Greetings from Washington

I just had to share this snippet from USA Today, talking about British bands:

Now a new rock incursion is rolling, led by the Arctic Monkeys, a frenetic foursome from the grim industrial town of Yorkshire in the North of England.

Spokes software now available

Town Crier ringing handbell
We are delighted to announce that the Spokes software is now ready to download for testing. You can preview the software on our test Spoke here in Manchester (which has a random selection of various repositories’ records at the moment). We’ll post URLs of other Spokes as repositories make them available to the public. You can download the software from Full instructions are available from the Hub site, whether you are installing for the first time or updating an existing Spokes 3.0 installation.

We took this photograph from our office, by the way.

Paying for publicly funded data

An interesting story in last week’s Guardian about the cost to the economy of buying back data which has been created using public money (OS maps, Highways Agency video feeds and so on). It contrasts the situation in the UK with that of the US, where this kind of data is available free of charge and has resulted in the creation of innovative services like Google Maps.

Archives Hub Contributors’ Training Day

On the 10 April 2006 we’ll be holding a training day for people who would like to contribute information about their archives to the Archives Hub. The Hub’s scope is archives held in UK universities and colleges, so the training is aimed at people working in such institutions. The training day covers the process of creating EAD descriptions of archives using the Hub’s online template. It also includes a very nice free lunch at Manchester Business School.

Value of Bolton’s museums, archives and libraries

Another thing mentioned by Simon Matty was the monetary value placed by the inhabitants of Bolton on the museum, library and archive services provided by the Metropolitan Borough Council. The full report of the consultants is available from MLA North West. I was amazed to discover that the archive service only costs the citizens of Bolton 17 pence a month each. The average price that non-users were willing to pay to maintain the service was a respectable 68 pence. Those who actually used the service would be willing to pay a whopping

‘Public Value’

Simon Matty of MLA gave a talk about the concept of Public Value at the NCA event. The impression he gave was that it is now being seen as increasingly important to get the public to speak on behalf of service providers about the value they attach to organisations such as archives, libraries and museums. This seems to represent a move away from measuring the number of visitors and towards trying to demonstrate the quality of the users’ experience.

Simon noted that 6.2% of adults (according to the Taking Part survey undertaken by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport) have visited an archive. We thought this was actually quite a high figure, although as Rebecca Simor of the BBC pointed out, it doesn’t include any measure of online use, which is something that interests us particularly.

Evidence of our Value – our Value as Evidence

Jane and I went to the National Council on Archives’ one-day conference in Birmingham yesterday. There were some excellent talks by users of archives, particularly that by Dr Dennis Wheeler of the University of Sunderland. He was describing the CLIWOC project, which is using naval logbooks to chart weather conditions in the world’s oceans between 1750 and 1850.