Category Archives: Digital archives

Update from Iram Safdar, former Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2017-2019

Photograph of Iram at Historic Environment Scotland, 2019.

Iram at Historic Environment Scotland, 2019.

After completing my Graduate Digital Archivist traineeship at the Bodleian Libraries, I moved back to Scotland to join Historic Environment Scotland, the lead public body established to investigate, care for and promote Scotland’s historic environment, as a Digital Archivist for the Digital Projects Team. Situated in the Archives department, the Digital Projects Team is a three-year funded project aiming to significantly increase the volume of our archival material made accessible online. My role in the team is to manage the cataloguing and ingest of the born-digital material which has been deposited with the Digital Archive. This material consists primarily of archaeological project archives, as well architectural and maritime projects, and includes photographs, computer-aided design drawings, video footage, spatial data and more. This work has helped to inform appraisal policy, archival description standards, and digital preservation workflows. I utilise the skills I developed while undertaking my traineeship and Diploma on a daily basis, to enhance the discoverability of our collections, and ensure their long-term accessibility via the implementation of a robust digital preservation infrastructure, and I look forward to seeing developments in this sector in the years to come.

Iram Safdar, Sep 2019

Update from Ben Peirson-Smith, former Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2017-2019

Photograph of Ben in Manchester, 2019.

Ben in Manchester, 2019.

Since completing my traineeship at the Bodleian in March 2019 I have begun working as a Digital Archivist in the Research and Knowledge Exchange Directorate at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). My current role has involved applying my digital archive skills to research data management. The work in this role has included developing institutional data management plans for research projects, consulting academics on which file formats to use for live research data and long-term storage, integrating the DCC lifecycle model into how data is managed at the University, customising and delivering training to academic staff, and conducting metadata audits within the various systems used by RKE systems. Alongside this, I have been involved in contributing towards MMUs REF2021 submission; this has included developing digital portfolios that evidence practice-based research and auditing the REF open access compliance of academic journals deposited into MMUs e-space digital repository.

Ben Peirson-Smith, Sep 2019

Update from Miten Mistry, former Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2017-2019

Photograph of Miten at the Being Human exhibition at Wellcome Collection, 2019.

Miten at the Being Human exhibition at Wellcome Collection, 2019.
Image by Steven Pocock, Wellcome Collection.

The traineeship at the Bodleian Libraries was a great experience and helped me on my way to pursuing a career in archives. Post traineeship, after applying for several jobs, I secured a position at the Wellcome Collection as a cataloguing archivist for the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) archive. I thought this role would be limited to only cataloguing activities, however the size, complexity and variety of Wellcome Collection has allowed me to do a lot more.

The day to day cataloguing of the IPA archive has involved all aspects of archival processing with the addition of dealing with the expected and unexpected issues that arise with the logistical challenge of a large collection. Part of my role involves regular desk duty in the Rare Materials room, the Library Enquiry desk and answering email enquires. I have also been able to undertake acquisition work with our collections development team and get involved with digital archiving with regards to processes and workflows.

I would recommend the traineeship as it exposes you to all aspects of working in a large archive. There are similarities and differences between the Bodleian Libraries and the Wellcome Collection, however the skills I gained from the traineeship have been invaluable in helping me adapt to working in a new archive and environment.

Miten Mistry, Sep 2019

Update from Rachael Gardner, former Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2015-2017

Photograph of Rachael in the palm house at Kew, 2019

Rachael in the palm house at Kew, 2019

Following my traineeship, I began work as a Project Cataloguer working on the Georgian Papers Programme at the Royal Archives, which is a large-scale digitisation, cataloguing and research project making all the Royal Archives’ Georgian material freely accessible online. Here I catalogued papers of George IV to item level, supported researchers, and gained experience of digitisation workflows. This built on the cataloguing and palaeography experience I had developed at the Bodleian.

I then moved to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where I am currently in the middle of a two-year project cataloguing the Miscellaneous Reports Collection, a large collection of nineteenth and twentieth century material relating to global and colonial networks of economic botany. I am responsible for the cataloguing of this complex collection, which includes correspondence, printed reports, newspaper cuttings, photographs, illustrations, and even plant specimens. My role has included implementing new cataloguing and indexing protocols, using linked data to index botanical names, managing volunteers, and promoting the collection to researchers and the public through exhibitions, group visits, social media, talks, and academic events.

I really enjoyed my traineeship and am grateful for the brilliant opportunity it gave me to gain skills in a wide variety of archive work, which has given me a useful grounding for my career so far.

Rachel Gardner, 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

Old Ideas, New Technologies: Historical and Vintage Festivals in the UK Web Archive

Festivals are wonderful events that can often involve thousands of people, united by their shared love for a common activity or theme. The UK Web Archive seeks to capture, and record these often colourful and creative demonstrations of human culture and creativity.

Some Festivals are very large and documented, such as Glastonbury which often attracts over a 100,000 people. However, there are also a number of smaller and more specific festivals which are less well known outside of their local communities and networks, such as the Shelswell History Festival. However, the internet has helped level the playing field, and given these smaller festivals an opportunity to publicise their events far beyond the reaches of their traditional borders and boundaries. And this has allowed archivists such as myself to find and add these festivals to the UK Web Archive.

(The Festivals Icon on the UK Web Archive Website)

Historical and Vintage Festivals

One of the most personally intriguing parts of the UK Web Archive festivals collection for me is Historical and Vintage festivals. These festivals rarely attract the level of media attention that a high profile music festival featuring the world’s biggest pop stars would enjoy. However, the UK Web Archive, is about diversity, inclusivity, and finding value in all parts of society. People who attend, organise, and take part in historical and vintage festivals form part of a collective effort which often results in a website that helps chronicle their enthusiasm.

Thus far we have found forty eight different historical and vintage festivals that take place in the United Kingdom. These festivals are broad and varied, and celebrate a multitude of things. This includes Newport Rising which celebrates the 1839 Chartist rebellion, the Lupton House Festival of History which celebrates a historic house, and Frock Me! Which is a vintage fashion fair. Every single one of these festivals is unique and specific in their own way, but they do have something in common. They all celebrate history and the past, and are characterised by a charming sense of nostalgia and remembrance.

While the website is no substitute for attending in person, they often include:

• Basic information about the festival’s time, place, and theme.
• An array of photographs.
• Anecdotes about the events.
• Information about the festivals donors and supporters.
• And additional information, such as attendance policies and rules etc.

A notable feature of these websites is how they use relatively new technologies to organise events which celebrate old events, places, and themes. This indicates a fantastic synergy between the heritage sector, and modern technology.

Online Enthusiast Communities in the UK Web Archive

There is a saying that ‘variety is the spice of life’ and this is certainly true when you think of the types of hobbies and interests the UK public engages in. There are the hobbies we have all probably heard of such as train spotting or metal detecting and there are the more obscure ones such as Poohsticks or Hand Dryer appreciation.  Websites are a useful tool for enthusiasts to communicate and share their passion with the world. At the UK Web Archive (UKWA) the Online Enthusiast Communities  collection aims to:

‘Capture how UK based public forums are used to discuss hobbies and activities and serve as a place for enthusiasts to converse with others sharing similar interests.’

This collection includes such a diverse and wonderful selection of websites and forums. I can honestly say that curating this collection has truly been a joy – there are probably very few jobs that allow you to look at The Letter Box Study Group (a website about the history and development of British roadside letter boxes) as part of your tasks for the day.

Differences I have noticed

As a curator you get to explore lots of sites and you begin to notice differences and similarities between websites. It is interesting to see the variety in website design and levels of expertise and to me it feels like this is reflected in the websites that are archived.

I have noticed lots of online communities using a variety of website builders. The huge diversity in tools appear to have made it easier to create more professional looking sites with ease. Compared to older sites, you notice:

  • the increased use of images
  • cleaner feel
  • neutral backgrounds
  • minimal text
  • occasional e-commerce sections

However, it is nostalgic to see some of the older more ‘blocky’ sites, as I do remember the days of dial-up internet access and early web sites. To me, forums tend to have a similar feel and the designs does not deviate greatly from each other.

I have also found how often a website updates intriguing. Some are regularly updated whereas others appear to have been untouched for several years. This may reflect that many websites are run by volunteers balancing other commitments. Regularity of updates is an important factor as it will contribute to deciding how often we capture the site – it is the skill of a web archivist to judge this accordingly however these frequencies can be updated.

Some of my Favourite sites

One of the joys of curating this collection is that you get to experience sites that are really unique that you would not normally explore. I wanted to highlight a few of the sites that particularly caught my attention, specifically from the ‘Miscellaneous’ sub section as this is my personal favourite.

Pylon of the Month

Pylon of the month (February 2018) from Sweden. Image Credit: Kristin Allardh, 2018

This is a site dedicated to electricity pylons highlighting a monthly winner. These could include current pylons or historic images and entries can come from the UK and beyond. Images are usually accompanied by some interesting history or facts.

Modernist Britain

Odeon cinema Leicester, Leicestershire. Image Credit: Richard Coltman, 2010

This site is beautifully designed and celebrates modernist architecture in Britain. There are fifty illustrated images with accompanying information about the history of the buildings and photographs taken by Richard Coltman.

Cloud appreciation society

A Lenticular cloud. Image Credit: © José Ramón Sáez, 2019

This site was launched in 2005 with the aim of ‘bringing together people who love the sky’. It has an international membership with members submitting images from all over the world. They also run events, cloud related news and in 2019 they are contributing to the non-profit FogQuest project.

The online enthusiast community is also very witty, there are some fantastically named sites and forums such as:

  • Planet of the Vapes – a forum about vaping
  • DIYnot Forum – a forum about DIY
  • Frit-Happens! – an online community for glass blowing and glass crafting

Curating the online enthusiast collection has been incredibly enjoyable. Having to actively seek new sites has made me more aware of the variety of hobbies and diversity of interests the public engage in.

As this collection develops, more sites relating to the variety of hobbies and interests will be captured and persevered for future generations explore, enjoy and research. However, due to the size, complexity and technological challenges of archiving all UK websites, some may get missed or we just do not know about them . If there is a site that you think should be included then you can nominate it on the ‘Save a UK website‘ page of the UKWA.

Developing collections on Gender Equality at the UK Web Archive

The Gender Equality collection

The UK web archive Gender Equality collection and its themed subsections provide a rich insight into attitudes and approaches towards gender equality in contemporary UK society and culture. This was previously discussed in my last blog post about the collection, which you can read here.

Curating the collection

A great deal of the discussion and activity relating to gender equality occurs predominantly in an online space. This means that as a curator for the Gender Equality collection, the harvest is plenty! The type of content being collected by the UK Web Archive includes:

Of course there is some crossover, not only regarding the type of content but also within subsections of the gender equality collection.

This image is made available and reproduced by CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0. [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode]

Specifically, I find the event sites in the collection really interesting. As well as documenting that the event(s) even existed and happened in the first place, they can give us a snapshot of who organised the event, as well as who the intended audience were. Also, the collection exhibits the evolution of websites related to gender equality over time (which can be very speedy indeed when it comes to sites like twitter accounts!), and the changing priorities, trends, initiatives and more that can tell us about attitudes towards gender equality in the UK. These kinds of websites are being created by and engaged with by humans right now.

Nominate a website!

The endeavour of the UK Web Archive never stops – if you would like to help grow the Gender Equality collection (or indeed, any other collections) click here to nominate a website to save. Go on…whilst you’re at it, you can explore the UK Web Archive’s funky new interface!

 

Image reference: Workers Solidarity Movement (2012) March for Choice

 

Festivals in the UK Web Archive

Live events are funny things; can their spirit be captured or do you have to “be there to get it”? Personally I don’t think you can, so why are we archiving festival websites?

Running throughout the year, though most tend to be clustered around the short UK summer, festivals form a huge part of the UK’s contemporary cultural scene.  While it’s often the big music festivals that come to mind such as Glastonbury and Reading or perhaps the more local CAMRA sponsored beer and cider festivals; these days there is a festival for pretty much everything under the sun.

UK Web Archive topics and themes

In part this explosion of festivals from the very local and niche to the mainstream and brand sponsored has been helped by the internet. You can now find festivals dedicated to anything from bird watching to meat grilling to vintage motors.

With the number of tools and platforms available for website creation and event and bookings management and the rise of social media, it seems anyone with an idea can put on a festival. More importantly with increasing connectedness that the web gives us, the reach of these home grown festivals has become potentially global.

Of course most will remain small local events that go on until the organisers lose interest or money such as Blissfields in Winchester which had to cancel their 2018 event due to poor ticket sales. But some will make it big like Neverworld which started in 2006 in Lee Denny’s back garden while his parents were away for the week but now 10+ years on has sold out the 5000 capacity festival venue it has relocated to.

The UK Web Archive‘s Festivals collection attempts to capture the huge variety of UK festivals taking place each year and currently has around 1200 events being archived that are loosely categorised based around 15 common themes, though of course there is a great deal of crossover as they can be found combining themes such as:

In this collection of UK festivals sites, while we cannot capture the spirit of a live event we can still try to capture their transient nature. Here you can see their rise and fall, the photographs and comments left in their wake, and their impact on local communities over time. Hopefully these sites and their contents can still give future researchers a sometimes surprising and often candid snapshot of contemporary British culture.

Emily Chen

Oxford LibGuides: Web Archives

Web archives are becoming more and more prevalent and are being increasingly used for research purposes. They are fundamental to the preservation of our cultural heritage in the interconnected digital age. With the continuing collection development on the Bodleian Libraries Web Archive and the recent launch of the new UK Web Archive site, the web archiving team at the Bodleian have produced a new guide to web archives. The new Web Archives LibGuide includes useful information for anyone wanting to learn more about web archives.

It focuses on the following areas:

  • The Internet Archive, The UK Web Archive and the Bodleian Libraries Web Archive.
  • Other web archives.
  • Web archive use cases.
  • Web archive citation information.

Check out the new look for the Web Archives LibGuide.