Celebrating 20 years of Archives Hub Features

Back in September 2001 we ran our first feature (we can scarcely believe it’s been that long ourselves!), all about the papers of Manchester-born, Oscar-winning actor Robert Donat (1905-1958) and an exhibition at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester.

Postcards of Robert Donat held by The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter.

Since then, we’ve published a new feature every month to promote our contributors‘ collections, initially via our web pages*, and now on our blog. For several years, these were nearly always produced by members of the team but now the features are mainly written by our contributors themselves. We’re really pleased at this shift: who better to tell the stories behind the collections than the archivists caring for them? The features are also an opportunity for archives to publicise their anniversaries, exhibitions and other events.

Over the past 20 years we’ve featured collections from the wide, and growing, range of UK archives represented on the Archives Hub: Universities, Royal Colleges, museums, galleries, businesses, charities, local authorities and specialist archives – including theatre, dance, design, industry and medicine. We’ve picked out some highlights…

Barclaycard: 50 years of plastic money – the story from the Archives

Photo of early advertising at a garage
Early advertising at a garage.

June 2016 saw the 50th anniversary of the official launch of Barclaycard, the first all-purpose credit card in Europe. The idea of Barclaycard is credited to general manager Derek Wilde, later a vice-chairman of Barclays, and James Dale, who became Barclaycard’s first departmental manager. Their idea was backed by Barclays’ chairman John Thomson, who recognised the need to ‘beat the others to it’. The immediate inspiration came from a visit to the United States in 1965 by Wilde, Dale and computer expert Alan Duncan, specifically to look at Bank of America’s BankAmericard. Provided by Barclays Group Archives: https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2016/05/31/barclaycard-50-years-of-plastic-money-the-story-from-the-archives/.

The London to Istanbul European Highway

Drawing: Istanbul arrival.
Sixteen days after setting off, they reached Istanbul. By Margaret Bradley.

The National Motor Museum Motoring Archives contain approximately 300 collections, which relate to numerous aspects of motoring history, including speed records, motor sport, businesses and famous personalities. Material is held in support of the National Motor Museum’s wider Collections, and is well used as part of the Research Service. The Bradley Collection contains material relating to a survey of a transnational road from London to Istanbul. The collection includes a promotional booklet published by the Automobile Association (AA), and all of the original artwork produced by Margaret Bradley during the trip: https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2015/12/01/the-london-to-istanbul-european-highway/.

Coughs and Sneezes: Influenza epidemics and public health

This photograph shows an embroidered handkerchief, First World War, from the Liddle Collection, Leeds University Library. “1918. Souvenir de France”. The war in Europe ended on the Western Front on November 11th, 1918. Photo courtesy Liddle Collection, Leeds University Library.

Outbreaks of flu often develop into serious epidemics. Three times in the twentieth century this became pandemic, or worldwide. The most serious epidemic in history was the influenza pandemic at the end of the First World War. Robert Brown of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College, London writes about how the wealth of archival material in the Liddle Collection, Leeds University Library Special Collections, can help our understanding of the Spanish Flu: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/features/jan06.shtml

World War One
World War One (1914-1918) was a war like no other before it and was itself hugely influenced by the political and social changes that accompanied the Industrial Revolution. This feature explores many aspects of the war, including the roles of women, medicine and warfare, propaganda, correspondence and diaries: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/features/worldwarone/index.html.

Continuity of Care – The Royal Scottish National Hospital

Image: Picnic in the grounds, c1937
Picnic in the grounds, c1937

The Wellcome Trust funded a project at the University of Stirling Archives and Special Collections to catalogue and conserve the records of the Royal Scottish National Hospital (RSNH), Larbert. The historical importance of the collection was recognized by its inclusion in the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register in 2013:
https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2015/03/02/continuity-of-care-the-royal-scottish-national-hospital/

The Nobel Prizes
The Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) invented dynamite in 1866. Nobel bequeathed his estate to establish an award for achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The Archives Hub includes descriptions for the papers of many Nobel laureates: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/features/dec04.shtml

Black History Month: Theatre, culture and the Beatles

Image of 'O Babylon', Riverside, February 1988, Talawa Theatre Company.
THM/374/1/195/3 Image of ‘O Babylon’, Riverside, February 1988, Talawa Theatre Company.

Showcasing black theatre and culture to celebrate ‘Black History Month’ (2010) in the UK, with collections held by the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance, Black Cultural Archives Collections and the National Fairground Archive: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/features/blackhistorymontharts/.

A Spring in Your Step

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.

The Archives Hub contains a range of material linked with dance – dancers, choreographers and teachers, schools and companies, ballet, contemporary and other styles of dance. Collections highlighted include those held by Royal Academy of Dance, Royal Ballet School Special Collections, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Rambert Dance Company, Laban Collection, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance:
https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2014/05/30/a-spring-in-your-step/.

Forensics: A partial print of the history of forensic science
Forensic science is the application of scientific techniques to the evidence in a criminal investigation. No two people have fingerprints that are exactly alike. In the late 19th century, techniques for fingerprint identification and classification were developed, and fingerprint evidence was first accepted in British courts in 1901. Collections from Glasgow University Archive Services, Edinburgh University Library Special Collections, University of Dundee Archive Services, Imperial College London, Archives and Corporate Records Unit and others: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/features/forensics.shtml

The Devonshire Family Collections

Photograph of the 6th Duke dating from c.1852.
Photograph of the 6th Duke dating from c.1852.

The Devonshire Collection Archives, Chatsworth, in Derbyshire, span over 450 years and date back to the time of Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (c.1527-1708, better known as Bess of Hardwick), with elements of the archive dating from even earlier. They also include the papers of Bess of Hardwick, the 8th Duke/Marquess of Hartington and Duchess Georgiana: https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2019/03/04/the-devonshire-family-collections-at-chatsworth/.

Researching LGBTQ+ History at North East Wales Archives
NEWA shine the spotlight on some of the initiatives which are helping Wales to uncover the LGBTQ+ heritage held within their archives. It can be quite a challenge to find records of this type of history since, because of its historically subversive nature, it was often hidden, destroyed or even put into code to avoid discovery. With collections held by Archifau Sir Ddinbych / Denbighshire Archives and North East Wales Archives – Flintshire / Archifau Gogledd Ddwyrain Cymru – Sir y Fflint: https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2021/02/01/researching-lgbtq-history-at-north-east-wales-archives/.

Fish are jumpin’ in the Archives

Women Fish Sellers – from Hamilton, Robert (1866) British Fishes, Part II, Naturalist’s Library, vol. 37, London: Chatto and Windus. Image in the public domain (photograph from the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank at the University of Washington).

A selection of the wonderful, and sometimes surprising, collections relating to fish, ranging across research, expeditions, fisheries, the fishing industry and river authorities – not forgetting a fish and chip shop, a theatre and several appropriately named individuals: https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2020/07/31/fish-are-jumpin-in-the-archives/.

X: General elections
Since 1945, the library of the London School of Economics has collected campaign material, such as leaflets and posters, produced by political parties and individual candidates: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/features/may05.shtml

The Wallace Collection Archives

Image of The Swing, 1767.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, 1767, © The Wallace Collection

In 1897 Lady Wallace died and bequeathed the contents of the ground and first floor of Hertford House, her art-filled London residence, to the nation. This included paintings by Rembrandt, Reynolds and Canaletto, the finest collection of Sèvres porcelain in the world and nearly 2,500 pieces of arms and armour. These items were collected by the first 4 Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess. The Wallace Collection Library and Archives reflect the collections and history of the Museum and its founders.
https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2015/09/01/the-wallace-collection-archives/.

Heavenly Harmony: Music in the Collections of Canterbury Cathedral Archives & Library

The entry in this missal for the festival of All Saints to whom the church at Woodchurch is dedicated is elaborately illuminated (CCA-U88/B/6/1, folio 52)
The entry in this missal for the festival of All Saints to whom the church at Woodchurch is dedicated is elaborately illuminated (CCA-U88/B/6/1, folio 52)

The first organ was installed at Canterbury in the 12th century although it is believed that unlike its modern counter part, it was not viewed as a musical instrument, rather “a producer of cheerful though fairly random noise.” The current organ was built in 1888 and underwent a number of renovations in the twentieth century. This feature provides an enticing overture of musical collections held by Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library: https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2018/02/01/heavenly-harmony-music-in-the-collections-of-canterbury-cathedral-archives-and-library/.

D H Lawrence Collection
The D H Lawrence Collection at the University of Nottingham’s Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections began in the 1950s prompted by an increasing academic interest in Lawrence’s life and works. Since then, the Collection has grown and now forms one of the major international research resources for the study of D H Lawrence: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/features/lawrence.shtml.

Raymond Williams papers at the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Photograph of student group in the reading room.
Photograph of student group in the reading room.

Raymond Williams (1921-1988) is probably best known for his notion that culture is ordinary. Through published works such as ‘Culture and Society’ (1958), he was one of the leading academic figures undertaking research and publishing works that explored and redefined ‘culture’. Other seminal works written by Raymond Williams included ‘The Long Revolution’ (1961), ‘The Country and the City’, ‘Keywords’ (1976), ‘Towards 2000’ (1983). As a major intellectual figure of the twentieth-century, Williams is recognized worldwide as one of the founding figures of Cultural Studies. Swansea University‘s collection has been the catalyst for fascinating conversations in the Reading Room about Raymond Williams as a writer, researcher, teacher, as well as discussions about some of the questions posed by the archive: challenging handwriting, apparently random notes and half-finished texts, who wrote what – was it Raymond or was it his wife, Joy?
https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2017/10/02/raymond-williams-papers-at-the-richard-burton-archives-swansea-university/

That’s just scratching the surface though! You can explore many of our Features through our gallery:

Image gallery: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/features/gallery/

Chronological list, 2001 to date: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/featureslist/

And look out for our #20YearsOfFeatures Twitter campaign throughout September, showcasing more Features.

*** We are grateful to all who have shared their collections, events and anniversaries over the years – may there be many more to come! ***

*Please note: our older features were produced as static pages, so please be aware that some external websites may no longer be active.

Cataloguing the Oriental Translation Fund Archive

Archives Hub feature for September 2021

Since its creation in 1823, the Royal Asiatic Society has run an active publications programme with the aim of realizing the mission expressed in the Society’s charter: ‘the investigation of subjects connected with, and for the encouragement of Science, Literature and the Arts in relation to Asia’. Publications have been supported by different funds and committees, but the oldest and perhaps most significant is the Oriental Translation Fund.

The fund was established in 1828 through a committee that was theoretically independent of the Society with its purpose to translate and publish ‘interesting and valuable works on Eastern History, Science, and Belles-Lettres’ and to make them accessible to wider audiences. The fund operated with great inclusiveness for the period, with a range of Asian languages accepted and translators of different nationalities welcomed. The list of early subscribers was impressive: King George IV was Patron, and other influential figures included: Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, the former Prime Minister (the Duke of Wellington), the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the founder of the RAS, Henry Thomas Colebrooke.

Bust of Henry Thomas Colebrooke (1765-1837) who was the founder of the Royal Asiatic Society. This image can be viewed on the Society’s Digital Library .

The Oriental Translation Fund Archive covers the period 1836-2010, and consists of minute books, correspondence, publication lists, purchases and stock books. The material provides an insight into the general operations of the fund and the figures that contributed towards its longevity. Publications from the fund have been divided into two series with publication lists highlighting that 71 translations were published in the first series. This included the first OTF translation of a Sanskrit text, Kālidāsa’s ‘Raghuvaṃśa’ into Latin by Adolf Stenzle and a translation of the Persian manuscript ‘Customs and Manners of the Women of Persia’ by James Atkinson.

One of the early publication lists from the fund printed in 1844 (OTF/3/1/7).

However, initial enthusiasm for the fund began to decline and operations were suspended in 1860 due to a shortage of funds. This is covered in the final minute book of the collection from November 1865 where it is written that ‘no more subscriptions should be called in’ and that the Wesleyan Missionary Society were to ‘enter also upon negotiations for the purchase of the stock and copyright of the O.T Society’s publications’.

Extract from the final minute book in November 1865 which highlights that the committee is entering negotiations with the Wesleyan Missionary Society for the purchase of stock (OTF/1/4).

Nevertheless, correspondence within the collection reveals that there were continuous talks to revive the fund in the 1880s with most of these efforts led by the British Orientalist and translator, Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot. Arbuthnot took control of the management of the fund and donated large amounts of his own money to allow the fund to continue. A leaflet within the collection showcases the confirmed revival of the fund, following a meeting at the Society in 1889. This included an establishment of a new committee and the creation of a reserve fund of £5,000 to fund new publications.

Leaflet highlighting the establishment of the new Oriental Translation Fund Committee in February 1890 (OTF/2/3).
Image of publications from Series 2 of the fund.

Due to the efforts of Arbuthnot and others, the fund is still in existence today whilst many other subscription presses within the Victorian period have ceased. The most recent OTF publication, Aap Beeti by Tript Kaur, has been translated into English from Punjabi. This can be viewed on the Society’s website.

Event poster from the Society’s virtual book launch of Aap Beeti from October 2020.

The catalogue for the Oriental Translation Fund can be viewed on the Society’s Archives Hub page which lists all of our catalogued archives. The Royal Asiatic Society’s collections were created with the founding of the Society in 1823 and include: printed material, manuscripts, paintings, drawings, photographs, maps and archives. These provide an important resource for anyone wishing to study and gain further understanding of Asian cultures and history.

For further information please visit the Society’s website. The Reading Room is currently open to researchers with pre-booked appointments on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Twitter: @RAS_Soc
Facebook: @RoyalAsiaticSoc
Instagram: royalasiaticsociety

Emma Jones (ej@royalasiaticsociety.org)
Archivist
Royal Asiatic Society

Related

Oriental Translation Fund, 1836-2010

Browse all Royal Asiatic Society collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright Royal Asiatic Society. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Cataloguing the Papers of Sir Norman Chester relating to Football at De Montfort University Special Collections

Archives Hub feature for August 2021

In 2018 De Montfort University (DMU) Special Collections received a grant from the Wellcome Trust to undertake a cataloguing project involving four of our sports history collections: the papers of England Boxing, the Ski Club of Great Britain, Sir Norman Chester and the Special Olympics Leicester. In this feature project cataloguer Louise Bruton focuses on the particular challenges of cataloguing one of those collections: the papers of Sir Norman Chester, an academic and specialist in public administration by profession as well as a lifelong football supporter.

Chester presenting a Football Trust cheque to the Scottish Football Association. Photograph shows Chester, Ernie Walker (Secretary of the Scottish Football Association).
Chester presenting a Football Trust cheque to the Scottish Football Association. Photograph shows Chester, Ernie Walker (Secretary of the Scottish Football Association).

Cataloguing personal papers as opposed to those of an organisation can be challenging. Whereas the documents of an organisation often retain the traces of the creating administration, divided into departments and divisions with defined responsibilities, personal papers can be more amorphous. The challenge presented by the Chester files was that they all consisted of papers relating to football improvement works and the content of each file appeared at first glance to be very similar. With over 300 files to sort through, I needed a way to uncover each file’s history and make sure that I retained its association to other files documenting the same piece of work.

'Soccer - The Fight for Survival'
‘Soccer – The Fight for Survival’.

I discovered that the best way to distinguish between files was to establish what Chester’s role was in that particular file – was he Chairman, Deputy Chairman, advisor, individual football fan? The way he signed off his letters was a clue, as was the headed paper. Chester’s papers were split and given to different institutions, so this section of his papers is entirely concerned with his work on football administration and I therefore decided that the best way to structure the catalogue was by Chester’s role.

Chester led two inquiries into the organisation, finance and management of association football in 1966 – 1968 and 1982 – 1983, the former only a few years after the end of the retain and transfer system and maximum wage rule which determined players’ ability to transfer between clubs, and the latter only ten years before the creation of the Premier League. The Chester Papers collection includes files of correspondence and notes Chester compiled as he worked on these inquiries, along with copies of the final reports (see series S/005/01 and S/005/02).

Archive folders before and after repackaging.

Chester was working during a difficult time for football in which declining attendance figures, crowd behaviour, financial struggles and stadium safety were key concerns. The bulk of the collection we hold consists of files relating to Chester’s work for two Trusts which sought to improve facilities at football grounds across Britain.

Appointed for his unique combination of public administration expertise and personal passion for the game, Chester served as Chairman of The Football Grounds Improvement Trust from 1975 – 1979 and as Deputy Chairman of The Football Trust from 1979 – 1986. Following the Ibrox Stadium Disaster in 1971, a report into safety at sports grounds found that existing standards were inadequate. The Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 required sports stadia with capacities of over 10,000 to carry out improvements to meet new safety criteria. Many Football League club grounds were large enough to fall under the legislation, but found it difficult to finance the necessary alterations.

Littlewoods Pools poster from the Chester papers. The pools funded improvement work at stadia.

The Football Grounds Improvement Trust (FGIT) was set up to give grants to football clubs to carry out safety improvement works. Funded by money from the football pools, FGIT considered applications from clubs on an individual basis, using a firm of surveyors to examine the technical details of proposed structural work. As Chairman, Chester reviewed all of these applications and kept copies, along with correspondence, in a series of alphabetised files. These are now catalogued as the series S/005/03/04. Many of the applications include plans and provide a snapshot each club’s facilities and future plans at that moment in time. Sadly, in spite of the grants allocated and the improvements made, disasters such as the Bradford City stadium fire in 1985 showed that many football grounds still required significant redevelopment.

Drawing of Weston Super Mare Football Club new ground
Drawing of Weston Super Mare Football Club new ground.

Grant applications can also be found in Chester’s files relating to his work as Deputy Chairman of The Football Trust. As a sister organisation to FGIT, the Football Trust had a wider remit, extending grants to non-League football clubs and supporting research into football’s place in society. The grant files series (S/005/04/05) is a great place to search for local clubs as well as local-authority run grass-roots football grounds.

Chester’s files show that work to improve the safety of football stadia was linked to a desire to improve the environment for spectators and to contribute to a reduction in hooliganism. The ‘Anti-Hooliganism Measures’ series (S/005/04/05/009) documents efforts to understand and tackle problematic crowd behaviour. This work was ongoing at the time of Chester’s death in 1986.

Chester’s collection of Oxford United matchday programmes.

The most personal items are his collection of Oxford United football programmes. Many are annotated with the final score, showing that Chester attended almost all of his local team’s home games over a twenty-year period until the month before he died, remaining a football fan first and a football administrator second.

Louise Bruton, Project Archivist
and Katharine Short, Special Collections Manager
‘Unboxing the Boxer’ Wellcome Trust funded cataloguing project
De Montfort University Archives and Special Collections

Related

The rest of Chester’s papers are held by Nuffield College Archives, University of Oxford where Chester worked for most of his life: Papers of Sir Norman Chester, 1907–1986.

Papers of England Boxing (formerly Amateur Boxing Association of England), 1880-2016

Special Olympics Leicester, 2009

Browse all De Montfort University Archives and Special Collections on the Archives Hub.

Browse more Football collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright De Montfort University Archives and Special Collections. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Archives Hub Training

Over the first half of this year we ran a series of training sessions remotely. We agreed on a set of sessions of 1.5 hours duration, reflecting the feedback we have had from our contributors and potential contributors about what they would like.

The sessions we organised were EAD Editor sessions – basic and ‘refresher’, exporting from Calm, exporting from AdLib, providing content using spreadsheets (Excel), using the CIIM, and a session on structure and names in archive descriptions. We also ran a session on user experience and behaviour, which was the first time we have organised a session not specifically about the Archives Hub, discoverability and data.

We have received feedback from 32 attendees. 100% of attendees agreed or strongly agreed that the sessions were worthwhile. 72% agreed that the content was excellent, 28% that it was very good or good. We had similar ratings for clarity, pace and organisation. So, overall, we are happy that the training provided met people’s needs and the sessions ‘hit the spot’.

Comments (paraphrased) included: it was easy to ask questions, focused and clear, it boosted my confidence, I am clear where I can go for help if needed, good to see export in action, presented in a relaxed manner and not too long, worked well to see the Editor on screen share, the speaker held my attention for the full 90 minutes. The session on user behaviour was well received, with comments on interesting speakers, good experience of their subject, a variety of perspectives. There is a short blog post on that session, with a link to the Zoom recording.

We asked if people would like to see us cover other topics in the future. There were a variety of suggestions, all of which we will consider. One suggestion was for a session on basic structuring and approaches to cataloguing, and this has been asked for a few times, so we will aim to run a session around this in the second half of the year. We were also asked for something on the benefits of being on the Archives Hub. We did used to incorporate this into our longer EAD Editor sessions, and it is worth thinking about making sure we do convey the benefits of increased discoverability and being part of the Hub community.

If there are areas that you would like us to cover, please do get in touch. We aim to provide training that meets the needs of the community – so we need your input!

We are also looking at running more sessions that bring together speakers from our community, such as the session on user experience and behaviour. We are planning a session on ‘machine learning’ in the not too distant future.

All sessions for contributors and potential contributors will be advertised through our contributors’ list, so do make sure you are on the list in order to find out about upcoming events. Email us at contributors.hub@jisc.ac.uk.

Remember that we also have YouTube videos for practical training on using the Editor and the CIIM and on exporting.

Content of the workshop

clarity of the workshop responsesClarity of the workshop

content of the workshop responsesUseful & worthwhile

Employing Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in Cultural Institutions

As mentioned in my last post, we’re looking at the possibilities Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can offer the Archives Hub and the archives community in general. I also now have a wider role in Jisc as a ‘Technical Innovations Manager’, so my brief is to consider the wider technical and strategic possibilities of AI/ML for the Digital Resources directorate and Jisc as a whole. We continue to work behind the scenes, but we also keep a watch on cultural heritage and wider sector activities. As part of this I participated in the Aeolian Project’s ‘Online Workshop 1: Employing Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in Cultural Institutions’ yesterday.

‘Visual AI and Printed Chapbook Illustrations at the National Library of Scotland’ – Dr Giles Bergel (University of Oxford / National Library of Scotland)

Giles’ team have been using machine learning (ML) on data from data.nls.uk. He outlined their three part approach. First they find illustrations in manuscripts using Google’s EfficientDet object detection convolutional neural network seeded by manually pre-annotated images. They found the object detector worked extremely well after relatively few learning passes. There were a few false positives such as image ink showing through, marginalia and dog ears that would confuse the model.

Image showing false postive ml recognition
False positive ML recognition – ink showthrough

Next they matched and grouped the illustrations using their “state of art” image search engine. Giles believes this shows that AI simplifies the task of finding things that are related in images. The final step was to apply classification alogorithms with the VGG Image Classification Engine which uses Google as a source of labelled images. The lessons learned were:

  • AI requires well-curated data
  • Tools for annotating data are no less important than classifiers
  • Generic image models generalize well to printed books
  • ‘Classical’ computer vision still works
  • AI software development benefits from end-to-end use-cases including data preparation, refinement, consulting with domain experts, public engagement etc.

Machine Learning and Cultural Heritage: What Is It Good Enough For?’ – John Stack (UK Science Museum)

John described how AI is being used as part of the Science Museum’s linked data work to collect data into a central knowledge graph. He noted that the Science Museum are doing a great deal of digitisation but currently they only have what John describes as ‘thin’ object data.

They are looking at using AI for name disambiguation as a first step before adding links to wikidata and using entity recognition to enhance their own catalogue. It stuck me that they, and we at the Hub, have been ‘doing AI’ for a while now with such technologies as entity recognition and OCR before the term AI was used. They are aiming to link through to wikidata such that they can pull in the data and add it to their knowledge graph. This allows them to enhance their local data and apply ML to perform such things as clustering to draw out new insights.

John identified the main benefits of ML currently as suggesting possibilities and identifying trends and gaps. It’s also useful for visualisation and identifying related content as well as enhancing catalogues with new terminology. However there were ‘but’s. ML content needs framing and context. He noted that false positives are not always apparent and usually require specialist knowledge. It’s important to approach things critically and understand what can’t be done. John mentioned that they don’t have any ML driven features in production as yet.

Diagram showing the components of the Heritage Connector software

This was followed by a Q&A where several issues came up. We need to consider how AI may drive new ways/modalities of browsing that we haven’t imagined yet. A major issue is the work needed to feed AI enhancements into user interfaces. Most work so far has been on backend data. AI tools need to integrate into day-to-day workflows for their benefits to be realised. More sector specific case-studies, training materials, tools and models are needed that are appropriate to cultural heritage. See the Heritage Connector blog for more information.

AI and the Photoarchive‘ – John McQuaid (Frick Collection), Dr Vardan Papyan (University of Toronto), and X.Y. Han (Cornell University)

The Frick Collection have been using the PyTorch deep neural network to identify labels for their photo archive collection. They then compared the ML results as a validation exercise with internally crowdsourced data from their staff and curators captured by the Zooinverse software for the same photos.

Frick Collection workflow
Frick Collection ML workflow

They found that 67% of the ML labels matched with the crowdsource validations which they considered a good result. They concluded that at present ML is most useful for ‘curatorial amplification’, but much human effort is still needed. This auto-generation of metadata was their main use case so far.

Keep True: Three Strategies to Guide AI Engagement‘ – Thomas Padilla (Center for Research Libraries)

Thomas believes GLAMs have an opportunity to distinguish themselves in the AI space. He covered a number of themes, the first being the ’Non-scalability imperative’. Scale is everywhere with AI.  There’s a great deal of marketing language about scale, but we need to look at all the non-scalable processes that scale depends on. There’s a problematic dependency where scalability is made possible by non-scalable processes, resources and people. Heterogeneity and diversity can become a problem to be solved by ML. There’s little consideration that AI should be just and fair. 

The second theme was ‘Neoliberal traps’ in AI. Who says ethical AI is ethical AI? GLAMs are trying to do the right thing with AI, but this is in the context of neoliberal moral regulation which is unfair and ineffective. He mentioned some of the good examples from the sector including from CILIP, Museums AI Network and his own ‘Responsible Operations‘ paper.

He credited Melissa Terras for asking the question “How are you going to advocate for this with legislation?”. The US doesn’t have any regulations at the moment to get the private sector to get better. I mentioned the UK AI Council who are looking at this in the UK context, and the recent CogX event where the need for AI regulation was discussed in many of the sessions.

The final theme was ‘Maintenance as Innovation’. Information maintenance is a Practice of Care. There is an asserted dichotomy between maintenance and innovation that’s false. Maintenance is sustained innovation and we must value the importance of maintenance to innovation. He appealed to the origin of the word ‘innovation’ which derives from the latin ‘innovare’ which means “to alter, renew, restore, return to a thing, introduce changes in the way something is done or made”. It’s not about creating from new. At the Hub we wholeheartedly endorse this view. We feel there’s far too much focus on the latest technology meme and we’ve had tensions within our own organisation along these lines. There may appear to be some irony here given the topic of this post, but we have been doing AI for a while as noted above. He referred us to https://themaintainers.org/ for more on this.

Roundtable discussion with the AEOLIAN Project Team

Dr Lise Jaillant, Dr Annalina Caputo, Glen Worthey (University of Illinois), Prof. Claire Warwick (Durham University), Prof. J. Stephen Downie (University of Illinois), Dr Paul Gooding (Glasgow University), and Ryan Dubnicek (University of Illinois).

Stephen Downie talked about the need for standardisation of ML extracted features so we can re-use these across GLAMs in a consistent way. The ‘Datasheets for Datasets’ paper was mentioned that proposes “a short document to accompany public datasets, commercial APIs, and pretrained models”. This reminded me of Yves Bernaert’s talk about the related need for standardisation of carbon consumption measures. Both are critical issues and possible areas for Jisc to be involved in providing leadership. Another point that Stephen made is that researchers are finding they can’t afford the bill for ML processing. Finding hardware and resources is a big problem. As noted by ML guru Andrew Ng, we have a considerable data issue with AI and ML work . It may be that we need to work more on the data rather than wasting time, electricity and money re-creating expensive ML models. A related piece of work, ‘Lessons from Archives‘ was also mentioned in this regard. There is a case for sharing model developments across the sector for efficiency and sustainability here.

Five Hundred Years of the WS Society Archive, Edinburgh

Archives Hub feature for July 2021

WS Society deed box.
WS Society deed box.

The creation of the WS Society’s archive catalogue on the Archives Hub  during the first period of national lockdown was the completion of stage two of a long-term project to remap and rehouse the records of Scotland’s oldest and largest body of solicitors. The Society of Writers to HM Signet, to give it its full name, has its origins in a fraternity of legal clerks working for the king’s secretary in medieval Scotland, and it was incorporated into the College of Justice by James V in 1532. The Society underwent reforms in 1594 and the minute book that was opened in that year is the oldest single item in the archive. Over the centuries, the Society’s lawyers have played a key role in the history of Scotland, but they were also central to the country’s intellectual and cultural development. Our archive is a map of the Society’s history – the lives and careers of generations of Scottish professionals – but it is also a map of its greatest cultural creation, the Society’s home and headquarters, the Signet Library in Edinburgh.

The archive now has its own specially adapted space within the Library, and all bound records are now recorded in the catalogue. The archive’s five centuries of unbound records have been surveyed and the task of adding them to the catalogue will be the third and final stage of the project. The Victorian deed boxes that once housed these records may be obsolete but they are also beautiful, and some are now on display in public parts of the building.

The WS Society’s archive is open to academics and post-graduate students, and to bone fide independent researchers at the discretion of the WS Society’s officers. For more details, please contact the Research Principal James Hamilton on library@wssociety.co.uk.

The Signet Library in 1867 - glass slide - George Washingon Wilson.
The Signet Library in 1867 – glass slide – George Washingon Wilson.

The Signet Library is both a building and a collection. It is one of the largest private libraries in the United Kingdom and the books, art, furniture, artifacts and ephemera that it contains are a direct and important product of and survivor of the Scottish Enlightenment. Its scholar-librarians, who include the antiquarian David Laing and the church historian Thomas Graves Law, played vital roles in the development of Scottish historiography. The Library has its own record series within the archive, mapping the growth of a major Scottish intellectual institution from the first book purchases in 1722, through the golden age of the Scottish Enlightenment to the present day.

John Watson's institution entry form for Euphemia Bridie 1837.
John Watson’s institution entry form for Euphemia Bridie 1837.

The WS Society is a registered charity and the solicitors who are the Society’s members have always played a key role in the Scottish charitable world. In the archive are records of people who have otherwise entirely vanished from the historical record, preserved in the treasurer’s records of charitable giving. The Society ran a school for orphans in Edinburgh for 200 years – John Watson’s Institution – and early records of those entering the school are here, with evidence of family and support networks and with the (often tragic) stories that led them to the Institution’s door. A host of charities providing hospitals, homes, food and education to the less fortunate were administered by WS Society lawyers and the archive contains extensive records of these involvements.

Letters of Madeleine Smith, accused of the Sandyford murder in Glasgow, from the Working Library of William Roughead WS letters.
Letters of Madeleine Smith, accused of the Sandyford murder in Glasgow, from the working library of William Roughead WS.

In a building that contains both library and archive there will be materials that could be defined as belonging to either or both. One instance of this is found in the working library of the author William Roughead, Writer to the Signet and Scotland’s famous historian of true crime, which was deposited with us in 1952 along with a host of correspondence and papers. This collection is now the most heavily used part of the library and archive, and is in constant demand from journalists, television producers and academics.

Session Papers, including the trial of Deacon Brodie 1788 and the Joseph Knight slavery trial 1772
Session Papers, including the trial of Deacon Brodie 1788 and the Joseph Knight slavery trial 1772.

Another jewel in our crown is our collection of Scottish Session Papers, printed materials used in civil court cases from 1711 onwards. All Scottish life is here – from arguments over the contents of window boxes to the records of the cases that finally ended slavery north of the Tweed – and amongst the bald legal texts can be found fascinating annotations by the lawyers themselves, beautiful hand-drawn maps, letters, and, later, photographs. These papers are the greatest untapped historical resource in Scotland and a collaborative effort to digitise the various collections of Session Papers is ongoing. Our collection was indexed during the Great War and the index has been placed online.

Bar bill from a WS Society dinner in Ediburgh, 1722.
Bar bill from a WS Society dinner in Ediburgh, 1722.

The WS Society has always had within it a strong social and artistic life, and the archive reflects this with records of the Society’s rifle club and militia at the one extreme (created in response to a French invasion threat in the 1850s) to records of dining societies, sporting and golf clubs (Scotland’s greatest all-round sportsman, Leslie-Balfour Melville, was a Writer to the Signet), and more recently records pertaining to the Edinburgh Festivals where the Society has provided both administrative support and a venue.

John Jardine’s list of the women of Edinburgh 1746.

Not all of the records that the Society possesses are currently held at the Signet Library. The great collection of papers about the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion built up by the Reverend John Jardine (1716-1766) are now mostly on deposit at the National Records of Scotland, although we still hold Jardine’s astonishingly indiscreet lists of the women in Edinburgh during the ’45 and these have just been edited and published by the Scottish Record Society.  Recent years have seen a long overdue recognition of the importance of business records and of the records of legal firms. In Scotland, a single law firm might serve a community for generations, and its records if properly preserved offer a unique and important window on the lives of everyone within it. But a new wave of mergers and takeovers of legal firms, along with the demise of some ancient firms with the death or retirement of the final remaining partners, has put these vital records under threat. The WS Society and Signet Library stand ready to provide advice on the preservation of such records, connections with bodies with specific expertise in the managing of such archives, and, if necessary, will provide law firm records with a permanent home.

James Hamilton
Research Principal
Society of Writers to HM Signet, Edinburgh

Related

Archive of the Society of Writers to HM Signet, Edinburgh (1594 – ongoing)

All images copyright the Society of Writers to HM Signet, Edinburgh. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Artificial Intelligence – Getting the Next Ten Years Right

CogX poster with dates of the event

I attended the ‘CogX Global Leadership Summit and Festival of AI’ last week, my first ‘in-person’ event in quite a while. The CogX Festival “gathers the brightest minds in business, government and technology to celebrate innovation, discuss global topics and share the latest trends shaping the defining decade ahead”. Although the event wasn’t orientated towards archives or cultural heritage specifically, we are doing work behind the scenes on AI and machine learning with the Archives Hub that we’ll say more about in due course. Most of what’s described below is relevant to all sectors as AI is a very generalised technology in its application.

image of presenter

My attention was drawn to the event by my niece Laura Stevenson who works at Faculty and was presenting on ‘How the NHS is using AI to predict demand for services‘. Laura has led on Faculty’s AI driven ‘Early Warning System’ that forecasts covid patient admissions and bed usage for the NHS. The system can use data from one trust to help forecast care for a trust in another area, and can help with best and worst scenario planning with 95% confidence. It also incorporates expert knowledge into the modelling to forecast upticks more accurately than doubling rates can. Laura noted that embedding such a system into operational workflows is a considerable extra challenge to developing the technology.

Screenshot of Explainability Data
Example of AI explainability data from the Early Warning System (image ©Faculty.ai )

The system includes an explainability feature showing various inputs and the degree to which they affect forecasting. To help users trust the tool, the interface has a model performance tab so users can see information on how accurate the tool has been with previous forecasts. The tool is continuing to help NHS operational managers make planning decisions with confidence and is expected to have lasting impact on NHS decision making.

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Responsible leadership: The risks and the rewards of advancing the state of the art in AI’ – Lila Ibrahim

Lila works at Deep Mind who are looking to use AI to unlock whole new areas of science. Lila highlighted the role of the AI Council who are providing guidance to UK Government in regard to UK AI research. She talked about Alphafold that has been addressing the 50 year old challenge of protein folding. This is a critical issue as being able to predict protein folding unlocks many possibilities including disease control and using enzymes to break down industrial waste. DeepMind have already created an AI system that can help predict how a protein folding occurs and have a peer reviewed article coming out soon. They are trying to get closer to the great challenge of general intelligence.

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Sustainable Technologies, Green IT & Cloud‘ – Yves Bernaert, Senior Managing Director, Accenture

Yves focussed on company and corporate responsibility, starting his session with some striking statistics:

  • 100 companies produce 70% of global carbon emissions.
  • 40% of water consumption is by companies.
  • 40% of deforestation is by companies.
  • There is 80 times more industrial waste than consumer waste.
  • 20% of the acidification of the ocean is produced by 20 companies only.

Yves therefore believes that companies have a great responsibility, and technology can help to reduce climate impact. 2% of global electricity comes from data centres currently and is growing exponentially, soon to be 8%. A single email produces on average 4g of carbon. Yves stressed that all companies have to accept that now is the time to come up with solutions and companies must urgently get on with solving this problem. IT energy consumption needs to be seen as something to be fixed. If we use IT more efficiently, emissions can be reduced by 20-30%. The solution starts with measurement which must be built into the IT design process.

We can also design software to be far more efficient. Yves gave the example of AI model accuracy.  More accuracy requires more energy. If 96% accuracy is to be improved by just 2%, the cost will be 7 times more energy usage. To train a single neural network requires the equivalent of the full lifecycle energy consumption of five cars. These are massive considerations. Interpreted program code has much higher energy use than compiled code such as C++.

A positive note is that 80% of the global IT workload is expected to move to the cloud in the next 3 years. This will reduce carbon emissions by 84%. Savings can be made with cloud efficiency measures such as scaling systems down and outwards so as not to unneccessarily provision for occasional workload spikes. Cloud migration can save 60 million tons carbon per year which is the equivalent of 20 million full lifecycle car emissions. We have to make this happen!

On where are the big wins, Yves said this is also in the IT area. Companies need to embed sustainability into their goals and strategy. We should go straight for the biggest spend. Make measurements and make changes that will have the most effect. Allow departments and people to know their carbon footprint.

* Update 28th June 2021 * – It was remiss of me not to mention that I’m working on a number of initiatives relating to green sustainable computing at Jisc. We’re looking at assessing the carbon footprint of the Archives Hub using the Cloud Carbon Footprint tool to help us make optimisations. I’m also leading on efforts within my directorate, Digital Resources, to optimise our overall cloud infrastructure using some of the measures mentioned above in conjuction with the Jisc Cloud Solutions team and our General Infrastructure team. Our Cloud CTO Andy Powell says more on this in his ‘AI, cloud and the environment‘ blog post.

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Future of Research’ – Prof. Dame Ottoline Leyser, CEO, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

Ottoline believes that pushing the boundaries of how we support research needs to happen. Research is now more holistic. We draw in what we need to create value. The lone genius is a big problem for research culture and it has to go. Research is insecure and needs connectivity.

Ottoline believes AI will change everything about how research is done. It’s initially replacing mundane tasks but will some more complex tasks such as spotting correlations. Eventually AI will be used as a tool to help understanding in a fundamental way. In terms of the existential risk of AI, we need to embed research as collective endeavour and share effort to mitigate and distribute this risk. It requires culture change, joining up education and entrepreneurship.

We need to fund research in places that are not the usual places. Ottoline likes a football analogy where people are excited and engaged at all levels of the endeavour, whether in the local park or at the stadium. She suggests research at the moment is more like elitist Polo not football.

Ottoline mentioned that UKRI funding does allow for white spaces research. Anyone can apply. However, we need to create wider white spaces to allow research in areas not covered by the usual research categories. It will involve braided and micro careers, not just research careers. Funding is needed to support radical transitions. Ottonline agrees that the slow pace of publication and peer review is a big problem that undermines research. We need to broaden ways we evaluate research. Peer Review is helpful but mustn’t slow things down.

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Ethics and Bias in AI‘ – Rob Glaser, CEO & Founder of RealNetworks

Rob suggests we are in an era with AI where there are no clear rules of the road yet. The task for AI is to make it safe to ‘drive’ with regulations. We can’t stop facial recognition any more than we can stop gravity. We need datasets for governance so we can check accuracy against these for validation. Transparency is also required so we can validate algorithms.  A big AI concern is the tribalism on social media.

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‘AI and Healthcare‘ – Rt. Hon. Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock believes we are at a key moment with healthcare and AI technology where it’s now of vital importance. Data saves lives! The next thing is how to take things forward in NHS. A clinical trials interoperability programme is starting that will agreed standards to get more out of data use, and the Government will be updating it’s Data strategy soon. He suggests we need to remove silos and commercial incentives (sic). On the use of GP data he suggests we all agree on the use of data, but the question is how it’s used. The NHS technical architecture needs to improve for better use and building data into the way the NHS works. GPs don’t own patient data, it is the citizen.

He said a data lake is being built across the NHS. Citizen interaction with health data is now greater than ever before and NHS data presents a great opportunity for research, and an enormous opportunity for the use of data to advance health care. He suggested we need to radically simplify the NHS information governance rules. On areas where not enough progress has been made, he mentioned the lack of separation of data layers is currently a problem. So many applications silo their data. There has also been a culture of Individual data with personal curation. The UK is going for a TRE first approach: ‘Trusted Research Environment service for England‘. Data is the preserve of the patient who will allow accredited researchers to use the data through the TRE. The clear preference of citizens is sharing data if they trust the sharing mechanism. Every person goes through a consent process for all data sharing. Acceptance requires motivating people with the lifesaving element of research. If there’s trust, the public will be on side. Researchers in this domain with have to abide by new rules to allow us to build on this data. He mentioned that Ben Goldacre will look at the line where open commons ends and NHS data ownership begins in the forthcoming Goldacre Review.

User Experiences of Archive Catalogues and Use of Primary Sources

On 19 June we ran a webinar on user research and user behaviour. We had three speakers – David Marshall, a UX Researcher from the University of Cambridge, Kelly Arnstein, a UX Specialist from the University of Glasgow, and Deborah Wilson, a Subject Librarian from Queens University Belfast.

Link to view the Zoom recording of the session – please use the passcode : m^9xj.vt https://jisc.zoom.us/rec/share/T1HJWEHzO5jvLEoJEEjzm2ch9DhlHKiGUQGEQSzrt-jhQ6DzFUEKvyBpWuOTa-Xv.IKKYEwWG9fT5-lup

(main talks 1hr + 25 minute discussion). Slides are also provided as links (below).

The talks were excellent, and followed by a lively discussion. They should prove to be useful to anyone looking at designing a website for archive catalogues, and working with students using primary sources. Overall, there was a lot of consensus about user behaviour, which is useful in terms of sharing findings – because it is likely to be relevant to all archives. The emphasis for this session was on students and academic researchers, but we did discuss some of the challenges of meeting the needs of a diverse audience.

A few summary points that came out of one or more of the talks:

  • People may use an archive catalogue for research and also for teaching, scoping a project, marketing and other reasons.
  • Researchers want comprehensive detailed descriptions
  • They value name of creator
  • They want an idea of the physicality of the collection and the overall size
  • People want context and hierarchy, and like the idea of ‘leafing through’ material to see relationships.
  • There are those who want to get quickly to what they need and those who value browse and serendipity. This seems like a possible tension, and certainly a challenge, in terms of interface design. It may be that at different times the same researcher wants a quick route through and other times they want to take time and discover.
  • Cambridge research found that some users wanted to limit their search by date initially, but there was a strong feeling that a wide search and then filtering was generally a good option.
  • Finding everything of value was seen as key – many researchers were prepared to spend time to discover materials related to their research and worried about missing important materials.
  • The physical object remains key to many researchers
  • Saving searches and other forms of personalisation were seen as a good thing
  • Quite often researchers, especially if they are more experienced, understand that research skills are important and archive catalogues are complex; this may contrast with library databases, where they are more inclined to want to get to things quickly.
  • Undergraduates often don’t understand the different approach needed to engage with primary sources
  • Undergrads often engage with archives at the point of an assignment, where they are being marked on their use of primary sources; they initially try to find sources in the same way as they would search for anything else.
  • It is really valuable to educate students on the importance of context, the broad search and filter approach, understanding citations, evaluating databases, etc. They often don’t really know what primary sources are and can find them off-putting.
  • Researchers can make assumptions about what a repository holds, and then be surprised to find that there is material that is relevant for them.
  • A bad catalogue can put a researcher off, and they may choose to go further afield if the catalogue offers a better experience.
  • People often ignore tooltips. It is a challenge to provide help that people use.

David’s Slides: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/documents/user-research-dm.pptx

Kelly’s Slides: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/documents/user-research-ka.pptx

Deborah’s Slides: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/documents/user-research-dw.pptx

Archive Collections in the North – Global Change

Archives Hub feature for June 2021

June’s Archives Hub feature is the result of animated discussions between members of Academic Libraries North (formerly Northern Collaboration) Special Interest Group for Special Collections and Archives. We chose Global Change as an overarching idea and asked group members to pick a collection that spoke to this theme. Far from being a random assortment of disparate collections with no common ground, the resulting list revealed linked collections with great research potential for those interested in political history, social history, activism, immigration and emigration, technological and design innovation – and even railway engineering.

Drink driving awareness lantern slide: Abstainers have the best of it. Courtesy of the Livesey Collection, UCLan Special collections & Archives.

University of Bradford – Peace Pamphlet Collection

This collection comprises thousands of peace pamphlets gathered by Commonweal Library from their rich network of connections in protest campaigns worldwide. They present an incredible resource for researchers and illustrate the ideas and activities of British peace movements from the First World War to the present day. Significant publishers include the Peace Pledge Union, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. They also offer a fascinating visual record, with many well-known artists contributing designs.

Pamphlet cover from Daily Mirror spotlight on the Common Market, c1960
Pamphlet collection, Special Collections, University of Bradford
.

Durham University – Malcolm MacDonald Papers

Son of Ramsay MacDonald, Malcolm MacDonald was elected Labour MP for Bassetlaw 1929. He held the seat until 1935, and was National Labour MP for Ross and Cromarty 1936-1945. He held ministerial office in the Dominions & Colonial Office 1931-1940, and was British High Commissioner to Canada, 1941-1946. He was Governor General of Malaya, his responsibilities subsequently extended to cover all S.E. Asia. In 1955 he became High Commissioner for the U.K. in India and in 1960 was appointed co-chairman of the international conference on Laos. The final part of his administrative and diplomatic career was spent in Africa as Governor and Commander in Chief and later High Commissioner for Kenya 1963-4.

Lancaster University – Socialist Pamphlets

A significant item in this collection is ABC of votes for Women by Marion Holmes (nee Miller) 1867-1943, printed in 1913. Marion was a suffragette, a freelance journalist and writer. She was on the committee for the Society of Women Journalists and established Margate Pioneer Society.  In Croydon she was the President of the local Women’s Social and Political Union and a member of the Women’s Freedom League and the first female election agent in Keighley. This work covers the importance of women having the ability to vote.

https://lancaster.alma.exlibrisgroup.com/view/UniversalViewer/44LAN_INST/12159677070001221#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0&xywh=-1271%2C-92%2C3602%2C1820

University of Leeds – Leeds Russian Archive

The Leeds Russian Archive, established in 1982, comprises around 650 collections of manuscripts, photographs and other archival material related to Anglo-Russian contacts in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Archive contains papers of members of the British community in Russia, as well as travellers and diplomats, governesses and soldiers, including the papers of writers such as Leonid Andreev (1871-1919); Nobel prizewinner Ivan Bunin (1870-1953), as well as the papers of the Russian railway engineer Yuri Lomonossoff (1876-1952).

https://library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections/collection/728/leeds_russian_archive_collections

Liverpool Hope University – Nugent Archive

Monsignor James Nugent, better known as Father Nugent, was a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Liverpool. He was a passionate social reformer, appalled by the state of the homeless living in the squalor of Victorian England, he dedicated his life to the education and rescue of destitute children. Father Nugent was also an early pioneer of children’s emigration. In 1870 he took the first group of 24 children to Canada on 18 August 1870 on the SS Austrian; this was probably the first organised emigration of its kind.

Liverpool John Moores University – Stafford Beer Archive

Photograph of the Operations Room, created as part of Project Cybersyn in Chile 1971-1973. Courtesy of the Stafford Beer Collection, LJMU Special Collections & Archives.

Professor Stafford Beer (1926-2002) was an inspirational thinker, teacher and writer in the field of management cybernetics.  A polymath and credited as the founder of Management Cybernetics, he was appointed Honorary Professor of Organisational Transformation at LJMU in 1989.  He is probably best known internationally for his work on Project Cybersyn, a Chilean attempt to develop a cybernetic approach to the organisation and control of the economy in the 1971-1973 under the socialist government of President Allende.

https://www.ljmu.ac.uk/microsites/library/special-collections-and-archives/special-collections/stafford-beer-collection

University of Salford – Richard Badnall Papers

Richard Badnall (d 1842) and his collaborator Richard Gill patented the design of an “Undulating Railway”, an eccentric invention which caught the interest of many prominent people, including George and Robert Stephenson and the Directors of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.  The collection, comprising mainly of correspondence, has been fully digitised.

https://usir.salford.ac.uk/view/archive_collections/badnall.html

Sheffield Hallam University – Festival of Britain Collection

The 1951 Festival of Britain was a showcase of British contributions to art, design and industry and a chance to celebrate and raise the nation’s spirits after the austerity of the war years. In the 1970s Sheffield Hallam University acquired a box of Festival items including press releases, letters and some official guides, but this has been enhanced through acquisition of a wider range of Festival literature and commemorative ephemera – such as postcards, teapots, toys, glassware and medals.

https://libguides.shu.ac.uk/specialcollection/festival

University of York – Denis Brutus Archive

Cover of Constitution of SA Sports Association. Copyright: Dennis Brutus Archive, Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York.

Dennis Brutus (b. 1924) is best known for founding the South African Sports Association (SASA) whose essential aim was the elimination of racialism in South African sport. The South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SAN-ROC), with Brutus as its president, had considerable success: not only with the exclusion of South Africa from the Olympic Games in 1968, but also with the withdrawal of many African competitors from the 1976 Olympics. Forced into exile in 1966, Brutus left South Africa for England, where he worked for the International Defence Aid Fund. In 1971 he moved to the United States and died on 26 December 2009.

Related

Browse more collection descriptions for these institutions on the Archives Hub:

University of Bradford Special Collections

Durham University Archives

Lancaster University Archives

University of Leeds Special Collections

Liverpool Hope University Archives and Special Collections

Liverpool John Moores University Special Collections and Archives

University of Salford Archives & Special Collections

University of York, Borthwick Institute for Archives

All images copyright. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Enhancing Access to the Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture (LAVC) at the University of Leeds

Archives Hub feature for May 2021

“Wallops – nine pins” by Werner Kissling. LAVC/PHO/P1748

The LAVC is a unique, nationally important collection that holds all the materials from the internationally renowned Survey of English Dialects (SED) as well as the archives of the University’s former Leeds Institute of Dialect and Folk Life Studies (IDFLS).

It is currently the subject of a 3-year project “Dialect and Heritage” (2022). Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project aims to open up the LAVC to public audiences, mapping its rich archives with 5 partner museums’ complementary collections and putting the LAVC back into the communities from which it was originally collected.

Since January 2020 Special Collections staff have been involved in the first phase, focusing on digitisation and enhancing the catalogue to support both long term access via its own catalogue as well as a dedicated project website due to launch in July 2021.

Already extensively catalogued as part of AHRB project in 2002, it has remained inaccessible to most non-academic audiences. Its rich narrative descriptions, pre-dated digital developments and metadata standardisation that can now optimise discovery. Current catalogue enhancements have therefore focused on adding new access points to facilitate improved search/browse.

About the LAVC: Dialect and Folklife

The SED was the first comprehensive, nationwide dialect survey in England, devised and coordinated by Professor Harold Orton at the University of Leeds during the 1950s-1960s. Originating at the end of World War 2, the Survey aimed to record and preserve the nation’s dialects before they were changed forever by modern development and migration. Fieldworkers would travel the length of the country to survey and interview informants in 313 rural locations with over 1000 questions on rural and home life. These were supplemented by a series of over 300 audio recordings for many of these locations, which were captured during or after the survey. To capture the natural richness of these local dialects, fieldworkers would engage informants by getting them to speak about absolutely any aspect of their lives.

“New Alresford Response Book”. LAVC/SED/2/2/3: 9/4/10

The former Institute of Dialect and Folk Life Studies (IDFLS) was part of the University of Leeds from October 1964 to September 1983. Under the initial directorship of Stewart F. Sanderson, the IDFLS expanded its focus from dialect and fostered teaching and research in the field of folk life studies. This included the Folk Life Survey and establishment of its own reference library which included undergraduate and postgraduate student research papers on dialect and folk life/folklore and research materials including manuscripts, printed and audio-visual items.

“Back Can” by Werner Kissling. LAVC/PHO/P1557

Highlights in the collection include:

  • The Survey of English Dialects questionnaire and response books: Detailed responses to over 1000 questions in 313 rural locations, written mainly in linguistic shorthand (IPA). They also contain more accessible glimpses into life in these communities with notes written in plain English and illustrations capturing ‘incidental material’ about the locations, informants and their traditions. All 313 books are being digitised with many online already.
  • Audio recordings: There are over 300 SED recordings and nearly 900 unpublished recordings relating to studies and research within IDFLS.  They are being digitised as part of the British Library’s “Unlocking Our Sound Heritage” (UOSH) project.
  • Interpretative Word Maps (mainly relating to SED results in the Linguistic Atlas of England ).
  • Over 2000 photographs which have now been digitised as part of the project. Over half were taken by Werner Kissling, employed between 1962 and 1966 as a photographic fieldworker in Yorkshire as part of the Institute’s Folk Life Survey. They also include photographs relating to SED locations and informants and student theses.

The Collection gives exceptional insights into language, culture and everyday life from the late 19th-20th centuries. It is particularly rich in capturing a variety of subjects including traditional methods of food production, rural work, crafts, hobbies, buildings, calendar and local customs, folklore and music.

Access Points

Prototype map-based search for LAVC Collection.

To improve access and discoverability the catalogue has been enhanced to include place, person and subject as structured data and access points.

This has included mapping 4000+ bespoke subject terms into 12 high level themes and 100 sub-categories based on Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).  This will enable researchers to browse the collections by theme and discover related materials more easily.

We have also extracted location information relating to all photographs, audio recordings and SED response books to create several thousand geo-referenced location records. This means that these items can be plotted onto a map and are now available to discover on a new map-based search.

We have also created authority records for over 1000 informants of the SED, Folk Life Survey and Student Research Papers so that now it is possible to search by creators or informants.  

Finally, we have created a dedicated search page (currently in beta version) to bring together all these new ways of exploring the Collection with an A-Z for subject and people that can be browsed as well as the interactive map. Much of the cataloguing work is now complete and will be visible on the online catalogue over the next month. Work by the British Library to digitise and catalogue the SED audio recordings was delayed due to the COVID pandemic but is resuming. Work will continue to publish the wealth of digitised material over the coming year so that researchers can explore the collection remotely. The LAVC collection is available for research (https://explore.library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections-explore/7436). 

Caroline Bolton, Archivist
University of Leeds Special Collections

Related

Browse all University of Leeds Special Collections descriptions on the Archives Hub

Previous features on LAVC

Cor, blust, squit! Stanley Ellis

Previous features on University of Leeds Special Collections

Interconnected archives: cataloguing the Rossetti family letters at Leeds University Special Collections

“Gather them in” – the musical treasures of W.T. Freemantle

Sentimental Journey: a focus on travel in the archives

Recipes through the ages 

World War One

All images copyright University of Leeds Special Collections. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.