Friday, 26 December 2008


Back in time for Christmas! Europeana is working again (when it launched in November the site crashed due to demand).

Europeana showcases over "two million books, maps, recordings, photographs, archive documents, paintings and films."

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Flickr is a winner

Roy at HangingTogether brought my attention to this post on the Library of Congress blog about the success of their Flickr pilot project.

The full LC report is here but if you don't have time read the summary here.

Some stats from the pilot include:
  • Within 24 hours of its launch the LC account had 1.1 million total views
  • LC photos average approximately 500,000 views a month
  • They have received over 10 million total views
  • 7,166 comments were left on 2,873 photos
This report is very positive about the whole experience, has some good advice in it and is a brilliant example of what Web 2.0 can do for you. Show it to your boss!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Archives Open - open for business

David over at the Digital Archive has a new venture called Archives Open which is a

"new community-powered blog that focuses on archives, access, community and the Web... a platform to discuss Web 2.0 technologies and Web 2.0 ethics and values "

He has a nice post about the new blog and the reasons behind it here. I think it's a really good idea and a new way of using a blog to collect information from archivists and users about the Web 2.0 projects that are happening out there. It looks like it will build up into a handy resource and source of inspiration.

It's open for business now so get over there and check it out.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Youtube and government

I read today that Obama is using youtube for his weekly addresses as president-elect and it made me wonder what the impact this high level endorsement of technology might have on its up-take by the average archive or archivist. (Incidently, the wonder of the Internet allows us to listen to Roosevelt's fireside chats and compare the two formats for ourselves.)

I did wonder whether this was going to be an area where the UK was slightly behind but it turns out the Prime Minister already has a youtube channel, with 500+ videos . There is also a UK parliament pilot channel on youtube. Who'd have thought it?

I wonder whether the use of these kinds of technology by government bodies will have an impact and make those organisations that have been more conservative and hesitant in their approach to Web 2.0 look again at them? Does it legitimise Web 2.0 activity?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

BBC stops jokes

The BBC Archive has put up some interesting stuff from WWII about Russian relations. It ties in with the BBC series World War II: Behind Closed Doors and features this series of memos on the subject of the appropriateness of jokes about Russia once they joined the conflict.

Monday, 24 November 2008

The Age of Normalization...

Technorati published it's State of the Blogosphere report recently. This annual report from Technorati looks at the statistics and trends in the blogging world (blogosphere). Some of the stats seem crazy, 133 million blogs started since 2002, 900,000 posts a day and 94.1 million blog readers in America alone in 2007. For information about the UK blogosphere see this report from comScore.

One item in the Technorati report which caught my eye was a quote from Shel Israel about the blogosphere and what it now means:

Until recently, 'the Blogosphere' referred to a small cluster of geeks circled around a single tool. Now it refers to hundreds of millions of people using a vast warehouse of tools that allow people to behave increasingly online like they do in real life. We have entered the Age of Normalization in the Blogosphere.

The age of normalization - have we really reached the stage where blogs are a normal and routine communication channel? I don't know that we have, I'm the only person among my group of friends who reads blogs on a daily basis. Its not a very scientific argument I know but they are all daily users of the Internet, into Facebook etc but none of them are interested in blogs. I doubt that on a day to day basis reading blogs is a routine activity for the majority of people. However, what is clear from the figures involved is that blogs have a large, growing audience (41% of UK Internet audience) for whom blogs are a regular read. So, if you are in the business of communicating with people then blogs should be an important tool for you.

The useful thing about report like the Technorati one is that it helps to gain an idea of where blogging sits in the world of communications and whether its worth considering. As blogs do become normal you have to wonder whether it will seem particularly innovative for your archive to have one as well? Or if you don't have one will it be a disadvantage similar to that which not having a website was a couple of years ago? I don't think having or not having a blog will make or break the reputation of an archive but I think not having one is an opportunity missed to share your collections, update interested readers or bring to life records.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Too busy to Web 2.0?

I've briefly touched on the issue of how much time it takes to do "web 2.0" before. Back then I linked to a post from the Museum 2.0 blog that I had found very useful. I started to think about this issue of time and what busy archivists can do again as I've been preparing an article for Arc on the subject of Web 2.0 and Archivists.

Taking inspiration from some nice diagrams
here, I put together this image to accompany my article and thought I'd share my hard work cutting and pasting logos here on the blog. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I think it breaks up Web 2.0 activities nicely and shows how even with very little time its possible to dip your toe in the Web 2.0 world.

Breaking up "Web 2.0" into 3 main stages makes it less daunting as an activity. Checking out Wikipedia for references to your archive is easier and less scary than creating content and 'putting yourself out there'.

Before you start participating, creating content or building communities, my top tip would be investigate. Find out what level of web presence your organisation or collections have. Get a sense for what is out there and what works. Then participate - comment, amend, tag anything you find with your expert knowledge about the collection and link back to your own website (or blog, flickr pages etc if you you've also been busy creating.)

Friday, 21 November 2008

Web 2.0 Guidance

Sometimes we all need a little guidance:

Finding guidance on how to start a blog isn't hard, it is more difficult to find something that addresses the issues that you might face if you're trying to do it for your organisation or answer questions from your boss.

That's why I was delighted to discover this excellent set of briefing documents from the folks at UKOLN on all things Web 2.0. They have lots on blogs and blogging and as its geared towards the cultural heritage sector it is more relevant than a lot of the advice out there about Web 2.0 in general.

At the moment they even have briefing papers on the use of blogs in libraries and museums so hopefully there will be one for archives soon...

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Google and Life magazine

Google has started to digitise and make available online the Life photo archive. This means according to the site that people can "search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today." Many of the images were never published and at the moment about 20% of the collection is available but the aim of the project is to make about 10 millions photos available in the next few months.

Archivist Lawrence D. Gurrin examining unidentified text.

My reaction to this was very much in the vein of 'oh, how interesting' but it did raise some interesting issues on the Records Management listserve. Some people asked whether digitising these images will mean that they are looked at any more and whether there was a danger of digitising just because we can.

What do you think? My view on this is 'why not?' Google obviously have the resources to do this and it makes what seems to be an excellent collection of images available very easily and I think it will become a great resource. I'd like to see some kind of user tagging function, at the moment you can only rate the images but this might follow.

Personally, I was a little disappointed with the response that this project got from some of the RM community, but maybe I'm overly enthusiastic about this type of thing. As a profession do you think that we have a tendency to be pessimistic about digital projects and struggle to see the point of them?

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

First World War Diaries

Diaries as blogs can work really well and they are one of my favourite examples
of using Web 2.0 technologies to bring to life documents that might otherwise be forgotten or limited to family readership only.

The Telegraph has an interesting article about the diary of Captain Alexander Stewart. This diary has been made available to download as an e-book and the Telegraph article has also allowed readers to share their own stories using the comments section online.

Armistace - 90 years on

On the 90th anniversary, a selection of some of the offerings from World War One available on the Internet.
I've mentioned the Great War Archive project before, but
this is the poetry section of their site which has a mixture of resources included biographies, poems and digital images of original sources like Wilfred Owen's citation for Military Cross.

At the moment The Times has several First World War related items on their archive pages, although this will change. Including this article from 11 November 1920 when the tomb of the Unknown Warrior was unveiled.

TNA Voices of the Armistice

To Remember

The archive profession has the privilege and a duty to help preserve the remembrance of things past. Seeing the final 3 living veterans of the Great War out of 5 million British Armed Forces participants today emphasised that soon this tangible link with that conflict will be gone and only the records will remain to remember the sacrifices of that generation by.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Gunpowder, treason and plot

Today is the 403rd anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. I thought I'd share this website put together as part of a project by the Parliamentary Archives, the History of Parliament Trust, the 24 Hour Museum, and developers Mackenzie Ward Research.

There is also a paper from the 2006 Museums and the Web conference which explains how the site came about and the process involved in creating an online resource like this.

If you haven't seen or heard of the Museums and the Web conference, it is worth checking out their website. Most of the papers from over 10 years of conferences are available online and it is an excellent resource for projects in the Museum and Archive world.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Love, love, love it

I want one of these for archives. Check out the Library 2.0 idea generator taken from Dave Pattern's blog. It's been up a while but I just found it today.

What is Library 2.0? That's a post for another day but in the meantime:

Image taken from The Read/Write Web: Social Software and Libraries.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Halloween and Archives

Working to a theme, I thought I'd do a bit of digging and see what was out there to do with "Halloween" type topics and archives. There are a suprising amount of halloween cartoons available online, some of them going back to the twenties (see here) and of course witches.

Halloween fun

Brought to you via youtube some Halloween themed "archive" footage from Disney.

Mickey Mouse (1929)

Donald Duck (1954)

Thursday, 23 October 2008

The ideas behind Archives 2.0

Archives Next has started an interesting discussion about what Archives 2.0 means for the profession. Particularly when we start looking beyond the snazzy "new" technologies and think about the principles behind it.

What makes an Archive "Web 2.0" compliant? Is it just about having the right technologies or is it about your approach to your collections and a willingness to involve users and relinquish some control over the collections and their re-use?

This is a great post and got me thinking about the bigger ideas behind Web 2.0 for a change instead of all the great bits and bobs that are being achieved with the technology.

Sunday, 12 October 2008


To usher in autumn and because the pink style was doing my head in, I've change the look of the blog.

I think its cleaner and simpler so hopefully an improvement.

Fry on Web 2.0

I thought it might be nice to hear what a national treasure has to say on the subject.

Understanding The Internet: Stephen Fry: Web 2.0

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Rules of engagement

I ended the presentation with 5 rules/guidelines that I thought would be useful to take away. Its not quite a Web 2.0 manifesto like the librarians have or the archivists but more of an approach to engaging with the ideas.

THINK about what you want to do. Many of these tools are very easy to use but enthusiasm for them can peter out if you don’t have a clear plan about what the tool will be used for and what content it will contain.

EXPERIMENT these tools are flexible and it should be easy to think of ways you could use content in new ways if you keep an open mind.

ENGAGE find out what your users know about collections and what the best way to capture this knowledge would be. What do your users want from you?

LEARN find out what has worked for museums and libraries, can we learn from them - yes!

ENJOY have fun with this. Web 2.0 tools are meant to be fun and give you freedom to experiment. They aren’t meant to replace traditional organisational channels of communication but they can complement them and allow you to say things and relax a bit more.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Podcast slide

The fourth technology I looked at for the presentation was the podcast. As a tool podcasts require a little more thought, preparation and equipment than some of the other technologies so you will need:

  • Something to record onto
  • Audio editing software to make your podcast sound professional
  • A website to host it on, and link to other sites such as itunes

But for many archives I think they could be useful. Particularly if you regularly host talks and presentations. If you do then you can record these talks and make them available online. This immediately expands the potential audience and gives them control about when they listen to your content.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Blog slide

I've already discussed blogs for archives in detail here so I don't want to repeat myself. When I was thinking about the presentation I wanted to get across that blogs are an accessible way to start experimenting with Web 2.0 and are a flexible in what they can be used for.

As a Web 2.0 tool they are very popular with over 15 million active blogs in 2007. However, there were actually 70 million blogs recorded in April 2007 which shows that a vast number of the blogs people start become inactive. The best way to avoid an inactive blog is to know what your blog is going to be for and to commit to making regular posts.

If you can do this then a blog will give you a more informal way to communicate regularly with readers. For archives, blogs can be a good way to publicise new collections/accession, an image of the month, small online exhibitions, diaries work well published as blogs and generally allow you to highlight treasures in your collections.

Ultimately blogs are a very accessible starter tool that can be used for a multitude of purposes and if it doesn’t work for you just delete it.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Cataloguing backlog? Advice via podcast

The National Archives has released a podcast by Dr Jessica Gardner in relation to the National Cataloguing Grants Scheme. The podcast is 13 minutes long and looks at tackling a cataloguing backlog and strategy, promotion and funding from the Cataloguing Grants Scheme.

Wiki slide

I decided to include wikis as part of the presentation because they are very flexible and can be used internally or externally and also because of the great work the TNA has done with Your Archives.

Wikis allow archives to capture information about their collections without having to monitor, check and verify each entry as they rely on a principle of self-regulation and other users highlighting incorrect information to the site owner. (More on how wikis work.)

I like Your Archives a lot. I think it shows what you can achieve with a bit of imagination and an active user community. In the first 6 months of its live launch 1.6 million page views were recorded and 187,419 visits. However, community participation is the key here a wiki is only as good as its community and most pages take time to build up participation and contributions from users.

Other examples that I found when researching this were:

I particularly like the Cornish Archives Wiki which is more of a grass roots initiative and aims to create creating a "one-stop website covering all of Cornwall's archives, providing useful, accurate and up-to-date information."

Tuesday, 23 September 2008


I've broken the cardinal rule of blogging and not posted anything for a couple of weeks. All I can say in my defense is that I've been putting together a photo book as a gift and found that I can spend hours endlessly tweaking pictures and page formats.

I used blurb to create my book and it got me thinking that it would be a really good way to put together a book for an archive, perhaps as part of a small exhibition or to publish popular images. Blurb would work well for this kind of thing because they have a bookshop section on their website. This allows you to publish the books you create allowing others to buy copies of them. With books starting at £7 its a cheap way to publish very professional looking books of your digital images.

There is an example on their site of a book compiled of columns taken from a local paper by the Horseheads Historical Society called Bygone Days. This shows that the idea can be extended to any text that you have and own the copyright for and want to publish.

I'll be back to posting about the slides again soon.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Flickr slide

My flickr slide discussed how you can use flickr to share and collect digital images, allow people to comment on those images and link through to your official site.

The examples I mentioned were the National Library of New Zealand, the National Library of Scotland and the Great War Archive flickr group by Oxford University.

The National Library of New Zealand started a pilot in June 2007 to post a small selection of their collection images onto flickr. They have posted about the pilot on a blog run by staff at the NLNZ:

In this post they've shared information about their viewing statistics which show that they get an average of 28 views a day and have had nearly 57,000 this year.

The National Library of Scotland uses flickr to showcase its collections, giving a taster of three or four images and then linking back to their own website. According to the digital library blog they decided to use flickr and other Web 2.0 tools as "a little experiment to offer up our content to our customers where they are, rather than expect them to come to the Library or the Library’s website."

They have another interesting post on this blog which discusses the choosing of some images and uploading them to flickr.
The University of Oxford is using flickr to collect images as part of its Great War Archive project. This project aimed to collect digital images of memorabilia from the First World War.

These three examples and the other organisations using flickr all benefit from the large user community that exists on flickr (26 million members according to this report). This allows them to tap into this huge market and share their collections with a global audience.

Presentation follow ups

There was a lot of information about the four technologies that I couldn't talk about or fit on my slides last week. So I'm going to do a series of posts about the slides that will pull together some more information about them.

First up: the Flickr slide

Monday, 1 September 2008

Presentation slides

Finally managed to get my slides onto slideshare:

Alternative uses for web 2.0

Although I've mostly focused on using web 2.0 technologies for awareness raising and outreach purposes, it can be used in other ways. At the conference on Thursday a couple of people mentioned how they were using web 2.0 for internal purposes in their own working practices.

Suggestions were varied and included:

  • Podcasts as a way to disseminate management talks to staff dispersed over a large area or in different countries.
  • Wikis as a way to develop new policies or procedure manuals. This works well for manuals that may be updated frequently and removes the need to publish entirely new versions of a manual.
  • Blogs could be used within teams to share news about progress on particular projects and update colleagues on what different parts of the team have been doing.
Using web 2.0 in this way can work very well for your organisation and it can also help to show its effectiveness and get management on board if you want to use it for external awareness raising purposes.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Off to the conference...

I'm off to the conference tomorrow, a little nervous right now but pleased I'm speaking first thing as I'll be able to relax and enjoy the other presentations (SOA 2008 programme). Who knows perhaps next year we'll have a conference wiki like the Americans....

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Time is money

Brilliant post from Nina Simon at Museums 2.0 asking how much time does Web 2.0 take?. This is obviously an important issue, if you are spending time on Web 2.0 stuff then something else isn't getting done.

Nina has put together suggestions for activities you can do depending on whether you can commit 1-5, 5-10, 10-20 hours a week to Web 2.0 activities. These range from adding content about your organisation to existing sites and starting a blog to managing community websites.

This post shows that there is an entry point to Web 2.0 for everyone, even if you can only spare an hour a week and don't know what html is.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Spread the word

So, you've taken the time to set up a blog, put images on flickr and record some podcasts, now what? You need to share all your hard work and encourage others to spread the word about your fantastic resources.

The main way to do this, particularly for blogs and podcasts is to set up a subscription option for your site, known as a web feed, one of the most popular options is the RSS feed. This will allow your users to subscribe and receive notifications when new information is published. This tool helps to increase the immediacy of providing new information and means that users do not have to keep checking your site for new content.

The national archives has RSS feeds for its news, document releases and podcasts pages.

It is also useful to give users the option to add a link to your site to their own websites, facebook pages or blogs. There is a tool that you can use to do this called addthis which gives you an icon that users can click and choose to add a link to your website to a variety of locations. Mia Ridge has explained the value of using addthis on her website.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Web 2.0 poll

A wee while ago Archives Next ran a poll to ask what ‘web 2.0′ service do you think has the most potential for archives? the results showed that the majority of people favoured flickr. I've put together the graph below to show how the other tools fared in the poll.

My personal favourite is still blogs but it was interesting to see what other people thought.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

More wikis

Discovered some new wikis today whilst finishing my slides. They are two quite different resources that have approached the idea of an archives wiki from different directions. The British Postal wiki is part of the official museum and archive web pages for users to contribute to whilst the Cornish wiki has been set up by users of archival resources and asks for contributions from archivists.

A part of the main British Postal Museum & Archives website has been set up as wiki pages to allow contributions and changes by users. It has been nicely organised and established so that it is very easy to add entries.

A wiki that has been set up to act as a central point for information about archival resources in Cornwall. This wiki is interesting in that it hopes "that those actually working within the archive repositories of Cornwall will be encouraged to contribute to and edit the pages relevant to those repositories and their collections."

Sunday, 3 August 2008

George Orwell as blogger?

Image by Paolo Margari

Read an interesting snippet in the Guardian this weekend about how George Orwell's personal and political diaries are being turned into a blog by the Orwell Prize. The blog starts on the 9th August with his personal diaries.

The diary entries will be published in real-time, similar to the method used by the Samuel Pepys diary blog and should prove interesting.

Friday, 1 August 2008

More advice please

There is lots of advice on the Internet on how to use Web 2.0 technologies and also information about the possible legal and safety issues to consider. I've not gone into these on this blog as I am in no way an expert on them and I'm hesitant to tie myself up in circles trying to explain things I don't know about.

Instead I shall post links to useful guidance as and when I discover it.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Is Web 2.0 really for Archivists?

Having explained a bit about the kinds of technologies that Web 2.0 offers and shown how they are being used in archives I think that it is possible for archivists to engage with Web 2.0 and they will benefit from doing so.

So I don't think that many people would argue that the prospect of engaging with Web 2.0 is an impossible task for archives. However, there is of course an argument that archivists are busy people and simply don't have the time to be playing around with new technologies. Web 2.0 is not part of their job description and is not something that users necessarily want.

It is for individuals to decide whether they have the time to experiment but I think we should consider that there is much commonality in the purposes of an archive and Web 2.0. We might think of Web 2.0 applications as being frivolous and about having fun on the Internet but they have more serious purposes that mirror some of what an archive is about. Archives, as well as museums and libraries, act as repositories of information and all have a purpose to enable access to that information when required. In an increasingly fast-paced online world, Web 2.0 is providing more efficient ways of accessing existing information and innovative methods of creating and sharing new information. So its not such an alien concept after all.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Photographs - an addendum

Of course there are other ways to share photos apart from flickr and these are some examples of web sites that host photographic collections:

Thursday, 10 July 2008


I should really have given this post a generic title about sharing images but I chose flickr as it has become so popular and while its not reached the stage of becoming a verb like Google it is arguably the best known of the many online photo management and sharing tools.

Flickr is also the web site that many archives and also museums have chosen to host their images on. It offers unlimited uploads and collections with its pro account for £13/$25 a year and photographs can be licensed under the creative commons to provide some copyright management when required.

The benefit of having your photographic collection hosted on flickr is that it can allow users to participate in the descriptive process by adding comments to individual photos. This allows archivists to obtain detailed and informed descriptions of their collections that they themselves might not not have the knowledge or time to produce.

Whether your archive can make use of flickr depends on your collections and copyright issues. Some examples of archives using flickr are:

It can also be used to collect images, as these examples show:

Thursday, 3 July 2008


Wikis are great because while they allow you to add information to existing content like tagging does but they also allow to create and upload new information to web pages.

Many people are already familiar with wikis, perhaps through using wikipedia but to clarify the dictionary definition of a wiki is that it is "a type of web page designed so that its content can be edited by anyone who accesses it." As wikipedia has shown this technology is a great help to any collaborative working project and the concept seems to suit an encyclopedia format and there is an archival equivilant of wikipedia called archivopedia. For archivists it has also been used for professional purposes at some conferences, where it allows many attendees to comment on particular presentations or provide information about the location.

The most exciting aspect of using wikis in an archive is that it can allow an organisation to formally capture user knowledge about their collections in a way that can compliment existing official finding tools. At present, archival repository wikis are not as popular as blogs but there are some good examples out there. The TNA in particular has been very willing to engage with new technologies when developing its Your Archives wiki, which was "designed to allow users to contribute their own knowledge of the National Archives’ collections in an open forum."

Your Archives has lots of information about how to use the wiki and also suggestions about what kind of information users could contribute such as transcriptions of documents available on the DocumentsOnline resource, expanding existing catalogue entries and editing research guides. It is also made very clear that the TNA will not check and verify entries, instead it is up to the wiki community to report offensive or incorrect entries. This helps address the issue of whether to trust information published in a wiki and also builds on the general principle that information is published and wikis are built on a notion of trust and self-regulation.

Other examples of wikis for archives include:

Archivists can also consider working with existing wikis, such as Wikipedia and linking to their resources from relevant articles on certain subjects. For example, if you have a collection of papers from a particular person why not add a link to that person's Wikipedia article to your archive? An article in D-Lib discusses how the University of Washington added links to Wikipedia articles to improve access to their digital collections.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


Tagging is one way to harness user knowledge about existing items. Tagging is the process of adding tags to an object and both the creator and users of the object can do it. A tag is "a non-hierarchical keyword or term assigned to a piece of information which helps describes an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching."

Tags are an informal way of classifying items using user terminology. The use of tags by archives has not been very widespread, although there are some examples of archives with photography collections allowing users to add information about images.

Instead, tagging has been used more in the museum sector, particularly in art museums to encourage users to label images with their own words. Tagging improves access to resources by allowing users to search for keywords in a vocabulary that’s familiar to them. In this way it helps museums to bridge the gap between the language used by museum staff in creating descriptions and that used by visitors when searching for an object.

  • Steve.Museum Project (this project uses social tagging for the art collections of several museums)
  • Powerhouse Museum (this site allows user to add keywords to the items held in its online collections database)
An example of the differences in language used by museum and archive staff to categorise items and that used by visitors to find items is in the Smithsonian Photography Initiative where there is a picture of an elephant. For this picture the Smithsonian staff assigned the keywords of mammal, zoology and architecture. It is only in the visitor’s keyword section that the word elephant was actually been assigned.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Harnessing the power of our users

New technologies allow archives to share information in different ways but they also allow users to share their knowledge. This is one of the key concepts of Web 2.0 where collective intelligence and the wisdom of the crowd is harnessed by technologies turning the web into a kind of global brain (according to O'Reilly).

Examples where this has worked particularly well include Amazon and Ebay where information submitted by users are key to the success of these businesses. For archives with regular users the ability to capture some of their knowledge of the collections would be beneficial particularly as long-term users would have significant amounts of accumulated knowledge that would be of benefit to the archive and other users.

There are several ways to "harness the power of the crowd" in an archive:

  • Allow the items in your catalogue to be 'tagged' by users with their descriptive terms (this can be particularly good for images).
  • Start a wiki which will allow users to edit information about collections to complement your official resources.
  • Encourage users to share information they have with each other through forums and discussions.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


It can seem like podcasts are everywhere - on our radios (Terry Wogan's best bits), in our newspapers (the Guardian's podcasts), even at the supermarket (Tesco podcasts). But what is a podcast and why would an archive have one?

A podcast is a digital audio recording that is made available over the Internet for users to listen to on their computer or on a MP3 player. They have been used by a huge variety of people and organisations to record information and present it to users in audio format and some reports suggest that 10% of all UK adults have downloaded a podcast.

Possible uses for podcasts in an archival setting are:

  • To share talks given by their archivists and guest lecturers at the repository with a wider audience.
  • To create regular news bulletins about new accessions or changes.
  • To provide audio guides for users about certain collections.
  • To give basic information about how to use an archive.

These are the kinds of activities that the National Archives have been successfully using their podcast series for which in March 2007 had been downloaded 8,000 times in just three months. By using podcasts they have widened the potential audience for talks given at the National Archives and the Family Records Centre and allowed users to better prepare for their research by listening to guidance before visiting or using online collections.

While podcasts are not as simple as a blog to put together it is possible and would be ideal for an archive that regularly hosts talks or lectures to record these and publish them as podcasts for a wider audience.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Blogs part 3 - How to start one

Starting a blog is pretty easy and there is lots of excellent guidance on the Internet already about how to do it so I'll direct you to that rather than try and explain it myself.

There are some things to consider before setting up a blog.

  • Have a clear idea about what your blog is for?
  • Will it be an organisational one or an individual one?
  • Will you have time to write posts and will more than one person be able to post to the blog?
  • Does it fit in with your organisation's policy on using external software/technologies?
  • Are you going to allow comments and will they be moderated?
  • How will you publicise your blog? Link from your homepage, post to the listserve, make it open for listing by the blogging host? It is up to you to decide what is appropriate.

When you are setting up a blog, many of these questions will be options that you will be able to chose. For example whether to allow reader comments or multiple blog authors.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Blogs part 2 - the benefits

The main benefit of a blog is that it gives your organisation an extra way to communicate with your audience. For this to be truly beneficial, it is important that the blog has something constructive to say that will engage with its the intended audience. There is little point in blogging just to be seen to be using a new technology, it must be effective as well.

Some of the benefits from communicating using a blog include raising awareness through a different channel, creating a community and giving readers and writers of the blog a chance to create conversations about issues and collections. However, a blog will work best where an organisation is confident that it has interesting information to post on a regular basis.

I've outlined below some of the ways a blog can be used on a personal level and also by organisations to showcase collections or for specific exhibitions. I think that a blog is one of the simplest ways to engage with Web 2.0 technology as its one of the easiest and cheapest ways to implement this technology in an organisation and it provides a way to communicate immediately with users in an informal manner. Personally I think its the ultimate have a go technology, if it doesn't work for you then you can delete your blog and try something else. If it does work then you will have gained a new audience, generated interest in your collections and have joined a wider blogging community.

So give it a try!

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Blogs as online exhibitions

Blogs can also be used as a tool to present a particular collection or document from the repository as a form of online exhibition. Using blogs in this way allows those repositories without the IT resources to host online exhibitions to achieve a similar effect.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Blogs - organisational

When I first looked at organisational blogs for my dissertation last year I could find few examples of archival organisational blogs and almost none in the UK apart from the Archives Hub. Possible reasons for this scarcity could have been a general lack of knowledge, the fact that it is harder to organise an institutional blog than it is to blog personally and organisations do not have time to blog and many are unsure of what a blog should contain or its purpose.

However, in the last year I have discovered many new organisational blogs which is encouraging as when done correctly an organisational blog can provide a secondary public face for an organisation, one that may be more accessible and less formal than the official website.

Some examples of organisational blogs include:

An organisational blog gives a repository the opportunity to promote collections and provide interesting and useful information about the repository. Some organisations use their blogs to announce new accessions, an archival item of the month/week and showcase digital images.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Blogs - personal

So there are lots of blogs out there but within the archival community there are two main categories of archival blogs - personal blogs by archivists and repository blogs.

Personal blogs are used by archivists either to document their daily working lives and studies or to give themselves a platform to discuss archival issues that they feel are important and sometimes both. This blog falls into the category of personal blogs as I'm writing for my own specific purpose to help with my conference presentation.

Personal blogs by archivists are written for the same reasons that anyone writes a personal blog which in turn are similar to the reasons why people keep journals and diaries.
A closer look at why people blog examines the motivations behind blogging in more detail.

Some examples of personal blogs by archivists include:

However, the type of blog that I think it most useful to readers are those that primarily discuss archival issues, one of the best examples I've found is Archives Next which introduces and discusses new web technologies and how the archival profession can interact with them. Other examples of blogs discussing professional issues include:

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Blogs part 1

It seems natural to start this introduction of Web 2.0 tools with blogs as they have become one of the most popular and pervasive technologies. Statistics provided by Technorati show that as of April 2007, they were tracking 70 million blogs and had recorded a growth of 120,000 new blogs every day and 17 new posts per second.

So, there's a lot of blogs out there but what is a blog?

Oxford English Dictionary defines a blog as: "a frequently updated web site consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources, etc., typically run by a single person, and usually with hyperlinks to other sites; an online journal or diary."

Blogs are used to discuss different topics from the personal to the political. The community of bloggers is known as the
blogosphere and there's a healthy archivist presence out there, with a mix of personal blogs and professional organisational ones. Through these blogs, issues are raised and discussed within the blogging community, such as professional duties, digitisation, improving services and in some cases Web 2.0.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Why bother with Web 2.0?

Why not?

Instead of listing the many benefits that Web 2.0 applications can bring (which I will go into when looking at particular apps). I think that archivists should show a willingness to give Web 2.0 a try. Many of the applications are free and easy to use so are perfect to experiment with.

Moreover, the opportunities that Web 2.0 technologies offer are not a threat to core professional values, instead they offer a more exciting and dynamic way of engaging with users.

If that hasn't persuaded you, how about this statement, given as the reason for engaging with Web 2.0 at the Brooklyn Museum:
"the era of control is over: you can either stay in the bunker, or you can try and participate. And to not participate is criminal"

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is tricky to define and there are numerous definitions around. These have ranged from the short “Web 2.0: it’s people” by David Sifry in 2006 to a much longer definition originally provided by Tim O’Reilly in 2005.

Rather than get bogged down in the technicalities of what Web 2.0 is, I prefer to think of it as an umbrella term that covers the many different ways we can engage with the web. My interpretation of it is that it fundamentally represents a change in the way that we interact with the web. It has given us technologies that are interactive, participatory and dependent on content provided by the user. This has resulted in a much better experience and applications that are more fun.

On a personal level my use of Web 2.0 revolves around
facebook, flickr, netvibes, blogger. These are just a few of the technologies that are out there, the picture below shows some logos of other applications. In this blog I'm going to focus on the Web 2.0 applications that archives can make use of and why they should do so.
A montage of Web 2.0 logos assembled by Stabilo Boss.

Friday, 11 April 2008


Hopefully this blog will do what it says on the tin and watch out for items on the web that may be of interest to archivists and records managers.

I intend to focus on Web 2.0 technologies
, look at what they can do for archives and point to some of the excellent examples of Web 2.0 uses in archives and the wider information management/heritage sectors.

In addition, this blog will help me to gather my thoughts and keep track of the items I plan to discuss as part of my presentation at the Society of Archivists conference in August.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

About this blog

This blog has been set up principally to support a presentation that I will give in August at the Society of Archivist's conference on the subject of Web 2.0 and archivists.

I wanted a place where I could bring together the different examples that I will refer to in my talk so that it can act as a 'repository' for these examples and allow easy reference back to them in the future.

I hope it can be used as a showcase for the best examples of archives and archivists using Web 2.0 today.


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