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Section for Archives and Technology (SAT)

Meetings

Minutes of recent Section for Archives and Technology meetings, and presentation slides about developments and current research in the fields of archival standards and resource discovery are available from the Section for Archives and Technology Community pages.

Meet the Committee

The new Committee for SAT was elected at the A.G.M. on 30th April 2018.

Chair: Jenny Bunn This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Jenny is a Lecturer and Programme Director for the MA in Archives and Records Management, University College London. She graduated from University College London in 1995 with an MA in Archives and Records Management and has worked at a variety of institutions including the V&A Museum, The Royal Bank of Scotland and The National Archives.  Jenny undertook a PhD in Archive Studies 2007-2011. She is currently an editor of Archives and Records.

Joint Training Officers: Emma Hancox This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   and Rachael Krier This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Emma is an archivist at the Library of Birmingham. Following a year as a graduate trainee digital archivist at the Bodleian Libraries, she graduated from UCL with an MA in Archives and Records Management in 2012. Emma has held Assistant Archivist roles at UAL’s archives centre and at the Wellcome Library.  Here, she project managed the Library’s third party mental health digitisation project and catalogued the archive of Mind the mental health charity. Between April and June 2015 Emma was seconded to Médecins Sans Frontières in Brussels and carried out a records survey and collected digital records relating to the Ebola crisis for internal review. 

Rachael is Metadata Creator (Georgian Papers Programme) at the Royal Archives. Having completing her Masters at Aberystwyth University in 2008, Rachael undertook her first professional archivist posts at Lancashire Record Office and has since held cataloguing roles at Nottinghamshire Archives and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Rachael is currently one of the cataloguers on a major digitisation project seeking to make freely available papers relating to the House of Hanover housed in the Royal Archives and Royal Library. She is  particularly interested in digitisation, online learning, and digital initiatives to widen public access and participation.

Communications (Membership): Sophie Smith This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Sophie graduated from the University of Liverpool with a postgraduate diploma in Archives and Records Management in December 2017, before which she volunteered in Wigan and Leigh Archives and at Liverpool Maritime Museum, also undertaking a paid short term project moving a departmental library of books and manuscripts. In 2016 Sophie won a 'Young Volunteer of the Year' award for Greater Manchester. She is currently working as a project archivist for the Science Museum Group in Wroughton where sheis required to catalogue, repack and digitise materials pertaining to Genetically Modified Crops.

Communications (ARC Special Issue): Elisabeth Thurlow This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Elisabeth is Digital Archives and Collections Implementation Manager at the University of the Arts London (UAL). She completed an MA in Contemporary History at the University of Sussex before undertaking graduate traineeships at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Guardian newspaper. Elisabeth graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Archives and Records Management from University College London in 2015. Following qualification, she returned to Kew Gardens as a Project Officer, cataloguing the Annals of Botany collection. Elisabeth later joined the University of the Arts London as an Assistant Archivist, before working as the first professional archivist at St George’s, University of London. More recently, she has held digital specialist roles at the Royal College of Nursing and returned to UAL in 2018 to implement a new digital preservation system.

Communications (Website): Jim Ranahan This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Jim is a collections archivist at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.  He has a passion for communicating the richness and variety of records to new audiences - and to helping established audiences explore different forms and sources of archives.  Jim sees technology in its various forms as an integral element in achieving these objectives - through promotion, access, monitoring and preservation.  He specialises in the care and use of 'visual records' - photographic and cartographic collections.  Jim represents ARA on BRICMICS - the British and Irish Committee for Map Information & Cataloguing Systems.  He is particularly interested in the archival opportunities and challenges posed by GIS, LiDAR and other recording and surveying technologies.

Social Media Officer: Andrew Janes This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Andrew joined The National Archives in 2008 straight from the Archive Administration course at Aberystwyth University and has worked there ever since. Initially he was a public services archivist and map curator before moving to the Catalogue & Taxonomy Department in 2014. Andrew's current role as Senior Archivist (Future Catalogues) focuses on improving TNA's catalogue and the descriptive metadata that it contains. He is particularly interested in how digital archival finding aids can be made better for everyone, and in low-barrier methods of enhancing data using tools such as Excel.

Committee Member (Relationship with Researchers): Dr James Baker 

James Baker is a Lecturer in Digital History and Archives at the University of Sussex and at the Sussex Humanities Lab. He is a Software Sustainability Institute Fellow, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and holds degrees from the University of Southampton and the University of Kent.
 
James cares about how people in the past interacted with things. His published research has focused on topics as diverse as long eighteenth century British satirical art and near contemporary information technologies. Recent work has examined personal digital archives, the analysis of large-scale digital collections, the use of music information retrieval methods to mine oral history collections, and software pedagogy. Current funded projects focus on digital forensics (European Commission) and the preservation of intangible cultural heritage (British Council).
 
Prior to joining Sussex, James held positions of Digital Curator at the British Library and Postdoctoral Fellow with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. He is a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College, a convenor of the Institute of Historical Research Digital History seminar, and sits on the editorial board of the The Programming Historian.
 
Committee Member (Relationship with Digital Preservation Coalition): Chris Fryer
 
We currently have a vacancy for the role of Secretary / Treasurer.  If you are interested in joining the SAT committee in this or another capacity, please contact Jenny Bunn This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Digital memories and digital futures: look out for our ARC special issue - September 2018! 

We are excited to coordinate September's issue of ARC.  This will examine how digital technologies change our approach to work, bringing new possibilities to the sector.  

 


Upcoming events

A series of events is being planned.  Please keep checking the website and our twitter feed on @ARAArchiTech 


Past events

Artificial Intelligence and Archives, 30 April 2018

Machines - like small children - may misclassify a pink monkey's tail as a flamingo Image credit Mark Bell

 

 

 

 

'Machines - like children - may misclassify a pink monkey's tail as a flamingo' Image Credit: Mark Bell

 

A Report by Jenny Bunn, University College London and Chair of the Section for Archives & Technology:

This event centred around two presentations; one from Mark Bell of The National Archives and the other from Olivia Vane, a PhD student from the Royal College of Arts.

 

Mark started things off, with a brief introduction to Artificial Intelligence, before narrowing down to machine learning; one aspect of this wider field. Using the example of his young son learning how to recognise a flamingo, he managed to convey a good grounding in the mechanisms involved and how these translated into technologies such as the use of neural networks. He then outlined how The National Archives was starting to investigate, through collaborative doctoral partnerships, the application of machine learning and similar techniques to archival problems, including predicting the applicability of certain Freedom of Information exemptions to highly sensitive data (http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/~graham/) and the searching and browsing of the large web archive corpus. This work, whilst still at the experimental stage, is starting to suggest that there is the potential for such technologies to support the sector in its work, particularly with regards to coping with increasing volumes of digital material.

 

Next up Olivia Vane discussed examples of her work in designing and implementing a variety of visualisations of cultural collections – see http://oliviavane.co.uk/ for further details. Having undertaken a number of user evaluations of her work, she highlighted the issues of trust and transparency with regards to the ways in which her visualisations had been derived. In some instances, this was not felt to be a concern, e.g. in providing visualisations for explorative purposes only, but in others it was of great concern, e.g. in providing visualisations based on textual analysis of source material from which conclusions might be drawn for the purposes of research and interpretation. This prompted some discussion around whether or not archive services should be concentrating on developing their own visualisations, or on getting their collections into a form that would allow others to design and develop their own visualisations, specific to their own purposes.

 

Our thanks go to both the speakers and all the attendees for making this event such a thought-provoking and interesting glimpse of things that might be to come.

 

Digital Ambition, 27 March 2017

Whilst ‘digital’ presents many challenges we know archivists are responding with ambitious projects to secure the future accessibility of our cultural heritage.

Programme:

10:30-11:00 Tea/coffee and registration

11:00-11:30 Welcome and Hull City of Culture Digital Archive – Simon Wilson, University of Hull

11:30-12:10 Making the most of open source software – Jenny Mitcham, University of York

12:10-12:30 SAT AGM

12:30-13:30 Networking lunch

13:30-14:10 Collaborative Digital Preservation in the East of England – Gary Tuson, Norfolk Record Office

14:10-14:50 From secretary hand to software: building archive skills for the future– Rachel MacGregor, Lancaster University

14:50-15:20 Open discussion with tea/coffee

15:20-15:30 Close – chair



Cataloguing Born Digital Material, 3 November 2014

Presentations (in PDF format) from this event are now available as is a record of the discussions that took place in the afternoon.

Intricacies of Born Digital Description: User Expectations and Digital Realities, Anthea Seles, Digital Transfer Manager, The National Archives
The theory and the truth: Cataloguing a hybrid archive, Chris Hilton and Victoria Sloyan, Wellcome Library
Cataloguing: everything or nothing?, Jessica Womack and Rebecca Webster, Institute of Education
A non-archivist's perspective on cataloguing born digital material, Jenny Mitcham, Digital Archivist, University of York
Lightning talks: Ellie Robinson, London School of Economics (talking about the Women’s Parliamentary Radio Archive), Chris Fryer, Parliamentary Archives (talking about work in progress), John Langdon, Tate Archives (talking about the PERICLES project) 


 Digital Preservation event, Hive, Worcestershire 8 Apr 2014

Presentations (in PDF format) from this event are now available

Getting Started – the research phase, Jenny Bunn, UCL

Getting a Feel for It – the experimental phase , Simon Wilson, Hull History Centre

Getting Real – working out what it means for you:
Case study 1: SCAT Toolkit, Gloucestershire Archives (in-house approach) Karen Davidson

Case study 2: Conservation and Digital Centre for Wales (regional approach) Hayden Burns and Oliver Tickner - Overview and Archivematica next steps

The day also referred to the TNA research on Cloud storage (with questions raised during consultation)


 

Research

SAT helps to support projects funded by the ARA Research Fund. Recent projects with which SAT (or formerly DSG) have been involved have included:

SAT also undertakes its own research, such as the 'We're all digital archivists now?' survery carried out in 2012. All in all there were 62 responses to the survey (although not all of those 62 answered every question) and a full report of the results is available to download (PDF).

Please see the report to make your own judgements. A few of the findings are highlighted below, but please remember that the small sample size does make it difficult to generalise.

  • Most practitioners are reasonably confident that the digital material they hold will be accessible in 10 years’ time.
  • There are decidedly mixed levels of awareness with regards to projects, models, organisations and tools within the field, e.g. whereas 43.4% (23 out of 53) have heard of the OAIS (Open Archival Information System) Reference Model, only 11.3% (6 out of 53) have heard of ISO 16363 (Audit and Certification of Trustworthy Digital Repositories).
  • Even when awareness of a specific tool is high, use of that tool as part of business as usual is low, e.g. Only 30.2% (16 out of 53) had no idea what DROID (Digital Record Object Identification) was, but of the other 69.8% who had heard of it, only 11.3% (6 out of 53) were using it as a part of their work.
  • Only 30.2% (16 out of 53) described themselves as being currently active in the preservation of born digital material.
  • Just under half (25 out of 53) would not consider applying for a post advertised with the job title ‘Digital Archivist’

Also illuminating are the comments, which seem to show that although some do not wish to lay claim to the title ‘Digital Archivist’ because ‘I don't have the technical knowledge to warrant such a description’, others take against the title because they do not wish to recognise such a format distinction, e.g. ‘I am an archivist that deals with all material regardless of format.’

The results were previously released and discussed briefly at the Archives and Records Association Conference at the end of August. Here too the sense that, as archivists, we do not wish to be defined by format came through very strongly, as did a sense of uncertainty (but not fear) with regards to dealing with born digital material.

The results of this survey then provide a snapshot of a profession just starting to incorporate born digital material into their day to day working practices, but also one secure in the belief that ensuring the long term preservation of such material is very much their business.

 


 

Training

Providing training is a major part of the work of the Section for Archives and Technology. If you would like to suggest speakers or subjects for future training sessions please contact our training officer.

Other ARA training events may also be of interest to DSG members.