Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Archive Service Accreditation

It has been announced today that the Hull History Centre has been awarded Archive Service Accreditation by The National Archives.

What is the Archives Accreditation scheme?
Accredited Archive Services ensure the long-term collection, preservation and accessibility of our archive heritage. Archives Accreditation is the UK quality standard which recognises good performance in all areas of archive service delivery. Achieving accredited status demonstrates that Hull History Centre has met clearly defined national standards relating to management and resourcing; the care of its unique collections and what the service offers to its entire range of users.

To complete its application staff at the Centre have spent a year reviewing and updating all of its policies on fundraising, volunteers, social media, access, learning and outreach aswell as collections management.

The Accreditation Panel which made the award, following a visit to the Centre earlier this year, commended the achievements of the Centre “in delivering a very positive service offering strong outreach and innovation, particularly in cataloguing and digital preservation. The constituent archives have embraced the opportunities of co-location to provide a positive experience for their users.”

What next?
an attendee at a recent History Maker
session with a decorated helmet and shield
We now have a framework to review and update all of this work in the next few years but it has given us the confidence that we are on the right track. We will continue to offer a range of services to meet our different users needs – including our popular History Makers craft and Lego activities for families, History Bakers where staff put their baking skills to the test with old recipes in the archives through to our recent Reading Old Writing workshops.

We will continue to seek external funding to allow us to do more, as evident through securing a National Cataloguing Grant to work on the records of the Humber Ports of the British Transport Docks Board which later became Associated British Ports. 

This year we are heavily involved in supporting a range of projects as the city celebrate UK City of Culture and hosting a wide variety of exhibitions including one on Hull in the Civil War later this summer.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the sector today is preserving digital content like word files or email often requiring data to be safely transferred from old formats – like the floppy disk. This area of work is key to ensure that future generations are able to access information in the archives for academic research or personal curiosity. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Made in Hull: A Poetic City

Recently, I was delving into issues of the University of Hull’s student paper, ‘Torch’, as part of my work [RefNo. U SUH]. Reading through a volume covering the period of the Second World War, I was intrigued to find that issues often contain poetry submissions from students. Many of these submissions were clearly inspired by our city, and this gave me an idea for a blog.

As it is UNESCO World Poetry Day on the 21st March, I thought you might like to take a look at some past images of Hull through the medium of student poetry. So this fortnight’s Culture of Culture blog will have limited input from me in order that you may take in some interesting perspectives on Hull written by people who have been inspired by the city.

Professor Hardy invented the Continuous Plankton Recorder whilst Professor of Zoology at Hull. This poem was presumably written by one of his students and captures one reaction to research being undertaken in the city during the 1940s.

During the Second World War, Hull was heavily bombed, possibly the worst hit city, along with Coventry, outside of London. This poem evokes the experience of living in Hull during the heavy bomb raids of the 1940s.

At the end of the Second World War, Hull was a ruined city, with bombed out buildings and 1000s of people having to be rehoused. This poem conjures a picture of what it must have been like to walk around the city in the aftermath of the war.

And finally, poem that may be inspired by Paragon Station, a building that would have been used by students coming and going between home and studies. Quite literally, a 'lighter' note to end on, with a depiction of a city looking forward with hope for the future.

If you have enjoyed any other these, why not come and visit us? You will find plenty more student poems in the 'Torch' volumes we hold here at the History Centre.

Claire, Assistant Archivist (HUA)

Thursday, 9 March 2017

NDSA Levels of digital preservation

Here at the Hull History Centre, we have been reviewing the NDSA levels of digital preservation. This was something we had meant to do for a while. Last summer we volunteered to feed our experiences back to the Archives Accreditation team which is looking at using this element in the future.  

The levels are a framework created by the National Digital Stewardship Alliance as a guide for institutions that are managing digital material. The framework breaks up the many various and sometimes confusing aspects of digital preservation into five easily understood functional areas: Storage, Integrity, Security, Metadata and File Formats. These areas can be graded into four levels of increasing preservation security, creating a visual reference grid that can be used as a checklist. 

Two extra areas that have been proposed are Access (proposed by the Library of the University of California) and Physical Formats (by the United States Geological Survey). In creating a grid for the Hull University Archives we decided to include these two proposed areas.

This is our starting grid, with the two extra areas and a few minor tweaks around virus checking

Completing the self-assessment
To undertake the self-assessment we simply looked at each area, starting with level 1 and quickly determined whether we had met the requirement completely (green), partially (yellow) or not at all (red). We deliberately sought not to dwell on each element and erred on the side of caution.
This is our final grid, lots of red but some aspects/elements are already in-place

Using the framework
The framework is a self-assessment tool which can help you plan your digital preservation journey.  Don't worry - most of the Level 4 requirements in each area are intended to be hard to reach but is intended to serve as a long-term target to aspire to. At Hull our long-term target is to become a trusted digital repository.

Some elements will conflict with institutional policy - for example the storage area recommends having three separate copies of your data in different locations obviously has resource implications. 

The best way we found to approach the NDSA levels is to focus on meeting the basic requirements, understand the level of preservation that can achieve with the current resources and work up to levels 3 and 4 step-by-step. At the end of the day, every archive has different goals for their digital preservation plans and understanding how to achieve them is an ongoing learning process. Having conducted the exercise this year - we now need to make it an integrated element into our work-programme and review progress in 12 months time!

We decided to implement the two proposed areas but we did not a few issues. It can be argued that Physical Media is already featured under the Storage area albeit in not such an explicit way.  It can be argued (indeed was often argued) that the Access area of the framework fits outside of the main digital preservation strategy. One reason to include Access is that it ensures this element remains a visible and explicit part of the planning process - and of course is the reason why we are preserving the stuff in the first place. Whilst we didn't always agree - the discussions were very interesting in that it made us think about the detail and the big picture.

Whatever form the NDSA levels of digital preservation end up taking in the future, the ability to be able to see at-a-glance how an institution is faring in its digital preservation efforts, and what should be the next set of goals, is an incredibly useful tool. It breaks down the sometimes confusing terms and stages of digital preservation into smaller points that are more easily manageable, making it much easier for institutions to begin implementing their own digital archives.

Francisco & Tom
Transforming Archives trainees