26 February 2007

Archival Word of the Week: Holograph

This is not a hologram A holograph is a document written wholly in the author's own handwriting. See also: Collections of the Month: Love letters. Archives Hub Guided Tour: Scope and Content. Link: Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us .

Labels: ,

21 February 2007

Petition to the Prime Minister for freeing census data

1891 census return There's been a lot of news coverage of the PM's petitions website in the last week, to do with the issue of charging for use of the UK's roads, but one of the most popular petitions at the moment is one which relates to access to UK census data:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to reduce the classified period for census data from 100 years to 70 years. This would allow census information from 1911, 1921 and 1931 to be used by the general public researching their family history in the absence (or failing memories) of their elderly relatives. Birth, Marriage and Death information is already available so why is information about where people lived hidden.
This has attracted over 21,000 signatures so far, making it the fourth most popular on the site. The image of an 1891 census return was taken from The National Archives' Learning Curve resource, Focus on the Census.

Labels: ,

19 February 2007

Archival Word of the Week: Fonds

Fonz in store-roomA noun, singular, most often pronounced 'fonz'. This generally just means an archival collection, so when an archival description is at 'fonds-level', it's an overview without details of each individual item. Some archivists simply use the term 'collection', or treat the terms as interchangeable. But others reserve 'fonds' to distinguish a collection generated by a person, family, or organisation, as opposed to an 'artificial' collection, which has been gathered and arranged by a collector or a repository. Sadly, the term 'fonds' does not seem to appear in this sense in the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED does include 'fond', meaning "source of supply, stock, store", which is apt in the sense of the archival collection providing a fund of data, which we can elaborate with metadata. But does anyone want to suggest some published examples to the OED for the archival use of the word? And can anybody guide us with the pronunciation? See also: Archives Hub Guided Tour Level of Description


18 February 2007

Water flows on

15 February 2007

How green are our online services?

Picture of fig plant and monitor The Museums Computer Group's JISCmail list had an interesting thread yesterday discussing the environmental impact and sustainability of museums' online services. Matthew Cock of the British Museum started it off with this question:
I was thinking about how a museum might make its activities more sustainable, in terms of reducing its carbon footprint, etc. And then I got to thinking about the museum's website (as is my job) and the internet in general. On a large scale, how much energy does the internet use up? Is anyone aware of any figures? On a local scale, we could evaluate the energy used up by the servers hosting our site, and the PCs and infrastructure inside our Museum. But how far could we decrease these (I'm not going to even mention 'off-setting' as an option), even as we aim to increase our site visits, and ensure good bandwidth and zero downtime? We increasingly demand that our websites are accessible, and require of 3rd parties that they help us to achieve that - is there a place for requirements that our ISPs use renewable sources of energy?
All the servers we're using require lots of power to run and to keep them cool. Is that offset by the trips we save people making by putting lots of the information they need online? I wasn't sure about this comment from Nick Poole though:
If we are talking about the environmental impact specifically of digital publishing by museums, then I would argue that this is offset by several orders of magnitude by the mostly tedious and tangential blogosphere. If we're talking about personal choices, preventing unnecessary blogging would probably be up there at number one on my list.
Oh dear. Should we shut this blog down?

Labels: , ,

14 February 2007

Map of the human heart?

lesbian gay bisexual trans history month 2007 February is LGBT History Month. This was the theme for a Collections of the Month feature last year. While sketching out an early draft, I thought of Foucault's observation that homosexuals didn't exist until the 19th century, and it occurred to me that this was true in the same way that Italians didn't exist until the 19th century either. So maybe a portolano chart on the homepage... That one didn't get past the draft stage.


13 February 2007

Inquire Within Upon Everything

I recently watched an episode of the Imagine... TV programme presented by Alan Yentob on the rise of the World Wide Web. One snippet that particularly delighted me was the reference to a Victorian book called 'Inquire Within Upon Everything'. This is a compendium of advice on every conceivable subject, from alleviating aches and pains to social etiquette. It was the initial inspiration for Tim-Berners Lee when he was developing the software program that was the precursor to the Web - he named it 'Inquire' in homage to the book. I like the idea that the World Wide Web was inspired by an obscure Victorian book. It gives a kind of sense of the continuation and spread of the world's knowledge from a little-known book to the world wide scale of the Internet. On a completely different note, I was chatting to Brian Kelly of UKOLN about the wonders of RSS and blogging. However, we agreed that setting up RSS feeds may not be for everyone. You now have an alternative - you can sign up to an RSS email service so that you receive regular emails instead of RSS feeds - read more about this on Brian's blog - I believe that he's testing a few out...

Labels: , ,

08 February 2007

E-infrastructure report recommends creation of finding aids

A report by the Office of Science and Innovation's e-Infrastructure Working Group entitled Developing the UK’s e-infrastructure for science and innovation was published today. Among the key recommendations of the 'Search and Navigation' sub-group's report was:
5.2 Finding aids for the nation’s physical information collections In a world where access to electronic information resources is becoming the norm for researchers, the working group envisages it will be increasingly important to deliver the full range of available research material digitally. At the present time, vast quantities of material remain accessible only in traditional physical formats, discoverable only via clumsy or labour-intensive mechanisms. Recommendation: To bring these physical collections to the research community through a process of creating digital catalogues and other “finding aids”, as well as digitising content where it is feasible to do so either in collaboration with private sector partners, where appropriate, or through public funding initiatives. Benefit: Researchers and the research process will benefit from increased remote access to information resources that are currently only available in physical form at particular geographic locations. Risk: There is a risk that the cost of the process will outweigh potential benefits if the resources prove to be poorly utilised by the research community.
This was carried through to the final report (section 6.3.2) as:
Finding Aids Programme. We recommend a programme to make more accessible to the research community the vast amount of UK material that is currently accessible only in traditional physical formats, discoverable only through labour-intensive mechanisms.
I love the idea of existing finding aids being 'clumsy'! I think that the risk is rather over-stated, but overall I'm delighted to see this recommendation in the report. Let's hope that it will be translated into much-needed funding to achieve the objective.