Making your digital collections easier to discover – Jisc workshops in November

Jisc is offering two one-day workshops to help you increase the reach of your digital collections, optimise them for discovery and evaluate their impact.

‘Exploiting digital collections in learning, teaching and research’ will be held on Tuesday 15 November.

‘Making google work for your digital collections’ will be held on Tuesday 22 November.

If your organisation has digital collections, or plans to develop them, our workshops will help you maximize the reach of those collections online, demonstrate the impact of their usage, and help you build for future sustainability. They will equip you with the knowledge and skills to:

• Increase the visibility of your digital collections for use in learning, teaching and research
• Encourage collaboration between curators and users of digital collections
• Strategically promote your digital collections in appropriate contexts, for a range of audiences
• Optimise your collection for discovery via Google and other search tools
• Use web analytics to track and monitor access and usage of your digital collections
• Evaluate impact and realise the benefits of investment in your digital collection

Who should attend?

Anyone working in education and research, who manages, supports and/or promotes digital collections for teaching, learning and research. Those working in similar roles in libraries, archives and museums would also benefit.

Both workshops will be held at Jisc office, Brettenham House, London and will offer a mix of discussion, practical activities and post-workshop resources to support online resource discovery activities.

For more information and to book your place please visit http://www.jisc.ac.uk/advice/training/making-your-digital-collections-easier-to-discover.

UKAD Forum

The National Archives
The National Archives (used under a CC licence from http://www.flickr.com/photos/that_james/2693236972/)

Weds 2nd March was the inaugural event of the UK Archives Discovery Network – better known as UKAD.  Held at the National Archives, the UKAD Forum was a chance for archive practitioners to get together, share ideas, and hear about interesting new projects.

The day was organised into 3 tracks: A key themes for information discovery; B standards and crowdsourcing; and C demonstrating sites and systems.  Plenary sessions came from John Sheridan of TNA, Richard Wallis of Talis, David Flanders of Jisc, and Teresa Doherty of the Women’s Library.

I would normally have been tweeting away, but unfortunately although I could connect to the wifi, I couldn’t get any further!  So here are my edited highlights of the day (also known as ‘tweets I wish I could have sent’).

Richard Sheridan kicked off the proceedings by talking about open data.  The government’s Coalition Agreement contains a commitment to open data, which obviously affects The National Archives, as repository for government data.  They are using light-weight existing Linked Data vocabularies, and then specialising them for their needs. I was particularly interested to hear about the particular challenges posed by legislation.gov.uk, explained by John as ‘A changes B when C says so’: new legislation may alter existing legislation, and these changes might come into force at a time specified by a third piece of legislation…

Richard Wallis carried on the open data theme, by talking about Linked Data and Linked Open Data. His big prediction? That the impact of Linked Data will be greater than the impact of the World Wide Web it builds on. A potentially controversial statement, delivered with a very nice slide deck.

Off to the tracks, and I headed for track B to hear Victoria Peters from Strathclyde talk about ICA-AtoM.  This is open source, web based archival  description software, aimed at archivists and institutions with limited financial and technical resources.  It looks rather nifty, and supports EAD and EAC import and export, as well as digital objects.  If you want to try it out, you can download a demo from the ICA-AtoM website, or have a look at Strathclyde’s installation.

Bill Stockting from the BL gave us an update on EAD and EAC-CPF.  I’m just starting to learn about EAC-CPF, so it was interesting to hear the plans for it.  One of Bill’s main points was that they’re trying to move beyond purely archival concerns, and are hoping that EAC-CPF can be used in other domains, such as MARC.  This is an interesting development, and I hope to hear more about it in the future!  Bill also mentioned SNAC, the Social Networks and Archival Context project, which is looking at using EAC-CPF with a number of tools (including VIAF) to ‘to “unlock” descriptions of people from finding aids and link them together in exciting new ways’.

David Flanders’ post-lunch plenary provided absolutely my favourite moment of the day: David said ‘Technology will fail if not supported by the users’… and then, with perfect timing, the projector turned off.  One of David’s key points was that ‘you are not your users’.  You can’t be both expert and user, and you will never know exactly how what users want from your systems, and how they will use them unless you actually ask them! Get users involved in your projects and bids, and you’re likely to be much more successful.

Alexandra Eveleigh spoke in track B about ‘crowds and communities: user participation in the archives’.  I especially liked her distinction between ‘crowds’ and ‘communities’ – crowds are likely to be larger, and quickly dip in and out, while communities are likely to be smaller overall, but dedicate more time and effort.  She also pointed out that getting users involved isn’t a new thing – there’s always been a place in archives for those pursuing ‘serious leisure’, and bringing their own specialist knowledge and experience.  A point Alexandra made that I found particularly interesting was that of being fair to your users – don’t ask them to participate and help you, if you’re not going to listen to their opinions!

I have to admit that I’d never really heard of Historypin before I saw them on the conference programme.  Don’t click on that link if you have anything you need to get done today!  Historypin takes old photographs, and ‘pins’ them to their exact geographic location using Google maps.  You can see them in streetview, overlaid on the modern background, and it is absolutely fascinating.  Photos can be contributed by anyone, and anyone can add stories or more information to photos on the site.  One of the developments on the way is the ability to ‘pin’ video and audio clips in the same way.

CEO Nick Stanhope was keen to point out that Historypin is a not-for-profit – they’re in partnership with Google, but not owned by them, and they don’t ask for any rights to any of the material posted on Historypin.  They’re keen to work with archives to add their photographic collections, and have a couple of things they hope to soon be able to offer archives in return (as well as increased exposure!):  they’ll be allowing any archive to have an instance of Historypin embedded on the archive’s site for free.  They’re also developing a smartphone app, and will be offering any archive their own branded version of the app – for free!  These developments sound really exciting, and I hope we hear more from them soon.

Teresa Doherty’s closing plenary was on the re-launch of the Genesis project.  As Teresa said ‘many of you will be sitting there thinking ‘this isn’t plenary material! what’s going on?”, but Teresa definitely made it a plenary worth attending.  Genesis is a project which allows users to cross-search women’s studies resources from museums, libraries and archives in the UK, and Teresa made the persuasive point that while the project itself might not be revolutionary, how they’ve done it is.  Genesis has had no funding since 200 – everything they’ve done since then, including the relaunch, has been done with only the in-house resources they have available.  They’ve used SRU to search the Archives Hub, and managed to put together a valuable service with minimal resources.

As a librarian and a new professional, I found Teresa’s insights into the history of archival cataloguing particularly fascinating.  I knew that ISAD(G) was released in 1996, but I hadn’t had any real understanding of what that meant: that before 1996, there were no standards or guidelines for archival cataloguing. Each institution would catalogue in entirely their way – a revelation to me, and completely alien to my entirely standards-based professional background!  And I now have a new mantra, learned from one of Teresa’s old managers back in the early 90s:

‘We may not have a database now, but if we have structured data then one day we will have a database to put it in!’

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better definition of the interoperability mindset.

After the day officially ended, it was off the the pub for a swift pint and wind-down. An excellent, instructive, and fun day.

Slides from the day are available on SlideShare – tag ukad.

On Holiday in the Archives

Pierrot troupe, 'Shorefield Gardens Westcliff 1916'
Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies (LUCAS) organised an event on Saturday, with Sefton MBC, at Southport Arts Centre. This was an afternoon of talks and films about what archives can show us about holidays and seaside resorts.

There were four films from the North West Film Archive, made by railway companies to encourage visitors to travel to northern resorts, and films showing local people made by cinema owners to encourage visitors to their cinemas.

Then Dr Chris Lewis of Victoria County History told us about his investigation into the names of private houses in the seaside town of Goring in West Sussex – an ingenious way to shine light on social history.

Allan Brodie of English Heritage showed us some of the evidence he had uncovered that Liverpool (rather than Margate) can make a claim to be the first seaside resort, in the early 18th century.

Professor John Walton of Leeds Metropolitan University described some of the lateral thiking and detective work required to track down sparse or scattered records of resort life in Britain (and Spain) in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Documented history concerned with these aspects of ordinary lives tends to be thin on the ground, as the whole subject was generally seen as ‘trivial’. But there’s so much more to history than the ‘great and the good’. These archivists and historians were at the seaside, but they were working on illuminating our history…

Above: Photo from the collection Papers relating to English concert parties and pierrot shows, held at the University of Exeter. Image courtesy of University of Exeter Library (Special Collections).

Neuer Post

Umspannwerk Ost restaurantBlogger knows I’m in Germany – the interface is all in German. Neat. And just a teeny bit creepy.

I’m here with Jane at the International Standards for Digital Archives conference. Lots of presentations about EAD, EAC, METS and related standards. I was talking about the Spokes software yesterday (the EAD day). The picture shows the inside of the Umspannwerk Ost restaurant where we had dinner last night. It used to be an electrical substation. The conference venue (the Umweltforum) used to be a church. They’re good at recycling here.

Daniel PittiToday was all about EAC and METS – Daniel Pitti was one of the speakers giving the background to EAC in the morning. Apparently there have been complaints about the complexity of the standard, so Daniel was asking for more details on this problem, as work is about to start on rebuilding it ‘from the ground up’. I enjoyed his closing comment which was along the lines of “it doesn’t matter what you do in the privacy of your own repository, but if you’re going outside, please dress up in a standard” (or a nice hat, of course).

BBC 2.0

BBC2's opening night logoThe Archives Hub’s funding body, JISC, held a one-day conference on Tuesday in Birmingham. One of the keynotes was by Tom Loosemore, of the BBC’s Future Media and Technology section. The slides and notes of Tom’s talk on the fifteen Web Principles of BBC 2.0 are worth a look.

The image of BBC2 on its opening night has been taken from The Ident Zone. The logos from the BBC’s own site can’t be shared on the web (cf. Principle #13).

Travel tip for Berlin conference

I’ll be talking about the Archives Hub at the International Standards for Digital Archives Conference which runs from 24-26 April in Berlin.

I’d booked my flights a month or so back, but discovered yesterday that British Airways had cancelled them. Great. Couldn’t alter the booking online, so I spent 10 minutes on hold on the 0870 number trying to get through to the airline to get alternative flights. Then my brighter other half used the brilliant ‘Say No to 0870‘ site to see if there was an alternative, cheaper number. Even better, there’s a freephone number: 0800 123111 and my call to that number was answered straight away (as BA have pay for those calls). Thought I’d share this just in case anyone else is in the same situation!

From our special correspondent

Jantar Mantar observatory
The 2006 Conference: New Delhi, 10-15 December of the International Planning History Society has been a very successful event. The conferences were varied and rich, and the presentation of Town and Townscape: the work and life of Thomas Sharp was well received! The participants coming from all over the world were willing to share ideas and conversations and why not, a glass of wine or an Indian beer after the intense presentations! New Delhi is a vibrant cosmopolitan city and have so many things to see and experience… and we have so little time. It is a very remarkable place that has to be visited sometime, the food was delicious and the people so nice. Jantar Mantar (photograph above) is located on Sansad Marg between Connaught Place and Rashtrapati Bhavan. It is one of the five astronomical observatories across India built in the 18th century. The name of Jantar Mantar derives from corruptions of the words ‘yantra’ (instrument) and ‘mantra’ (formula). It is a fabulous site!

Report and photo by Laura Fernandez, Project Archivist of the Thomas Sharp Project, School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape, and Special Collections, Robinson Library, Newcastle University.

Thanks for the memories

Amanda and I attended an excellent colloquium this week, ‘Memories for Life’. This was the culmination of a project that sought to bring together a diverse range of academics with the aim of understanding more about how memory works and developing the technologies to enhance it:

http://www.memoriesforlife.org/

The expert and very excellent panelists covered aspects of device engineering, computer science, psychology and neuroscience as well as ethical and legal issues. The stuff of our digital life may be created and controlled by us or it may be held externally, evidence of our interactions with the world around us. The colloquium looked at ways this stuff is growing, questioned how it is being used and how it might be used and looked at the implications for us as individuals and as a community.

As a magician in a former life, Professor Richard Wiseman showed us how magic tricks illustrate the sleight of hand that can fool us into certain beliefs that are not in fact true. To some extent magic actually manipulates memory and shows us that we can’t necessary trust what we see (or think we see). Similarly, Richard explained how psychological experiments that he has been involved with show just how open we are to suggestion. One example he gave was a s