30 June 2009

Sustainable content project

You may have heard about the JISC-funded project that the Archives Hub is currently working on, to improve export routines from CALM and AdLib into the Hub and AIM25 – I’ve been filling various mailing-lists with requests for volunteers. I’m going to be posting progress updates on the blog as the project goes along. The project started in April, and is scheduled to run for 12 months. The idea is to enable archives that use CALM and AdLib to easily provide the descriptions to the Archives Hub and AIM25. No need to create new records, just export them. Most of my work so far has been liaising with potential participants: we’ve had 20 volunteers so far, from a nice range of institutions. Once we’ve finalised who we’ll be working with, I’ll post a list here. Alongside this, I’ve been building a database to handle the data we’ll be getting in from the participants. It’s just a fairly simple Access database, but I’m very happy with it, for a number of reasons: partly because it’s the most complicated database I’ve ever designed; partly because there’s a nice sense of security in knowing that I’m prepared for data to start coming in. What pleases me most, though, is how building the database forced me to step back and look at the project in more detail. To build the database I had to know exactly what information we wanted to put into it, and what we wanted to get out. This led to a really good brainstorming session with Jane where we clarified the aims of the project, and exactly how we want to achieve them. Data has just started coming in from some of our volunteers, so there’s a lot of EAD/XML in my future! The images shows a shot of the database containing some dummy data.


17 June 2009

Optimistic outcome for optimising the Hub

Paddy, Steve and I (Jane) have spent the last 4 months working on an interesting JISC project to optimise Archives Hub pages for search engines, as part of the Strategic Content Alliance
Initiative. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a process that aims to increase the visibility of a Website in important search engines like Google. SEO works by modifying the content, the layout, and the architecture of web pages, in addition to using community building techniques to enhance the popularity of a website. As part of this project, an SEO expert is tracking and recording our current web traffic. We are implementing recommended changes and looking for changes to the website traffic after the changes are made. Recommendations we have implemented 1. A Search Engine Sitemap This is something that was developed by Google and is used by other search engines. An XML sitemap is a recommended way of organising a Website and identifying the URLs for the purpose of indexing the site by search engine bots, allowing them to find content and data faster and more efficiently. It is a means for us to tell the search engine what the important pages are, and we can also put a date into the sitemap as an indication of how often the page is updated. The sitemap should help the pages get indexed faster. The sitemap was relatively easy to create, although it probably needs a bit more work from us in terms of grading pages for priority. 2. Metadata We have been working on the page metadata. In particular we have minimised duplicate title and description tags, ensured all pages have title tags and thought a bit more about the content of the title and description tags - does the title properly represent the page? Is the description an effective summary of the content with important keywords? It is important to think about this from the perspective of the robots - what are the words that will be most useful for them, in terms of search engine searches? For example, where we had a metadata title 'Archives Hub: For Archivists', we had a heading for the same page 'Contributing to the Archives Hub'. Ideally these should be the same and we should decide which terms are most important - should 'archivists' be in the main heading? Should 'contributing' be in the title tag? We have also started to reverse our page titles so that the subject of the page is entered first of all, so not 'Archives Hub: Contributors' but 'Contributors to the Archives Hub'. 3. Headings As stated above, we are getting the metadata title and page title to correspond, and we are also thinking about the importance of the page headers for search engines. In the past we have had monthly features with titles like 'Wabsters and Shewsters'. Whilst this might work as an intreguing title for a user, it will not help a user searching for Scottish textile history. 4. URLs It is worth ensuring that at least one of the important keywords is in the URL for a page. So, a page on railway history should have a URL like http://www.archiveshub.ac.uk/railways.shtml and the title 'Railway history: 200 years of the steam locomotive'. 5. Work on those keywords
We have worked on including keywords throughout the text, and especially in the first few lines. The inclusion of suggested websites and suggested reading provides a legitimate excuse to repeat keywords, both in their titles and in the annotations. Other recommendations There were other recommendations that we intend to implement over time, but did not have the resources to implement immediately - and some of them will more rationally fit into a redesign of our webiste (which is happening over the next 6 months). 1. Minimise use of tables 2. Change directory names to something more meaningful, e.g. 'institution' instead of 'inst', or 'archivist' instead of 'arch' 3. Encourage external sites to link to the Hub site. This is an ongoing activity, but it should be easier with our new Website, and with our new approach to monthly features. We will also be able to link to Hub descriptions from sites like the National Register of Archives because we will have persistent URLs for all descriptions. Web ranking reports We have been working with Alan K'necht, an SEO expert, and Thierry Arsenault from the The Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN). Alan has provided us with weekly Web ranking reports. These reports are based upon some agreed search terms that we are using. We created three pages for three subject areas where the Archives Hub has strong collection representation: fairs and circus history, history of textiles and british railway history. For all of these subjcts we already had a monthly feature that we had created, so we could use the pages that already existed and just work on them to make them more optimised for search engines. Conclusions so far So, has it worked? If I take 'fairground history' as an example. On April 13th, this was at 30 in the Google rankings and at 14 in Google UK rankings. By May 11th it was at 11 in Google and 7 in Google UK. By June 6th it had moved to 6 in the rankings, and a quick search on Google UK now (17th June) puts it at number 3. Railway history is maybe a more challenging topic, as we are competing with a huge amount of information. 'Railway history UK' was not ranked at the start of the project, but by 15th June it was at 15 in the rankings for Google, and at 11 for Google UK. A search on Google of just pages from the UK currently brings the page up to number 6 in the list. Of course, the challenge with Google is to get the URL in the first page of results, and it is always a moveable feast, so if the page ranks highly one week, it may not do so the next. However, the work that we have done has clearly made an improvement to our rankings, and if we apply the lessons learnt to our other feature pages, we should be able to attract more people to the Archives Hub Website. The principle of the JISC study was that 'implementing a few simple and inexpensive Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques can increase an organisation’s web visibility and significantly boost traffic to the organisation’s website.' We have found that some of the recommendations were relatively easy to implement, but it did require us to spend some time working on the subject-based pages that were used for the Web ranking reports. I must admit that at first we were a little skeptical that it would be worth tweaking metadata tags and changing page titles...but we were very pleased to find that it was worthwhile. We cannot implement the recommendations quickly throughout our site, because we do not have the resources for this, but we can gradually improve the pages, and we feel confident that we will reap the rewards in terms of more traffic via those all-important search engines. Image taken from The Archives Hub feature on Railway History. Image copyright: Glasgow City Council, University of Salford Information Services Division, Glasgow University Archive Services, University of Dundee Archive Services.

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11 June 2009

Collections of the Month: Top 10

Woodcraft Folk: trumpet and gongHere are the current ten most popular Collections of the Month features:
  1. Dig for Victory! (Nov 04) Archival Awareness with help from the Women's Land Army
  2. The Great War (Sep 04)
  3. Forensics: a partial print of the history of forensic science (Jun 09)
  4. The Big Draw (Oct 02) all kinds of drawings can be found in archives
  5. Interpreting Shakespeare (Apr 03)
  6. Miners' Strike 1984-1985 (Mar 04)
  7. Railway history: 200 years of the steam engine (Jun 04)
  8. Fairs and Circus History (Oct 08)
  9. Trees (Dec 03)
  10. Stanley Kubrick (Jul 08)
Illustration: Woodcraft Folk photo copyright © National Co-operative Archive. From Around the Campfire (Aug 07).


09 June 2009

International Archives Day 9th June 2009

Did you know that today is International Archives Day? This is the 2nd International Archives Day ever held and 9th June was chosen because the International Council on Archives (ICA) was founded on 9th June 1948. Last year was the First International Archives Day, coinciding with the 60th Anniversary of ICA. For more information about this and the history of ICA, go to the Unesco Archives website. Over the last year the Archives Hub has had over 120,000 visits from over 184 countries. The map above gives an indication of international use. One of our contributors, Glasgow University Archive Services, is celebrating International Archives Day by launching an online resource highlighting the international scope and reputation of Glasgow University and its archive collections. The exhibition, searchable by region, will demonstrate the involvement of Scottish businesses on the development of the world economy and the influence that University of Glasgow and staff and students have had on the development of education around the world and on the history of many countries. To go to the resource please see the following link: http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives/collections/internationalarchiveday/ If you are interested in international archives you could try the following websites and blogs: Websites: ArchiveGrid: A subscription site where you can find historical documents, personal papers, and family histories held in archives around the world. European Archive: A freely available digital library of archives, with an emphasis on audio-visual materials. MICHAEL UK: MICHAEL aims to provide simple and quick access to the digital collections of museums, libraries and archives from different European countries. Unesco Archives Portal: a gateway to international archive collection websites OCLC WorldCat (Manuscript materials): nearly 1.5 million catalogue records describing archival and manuscript collections and individual manuscripts in public, college and university, and special libraries located throughout North America and around the world. Blogs: Archiefforum.be: An online community which aims to support students and young archivists in their studies and profession by peer help and advise. (Flemish language) ArchivesBlogs: a US blog which is a syndicated collection of blogs by and for archivists. @rchivista: Spanish language blog written by Paco Fernández Cuesta who works at the Archivo de la Real Chancillería de Valladolid: Deseronto Archives Blog: Deseronto Archives is located within Deseronto Public Library, Ontario, Canada Fototoria: German language blog on the history of photography, photo libraries and digitisation Sous la poussière: French language blog written by a Swiss archivist interested in archives and information technology. Yvette 2.0: Yvette Hoitink works at the Nationaal Archief, the National Archives of the Netherlands. Dutch language blog.

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04 June 2009


FingerprintThis June's Collections of the Month examines a partial print of the history of forensic science, shining a light on the descriptions for the papers of physicians, pharmacists, chemists and toxicologists involved in criminal investigations, and records relating to forgery and violent crimes. Illustration copyright © 2009 The Archives Hub.