Opening up the archives: from basement to browser


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Presentation at CILIP Rare Books and Special Collections Conference, Coleraine, 7 Sep 2006

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  • Opening up the archives: from basement to browser

    1. 1. Opening up the archives: from basement to browser Amanda Hill
    2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Current situation with archive gateways in UK </li></ul><ul><li>Archives Hub </li></ul><ul><ul><li>technology, methodology, ethos </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>usage, engaging with audiences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>development plans, for Hub and beyond </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. Archives Online <ul><li>1998 report by the National Council on Archives </li></ul><ul><li>Vision of a single point of access to full catalogues of all archives in the UK </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>National Register of Archives available online in 1995, via web in 1998 </li></ul>
    4. 4. Progress since 1998 <ul><li>A time of rapid change </li></ul><ul><li>A number of ‘strands’ of the UK National Archive Network have been developed, usually in response to the availability of funding </li></ul><ul><li>Many individual repositories are also making their own catalogues available online </li></ul>
    5. 5. Existing archive networks <ul><li>A2A: full catalogues of English archives, often down to the level of individual items </li></ul><ul><li>AIM25: collection-level descriptions of archives in HE and learned institutions in the London area </li></ul><ul><li>ANW: collection-level descriptions of archives in Wales </li></ul><ul><li>Archives Hub: collection-level and some full catalogues of archives in educational establishments </li></ul><ul><li>JANUS: full catalogues of collections in Cambridge </li></ul><ul><li>SCAN: collection-level descriptions of archives in Scotland </li></ul>
    6. 6. Collection-level vs. full catalogues 250 1,750 Janus 81,950 71,000 Total 20,000 Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) 6,000 Archives Network for Wales (ANW) 19,500 250 Archives Hub 6,200 AIM25 30,000 69,000 A2A Collection-level Full catalogues Resource
    7. 7. Archives Hub <ul><li>Aim: to provide a single point of access to information about archives held in the UK’s tertiary education sector </li></ul><ul><li>Audience: academics and students (JISC-funded), but free to access for all </li></ul><ul><li>One of a range of national services provided by MIMAS at the University of Manchester </li></ul><ul><li>Development work done by a team at the University of Liverpool </li></ul>
    8. 8. History <ul><li>Began in 1999 as a one-year pilot project </li></ul><ul><ul><li>15 HE archive repositories took part, contributing 3,000 (mainly) collection-level descriptions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Became a JISC service in 2001 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Now around 150 repositories, mainly in HE, but some beyond (e.g. Medical institutions) </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Funding <ul><li>Service and development are funded by the JISC, in 3-yearly phases </li></ul><ul><li>Content: universities and colleges have applied for £800,000 in response to JISC funding calls to create collection-level descriptions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Additional content (including lower levels of description) is often created as part of day-to-day work of contributing archives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Much content has been provided without JISC funding </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. What's in the Hub? <ul><li>Nearly 20,000 archival descriptions, covering a huge range of subjects </li></ul><ul><li>Some catalogues down to item level: 150,000 archival 'units of description' in the system </li></ul><ul><li>Much of the information in the Hub had not been available online before </li></ul>
    11. 11. Methodology <ul><li>Responsibility for creating descriptions has always been with the institutions </li></ul><ul><li>Raw materials of the service are text files structured according to the international archival XML standard EAD. </li></ul><ul><li>Online template </li></ul>
    12. 12. Data quality <ul><li>Data Editor </li></ul><ul><li>Data creation guidelines </li></ul><ul><ul><li>'For Archivists' </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Contributors' training </li></ul><ul><li>Indexing standards </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Subject finder </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Usage levels
    14. 14. Users
    15. 15. Searching styles
    16. 16. Search terms, August 2006 <ul><li>Tolkein papers </li></ul><ul><li>london transport </li></ul><ul><li>bangor cathedral </li></ul><ul><li>ethnomethodology </li></ul><ul><li>grave-robbing </li></ul><ul><li>bee beetle </li></ul><ul><li>middleeastcrises </li></ul><ul><li>Teddy Boys </li></ul><ul><li>Harry Potter </li></ul><ul><li>ninja </li></ul><ul><li>How many people were killed during Ida Amin's power </li></ul>
    17. 17. Getting feedback from users <ul><li>Virtual service: harder to reach users </li></ul><ul><li>Online surveys </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Incentives needed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Responses often skewed </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Impact analysis </li></ul>
    18. 18. Impact <ul><li>Expected uses: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Assisting researchers in finding collections </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Allowing users to make connections between different collections: browsing subject terms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Saving wasted journeys </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Other uses </li></ul><ul><ul><li>As a tool for librarians and archivists answering queries from users </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use in training sessions for students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>As a promotional tool for archives in general </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>As a source of information for information professionals </li></ul></ul><ul><li> and forthcoming report of JISC Review of Resource Discovery Services </li></ul>
    19. 19. Beyond finding aids… <ul><li>September 2001: Collection of the Month </li></ul><ul><li>July 2003: 'Guided Tour' </li></ul><ul><li>January 2004: 'For Archivists' section </li></ul><ul><li>February 2006: Archives Hub Blog </li></ul>
    20. 20. Architecture <ul><li>Originally, all data was held centrally, on a server in Manchester </li></ul><ul><li>In July 2005, the service moved to a distributed model, where institutions can choose to host their own data, using a free version of the Hub's own software </li></ul>
    21. 21. Spokes <ul><li>Aim is to make it as easy as possible for contributors to put their EAD files on to the Archives Hub, and to keep them up-to-date </li></ul><ul><li>Software provides a web search form for repository's own descriptions, plus SRU (Search and Retrieve by URL) and Z39.50 access </li></ul>
    22. 22. Test Spoke at MIMAS
    23. 24. How it all works…
    24. 25. Indexing Harvesting Searching Retrieval Combined indexes Archives Hub website Data (EAD files) Indexes Indexes Indexes of MC Data Leeds University Library Edinburgh University Library Key Local website Virtual databases Local website Distributed Archives Hub Data (EAD files) Data held at Manchester Computing (MC)
    25. 26. Losing control… <ul><li>Potential issues with data quality, reliability and security of remote servers </li></ul><ul><li>Memorandum of understanding sets out expectations on both sides </li></ul>
    26. 27. Future developments <ul><li>Archives Hub records have always been available through the web interface and the Z39.50 search and retrieval protocol </li></ul><ul><li>New Cheshire3 version of the central Archives Hub will allow: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>further protocols to be supported, including SRW/U and OAI-PMH </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>records to be exposed in different formats, including MARC XML and Dublin Core </li></ul></ul>
    27. 28. Archives UK (aUK) <ul><li>Successor to Linking Arms </li></ul><ul><li>Plan to use The National Archives' 'Global Search' technology to search data from all other archive networks </li></ul><ul><li>Details yet to be sorted out, but Archives Hub will be involved </li></ul>
    28. 29. More information <ul><li>On creating EAD with the tools on the Archives Hub and with XML software : </li></ul><ul><li>Spokes software: </li></ul><ul><li>SRW/SRU protocols: </li></ul><ul><li>My e-mail address: [email_address] </li></ul>