25 February 2009

Let there be images!

I'm embroiled in our Enhancement Project at the moment, part of which is about enabling images to be displayed within the Archives Hub. Well, it's actually more than that - it's about using the tag and related tags to enable links to digital representations of archives and to enable images to be embedded at collection and item level. It's something we're really excited about, and we feel that it's important to make this step in order to keep the Archives Hub moving onwards and upwards. Due to the distributed nature of the Archives Hub, we aren't able to use the element, but we've made the most of the tags on offer. We're implementing options for embedded images; links to files; thumbnail links to full-size images; groups of images representing the same item. We've made a conscious effort to implement this in a very standards-based way. I suppose you could say that the principle should be that if the EAD records are put into another system, everything should still work, and the markup does allow for this. I think that this approach is also important because we have a service where we are not creating the data - our contributors are - so we need to try to meet their various requirements whilst at the same time not knowing exactly what they will contribute. For example, we have to be aware that they might enter a large, high resolution image as a thumbnail and the system needs to be able to cope with this. I see it as a learning experience for both us and our contributors, and I think that it's important to take that sort of perspective with the Hub. I do hope that Hub contributors take advantage of this development. It will be great for them to be able to include images and link directly to content. We've made it very easy to add the necessary markup by providing the facility to do this within our new Data Creation and Editing Template, so there is no need to get down and dirty with the EAD markup unless they want to. We'll be talking to our contributors about this at our workshops in March/April, which are already pretty much full, so that's a good indication for us. For more information, see our page on adding digital objects to Hub descriptions.

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17 February 2009

The Archives 2.0 Hub

No...we're not thinking of changing the name...but I am thinking about a presentation that I'm giving on the Archives Hub in the context of 'Archives 2.0'. We've been doing a great deal of work recently that relates to the interoperability of the Hub. As part of an Enhancements Project taking place at Mimas, we are promoting data sharing, and an important part of this is work on import and export routines between services. Ideally, of course, it would be great to share data without any need for complex routines that effectively alter the structure of the data to make it suitable for different services, and remote searching of other data sources is something that we are also going to be looking at. But I guess that whilst we like to think of our service as interoperable, it's currently still within certain limitations. It is problematic even sharing data held as EAD (Encoded Archival Description XML for archives) because EAD is really quite a permissive standard, allowing a great deal of flexibility and thus in some ways inhibiting easy data exchange. It is even more challenging to share data held in different databases. Many archives use the CALM system or the AdLib system, and we are working towards improving the export option from these systems, thus allowing archivists to have all of the advantages of an integrated management system, whilst at the same time enabling them to contribute to a cross-searching service such as the Hub. I firmly believe that Archives 2.0, as an implementation of Web2.0 for archives, should primarily be viewed as an attitude rather than a suite of tools or services, characterised by openness, sharing, experimentation, collaboration, integration and flexibility that enables us to meet different user needs. Whilst widgets and whizzy features on websites are certainly a way to work towards this, I do think that more fundamentally we should be thinking about the data itself and how we can open this up.

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02 February 2009

Charles Darwin and Evolution

Endangered species This year sees the 200th anniversary of the birth of the geologist and naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1892) and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his revolutionary book On the Origin of Species, which explained his theory of natural selection and evolution. Image: Detail of a design by Tom Eckersley (1914-1995) for the World Wildlife Fund (now WWF-UK), showing species in danger of extinction - due to some very un-natural selection. Image provided by University of the Arts London with all rights reserved by the owners: the Tom Eckersley Estate and London College of Communication. Image taken by Graham Goldwater, with rights reserved by University of the Arts London, contact: archive-enquiries@arts.ac.uk, 02075 149 335.