Wednesday, 23 December 2009


A video by the Rauch Brothers who have animated the story of 86-year-old World War II veteran Joseph Robertson who fought at the Battle of the Bulge. Over 60 years later, he still can't forget one soldier he killed there.

Germans in the Woods from Rauch Brothers on Vimeo.

This story was captured as part of the Story Corps project.  Story Corps is an organisation working in the United States that aims "to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening."  It is one of the largest oral history project with over 50,000 people sharing their stories since 2003. 

I've been thinking about making use of some elements of the various oral history techniques in my work to capture at least some of the knowledge our staff and volunteers have about collections and the shipbuilding and engineering industries in Scotland.  As a result I've been reading a lot about oral history projects and techniques.

The Story Corps approach appealed to me and I thought I would include it here as I think it has several web 2.0 elements to it.  They encourage collaboration with others (for more information about the collaboration between Rauch Brothers and Story Corps see here), their make hundreds of the recordings available on their website to listen to and also have podcasts

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Interactive Archivist

Another great resource I've recently discovered is the Interactive Archivist webpages created by the Society of American Archivists.  This site has general information about Web 2.0 and how archivists can use it, as well as descriptions about the different technologies and a bibliography for further reading.

The best thing about this site is the case studies.  At the moment there are 10 case studies covering all the different types of web 2.0 tools and technologies.  I find it very inspirational to read in detail how other organisations are using web 2.0 technologies and its great to get some information on how useful the experiments have been for that organisation.

What I particularly like about this resource is that the Society of American Archivists recognised that there was a gap in the existing literature and did something to help plug this gap.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Christmas ideas using archives(ish)

I discovered this amazing site at the weekend.  It can take images from museums like the V&A and National Maritime Museum, photography collections and even Haynes Car Manuals and turn them into wall murals, prints or other custom options.

My favourite (so far) is the letter C from Edward Lear's 'A Children's Nonsense Alphabet' c.1880.

So, consider surface view if you're looking for something different this year.

Of course, gifts for the archivist in your life like a TNA shopper or pocket magnifier are available from the TNA shop.  Or you could go for a witty slogan on a hoodie to replace that storeroom cardigan.

Friday, 6 November 2009


A new option for those looking to use an open source alternative for archival description has been released.  The ICA-Atom is a project from the International Council on Archives which provides a software to help and encourage institutions to make their archival holdings available online.  Of course as an ICA project it is fully compatible with and based on ICA standards.

It is still in beta release at the moment but it is great to have another option, more information about the project is available here and it looks good so go check it out.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Scotland's Places

A new "mash-up" resource has been created by the National Archives of Scotland and the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments.  It is called Scotland's Places and it allows you to search by a location and then bring up information about the said place from these resources:

  • Maps and plans of cities, towns, villages, farms, roads, canals, harbours, churches, schools, public buildings, private houses, mines and quarries.
  • Photographs of the built environment in The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
  • Archaeological reports on historic and prehistoric sites.
  • Manuscript records and printed books from millions of pages in government and private records, including tax rolls, owners of land and heritages, and the annual reports of county Medical Officers of Health.

 This is one of those sites that you can lose hours in.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Make the Internet work for you

That was the jist of my final slides from last week and I think it would be my main tip for anyone struggling to think about how to fit web 2.0 into their working day, particularly blogging.

The simplest way to make the Internet work for you, is to create a start page.  This is an example of the one I use in my job for the Ballast Trust.

A start page is the page that appears when you open up a web browser and you can set one up with several different providers like igoogle, netvibes or bloglines.  By using a start page you can customise what content you see and subscribe to news feeds or rss feeds to ensure that content is pushed to you rather than you having to go around various different website to check if anything new has been posted.

On your start page you might have:

  • Email - this lets you see new enquiries or comments sent to your blog.

  • Bookmarks - browse useful websites or articles that you have saved previously, it can be useful to have a bookmark for items that you think will make good posts for your blog.

  • Reader - this feature lets you read the new posts from blogs you've subscribed to and perhaps prompt you to comment on them.

  • Flickr stream - this can show you new activity on your flickr account.

  • News feeds - you can subscribe to existing ones like the TNA feed or set up feeds for specific subjects like "literary archives", or "shipbuilding scotland".  This can help you keep blog posts and your work current and relevant.

Obviously a start page will only be as good as the information that you subscribe to and decide to put on it, so you need to make an effort in the beginning to find other sources of information that you can work off and related blogs or rss feeds.  Once it is set up though it should be easier to make it part of your daily life, particularly if you have to look at it every morning!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Web 2.0 and Archives

New presentation

On Friday I was in Hawick to do a short presentation about Web 2.0 for Archives and more specifically to talk about the blogs that I use for work. These are the Ballast Blog and when I'm at Glasgow University the Archive Services section of this blog.

I've put my slides up on slide share so they are now available here.

One of the things I did differently for this presentation was try to explain how I attempt to work blogging and other web 2 activities into my daily routine. This seemed to be quite useful so I'm going to write it up as a separate series of posts this week for this blog.

The other presentation that morning was about the Scottish Borders Archive and their blogs, voyage of the vampire and my diary and my secret. These are two great blogs based on the diary of George Henry Scott Douglas and the diaries and letters of his sister Hannah Charlotte Douglas.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

If we build it, will they come?

Joy Palmer has written an excellent article about Archives 2.0 in the July edition of Ariadne. The article 'Archives 2.0: If We Build It, Will They Come?'

It got me thinking about whether I've focused too much on the tools of web 2.0 rather than the ideas and I think I'll definitely take on board some of Joy's ideas for a presentation I'm doing in a few weeks at Hawick.

There is also some discussion about it on the forum of the Archives 2.0 ning site here if you want to join in.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

SOA Conference

The Society of Archivists' conference is happening this week down in Bristol. I posted a while back about the web 2.0 aspects that they were introducing this year. Before the conference begun, the blog was used to give people an opportunity to ask questions for some speakers ahead of time (see this post for Tim Padfield's session).

Since the conference actually started though the trickle of posts on the blog have increased and I'm now receiving regular posts through my reader about the different presentations. So a big thank you to Jenny (Hon Sec) and the other authors for getting these posts up, I've found them very useful.

So if you'd like to know what's happening at the conference and weren't able to attend in person, check out the blog or twitter feed.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Wikis and project planning

Last week I attended an information session on a new initiative for archivists in the UK called the Archives Pace Setter Scheme (I blogged about it here).

This scheme aims to highlight the new and innovative projects that archives and archivists across the UK are doing and at the same time to promote better project working and planning within the archive sector.

I had thought of lots of projects that I could do at work, some of which involve web 2.0 tools like our blog or flickr experiments and others which are more routine but new to us like a cataloguing database.

I hadn't thought about using web 2.0 tools to manage projects or plan them until I read this post about the use of wiki software by the Archives Service Centre at the University of Pittsburgh. They are using it internally within their department to monitor the progress of finding aid projects, unprocessed collections and digitisation projects as well as to record ideas for student projects and feedback from users. More details are available in this newsletter article or on ArchivesNext.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Archives 2.0 wiki

I've previously posted about the list of web 2.0 technologies and examples of archives using them that ArchivesNext compiled here. This list has been turned into a wiki resource called Archives 2.0 and has loads of examples and links to archives 2.0 in action.

It's a great place to start if you are trying to convince your management of the benefits or looking for examples of other institutions doing certain things.

I particularly like the examples of twitter and microblogs, most of which I didn't know about and there are lots of interesting ideas for using twitter to post diaries entries or allow users to ask questions as well as simply providing general updates.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Online class on Web 2.0 and Archives

Kate Theimer of the excellent archivesnext blog is holding an online class on Tuesday 13th October (6-7:30pm GMT) entitled "Introduction to Web 2.0 in Archives...or What You Need to Know in a Nutshell".

As well as her blog, Kate has also written a book on the subject so definitely knows what she is talking about and it looks like it will provide a good introduction and overview of the subject. More details are available on her blog here and on the Society of American Archivists' website here about the content and how to register.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Archives on ning

There is an Archives2.0 ning community now. This is a social networking community that allows you to do many of the usual things like:

  • Participate in the forum discussion
  • Add photos and videos
  • Blog
  • Start groups and events

However, most importantly there are lots of examples of innovative archives service delivery, hints, tips and new tools suggested by other members. There is also a Records Management 2.0 ning group which has been going for a while.

The Archives 2.0 network was set up using Ning. This is a service that allows you to create social networks for specific purposes. Having joined today and taken a quick look around the site it looks like it could have potential outside of professional networking. For example it could be used by an archive service to create a network or community area for users of archive services or researchers specialising in a particular topic.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Archives on YouTube

More about archives on YouTube, ArchivesNext has brought to my attention the fact that the United States National Archives have a new, very nice looking YouTube page here

The UK National Archives have been on YouTube since last year and their page can be found here. I particularly like this public information film from 1945.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

SOA Conference goes Web 2.0!

The Society of Archivists conference this year will have an official blog and twitter feed.

The conference is being held in Bristol this year Society from Tuesday 1st to Friday 4th September. The title of the conference is Fast Forward: access and preservation in a digital world.

I'm not going to this years conference but it will be great to stay in touch with what's happening via the blog and twitter. Its nice to see web 2.0 technologies being used for professional society events, especially after James' post about web 2.0 and the RMS here.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Web 2.0 the millionth word


To think it could've been noob, slumdog or carbon neutral.
Calculated by the Global Language Monitor, faqs about the process are here.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Endangered archives blog

The British Library has a new blog about endangered archives here. It is the blog for the endangered archives programme who "aim to contribute to the preservation of archival material that is in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration world-wide”.

The blog is going to be used to discuss the work of the EAP and share some interesting examples of records that the programme has copied and how they catalogue such varied collections.

The British Library has quite a few blogs, for a full list see here.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

International archives at Glasgow Uni

To mark international archives day, Glasgow University Archives have put together an online map to show certain international highlights from their collection.

Check it out here, its a great way to show the impact of Glasgow University and Scottish businesses on the world.

International Archives Day

So, its international archives day today. This is its second year and it is held on the 9th of June as that was the day in 1948 that the International Council on Archives was founded at UNESCO in Paris.

The day is mainly about raising awareness of archives and records within your country. The ICA believes that "as programmes for raising public awareness of archives are organized simultaneously in an increasing number of countries, a greater sense of international solidarity will be fostered among the participants."

Here's to international solidarity!

Poster from Japan to publicise international archives day there.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Web 2.0 and Societies

James Lappin has written an interesting post about the impact of Web 2.0 for the Records Management Society here.  All of what he says could apply to the Society of Archivists as well particularly ahead of potential changes to the structure of the archive sector.  Will a new structure and body mean more Web 2.0 content and ventures?

James considers the impact of Web 2.0 on the membership of these societies, their events and conferences and he has some great suggestions.  So go read it here.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Puffin archive

Article in the Guardian today (here) about the Puffin archive.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Add your information to Canmore

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) has an excellent online resource called Canmore. This allows you to search "over 275,000 buildings, archaeological and maritime sites across Scotland" and where digital images are available you can view them. Its a brilliant tool and I can spend hours on it searching for places I know and just browsing.

Since last week you have also been able to contribute to a beta version of the site that is being developed.

"For the first time you can now contribute your own information online to Scotland’s national collection of buildings, archaeology and industry. As part of the ongoing developments of the RCAHMS searchable online database Canmore, you can add photographs, personal memories and additional information to over 280,000 existing sites, ranging from some of the nation’s most iconic buildings to the remains of ancient settlements and maybe even your own house. Another new feature - called MyCanmore - allows you to customise Canmore to help you search for and return results that reflect your specific interests, requirements and preferences."

More information from the full press release here.

The beta Canmore is here and there is also a short survey to complete once you've had a play about with the new features.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Archive birthdays

For work reasons I've had business archives on the brain and suddenly there are examples everywhere of businesses using their archives to mark anniversaries or sell their products.

125 years of Marks and Spencers

100 years of Persil

There's another one I've seen but I can't remember it just now and google is holding out on me with the answer.

Edit: Thanks to the helpful comment, I remembered which company I had been thinking of and it was Sainsburys.

140 years of Sainsburys

250 years of Guinness

Guinness celebrates 250 years in September and they have put together a whole website to showcase their history. It includes an interactive timeline with links to images and video content, previous adverts and even live music on 'Arthur's Day'. There is also of course a new advert using old images:

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Calling all Scottish archivists (and others)

The Scottish Council of Archives is currently carrying out a project to develop Scottish Archives online. A consultation is happening at the moment and the final report will be published in June 2009.

Comments can be left on this blog. So it gives anyone the opportunity to say whether better, wider online access to Scottish archive collections is a good thing (yes!) but to raise questions about how this will happen, who will find the time and money to process the backlogs of collections and put them online?

It would be wonderful if there was a way for all archives repositories in Scotland to have detailed searchable information about their holdings online and a way to join up the efforts of the many smaller projects that exist at the moment.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Archives for the 21st century

A new policy, archives for the 21st century, has been published by the TNA (in partnership with others) and is now available for consultation. The consultation exercise will run until 12 August 2009 and is available here.

The document states that it is "a call to action" and a response to the new information world that we find ourselves in. I thought is was interesting that the document says that the "leap into the future presents a major challenge for all archive services." I think opportunity would've been a better word here but hey-ho the document overall is very postive about online access to archives and demonstrating value to users.

There are some good examples of what other organisations have achieved and five key recommendations:
  • Fewer, bigger, better – working towards increased sustainability within the sector;
  • Strengthened leadership and a responsive, skilled workforce;
  • Co-ordinated response to the growing challenge of managing digital information so that it is accessible now and remains discoverable in the future;
  • Comprehensive online access for archive discovery through catalogues and to digitised archive content by citizens at a time and place that suits them;
  • Active participation in cultural and learning partnerships promoting a sense of identity and place within the community.
If you want to respond a questionnaire is available here. I think we can all agree that whatever the 21st century archive looks like, hopefully it won't involve helmut lamps:

(Image from life magazine via google)

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Web 2.0 PhD

From the archives-nra listserve:

'We think, not I think' Harnessing collaborative creativity to archival practice; implications of user participation for archival theory and practice. A three year full-time collaborative doctoral award has been awarded by the AHRC to UCL and TNA for a research student to explore the impact on archival theory and practice of embracing greater user participation in professional practice. More information here.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Digital preservation gets animated

From the folks at DigitalPreservationEurope (DPE)


As part of their "committment to make digital preservation materials available to the widest possible audience and to breaking down barriers to access they've release a series of short animations introducing and explaining digital preservation problems and solutions for the general public."

Future releases will be available here

Facebook for birders

I discovered Birdpost whilst I was doing my bit for the Orwell Diaries blog and voting in the Webbys. It is a very slick, cleverly thought out site for 'birders' with all the web 2.0 features you might expect - user generated content, tagging, twitter and blog presence and even an iphone app. According to this info it will give 18 million US birders a way to chronicle, organize, map, and share their collective birding activities online.

It has nothing to do with archives except that I could see a similar resource working very well for certain user groups with an archival slant - perhaps railway enthusiasts or military researchers?? What would need to happen to get these archives enthusiasts to build a resource like this?

Anyhoo, it impressed me and I thought I'd share.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Best archives on the web announced

Archives Next has announced the winners of the 2009 best archives on the web awards. Check it out!

Monday, 20 April 2009

BBC Archive in the news

Guardian article today here about the BBC Archive. They have a very good website and its interesting to read about what they have planned for the project.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Museums & the Web 2009

The 2009 conference Museums and the Web took place in Indianapolis on 15-18 April. This is a great resource for information about some of the best and most innovative projects in the museum world so I would recommend checking out the list of speakers and where applicable their papers here.

Some particularly relevant papers were:

"Time To Stop Doing and Start Thinking: A Framework For Exploiting Web 2.0 Services"

"Museums & Wikis: Two Case Studies" featuring the Science Museum Object Wiki and The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) Wiki.

"Collection Effects: Examining the Actual Use of On-Line Archival Images"

Friday, 17 April 2009

Steve tagger

I struggled a little on this last day of open source goodness for archives. So I've put together a post about the Steve Museum project. Although a museum focused project and an art museum one at that, I think that the tools Steve is developing can and will be equally applicable to any digital image whether it is an artifact, bookplate or document.

"Steve is a collaborative research project exploring the potential for user-generated descriptions of the subjects of works of art to improve access to museum collections and encourage engagement with cultural content." Further information about the project is available here:

The Steve project team has developed a suite of open source tools that enable tagging of museum collections and the review, analysis, and management of tags. And the open source tools (including the Steve tagger, a term review tool, and a reporting tool) themselves are available to download here.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Open source exhibitions

Online exhibitions are a great way of pushing your content out to new audiences but they obviously cost money and take a lot of work so this open source tool called Omeka means that you don't need to spend time or money developing your web publishing software and can get straight to thinking about the content.

Some of the sites using omeka include:

The team behind it wanted to make publishing an exhibition as easy as starting a new blog according to this post.

Update: Just found a reference to these other tools for online exhibitions that might be worth a look at too.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009


The V&A have come up with a brilliant way of generating a database of wedding fashion for an exhibition of wedding dresses they are organising in 2011.

They are asking people to submit up to 3 photos showing the fashions at any one wedding (the main image should focus on wedding dress).

I think this is a lovely idea and already seems to be generating a lot of buzz across craft, fashion, wedding blogs at least.
Everyone loves a wedding...

[1961 - Wedding of Marianne Middleton and Brian Bayne]

Archival management - keep calm and carry on?

Managing archive collections is a pretty essential part of running an archive and being an archivist. Software helps do this better and faster and open source alternatives have opened up the options of what has traditionally been a fairly small market.

First the background reading. There was a very good and comprehensive report by CLIR on archival management software published in January 2009. There is also a wiki which emerged as a result of that report which should hopefully be updated with new developments. Both these resources explain much better the whys and hows and criteria so I'm not going to do that. I'll just point and link.
First up is the Archivist's Toolkit which states that its "main goals are to support archival processing and production of access instruments, promote data standardization, promote efficiency, and lower training costs." List of users includes New York University Archives and The Martin Luther King, Jr. Archive.
Next we have Archon (not the directory) but another software which is intended to "automatically publishes archival descriptive information and digital archival objects in a user-friendly website." User example - College of William and Mary
CollectiveAccess is another option and bills itself as " full-featured collections management and online access application for museums, archives and digital collections." User example - Museum of Jewish Heritage

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Open source week

I've been experimenting with open source software in my new job and now that I'm thinking about it I keep coming across exciting examples for the archive community so I'm going to make this week *open source week* ta da!!

See here for a full definition of what makes a software open source according to the open source initiative. Some of the examples I have may actually be classed as freeware or shareware (see here for an explaination of the differences) but the general concept is that software is developed and is free to use to varying degrees. Which makes it a very web 2.0 idea and particularly brilliant for small archives to experiment with.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Ships, trains and plans...

Ships, trains and engines are going to be part of my life for the next two years in my new job and I've been considering how I can bring a little web 2.0 to my workplace so it has been nice to see the National Maritime Museum's blog and more recently their involvement in flickr commons for some inspiration.

Web Tech Guy and Angry Staff Person

I discovered this brilliant animation today:

Talking version here

Archives 2.0 in the UK

Archives Hub have posted a report on the conference held last week here. I wholeheartedly support Jane's outlook and approach to Archives 2.0 and I think the work that the Archives Hub has been done with

"an admirable sense of adventure, a sense of the missed opportunities that too much naval-gazing can bring about and also a general appreciation that if something takes relatively little time to do or to set up then it might be worth taking the plunge and seeing how it goes."

Friday, 20 March 2009

Archives 2.0 UK

Was alerted to these tweets by ArchivesNext. They were live tweets from the conference Archives 2.0: Shifting Dialogues between Users and Archivists down in Manchester this week.

I think we'll be able to get a better idea of the conference from the
ArchivesHub blog in the next week or so. However, its interesting to see twitter being used in this way and there are some useful links and thoughts about Archives 2.0 from the conference captured by twitter.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Book covers

The book cover archive and its accompanying blog are really more of a personal interest thing but hey it has archive in the title so I thought I'd put it on here as a tenuous link and a little bit of Monday whimsy.

I thought it was interesting that the site allows users to search by typeface as well as by the expected designer, author, title and publisher fields. Typography is a key part of book cover design and an element that users would want to be able to search on and this functionality gives the site added value.

The site also has the ability to comment and submit information to the site editors about each book cover.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Archives and the economy

An email on the NRA listserve from the National Council of Archives pointed me to this extract available from Hansard about the future of the Minton Archive of the Royal Doulton Ltd company.

As Lord Redesdale says in the extract this is not the first business archive that will have to be bought following the collapse of its parent company and it does make you wonder what will happen to these collections should other companies fall victim to the economic problems.

The debate mentions that the archive has been valued and will be marketed by Bonhams and the Lords are rightly concerned about the possibility of keeping the archive in the local area when the administrators must focus on getting the best price for it.

Is there anything that Archivists can do to help preserve business heritage and records? A draft
National Strategy for Business Archives (England & Wales) was released in January this year and one of its recommendations at an individual level is for Archivists to work hard at developing networks of expertise and shared experience to help improve the handling of business records.

Is there a role for Web 2.0 to help foster communication and networks amongst professionals? Are the listserves and society meetings enough? I've certainly found that when searching for information about practical archive issues such as how to construct a catalogue, the best boxes to buy, procedures for handling accessions there is very little available information out there being shared. This probably leads to a lot of reinvention of the wheel by individuals and if you are working alone you're probably never quite sure if you're doing it right. I'd like to see a central resource of practical tips and templates, the SOA site does this to a certain extent but its hard to find what you are looking for and often the material is restricted to members only.

The draft strategy doesn't explicitly mention use of Web 2.0 tools as being part of the solution but I think they could help.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Back on the wagon

Well I'm back on the blogging wagon, after a busy christmas and new year, starting a new job and reading too many craft blogs I'm ready to get back on board the Archives 2.0 wagon.

I'm not sure I have the energy to twitter as well as blog and facebook but lots of other interesting Archivists can and do twitter via Digital Archivist.

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