing LGBTQIA+ history, as people today are increasingly removed from the struggles that previous generations have had to overcome, echoing a similar point Professor Gus John made earlier.

A presentation which particularly resonated with me came from Kirsty Fife (@DIYarchivist) and Hannah Henthorn (@hanarchovist), on the issue of diversity in the workforce. Fife and Henthorn presented the findings from their research, including their survey of experiences of marginalisation in the UK archive sector, highlighting the structural barriers to diversifying the archive sector workforce. Fife and Henthorn identified several key themes which are experienced  by marginalised communities in the sector, including: the feeling of isolation and otherness in both workplace and universities; difficulties in gaining qualifications, perhaps due to ill health/disability/financial barriers/other commitments; feeling unsafe and under confident in professional spaces and a frustration at the lack of diversity in leadership roles.

As a Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist, I couldn’t abandon my own focus on digital preservation and digital archiving, and as such attended various digital-related talks, including “Machines make records: the future of archival processing” by Jenny Bunn (@JnyBn1), discussing the impact of taking a computational approach to archival processing, “Using digital preservation and access to build a sustainable future for your archive” led by Ann Keen of Preservica, with presentations given by various Preservica users, as well as a mini-workshop led by Sarah Higgins and William Kilbride, on ethics in digital preservation, asking us to consider if we need our own code of conduct in digital preservation, and what this could look like.

Image of William Kilbride and Sarah Higgins running their workshop "Encoding ethics: professional practice digital preservation", ARA Annual Conference 2018, Glasgow

William Kilbride and Sarah Higgins running their workshop “Encoding ethics: professional practice digital preservation”, ARA Annual Conference 2018, Glasgow

I have only been able to touch on a very small amount of what I heard and learnt at the many and varied talks, presentations and workshops at the ARA conference,  however,  one thing I took away from the conference was the realisation that archivists and recordkeepers have the power to challenge structural inequalities, and must act now, in order to become truly inclusive. As Michelle Caswell (@professorcaz), 2nd keynote speaker said, we must act with sensitivity, acknowledge our privileges and, above all empower not marginalise. This conference felt like a call to action to the archive and recordkeeping community, in order to include the ‘hard to reach’ communities, or alternatively as Adele Patrick noted, the ‘easy to ignore’. As William Kilbride (@William Kilbride) said, this is an exciting time to be in archives.

I want to thank Kevin Bolton for sponsoring the Diversity Bursary, which enabled me to attend an enriching, engaging and informative event, which otherwise would have been inaccessible for me.

________________________________________
Because every day is a school day, as homework for us all, I made a note of some of the recommendations made by speakers throughout the conference, compiled into this very brief list which I thought I would share:

Reading list

Celebrating the Life of Clement Attlee

Photograph of Clement Attlee, n.d. [MS. CRA. 99].


Join the Attlee Foundation and Bodleian Libraries on the 25
th of October in the Weston Lecture Theatre to celebrate the life and legacy of Clement Attlee.

The event will commence with a lecture given by John Bew on the political thought of Clement Attlee. A  Professor of History and Foreign Policy at the War Studies Department at King’s College London, John Bew is also the author of five books including the award-winning biography Citizen Clem: A Life of Attlee (2016), which received the Orwell Prize for Political Writing, the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography and the Best Book in the U.K.

A list by Clement Attlee of his “best appointments”, n.d. [post 1951] [MS. CRA. 10].


The lecture will be accompanied by a display of items from Clement Attlee’s personal archive. Covering the years 1945-1951, the display offers viewers a unique insight into the life and work of Attlee, forming a celebration of his achievements in both personal, political and public arenas.

Booking Information:

This event is free but places are limited so please complete the booking form via our website  to reserve tickets in advance. All bookings are subject to a £1 booking fee.

Doors open at 6.15pm. The lecture begins at 6.30pm, and will be followed by a drinks reception.

An archive in exile: Arturo & Ilsa Barea

By Eva Nieto McAvoy

Arturo and Ilsa Barea’s archive and library have been kept in a terrace house near Finsbury Park for the past 40 years. Their niece Uli Rushby-Smith inherited this large collection in the 1970s and has taken upon herself the daunting task of looking after the estate and ensuring that the Bareas’ legacies are kept alive by promoting several new editions of their work. It was through Arturo Barea’s biographer Michael Eaude that I came into contact with Uli, the terrace house, the papers and the books in 2011. I was interested in writing a PhD thesis on Arturo Barea and having access to the archive was a wonderful oportunity. Aside from researching for my thesis ‘A Spaniard in Hertfordshire: The Intellectual Exile of Arturo Barea’, I catalogued the papers and, in the process, became personally involved in this wonderful story. When I first arrived, about twenty boxes of articles, letters, drafts, newspaper cuttings and scrapbooks belonging to Arturo and Ilsa, and several walls covered with the books of five generations (from Ilsa’s parents to her great nieces) were awaiting me. The results of the organizing and cataloguing can now be enjoyed by users for the Weston Library, the new home of Arturo and Ilsa Barea’s papers.

Photographs in the archive, photo by Sonia Boué

Photographs in the archive, photo by Sonia Boué

The Bareas started their exile homeless, but also paperless and bookless. They managed to bring over a case with personal and family documents and some photographs from their previous life in Spain. But that’s about it. For the most part, this archive is an exile’s archive: written in exile, built in exile, read in exile and kept in exile until today.

I have to confess that my weekly visits to the archive, working in the nostalgic living room furnished with Biedermeier cabinets, with walls full of books and magazines, blue china and netsuke that belonged to Ilsa, overlooked by the solemn presence of Barea’s grandfather clock, are still my favourite part of the research. Each letter or photograph has a story behind it and more often than not, Uli has filled in the blanks with her memories of Arturo and Ilsa.

Arturo Barea (Badajoz 1897 – Faringdon, Oxfordshire 1957) was a Spanish writer, literary critic and broadcaster. A socialist and active member of the UGT (the Socialist trade union) during the Spanish Civil War, Barea was the head of the Press Department of the Republican Foreign Office in Madrid, dealing with foreign press correspondents such as Ernest Hemingway or John Dos Passos. During this time, he met and married his second wife, the Austrian socialist Ilsa Barea (née Ilse Pollak), his life-long companion, collaborator and translator.

Ilsa & Arturo in their garden

Ilsa & Arturo in their garden

In 1938 Barea and Ilsa left Spain for France and then England, where they arrived in March 1939. It was during his early years in exile that Barea became a well-known contributor of articles and short stories to Horizon, Time and Tide, the New Statesman, the Times Literary Supplement and Tribune, aside from contributing the essay ‘Struggle for the Spanish Soul’ to Orwell’s wartime series Searchlight Books. He was also a regular broadcaster for the BBC Latin American Service under the penname ‘Juan de Castilla’. Barea is the author of the autobiographical trilogy The Forging of a Rebel, which was first published in English by Faber&Faber (1941-1946) and edited by T.S Eliot. The trilogy was an immediate international success and was translated into nine languages during the forties. The Spanish edition came out in Argentina in 1951 and it was only published in Spain in 1977 after Francisco Franco’s death. Barea never returned to Spain and became a British national in 1948.

Ilsa Barea (1902-1973), née Pollak, was a socialist political activist, journalist and translator. Born in Vienna into a liberal family, Ilsa was politically active early on, particularly in the areas of propaganda and education. She was a member of the Austrian Communist Party initially then later the Austrian Social Democratic Party. In 1936, she was employed by the Press Department of the Republican Foreign office in Madrid. During this period of the Spanish Civil War, she met Arturo Barea. They were both working as censors at their headquarters in the Telefonica (the title of her serialised novel published in the Austrian Arbeiter-Zeitung in 1949). After the death of her first husband, Leopold Kulcsar,  in January 1938, Ilsa married Arturo and together they fled Spain.

While in exile, Ilsa continued supporting the Spanish Republican struggle by publishing articles in Time and Tide, New Statesman, Times Literary Supplement, and Tribune. In August 1939 she joined the BBC Monitoring Service in Evesham, translating broadcasts from German and Spanish alongside Ernest Gombrich, George Weidenfeld, Martin Esslin and Anatol Goldberg. She was an exceptionally gifted linguist. Later her work focused on evaluating foreign writers, translating many of them for English and American publishing houses. She also broadcast for the BBC on a number of subjects.

Vienna. Legend and Reality (Secker and Warburg, 1966)

Vienna. Legend and Reality (Secker and Warburg, 1966)

Ilsa was a close collaborator of Arturo’s, influencing his work in many ways. Her most important contribution was the translation of his trilogy The Forging of a Rebel into English, praised for its quality in many reviews. The legacy of her father, Valentin Pollak, a well-known Viennese teacher and educationalist, was carried on in Ilsa’s work as a teacher herself and interpreter for Labour Parties and Unions across Europe. She became a British national in 1948, but after Arturo’s death in 1957, she returned to Vienna regularly, spending the last years of her life there. She is the author of Vienna: Legend and Reality (1966), a social and cultural history of the city.

Arturo and Ilsa shared a life of letters until his death in 1957; he wrote; she wrote and translated what he had written in Spanish into English. Snooping around the couple’s papers I can imagine them in their cottage in Eaton Hastings, working at their shared desk piled with papers threatening to tip over while listening to the radio in the background and having endless discussions about politics in several languages as they shared the house with a mixture of family members and friends from different places. It is precisely this mixture of languages and intellectual traditions which has a very strong presence in the archive and the library.

It is overall surprising to find a comparatively small proportion of material in Spanish – letters and documents in English, German, French, Danish and even Swedish open a window onto an important period of European history. The archive is an important repository of Spanish culture in exile, but also of Austrian culture and, even more importantly, of the internationalism that permeated the anti-fascist struggle of the Second World War and the anti-communist struggle during the Cold War.

The Forge, The Track and The Clash (Faber & Faber, 1941, 1943, 1946)

The Forge, The Track and The Clash (Faber & Faber, 1941, 1943, 1946)

Some of the most important holdings in the archive are the original and annotated typescripts of Arturo and Ilsa’s work like Arturo’s La Raiz Rota, Ilsa’s Vienna, as well as their many short stories, articles and even unpublished poetry by Ilsa. Sadly there is no typescript of La forja de un rebelde, but only a few chapters in French and the first two pages of La forja in Spanish, probably from 1938.

Arturo and Ilsa’s papers are hard to separate. Aside from their close intellectual collaboration, she often wrote letters on his behalf, particularly when they first arrived – many of them explaining Arturo’s limitations with English. But Arturo could read in English, and the number of British classics in their library gives credence to a biographical note of 1941 which explained “that his spoken English is still atrocious, but he is beginning to appreciate Jane Austen”. There is an incredible articulation of Spain and Britain in Barea’s work and in the archive and library. On the shelves we can find Don Quijote de la Mancha sitting quite comfortably next to Tristram Shandy. Letters to Cyril Connolly and John dos Passos are written in Spanish and are mixed with those of Arturo to his family back in Madrid. As expressed in one of Barea’s obituaries, he served as an “interpreter between two different civilizations and ways of life”.

Uli tells us that the Bareas spent most of their time writing letters and reading newspapers and magazines, ranging from the Manchester Guardian to Picture Post. All of these activities have left traces in the archive as well. Apparently, one of Uli’s jobs was to help them read through the morning papers, to cut out all the news relating to whatever topic they were writing about at the moment and to paste the clippings in scrapbooks – all of which are also in the archive.

Throughout their careers, Arturo and Ilsa wrote book reviews and articles about the literature and authors of their homelands. They also had an important role in promoting, and often translating into English, Spanish authors such as Camilo J. Cela and other writers in exile like Guillermo de Torre, Ramón J. Sender, Esteban Salazar Chapela, Francisco Ayala or Max Aub. After Arturo’s death, Ilsa continued this work as a translator from Spanish and German, but also as a reader for British publishing houses, as an editor, and as an interpreter, particularly for trade unions. We can find most of this paperwork in the archive, aside from around 12 boxes of correspondence that traces Arturo and Ilsa’s work and life in exile.

Arturo Barea broadcasting for the BBC Latin American Service

Arturo Barea broadcasting for the BBC Latin American Service

The archive also illustrates Barea’s relationship with Latin America. Articles for the Argentinian newspaper La Nación, around 650 of the 850 broadcasts he wrote for the BBC Latin American Service, fan-mail to “Juan de Castilla” and details of his 1956 trip to Argentina, Chile and Uruguay – including airplane tickets and a record of all the vaccines he needed.

Arturo’s past as a non-intellectual also sneaks into the archive in rather unexpected ways. One of his major projects was to design a bookshelf system that could be assembled and dismantled by anyone in order to adapt to different spaces and uses, decades before IKEA had the same idea. Drawing on his previous experience in a patent agency in Spain, Arturo tried to patent his design. The shelves still stand in Uli’s living room, more than 60 years after Arturo first built them.

Today, the Bareas’ archive is arguably still in exile. The donation to the Bodleian is an important step in assuring access to its holdings for future generations of scholars – although researchers will now miss Uli and her partner Eugene’s wonderful meals and conversations. One question that comes to mind is why not send the holdings back to Spain, as has happened with other Spanish Republican exiles’ libraries? The return to Spain is often seen as a reconciliation following the injustice of the years of expulsion.

Several reasons are behind the decision to donate the archive to the Bodleain. The cosmopolitanism of the holdings; the fact that Arturo’s work is difficult to separate from that of his wife, which represents a whole chapter of Austrian culture in exile; and the fact that the transnational character of their work might be best represented in Britain, as an example of the internationalism of the war and post-war periods. It is also a much needed reminder of how Britain’s (often reluctant) hosting of European exiles resulted in the political, cultural and social contributions of Europeans to British culture and politics.

Most importantly, it is undeniable that Ilsa and Arturo started their exile struggling to overcome the violent loss of the life they were forced to leave behind. In 1956 Arturo still felt that ‘la patria se siente como un dolor agudo’ – the homeland feels like an acute pain. But Ilsa and Arturo were also able to embrace exile as a new beginning, a new life together in a foreign land that soon became home.

Archives, libraries, books and scrapbooks can help exiles keep links with their homeland, but can also ground them to their new homes. Arturo and Ilsa’s archive is testimony to this. If, in Adorno’s words, “To those who no longer have a homeland, writing becomes home”, the archive is already home and it belongs here, in Britain more than there, in Spain.

New catalogue: Archive of Dame Louise Johnson

The online catalogue of the Archive of Dame Louise Johnson is now available.

‘[T]he moment comes when you actually solve a problem—it may be quite a small problem—but for a few moments you stand there and think “Nobody else knows this but me”.’ – Dame Louise Johnson

RESEARCH

Never one to shy away from a challenge Dame Louise Napier Johnson (1940–2012), biophysicist and structural biologist, spent her long career solving many problems; mostly in the field of structural enzymology that she helped create.

One of the first she solved was when she, David Phillips, and Charles Vernon described the enzyme lysozyme and how it bound its substrates at a special meeting of the Royal Institution in 1965. This was at a time when structural biology was in its infancy and lysozyme was the second protein and first enzyme to have its structure elucidated. It was also the first time that the mechanism through which enzymes worked on a structural level was described.

Notes on the structure of lysozyme.

Notes on the structure of lysozyme.

This was more than just an interesting theoretical exercise; it had far reaching implications and showed that understanding structure could help in understanding biological processes. Its practical application to drug discovery changed the face of pharmaceutical research. By the 1970s pharmacological researchers were using rational drug design and looking at protein receptors and their properties and binding potential. Knowing the structure of molecules, they could look for potential binding sites and postulate possible interactions. They could then look for analogues or ‘build’ new molecules specific to targeted binding sites.

She went on to tackle larger and more complex proteins like ribonuclease S and glycogen phosphorylase, but the tools of the time meant that it was a long hard slog. In order to examine these proteins they had to be crystallised to achieve high resolution images. These crystals did not last long and in the early days of structural biology protein structures were studied using diffractometers that took days to record data sets, often going through several crystals at a time.

DIAMOND LIGHT SOURCE

Needing faster and higher resolution data acquisition she turned to synchrotron radiation, which at the time was used primarily for studying purely physical phenomena. She championed the use of synchrotron radiation in the life sciences and was heavily involved in plans for the construction of a third generation synchrotron, Diamond Light Source, in the UK.

Breaking ground for the 250m long x-ray imaging and coherence beamline.

Breaking ground for the 250m long x-ray imaging and coherence beamline.

She came on board Diamond as the Director of Life Sciences because she believed that good research needed good infrastructure and support. She was heavily involved in planning and testing the beamlines, spearheaded a collaboration with Imperial College London to build the Membrane Protein Laboratory and secured funding for the Harwell Campus for visiting researchers.

Robotic sample changers on the MX beamlines.

Robotic sample changers on the MX beamlines.

Her tireless work saw the number of researchers working in structural biology at Diamond rise to its current 40%.

But she didn’t just support researchers with funding and facilities. While Director she continued as head of the Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics where her sympathetic management and light hand brought the best out of her research group.

LABORATORY OF MOLECULAR BIOPHYSICS

In 1967 Johnson joined David Phillips at the newly founded Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics at Oxford University; succeeding him as department head in 1990. Johnson was a constant in a department which endured considerable turnover of staff. The nature of Johnson’s field was very dynamic and it was common for researchers to move to and from other institutions regularly throughout their careers. One of twenty senior staff in 1975; by 2000 she was the only one remaining.

As head, she supervised around 80 people with an outside grant income in 2000 of almost £7 Million; overseeing a successful graduate programme while maintaining a nurturing environment for students and staff alike.

She routinely organised over 50 in-house and general research seminars annually. Many of them focused on the laboratory’s very productive output. Between 1995-6 alone, more than 30 protein and virus structures were solved. She trained a generation of Oxford crystallographers; as evidenced by the plethora of Protein Data Bank entries (including many forms of glycogen phosphorylase and cell cycle CDK/cyclin complexes) deposited by her lab; and kept the department running smoothly when they inevitably departed.

Johnson endeavoured to be a role model for other women. It was source of pride for Louise Johnson that of the six senior faculty members in her laboratory, three were women. She was also a trustee of the Daphne Jackson fund for scientists returning to research after career breaks. In September 2007 a symposium was held in her honour to recognise her continuing achievements and contribution the University.

– Emily Chen and Sean Macmillan

CREDITS

The archive of Louise Johnson came to us through the Saving Oxford Medicine project which sought to discover and catalogue collections relating to Oxford that have had an impact on the medical sciences. These papers were kindly donated by Professor Elspeth Garman and Johnson’s son Umar Salam.

Archival packaging, old and new, or: Of silk ribbons and cotton tape

When material from the archive of Archibald Clark Kerr, Baron Inverchapel – or indeed from any of the Bodleian’s modern archives – is ordered to the Special Collections reading rooms, it will most likely arrive in a greyish blue box, the papers neatly housed in blueish grey folders of the same colour. Sheets of acid-free, calcium carbonate buffered paper to separate leaves, ‘Melinex’ polyester pockets for photographs, folder titles written in 2B pencil, acrylic adhesive labels, a brass paperclip here and there – everything screams (or rather whispers… it’s a library after all) ‘archival packaging’.
BS 4971, the 2017 British Standard for the conservation and care of archive and library collections, is the Holy Grail, and no packaging material not complying with its strict rules shall ever come near our precious documents.

Material from the Edgar Wind Papers in full archival packaging armour. Blue-grey or grey-blue, the colour of the envelopes and boxes is heavily contested.

However, when archives first arrive at the Bodleian, the packaging is quite different: all kinds of boxes, cartons, baskets and trunks are used for transfer, and the papers are likely to still be in the order and condition their creator or collector stored them in – including a wide array of folders, envelopes, pockets, sheet protectors, paperclips, pins, staples, ribbons, cords and rubber bands once used to organize and protect them.

In case of the the Inverchapel Archive, almost all of the correspondence came in bundles. Hundreds, if not thousands, of letters, still folded up inside their original envelopes, sorted in little piles and tied together with pieces of string, cord or ribbon – like these exchanged between Archibald Kerr Clark Esq., then a young attaché at the British Embassy in Berlin, and Mrs. Kerr Clark, his mother in London:

All bundled up: Letters from the Archive of Archibald Clark Kerr, Baron Inverchapel, c.1908. Why are they addressed to Archibald Kerr Clark – find out here.

Whilst it was very helpful to identify runs of correspondence, and match letters with their envelopes, this organisation system had two big downsides: the letters would be difficult to access if researchers had to remove them from their envelopes first, and all the early 20th century silk, cotton, wool, hemp, jute… ribbons and cords are not very likely to be compliant with 21st century BS4971 specifications.

Consequently, quite a lot of time on the Inverchapel cataloguing project was actually spent on pre-cataloguing archival processing tasks: removing all those strings, and the rusty pins and paperclips holding together sheets of paper inside the envelopes, unfolding pages, encasing photographs in Melinex, and not least placing the flattened papers safely in archive standard folders.
After processing more than 80 correspondence boxes, the amount of ribbons, cords and strings removed from the archive was rather impressive:

A rich bounty: Ribbons, cords and strings removed from the Inverchapel material. …We should have tied them all together and measured the result – in ells, obviously!

A lot of pink. But apart from his colour preferences some of those textile fasteners also reveal some of the archive owner’s shopping habits, as these ties, probably re-used from delivery parcels, show:

Fruits and tartan: Some of the strings close up

  • Searcy, Tansley &  Co. Ltd., London – most likely a food delivery. One could speculate if H.M. Ambassador, Lord Inverchapel, had a sneaky takeaway…
  • ALEXANDER MACINTYRE & CO – TWEED AND HOSIERY MERCHANTS – INVERARY AND STRONE. ARGYLL. – Proud of his Scottish heritage, and owner of the Inverchapel Estate near Lock Eck, Clark Kerr would have known where to buy his tweeds!
  • BOOTS THE CHEMISTS – how people carried home their soap and aspirin before plastic bags were invented.
  • G. ADAM & CO., FRUITERERS TO HIS MAJESTY, 42, NEW BOND STREET, W., TELEPHONE 2128 MAYFAIR – only the best apples and pears!

Like those shop ties, most strings and ribbons used for tying up the letter bundles seem to have been repurposed, or, like the many pink cotton bands, were haberdashery leftovers. On closer examination, the big pile of old textile fasteners reveals a remarkable variety of materials and colours:

The closest an ambassador’s archive can get to a rainbow?

But however pretty and colourful those tapes and ribbons may be, they still face the fate and final destination of all* old fasteners which could potentially be harmful to our precious archives – the bin.

Where ties are needed to hold bundles together, there is now archive standard unbleached cotton tape in place. Admittedly, this is less exciting than its colourful historic cousins. But it goes very well with the blueish grey/ greyish blue of our acid-free, calcium carbonate buffered boxes and folders, and most importantly: it complies with BS 4971.

Playing it safe: Unbleached cotton tape for archival use.


*Almost all. Some end up in our Bodleian Conservation colleagues’ ‘interesting pin collection’, where they get a new life in documenting the history of stationary and
help to determine the age of undated documents.


New catalogue: Archive of Archibald Clark Kerr, Lord Inverchapel

The online catalogue of the Archive of Archibald Clark Kerr, Lord Inverchapel, is now available.

Archibald John Kerr Clark was born 17 March 1882 near Sydney, Australia, the son of John Kerr Clark (1838-1910), a sheep station owner originally from Lanarkshire, Scotland, and his wife Kate Louisa (1846-1926), daughter of Sir John Robertson, prime minister of New South Wales. In 1889, the family moved to England, though John Kerr Clark later returned to Australia.
Kerr Clark was educated at Bath College, and in France, Germany, Spain and Italy, where he studied languages. In March 1906 he passed the entrance examination for the diplomatic service and started working at the Foreign Office in London.  After adopting Kerr as an additional surname in 1911, he became known as Archibald (or Archie, to his friends and colleagues) Clark Kerr.

Archibald John Clark Kerr, 1st Baron Inverchapel by Bassano Ltd, half-plate glass negative, 19 January 1938. NPG x155214
© National Portrait Gallery, London (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

His first posting as a young diplomat took him to Berlin (1908-1910), and after postings to Buenos Aires (1910-1911), Washington (1911-1914), Tehran (1914-1916) and Tangier (1919-1922), he became deputy to High Commissioner Lord Allenby in Egypt (1922-1925).
He served as Minister of the United Kingdom to Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador from 1925 to 1928, to Chile from 1928 to 1931, and to Sweden from 1931 to 1934, before he was appointed Ambassador and posted to Iraq in 1935.
Clark Kerr was British Ambassador to China from 1938 to 1942, during the Second Sino-Japanese War. As Ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1942 to 1946, he was key to shaping the Anglo-Russian relations during the Second World War – most famously, by convincing Churchill to return to talks with Stalin during their meeting in Moscow in August 1942.

A senior British Diplomat, he attended many of the Allied wartime conferences, including the ‘Big Three’ conferences in Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam. He worked with the  Allied Commission to Romania in 1945/46, and in Spring 1946 was sent on a special mission to Java as a mediator in the tensions between the Dutch government and the Indonesian nationalists.
From 1946 Clark Kerr, now elevated to Peerage as Baron Inverchapel, served as British Ambassador in Washington. In March 1948, he retired from the diplomatic service, but was almost immediately appointed to the new committee on European unity, for which he worked until 1949. He died at Greenock 5 July 1951, and was buried at the Inverchapel Estate near Loch Eck in Scotland.

Archibald Clark Kerr entering the Cecilienhof Palace on the third day of the Potsdam Conference, July 1945. (On the left Sir Alexander Cadogan, Under Secretary at the British Foreign Office).
National Archives and Records Administration, Office of Presidential Libraries, Harry S. Truman Library (Public Domain)

Clark Kerr’s archive comprises his personal papers and correspondence, alongside material relating to his career as a diplomat, from the 1900s to the 1940s. Family papers and correspondence, dating back to the 1850s, document the family history, his parents’ lives in Australia, and Clark Kerr’s connections to family members, especially his close relationships to his mother and to his sister Muriel.
Often, the private and the public overlap: for example, in the many letters exchanged between Clark Kerr and his mother. They corresponded at least twice a week, sometimes daily, and together with personal and family news, they exchanged newspaper clippings and extensively commented on society, culture, politics and international relations in the 1900s, 1910s and early 1920s.
Similarly, Clark Kerr’s correspondence with colleagues and friends, such as Harold Nicolson, Vita Sackville-West, Eustace Percy, Alice Drummond-Hay, Robert Boothby and  Gerald Villiers, and with British and foreign aristocrats, such as the German Kaiser’s sister, Sophie Duchess of Sparta (later Queen Consort of Constantine I of Greece) and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Consort of Georg VI and Queen Mother), paints a vivid picture not only of personal contacts and relationships, but also of the times and social circles the correspondents were living in.

Also available is the online catalogue of the working papers of Clark Kerr’s biographer Donald Gillies, who published Radical Diplomat: The Life of Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, Lord Inverchapel, 1882-1951 in 1998.

Higher Education Archive Programme Network Meeting on Research Data Management

On 22nd June 2018 I attended the Higher Education Archive Programme (#HEAP) network meeting on Research Data Management (RDM) at the National Archives at Kew Gardens. This allowed me to learn about some of the current thinking in research data management from colleagues and peers currently working in this area through hearing about their own personal experiences.

The day consisted of a series of talks from presenters with a variety of backgrounds (archivists, managers, PhD students) giving their experiences of RDM from their different perspectives (design/implementation of systems, use). I will aim to briefly summarise the main message from a few of them. This was followed by a question and answers session and concluded with a workshop run by John Kaye from JISC.

Having had very little exposure to RDM in my career, it was a great way for me to understand what it is and what is being done in this sector. I have undertaken quantitative research myself during my PhD and so have an understanding of how research data is created, but until my recent move into the archival profession, I rather foolishly gave little thought as to how this data is managed. Events like this help to make people aware of the challenges archivists, information professionals and researchers face.

What is HEAP?

The Higher Education Archive Programme (#HEAP) is part of The National Archives’ continuing programme of engagement and sector support with particular archival constituencies. It is a mixture of strategic and practical work encompassing activity across The National Archives and the wider sector including guidance and training, pilot projects and advocacy. They also run network meetings for anyone involved in university archives, special collections and libraries with a variety of themes.

What is Research Data Management?

Susan Worrall, from University of Birmingham, started the day by explaining to us, what is research data management and why is it of interest to archivists? Put simply, it is the organisation, structuring, storage, care and use of data generated by research. It is important to archivists as these are all common themes of digital archiving and digital preservation, therefore, it suffers from similar issues, such as:

  • Skills gap in the sector
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Funding issues
  • Training

She presented a case study using a Brain imaging experiment, which highlighted the challenges of consent and managing huge amounts of highly specialised data. There are, however, opportunities for archivists; RDM and digital archiving are two sides of the same coin, digital archivists already do a lot of the RDM processes and so have many transferable skills. Online training is also available, University of Edinburgh and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill collaborated to create a course on Coursera.

A Digital Archivist’s Perspective

Jenny Mitcham, from University of York, gave us an insight into RDM from her experience as a digital archivist. She highlighted how RDM requires skills from the Library, Archival and IT sectors. Within a department, you may have all of these skills however the roles and responsibilities are not always clear, which can cause issues. She described a fantastic project called ‘Filling the Digital Preservation Gap’ which explored the potential of archivematica for RDM. It was a finalist in the 2016 Digital Preservation Awards and more information about the project can be found on the blog.

Planning, Designing and Implementing an RDM system

Laurain Williamson, from University of Leicester, spoke about how to plan and implement a research data management service. Firstly, she described the current situation within the university and what the project brief involved. Any large scale project will require a large amount of preparation and planning, however she noted that certain elements, such as considering all viable technical solutions was incredibly time consuming, however, it was essential to get the best fit for the institution. Through interviews and case study’s they analysed the thoughts and wants from a variety of stakeholders. 

Their research community wanted:

  • Expertise
  • Knowledge about copyright/publishing
  • Bespoke advice and a flexible service.

Challenges faced by the RDM team were:

  • To manage expectations (they will never be able to do everything, so they must collaborate and prioritise their resources)
  • Last minute requests from researchers
  • Liaising with researchers at an early stage of the project is vital (helping researchers think about file formats early on to aid the preservation process).

Conclusion

Whilst RDM to a layperson may seem simple at first (save it on the cloud or a hard drive) when you delve into the archival theories of correct digital preservation, this becomes an absurdly simplified view. Managing large amounts of data from such specialised experiments (producing niche file formats) requires a huge amount of knowledge, collaboration and expertise.

(CC BY 4.0) Bryant, Rebecca, Brian Lavoie, and Constance Malpas. 2018. Incentives for Building University RDM Services. The Realities of Research Data Management, Part 3. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research. doi:10.25333/C3S62F.

Data produced by universities can be seen as a commodity. The increase in the scholarly norms for open science and sharing data puts higher emphasis on RDM. It is important for the institutions/individuals creating the data (if there is any potential future scholarly or financial gain) and also for scientific integrity (allowing others in the community to review and confirm the results). But not everyone will want to make it open and actually not all of it has or should be open; creating a system and workflow that accounts for both is vital.

An OCLC research report recently stated ‘It would be a mistake to imagine that there is a single, best model of RDM service capacity, or a simple roadmap to acquiring it’. As with most things in the digital sector, this is a fast moving area and new technologies and theories are continually being developed. It will be exciting to see how these will be implemented in the future.