Names (4): Ethics and identity

As archivists, we deal with ethical issues a good deal.  But the ability to link disparate and diverse data sources opens up new challenges in this area, and I wanted to explore this a bit.

If you do a general search for ethics and data, top of the list comes health. An interesting example of data join-up is the move to link health data to census data, which could potentially highlight where health needs are not being met:

“Health services are required to demonstrate that they are meeting the needs of ethnic minority populations. This is difficult, because routine data on health rarely include reliable data on ethnicity. But data on ethnicity are included in census returns, and if health and census data for the same individuals can be linked, the problem might be solved.” (Ethnicity and the ethics of data linkage)

However, individuals who stated their ethnicity in census returns were not told that this might subsequently be linked with their health data. Should explicit informed consent be given? Given the potential benefits, is this a reasonable ask? It is certainly getting into hazardous terrain to ignore the principle of informed consent. In their book ‘Rethinking Informed Consent in Bioethics‘, Manson and O’Neill argue that informed consent cannot be fully specific or fully explicit. They argue for a distinctive approach where rights can be waived or set aside in controlled and specific ways.

This leads to a wider question, is fully explicit and specific informed consent actually achievable within the joined-up online world? A world where data travels across connections, is blended, re-mixed, re-purposed. A world where APIs allow data to be accessed and utilised for all sorts of purposes, and ‘open data’ has become a rallying cry.  Is there a need to engage the public more fully in order to gain public confidence in what open data really means, and in order to debate what ‘informed consent’ is, and where it is really required?

I am working on a project to create name records, and I am looking at bringing data sources together. Of course, this is hardly new. Wikipedia is the most well-known hub for biographical data. Anyone can add anything to a Wikipedia page (within some limits, and with some policing and editing by Wikipedia, but in essence it is an open database).  Wikidata, which underlies Wikipedia, is about bringing sources together in an automated way.  Projects within cultural heritage are also working on linked data approaches to create rich sources of information on people. SNAC has taken archival data from many different archive repositories and brought it together. A page for one person, such as Martin Luther-King provides a whole host of associations and links. These sources are not all individually checked and verified, because this kind of work has to be done algorithmically. However, there is a great deal of provenance information, so that all sources used are clear.

image of page from the face of white australia website
The Face of White Australia

There are some amazing projects working to reveal hidden histories. Tim Sherratt has done some brilliant work with Australian records. Projects such as Invisible Australians, which aims to reveal hidden lives, using biographical information found in the records. He has helped to create some wonderful sites that reveal histories that have been marginalised.  Tim talks about ‘hacking heritage’ and says: ‘By manipulating the contexts of cultural heritage collections we can start to see their limits and biases. By hacking heritage we can move beyond search interfaces and image galleries to develop an understanding of what’s missing.’ (Hacking heritage, blog post)  He emphasises that access to indigenous cultural collections should be subject to community consultation and control.  But what does community consultation and control really mean?

I have always been keen to work with the names in archival descriptions – archival creators and all the other people who are associated with a collection. They are listed in the catalogue (leastways the names that we can work with are listed – many names obviously aren’t included, but that’s another story), so they are already publicly declared. It is not a case of whether the name should be made public at all, or, at least, that decision has been made already by the cataloguer.   But our plan is to take the names and bring them to the fore – to give them their own existence within our service.  We are taking them out of the context of a single archive collection and putting them into a broader one. In so doing, we want to give the archive collections themselves more social context, we want to give more effective access to distributed historical records, and we also want to enable researchers to travel through connections to create their own narratives.

This may help to reveal things about our history and highlight the roles that people have played. It may bring people to the fore people who have been marginalised.  Of course, it does not address the problem of biases and subjective approaches to accessions and cataloguing. But a joined-up approach may help us to see those biases and gaps; to understand more about the silent spaces.

Creating persistent identifiers and linking data reveals knowledge. It is temping to see that in simple terms as a good thing.  But what about privacy and ethics?  Even if someone is no longer living, there are still privacy issues, and many people represented in archives are alive.

Do individuals want to be persistently identified? What about if they change their identity? Do they want a pseudonym associated with their real name? They might have very good reasons for keeping their identity private. Persistent identification encourages openness and transparency, which can have real benefits, but it is not always benign.  It is like any information – it can be used for good and bad purposes, and who is to say what is good and what is not? Obviously we have GDPR and the Data Protection Act, and these have a good deal to say about obligations, the value of historical research and the right to be forgotten. This is something we’ll need to take into account. But linked data principles are not so much about working with personal data as working with data that may not seem personal, but that can help to reveal things when linked with other sources of data.

GDPR supports the principle of transparency and the importance of people’s awareness and control over what happens to their personal data. Even if we are not creating and storing personal data, it seems important to engage with data protection and what this means. The challenge of how to think about data when it is part of an ever shifting and growing  global data environment seems to me to be a huge one.

Certainly the horse has bolted to some degree with regards to joining up data. The Web lowered barriers considerably, and now we increasingly have structured data, so it is somewhat like one gigantic database. Finding things out about individuals is entirely feasible with or without something like a Names service created by the Archives Hub. We are not creating any new content, but creating this interface means we are consciously bringing data together, and obviously we want to be responsible, and respect people’s right to privacy. Clearly it is entirely impractical to try to get permission from all those living people who might be included. So, in the end, we are taking a degree of risk with privacy.  Of course, we will un-publish on request, and engage with any feedback and concerns. But at present we are taking the view that the advantages and benefits outweigh the risks.

 

Image of exhibition photograph of black rights march

“Imagine being a sibling in a family that continually removes you from photos; tries its best to erase you…As you go through [the scrapbook] you see events where you know you were there, but you are still missing.”  Lae’l Hughes-Watkins (University of Maryland) gave an impassioned and inspiring talk at DCDC 2019 about her experiences.  She argued that archivists need to interrogate the reality that has been presented, and accept that our ideas of neutrality are misplaced. She wants a history that actively represents her – her history and culture, and experiences as a black woman in the USA. She related moving stories of people with amazing stories (and amazing archives) who distrust cultural institutions because they don’t feel included or represented.

This may seem a long way away from our small project to create name records, but in reality our project could be seen as one very small part of a move towards what Lae’l is talking about.  Bringing descriptions together from across the UK together maybe helps us to play a small role in this – aiming to move towards documenting the full breadth of human experience. The archives that we cover may retain the biases and gaps for some time to come (probably for ever, given that documentary evidence tends to represent the powerful and the elite much more strongly), but by aggregating and creating connections with other sources, we help to paint a bigger picture.  By creating name records we help to contextualise people, making it much easier to bring other lives and events into the picture. It is a move towards recognising the limitation of what is actually in the archive, and reaching out to take advantage of what is on the Web.  In doing this through explicitly identifying people we do leave ourselves more open to the dangers of not respecting privacy or anonymity. When we plug fully into the Web, we become a part of its infinite possibilities, which is always going to be a revealing, exciting, uncontrollable and risky business. By allowing others to use this data in different ways, we open it up to diverse perspectives and uses.

 

 

 

Here’s a riddle: how can you work in an Archive Centre when you can’t work in an Archive Centre?

Archives Hub feature for July 2020

It’s a dilemma in this strange and worrying time. The collections are there, you know this. You know they are safe. For the time being, for you to remain safe, for all of us to remain safe, you can’t go near them. But this is your job, and much more than that – a passion. We know that archives are stories, solidified memories of individuals, groups, institutions. Many have been around a lot longer than us, and will be there after we’re gone. But at this point of their long, interesting history, we are their gatekeepers, their tenders. Donors from all walks of life have entrusted us with their stories, letting go of the physical, holding only to the ephemeral, and yet now…now we too are distanced from the physical. So, again, how do we work in an Archive Centre when we can’t work in an Archive Centre?

Blythe Duff is a Scottish actress born in East Kilbride on 25 November 1962.  She has worked continuously since her debut as part of the Scottish Youth Festival in 1984. Though she has gone on to ply her trade mainly in theatre, she is perhaps best known for her role as Detective Sergeant Jackie Reid in the long-running Glasgow-based crime series Taggart. In 2011 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Glasgow Caledonian University for services to the performing arts and in 2012 was made a cultural fellow of GCU.

It was in this guise that in 2018 she generously donated her decades-worth of accumulated Taggart artefacts to GCU Archive Centre. It is a rich, fascinating and rewarding resource for fans of the show both die-hard and casual, for aspiring scriptwriters, those with an interest in television production, and indeed for anyone with even a passing interest in Glasgow through the lens of British popular culture.

I’ve been thinking about this collection in these fast and slow days, weeks, and months of lockdown, as I adjust to this new, remote set-up. Once the working day is done, the laptop shut for the evening, I find myself, like so many, at a loose end. With so much temporarily closed, the question has become not so much what do I do, as what do I watch?

Blythe Duff and John Michie standing side by side between shelves of archive boxes and materials. Each is looking into camera and holding several scripts.
Blythe Duff and fellow Taggart star John Michie in GCU Archive Centre at the launch of her papers on 24th October 2018.

With this in mind the Blythe Duff Taggart papers are a fascinating insight into the televisual process of the late 20th century. As a scriptwriting graduate, I am particularly enthralled by the variety of artefacts on offer. There are 138 individual scripts contained in the collection, spanning from Blythe’s debut on the show in 1990 all the way to 2010. Researchers will find a mixture of rehearsal scripts and shooting scripts, a fantastic insight into the malleable nature of the production process. Particularly poignant is the two versions of 1994’s two-parter ‘Legends’. Mark McManus, the titular Taggart, tragically died before production had finished. The two versions, one featuring Detective Chief Inspector Jim Taggart, and the other re-written without, offer a glimpse into what could have been, as well as the embryonic steps of the show of which Taggart was to become.

It is the little details in the collection that draw me back to it – the scribbled notes on the pages, the inside jokes of the cast. Though the collection is currently uncatalogued, researchers will find Blythe’s personalised chair cover, a monogrammed Taggart jacket, along with a photo of Blythe in character in full police uniform. There are books as well; 25 Years of Taggart and Taggart’s Glasgow.  Other artefacts include Taggart wrap party flyers, postcards of different actors from the show – one signed by cast members. There’s even a Taggart Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle game!

Selection of photographs, artefacts, all from television show Taggart, artfully laid on black backdrop.
Selected Taggart treasures from the Blythe Duff papers.

Since becoming available to researchers, it is one of the collections at GCU Archive Centre that has proved most popular with a wide range of visitors. Almost as soon as it was publicised with a visit to the Archive Centre by Blythe and fellow cast member John Michie, we’ve had members of the public – some of whom had never been in an archive before – pop their head into the reading room and ask if they could read an episode. We’ve had a family of fanatics all the way from Australia, a couple from England where the husband surprised his super-fan wife for a special birthday, and many more besides.

It’s also a particularly relevant resource for the University’s learning and teaching as GCU has offered a Masters course in Television Fiction Writing since 2010, the first of its kind in the UK. One of the course leaders, Chris Dolan, was previously a writer for Taggart. Students of the course have examined the scripts, seeing how they’re structured, potentially being inspired in their own work.

Close up photo of cover page of script for episode of Taggart. ‘Blythe’ handwritten in top corner.
Cover page of one of Blythe’s scripts.

The frustration of not being able to go into the Archive Centre each day, not being able to see collections, or chat to team members with ease, is very real. Nonetheless, we have all adjusted to working from home. Team meetings still occur through the magic of MS Teams, projects are still ongoing, new challenges arise and are met. And in the thick of the unprecedented time we are in, if I think back to my initial question, I realise it is possible to work in an Archive Centre even if you can’t work there. For it is the collective knowledge we have, and our willingness to ensure collections are protected and as available to as many as possible that is the lifeblood of archival work. Archives are indeed stories, and at this juncture we’ve reached a twist worthy of Taggart himself. But the path we’re on, though long and difficult will lead us all back to where we want to be. It’s too tragic a time to call it a happy ending, but we’ve certainly had enough of cliff-hangers and will take a bittersweet conclusion.

David Ward
Archive Assistant
Glasgow Caledonian University Archive Centre – Sir Alex Ferguson Library

Related

Browse all Glasgow Caledonian University Archives and Special Collections descriptions available to date on the Archives Hub

All images copyright Glasgow Caledonian University. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Names (3): One name record to bind them

It has been great to get comments and feedback around names, and I wanted to expand upon something that a few people have commented on….the ideal of one ‘authority record’ for one person or organisation.

model showing relationships of catalogues and name records
Model showing potential relationships between catalogues and name records

 

The above diagram is a proposal for the relationships we might have – note that is it a working model, and may well change over time. You can see the catalogues (the descriptions of archives) include people, some with biographical histories, and these people are either creators of archive collections or referenced in them.  Each of these people then gets a name record (bottom left box), so we might have e.g. three name records for  the same name (and the same name may potentially the same person…or may not). We will work with the store of records that we have with the aim of creating matches, and ending up with a generic or main name record (green box, top left).

The ‘main record’ or ‘master record’ or whatever we might call it, for each individual person or organisation, is not an ‘archival record’. It is not intended simply to be a reflection of what is in our own data. It is intended to be a page dedicated to that person or organisation.  Our current feeling is that this should not be seen as domain specific; in fact, we want to get away from the idea that data is domain specific.  It is about an entity (a person or organisation), and what we know of that entity.

Keeping in mind the green box, and looking at the person page for Robin Day from Exploring British Design, a previous AHRC project we ran with Brighton Design Archive, you get a sense of the type of thing we mean.

Page for Robin Day, from the Exploring British Design website
Exploring British Design: Robin Day

This page presents as a general information page about a designer. It is not branded as a page about archives. It takes information in from different sources. Is it an ‘authority’ record?  I’m really not sure; I wouldn’t call it that. The point is really that it enables researchers to put Robin Day into the context of other people, organisations places and events, or at least it demonstrates how that can be done. It creates a network, and it intends to show the value of including archives in a network, rather than standing apart, in their ‘own world’.

Screenshot of an entity relationship diagram for Robin Day
Visualised relationships

 

The network can easily be visualised. There are tools out there to do this. The challenge is to create the data to feed into these visualisers. Again, this visualisation is not about archival name authority records, it is not domain specific.

 

 

In the Robin Day page, we have a section for related archives and museum resources.

screenshot showing archives related to Robin Day
Related archive and museum resources

 

This lists archives Robin Day is the ‘creator of’ or archives he is ‘associated with’.  It links to the Archives Hub, but also to other sources. One of the options for end users is to go and find out more about the archival sources, but it is not prioritised above other options.

 

 

 

 

 

So, this is essentially the idea – a page for a person, a page for an organisation. An information resources that focuses on creating a network of connections.  We think this is a good approach, but creating something along these lines that is automated, sustainable and effective within an ongoing national service is much harder.

Why not just use this one record, link to the archive catalogues, and dispense with the individual name records that we have created? There are three reasons to consider providing access to the individual name records:  biographical history,  uncertainty around matching and ingesting name authority records.

I have already written about biographical and administrative history in a separate post.

In this phase of the Names Project the individual records for Beatrice Webb (as a name example), will be created either from the creator name or index terms that we have in the Archives Hub catalogues.

The main problem is the wide variation in name entries.

Webb, Beatrice
Webb, Beatrice, née Potter
Webb (Martha) Beatrice, 1858-1943
Webb, Martha Beatrice, 1858-1943
Webb;[Martha] Beatrice [nee Potter] 1858-1943

These are all entries in the Archives Hub.  We can match them all up, but can we say they are all the same?   Names without dates should not be matched with certainty, but quite often they will be the same person. (Beatrix Potter also often ends up being linked with Beatrice Webb, née Potter).

The decision we need to make is whether to provide links to these individual name records that we will have, or only use them as a source of data.  It seems valuable to enable end users to see these names as a group, but it is another thing to risk integrating information from them all into one name record.  There is no perfect answer to this, but it does seem important to clearly indicate the level of uncertainty.  So many names that we have don’t have life dates, or have variations in structure.  What we are looking to achieve is a clear provenance, giving end users the best understanding of what they are seeing.

What about name records that have been created by our contributors?  The name records we create ourselves from catalogue descriptions will generally be no more than the name, dates, and biographical history.  But, going forwards, we will want to work with much more detailed name records.

For Exploring British Design we created rich name records with an entity-relationship structure (essentially using the EAC-CPF structure and working in RDF),  to demonstrate the power of connecting entities.  For this purpose, we partially hand-crafted the name records, as well as carrying out some very complex processing to create various connections.

screenshot of part of the timeline for Robin Day
Part of the timeline for Robin Day

The example above shows events from the Robin Day timeline, with linked connections to related organisations.  If we ingest EAC-CPF records we might get timelines like this.

Name records may also include relationships. The Borthwick Institute has good examples of name records with plenty of rich relationship information. e.g. Charles Lindley Wood, Viscount Halifax.

screenshot of part of the Viscount Wood record showing relationships to other people
An excerpt from a Borthwick entry for Charles Lindley Wood

If we took this record into the Archives Hub it might seem to make sense for it to become the main person record for Wood.  But that would involve a process of making choices, preferencing one name record over another.  Possible, but tricky to do in an automated way. Another record office might also have a splendid example of a name entry for this person, with some different data. Furthermore, this record has links to the Borthwick catalogue. We would potentially have to remove these links.

It would be very challenging to create one record from several source EAC-CPF records for the same person –  to blend timelines, or sort out relationships listed in different records, bearing in mind that it needs to be done in an automated way, keeping version control and dealing with revisions and new data coming in that might add to the name record.  How could we compare and blend two lists of relationships? Or two chronologies? We’d probably end up having to keep them all, and then potentially have similar but different relationships and chronologies, giving a slightly confused user experience.

If we do ingest records like the one above, we will have to figure out how these  more detailed records will relate to what we have already created.  If, as planned, we have one generic name record for a person, it makes the job easier, as we won’t be looking to make any one EAC-CPF record into the main name record, we will simply link to it from the main record. Bear in mind, our main record is intended to be a domain-neutral entry – linking to other sources beyond archives.  EAC-CPF records might do this to some extent, but they are unlikely to link to the Jisc Library Hub, and probably won’t link to Wikidata, or other external sources.   They are far more likely to provide internal links to the archive catalogue they relate to.

Arguably, it might be easier to forget about creating name records ourselves (from the catalogue entries) and just work with name records that have been created by our contributors (which are likely to be well-structured and include life dates). But if we do that, the pot of names will grow slowly, as only a small proportion of repositories create name records. We can’t realistically give the end user a few thousand name records covering maybe 1-2% of our names – they might search for ‘Winston Churchill’ as a name, and find that we don’t have him!  It would not remove the problem of name matching, and it would make the whole idea of reaching out beyond the archive domain, by linking into other resources using our names as the hook, rather ineffectual.

Therefore, we propose to keep the separate name records in our system We propose to create a ‘generic record’, which is what would be prominent in the Archives Hub display. We would then have the potential to link the records together, to blend them,  to try some text mining and analysis techniques. It gives us options.  It would not be sensible to make those decisions now. It is better to lay the groundwork that enables us to be flexible.   This approach allows us to link to an individual name record where we don’t feel able to confirm a ‘same as’ relationship. It presents the option to the end user – here is a name – we think this is the same person, so we’ve provided a link.

The end user experience needs to make sense and not mislead or provide false information. Links to brief name records could seem confusing, but, as I have said, trying to bring together in one record all the information from several name records, with  their biographies, relationships, aliases, events, related resources, is likely to be a nightmare.  In the end, it will take a good deal more testing and working with researchers to work out what is best.

 

Archives Hub Names Project (2): Biographical History

It is a somewhat vexed question how to treat biographical and administrative history (in this post I’ll focus on biographical history).  This is an ISAD(G) field and an EAD field. ISAD defines it as providing “an administrative history of, or biographical details on, the creator (or creators) of the unit of description to place the material in context and make it better understood”.  It advises for personal names to include “full names and titles, dates of birth and death, place of birth, successive places of domicile, activities, occupation or offices, original and any other names, significant accomplishments, and place of death”.

On the Archives Hub we have a whole range of biographical histories – from very short to very comprehensive.  I have had conversations with archivists who believe that ‘putting the collection in context’ means giving information that is particularly relevant for that archive rather than giving a general history. Conversely, many biographical history entries do give a very full biography, even if the collection only relates to one aspect of a person’s life and work. They may also include information that is not readily available elsewhere, as it may have been discovered as part of the cataloguing process.

The question is, if we create a generic name record for a person, how do we treat this biographical information? There are a number of alternatives.

(1) Add all biographical history entries to the record

If you look at a SNAC example:  https://snaccooperative.org/view/54801840 you can see that this is the approach. It has merits – all of the biographical information is brought together. But it can mean a great deal of repetition, and the ordering of the entries can seem rather illogical, with short entries first and then longer comprehensive entries at the end.

Whilst most biographical history entries are pretty good, it also means a few not very helpful entries may be included, and may be top of the order. In addition, putting all the entries in together doesn’t always seem to make much sense. In the example below there are just three short entries for a major figure in women’s liberation. They are automatically brought in from the catalogue entry for individual collections. Sometimes the biographical entries in individual catalogues suffer from system migration and various data processing issues that mean you end up with field contents that are not ideal.

Millicent Garrett Fawcett biographical histories in SNAC

The question is whether this approach provides a useful and effective end user experience.

Where there is one entry for a creator, with one biographical history, there is no issue other than whether the entry makes sense as an overall biographical entry for that person or organisation. But we have to consider the common situation where there will be a dozen or more entries. Even if we start with one entry, others may be added over time.  Generally, there will be repetition and information gaps, but in many cases this approach will provide a good deal of relevant information.

(2) Keep the biographical history entries with the individual name records

At the moment our plan is to create individual name records for each person, as well as a generic master record.  We haven’t yet worked out the way this might be presented to the end user.  But we could keep the biographical histories with the individual entries we have for names. The generic record would link to these entries, and to the information they contain.  This makes sense, as it keeps the biographical histories separate, and within the entries they were written to accompany. Repetition is not an issue as it is clear why that might happen.  But the end user has to go to each entry in turn to read this information.

(3) Keep biographical history entries with individual name records, but enable the information to be viewed in the generic master record

We have been thinking about giving the end user the option to ‘click to see all biographical histories created for this person’. That would help with expectations. Simply presenting a page with a dozen similar biographical histories is likely to confuse people, but  enabling them to make a decision to view entries gives us more opportunity for explanation – the link could include a brief explanatory note.

(4) Select one biographical history to be in the generic record

We have discussed this idea, but it is really a non-starter. How do you select one entry? What would the criteria be if it is automated? The longest?

(5) Link to a generic biography if available

This is the idea of drawing in the wikipedia entry for that person or organisation, or potentially using another source.  There is a certain risk to pulling in data from an external source as the ‘definitive’ biographical information, but it the source would always be cited, and it does start to move towards the principle of bringing different sources of information together. If we want to create a more generic resource, we are going to have to take risks with using external sources.

 

I would be interested in any comments on this.

Names Project (1): Creation of name records

The Archives Hub Names Project

The Archives Hub team and Knowledge Integration, our system suppliers, are embarking upon a short four month project to start to lay the groundwork, define the challenges and test the approaches to presenting end users with a name-based means to search, and connect to a broad range of resources related to people and organisations.  I will be blogging about the project as we go along.

Our key aims in the long-term are:

  • To provide the end user with a way to search for people and organisations and find a range of material relevant to their research
  • To enable connections to be made between resources within and external to Jisc, using names as the main focus
  • To bring archive collections together in an intellectual sense and provide different contexts to collections by creating networks across our data

This first project will not create an end-user interface, but will concentrate on processing,  matching names and linking resources. We want to explore how this can be administered in order to be sustainable over time.  In the end, the most challenging part of working with the names we have is identification, disambiguation and matching.  The aim is to explore the space and start to formulate a longer-term plan for the full implementation of names as entities within the Archives Hub.

Creation of name records from EAD description records

NB: This blog often refers to personal names for convenience, but names include personal, family and corporate entities.

EAD includes namesEAD descriptions include personal, family and corporate names.  These ‘entities’ may be listed as archival creators and also associated with the collection as index terms. Archival creators may optionally be given biographical or administrative histories.  The relationship of the collection with names in the index is not made explicit in the description (in a structural way), though it may often be gleaned from the descriptive information within the EAD record.

Creating name records for all names

We are proposing to begin by creating name records for all of these entries, no matter how thin the information for each entry may be.

Here is a random selection of names that are included in Archives Hub records:

Grote, Arthur
Gaskell, Arthur
Wilson, John
Thatcher, J. Wells, Barrister at Law
Barron, Margaret
Stanley, Catherine, 1792-1862
Roe, Alfred Charles
Rowlatt, Mary, b 1908
Milligan, Spike, 1918-2002
Fawcett, Margaret, d. 1987
Rolfe, Alan, 1908-2002 actor
Mayers, Frederick J (fl 1896-1937 : designer : Kidderminster, England)
Joan

Only a percentage of names have life dates. Some have born or death dates, some floruit dates.

Of course, the life dates, occupations and outputs of many people are not known, or may be very difficult to find.  Also, life dates will change when a birth date is joined by a death date. Epithets may also change over time (and they are not controlled vocabulary anyway).

In addition, we have inverted and non-inverted names on the Archive Hub, names with punctuation in different places, names with and without brackets, etc.  These issues create identification challenges.

Even taking names as creators and names as index terms within one single description, the match is often not exact:

Millicent Garrett Fawcett (creator name)
Fawcett, Dame Millicent. (1847-1929) nee Garrett, Feminist and Suffragist (index term)

Lingard, Joan (creator name)
Lingard, Joan Amelia, 1932- (index term)

The archival descriptions on the Archives Hub vary a great deal in terms of the structure, and different repositories have different approaches to cataloguing.  Some do not add name of creator, some do not add index terms, some add them intermittently, and often the same name is added differently for different collections within the same repository.  In many cases the cataloguer does not add life dates, even when they are known, or they are added to the name as creator but not in the index list, or vice versa. This sounds like a criticism, but the reality is that there are many reasons why catalogues have ended up as they are.

There has not been a strong tradition amongst archivists of adding names as unique identifiable entities, but of course, it has only been in the last few decades that we have had the potential, which is becoming increasingly sophisticated, of linking data through entity relationships, and creating so much more than stand-alone catalogue records. Many archivists still think primarily in terms of human readable descriptions.  Some people feel that with the advent of Google and sophisticated text analysis, there is no need to add names in this structured way, and there is no need for index terms at all.  But in reality search engines generally recommend structured data, and they are using it in sophisticated ways.  Schema.org is for structured data on the web, an initiative started by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex. Explicit markup helps search engines understand content and it potentially helps with search engine optimisation (ensuring your content surfaces on search engines).  Also, if we want to move down the Linked Data road, even if we are not thinking in terms of creating strict RDF Linked Data, we need to identify entities and provide unique identifiers for them (URLs on the web). Going back to Tim Berners-Lee’s seminal Linked Data article from 2006:

“The Semantic Web isn’t just about putting data on the web. It is about making links, so that a person or machine can explore the web of data.  With linked data, when you have some of it, you can find other, related, data.”

So, including names explicitly provides huge potential (as well as subjects, places and other entities) and it has become more important, not less important. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that structured data is more important than standards compliant data, especially as, in my experience, standards are often not strictly adhered to, and also, they need constant updating in order to be relevant and useful.

The idea with our project is that we start with name records for every entity – a pot of data we can work with. We may create Encoded Archival Context (Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families), otherwise known as EAC-CPF…but that is not important at this stage.  EAC is important for data ingest and output, and we intend to use it for that purpose, so it will come into the picture at some point.

The power of the anonymous

There are benefits in creating name records for people who are essentially anonymous or not easily identifiable.  Firstly, these records have unknown potential; they may become key to making a particular connection at some point, bearing in mind that the Archives Hub continually takes new records in. Secondly, we can use these records to help with identification, and the matching work that we undertake may help to put more flesh on the bones of a basic name record.  If we have ‘Grote, Arthur’ and then we come across ‘Grote, Arthur, 1840-1912’, we can potentially use this information and create a match. Of course, the whole business of inference is a tricky thing – you need more than a matching surname and forename to create a ‘same as’ relationship (I won’t get into that now). But the point is that a seemingly ‘orphan’ name may turn out to have utility. It may, indeed, provide the key to unlocking our understanding of particular events – the relationships and connections between people and other entities are what enable us to understand more about our history.

Components of a name record

So, all names will have name records, some with just a name, some with life dates of different sorts, some with biographical or administrative histories. The exception to this may be names that are not identifiable as people or organisations.  It is potentially possible to discover the type of entity from the context, but that is a whole separate piece of work.  Hundreds of names on the Archives Hub are simply labelled as ‘creator’ or ‘name’. This is down to historical circumstance – partly the Archives Hub made errors in the past (our old cataloguing tool which entered creators as simply EAD ‘origination’), partly other systems we ingest data from.  At the moment, for example, we are taking in descriptions from Axiell’s AdLib system, but the system does not mark up creator names as people or organisations (unless the cataloguer explicitly adds this), so we cannot get that information. This is probably a reflection of a time when semantically structured data was simply less important. If a human reads ‘Elizabeth Gaskell’ in a catalogue entry they are likely to understand what that string means; if undertaking large-scale automated processing, it is just a string of characters, unless it includes semantic information.

From the name records that we create, we intend to develop and run algorithms to match names. In many cases, we should be able to draw several names together, with a ‘same-as’ relationship. Some may be more doubtful, others more certain. I will talk about that as we get into the work.

At the moment, we have some ideas about how we will work with these individual records in terms of the workflow and the end user experience, but we have not made any final decisions, and we think that what is most important at this stage is the creation and experimentation with algorithms to see what we can get.

Master name records

We intend to create master records for people and organisations. The principle is to see these master records not as something within the archives domain, but as stand-alone records about a person or organisation that enable a range of resources to be drawn together.

So, we might have several name records for one person:

Example of master record, with various related information included:
Webb, Martha Beatrice, 1858-1943, social reformer and historian

Examples of additional name records that should link to the master record:
Webb, Beatrice, 1858-1943 (good match)
Webb, Martha Beatrice, 1858-1943, economist and reformer (good match)
Webb, Martha Beatrice, nee Potter, 1858-1943 (good match)
Webb, M.B. b. 1858 (possible match)
but…
Potter, Martha Beatrice, b 1858
…might well not be a match, in which case it would stand separately, and the archive connected to it would not benefit from the links being made.

We have discussed the pros and cons of creating master records for all names.  It makes sense to bring together all of the Beatrice Webb names into one master record – there is plenty that can be said about that individual; but does it make sense to have a master record for single orphaned names with no life dates and nothing (as yet) more to say about that individual?  That is a question we have yet to answer.

diagram showing link between archive, name records and master records
The archive is described though an EAD description held on our system (the CIIM). We take all the names from this to create a huge store of individual names. From this, we aim to create and update ‘definitive’ name records.

The principle is to have name records that enables us to create links to the Archives Hub entries and also to other Jisc services and resources beyond that – resources outside of the archives domain.  Many of these resources may also help us with our own identification and matching processes. It is important to benefit from the work that has already been done in this area.

We are looking at various name resources and assessing where our priorities will be.  This is a fairly short project, and we won’t have time to look at more than a handful of options. But we are currently thinking in terms of VIAF, ORCID and Wikidata. More on that to follow.

Personally, I’ve been thinking about working with names for several years. We have been asked about it quite a bit. But the challenge is so big and nebulous in many ways. It has not been feasible to embark upon this kind of work in the past, as our system has not supported the kind of systematic processing that is required. We are also able to benefit from the expertise K-Int can bring to data processing. It is one thing doing this as a stand-alone project; it is quite another to think about a live service, long term sustainability, version control and revisions, ingest from different systems, etc.  And also, to break it down into logical phases of work.  It is exciting, but it is going to involve a great deal of hard work and hard thinking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Archives Hub feature for June 2020

Special Collections holds over 700 letters written by members of the Rossetti family. The collection includes letters from nearly all members of this storied family, with the bulk written by Dante Gabriel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti) and William Michael (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Michael_Rossetti), and a significant tranche from Christina Rossetti (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christina_Rossetti).  The letters are only a fraction of the full Rossetti family correspondence, which can be found in libraries and archives across the world.

The Rossetti Family by Lewis Carroll, albumen print, 7 October 1863 (Christina Georgina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Frances Mary Lavinia Rossetti (née Polidori) and William Michael Rossetti). NPG P56. © National Portrait Gallery, London. Creative Commons 3.0 licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Many of the letters have been in Special Collections since the 1930s but were not catalogued in any detail. Some were represented by very brief index records, which did not convey the scope or context of the full collection, others were entirely uncatalogued. Although much of the Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti correspondence had been published in their respective Collected Letters ((The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, ed. William E. Fredeman, 2015 and The Letters of Christina Rossetti, https://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/crossetti/), but the letters themselves remained inaccessible for research.

A 2019 project funded by the Strachey Trust enabled us to repackage and create item-level records for each letter in the collection. Catalogue records included basic ISAD(G) metadata, a brief synopsis of the letter’s contents, links to authority files for both sender and addressee and a reference for the published version of the letter, where one exists. The finished catalogue now describes the full extent of the Rossetti Collection at Leeds, ensuring that material is identifiable, accessible for research and secure in our holdings.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Cataloguing gave us fascinating insight into the lives of the Rossettis. The largest group of letters in the collection were written by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and cover both the beginning and end of his career. Early letters reveal a humorous correspondent. One, written from a deluged Kent, describes him sketching ‘with my umbrella tied over my head to my buttonhole – a position which you will oblige me by remembering, I expressly desired should be selected for my statue. (N.B. Trousers turned up.)’

These are in direct contrast to later letters to Theodore Watts-Dunton (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Watts-Dunton) who acted as Rossetti’s advisor. The volume and regularity of Rossetti’s letters to Watts-Dunton, their paranoia and requests for advice show Rossetti’s great dependence on his close friends in later years.

The collection includes 30 letters written by Christina Rossetti. Project work uncovered a previously unknown letter, written to her sister-in-law, Lucy Maddox Brown Rossetti (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Madox_Brown). This brief letter gives Rossetti’s assessment of an unnamed poem: ‘The fact is I think it diabolical. Its degree of serene skill and finesse intensifies to me its horror…’

William Michael Rossetti

150 letters by William Michael Rossetti were also catalogued during this project, the majority of which are unpublished. His letters include a long series addressed to John Lucas Tupper (https://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib7_1220373335), a close associate and contributor to ‘The Germ’, the journal of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The letters to Tupper, whose writing and career he promoted, highlight professional opportunities and networks of editors and journals available during this period. They give an interesting glimpse of the kind of life afforded to a literary Victorian gentleman employed by the Civil Service. During certain periods of his life, Rossetti travelled abroad, visiting the continent and even Australia. Having been robbed on one occasion in Italy, he discusses the advisability of carrying a pistol with Tupper, who travelled with him in 1869. Other letters cover wide-ranging topics, from discussions of Ruskin and Browning to the politics of the day, spiritualism, and lycanthropy.

Alongside revealing individual letters, the catalogue records now allow researchers to explore Rossetti family networks in some detail.  A good example of this is correspondence relating to the artist Frederic Shields (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederic_Shields), who was a regular subject of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s letters to Watts-Dunton. Later letters from William Michael Rossetti to Shields describe the hours before his brother’s death with great tenderness, passing on a last message to Shields. Subsequent letters from Christina Rossetti are concerned with Shields’ work on a memorial for Dante Gabriel Rossetti. These intertwined relationships would not be easily discoverable from published letters alone but can be usefully explored through this catalogue.

Cataloguing also gave us the chance to research the provenance of groups of letters in the collection. This revealed connections between material previously considered separate: the Swinburne manuscript collection (https://explore.library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections-explore/8607) and substantial correspondence relating to Swinburne and Watts-Dunton (including Rossetti correspondence) were all acquired from the same source, Watts-Dunton’s estate. These letters and manuscripts had historically been treated as distinct collections, and the connections between them were not clear from catalogue records.

Image taken from one of the Rossetti family letters.

Cataloguing work on this small collection has emphasised the many levels of interconnectedness in which archives exist. Letters can show relationships between individuals, collections of letters show their wider networks, and collections themselves speak to other material both within a repository and in many other locations across the world.

The Rossetti family letters collection is now available for research (https://explore.library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections-explore/7436).  This project would not have been possible without the support of the Strachey Trust, and Special Collections is grateful to it for its generosity in funding work on this significant collection.

Sarah Prescott
Literary Archivist
University of Leeds Special Collections

Related

Rossetti Family correspondence, 1843-1909

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

Explore more collections relating to the Rossetti family on the Archives Hub

Previous features on University of Leeds 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 and National Portrait Gallery, London. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

 

Online Resources: Explore archives in different ways

Archives Hub feature for May 2020

The Archives Hub includes descriptions called Online Resources.  These sit alongside Archive Collection descriptions and Repository descriptions.

screenshot hit list showing online resources on health
Online Resources on health

Online Resources are collections of resources, typically digitised content. They are often created as part of a project, and usually based on a specific theme. But the definition is purposely very loose. They are essentially any web sites that offer any kind of introduction, interpretation, or way into archives, other than the more traditional archival descriptions for individual collections.

All Online Resources point to a website, but that doesn’t mean that they only represent digital materials. The website may provide narrative and context for physical collections.  A good example of this is War Child. The site is a story about the Evacuee Archive – how it came into being, the man who created it, what he has experienced.

screenshot of War Child site homepage
War Child

It aims to explore and document the life of this archive. The archive is largely paper-based, and includes some recordings and artefacts.  War Child provides a wonderful, creative experience, thinking about how people engage with archives and how individuals are shaped by archives.

Many Online Resources do represent digital collections, and frequently they showcase collaborations. Windows on Genius is a project by the University of Cambridge and University of Sussex that spans two digital collections, giving access to the works of Sir Isaac Newton.  Other Online Resources are materials within one institution, brought together by topic, such as Selected Sources on Healthcare, at the University of Warwick. This is a selection of primary sources relating to British healthcare before the foundation of the National Health Service.

screenshot of map showing endangered languages
Map showing endangered languages

Some Resources are ‘artificial collections’ that have been brought together to aid researchers, such as Endangered Languages – a digital repository created by SOAS, specialising in preserving and publishing endangered language documentation materials from around the world.

 

 

Quite often Online Resources provide help with interpretation and using sources for teaching, such as the Pre-Raphaelite resource, which provides teaching materials and allows for personal collections to be created.

screenshot showing link to teaching resources on the Pre-Raphaelite website
Pre-Raphaelite Illustrations learning resource

Something like this is a wonderful introduction to a subject for a new researcher.

Some of the resources are simply digital collections. Potentially they could also be described simply as Archive Collections.

screenshot of BT digital archive website
The BT Digital Archive

For example the BT Digital Archives Online Resource is an archive collection, and indeed, we do have this collection listed as The BT Digital Archives collection. However, the Online Resource takes the user to the full catalogue, and it provides further context and showcases highlights from the collection.

Our rationale for having Online Resources is more about servicing the end user than the strict definition of what an archive collection is and whether it can be described as an online resource. We want to make sure people find the materials, and we also want to promote any added value that they can get through narrative, context and interpretation that the holding institution provides.

We aim to increase the descriptions of Online Resources – we create them ourselves when we find good resources, and our current contributors can also create them quickly and easily. If an Online Resource is offered by a non-contributor, we can create it for them, or provide a specific type of access to our cataloguing tool, to allow them to create the entry.  It provides another discovery channel, so for the short amount of time it takes to write a short entry, it may be found by a researcher who would otherwise never have known about it.

These digital collections and physical archives and websites for learning, teaching, and research include a wealth of materials from many institutions across the UK. From fashion to photography, dance to Darwin, soldiers to Shakespeare, these websites represent a whole range of archival resources, often with strong visual themes that can be used for research, learning and teaching.  Explore the Online Resources, and do get in touch if you have any suggestions for additions to our catalogue!

 

 

Planes, pilots and politics: National Aerospace Library’s collections fly onto Archives Hub

Archives Hub feature for April 2020

The human race has always wanted to fly, and the National Aerospace Library’s collection shows how we have pursued those dreams to conquer and then perfect flight; from aeroplanes to hovercraft, air travel to satellites, and missiles to man carrying kites. Our earliest book, from 1515, looks at how objects travel through the air and we are still collecting material on cutting edge aero engineering.

The NAL is unusual for an institute collection. Rather than specialising in a single profession, the library follows its parent organisation, the Royal Aeronautical Society, by covering all the sciences and arts connected to travel above the ground. From designing aircraft to insurance and law, from flying eighteenth-century balloons to airport operations and from aero medicine to aerial warfare.

Flying Countess before a flight in 1918.
Flying Countess before a flight in 1918.

Social historians can find a wealth of information within our four walls. For example, we have three interesting collections from women who were captivated by flight during the interwar period, with the collections of The Flying Countess, Cathleen Countess or Drogheda, and two pioneering women who tried to fly across Africa, Delphine Reynolds , who reached as far as Sierra Leone in early 1931, and Peggy Salaman who reached Cape Town later that year. The collection of Wilfred Parke gives an insight into the pre-World War I world of air racing.

Flying has always captured the imagination and has been recorded in prints, posters, photographs and paintings. We care for over 100,000 Images showing early balloon lithographs from the eighteenth century, the stylish design that accompanied air travel in the 1930s, glass slides explaining scientific concepts, plus tens of thousands of images showing aeroplanes. Many of these images are available via the Mary Evan Picture Library’s corporate licencing and merchandise sites.

 

Lithograph of George Biggin, Letitia Sage and Vincenzo Lunardi ascending from St George's Fields, London, 29 June 1785.
Lithograph of George Biggin, Letitia Sage and Vincenzo Lunardi ascending from St George’s Fields, London, 29 June 1785.

Aeronautics is also a business and our collections cover how the world of science, government, warfare and business collide. This is best shown through the records of Britain’s aviation trade organisation – the Society of British Aircraft Constructors , also known as the SBAC. Starting during the First World War, these minute books chronicle seventy years of thinking of those high up in industry. We also have the wartime records of the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company with its digitised minute book appearing on our Heritage website and the Broke-Smith Archive contains some interesting material on military aviation before the First World War.

Instructions on re-assembling the Wright Flyer by Orville Wright, 1928.
Instructions on re-assembling the Wright Flyer by Orville Wright, 1928.

The Royal Aeronautical Society was created decades before the Wright Brothers became the first men to fly a powered aircraft, and archive of the Royal Aeronautical Society is strong on how the great minds of the time worked out how to design the machines that enabled us to fly. One of our main treasures are the scientific papers of Sir George Cayley, the man dubbed the father of aeronautics, who established many of the principles flight, such as establishing that gaining lift should be separated from the propulsion system, as well as discoveries well away from aeronautics, such as designing prosthetics and geared bicycles. Other early collections include the Baden-Powell ballooning cuttings collection, Percy Pilcher’s work on gliders and Lawrence Hargrave’s photograph albums. We have digitised the Cayley Notebooks, Pilcher Drawings and Hargrave albums and they can all be viewed on our heritage website.

Sir George Caley's notebook on www.AeroSocietyHeritage.com
Sir George Caley’s notebook on www.AeroSocietyHeritage.com

We also have an extensive letters collection, which includes correspondence from the Society and its leading members. The collections are especially strong in the early days of flight, with letters from the pioneers of flight, such as the Wright Brothers, Samuel Cody, Samuel Langley, Octave Chanute, Lawrence Hargrave, J.W. Dunne, A.V Roe, Lord Rayleigh, Sir Frederick Handley Page, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Gustav Lilienthal, F.W. Lanchester, James Glaisher and Sir Geoffrey de Havilland. Though we have not yet listed each letter on Archives Hub, a list of files can be found on the online and we can then use our paper indexes to find out more about each item of correspondence. Interaction with the great names in aeronautics politics and the services between 1910 and 1953 can be found in the correspondence files of the acid-tonged editor of Aeroplane magazine, C. G. Grey.

From a publicity brochure c. 1911.
From a publicity brochure c. 1911.

Our aero engineering archive collections move from the pioneering days into the aircraft designers and producers. The British & Colonial Aeroplane Company Collection includes design work for many post-war Bristol Aircraft, Second World War propeller developments can be found in the collection of de Havilland’s A. V. Cleaver, W. O. Manning’s work at English Electric and aeronautical papers of George William Saynor show design work at Blackburn Aircraft and Canadian Vickers, together with the designs of he and his partner, which came together in the Saynor & Bell Canadian Cub & Canadian Cub II.

Last but not least, the NAL holds the records of our parent organisation, the Royal Aeronautical Society. As well as membership records of the great and the good of the industry and day-by-day administration of a learned society, it also contains audio recordings of over four hundred of its lectures and conferences, primarily from the 1960s and 1990s onwards. The NAL has digitised most of the collection and has been slowly podcasting some of the gems over the last two or three years, including from the great names in British aero industry, such as Sir Frederick Handley Page describing the launch of Britain’s first big aircraft, Sir Geoffrey de Havilland talking about the his first few years in aeronautics, military topics such as the history of the nuclear delivery aircraft, the V-bombers, and scientific lectures such as the first 50 years of aeroelasticity.

Handley Page podcast.
Handley Page podcast.

So far, the National Aerospace Library has placed high level descriptions of just over thirty of our main collections on Archives Hub. We will be now working to fill in some of the lower level information and details that is currently stored in paper index files plus or hidden away on our library catalogue,  plus add details of some of our other collections to the site.

Zepplin poster order.
Zepplin poster order.

In the meantime, we always welcome enquiries, either by phone 01252 701038/60 or email. Further to the UK Government’s guidance, the National Aerospace Library is currently closed to external visitors to ensure the health and wellbeing of staff, members, and volunteers but online services remain available.

Tony Pilmer, Librarian
National Aerospace Library

Related

Browse all National Aerospace Library collection descriptions available to date on the Archives Hub

All images copyright National Aerospace Library. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Women’s History Month 2020: Celebrating the archives of Pioneering and Inspiring Women

To mark Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting some fascinating features, fantastic collections and online resources relating to women, their achievements and influence.

Archives Hub features

We have a wide range of Archives Hub monthly features focusing on women, including:

Black Georgians: Phillis Wheatley

Photocopy of a Phillis Wheatley Portrait
PHOTOS/25 Photocopy of a Phillis Wheatley Portrait. Colour photocopy (undated) of artwork by Scipio Moorhead portraying Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) for her book ‘Poems on Various Subjects’ (unknown source).

Phyllis was sold as a child servant to the all-white Wheatley family in 1761.

Susanna Wheatley, the mistress of the Wheatley family, recognised her extraordinary flair of intuitive intelligence, fostering the intellectual development of Phillis by allowing her to learn to read and write, learn Latin and to read the Bible.

She later became the first African-American woman to publish poetry.

Read the feature, provided by the Black Cultural Archives: https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2016/01/04/black-georgians-phillis-wheatley/

 

 

 

The Imogen Holst archive: papers of a passionate and open-minded woman musician

Holst conducting a military band, 1948, photographer: Nicholas Horne (ref no. HOL/2/11/4/6)
Holst conducting a military band, 1948, photographer: Nicholas Horne (ref no. HOL/2/11/4/6), Britten-Pears Foundation Archive.

Imogen Holst (1907-1984) was the daughter of composer Gustav Holst, best-known for The Planets.

Holst, herself a composer, is perhaps best-known today as Benjamin Britten’s musical assistant, but she also had an exceptional, wide-ranging but lesser known career as, amongst other things, educator, conductor and music traveller.

Read the feature, provided by the Britten-Pears Foundation Archive: https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2018/11/01/the-imogen-holst-archive-papers-of-a-passionate-and-open-minded-woman-musician/

 

 

The Legacy of Ahmed Archive and the Courage and Inspiration of his Mother

Family photograph, Ahmed third from left (GB3228.19.6.1)
Family photograph, Ahmed third from left (GB3228.19.6.1), Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre.

In 1986 Ahmed Iqbal Ullah was murdered by a fellow pupil in the grounds of his high school in Manchester. Very quickly, Ahmed the boy disappeared behind the story of his tragic death.

The story of his family and of his mother’s bravery and fortitude similarly became obscured.

Read the feature, provided by Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre: https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2018/03/01/the-legacy-of-ahmed-archive-and-the-courage-and-inspiration-of-his-mother/

 

 

Pioneering women’s education at Bedford College

Elizabeth Jesser Reid, n.d.
Elizabeth Jesser Reid, n.d., Royal Holloway Archives and Special Collections, University of London.

170 years ago Bedford College was opened in central London, becoming the first higher education college for women of its kind in the country.

It was the brainchild of Elizabeth Jesser Reid, who said it had been her dream since childhood to found a college for women.

Read the feature, provided by Royal Holloway Archives and Special Collections, University of London: https://blog.archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/2019/09/30/pioneering-womens-education-at-bedford-college/

 

 

*** Explore more features focusing on women via our new subject category: ***  

Pioneering and Inspirational Women

Equal suffrage demonstration in Lowestoft, Suffolk, 1914. NUWT Collection ref UWT/G/2/54. © Institute of Education Archives.

Collection highlights

Photograph of ‘Phyllis Bedells’ c. 1911. Rotary Photographic Series, Royal Academy of Dance.
‘Phyllis Bedells’ c. 1911. Rotary Photographic Series, Royal Academy of Dance.

The Anita White Foundation International Women and Sport Archive, c1936- [ongoing]

In 2010 the University of Chichester decided to establish an archive on the international women and sport movement. This decision was based on the potential donation of documents from Dr Anita White and Professor Celia Brackenridge, two individuals associated with the university who had been centrally involved in the leadership and development of the movement since 1990.

Material held by: University of Chichester Special Collections
Full description: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb2970-ws

Papers of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1757–1806)

Georgiana Cavendish (née Spencer), Duchess of Devonshire (1757–1806) is well-known as a style icon and also for her personal life. However, she was also actively involved in the Whig party. Following the resignation of William Pitt in 1801, she was instrumental in getting Fox and the Prince to settle their differences, as well as reuniting the different Whig factions into a force that could be co-ordinated. Whilst Pitt returned as Prime Minister in 1804, following his death in 1806, the new government – the ‘ministry of all the talents’ – largely consisted of the coalition that Georgiana had helped to build.

Material held by: The Devonshire Collection Archives, Chatsworth
Full description: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb2495-df12

Elouise Edwards Collection, 1970-1999

Elouise was born in 1932 in Guyana, South America. She travelled to England in 1961 to join her husband Beresford Edwards. They settled in Manchester and soon became active in the struggle against inequality and racism that existed at that time. They challenged racist attitudes and campaigned for the needs of people from overseas. This developed into a lifelong fight for equality. Elouise Edwards was instrumental in celebrating Black culture, battling racism and developing vital community resources in Moss Side. She was awarded an MBE for her amazing contribution. Elouise also has an African Chieftaincy. She was nominated for her work with African people in Manchester and the honour was bestowed by the Nigerian organisation at the British Council.

Material held by:  Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre
Full description: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb3228-5

Papers of Emily Wilding Davison, 1905-1989

As a campaigner for Women’s Suffrage, Emily is arguably most famous for her death. She joined the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1906, soon becoming involved in a long series of arrests, imprisonments and releases after force-feeding. She managed to enter and hide in the House of Commons three times between 1910 and 1911, and was the first to embark on a campaign of setting fire to pillar-boxes. On the 4th June 1913, she tried to seize the bridle of the King’s horse running at the Derby. She received head injuries and never recovered consciousness, dying on the 8th June. Her funeral was preceded by a large funeral cortege that became one of the iconic events of the campaign for Women’s Suffrage.

Material held by: Women’s Library Archives
Full description: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb106-7/ewd

 

Online Resources

Image of women factory workers during WW1
Press photograph of women factory workers during WW1,  Institution of Mechanical Engineers Archive.

The North’s Forgotten Female Reformers: Women’s suffrage and fight for reform and change throughout the UK, provided by Newcastle University Special Collections and Archives.

History to Herstory, provided by West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield.

The Zandra Rhodes Digital Study Collection, provided by the University for the Creative Arts Archives & Special Collections.

Florence Nightingale Digitisation Project,  the collected letters of Florence Nightingale are held by several partner organisations in the UK and USA.

Discover more collections 

Mary Katharine Bell, 1903 (CPT/PA/1)
Mary Katharine Bell, 1903 (CPT/PA/1), Special Collections, Newcastle University.

There are many ways to locate collections about women using the Archives Hub. Searches you could try include:

For help on searching, see our tips and examples.

Student hockey team at City of Portsmouth Training College
EDUC/15/3.10.21 Student hockey team at City of Portsmouth Training College [early 1940s]. University of Portsmouth Archive.