Towards a national archives network - Nick Kingsley (The National Archives)Presentation Transcript
Nick Kingsley 22 April 2010 Towards a National Archives Network?
Archival holdings consist of collections (or fonds) representing any number of archival objects; the collections are the primary units of management
Collections consisting of more than a few documents are likely to have a natural or imposed internal hierarchical structure, which should be reflected in detailed catalogues
Ideally catalogues are linked to authority records for names and places, and to taxonomies for subjects, which serve as access points, disambiguate terms and provide context
Online representations of detailed catalogues need to render the hierarchical structure and linkages successfully
Archive users typically use a combination of search and browse approaches in resource discovery
Catalogues compiled over a century or more are not consistent in style, language or structure but the basic elements in the modern international standard, ISAD(G) can usually be recognised
Non-archivists start here...
A short history of archival networking
In the beginning there was the National Register of Archives
Archives Online report published by National Council on Archives in 1998
Articulated the concept of a single online point of access from which it would be possible to search and browse all the available catalogue descriptions of UK archives, linked to a name authority file
The technology envisaged at the time, of course, has changed. But the objective remains valid.
The realities of the funding silos meant that this report was taken forward by a series of different projects which committed to a basis of interoperability to protect the potential for future integration or cross-searching
Many flowers bloom...
A2A: multi-level lists mainly from local authority archives in England
Archives Hub: often new or edited collection-level descriptions mainly from University and specialist institutions
AIM25: often new or edited collection-level descriptions from specialist archives in London
Archives Wales: collection-level descriptions (perhaps multi-level in future) from all archives in Wales
SCAN: collection and multi-level lists from mainly local authority archives in Scotland
JANUS: lists from higher education institutions in Cambridge
...but how sustainable are they in the current funding environment?
Individual repository online catalogues were thought likely to replace the networks, but they have usually proved disappointing by comparison with the facilities supported by the aggregators:
Sometimes constrained by lack of technical support from parent organisation or by use of platforms acquired for other purposes
Two widely adopted commercial platforms, whose suppliers prefer to take forward only developments commanding majority support among user group
Rarely offer robust and flexible search and browse facilities
Rarely comprehensive in coverage
Will a next generation of the technology be affordable in the current climate? ICA-AtoM represents an open source competitor which may become more widely adopted.
The National Archives and Linked, Open Data
The National Archives, as the UK regulator for the EU Public Sector Information Directive, is committed to supporting and promoting open data
The National Archives has also been a pioneer in exploiting the potential of Linked Data through its website www.legislation.gov.uk – one of the first large-scale implementations of linked data
Experience with legislation has led us to rebuild the PRONOM file format registry using a linked data approach. This is available on the TNA labs site: http://labs.nationalarchives.gov.uk/wordpress/
The third area where we are exploring the use of linked data is around resource discovery.
We have recently launched the Discovery system on the TNA Labs site. This does not employ a linked data approach but uses the Autonomy category classifier to create a taxonomy which can be applied automatically across the 11,000,000 records in the dataset.
We are exploring using a linked data approach (Open Annotations) to connect entries in the catalogue to user generated content relating to them
We are about to review the business purpose and technical infrastructure of the NRA and will explore using a linked data approach to connect elements of a distributed name authority file and also to connect different levels of description of the same collection on different sites: for example a short description in the NRA, a collection level description in AIM25 and a multi-level description on a repository website