Stuart Lee


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Oxford University's Great War Archive project.

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  • c. 6000 digital images of primary source material (manuscripts, letters, service records) from major British WW1 poets.
    Online corpora of the full-texts of
    the poems.
    c. 500 Multimedia objects (photographs,
    audio and video) from the IWM.
    Publications of War (recruitment
    posters, trench papers etc.)
    Supporting educational materials
    (tutorials, resource packs, podcasts etc.)
  • Traditional Digitisation Projects vs Community Collections
    extra project that was undertaken as part of the funding known as The Great War Archive initiative - an example of what is called a ‘Community Collection Initiative’. Originally intended as a small adjunct, this rapidly became a major project in its own right, and has attracted considerable attention worldwide.
    Aim: To create a worthwhile digital collection - at low cost by ignoring the need for institutional digitisation and metadata creation
    Poster: Targeted specifically at genealogists, military collectors and enthusiasts, and the elderly
    2008, NPD’s Household Penetration Study: Ownership Landscape 2008 reported that nearly 75% of all US households owned at least one digital camera.
    UK many people have scanners and digital cameras and are web savvy,
    it would not be a wild claim to say the ability to digitize visual material is almost ubiquitous.
    an extraordinary resource just waiting to be exploited – namely Mass Amateur Digitization.
    The question is: how can we tap into this resource for the benefit of research and teaching?
  • Attachment after creation of contribution. Useful esp. when more than one attachment
  • In conjunction with this we ran a series of ‘submission roadshows’ to offer on the spot digitisation and advice. We would base ourselves in a local museum or library and invite people to bring the objects along on a particular day. We would then talk to them about the item, get them to fill in a form with further information about themselves and what they had brought (i.e. the basic metadata again), and then we would photograph/scan the item or items.
    To get the word out we targeted local newspapers, radios, and produced a series of small simple cards that we left in pubs, libraries, trains, and other public places.
    We also provided a ‘Submission Day Pack’ for libraries we could not visit which guided them through running their own days.
  • Small ad in Flickr comments field to kick-off
    Without the formal submission and metadata process
    assess the potential for user tagging and comments
    enhance metadata
    An interesting observation in all of this was the blurring between the amateur and the professional. Although the digitisation standards and the physical environments the public used (based on guidelines posted on our site) were not comparable with professional work-practices, and one would not want to rely on this process for archiving extremely rare items, they ‘did the job’ and provided thousands of usable digital surrogates.
    Moreover, the wealth of information in the collective public knowledge base is astounding, and demonstrated that many so-called ‘amateurs’, who are not necessarily part of academia, have a lot to contribute. The comments and discussions on the Flickr site alone demonstrates the depth of knowledge out there that can be tapped into.
    100th Anniversary soon of 1914-1918, if we had time we’d do this – pan-European Great War Archive?
  • George Cavan was a Company Sergeant Major in the 9th (Glasgow Highlanders) Battalion Highland Light Infantry. He lived with his family, his wife Jean and three daughters, in the Drill Hall in Carluke, Scotland. While away at training camp the orders came through to dispatch to France. The train he was on with his troops went through his home station but did not stop there. He threw out onto the platform a matchbox containing a note to his family. On one side was the name of his wife and on the other the message to the family. Someone picked up the matchbox and delivered it to the family. George was killed just a few days after arriving at the front in France on the 13th April, 1918. He lies in an unmarked grave but is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial. The items were submitted by Maureen Rogers, currently living in Australia.
  • Stuart Lee

    1. 1. The Great War Archive: Oxford University’s Community Collection Dr Stuart D Lee Reader in E-learning and Digital Libraries Director, Computing Services Senior Lecturer, English Faculty Merton College University of Oxford
    2. 2. To start • Cuts • Impact
    3. 3. The First World War Poetry Digital Archive 1996-1998 £50k 2006-2008 £450k
    4. 4.
    5. 5. Web 2.0 = new audiences and means ofWeb 2.0 = new audiences and means of disseminationdissemination Web 2.0 = new audiences and means ofWeb 2.0 = new audiences and means of disseminationdissemination RSS
    6. 6. Virtual Worlds (e.g. SecondLife)Virtual Worlds (e.g. SecondLife)Virtual Worlds (e.g. SecondLife)Virtual Worlds (e.g. SecondLife)
    7. 7. A ‘typical’ digitization project • 6,000+ digital images of rare/unique items related to the poets of WW1 • Several hundred historical photographs, audio/video clips • Selected by experts, curators, etc; digitised and catalogued professionally • Catalogued and presented for searching and browsing
    8. 8. Digital Imaging: A Practical Handbook (2000) Project Lifecycle • Instigation of Project • Assess and Select Material for Digitization • Prepare Material • Digitize • Edit • Deliver • Support Increase Access Meet Strategic Goals Preservation Increase Access Meet Strategic Goals Preservation
    9. 9. ContentDM
    10. 10. Changes
    11. 11. Some figures • 15m people in London each day • c. 85% own a digital camera or smartphone = 12.75m • If only 1% used their camera, and took 1 picture = 127,500 images TODAY • 20 minutes to catalogue an image using traditional levels of metadata • 42,500 hours • 21 years for one person
    12. 12. ‘The Factory made possible mass production, mass consumption … The web could make innovation and creativity a mass activity that engages millions … [future generations] will expect and welcome opportunities to participate, collaborate, share and work with their peers.’ C. Leadbeater We-Think (
    13. 13. ‘Community Collections’ • Online collections created by public communities for public communities • The public: - contributes material AND digitizes - agrees copyright - catalogues material
    14. 14.
    15. 15. Ran from March to June 2008
    16. 16.
    17. 17. Contribution: process
    18. 18. The Great War Archive: Submission Website WelcomeWelcome andand instructionsinstructions Simple onlineSimple online submissionssubmissions processprocess No need forNo need for registrationregistration
    19. 19. ContributorsContributors asked to agreeasked to agree to basic termsto basic terms & conditions& conditions
    20. 20. Enter contactEnter contact detailsdetails Not required to register. Can request to be kept anonymous.
    21. 21. SubmissionSubmission choicechoice Attach files / enter a story.
    22. 22. E.g.E.g. Attach fileAttach file
    23. 23. Enter basicEnter basic metadatametadata
    24. 24. ReviewReview submissionsubmission
    25. 25. SubmissionSubmission completecomplete ‘Thank you’ message Includes notice of when the collection goes Live, link to submit some more & a feedback form
    26. 26. Cataloguer &Cataloguer & Administrator:Administrator: To check items for their validity. To correct or add to the metadata To flag items of particular interest/value
    27. 27. Great War Archive: Submission Days
    28. 28. • 5 members of staff - 2 to digitize material (i.e. photograph and scan) - 2 to help catalogue and upload material - 1 to deal with the public as they come in • 2-3 computers, 1 flatbed scanner, 2 cameras (2 megapixels), tripods, flat surface, audio recorder
    29. 29.
    30. 30. Public contributors upload 5,900 digital objects to the website Project uploads 600 digital objects from submissions days 3,000 images in the Flickr Group since July 2008 600600 Great War Archive: What We Received
    31. 31. Gunner James Ryan
    32. 32. Total War
    33. 33. Disappearing History
    34. 34. Traditional Community Collection £40 per image $60 £3.50 per image $5.25
    35. 35. Digital Imaging: A Practical Handbook (2000) Project Lifecycle
    36. 36. Free software - CoCoCo: “collect and catalogue content contributed by website users” • Run collection • Export collection to web delivery system • Freely available, Open source
    37. 37. Project Woruldhord • • A community collection based on the Anglo-Saxons
    38. 38. 1st July - 14th October No submission days just online Not much publicly owned material from the period Concentrate more on ‘teaching resources’ Willing to accept - photographs, audio, video, presentations, handouts, reading lists, pre-prints, book chapters, works inspired by the period etc
    39. 39. Croydon Sittingbourne These items are from Project Woruldhord ( © Croydon Museum © Anglo-Saxon CSI: Sittingbourne
    40. 40. This item is from Project Woruldhord ( © Trustees of the British Museum
    41. 41. This item is from Project Woruldhord ( © K. Kilpatrck
    42. 42. This item is from Project Woruldhord ( © Matt Love (Engliscan Gesithas)
    43. 43. Results 400 individual contributions so far could be one image, one handout, or 1-200 images estimate around 3,500 ‘objects’ (c. £2 per object)
    44. 44. Next Steps • Launch Woruldhord in December/January • Further modification to CoCoCo software • Running a small Great War Archive in Germany (Spring, 2011) then possibly France • Large global initiative prior to 2014
    45. 45. Observations • Communities and existing networks are the key • Keep it focused, concentrate attention on one ‘big’ thing • Do not ‘overthink’ the problem • The public know more than we think • A cost effective way to create a mass of digital objects and engage the public • Reassess what is important?
    46. 46. To conclude • Cuts • Impact
    47. 47. This item is from The Great War Archive, University of Oxford (; © MAUREEN ROGERS
    48. 48. This item is from The Great War Archive, University of Oxford (; © MAUREEN ROGERS
    49. 49. The Great War Archive: Oxford University’s Community Collection Dr Stuart D Lee Reader in E-learning and Digital Libraries Director, Computing Services Senior Lecturer, English Faculty Merton College University of Oxford
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