HubbuB: November 2011

image showing celebratory 200 I don’t think we made much of a fuss about reaching 200 contributors, but we’re really pleased to say that we’re now into the 200’s and new contributors are coming on board regularly, which makes the Hub even more useful to even more researchers.

We’re currently trying out a bit of a whizzy thing with the contributors’ map – go to http://archiveshub.ac.uk/contributorsmap/ and try a few clicks and you’ll see what I mean. We particularly like the jump from Aberdeen to Exeter, and are looking for archives from further afield in order to execute even bigger jumps!

Speaking of contributors, we’ve made a few changes to our contributor pages. We now have a link to browse each contributor’s descriptions, and also a link to simply show the list of collections. This link was largely introduced to help us with our quest to bring the Hub out loud and strong through Google. We’re doing pretty well on that front….we’ve found that page views have gone up radically over the last few months, and that can only be good for archives.  I think the list of descriptions can really look quite impressive – I tried Aberdeen and found collections from ‘favourite tunes’ to ‘a valuation of the Shire of Aberdeen’.

We’ve been busy on our new Linking Lives project, using Linked Data to create a Web front-end, and making the data available via an open licence. We’re really pleased that the vast majority of contributors have not asked us to exclude their descriptions, and many have emailed specifically to endorse what we are doing.  This is brilliant news, and I think it shows that most archivists are actually forward-thinking and understand that technology can really benefit our domain (flattery will get you everywhere!).  We want to ensure that archives are out there in the Web of Data, and part of the innovative work that is happening now. You may have seen a few blog posts to get going on Linking Lives: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/linkinglives/. Pete’s are rather more technical than mine, and brilliantly set out some of the difficult issues. I’m trying to think about what archivists are interested in and how we think about archival context. I hope our posts on licensing convey how much we are thinking about the best way to present and attribute the content.

Lastly for this month’s HubbuB, I’ve knocked up a fairly short Feature on the latest stuff that’s happening. I’m thinking of this as an annual feature – sometimes we are so busy we kind of forget to actually make a bit of noise about what we’ve achieved. You’ll see that we’re working on some record display improvements. I really hope I can show you these soon.

HubbuB: October 2011

Europeana and APENet

Europeana LogoI have just come back from the Europeana Tech conference, a 2 day event on various aspects of Europeana’s work and on related topics to do with data. The big theme was ‘open, open, open’, as well, of course, as the benefits of a European portal for cultural heritage.  I was interested to hear about Europeana’s Linked Data output, but my understanding is that at present, we cannot effectively link to their data, because they don’t provide URIs  for concepts. In other words, identifiers for names such as http://data.archiveshub.ac.uk/doc/agent/gb97/georgebernardshaw, so that we can say, for example, that our ‘George Bernard Shaw’ is the same as ‘George Bernard Shaw’ represented on Europeana.

I am starting to think about the Hub being part of APENet and Europeana. APENet is the archival aggregator for Europe. I have been in touch with them about the possibility of contributing our data, and if the Hub was to contribute, we could probably start from next year. Europeana only provide metadata for digital content, so we could only supply descriptions where the user can link to the digital content, but this may well be worth doing, as a means to promote the collections of any Hub contributors who do link to digital materials.

If you are a contributor, or potential contributor, we would like to know what you think…. we have a quick question for you at http://polldaddy.com/poll/5565396/. It simply asks if you think its a good idea to be part of these European initiatives. We’d love to get your views, and you only have to leave your name and a comment if you want to.

Flickr: an easy way to provide images online

You will be aware that contributors can now add images to descriptions and links to digital content of all kinds. The idea is that the digital content then forms an integral whole with the metadata, and it is also interoperable with other systems.

I’ve just seen an announcement by the University of Northampton, who have recently added materials to Flickr . I know that many contributors struggle to get server space to put their digital content online, so this is one possible option, and of course it does reach a huge number of people this way. There may be risks associated with the persistence of the URIs for the images, but then that is the case wherever you put them.

On the Hub we now have a number of images and links to content, for example: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb1089ukc-joh, http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb1089ukc-bigwood, http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb1089ukc-wea, http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb141boda?page=7#boda.03.03.02.

Ideally, contributors would supply digital content at item level, so the metadata is directly about the image/digital content, but it is fine to provide it at any level that is appropriate.  The EAD Editor makes adding links easy (http://archiveshub.ac.uk/dao/). If you aren’t sure what to do, please do email us.

Preferred Citation

We never had the field for the preferred citation in our old template for the creation of EAD, and it has not been in the EAD Editor up till now. We were prompted to think about this after seeing the results of a survey on the use of EAD fields presented at the Society of American Archivists conference. Around 80% of archive institutions do use it. We think it’s important to advise people how to cite the archive, so we are planning to provide this in the Editor and may be able to carry out global edits to add this to contributors’ data.

List of Contributors

Our list of contributors within the main search page has now been revised, and we hope it looks substantially more sensible, and that it is better for researchers. This process really reminded us how hard it is to come up with one order for institutions that works for everyone!  We are currently working on a regional search, something that will act as an alternative way to limit searching. We hope to introduce this next year.

And finally…A very engaging Linked Data interface

This interface demonstration by Tim Sherratt shows how something driven by Linked Data can really be very effective. It also uses some of the Archives Hub vocabulary from our own Linked Data work, which is a nice indication of how people have taken notice of what we have been doing. There is a great blog post about it by Pete Johnston, Storytelling, archives and Linked Data. I agree with Pete that this sort of work is so exciting, and really shows the potential of the Linked Data Web for enabling individual and collective storytelling…something we, as archivists, really must be a part of.

Reinventing the wheel: the new Hub website

promotional postcard On 1st April 2010 the Archives Hub website changed. It was not just about a new look and feel, but a whole new site. The Hub team spent several months planning the new architecture, navigation and content. Most of the content was rewritten and this gave us a great opportunity to think about a coherent approach where we could be consistent in our tone and terminology and really think about what each page should say. We wanted the site to be intuitive and for each page to be useful and attractive, and not give an overwhelming amount of information.

We decided to introduce plenty of images, to lift the site visually, and we wanted to keep plenty of whitespace, to make it easy on the eye. In addition, the website designers, True North, helped us to think about our identity and the importance of presenting the Archives Hub in a way that conveys confidence, self-belief, professionalism and warmth.

The Archives Hub has getting on for 200 contributors now, which is quite an achievement, and we are very appreciative of the effort that our contributors put into creating descriptions for the Hub. We want to continue to develop the site with a focus on archivists as well as on researchers, as we see both groups of users as vital to us, and in fact they often overlap. We hope that our ‘Archivists’ section is helpful and informative for contributors and other information professionals interested in what we do and in issues around online data and interoperability.

Our Features section takes over from the old ‘Collections of the Month’ idea, bringing the same message about the breadth and depth of Hub content and enabling us to showcase contributors and wonderful collections.

Our ‘Researchers’ section is going to be expanded, although we are keen to keep it focussed and easy to scan and digest. We are looking at ways that we can continue to support researchers in using the Hub to the greatest advantage. Of course, the main way is to provide an effective search interface and to continue to expand the content.  And this brings us on to the search – as well as a whole new information site, we have upgraded our software. We are now using ‘Cheshire 3’, which enables us to provide functionality that we could not provide before. We will be talking more about that in subsequent blogs. The new software is running on all-new hardware, so in fact we really have fundamentally changed the whole Archives Hub, but we hope that we have retained what is good about the site and about our service.