The National Archives


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Presentation by James Strachan, The National Archives. Given at the London Museum, Libraries and Archives Group conference April 2007.

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The National Archives

  1. 2. The National Archives
  2. 3. Our vision <ul><ul><li>Lead and transform information management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Guarantee the survival of today’s information for tomorrow </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bring history to life for everyone </li></ul></ul>
  3. 4. What’s happened to TNA <ul><ul><li>A gigantic online transformation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Selection </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Access </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Advice </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Preservation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Awareness </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Aims of the organisation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business practices </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Organisational culture </li></ul></ul>
  4. 5. April 1997
  5. 6. 1996-7 Annual Report <ul><ul><li>“ The Chancery Lane List Improvement Project has been completed after five years of strenuous effort by 33 staff and 34 specialist editors, producing 85 linear metres of new lists… Over the next few years, working as rapidly as resources allow, our aim is to provide an on-line service to users all over the world, starting with finding aids, progressing to services and ordering systems and eventually to digitised images of the records themselves.” </li></ul></ul>
  6. 7. April 2007
  7. 8. How we live now <ul><ul><li>We look for things on Google, buy things on eBay and call people on Skype </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We email from anywhere and handwriting makes us tired </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We don’t understand why censuses are online but birth certificates aren’t </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Two-thirds of us have broadband access </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We are impatient and unforgiving </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We fear viruses and big government databases more than war or disease </li></ul></ul>
  8. 9. What we have done <ul><ul><ul><li>From 1997: transcribed many of our paper catalogues </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Automated document ordering and copying </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Several generations of websites </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Scanned about 7m priority documents ourselves </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Awarded licences to private sector partners to digitise censuses , passenger lists , WW1 service records etc. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Introduced search and wiki technology </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Paused for breath </li></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 10. Customer focus <ul><ul><ul><li>Tradition of formal consultation with readers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Extended to online and cataloguing panels </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Focus groups, card-sorting etc. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Input from front-line staff </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Suggestions and complaints all individually handled </li></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 11. TNA’s digital strategy <ul><ul><li>Increasingly an online archive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Digitise popular records series, often funded by private sector (census etc.) or academic bodies (Cabinet papers) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Remote advice/ordering of digital copies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make our catalogues and databases properly searchable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Influence the creation and usage of information by government </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Open to risk </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Listen hard to what customers want </li></ul></ul>
  11. 12. Decisive factors <ul><ul><li>Google </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Broadband </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Information as a right, not a privilege </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Family history </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1901 census launch </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Licensing to private sector </li></ul></ul>
  12. 13. New expectations What most people want What people mostly get
  13. 14. Inconvenient realities Where some would like us to be TIME EASE OF ACCESS We are here Expectation Reality
  14. 15. … but easier for customers <ul><ul><ul><li>Visitors to Kew are UP </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Satisfaction at Kew is UP </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Access to public records is WAY UP </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The future is BETTER! </li></ul></ul></ul>
  15. 16. What we offer now
  16. 17. What we aim for Useful metadata about 10m+ documents Search box <ul><li>Results list </li></ul><ul><li>Results list </li></ul><ul><li>Results list </li></ul>Document download Information about how to get document Visit to Kew or another archive to read document Digital copy of document Advice
  17. 18. Advice
  18. 19. Our catalogue
  19. 20. Other catalogues
  20. 21. Documents
  21. 22. 2007-8 Annual Report <ul><ul><li>Ratio of online visits to onsite visits: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ratio of downloads to physical document deliveries: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Percentage of documents usefully catalogued: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>>100:1 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>100:1 </li></ul></ul>1%?
  22. 23. What we’ll do next <ul><ul><ul><li>Continue helter-skelter with private sector digitisation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Tidy up our online catalogue to make it searchable </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Improve the way we present information to enable more self-help </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>For 99.999% that will never be digitised commercially, find better ways of digitising on demand </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Get deep links to search engines </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Try and help the archive sector follow suit </li></ul></ul></ul>
  23. 24. Lessons <ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t launch censuses all in one day! </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Commitment to a long-term programme </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Consult everyone, and build what they want </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>People will pay for something they value </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Importance of explaining what you are doing </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Try things out; if it doesn’t work, drop it! </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Awareness of the changing web context </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Prioritise </li></ul></ul></ul>
  24. 25. Things that will be different in future <ul><ul><ul><li>Search, search, search </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Knowing how to find, not what there is to find </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>User/social contribution and interaction </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Volunteering </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Personalisation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Storage and preservation </li></ul></ul></ul>
  25. 26. The hardest part <ul><ul><ul><li>Being online as a way of life, not an add-on </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Following where the web leads – 2.0 etc. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>UGC – customers as experts, not us </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Metadata and the archival profession </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Marketing and Kew </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Kew and our future </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Taking the traditional audience with us </li></ul></ul></ul>
  26. 27. Thank you
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