Category Archives: Learning and teaching

Shakespearean Talk

This year, 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, the Bodleian Libraries are taking part in Oxford’s year-long celebration Shakespeare Oxford 2016.

On the 18th of March, David Crystal and his actor/director son Ben Crystal gave the second of a series of fifteen free talks on Shakespeare that will be held at the Weston Library. The lecture, ‘How To Talk Like Shakespeare’, focused on the inspirations and evidence for David’s soon to be published book, the Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation, which is the first full description of the way that Shakespeare and his cohort actually spoke in the 16th-17th centuries. The talk featured short performances by David and Ben to demonstrate the differences between the usual modern ‘received’ pronunciation of Shakespeare’s work and the way the plays would have sounded in their original pronunciation (OP).

You can see them in action for yourself in this Open University video.

Friday’s lecture beautifully illustrated the case David makes on originalpronunciation.com for why we should be care about how Shakespeare and his actors spoke:

  • Rhymes that don’t work in modern English suddenly work.

  • Puns missed in modern English become clear.

  • New assonances and rhythms give lines a fresh impact.

  • Original pronunciation illustrates what is meant by speaking ‘trippingly upon the tongue’ (Hamlet).

  • Original pronunciation suggests new contrasts in speech style, such as between young and old, court and commoners, literate and illiterate.

  • OP motivates fresh possibilities of character interpretation.

As archivists, we get to add that OP makes us consider our early manuscripts in a new light! In the Q&A session after the talk, Mike Webb, the Curator of Early Modern Manuscripts here at the Weston Library, mentioned the 1645-1649 account book of Mary Gofton (described online here). Spelling wasn’t fully fixed in this period and Mary often writes phonetically. It would have been easy to overlook this or perhaps even to mark the author as badly educated, or just a poor speller, but this phonetic spelling turns out to be a fantastic gift. Reading the account book aloud and doing your best impression of OP, Mary’s voice jumps out of the text. You can see a sample of the account book below: the perfectly OP-sounding ‘Lettell Mall’ and ‘Lettell Neck’ [Nick] are her grandchildren.

Gofton account book (MS. Eng. e. 3651)

Gofton account book (MS. Eng. e. 3651) – Click to enlarge

David Crystal also discussed the effect that OP has on audiences and actors. One outcome of using OP is that the plays become more engaging to people who are put off by, or find difficult to understand, the ‘posh’ received pronunciation (RP) that we have all come to associate with Shakespeare. (Interestingly, there was nothing like received pronunciation in Shakespeare’s day – distinct class-based accents seem to be a product of the nineteenth century.)

Another advantage is that actors who would normally fake RP don’t have to hide their native accents because OP wasn’t itself an accent, more of a dialect, and it underlay many distinctive regional accents in the early modern period. So, for example (with apologies to all linguists!) ‘temptation’ and any other word ending in ‘tion’ was pronounced something like ‘temp-tay-see-on’ in OP, whether the speaker came from Devon or London, while today it’s pronounced something like ‘temp-tay-shun’ by most English speakers, wherever you come from. And for that majority of modern English-speaking people who don’t use RP, whether they’re from the UK or other English-speaking countries, OP can sound more familiar and intelligible than RP – not surprising, as it was the foundation accent for so many English-speaking countries.

If you want to hear more OP in action, there are plenty of demonstrations and transcriptions online. Why not start with Ben Crystal performing Hamlet’s ‘To Be, or not to be?’.

DPC Student Conference: What I Wish I Knew Before I Started

The world of digital preservation can appear a bit daunting: a world full of checksums and programming and OAIS models, AIPs and DIPs, combined with the urgency of acting before it all becomes too late and technological obsolescence creates a black hole, swallowing up our digital heritage. The Digital Preservation Coalition’s What I Wish I Knew Before I Started  Student Conference provided an opportunity to meet others beginning to work in digital preservation, and hear advice and reassurance from a range of interesting expert speakers.

Fancy words and acronym bingo

The day began with an Introduction to Digital Preservation by the DPC’s Sharon McMeekin who introduced us to current models, methodologies and frameworks, which she warned could also be known as fancy words and acronym bingo. Her presentation was very practical and informed us about resources which will be invaluable when putting digital preservation into practice. Sharon emphasised the importance of active preservation: it isn’t only the digital materials which are vulnerable to obsolescence, but the digital preservation systems that they are stored in. Crucially, digital preservation needs to be embedded into day-to-day work to make it sustainable.

The need for active preservation was echoed by Steph Taylor from the University of London Computer Centre, who urged us all to learn to keep up to date and engage with the digital preservation community through twitter, blogs and forums. She counselled us to be prepared to explain again and again that digital preservation is really not the same thing as backing up files.

Matthew Addis from Arkivum then gave a technologist’s perspective, introducing us to a range of software and tools including the DROID file format identification tool; the POWRR Grid that maps preservation tools against types of content and stages of their lifecycle; the PRONOM registry of file formats; the Exactly checksum tool, among many others, carrying on the game of acronym bingo. The amount of choice of tools and standards can lead to what Matthew called preservation paranoia and then to preservation paralysis where the task seems so big and complex that it seems better to do nothing at all.

It’s people that are the biggest risk to digital content surviving into the future. People thinking that preservation is too hard, too expensive, or tomorrow’s problem and not today’s. (Addis, 2016)

Being a digital archivist = being an archivist with extra super powers

The afternoon sessions were launched by Adrian Brown from the Parliamentary Archives. The Parliamentary Archives hold a wide range of digital material, from the expected email and audio-visual records to the more surprising virtual reality tours and reconstructions of sinking ships. He emphasised that digital archiving was still essentially archiving, involving selection, appraisal, preservation, cataloguing and supporting users. Being a digital archivist, he said, is the same thing as being an archivist, only with extra super powers.

Next, Glenn Cumiskey, Digital Preservation Manager at the British Museum spoke about the importance of engaging with technology, decision makers and user communities. In the current environment, Glenn  illustrated through the roles associated with digital preservation: Archivist, Records Manager, Librarian, Information Technologist, Digital Humanities, and Software Programmer all at once, that you may need to be all of these things at once.

We then heard from Helen Hockx-Yu from the Internet Archive. Here at the Bodleian, the digital archive trainees are actively involved with the Bodleian Libraries Web Archive which uses the Internet Archive’s ‘Archive-It’ and ‘wayback machine’ services. It was interesting to hear from Helen about the redevelopment work she is involved in and how her own career developed in web archiving. Her final advice to us was to keep learning and not worry about being a perfectionist.

Ann MacDonald from the University of Kent inspired us with a talk about her own career began and developed over the last few years, and emphasised that technical innovations are not all about big machines and that small actions can go a long way in implementing digital preservation.

Only point of digital preservation is reuse of data. Nothing else.

Finally, Dave Thompson, Digital Curator at the Wellcome Collection, gave an entertaining presentation which made the point that digital preservation is not an exercise in technology  for its own sake.  He argued that the only point of digital preservation is the reuse of data, therefore data needs to be reusable, consumable and shareable. Digital preservation should be seized as a social opportunity to do this.

Overall, the DPC’s Student Conference: What I Wish I Knew Before I Started was an engaging mixture of reassurance, ideas and advice to prepare us to begin working practically with digital preservation. Key themes which emerged across the presentations were the importance of people in the process, the importance we must give to what users actually want from digital collections, and the importance of selling the benefits and opportunities that digital preservation can bring. It introduced us to technology, tools and processes, but at the same time stressed that you do not need to be a qualified programmer to work in digital preservation.

John Clay Sanskrit Librarian

Camillo-crop

The library welcomes Camillo Formigatti  who will take up the position of John Clay Sanskrit Librarian on 1st February. Camillo has a doctorate in Indology from the University of Hamburg and has previously worked as a Research Associate on the Sanskrit Manuscripts Project, Cambridge.  He is extremely excited at the opportunity to promote the world of Sanskrit literature, which is brought to life in the Clay Sanskrit Library series and which is preserved in the Bodleian Libraries’ historic collections of manuscripts and books. Describing it as, ‘the type of job I always hoped I might one day be able to do,’ Camillo looks forward to sharing insights into this rich and ancient literary heritage over the coming months.

Event: Exploring the UK Web, 11 December 2015

 

Wab Archives TalkExploring the UK Web:
An introduction to web archives as scholarly resources

11 December 2015
2.00pm – 4.00pm

Venue: Lecture Theatre, Weston Library

Speakers: Jason Webber, Prof Jane Winters, Dr Gareth Millward, Prof Ralph Schroeder

‘The Web’, in the 25 years of its existence, has become deeply ingrained in modern life: it is where we find information, communicate, research, share ideas, shop, get entertained, set and follow trends and, increasingly, live our social lives.
As much as we rely on traditional paper archives today to find out about the past, for anyone trying to understand life in the late 20th and early 21st century, archived websites will be an invaluable resource.

Join us and our expert panel for an afternoon of exploring the archives of the UK web space, focusing on their potential use for research and teaching. Short presentations will introduce the resources and tools available for web archives research in the UK, and the opportunities (and challenges) they come with in theory and practice: from web archives curation, preservation and research tool development at the British Library, to current research in the Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities (BUDDAH) Project and at the Oxford Internet Institute.
Afterwards there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion – your chance to ask everything you ever wanted to know about web archives and to contribute your thoughts and ideas to an emerging discipline.

Admission free. All welcome.
To secure a place, please complete our booking form via What’s on

Jason Webber is the Web Archiving Engagement and Liaison Manager at the British Library, working with the UK Web Archive and the Legal Deposit Web Archive.
Jane Winters is Professor of Digital History at the Institute of Historical Research, and Principal Investigator in the BUDDAH Project.
Gareth Millward is a Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and one of the BUDDAH Project bursary holders.
Ralph Schroeder is a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Digital.Bodleian + Wikipedia

For anyone looking to define Taijitu, Putso or Sangha, or to learn about Elizabeth Fry, the Junior wives of Krishna, or the Royal Ploughing Ceremony, one of the top internet search hits will be Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Articles about these, and hundreds of other topics, are now being improved using the Bodleian Libraries’ historic collections.

Images from Digital.Bodleian collection are being uploaded to Commons, the database of freely reusable digital files. From here they can be embedded in articles not just in English Wikipedia, but in other languages and in other educational projects. So far, more than six hundred articles, across many different languages, are illustrated with images from the Bodleian Libraries, reaching a total of nearly 1.5 million readers per month.

Military Insignia of the Late Roman Army (Insignia of the magister militum praesentalis. Folio 96 v of the manuscript Notitia dignitatum. Bodleian Library, MS. Canon. Misc. 378.) Licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Military Insignia of the Late Roman Army (Insignia of the magister militum praesentalis. Folio 96 v of the manuscript Notitia dignitatum. Bodleian Library, MS. Canon. Misc. 378.) Licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Bodleian images come from many different countries and eras. The themes range from the serene watercolours of 19th century Burma (present-day Myanmar), via geometrical diagrams in an 11th century Arabic book, to the nightmarish demonic visions of the 14th century Book of Wonders.

A taste is given in an image gallery on Commons. Clicking on any of the images – here or in Wikipedia – and then on ‘More details’ will bring up a larger version, along with links and shelfmarks so that interested readers can track down the physical object.

Anyone is allowed to edit the entries for the images, for example to translate descriptions into other languages. However, these edits are monitored to make sure they respect the educational goals of the site.

This is just the start of an ongoing project: more files and more themes will be added over the next nine months. The Bodleian Libraries’ Wikimedian In Residence, Martin Poulter, welcomes enquiries – you can get in touch via the form below.

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A rare insight into the world of archives – Internship at the Bodleian’s Archives and Modern Manuscripts section

Monday 16th March 2015 saw a new face appear behind the scenes at the Bodleian Archives – this one:

Donning my protective cap.  An essential for any self-respecting (and Health & Safety-abiding) archivist venturing down to the underground stacks of the Weston Library

Donning my protective cap. An essential for any self-respecting (and Health-and-Safety-abiding) archivist venturing down to the underground stacks of the Weston Library

I had begun my internship, based in the brand new Weston Library, eager to experience all that the world of archives had to offer, and the timing could not have been more perfect. The ‘Archives and Modern Manuscripts’ department had their hands full with various fascinating projects and the whole place was buzzing with excitement ahead of the official public opening of the library on the 21st of March.

Blackwell Hall and the Marks of Genius exhibition, visited by VIPS including Stephen Hawking and David Attenborough the day before they official opening, cause quite a stir among the archivists!

Blackwell Hall and the Marks of Genius exhibition, visited by VIPs including Stephen Hawking and David Attenborough the day before they official opening on 21st March 2015.

For the four weeks of my internship was entrusted with the responsibility of working on the Edgar Wind papers cataloguing project, alongside (or rather, under the supervision of) the Project Archivist Svenja Kunze.
The Edgar Wind papers  encompasses the published and unpublished works of Edgar Wind; a modest 345 boxes filled to the brim with previously unseen correspondence, drafts, research papers, photographs and illustrations, etc.
For those who don’t know who Edgar Wind is – and I certainly didn’t before my time here! – He is a world-renowned art historian who in 1955 became the first professor of Art History at the University of Oxford. His late wife, Margaret Wind, lovingly kept all of his papers, organising them for some thirty years after his death, and leaving them to the Bodleian Archives upon hers.

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The Edgar Wind papers in the boxes they came in, with labels by Margaret Wind…

So after a mini tour of the building – during which I saw the archival storage rooms, extending a good three floors below ground level; the regally furnished reading rooms; the all-important Headley Tea Room; and of course, Blackwell Hall – I knuckled down.

With most of the organisation and arrangement of Edgar Wind papers having already been done for us by Margaret Wind, our first step in processing the collection was preservation. Seemingly insignificant objects, like a staple, have to be removed from the papers, because they can have a detrimental effect on documents. The metal rusts, which stains and ultimately eats away at the paper. Even normal plastic wallets are dangerous, their solvents leaking onto the paper and wreaking destructive havoc.

The documents then get packaged in special archive quality folders and boxes which protect them from environmental damage and help preventing the deterioration of the paper. Photographs get interleaved with archival paper or encased in clear polyester pockets to protect them.

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…and repackaged in shiny new archival folders and boxes, for permanent storage.

With preservation complete, step two in collection processing is cataloguing. This is a meticulous process. The nature and content of each box and folder has to be documented in accordance to the standards of the Bodleian. This includes referencing the date of the documents, the people and subject matters involved, the type of documents (such as photographs, correspondence, typescripts, etc.), and anything else that may be relevant.
This makes it easier for researchers accessing the manuscripts to navigate the folders and gives a useful overview as to what they contain.

Older documents are occasionally covered in dust; they may be water-damaged; they may even be home to dry or active mould. At this point it stops being the archivists’ responsibility and is passed on to the dedicated Preservation and Conservation team, who kindly gave me a tour of their department.

In fact, everybody here has been more than willing to show me around the building and the numerous facilities it houses, and to introduce me to their tasks and responsibilities, which vary greatly from person to person.
The world of archivists is a truly friendly one, with most of the bonding occurring over tea and cake! Tea breaks – as I soon discovered – are the heart and soul of archiving, especially as, for preservation reasons, no food or drink (not even water!) are allowed into archives offices and other areas where original documents are handled.

But tours, chatting, and cake aside, there was much work to be done. Since that first week I have learned what it is that inspires a person to become an archivist, what gets them out of bed and into work bright and early every morning:  Learning. The Unknown.

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From Edgar Wind’s research notes: deciphering handwriting can be a challenge, especially if it comes in foreign languages.

Every project an archivist gets is different from the last. There’s a different subject matter, it could relate to any country or culture of any given time period, it might be personal, literary, political. So with every project an archivist has the opportunity not only to handle documents previously unseen by most, but also to become an expert in a topic they had never considered, or perhaps even heard of before.
For me, this was Raphael’s ‘Stanza della Segnatura’, the artists of eighteenth century England, and the transfer of the Warburg Library from Hamburg to London during World War II, whilst simultaneously getting a sneak peek into the personal life of the late Dr Edgar Wind.

The tols of the archival trade: pencils (not pens!), vinyl rubbers, archival folders, polyester sheets, and the all-important staple remover.

The tools of the archival trade: pencils (not pens!), vinyl rubbers, archival folders, polyester sheets, and the all-important staple remover.

So as my time here comes to an end, as I sit in the quietude of the Reading Room, tapping away at my keyboard and reflecting on all that I have learned and experienced during these few short weeks, I can already feel the sorrow and nostalgia rising within me. I have had an amazing time, met some amazing people, and I am honoured to be able to give you all this glimpse into the secret life of archives.

– Georgia Tutt, Somerville College

Archives 2.0: Saving the Past, Anticipating the Future

I recently attended the Archives 2.0 conference at the National Media Museum, Bradford, which set out to examine the challenges and opportunities of photographic and film archives.

I was very interested to hear Jem Southam and Val Millington’s discussion of the Photographers’ Archives and Legacy Project. The project was set up to examine how photographers were preparing for their archival legacy. Some of their key findings were:

  • Photographers often have no knowledge of what happens to their archive after their death.
  • This is a cross generational issue affecting both early career and established photographers.
  • Working with analogue and digital photographs is a more complex issue than they had anticipated.
  • There is a false assumption that digitisation will solve the issue.
  • There is no national forum to consider these issues and there are no standard procedures in place to help photographers prepare their archival legacy.

The need for archivists to be proactively working with photographers, and other archive creators, was also discussed by Denise Gose in her keynote address. She outlined how the University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography builds relationships with photographers throughout their working lives to ensure that their work is captured and preserved for the future.

One of the major themes of the conference was the challenge of managing today’s digital heritage. There is a significant challenge in evolving long-term preservation methods for digital filmmaking. Sarah Atkinson spoke about the Deep Film Access Project at the University of Brighton which is developing a methodology whereby both the digital and analogue materials created in the process of producing feature films can be captured, integrated and made accessible to researchers.

Luca Antoniazzi (University of Leeds) discussed some of the challenges for cultural institutions preserving analogue and digital film archives:

  • There is huge potential in digital technology in terms of access, preservation and participation.
  • Audio visual digital preservation is particularly problematic. The amount of data to be preserved is huge.
  • Interpretative frameworks and best practice are still very much a work in progress.
  • Mass digitisation of analogue film seems to be too expensive for most institutions for the foreseeable future.
  • There is a need for shared strategies for mass digitisation in the short-term.

The main message that I took away from the conference was that a successful shift to ‘archives 2.0’ was heavily reliant on collaboration not just between institutions, but between archivists, curators, librarians, donors, creators, academics, technical specialists and community groups.

-Matthew Neely

Opposites Attract: Science and Archives

Following on from last year’s successful conference on women in science, hosted by London Metropolitan Archives, we were delighted to present a paper at this year’s ‘Opposites Attract: Science and Archives’ event.

During the day we heard from a mix of speakers on quite varied topics relating to science in the archives. We were particularly interested to hear from Anita Hollier from the CERN archive, and she spoke about the overall objectives and scope of her work at CERN, including selection of records for permanent preservation, digitisation projects and the challenge of electronic records, which we all face as archivists. Anita also provided examples of some of the fascinating archives held at CERN, including Nobel Laureate, Wolfgang Pauli. Felicity Henderson then provided a fascinating window into the life and work of Robert Hooke in 17th century London. We heard about the social conditions that enabled the development of science in the 17th century, and how Hooke was able to gather and pass information between the Royal Society and the commercial networks he penetrated in London’s coffee houses. These were frequented by bookmakers, seafarers, merchants and alderman, and through Hooke, provided the link between the Royal Society and the wider world. Caroline de Stefani , Conservation Studio Manager from London Metropolitan Archives then provided an interesting and visual presentation on the archive’s conservation work carried out at the LMA in order to make the fire and water-damaged Great Parchment Book (a survey commissioned by Charles I) accessible to researchers. You can see their work here.

We then spoke about our work on the collections development aspects of Saving Oxford Medicine and also the challenges associated with preserving and cataloguing modern science collections. You can view our presentation slides here.

 
Anne Barrett closed the day with a presentation on global linked data catalogues in the history of science. Saving Oxford Medicine would like to thank conference organiser Howard Benge for an enjoyable and thought-provoking day.

From Downing Street to the Trenches: First-Hand Accounts from the Great War, 1914-1916

OXFORD LITERARY FESTIVAL EVENT

From Downing Street to the Trenches: First-Hand Accounts from the Great War, 1914-1916

2:00pm | Monday 24 March 2014 | Bodleian: Convocation House | Tickets £11 | details

Mike Webb will be talking about his book to be published alongside the Bodleian Libraries Exhibition, The Great War: Personal Stories from Downing Street to the Trenches, 1914-1916 which runs from 12 June to 2 November 2014

step-into your place-poster