Archive for June, 2011

Report from stakeholder meeting

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

On 31st May, we held a meeting for stakeholders and other interested parties, to talk about the SALDA project and its impact on future developments. Attending the meeting were:

Karen Watson SALDA Project Manager, University of Sussex
Fiona Courage Special Collections Manager, University of Sussex
Jane Harvell Head of Academic Services, University of Sussex
Chris Keene Technical Development Manager, University of Sussex
Richard Fisher Business Analyst – ICT Services, East Sussex County Council
Elizabeth Hughes County Archivist, East Sussex Record Office
Jenny Hand Knowledge and information Manager, Royal Pavilion and Museums

The Keep is only two years away so naturally the focus is on finding systems that support all the partners and enable researchers to search and use the collections. Transforming all our data into Linked Data would enable cross searching and enhanced resource discovery, but there is an issue of time.  However, there was a general feeling in the room that the data preparation that we have identified that will allow mapping /easier transference  will make us ready for other solutions or to embark on a linked data exercise in the future.

Data potential

It was good to discuss the different ways that our collective data could be used outside of the reading room. There is potential for mobile apps, hack days and contributions to other projects – Brighton and Hove Museums already contribute to Culture Grid. SALDA has enabled us to see this potential with the added benefit that any enhancements and changes that we make to our catalogue data will improve resource discovery for researchers within our exisiting systems.

I’ve said before that alot of what we are talking about in terms of changes to our data is quite basic stuff (date in the date field etc) and a colleague pointed out that libraries had these conversations years ago. It is the diverse and complicated nature of archives that means that a one size fits all approach is difficult to achieve, so we are looking at the minimum we need to do, with our strategic goal being that we want to be ready to export / map / transfer our data and make it as portable as possible.

Local data for local people

Monday, June 6th, 2011

This  is to add to Pete’s  post on the transformation of our data. The SALDA project is really searching for a framework or a set of tools to enable us to transform our other archive collections into Linked Data. What we have discovered so far is that there is a model that we can apply to the data, based on the LOCAH model,  but there is some local tweaking that needs to be done due to the structure of our data.

Prior to 2009, our catalogue data was in HTML lists on our website or printed lists in our reading room. We imported the catalogues into our CALM database in summer 2009 and most information went into the title field. This meant that when we then exported the data to EAD there was no separate fields for date or description. I then revealed to Pete with my head in my hands, that we don’t use access points and this is what the LOCAH process was based around. Pete was optimistic in his outlook saying that there were good points about our data to focus on.

  • it was consistent in that it was all from one data provider
  • it was consistent in the format of the date and where it appeared in the data (albeit not in the date field)

We decided then to think about other ways into the data. I provided Pete with 28 names out of the data in authorised form using National Register of Archives rules . I was able to confirm that these were definitely those people, so when it says “Churchill” in the data, it is:

Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer (1874-1965)

Knight, prime minister and historian

not churchill insurance, churchill college etc.

I also provided 100 or so keywords that appeared in the data and covered subjects from air raids to sex including places and organisations (Labour Party, Communist Party) events  (the Coronation in 1953) and wider concepts like class, family, education and death.

Future proofing our data

Realising the limitations of our data as it stands in our archival management system has made the team at Sussex really look at how we catalogue things.  We need to future proof our data so that we can export or transform our data or map across to other systems easier. We are compiling cataloguing guidelines to ensure that all our collection level records are ISAD (G) compatible and that certain fields are always populated in our componant records. This is not a small change and it will take a long time to modify 67,000 existing records. This has been an unexpected by-product of the SALDA project and one that we can’t ignore.