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.

Results of the 2018 student digital experience insights survey

Jisc aims to understand more about the student experience and student needs as part of its mission within UK higher and further education. The recent digital experience survey offers some useful findings about how students feel when it comes to digital skills and the digital experience.

37,720 students across 83 higher and further education institutions (HE and FE) are included in the data, equivalent to approximately 16% of colleges and 30% of universities in the UK.

Key findings are:

  • Students – regardless of setting – are positive about the quality of their institution’s digital provision, as well as digital teaching and learning on their course.
  • Over a third of all students want digital technologies to be used more on their course, although this does imply that the majority do not share this view.
  • Only 50% of FE and 69% of HE students think digital skills are important for their chosen career, and few agreed that their course prepares them for the digital workplace. This implies that there are many students who do not think digital skills are essential.
  • Many students bring their own devices to their institution but can’t use these to access subject-specialist software or online learning content. This indicates a lack of flexibility and interoperability.
  • One in five students use assistive or adaptive technologies, with 8% of HE and 6% of FE students considering these vital to their learning needs
  • About eight in ten students used a smartphone to support their learning, which is no surprise, and shows the importance of ensuring that sites are mobile-friendly
  • Around 10% of FE students rated Google search as their number one app or tool, compared with just over 1% of HE students. HE students on the other hand were twice as likely to cite Google Scholar as they were to cite Google on its own as a search tool. HE students also used a wider range of tools for online research, including online journals and journal catalogues.
  • A third of all students turned first to their fellow students when looking for support with digital devices or skills. A third of FE students turned first to their lecturers in comparison with only 8% of HE students. A third of HE students turned to online information in comparison with only 14% of FE students.

It appears that students feel there should be greater opportunities to work more flexibly, both in terms of device use and learning spaces, but overall the responses are generally positive in terms of the digital experience and there are high levels of overall satisfaction with institutional provision (FE: 74%, HE: 88%) and the quality of teaching and learning on students’ courses (FE: 72%, HE: 74%).

Read the full report:
http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6967/1/Digital_experience_insights_survey_2018.pdf

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who should attend?

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

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

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

Europeana Tech 2015: focus on the journey

Last week I attended a very full and lively Europeana Tech conference. Here are some of the main initiatives and ideas I have taken away with me:

Think in terms of improvement, not perfection

Do the best you can with what you have; incorrect data may not be as bad as we think and maybe users expectations are changing, and they are increasingly willing to work with incomplete or imperfect data. Some of the speakers talked about successful crowd-sourcing – people are often happy to correct your metadata for you and a well thought-out crowd-sourcing project can give great results.

BL Georeferencer, showing an old map overlaying part of Manchester: http://www.bl.uk/maps/georeferencingmap.html
BL Georeferencer, showing an old map overlaying part of Manchester: http://www.bl.uk/maps/georeferencingmap.html

The British Library currently have an initiative to encourage tagging of their images on Flickr Commons and they also have a crowd-sourcing geo-referencer project.

The Cooper Hewitt Museum site takes a different and more informal approach to what we might usually expect from a cultural heritage site. The homepage goes for an honest approach:

“This is a kind of living document, meaning that development is ongoing — object research is being added, bugs are being fixed, and erroneous terms are being revised. In spite of the eccentricities of raw data, you can begin exploring the collection and discovering unexpected connections among objects and designers.”

The ‘here is some stuff’ and ‘show me more stuff’ type of approach was noticeable throughout the conference, with different speakers talking about their own websites. Seb Chan from the Cooper Hewitt Museum talked about the importance of putting information out there, even if you have very little, it is better than nothing (e.g. https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18446665).

The speaker from Google, Chris Welty, is best known for his work on ontologies in the Semantic Web and IBM’s Watson. He spoke about cognitive computing, and his message was ‘maybe it’s OK to be wrong’. Something may well still useful, even if it is not perfectly precise. We are increasingly understanding that the Web is in a state of continuous improvement, and so we should focus on improvement, not perfection. What we want is for mistakes to decrease, and for new functionality not to break old functionality.  Chris talked about the importance of having a metric – something that is believable – that you can use to measure improvement. He also spoke about what is ‘true’ and the need for a ‘ground truth’ in an environment where problems often don’t have a right or wrong answer. What is the truth about an image? If you show an image to a human and ask them to talk about it they could talk for a long time. What are the right things to say about it? What should a machine see? To know this, or to know it better, Chris said, Google needs data – more and more and more data. He made it clear that the data is key and it will help us on the road to continuous improvement. He used the example of searching for pictures of flowers using Google to find ‘paintings with flowers’. If you did this search 5 years ago you probably wouldn’t get just paintings with flowers. The  search has improved, and it will continue to improve.  A search for ‘paintings with tulips’ now is likely to show you just tulips. However, he gave the example of  ‘paintings with flowers by french artists’ –  a search where you start to see errors as the results are not all by french artists. A current problem Google are dealing with is mixed language queries, such as  ‘paintings des fleurs’, which opens a whole can of worms. But Chris’ message was that metadata matters: it is the metadata that makes this kind of searching possible.

The Success of Failure

Related to the point about improvement, the message is that being ‘wrong’ or ‘failing’ should be seen in a much more positive light. Chris Welty told us that two thirds of his work doesn’t make it into a live environment, and he has no problem with that. Of course, it’s hard not to think that Google can afford to fail rather more than many of us! But I did have an interesting conversation with colleagues, via Twitter, around the importance of senior management and funders understanding that we can learn a great deal from what is perceived as failure, and we shouldn’t feel compelled to hide it away.

Photo from Europeana Tech
Europeana Tech panel session, with four continents represented

Think in terms of Entities

We had a small group conversation where this came up, and a colleague said to me ‘but surely that’s obvious’. But as archivists we have always been very centered on documents rather than things – on the archive collection, and the archive collection description. The  trend that I was seeing reflected at Europeana Tech continued to be towards connections, narratives, pathways, utilising new tools for working with data, for improving data quality and linking data, for adding geo-coordinates and describing new entities, for making images more interoperable and contextualising information. The principle underlying this was that we should start from the real world – the real world entities – and go from there. Various data models were explored, such as the Europeana Data Model and CIDOC CRM, and speakers explained how entities can connect, and enable a richer landscape. Data models are a tricky one because they can help to focus on key entities and relationships, but they can be very complex and rather off-putting. The EDM seems to split the crowd somewhat, and there was some criticism that it is not event-based like CIDOC CRM, but the CRM is often criticised for being very complex and difficult to understand. Anyway, setting that aside, the overall the message was that relationships are key, however we decide to model them.

Cataloguing will never capture everyone’s research interests

An obvious point, but I thought it was quite well conveyed in the conference. Do we catalogue with the assumption that people know what they need? What about researchers interested in how ‘sad’ is expressed throughout history, or fashions for facial hair, or a million other topics that simply don’t fit in with the sorts of keywords and subject terms we normally use. We’ll never be able to meet these needs, but putting out as much data as we can, and making it open, allows others to explore, tag and annotate and create infinite groups of resources. It can be amazing and moving, what people create: Every3Minutes.

There’s so much out there to explore….

There are so many great looking tools and initiatives worth looking at, so many places to go and experiment with open data, so many APIs enabling so much potential. I ended up with a very long list of interesting looking sites to check out. But I couldn’t help feeling that so few of us have the time or resource to actually take advantage of this busy world of technology. We heard about Europeana Labs, which has around 100 ‘hardcore’ users and 2,200 registered keys (required for API use). It is described as “a playground for remixing and using your cultural and scientific heritage. A place for inspiration, innovation and sharing.” I wondered if we would ever have the time to go and have a play. But then maybe we should shift focus away from not being able to do these things ourselves, and simply allow others to use the data, and to adopt the tools and techniques that are available – people can create all sorts of things. One example amongst many we heard about at the conference is a cultural collage: zenlan.com/collage. It comes back to what is now quite an old adage, ‘the best innovation may not be done by you’. APIs enable others to innovate, and what interests people can be a real surprise. Bill Thompson from the BBC referred to a huge interest in old listings from Radio Times, which are now available online.

The International Image Interoperability Framework

I list the IIIF this because it jumped out at me as a framework that seems to be very popular – several speakers referred to it, and it very positive terms. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it seemed to be seen as a practical means to ensure that images are interoperable, and can be moved around different systems.

Think Little

One of my favourite thoughts from the conference, from the ever-inspirational Tim Sherratt, was that big ideas should enable little ideas. The little ideas are often what really makes the world go round. You don’t have to always think big. In fact, many sites have suffered from the tendency to try to do everything. Just because you can add tons of features to your applications, it doesn’t mean you should

The Importance of Orientation

How would you present your collections if you didn’t have a search box? This is the question I asked myself after listening to George Oates, from Good Form and Spectacle. She is a User Interface expert, and has worked on Flickr and for the Internet Archive amongst other things. I thought her argument about the need to help orientate users was interesting, as so often we are told that the ‘Google search box’ is the key thing, and what users expect. She talked about some of her experiments with front end interfaces that allow users to look at things differently, such as the V&A Spelunker. She spoke in terms of landmarks and paths that users could follow. I wonder if this is easier said than done with archives without over-curating what you have or excluding material that is less well catalogued, or does not have a nice image to work with. But I certainly think it is an idea worth exploring.

View of V&A Speleunker
“The V&A Spelunker is a rough thing built by Good, Form & Spectacle to give a different view into the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum”

Blowing the dust off Special Collections

Guest Blog Post by John Hodgson

Mimas works on exciting and innovative projects all the time and we wanted Hub blog readers to find out more about the SCARLET project, where Mimas staff, academics from the University of Manchester and the archive team at John Rylands University Library are exploring how Augmented Reality can bring resources held in special collections to life by surrounding original materials with digital online content.

The Project

Special Collections using Augmented Reality to Enhance Learning and Teaching (SCARLET)

SCARLET addresses one of the principal obstacles to the use of Special Collections in teaching and learning – the fact that students must consult rare books, manuscripts and archives within the controlled conditions of library study rooms. The material is isolated from the secondary, supporting materials and the growing mass of related digital assets. This is an alien experience for students familiar with an information-rich, connected wireless world, and is a barrier to their use of Special Collections.

The SCARLET project will provide a model that other Special Collections libraries can follow, making these resources accessible for research, teaching and learning. If you are interested in creating similar ‘apps’ and using the toolkit created by the team then please get in touch.

SCARLET Blog: http://teamscarlet.wordpress.com/

SCARLET Twitter: twitter.com/team_scarlet

The Blog Post

Blowing the dust off Special Collections

The academic year is now in full swing and JRUL Special Collections staff are busy delivering ‘close-up’ sessions and seminars for undergraduate and postgraduate students.

A close-up session typically involves a curator and an academic selecting up to a dozen items to show to a group of students. The items are generally set out on tables and everyone gathers round for a discussion. It is a real thrill for students to see Special Collections materials up close, and in some circumstances to handle the items themselves. The material might be papyri from Greco-Roman Egypt, medieval manuscripts, early printed books, eighteenth-century diaries and letters, or modern literary archives: the range of our Special Collections is vast.

Dante Seminar

Dr Guyda Armstrong shows her students a selection of early printed editions of Dante.

From our point of view, it’s really rewarding and enlightening to work alongside enthusiastic teachers such as Guyda Armstrong, Roberta Mazza and Jerome de Groot. The ideal scenario is a close partnership between the academic and the curator. Curators know the collections well, and we can discuss with students the materiality of texts, technical aspects of books and manuscripts, the context in which texts and images were originally produced, and the afterlife of objects – the often circuitous routes by which they have ended up in the Rylands Library. Academics bring to the table their incredible subject knowledge and their pedagogical expertise. Sparks can fly, especially when students challenge what they are being told!

This week I have been involved in close-up sessions for Roberta Mazza’s ‘Egypt in the Graeco-Roman World’ third-year Classics course, and Guyda Armstrong’s ‘Beyond the Text’ course on Dante, again for third-year undergraduates. Both sessions were really enjoyable, because the students engaged deeply with the material and asked lots of questions. But the sessions also reinforced my belief that Augmented Reality will allow us to do so much more. AR will make the sessions more interactive, moving towards an enquiry-based learning model, where we set students real questions to solve, through a combination of close study of the original material, and downloading metadata, images and secondary reading, to help them interrogate and interpret the material. Already Dr Guyda Armstrong’s students have had a sneak preview of the Dante app, and I’m look forward to taking part in the first trials of the app in a real teaching session at Deansgate in a few weeks’ time.

For many years Special Collections have been seen by some as fusty and dusty. AR allows us to bring them into the age of app.

HubbuB: August 2011

We are out and About in August. Jane and Joy will be going to the Society of American Archivists’ Conference this year, speaking as part of a panel session. We will be talking about Discovery, the Archives Hub and Linked Data. We’re also very excited to be visiting the OCLC offices in Dublin Ohio.  Lisa and Bethan will be at the Archives and Records Association conference in Edinburgh, so go and say hello if you are there. Lisa is also speaking at the conference.

Our Monthly Feature is all levitating women and mustacheod men, as we take a trip into Magic and Illusion at the Fairground Archive: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/features/magic/. Some great images, and a lovely photograph of Cyril Critchlow, a wizard in his 80’s, performing as ‘Wizardo, Harry Potter’s grandfather’!

We’ve recently created a page of Top Tips for Cataloguing: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/cataloguingtips/. These are some of the key areas that we believe are important for good online catalogues. We do still find that archivists don’t always think about the global online environment, so it’s worth setting out some of the most important points to bear in mind. It’s partly about thinking of the audience, browsing the Web, using Google, scanning pages for relevant content, and it’s partly about descriptions – ensuring that the title is as clear and self-explanatory as possible, thinking about how best to describe the archive in a way that is user-friendly.

We’ve been talking about ways to help get descriptions onto the Hub when they are created in Microsoft Word or Excel. We’re just exploring possibilities at the moment, but we are interested in anyone who uses, or knows anyone who uses, Microsoft Word to catalogue. Maybe smaller offices, or maybe you ask volunteers to do some of this?

We know people do use Microsoft Excel as well. We are thinking about ‘Tips for using Excel’. Would this be useful? We don’t necessarily want to give the impression that Excel is the most appropriate choice for cataloguing – its a spreadsheet software, not really for complex hierarchical archives. But we do realise that for some people, the choice of what to use is limited, and we want to do our best to accommodate the realities that people are faced with.

We’ve had some interest in the idea of researchers being able to request digital copies of archives through the Hub. That is, a researcher comes across an archive they would like to see, and they would like digital copies, so they indicate this in some way. Not yet fully thought out, but again, we’d need to know if there is a need for this. How many officers are starting to digitise on demand?

Finally, we’re covering music, dance, plants, medicine and the Middle East with our latest contributors. Check out who is recently on board on our contributors’ page:
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/contributors/