Strategic Review of Archives Hub

The Archives Hub is currently undergoing a review as part of a more wide-ranging look at of JISC-funded resource discovery services. If you would like to contribute, please take a few moments to complete the questionnaire which has been drawn up by the team undertaking the review.

This survey has now been closed. Thanks if you contributed – we had some very positive feedback: more on that later.

Training new archivists

View of Aberystwyth from Constitution HillJane and I had a great day yesterday in Aberystwyth, training the proto-archivists there in using XML and EAD. We’ve been given a copy of XMetaL software by Blast Radius for use in these sessions which really helps to give the students a feel for encoding descriptions in EAD.

The trainee archivists were discussing a joke I’d forgotten about:

Where did Noah keep his bees?

In the ark-hives

A Tale of Two Cities

Christ Church Gate, CanterburyThis is as close as you can get to Canterbury Cathedral nowadays without having to pay £6 per person to get within sight of the church. Once inside the cathedral, the first thing you see is a gift shop. There is another one as you leave the cathedral, and you are forced to walk through yet another one as you leave the cathedral’s grounds.

Three days after visiting Canterbury, I was in Paris. There, you can go around Notre Dame for no charge and the cathedral was heaving with visitors. Most museums in the UK reported huge rises in visitor numbers when they stopped charging for entry, so it would be interesting to see how the introduction of charges have affected Canterbury’s footfall. Notre Dame, Paris I’m sure it all comes down to whether the churches receive public funding for their upkeep or not, but it does seem a shame to restrict access to the cathedral’s immediate surroundings.

It reminded me of the issue of access to information about archives. The philosophy in the UK has always been that if descriptions of archives are created using public money (whether in a university or local government repository), then that information should be made freely available to the general public. Listing the collections is our core work and that information should be put into a digital form and made as widely available as possible, so that all potential users can become aware of the existence of our materials. Charging for access to archival finding aids would be like the barrier at the Christ Church Gate in Canterbury: irritating and exclusive.

Perchance to Dream

Carole McCallum with miniature bed

Here are a couple of photos that were included in an early draft of April’s feature.

Max Mog yawning

Photo top copyright © Glasgow Caledonian University Archives, The Christina W Bell Collection. This shows Carole McCallum, University Archivist, with a miniature bed and bedding created by Christina W Bell (1897-1981). The other photo shows my cat Max yawning. By coincidence I followed Blogger’s random blog link just now, and it went to Sleepycat, who are Berkeley DB software developers (we use Berkeley DB as well as one of the components of the Hub’s software). What are the odds?

Philip Pullman on libraries

There was a good promotional article on libraries and librarians in The Times on Saturday. Though I don’t think Philip realises quite how much librarians are involved in bringing information online and improving the quality of online information (not to mention providing online access within libraries).

Still in Washington…

Interior of National Building Museum, Washington
Got a chance to go beyond the hotel and meeting rooms today and paid a visit to the National Building Museum, which is housed in an amazing building, once the Pension Bureau (paying pensions to men who fought in the American Civil War). The museum’s exhibits used a good mixture of archives and artifacts. There was a hands-on part where you could try to build a brick wall using various different brick bonding patterns. Noticed the sign below on my way round the building, which made me think of EAD.
Controlled Access Area

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.