The Nuclear Disarmament Symbol sketches

Archives Hub feature for March 2017

The nuclear disarmament symbol, often known as the ‘peace sign’, is a modern icon, used by protestors and activists across the world and provoking powerful emotions.  It is ubiquitous in fashion and youth culture, to be seen on clothing, jewellery, tattoos, even toiletries.  Special Collections at the University of Bradford is home to the original sketches of this extraordinary design.

Brown nuclear disarmament symbol sketch by Gerald Holtom

Brown nuclear disarmament symbol sketch by Gerald Holtom. Image copyright: Cwl ND symbol drawing, courtesy of the Trustees of the Commonweal Collection, University of Bradford.

The symbol was designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom, an artist based in Twickenham.  It was intended for use on a march from London to the nuclear weapons research establishment at Aldermaston that Easter.  The march was being organised by a small group of activists influenced by Gandhi’s ideas about nonviolent resistance; they had formed the Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War (DAC) the previous year in response to the testing of Britain’s first hydrogen bomb.

Photograph of the first Aldermaston March 1952

Photograph of the first Aldermaston March 1952. Image copyright: March photograph Cwl HBP (rights unknown).

In creating the visuals for the march, Holtom wanted to develop a symbol for the concept of nuclear disarmament.  In a 1973 letter to Hugh Brock (editor of Peace News in 1958, active in the Direct Action Committee), Holtom remembered:

I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it. It was ridiculous at first and such a puny thing …“.

The symbol also represented the semaphore signals for the letters N and D: Nuclear Disarmament.

Holtom sketched his design to meet the need of the moment; he did not expect the sketches to be of interest or preserved years into the future, and nor did many of his contemporaries.  Among our other loans to the IWM, we see a letter from a fellow activist dated 10 March 1958; she rejected the use of the symbol, calling it ‘quite obscure’ and suggestive of ‘some Secret Society’.

Nuclear disarmament march sketch by Gerald Holtom

Nuclear disarmament march sketch by Gerald Holtom. Image copyright: Cwl ND symbol drawing, courtesy of the Trustees of the Commonweal Collection, University of Bradford.

However, the march organisers were pleased with the design and it was used extensively on DAC literature thereafter.  Reflecting huge public anxiety about nuclear testing and the arms race, the 1958 Easter march attracted much larger numbers and attention than previous protests directed at Aldermaston.  Marchers, passers-by, readers of newspapers; all saw the symbol in action, on leaflets, flyers, song-sheets and banners.  Its popularity was assured when later that year the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament asked to adopt the symbol, and it has been synonymous with nuclear disarmament campaigns ever since.  Easy to draw and to adapt, and hinting at other shapes and symbols (a missile, a tree …),  the symbol was widely adopted by 1960s counter-cultural groups and came to symbolise peace and dissent more generally.

Songs for the Aldermaston March 1958

Songs for the Aldermaston March 1958. Image copyright: March songs Cwl DAC (rights unknown).

The original sketches remained with the papers of Hugh Brock. Following his death in 1985, these materials were given to the Commonweal Library, an independent public library, which stocks resources to help activists working for nonviolent social change.  Commonweal is housed in the J.B. Priestley Library at the University of Bradford so, when the University set up its Special Collections service during the 2000s, it was natural for Commonweal to put their archival collections into the care of these specialist staff.

The sketches are among the most important objects held by Special Collections.  There are four sketches, on three pieces of paper:  two drawings of the shape and two illustrations of it in use on protest marches.  Reproduction does not do these objects justice.  In the flesh we see the weakness of the acidic paper, the cracking of the paint, and the wear and tear of storage and display.

2017 offers a rare chance to see these fragile originals on show.  ‘People Power: fighting for peace’ will be on show at the IWM London from 23 March-28 August 2017. The sketches will take their place among hundreds of objects illustrating the stories of anti-war campaigners in Britain from 1917 to the present.   Many of these stories can also be found through the Archives Hub.

Alison Cullingford
Special Collections Librarian
University of Bradford

Explore

Peace campaign archives in Special Collections at the University of Bradford, including:

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament archives, at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick:

Related features

Two-part feature from September 2006 on nuclear power and nuclear weapons:

Images copyright: Cwl ND symbol drawings courtesy of the Trustees of the Commonweal Collection. March songs Cwl DAC, march photograph Cwl HBP. Rights unknown. Article copyright: University of Bradford, shared under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-NC-SA). [Note that portions of this text have been adapted from existing blog posts and exhibition captions created by Special Collections.]

 

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The Website for the New Archives Hub

screenshot of archives hub homepage

Archives Hub homepage

The back end of a new system usually involves a huge amount of work and this was very much the case for the Archives Hub, where we changed our whole workflow and approach to data processing (see The Building Blocks of the new Archives Hub), but it is the front end that people see and react to; the website is a reflection of the back end, as well as involving its own user experience challenges, and it reflects the reality of change to most of our users.

We worked closely with Knowledge Integration in the development of the system, and with Gooii in the design and implementation of the front end, and Sero ran some focus groups for us, testing out a series of wireframe designs on users. Our intention was to take full advantage of  the new data model and processing workflow in what we provided for our users. This post explains some of the priorities and design decisions that we made. Additional posts will cover some of the areas that we haven’t included here, such as the types of description (collections, themed collections, repositories) and our plan to introduce a proximity search and a browse.

Speed is of the Essence

Faster response times were absolutely essential and, to that end, a solution based on an enterprise search solution (in this case Elasticsearch) was the starting point. However, in addition to the underlying search technology, the design of the data model and indexing structure had a significant impact on system performance and response times, and this was key to the architecture that Knowledge Integration implemented. With the previous system there was only the concept of the ‘archive’ (EAD document) as a whole, which meant that the whole document structure was always delivered to the user whatever part of it they were actually interested in, creating a large overhead for both processing and bandwidth. In the new system, each EAD record is broken down into many separate sections which are each indexed separately, so that the specific section in which there is a search match can be delivered immediately to the user.

To illustrate this with an example:-

A researcher searches for content relating to ‘industrial revolution’ and this scores a hit on a single item 5 levels down in the archive hierarchy. With the previous system the whole archive in which the match occurs would be delivered to the user and then this specific section would be rendered from within the whole document, meaning that the result could not be shown until the whole archive has been loaded. If the results list included a number of very large archives the response time increased accordingly.

In the new system, the matching single item ‘component’ is delivered to the user immediately, when viewed in either the result list or on the detail page, as the ability to deliver the result is decoupled from archive size. In addition, for the detail page,  a summary of the structure of the archive is then built  around the item to provide both the context and allow easy navigation.

Even with the improvements to response times, the tree representation (which does have to present a summary of the whole structure), for some very large multi-level descriptions takes a while to render, but the description itself always loads instantly. This means that that the researcher can always see they have a result immediately and view it, and then the archival structure is delivered (after a short pause for very large archives) which gives the result context within the archive as a whole.

The system has been designed to allow for growth in both the number of contributors we can support and  the number of end-users, and will also improve our ability to syndicate the content to both Archives Portal Europe and deliver contributors own ‘micro sites‘.

Look and Feel

Some of the feedback that we received suggested that the old website design was welcoming, but didn’t feel professional or academic enough – maybe trying to be a bit too cuddly. We still wanted to make the site friendly and engaging, and I think we achieved this, but we also wanted to make it more professional looking, showing the Hub as an academic research tool.  It was also important to show that the Archives Hub is a Jisc service, so the design Gooii created was based upon the Jisc pattern library that we were required to use in order to fit in with other Jisc sites.

We have tried to maintain a friendly and informal tone along with use of cleaner lines and blocks, and a more visually up-to-date feel. We have a set of consistent icons, on/off buttons and use of show/hide, particularly with the filter. This helps to keep an uncluttered appearance whilst giving the user many options for navigation and filtering.

In response to feedback, we want to provide more help with navigating through the service, for those that would like some guidance. The homepage includes some ‘start exploring’ suggestions for topics, to help get inexperienced researchers started, and we are currently looking at the whole ‘researching‘ section and how we can improve that to work for all types of users.

Navigating

We wanted the Hub to work well with a fairly broad search that casts the net quite widely. This type of search is often carried out by a user who is less experienced in using archives, or is new to the Hub, and it can produce a rather overwhelming number of results. We have tried to facilitate the onward journey of the user through judicious use of filtering options. In many ways we felt that filtering was more important than advanced search in the website design, as our research has shown that people tend to drill down from a more general starting point rather than carry out a very specific search right from the off.  The filter panel is up-front, although it can be hidden/shown as desired, and it allows for drilling down by repository, subject, creator, date, level and digital content.

Another way that we have tried to help the end user is by using typeahead to suggest search results. When Gooii suggested this, we gave it some thought, as we were concerned that the user might think the suggestions were the ‘best’ matches, but typeahead suggestions are quite a common device on the web, and we felt that they might give some people a way in, from where they could easily navigate through further descriptions.

Hub website example of type ahead results

A search for ‘design’ with suggested results

 

The suggestions may help users to understand the sort of collections that are described on the Hub. We know that some users are not really aware of what ‘archives’ means in the context of a service like the Archives Hub, so this may help orientate them.

Suggested results also help to explain what the categories of results are – themes and locations are suggested as well as collection descriptions.

 

 

We thought about the usability of the hit list. In the feedback we received there was no clear preference for what users want in a hit list, and so we decided to implement a brief view, which just provides title and date, for maximum number of results, and also an expanded view, with location, name of creator, extent and language, so that the user can get a better idea of the materials being described just from scanning through the hit list.

An example of a hit list result in expanded mode

Expanded mode gives the user more information

With the above example, the title and date alone do not give much information, which is particularly common with descriptions of series or items, of so the name of creator adds real value to the result.

Seeing the Wood Through the Trees

The hierarchical nature of archives is always a challenge; a challenge for cataloguing,  processing and presentation. In terms of presentation, we were quite excited by the prospect of trying something a bit different with the new Hub design. This is where the ‘mini map’ came about. It was a very early suggestion by K-Int to have something that could help to orientate the user when they suddenly found themselves within a large hierarchical description. Gooii took the idea and created a number of wireframes to illustrate it for our focus groups.

For instance, if a user searches on Google for ‘conrad slater jodrell bank’ then they get a link to the Hub entry:

screenshot of google search result for a Hub description

Result of a search on Google

The user may never have used archives, or the Archives Hub before. But if they click on this link, taking them directly to material that sits within a hierarchical description, we wanted them to get an immediate context.

screen shot of one entry in the Jodrell Bank Archive

Jodrell Bank Observatory Archives: Conrad Slater Files

The page shows the description itself, the breadcrumb to the top level, the place in the tree where these particular files are described and a mini map that gives an instant indication of where this entry is in the whole. It is  intended (1) to give a basic message for those who are not familiar with archive collections – ‘there is lots more stuff in this collection’ and (2) to provide the user with a clearly understandable  expanding tree for navigation through this collection.

One of the decision we made, illustrated here, was to show where the material is held at every level, for every unit of description. The information is only actually included at the top level in the description itself, but we can easily cascade it down. This is a good illustration of where the approach to displaying archive descriptions needs to be appropriate for the Web – if a user comes straight into a series or item, you need to give context at that level and not just at the top level.

The design also works well for searches within large hierarchical descriptions.

screenshot showing a 'search within' with highlighted results

Search for ‘bicycles’ within the Co-operative Union Photographic Collection

The user can immediately get a sense of whether the search has thrown up substantial results or not. In the example above you can see that there are some references to ‘bicycles’ but only early on in the description.  In the example below, the search for ‘frost on sunday’ shows that there are many references within the Ronnie Barker Collection.

screenshot showing search within with lots of highlighted results

Search within the Ronnie Barker Collection for ‘frost on sunday’

One of the challenges for any archive interface is to ensure that it works for experienced users and first-time users. We hope that the way we have implemented navigation and searching mean that we have fulfilled this aim reasonably well.

Small is Beautiful

screenshot showing the Hub search on a mobile phone

The Archives Hub on an iPhone

The old site did not work well on mobile devices. It was created before mobile became massive, and it is quite hard to retrospectively fit a design to be responsive to different devices. Gooii started out with the intention of creating a responsive design, so that it renders well on different sized screens.  It requires quite a bit of compromise, because rendering complex multi-level hierarchies and very detailed catalogues on a very small screen is not at all easy. It may be best to change or remove some aspects of functionality in order to ensure the site makes sense. For example, the mobile display does not open the filter by default, as this would push the results down the page. But the user can open the filter and use the faceted search if they choose to do so.

We are particularly pleased that this has been achieved, as something like 30% of Hub use is on mobiles and tablets now, and the basic search and navigation needs to be effective.

graph showing use of desk, mobile and tablet devices on the Hub

Devices used to view the Hub site over a three month period

In the above graph, the orange line is desktop, the green is mobile and the purple is tablet. (the dip around the end of December is due to problems setting up the Analytics reporting).

Cutting Our Cloth

One of the lessons we have learnt over 15 years of working on the Archives Hub is that you can dream up all of the interface ideas that you like, but in the end what you can implement successfully comes down to the data. We had many suggestions from contributors and researchers about what we could implement, but oftentimes these ideas will not work in practice because of the variations in the descriptions.

We though about implementing a search for larger, medium sized or smaller collections, but you would need consistent ‘extent’ data, and we don’t have that because archivists don’t use any kind of controlled vocabulary for extent, so it is not something we can do.

When we were running focus groups, we talked about searching by level – collection, series, sub-series, file, item, etc. For some contributors a search by a specific level would be useful, but we could only implement three levels – collection (or ‘top level’), item (which includes ‘piece’) and then everything between these, because the ‘in-between’ levels don’t lend themselves to clear categorisation. The way levels work in archival description, and the way they are interpreted by repositories, means we had to take a practical view of what was achievable.

We still aren’t completely sold on how we indicate digital content, but there are particular challenges with this. Digital content can be images that are embedded within the description, links to images, or links to any other digital content imaginable. So, you can’t just use an image icon, because that does not represent text or audio. We ended up simply using a tick to indicate that there is digital content of some sort. However, one large collection may have links to only one or two digital items, so in that case the tick may raise false expectations. But you can hardly say ‘includes digital content, but not very much, so don’t get too excited’. There is  room for more thought about our whole approach to digital content on the Hub, as we get more links to digital surrogates and descriptions of born-digital collections.

Statistics

The outward indication of a more successful site is that use goes up. The use of statistics to give an indication of value is fraught with problems. Do the number of clicks represent value? Might more clicks indicate a poorer user interface design? Or might they indicate that users find the site more engaging? Does a user looking at only one description really gain less value than a user looking at ten descriptions? Clearly statistics can only ever be seen as one measure of value, and they need to be used with caution. However, the reality is that an upward graph is always welcomed! Therefore we are pleased to see that overall use of the website is up around 32% compared to this period during the previous year.

graph of blog stats comparing dataJan 2016 (the orange line) and Jan 2017 (the blue line), which shows typical daily use above 2,000 page views.

Feedback

We are pleased to say that the site has been very well received…

“The new site is wonderful. I am so impressed with its speed and functionality, as well as its clean, modern look.” (University Archivist)

“…there are so many other features that I could pick out, such as the ability to download XML and the direct link generator for components as well as collections, and the ‘start exploring’ feature.”  (University Archivist)

“Brand new Archives Hub looks great. Love how the ‘explorer themes’ connect physically separated collections” (Specialist Repository Head of Collections)

“A phenomenal achievement!” (Twitter follower)

 

With thanks to Rob Tice from Knowledge Integration for his input to this post.

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Archive of Recorded Church Music

Archives Hub feature for February 2017

Mobile Recording Van outside Hereford Cathedral

Mobile Recording Van outside Hereford Cathedral, 1927.

THE FOUNDING OF THE ARCHIVE

The first gramophone records went on sale in England 120 years ago and five years later, in 1902, the first ever gramophone record by an English robed choir of gentlemen and boys was issued.  Since then many thousands of recordings of our choirs have been produced and they represent a unique and priceless recorded legacy of these choirs, which are woven into the very fabric of our cultural and musical heritage.

For a country which takes such care of all aspects of its heritage, this is one area which has been woefully neglected and even the National Sound Archives contains only a small selection.

Having spent a lifetime associated with church music and choirs, I decided to start researching and collecting recordings.  As this had never been undertaken there were no discographies to consult and in many instances the choirs themselves had only scant information on what they had recorded over the years.

After fifteen years of collecting and research the Archive of Recorded Church Music is acknowledged to be the definitive collection of recordings worldwide and acquisitions are constantly being added as more and more treasures are discovered.

THE RAISON D’ETRE OF THE ARCHIVE

The Archive seeks to preserve this cultural heritage for future generations from the very first gramophone record in 1902 to the latest new releases.  The recordings in the Archive are ‘from choirs of gentlemen and boys singing in the English Cathedral tradition’ both Anglican and Roman Catholic, from Cathedrals, Abbeys and Minsters, Parish churches, Royal Peculiars (such as the Chapel Royal) Oxbridge chapel choirs, School chapel choirs and independent choirs.

Recording a CD in King's College Chapel

Recording a CD in King’s College Chapel.

This uniquely English tradition became the blue print for Anglican & RC choirs abroad, mainly in Canada, the USA, New Zealand and Australia and the Archive contains a representative selection of recordings from these ‘English’ foreign choirs.

THE RECORDINGS IN THE ARCHIVE

Every category of recording is represented in the Archive, whether it be a commercial issue from a major record company or a smaller independent company; or an in-house recordings issued by the choir themselves for limited sale in their surrounding area; or a private recording of which only that one copy exists.  Each category contains recordings on 78rpm records, reel-to-reel tapes and cassettes, mini-discs, vinyl records and CDs.

Commercial issues:  From 1902 to the present day, every commercial issue is listed in the Archive’s Discography with over 95% being in the collection; the remaining 10% are still to be tracked down.  Many small independent labels over the years have specialized in choir recordings and these form a substantial part of the collection.

St Andrew’s, Wells Street in London

St Andrew’s, Wells Street in London, 1895.

Listen to the very first choir record, issued by the Gramophone Company (the forerunner of EMI) in 1902 of the choir of St Andrew’s, Wells Street in London by clicking here:  http://www.recordedchurchmusic.org/first-choir-to-record.

Of the numerous smaller independent companies specializing in choir recordings, Abbey/Alpha was one of the most famous, owned by Harry Mudd, OBE.  Listen to one of his vinyl records from the choir of All Saints, Margaret Street in London, a choir of legendary status in the history of church music:  https://youtu.be/UBgki4dGicc?list=PLEv7ZfArXoUm9-1GkoVpHpMbVlzNbt5Om.

In-house recordings:  These were commissioned by the choir themselves and usually on sale only in the local area, so therefore more difficult to discover.  The Archive contains thousands of these recordings on every format and many of these choirs are now long gone, their legacy being their recording.

Choir of All Saints, Margaret Street in London

Choir of All Saints, Margaret Street in London, 1968.

As these recordings were commissioned by the choirs themselves they give an excellent representation of the different types of choirs and of choirs which would not have otherwise recorded.

The Chapel Choir of the Royal Wanstead School was in its heyday a particularly fine example of this genre and produced some in-house recordings on 78rpm records.  Listen to the choir and two of their finest chorister soloists singing:  http://www.recordedchurchmusic.org/historic-recordings/royal-wanstead.

Private recordings:  Some of the rarest gems in the Archive are one-off copies of private recordings which were usually made by the choirmaster himself or an enthusiastic amateur. Some choirs are represented with a large archive of these recordings but for many it’s the only recording of that choir in existence and many of the private recordings are of choirs which no longer exist.

Choir of Magdalen College Oxford

Choir of Magdalen College Oxford, 1973.

One of the choirs for which we have a large collection of private recordings is Magdalen College Oxford, under the legendary Bernard Rose.  This particular recording is of Stanford’s Magnificat in C and Rose recalls Sir Walter Alcock, a friend of the composer, telling him of Stanford’s puzzlement at the speed at which most choirmasters took the Magnificat.   In Rose’s and Alcock’s view, this is the speed Stanford wishes it to be sung: https://youtu.be/MHgjuhp74w8.

RADIO & TV BROADCASTS

A major part of the Archive consists of Radio and TV broadcasts which represent an important part of this choral heritage.  The broadcasts consist of services, concerts, recitals and documentaries on choirs and church music and are in particular danger of being lost for ever, as tapes were regularly wiped by the broadcasting company to save space.

TV broadcast from York Minster

TV broadcast from York Minster, 1965.

This is especially true of BBC Choral Evensong broadcasts as the BBC has no broadcasts from before 1990.  Over the years the Archive has gathered up almost 2000 Evensong broadcasts which provide a fascinating snapshot of the choir under the Director of Music at that moment in history.  We regularly upload archive radio broadcasts and BBC Choral Evensong broadcasts to our Youtube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/c/archiveofrecordedchurchmusic.

LIBRARY AND PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVE

This complimentary collection has developed over the years with many thousands of photographs, newspaper and magazine articles, books; in fact, anything relating to choirs, choir schools and choristers and often provides invaluable background information to the recordings.

Visitors are always welcome to come and browse the archive and should you have any recordings of interest, please do get in touch and help the preserve this unique and priceless recorded heritage: www.recordedchurchmusic.org.

Colin Brownlee
Archive of Recorded Church Music

All images copyright the Archive of Recorded Church Music and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

 

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The Archives of Horrockses, cotton manufacturers of Preston

Archives Hub feature for January 2017

Horrockses Miller and Co advertisement

Horrockses Miller and Co advertisement

Our large collection of business records relating to the Horrockses cotton firm was first deposited at Lancashire Archives in 1969, and has proved popular with researchers throughout the last half century. A recent funding award offered the opportunity to spend some time working on the earliest records in the collection, primarily those which date before 1887 when an amalgamation led to the formation of Horrockses Crewdson and Co.

John Horrocks was born in Edgworth, near Bolton, in 1768. His family operated a quarry in the area which was where Horrocks would first begin spinning cotton, selling the finished yarn in Preston. One of the earliest items within the Horrockses archive is a map showing the land owned by the family at Bradshaw, which clearly identifies a stone mill owned by John Horrocks Senior alongside a cotton mill owned by John Horrocks Junior.  John Horrocks eventually moved his business to Preston, opening his first factory in 1791. As the business flourished additional factories would be built on the site, which collectively became known as the Yard Works.

Map showing the land and mills owned by the Horrocks family at Bradshaw

Map showing the land and mills owned by the Horrocks family at Bradshaw

The company grew throughout the 19th century, and probably the most interesting material from this period relates to international trade. Horrockses Miller and Co had a number of agents throughout the world, in countries as diverse as Portugal, Mexico, India and China, and made arrangements not only to sell their cotton in these markets, but also to ship other goods for sale. This trade included the purchase of opium in India to be sold in China, where they would then purchase tea and silk to be brought back to the UK. Much of the correspondence also dates from a time of international conflict, and there are references to the Opium Wars, rebellions in India and Portugal and the Mexican-American war.

'Mills re-opened' bill poster, 1850s

‘Mills re-opened’ bill poster, 1850s

The company was also involved in conflict much closer to home. The longest industrial dispute in Preston’s history took place between October 1853 and May 1854, and became known as the Preston Lock Out. During the 1840s cotton workers throughout Lancashire had suffered a 10-20% cut in their wages and they began to strike in efforts to have it reinstated. In retaliation the cotton masters locked the workers out of the mills denying them a living. As well as direct action, public opinion seems to have been central to the dispute, and the archive includes a collection of bill posters written from the viewpoint of both the striking workers and their employers.

Yet despite events such as these there was also much to be celebrated during this period, including the Preston Guild, an event dating back to the medieval period but which still takes place every twenty years. Horrockses Miller and Co would take the opportunity to publicise their goods, providing floats which would appear in the trade procession and building decorative Guild arches from cotton bales.

Decorative arch, made from cotton bales, as part of the Preston Guild

Decorative arch, made from cotton bales, as part of the Preston Guild

Heritage always seems to have been important to the company, which perhaps explains why we are fortunate to have such an extensive collection of surviving records. Advertising would celebrate the longevity of the firm both in terms of the date that they were established and the quality of the goods being produced. As the business moved into the 20th century they sought new sources of income, most notably with the launch of Horrockses Fashions in the late 1940s. It is this part of the business which is perhaps the most widely known, as the company began using their own cottons to produce off the peg dresses which would prove to be extremely fashionable. Designs would be sought from artists and designers including Pat Albeck, Graham Sutherland and Alastair Morton, and the Queen would famously wear Horrockses dresses on her first Commonwealth Tour.

Painting Ladies (DDHS 77)

Painting Ladies (DDHS 77)

We are currently fundraising to finish cataloguing the later records within the collection, which should help us to learn more about this important and famous period in the history of the company. To find out more or make a donation, please visit http://www.flarchives.co.uk/catalogue-horrockses.html.

Keri Nicholson
Archivist
Lancashire Archives
Lancashire County Council

Related:

Explore the Horrockses, Crewdson and Co, cotton manufacturers, Preston, Lancashire collection (1712-1962) on the Archives Hub

Browse Lancashire Archives Collections on the Archives Hub

All images copyright Lancashire Archives and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

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The Building Blocks of the New Archives Hub

This is the first post outlining what the Archives Hub team have been up to over the past 18 months in creating a new system. We have worked with Knowledge Integration (K-Int) to create a new back end, using their CIIM software and Elastic Search, and we’ve worked with Gooii and Sero to create  a new interface. We are also building a new EAD Editor for cataloguing. Underlying all this we have a new data workflow and we will be implementing this through a new administrative interface. This post summarises some of the building blocks – our overall approach, objectives and processes.

What did we want to achieve?

The Archives Hub started off as a pilot project and has been running continuously as a service aggregating UK archival descriptions since 1999 (officially launched in 2001). That’s a long time to build up experience, to try things out, to have successes and failures, and to learn from mistakes.

The new Hub aimed to learn lessons from the past and to build positively upon our experiences.

Our key goals were:

  • sustainability
  • extensibility
  • reusability

Within these there is an awful I could unpack. But to keep it brief…

It was essential to come up with a system that could be maintained with the resources we had. In fact, we aimed to create a system that could be maintained to a basic level (essentially the data processing) with less effort than before. This included enabling contributors to administer their own data through access to a new interface, rather than having to go through the Hub team. Our more automated approach to basic processing would give us more resource to concentrate on added value, and this is essential in order to keep the service going, because a service has to develop  to remain relevant and meet changing needs.

The system had to be ‘future proof’ to the extent that we could make it so. One way to achieve this is to have a system that can be altered and extended over time; to make sure it is reasonably modular so that elements can be changed and replaced.

Key for us was that we wanted to end up with a store of data that could potentially be used in other interfaces and services. This is a substantial leap from thinking in terms of just servicing your own interface. But it is essential in the global digital age, and when thinking about value and impact, to think beyond your own environment and think in terms of  opportunities for increasing the profile and use of archives and of connecting data. There can be a tension between this kind of objective of openness and the need to clearly demonstrate the impact of the service, as you are pushing data beyond the bounds of your own scope and control, but it is essential for archives to be ‘out there’ in the digital environment, and we cannot shy away from the challenges that this raises.

In pursuing these goals, we needed to bring our contributors along with us. Our aims were going to have implications for them, so it was important to explain what we were doing and why.

Data Model for Sustainability

It is essential to create the right foundation. At the heart of what we do is the data (essentially meaning the archive descriptions, although future posts will introduce other types of data, namely repository descriptions and ‘name authorities’). Data comes in, is processed, is stored and accessed, and it flows out to other systems. It is the data that provides the value, and we know from experience that the data itself provides the biggest challenges.

The Archives Hub system that we originally created, working with the University of Liverpool and Cheshire software, allowed us to develop a successful aggregator, and we are proud of the many things we achieved. Aggregation was new, and, indeed, data standards were relatively new, and the aim was essentially to bring in data and provide access to it via our Archives Hub website. The system was not designed with a focus on a consistent workflow and sustainability was something of an unknown quantity, although the use of Encoded Archival Description (EAD) for our archive collection descriptions gave us a good basis in structured data. But in recent years the Hub started to become out of step with the digital environment.

For the new Hub we wanted to think about a more flexible model. We wanted the potential to add new ‘entities’. These may be described as any real world thing, so they might include archive descriptions, people, organisations, places, subjects, languages, repositories and events. If you create a model that allows for representing different entities, you can start to think about different perspectives, different ways to access the data and to connect the data up. It gives the potential for many different contexts and narratives.

We didn’t have the time and resource to bring in all the entities that we might have wanted to include; but a model that is based upon entities and relationships leaves the door open to further development. We needed a system that was compatible with this way of thinking. In fact, we went live without the ‘People and Organisations’ entity that we have been working on, but we can implement it when we are ready because the system allows for this.

Archives Hub Entity Relationship diagram

Entities within the Archives Hub system

The company that we employed to build the system had to be able to meet the needs of this type of model. That made it likely that we would need a supplier who already had this type of system. We found that with Knowledge Integration, who understood our modelling and what we were trying to achieve, and who had undertaken similar work aggregating descriptions of museum content.

Data Standards

The Hub works with Encoded Archival Description, so descriptions have to be valid EAD, and they have to conform to ISAD(G) (which EAD does). Originally the Hub employed a data editor, so that all descriptions were manually checked. This has the advantage of supporting contributors in a very 1-2-1 way, and working on the content of descriptions as well as the standardisation (e.g. thinking about what it means to have a useful title as well as thinking about the markup and format) and it was probably essential when we set out. But this approach had two significant shortcomings – content was changed without liaising with the contributor, which creates version control issues, and manual checking inevitably led to a lack of consistency and non-repeatable processes. It was resource intensive and not rigorous enough.

In order to move away from this and towards machine based processing we embarked upon a long process, over several months, of discussing ‘Hub data requirements’. It sometimes led to brain-frying discussions, and required us to make difficult decisions about what we would make mandatory. We talked in depth about pretty much every element of a description; we talked about levels of importance – mandatory, recommended, desirable; we asked contributors their opinions; we looked at our data from so many different angles. It was one of the more difficult elements of the work.  Two brief examples of this (I could list many more!):

Name of Creator

Name of creator is an ISAD(G) mandatory field. It is important for an understanding of the context of an archive. We started off by thinking it should be mandatory and most contributors agreed. But when we looked at our current data, hundreds of descriptions did not include a name of creator. We thought about whether we could make it mandatory for a ‘fonds’ (as opposed to an artificial collection), but there can be instances where the evidence points to a collection with a shared provenance, but the creator is not known. We looked at all the instances of ‘unknown’ ‘several’, ‘various’, etc within the name of creator field. They did not fulfill the requirement either – the name of a creator is not ‘unknown’. We couldn’t go back to contributors and ask them to provide a creator name for so many descriptions. We knew that it was a bad idea to make it mandatory, but then not enforce it (we had already got into problems with an inconsistent approach to our data guidelines). We had to have a clear position. For me personally it was hard to let go of creator as mandatory! It didn’t feel right. It meant that we couldn’t enforce it with new data coming in. But it was the practical decision because if you say ‘this is mandatory except for the descriptions that don’t have it’ then the whole idea of a consistent and rigorous approach starts to be problematic.

Access Conditions

This is not an ISAD(G) mandatory field – a good example of where the standard lags behind the reality. For an online service, providing information about access is essential. We know that researchers value this information. If they are considering travelling to a repository, they need to be aware that the materials they want are available. So, we made this mandatory, but that meant we had to deal with something like 500 collections that did not include this information. However, one of the advantages of this type of information is that it is feasible to provide standard ‘boiler plate’ text, and this is what we offered to our contributors. It may mean some slightly unsatisfactory ‘catch all’ conditions of access, but overall we improved and updated the access information in many descriptions, and we will ask for it as mandatory with future data ingest.

 Normalizing the Data

Our rather ambitious goal was to improve the consistency of the data, by which I mean reducing variation, where appropriate, with things like date formats, name of repository, names of rules or source used for index terms, and also ensuring good practice with globally unique references.

To simplify somewhat, our old approach led us to deal with the variations in the data that we received in a somewhat ad hoc way, creating solutions to fix specific problems; solutions that were often implemented at the interface rather than within the back-end system. Over time this led to a somewhat messy level of complexity and a lack of coherence.

When you aggregate data from many sources, one of the most fundamental activities is to enable it to be brought together coherently for search and display so oftentimes you are carrying out some kind of processing to standardise in some way. This can be characterised as simple processing and complex processing:

1) If X then Y

2) If X then Y or Z depending on whether A is present, and whether B and C match or do not match and whether the contributor is E or F.

The first example is straightforward; the second can get very complicated.

If you make these decisions as you go along, then after so many years you can end up with a level of complexity that becomes rather like a mass of lengths of string that have been tangled up in the middle – you just about manage to ensure that the threads in and out are still showing (the data in at one end; the data presented through interface the researcher uses at the other) but the middle is impossible to untangle and becomes increasingly difficult to manage.

This is eventually going to create problems for three main reasons. Firstly, it becomes harder to introduce more clauses to fix various data issues without unforeseen impacts, secondly it is almost impossible to carry out repeatable processes, and thirdly (and really as a result of the other two), it becomes very difficult to provide the data as one reasonably coherent, interoperable set of data for the wider world.

We needed to go beyond the idea of the Archives Hub interface being the objective; we needed to open up the data, to ensure that contributors could get the maximum impact from providing the data to the Archives Hub. We needed to think of the Hub not as the end destination but as a means to enable many more (as yet maybe unknown) destinations. By doing this, we would also set things up for if and when we wanted to make significant changes to our own interface.

This is a game changer. It sounds like the right thing to do, but the problem is that it meant tackling the descriptions we already had on the Hub to introduce more consistency. Thousands of descriptions with hundreds of thousands of units created over time, in different systems, with different mindsets, different ‘standards’, different migration paths. This is a massive challenge, and it wasn’t possible for us to be too idealistic; we had to think about a practical approach to transforming descriptions and creating descriptions that makes them more re-usable and interoperable. Not perfect, but better.

Migrating the Data

Once we had our Hub requirements in place, we could start to think about the data we currently have, and how to make sure it met our requirements. We knew that we were going to implement ‘pipelines’ for incoming data (see below) within the new system, but that was not exactly the same process as migrating data from old world to new, as migration is a one-off process. We worked slowly and carefully through a spreadsheet, over the best part of a year, with a line for each contributor. We used XSLT transforms (essentially scripts to transform data). For each contributor we assessed the data and had to work out what sort of processing was needed. This was immensely time-consuming and sometimes involved complex logic and careful checking, as it is very easy with global edits to change one thing and find knock-on effects elsewhere that you don’t want.

The migration process was largely done through use of these scripts, but we had a substantial amount of manual editing to do, where automation simply couldn’t deal with the issues. For example:

  • dates such as 1800/190, 1900-20-04, 8173/1878
  • non-unique references, often the result of human error
  • corporate names with surnames included
  • personal names that were really family names
  • missing titles, dates or languages

 When working through manual edits, our aim was to liaise with the contributor, but in the end there was so much to do that we made decisions that we thought were sensible and reasonable. Being an archivist and having significant experience of cataloguing made me feel qualified to do this. With some contributors, we also knew that they were planning a re-submission of all their descriptions, so we just needed to get the current descriptions migrated temporarily, and a non-ideal edit might therefore be fine just for a short period of time. Even with this approach we ended have a very small number of descriptions that we could not migrate for the going live date because we needed more time to figure out how to get them up to the required standard.

 Creating Pipelines

Our approach to data normalization for incoming descriptions was to create ‘pipelines’. More about this in another blog post, but essentially, we knew that we had to implement repeatable transformation processes. We had data from many different contributors, with many variations. We needed a set of pipelines so that we could work with data from each individual contributor appropriately.. The pipelines include things like:

  • fix problems with web links (where the link has not been included, or the link text has not been included)
  • remove empty tags
  • add ISO language code
  • take archon codes out of names of repositories

Of course, for many contributors these processes will be the same – there would be a default approach, but we sometimes will need to vary the pipelines as appropriate for individual contributors. For example:

  • add access information where it is not present
  • use the ‘alternative reference’ (created in Calm) as the main reference

We will be implementing these pipelines in our new world, through the administration interface that K-Int have built. We’re just starting on that particular journey!

Conclusion

We were ambitious, and whilst I think we’ve managed to fulfill many of the goals that we had, we did have to modify our data standards to ‘lower the bar’ as we went along. It is far better to set data standards at the outset as changing them part way through usually has ramifications, but it is difficult to do this when you have not yet worked through all the data. In hindsight, maybe we should have interrogated the data we have much more to begin with, to really see the full extent of the variations and missing data…but maybe that would have put us off ever starting the project!

The data is key. If you are aggregating from many different sources, and you are dealing with multi-level descriptions that may be revised every month, every year, or over many years, then the data is the biggest challenge, not the technical set-up. It was essential to think about the data and the workflow first and foremost.

It was important to think about what the contributors can do – what is realistic for them. The Archives Hub contributors clearly see the benefits of contributing and are prepared to put what resources they can into it, but their resources are limited. You can’t set the bar too high, but you can nudge it up in certain ways if you give good reasons for doing so.

It is really useful to have a model that conveys the fundamentals of your data organisation. We didn’t apply the model to environment; we created the environment from the model. A model that can be extended over time helps to make sure the service remains relevant and meets new requirements.

 

Posted in aggregations, archival systems, archives hub, interoperability, models, sustainability | 2 Comments

12 days of Christmas – Archives Style! (2016 remix)

Archives Hub feature for December 2016

The Twelve Days of Christmas song poster

“The Twelve Days of Christmas song poster” by Xavier Romero-Frias is
licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

There are several versions of the traditional folk melody The Twelve Days of Christmas. This feature is based on the 1909 publication by English composer Frederic Austin.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me…

Twelve drummers drumming

‘The Little Drummer Boy’ greetings card, c. 1968-1999. An illustration of the well-known carol, the card is part of a collection of publications, prints and original artwork by the illustrators, twins Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone. The Johnston Memorial Collection, 1951-1999, is held by Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb1840-jaj/jaj/02/04/10

Logo for Seven Stories

Logo for Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books

Sarwar Sabri Collection, 1985-2005. Sarwar Sabri (Sarvar Sabri) is an internationally renowned tabla player and composer. As a composer he has provided music for TV, radio and various dance theatre companies. The collection is held by Special Collections, Brunel University Library.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb1975-ss

Eleven pipers piping

Dagenham Girl Pipers, 1937-2000. Founded in 1930 by Reverend Joseph Waddington Graves, they were the first female pipe band in the world. The Dagenham Girl Pipers toured the world, and in 1937 appeared in Berlin before Adolf Hitler, who told Mr Graves he wished Germany had a similar band. The Dagenham Girl Pipers Veterans’ Association was formed in 1998. The collection includes letters, newspaper cuttings, scrapbooks and photographs and is held by Barking and Dagenham Archive and Local Studies Centre.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb350-bd7

Papers of John and Myfanwy Piper, 1882-1990s. John Piper (1903-1992) was a major figure in modern British art. He was a painter in oils and water colour, designed stained glass, ceramics and for the stage, made prints and devised ingenious firework displays. In addition to this he was also a gifted photographer of buildings and landscapes. Piper also wrote poetry, art criticism and several guidebooks on landscape and architecture. the collection is held by the Tate Gallery Archive.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb70-tga200410

Ten lords a-leaping

Petitions from Nottinghamshire to Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Lord Protector, c.1658. The principal items in the collection are two original petitions to Oliver Cromwell from inhabitants of Nottinghamshire, dating from c. 1658. The first petition requests tougher control on profanity, libertinism and heresies, revision of the laws of the nation, and asks that during Cromwell’s lifetime provision for future government is secured. The second petition requests regulation of the ancient laws regarding the Sacrament of the Last Supper and has 15 signatories. The collection is held by the University of Nottingham.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb159-ms215

Captain Stanley Lord, Master of the SS Californian, career papers, Titanic articles and other papers, 1891-1997. The collection contains documents dated between 1891 and 1997 and mainly concerns the campaign to clear Captain Stanley Lord (1877-1962) of the accusations levelled against him with regard to the sinking of the Titanic. It contains Captain Lord’s career papers, and some contemporary items from 1912. Held by National Museums Liverpool: Maritime Archives and Library.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb136-d/lo

Lord David Owen, 1962-2006. David Owen was born in 1938 in Plymouth. He studied medicine at Cambridge University and became a Senior Neurology and Psychiatric Registrar but upon becoming Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy in 1968, resigned his hospital work in favour of politics. He later served as Foreign Secretary until the defeat of the Labour Party in the 1979 General Election and in 1982 became Deputy Leader of the new Social Democrat party. The collection comprises personal papers, papers relating to the Labour Party, SDP papers, papers collected from work with independent organisations and Lord Owen’s Office. Held by Liverpool University, Special Collections and Archives.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb141-d709

Nine ladies dancing

Photograph of ballet dancer, Anthony Crickmay Dance Photographs, © V&A Department of Theatre and Performance.

Anthony Crickmay Dance Photographs (THM/20), © V&A Department of Theatre and Performance, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Papers of Diana Gould, 1926-1996. Diana Rosamund Constance Grace Irene Gould was a British ballerina. Early in her career Sergei Diaghilev spotted her and invited her to join his Ballets Russes but he died before this could be arranged, events said to have been
fictionalized in the film ‘The Red Shoes’. Diana married Sir Yehudi Menuhin in 1947. the collection is held by the Rambert Dance Company Archives.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb2228-dpdg

Dorothy Madden Collection, 1912-2002. Dr Dorothy Gifford Madden, former Professor Emerita of the University of Maryland, United States of America who was responsible for bringing American modern dance practice to the United Kingdom. Held by Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (Laban Archive).
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb1701-d23

Collection of material relating to Anna Pavlova, 1875-1965. Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) was the most celebrated ballerina of her generation. The collection includes accessories originally worn by Pavlova in performance, scrapbooks containing many assorted press and illustrated magazine cuttings featuring Pavlova and sepia prints of Pavlova at a young age. Collection held by The Royal Ballet School, White Lodge Museum.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb3208-rbs/pav

Eight maids a-milking

Logo: University of Leeds

Logo: University of Leeds (Leeds University Library Special Collections)

M. Russell-Fergusson papers, 1914-1990. M. Russell-Fergusson, Women’s National Land Service Corps, served as a milk maid in Norfolk from Aug. 1917 and later in Leicestershire and at the Royal Dairy Farm, Windsor. Held by Leeds University Library.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb206-liddlecollectiondf112

Programme for The Foresters, Robin Hood and Maid Marian, 1892. Forms part of The Ellen Terry Collection, materials relating to the Lyceum Theatre series. Actress Ellen Terry (1847-1928) made her stage debut in 1856 as Mamillius in The Winter’s Tale. In 1878 was invited to join Henry Irving’s company at the Lyceum Theatre as its leading lady. Ellen Terry and Henry Irving were soon regarded as the leading Shakespearean actors in Great Britain and they achieved huge success in both Shakespeare and non-Shakespeare plays. In 1888 she gained excellent reviews for her portrayal of Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. The Lyceum Company toured extensively in both the UK and America to capacity audiences. Held by the V and A Department of Theatre and Performance.
Programme description: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb71-thm/384/thm/384/44/3
Collection description: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb71-thm/384

Express Dairies, 1904-1974. The Express Country Milk Supply Company was established in London in 1864 by George Barham. It became the Express Dairy Company Limited in 1892. Milk was transported into London by rail, and delivered to homes. The Dairy Supply Company was formed as a separate company selling dairy equipment such as the milk churn which was invented by Barham. The company grew, purchasing College Farm, Finchley, London to conduct dairy experiments. The farm was sold in 1983. The firm also ran Express teashops, cafes and bakery and became a limited company in 1937. In 1969 Express became part of Grand Metropolitan and in 1992 part of Northern Foods. In 1998 the name of Express Dairies Plc returned, with the division of Northern Foods into two sections. Collection held by the University of Reading, Museum of English Rural Life.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb7-trexp

Seven swans a-swimming

Harold Thomas Swan Papers, 1945-1996. Papers on the history of the clinical use of penicillin, 1945-1996, with particular reference to its early use in Sheffield, and to the reputation of Sir Alexander Fleming. Assembled by Dr Harold T. SwanMD, FRCP, FRCPath, Honorary Lecturer in Medical History, University of Sheffield, and formerly Consultant in Haematology, United Sheffield Hospitals. Held by the University of Sheffield Library.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb200-ms185

Archives of Swan Sonnenschein and Co, 1878-1916. William Swan Sonnenschein (1855-1934) was apprenticed to the firm of Williams and Norgate where he gained experience of second hand bookselling before founding his own company, W. Swan Sonnenschein and Allen, with the first of several partners, J. Archibald Allen, in 1878. This partnership was dissolved in 1882 when William married and the firm’s name changed to W Swan Sonnenschein and Co. The firm published general literature and periodicals but specialised in sociology and politics. Sonnenschein was involved with the Ethical Society and published their literature. In 1895 Swan Sonnenschein became a limited liability company and in 1902 William Swan Sonnenschein left to work at George Routledge and Sons and later at Kegan Paul. Swan Sonnenschein was amalgamated with George Allen and Co in 1911. The collection is held by Reading University: Special Collections Services.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb6-rulmss3280,3282,4058

Six geese a-laying

Cuttings about Mother Goose pantomime, 1951. These records form part of the Unity Theatre, theatre company collection held by V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Unity Theatre was founded in 1936 by a general meeting of the Rebel Players and Red Radio, left-wing theatre groups derived from the Workers’ Theatre Movement.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb71-thm/9/thm/9/4/5/77

Gwynydd Gosling collection, 1990. Gwynydd Gosling is a private collector of Russian books and objets d’art. The collection comprises photographs of two tankard lids commemorating the Arrow Boat Club four-oared race, St Petersburg, 1870 (R. Butts, E. Gibson, W. E. Hubbard, A. W. Raitt, B. Wilding). Held by Leeds University Library.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb206-ms1095

Barclays Group Archives logo

Logo: Barclays Group Archives

Goslings and Sharpe: private bankers, Fleet Street (London): branch records including customer ledgers, 1717-1972. One of the oldest City banks, the partnership originated c1650 with Henry Pinckney, a goldsmith banker trading from the sign of the three squirrels in Fleet Street, London. The firm was led subsequently by the Chambers family. In 1794 Benjamin Sharpe became a partner and from that date the customary name of the business was Goslings and Sharpe, the Sharpes remaining as junior partners with no right to nominate their successors. In 1742 Sir Francis Gosling joined the firm and thereafter the Goslings name predominated in the partnership. The Goslings’ original trade was that of stationers. Although most accounts are for individuals or family trusts, there are also non-personal accounts such as those of charities (including some schools and hospitals), public subscriptions (including relief of soldiers and of victims of natural disasters), colleges, businesses, and a few public corporations and parishes. Collection held by Barclays Group Archives (BGA).
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb2044-cfleetstreet19(goslings)

Five gold rings

The Golden Ring: a new and original fairy spectacular opera. by G[eorge] R. Sims with music by Frederic Clay. Stated as performed at “Alhambra Theatre, William Holland, Manager, 1883”. Part of the The George R. Sims Collection, 1858-1976. George Robert Sims (1847-1922) was an author, playwright, journalist and philanthropist. Collection held by The University of Manchester, The John Rylands University Library.
Volume description: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb133-grs/grs/2/11
Collection description: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb133-grs

National Union of Gold, Silver and Allied Trades, 1921-1985. The National Union of Gold, Silver and Allied Trades was formed in 1914 by the amalgamation of the Amalgamated Society of Gold, Silver and Kindred Trades and the Birmingham Silversmiths and Electroplate Operatives’ Society. In 1969 it absorbed the Society of Goldsmiths, Jewellers and Kindred Trades. In 1981 it became part of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Section). Held by Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb152-mss.101/st

The rings may in fact refer to ringed-necked pheasants:

Glasgow School of Art logo

Logo: Glasgow School of Art

Pictorial tapestry rug featuring a pheasant, 1888.
Tapestry rug of worsted yarn and jute in acid colours featuring a pheasant in a floral landscape. Part of the Stoddard-Templeton Carpet and Textile Collection (c. 1840s-1960s). James Templeton and Co. was established in 1843, making Chenille, Axminster, Wilton and Brussels carpets. It employed artists of international calibre such as Charles Voysey, Walter Crane and Frank Brangwyn, with their carpets used in Coronations and in liners such as the Titanic. The collection is held by The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections Centre.
https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb1694-dc077/dc077/2

Four calling birds

This could be song birds, such as Canaries, or may be ‘colly’ or black birds:

Descriptions of the Canary Islands and of the Azores, c. 1610.

Image: Transport for London Metropolitan Line

Image: TfL Metropolitan Line, Transport for London Corporate Archives.

The manuscript consists of two works, bound together. The first is a description of the Canary Islands, detailing the history, religion and laws of the natives, called the Guanches, as well as observations on the geography and fauna of the islands. The second work is a compilation from other works describing the Azores.The existence of the Canary Islands, a chain of seven islands off the northwest coast of Africa, was known to the Romans and later the Arabs, and European navigators reached the islands in the 13th century. The Azores, an archipelago in the Mid-Atlantic, were discovered in 1427 by the Portuguese and their colonisation by them began in 1432. The collection is held by  The University of Manchester, The John Rylands University Library.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb133-engms17

Briefing on Canary Wharf Station, 1989.
Paper concerning delays and changes in the redesign of Canary Wharf Station. Subjects include construction and negotiations, unresolved issues and financial risk. Part of a series of minutes of meetings belonging to the Transport for London Group Archive.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb2856-%28new%29lt000099/%28new%29lt000099/035

Production contracts for ‘Study from ‘Blackbird”, 2002. Part of the Rambert Dance Company Archive: Productions collection (1920s – 2010s), the folder includes choreographer contracts, production budget and correspondence concerning casting travel and rehearsals.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb2228-rdc/pd/rdc/pd/06/01/0423

Three French hens

Michael French Collection, 1887-2006. Photographs and documents inherited and collected by Michael French relating to the French family of millers and their mills. Collection held by the Mills Archive Trust.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb3132-fren

The Mills Archive Trust logo

Logo: The Mills Archive Trust

Richard Hughes, Ty Hen Isaf Manuscripts, 1693 – 1910. Richard Hughes of Ty Hen Isaf, Llannerch-y-medd, Anglesey was born in 1837 and died in 1930. As a young boy, he worked on Dyffryn Gwyn farm for the Rev. John Prytherch, who was one of the largest farmers in Anglesey. He also served as husbandman for two spinsters, who unexpectedly left him all their property. This enabled Richard Hughes to satisfy his two ambitions, to travel and to own a library. Then began a series of visits to Palestine and the Mediterranean. He became a great collector of rare and precious books and a friendship sprang between him and Thomas Shankland, the Welsh librarian of the University College of North Wales. Held by Bangor University.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb222-bmssrh

Two turtle doves

Ms transcript of song, ‘The Turtle Dove’. 2 leaves belonging to a series of ms and ts transcripts of songs and ballads (1925 to 1965) by the poet and author Robert Graves (1895-1985). The papers are held at St John’s College, Oxford.
Item description: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb473-rg/m/rg/m/ballads/4
Collection description: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb473-rg

Records for the Dove Brothers Ltd, builders, 1850-1970.
Dove Brothers Ltd was a prominent construction company based in Islington from 1781 to 1993 which worked with most of the major architects of the late 19th to 20th century. The company was founded by William Spencer Dove (1793-1869). His sons formed the Dove Brothers partnership in 1852. The collection is held by Islington Local History Centre.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb1032-s/dov

Reader’s Digest presents Christmas Stories for the entire family, Dove Audio, 1995. Featuring Paul Scofield reading ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. This forms part of the Paul Schofield Collection, 1807 – 2010. Paul Scofield (1922-2008)  started his stage career in the 1940s and his name soon became synonymous with Classical theatre. Later in his career Scofield worked closely with the Royal Shakespeare Company for a number of years as well as The National Theatre, his roles were numerous and diverse. Beyond the theatre Scofield won acclaim through a number of films including ‘A Man For All Seasons'(1966) and ‘Expresso Bongo'(1958), as well as copious amounts of audiobooks and plays for BBC radio. Collection held by: V&A Department of Theatre and Performance.
Item description: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb71-thm/397/thm/397/5/2/27
Collection description: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb71-thm/397

And a partridge in a pear tree!

David Cassidy Collection, 1972-1976. The Amercian singer David Cassidy was best known for the musical sitcom The Partridge Family. The collection, created by  fan Kay Chesterman, consists of cuttings, publications and memorabilia relating to David Cassidy and members of his fan club. Held by the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb71-thm/378

Image of title page from "The 12 days of Christmas", 1780

Title page from the first known publication of “The 12 days of Christmas” in 1780.
Image in the public domain.

Bernard Partridge Drawings Collection, 1861-1905. Bernard Partridge (1861-1945) was a painter and illustrator who became the principal cartoonist of Punch magazine. This collection includes drawings of actor-manager Henry Irving (1838-1905) in some of his most famous roles, including Shylock, Hamlet, Mephistopheles, Dubosc and Lear. Collection held by the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb71-thm/227

Artworks by James Joshua Guthrie and relating to the Pear Tree Press, 1897-1930s. Designs and illustrations, along with other book illustration work and bookplates for the Pear Tree Press. Forms part of the British Library: Western Manuscripts‘ collection The Gordon Bottomley Papers, 1773, 1831-1958.  Consisting of correspondence, diaries, literary materials, artwork, photographs, and printed ephemera by, relating to, or collected by poet and playwright Gordon Bottomley (1874-1948).
Folder description: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb58-addms88957/addms88957/4/4
Collection description: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb58-addms88957

Trustees of W S Brown – proposed purchase of Deep Mines under Pear Tree House, Tyldesley. 1905. 2 items of correspondence, maintained by the trustees of the Bridgewater estate Ltd. Forms part of the Bridgewater Estates Archive, 1895-1960s, held by the University of Salford.
Item description: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb427-bea/bea/i/1774
Collection description: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb427-bea

Related information

Birds of the Twelve Days of Christmas, 10,000 Birds blog post, 2015: http://10000birds.com/birds-of-the-twelve-days-of-christmas.htm

The Twelve Days of Christmas – archives style! Archives Hub feature for December 2014

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Archives Portal Europe Country Managers’ Meeting, 30 Nov 2016

This is a report of a meeting of the Archives Portal Europe Country Managers’ in Slovakia, 30 November 2016, with some comments and views from the UK and Archives Hub perspective.

APE-CMmeeting-30Nov2016

APE Country Managers meeting, Bratislava, 30 Nov 2016

Context

The APE Foundation (APEF), which was created following the completion of the APEx project (an EC funded project to maintain and develop the portal running from 2012 to 2015), is now taking APE forward. It has a Governing Board and working groups for standards, technical issues and PR/comms. The APEF has a coordinator and three technical/systems staff as well as an outreach officer. Institutions are invited to become associate members, to help support the portal and its aims.

Things are going well for APEF, with a profit recorded for 2016, and growing associate membership. APEF continues to be busy with development of APE, and is endeavouring to encourage cooperation and collaboration as a means to seize opportunities to keep developing and to take advantage of EU funding opportunities.

Current Development

The APEF has the support of Ministry of Culture in the Netherlands and has a close working relationship with the Netherlands national aggregation project, the ‘DTR’, which is key to the current APE development phase. The idea is to use the framework of APE for the DTR, benefitting both parties. Cooperation with DTR involves three main areas:

•    building an API to open up the functionality of APE to third parties (and to enable the DTR to harvest the APE data from The Netherlands)
•    improving the uploading and processing of EAC-CPF
•    enabling the uploading and processing of ‘additional finding aids’

The API has been developed so that specific requests can be sent to fetch selected data. It is possible to do this for EAD (descriptions) and EAC-CPF (names).  The API provides raw data as well as processed results.  There have been issues around things like relevance of ordering of results which is a substantial area of work that is being addressed.

The API raises implications in terms of the data, as the Content Provider Agreement that APE institutions sign gives control of the data to the contributors. So, the API had to be implemented in a way that enables each contributor to give explicit permission for the data to be available as CC0 (fully open data). This means that if a third party uses the API to grab data, they only get data from a country that has given this permission. APEF has introduced an API key, which is a little controversial, as it could be argued that it is a barrier to complete openness, but it does enable the Foundation to monitor use, which is useful for impact, for checking correct use, and blocking those who misuse the API. This information is not made open, but it is stored for impact and security purposes.

There was some discussion at the meeting around open data and use of CC0. In countries such as Switzerland it is not permitted to open up data through a CC0 licence, and in fact, it may be true to say that CC0 is not the appropriate licence for archival descriptions (the question of whether any copyright can exist in them is not clear) and a public domain licence is more appropriate. When working across European countries there are variations in approaches to open data. The situation is complicated because the application of CC0 for APE data is not explicit, so any licence that a country has attached to their data will effectively be exported with the data and you may get a kind of licence clash. But the feeling is that for practical purposes if the data is available through an API, developers will expect it to be fully open and use it with that in mind.

There has been work to look at ways to take EAC-CPF from a whole set of institutions more easily, which would be useful for the UK, where we have many EAC-CPF descriptions created by SNAC.  Work on any kind of work to bring more than one name description for the same person together has not started, and is not scheduled for the current period of development, but the emphasis is likely to be on better connectivity between variations of a name rather than having one description per name.

Additional finding aids offer the opportunity to add different types of information to APE. You may, for example, have a register of artists or ships logs, you may have started out with a set of cards with names A-Z, relating to your archive in some way.  You could describe these in one EAD description, and link this to the main description. In the current implementation of EAD2002 in APE this would have to go into a table in Scope & Content and in-line tagging is not allowed to identify parts of the data. This leads to limitations with how to search by name. But then EAD3 gives the option to add more information on events and names. You can divide a name up into parts, which allows for better searching.  Therefore APE is developing a new means to fetch and process EAD3 for the additional finding aids alongside EAD2002 for ‘standard’ finding aids. In conjunction with this, the interface needs to be changed to present the new names within the search.

The work on additional finding aids may not be so relevant for the Archives Hub as a contributor to APE, as the Hub cannot look at taking on ‘other finding aids’, with all the potential variations that implies. However, institutions could potentially log into APE themselves and upload these different types of descriptions.

APE and Europeana

There was quite a bit to talk about concerning APE and Europeana. The APEF is a full partner of the Europeana Digital Services Infrastructure 2 (DSI2) project (currently running 2016/2017). The project involves work on the structure for Europeana, maintaining and running data and aggregation services, improving data quality, and optimising relations with data partners. The work APE is involved with includes improving the current workflow for harvest/ingest of data, and also evaluating what has already been ingested into Europeana.

Europeana seems to have ongoing problems dealing with multi-level EAD descriptions, compounded by the limitation that they only represent  digital materials. The approach is not a good fit for archives. Europeana have also introduced both a new publishing framework and different rights statements.

The new publishing framework is a 4 tier approach where you can think of Europeana as a more basic tool for promoting your archives, or something that is a platform for reuse. It refers to the digital materials in terms of whether they are a certain number of pixels, e.g. 800 pixels wide for thumbnails (adding thumbnails means using Europeana as a ‘showcase’) and 1,200 pixels wide ( high quality and reusable, using Europeana as a distribution and reuse platform). The idea of trying to get ‘quality’ images seems good, but in practice I wonder if it simply raises the barrier too much.

The new Rights statements require institutions to be very clear about the rights they want to apply to digital content.  The likely conclusion of all this from the point of view of the Archives Hub is that we cannot grapple with adding to Europeana on behalf of all of our contributors, and therefore individual contributors will have to take this on board themselves. It will be possible for contributors to log into the APE dashboard (when it has been changed to reflect the Europeana new rights) and engage with this, selecting the finding aids, the preferred rights statements, and ensuring that thumbnail and reusable images meet the requirements.  One the descriptions are in APE they can then be supplied to Europeana. The resulting display in Europeana should be checked, to ensure that it is appropriate.

We discussed this approach, and concluded that maybe APE contributors could see Europeana as something that they might use to showcase their content, so, think of it on our terms, as archives, and how it might help us. There is no obligation to contribute, so it is a case of making the decision whether it is worth representing the best visual archives through Europeana or whether this approach takes more effort than the value that we get out of it.  After 10 years of working with Europeana, and not really getting proper representation of archives, the idea of finding a successful way of contributing archives is appealing, but it seems to me that the amount of effort required is going to be significant, and I’m not sure if the impact is enough to warrant it.

Europeana are working on a new way of automated and real time ingest from aggregators and content providers, but this may take another year or more to become fully operational.

Outreach and CM Reports

Towards the end of the day we had a presentation from the new PR/communicaitons officer. Having someone to encourage, co-ordinate and develop ideas for dissemination should provide invaluable for APE. The Facebook page is full of APE activities and related news and events. You can tweet and use the hashtag #archivesportaleurope if you would like to make APE aware of anything.

We ended the day with reports from country managers, which, as always threw up many issues, challenges, solutions, questions and answers. Plenty to set up APEF for another busy year!

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Papers of the Association of Chief Police Officers – the National Reporting Centre

Archives Hub feature for November 2016

U DPO/1/2/19a – artist's impression of a medal for past presidents, 1978.

U DPO/1/2/19a – artist’s impression of a medal for past presidents, 1978.

The Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (ACPO) was formed in 1948, and disbanded in 2015. From 1964 it formed part of the tripartite system of governance over the police service. ACPO was the representative body for senior police officers until 1996, and contributed to the development of legislation, policing policy, training and procedure. The papers of this influential organisation were deposited at Hull History Centre in spring 2015, and the full catalogue will be released in January 2017. Amongst the collections’ diverse records are numerous items relating to the Association’s role in establishing the National Reporting Centre.

Discussion paper from U DPO/8/1/1 regarding the role of the NRC, 1981

Discussion paper from U DPO/8/1/1 regarding the role of the NRC, 1981

On the 4th of April 1972 a meeting was held at the Home Office to discuss the establishment of ‘a National Co-ordinating Centre for police resources’ [U DPO/8/1/1]. This was realised in the establishment of the National Reporting Centre (NRC). Section 14 of the Police Act of 1964 already allowed for the provision of constables from one force to another as additional resources. Based at New Scotland Yard, the NRC would serve as the coordinating body for enabling ‘nationally co-ordinated mutual aid’ [U DPO/8/1/1]. The centre would be led by ACPO, and any decision to activate it would be taken in consultation with the Home Office.

The first activation of the NRC came on the 10th of February 1974 in response to industrial action by the National Union of Miners (NUM). It remained open for less than a month. In 1980 it was active once again, co-ordinating the movement of prisoners during industrial action within the Prison Service [U DPO/8/1/1]. In March 1981 a one day exercise to test the Centre’s capabilities took place. An ACPO report found that it ‘predictably revealed the inability of the Centre to provide cohesive national coordination in a time of crisis’ [U DPO/8/1/42]. The report suggested that ‘Public disorder appears, unfortunately, to be a growth industry, and it is vital that the NRC should quickly become a practical reality’ [U DPO/8/1/42]. In the same year as the NRC exercise and subsequent report, Britain experienced social unrest in a series of riots in urban locations. Again the NRC was deployed, coordinating responses to chief officers’ requests for assistance in policing operations [U DPO/8/1/36a]. A further activation of the Centre in June 1982 coordinated forces for a visit to Britain by Pope John Paul II.

Image showing room layout, 1981

Appendix D from U DPO/8/1/42, interim report on the NRC showing room layout, 1981

However, the NRC’s most well-known and controversial activation came in 1984, in response once again to industrial action by the NUM. Following the implementation of recommendations made in previous reports, increased training of mobile Police Support Units (PSUs), and new guidance on public order provided to senior officers, the NRC contributed to a highly mobile, national response to the strikes. The records in the ACPO collection include intelligence reports monitoring the picket lines and movement of potential flying pickets travelling between locations. These record not only the number and location of pickets, but the ‘mood’ as defined by the reporting officers, using a defined range of peaceful, hostile or violent [U DPO/8/1/42].

Intelligence report from U DPO/8/1/23a from the Nottinghamshire picket lines, 4 April 1984

Intelligence report from U DPO/8/1/23a from the Nottinghamshire picket lines, 4 April 1984

During this period of activation the centre was run by David Hall, then Chief Constable of Humberside as part of his duties as the serving President of ACPO. Shortly after the strikes ended The Times reported that the NRC had coordinated ‘more than one million movements of officers from almost all forces’ [4 March 1985 p.2]. The Centre’s aggregation of information and ability to coordinate cooperation between forces resulted in a highly responsive and mobile operation. Improved guidance issued by ACPO to Chief Officers in the form of a Tactical Options Manual combined with access to greater information via the NRC enabled individual chief officers to make decisions more tactically. The Centre continued operation until the strikes were called off on the 3rd of March 1985.

Although ACPO’s review of the operation concluded that the NRC’s role ‘was performed efficiently and demonstrated the essential requirement of the centre’ [U DPO/8/1/37], the Centre faced criticism within the press. This often related to the question of accountability. The Guardian reported that Hall, was ‘answerable to no-one… non-elected, non-accountable’ holding ‘more power than all the combined members of all the elected police authorities’ [7 September 1984 p.17]. Another article suggested there was ‘direct political control of policing operations’ via the NRC [The Guardian, 21 September 1984 p.2]. While calling for an inquiry into the policing of the strikes, former Home Secretary Merlyn Rees demanded control of the Centre be passed to the Home Office, [The Guardian, 16 May 1985 p.2].

Extract from U DPO/8/1/36a, report to the ACPO Council on the policing of the NUM dispute, 1985

Extract from U DPO/8/1/36a, report to the ACPO Council on the policing of the NUM dispute, 1985

In contrast, internal ACPO reports created in 1985 asserted that ‘the NRC needs no special lines of accountability. It is merely the agency through which requests for aid are made and responses coordinated… In all cases the accountability lies with individual chief constables’ [U DPO/8/1/36a]. In response to perceived ‘ignorance’ of both the public and the media to the Centre’s role, it was observed that ‘it is essential to remind people that the NRC is in reality a small group of officers working in a few offices and New Scotland Yard… and ultimately is accountable to the Home Office’ [U DPO/8/1/37].

The 1977 Ridley Report on nationalised industries directly referenced earlier NUM strike action, asserting a need for ‘a large, mobile squad of police… equipped and prepared to uphold the law against the likes of the Saltley Coke-works mob’ [http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/110795]. The NRC arguably enabled the police to fulfil this recommendation, demonstrated by the controversial police response to the 1984-5 NUM strikes. While operation of the NRC was viewed internally as a success, the overall policing of the strikes remains controversial today. Although a small number of the NRC records within the ACPO papers are currently closed in accordance with the Data Protection Act (1998), the majority are open to public access. This will enable scrutiny of the data gathered and the flow of information, enabling researchers to make their own, informed decisions about the Centre’s role in this still contentious moment in recent British history.

U DPO/10/503b – extract from file on use of police firearms, 1974-1976

U DPO/10/503b – extract from file on use of police firearms, 1974-1976

Alexandra Healey
Project Archivist
Hull History Centre

Related:

Browse the Hull History Centre Collections on the Archives Hub.

Previous Hub feature – Liberty, Parity and Justice at the Hull History Centre.

All images copyright ACPO and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

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Archives Wales Catalogues Online: Working with the Archives Hub

Stacy Capner reflects on her first six months as Project Officer for the Archives Wales Catalogues Online project, a collaboration between the Archives and Records Council Wales and the Archives Hub to increase the discoverability of Welsh archives.

For a few years now there has been a strategic goal to get Wales’ archive collections more prominently ‘out there’ using the Archives Wales website. Collection level descriptions have been made available previously through the ‘Archives Network Wales’ project, but the aim now is to create a single portal to search and access multi-level descriptions from across services. The Archives Hub has an established, standards based way of doing this, so instead of re-inventing the wheel, Archives and Records Council Wales (ARCW) saw an opportunity to work with them to achieve these aims.

The work to take data from Welsh Archives into the Archives Hub started some time ago, but it became clear that getting exports from different systems and working with different cataloguing practices required more dedicated 1-2-1 liaison. I am the project officer on a defined project which began in April to provide dedicated support to archive services across Wales and to establish requirements for uploading their catalogue data to the Archives Hub (and subsequently to Archives Wales).

This project is supported by the Welsh Government through its Museums Archives and Libraries Division, with a grant to Swansea University, a member of ARCW and a long-standing contributor to the Hub. I’m on secondment from the University to the project, which means I’ve found myself back in my northern neck of the woods working alongside the Archives Hub team. This project has come at a time when the Archives Hub have been putting a lot of thought into their processes for uploading data straight from systems, which means that the requirements for Welsh services have started to define an approach which could be applied to archive services across Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.

Here are my reflections on the project so far:

  1. Wales has fantastic collections, holding internationally significant material. They deserve to be promoted, accessible and searchable to as wide an audience as possible. Some examples-

National Library of Wales, The Survey of the Manors of Crickhowell & Tretower (inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, 2016) https://www.llgc.org.uk/blog/?p=11715

Swansea University, South Wales Coalfield Collection http://www.swansea.ac.uk/library/archive-and-research-collections/richard-burton-archives/ourcollections/southwalescoalfieldcollection/

West Glamorgan, Neath Abbey Ironworks collection (inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World register, 2014) http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk/treasured-neath-port-talbot-history-recognised/story-26073633-detail/story.html

Bangor University, Penrhyn Estate papers (including material relating to the sugar plantations in Jamaica) https://www.bangor.ac.uk/archives/sugar_slate.php.en#project

Photograph of Ammanford colliers and workmen standing in front of anthracite truck, c 1900.

Photograph of Ammanford colliers and workmen standing in front of anthracite truck, c 1900. From the South Wales Coalfield Collection. Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University (Ref: SWCC/PHO/COL/11)

  1. Don’t be scared of EAD ! I was. My knowledge of EAD (Encoded Archival Description) hadn’t been refreshed in 10 years, since Jane Stevenson got us to create brownie recipes using EAD tags on the archives course. So, whilst I started the task with confidence in cataloguing and cataloguing systems, my first month or so was spent learning about the Archives Hub EAD requirements. For contributors, one of the benefits of the Archives Hub is that they’ve created guidance, tools and processes so that archivists don’t have to become experts at creating or understanding EAD (though it is useful and interesting, if you get the chance!).
  1. The Archives Hub team are great! Their contributor numbers are growing (over 300 now) and their new website and editor are only going to make it easier for archive services to contribute and for researchers to search. What has struck me is that the team are all hot on data, standards and consistency, but it’s combined with a willingness to find solutions/processes which won’t put too much extra pressure on archive services wishing to contribute. It’s a balance that seems to work well and will be crucial for this project.
  1. The information gathering stage was interesting. And tiring. I visited every ARCW member archive service in Wales to introduce them to the project, find out what cataloguing systems they were using, and to review existing electronic catalogues. Most services in Wales are using Calm, though other systems currently being used include internally created databases, AtoM, Archivists Toolkit and Modes. It was really helpful to see how fields were being used, how services had adapted systems to suit them, and how all of this fitted in to Archives Hub requirements for interoperability.

    Photo of icecream

    Perks of working visits to beautiful parts of Wales.

  1. The support stage is set to be more interesting. And probably more tiring! The next 6 months will be spent providing practical support to services to help enable their catalogues to meet Archives Hub requirements. I’ll be able to address most of the smaller, service specific, tasks on site visits. The Hub team and I have identified a number of trickier ‘issues’ which we’ll hash out with further meetings and feedback from services. I can foresee further blog posts on these so briefly they are:
  • Multilingualism- most services catalogue Welsh items/collections in Welsh, English items/collections in English and multi-language item/collections bilingually. However, the method of doing this across services (and within services) isn’t consistent. We’re going to look at what can be done to ensure that descriptions in multiple languages are both human and machine readable.
  • Ref no/Alt ref- due to legacy issues with non-hierarchical catalogues, or just services personal preference, there are variations in the use of these fields. Some services use the ref no as the reference, others use the alt ref no as the reference. This isn’t a problem (as long as it’s consistent). Some services use ref no as the reference but not at series level, others use the alt ref no as the reference but not at series level. This will prove a little trickier for the Archives Hub to handle but hopefully workarounds for individual services will be found.
  • Extent fields missing- this is a mandatory field at collection level for the Archives Hub. It’s important to give researchers an idea of the size of the collection/series (it’s also an ISAD(G) required field). However, many services have hundreds of collection level descriptions which are missing extent. It’s not something I’ll practically be able to address on my support visits so the possibility of further work/funding will be looked into.
  • Indexing- this is understandably very important to the Archives Hub (they explain why here). For several archive services in Wales it seems to have been a step too far in the cataloguing process, mainly due to a lack of resource/time/training. Most have used imported terms from an old database or nothing at all. Although this will not prevent services from contributing catalogues to the Archives Hub, it does open up opportunities to think about partnership projects which might address this in the future (including looking at Welsh language index terms).

The project has made me think about how I’ve catalogued in the past. It’s made me much more aware that catalogues shouldn’t just be an inward-facing, local or an intellectual control based task; we should be constantly aware of making our descriptions more discoverable to researchers. And it’s shown me the importance of standards and consistency in achieving this (I feel like I’ve referenced consistency a lot in this one blog post; consistency is important!).  I hope that the project is also prompting Welsh archive services to reflect on the accessibility of their own cataloguing- something which might not have been looked at in many years.

There’s a lot of work to be done, both in this foundation work and further funding/projects which might come of the back of it. But hopefully in the next few years you’ll be discovering much more of Wales’ archive collections online.

Stacy Capner
Project Officer
Archives Wales Catalogues Online

Related:

Archives Hub EAD Editor – http://archiveshub.ac.uk/eadeditor/

Archives Hub contributors – list and map

 

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The D’Oyly Carte Archive

Archives Hub feature for October 2016

Original painted promotional panels by H.M. Brock, featuring characters from The Yeomen of the Guard, The Pirates of Penzance, H.M.S. Pinafore and Iolanthe.

Original painted promotional panels by H.M. Brock, featuring characters from The Yeomen of the Guard, The Pirates of Penzance, H.M.S. Pinafore and Iolanthe. Ink on card, ca. 1913-1914. Archive reference: THM/73/29/3/2

The D’Oyly Carte Archive is one of the jewels in the crown of the V&A Theatre and Performance collections, and is one of the most significant archives in the world relating to the operas of librettist W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and composer Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) and their production and management by composer, theatrical agent, impresario and hotelier Richard D’Oyly Carte (1844-1901).  Their partnership resulted in some of the most memorable comic operas ever produced, and ranks as one of the most prolific and successful theatrical collaborations of all time.

Signed note written in Gilbert's hand concerning the formation of the Gilbert & Sullivan partnership with D'Oyly Carte at the Opera Comique, signed by all three.

Signed note written in Gilbert’s hand concerning the formation of the Gilbert & Sullivan partnership with D’Oyly Carte at the Opera Comique, signed by all three. Ink on paper, ca.1880. Archive reference: THM/73/2/1

Given to the V&A by Dame Bridget D’Oyly Carte (1908-1985), the grand-daughter of Richard D’Oyly Carte, we acquired the archive in several tranches.  Our curator of popular entertainment spent many long days at the Savoy Hotel (home both to Dame Bridget and the materials), listing and boxing them up prior to the first acquisition. The archive covers the span of the working relationship between the three. Boasting materials spanning over a hundred years it is one of the most eclectic in our collections, with materials covering all aspects of the workings of the company and including some items you might not reasonably expect to find in your average theatre company archive: Crimean battlefield relics and a box once containing a marzipan pirate’s hat immediately spring to mind!

Souvenir box and artwork designed by Peter Goffin (1906-1974).

Souvenir box and artwork designed by Peter Goffin (1906-1974). The box was one of many, each containing a marzipan pirate’s hat, presented at a party to mark general manager Frederic Lloyd’s (1918-1995) 27th birthday. Ink and pencil on card, 1963. Archive references; Artwork: THM/73/29/3/5 /; Box: THM/73/34

The collection also includes prompt scripts, correspondence, photographs, original costume and set designs and promotional artwork, legal documents, business books, cuttings albums, music sheets and related ephemera and objects concerning D’Oyly Carte’s production of operas by Gilbert and Sullivan and other composers and librettists, and his general business affairs.

Born in London, Richard D’Oyly Carte was a musician who started his career working in his father’s music publishing and instrument manufacturing business, and had his own operatic and concert agency by 1874.  It was as the manager of the Royalty Theatre in 1875 though that D’Oyly Carte began his association with Gilbert and Sullivan, commissioning Trial by Jury from them for the theatre, having seen their first work Thespis, or the Gods Grown Old at the Gaiety Theatre in 1871.

Pages from an Iolanthe prompt book, marked with text corrections and movement diagrams by stage manager J. M. Gordon (1856-1944).

Pages from an Iolanthe prompt book, marked with text corrections and movement diagrams by stage manager J. M. Gordon (1856-1944). Ink on paper, ca. 1922-1939. Archive reference: THM/73/18/22

In 1876 D’Oyly Carte formed the Comedy Opera Company in order to produce more work by Gilbert and Sullivan. The Sorcerer, their first full opera in collaboration, opened in 1877 at the Opera Comique, leased by D’Oyly Carte for the production. Following this came H.M.S. Pinafore (1878) which was such a success that it prompted the three to form a new partnership, eventually known as the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. The success of the production and their desire to combat unauthorised productions of their work in the USA brought about the Company’s first American tour. Their following two works; The Pirates of Penzance (which premiered in Paignton, New York in 1879 prior to its London opening in 1880) and Patience (1881) were the final operas staged at the Opera Comique.

Costume designs for Utopia, Limited, by Percy Anderson (1851-1928).

Costume designs for Utopia, Limited, by Percy Anderson (1851-1928). Watercolour, gouache and pencil on paper with fabric swatches, 1893. Archive reference: THM/73/21/12

In 1881 D’Oyly Carte built the Savoy Theatre which opened with a transfer of Patience from the Opera Comique. Subsequent Gilbert and Sullivan operas premiered at the Savoy; Iolanthe (1882), Princess Ida (1884), The Mikado (1885 – the profits of which funded the building of the Savoy Hotel), Ruddigore (1887), The Yeomen of the Guard (1888), The Gondoliers (1889), Utopia, Limited (1889) and The Grand Duke (1889). The duo’s operas became known as the Savoy Operas.

Costume sketch for Rose Maybud in Ruddigore by W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911).

Costume sketch for Rose Maybud in Ruddigore by W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911). Ink and pencil on paper with fabric swatch, 1886. Archive reference: THM/73/20/9

The partnership disbanded in 1890 following a legal dispute between Gilbert and D’Oyly Carte over the payment of maintenance costs for the Savoy Theatre. Sullivan sided with D’Oyly Carte, who went on to produce Sullivan and Julian Sturgis’s opera Ivanhoe (1891) as the inaugural production for his newly built Royal English Opera House. Gilbert and Sullivan were reconciled in 1893 and wrote Utopia, Ltd, and their final collaborative work was The Grand Duke (1896).

Without D’Oyly Carte’s diplomacy, tact, business acumen and financial skill it is doubtful whether the collaboration of Gilbert and Sullivan could have started again after Thespis, or lasted so long. Without the brilliance of the operas, D’Oyly Carte would not have been able to build the Savoy Theatre in 1881 to stage their hugely successful works, or the Savoy Hotel he built on the adjacent site in 1888, or the Royal English Opera House, now the Palace Theatre that he opened in 1891.  The collaboration of the three men resulted in worldwide success, the foundation of a British style of comic opera, and a remarkable archive that is catalogued online and can be consulted by appointment at the archives of the V&A’s Department of Theatre & Performance.

Veronica Castro
Assistant Curator, V&A Theatre and Performance Collections
The Victoria and Albert Museum

Related:

Explore the D’Oyly Carte Archive (ca.1850s-1980s) collection on the Archives Hub.

Browse all V&A Theatre and Performance collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright The Victoria and Albert Museum and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

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