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

Emerging practices changing histories

Event run by the University’s Centre for Visual & Oral History Research (programme unavailable online). Missed Dr Rob Perks’ intro but just picking up on the discussion: initial question about the availability & “archiving” (ie deposit)of HLF funded projects under the £82 million programme.

Now into series of presentations on “oral history & contested spaces”, a series of case studies on current research into areas as diverse as the Allied bombing of France in WW2, hitchhiking & experiencing gender. Continue reading

DO touch

The latest Museum Practice looks at how opening collections up and allowing visitors to touch and handle artefacts doesn’t have to be at odds with conservation concerns.

This is something we know all about in archives! – and it’s something many users are very excited about.

“Can I touch it? – Yes.  Do I have to wear gloves? – No.  Wow!” is a typical exchange.

Unlike museum objects which are often in cases (for sound conservation reasons), most archives are there to be touched.  It’s the “getting to the archival documents in the first place” bit that the archives domain could learn from museums.