New publication “Heritage Quay: what will you discover? Transforming the archives of the University of Huddersfield, UK”

I’ve published an initial article at the half-way point of the 5 year, £2million Heritage Quay project.  Not a full evaluation, but an examination of how the Staff/Space/Collections dependency model (developed by Elizabeth Oxborrow-Cowan in The Benefits of Capital Investment for Archives) could be applied in practice for planning rather than retrospectively, and how we’ve used the Customer Service Excellence framework.  I look at what lessons can be drawn for other archives in the HE sector.  It’s a case study, so limited word count – but can be read at

I don’t think Elizabeth’s Capital Investment report got the publicity and sharing it deserved: it’s a good piece of work with some important evaluation of the capital funding for UK archives.


Developing archives – Northern Collaboration Learning Exchange

The day is summarised at

Although chairing/hosting/speaking (and so close to the event), I found the key themes of the day were

  • the importance of clear priorities and plans/strategies for implementing these – preferably aligned to those of the parent institution!
  • Getting the balance between the imaginative use of opportunities, taking calculated risks whilst still keeping sight of the needs of collections and users
  • Focussing on simple ways of doing things and not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good – closely linked to the previous one
  • using tools for service improvement – like accreditation, customer service excellence, and models like the SSC dependency model developed by Elizabeth Oxborrow-Cowan

And finally

  • the virtuous circle of ambition and courage to do things differently/say yes or no, based on unique and distinctive collections and a commitment by staff to have these used.

Not entirely sure how the obvious appetite for collaboration might be satisfied but for now, lots of goodwill is encouraging: I love working in the HE sector (even if it’s made me too busy to post for nearly a year…may do some catching up soon)

Cultural commissioning seminar

I’ve been experimenting with Storify recently to help me quickly capture an experience or a journey – partly as a reflective tool, partly to process what I’ve seen/heard/learnt/experienced.

Here’s the report of my attendance at the Cultural Commissioning seminar this week:

Archives & Special Collections strategy map

The University was last week declared Times Higher Education University of the Year 2013 and is now looking ahead for its next 5 year strategic plan

Archives and Special Collections 10 year plan reflects the University’s Vision to be an inspiring, innovative University of international renown.

Having written an enormously long, first strategic plan for submission with our HLF round 2 application – as per HLF guidance – I’ve now condensed it into a summary Strategy map 2012-2023 more in keeping with the University’s culture. We’ll be reporting on it annually as a service, and I also plan to publish some of the extracts – for example, our sustainability strategy – over the coming months.

Collections Information Policy – in draft

As mentioned a few weeks back, I’ve been working on a Collections Information Policy for Archives and Special Collections here at the University of Huddersfield.

I now have a draft which is out to consultation including from the wider professional community.

Please feel free to comment!

Big data, historic buildings, APIs combine in short blog post with unimaginative title that’s longer than the post

There are distinct and exciting possibilities here… needs musing on.  Navigation & presentation not wonderful, but have a play though:

All 9,866,539 buildings in the Netherlands, shaded according to year of construction.

A summary of the api at

Netherlands buildings/dates website - screenshot

Netherlands buildings/dates website – screenshot

I guess this must be central Amsterdam although I couldn’t get the “data” part to display on the site

A palimpsest of procedures

I’m just configuring our Calm system here at the University, writing our first Collections Information Policy and writing a calm user guide-and-procedures-manual.  As all these activities overlap, I’m kind of multitasking so that they mutually inform and reinforce one another (well, that’s the hope anyway!!).

It’s exciting times for the Service because we currently have a three part-time Assistants and a (paid!) graduate intern, and a new Assistant Archivist starting at the end of this month.  As well as some project staff, if all goes according to plan over the next few weeks…  The multiple people and mostly part-time nature of our posts means we have to get some of this stuff down on paper to establish principles now.

After a good 6 years away from direct cataloguing practice, it’s good to get my head back into standards, best practice and the use of calm for cataloguing.

Probably shouldn’t confess this, but the procedures manual/user guide is based on the one I originally wrote for the calm implementations at Lambeth Palace Library, subsequently updated & amended for the Royal Northern College of Music and then for Rotherham Archives & Local Studies. I get a little frisson from seeing the examples I included for/from those repositories – the Bell Papers (Lambeth), the Brodsky archive (RNCM), and all the South Yorkshire place names which resulted from an extensive piece of work with the local geography and maps expert on the staff at Rotherham, my colleague Sally.  Good times!

I’m proud of my track record in implementing Calm – hopefully my successors aren’t reaping any difficulties I didn’t foresee (use the comments to tell me if so please so I can avoid making the same mistakes again!).  And I’m *really* excited about the Service here at Huddersfield moving into a phase of actually making inroads into our cataloguing backlog, and learning from the reflection and practice of other colleagues to get the users and the stuff together – which is the whole point of this archives thing….

Just to complete the trip down my memory lane, here’s a musical palimpsest from the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music