Open source archive software

I co-organised a workshop in early December at The National Archives (TNA) on ATOM and Archivematica software, along with TNA’s Higher Education Archive Programme  and Artefactual Systems, the Canadian development company which supports both these applications.

The workshop was attended by around 40 archivists and records managers from around the UK, including existing or prospective users of the systems and those simply interested in learning more.

ATOM’s development was supported by the ICA and it is used across the world to manage and publish descriptions of archives. Archivematica manages digital preservation workflows for digitised and born digital content.

Key questions/points that inspired the day included:

  • Examples of the real application of Archivematica – how difficult is it to customise and how easy is it to use?
  • Do regional consortia offer the best opportunity for the application of digital preservation?
  • How can data on other systems such as CALM be imported into ATOM?
  • How is training best delivered?
  • How will these open source systems be best supported given the limitations of institutional IT?

 

The day began with an introduction and overview of both systems from Artefactual’s Justin Simpson and Dan Gillean. Their slides are available here.

There were then a series of five/ten minute presentations from invited speakers. Gary Tuson, County Archivist at Norfolk Record Office (NRO), spoke eloquently about the Eastern Region Archivematica trial that saw a number of archives in that Region, led by NRO, use Archivematica for digital preservation. He offered real encouragement that a regional model might help, although it was only a small-scale trial. Archivematica, unlike ATOM, is not available with multi-tenanted functionality. This places some limitations on the creation of a genuinely collaborative initiative and more work needs to be done to assess the viability of consortia – perhaps involving trials in other regions such as London.

Lindsay Ould, Borough Archivist at Croydon, described her experience of migrating elderly CALM data into a new instance of ATOM. Their existing CALM system was used by Archives, Museums and Local Studies, meaning that the style and structure of data was very diverse and often unclean and out of date. More than 1000 collection and accession records were migrated to a new hosted version of ATOM. Lindsay described working with an external developer to cleanse the data and she pointed out that this took up a disproportionate amount of time. Lastly, she spoke about developing a simple search interface and future plans to also make museum descriptions visible.

David Cordery, of Max Communications, was next up and spoke about the challenges of migrating data into ATOM, similar to those which Lindsay had experienced. He stressed the usability and intuitive controls provided by ATOM, but also the ability for users to customise the front end delivery of archive data and that the system is especially useful when managing images. Max provides a service to extract, clean and re-publish data in new ATOM instances and offers ongoing support.

Jenny Mitcham of York spoke next on the use of Archivematica to manage research data – a proof of concept joint venture between the Universities of Hull and York, The National Archives and JISC. Research data management is a big challenge for universities, as it is a requirement of the Research Councils that such data, for example generated by scientific research, be preserved and managed for a time. Jenny highlighted the concept of ‘parsimonious preservation’ coined by Tim Gollins of The National Archives – essentially doing ‘just enough’ to capture the right information in digital preservation, and avoiding unnecessary processes. Jenny listed a number of pros and cons of using Archivematica, including its versatility, flexibility and ability to integrate with other systems, versus its fiddly processes, unsophisticated user interface and the need to train staff to use it. This impressive project is now hoping to move to a production phase and bring on board the Borthwick Institute and integrate Archivematica more fully with ATOM. Much more information can be found on the project website and digital archiving blog.

Ed Pinsent of the Digital Preservation Training Programme at ULCC, is working with Artefactual to develop more mature training in the use of the two systems. He revealed the results of a survey of the digital preservation community in 2015, which highlighted the need for practical (and less theoretical) hands-on training, especially using real tools. ULCC will be working closely with Artefactual on UK Archivematica training in 2017. Learn more about the work of ULCC’s DP training here.

The second half of the workshop focused on hands-on sessions using the two systems and work-sheets provided by Artefactual. This gave the opportunity for attendees, working in groups, to import, manage and manipulate test data and gain a better understanding of what the systems have to offer. Test instances were set up, enabling attendees and those not present to explore the systems from their workplaces.

More information about Archivematica can be found here; and on ATOM, a series of YouTube tutorials here.

Overall, this was a very useful workshop, not least in bringing together a diverse collection of archivists and records managers from higher education, local authorities and other sectors, and others such as representatives of Arkivum, the DP specialists. It is hoped that an ATOM user group will be founded as a consequence of the workshop, to complement a thriving Archivematica group.

I would like to thank The National Archives for hosting and helping to organise the day, and Artefactual for their assistance throughout the day and since.

 

 

‘Bone’ up on your history

A ‘tail’ of a house and the emergence of a new breed of dog: the ‘Golden Retriever’, by Barbara Cornford.

In my role as a metadata assistant I have the joy of reading the personal diaries of many a well-known historical figure, the day to day joys, misery, shenanigans; in most cases written by persons from a very privileged strata of British society. I am currently working on the diaries of Lady Jean Hamilton. Through her wonderful writings I can share her day to day thoughts, actions and friendships – she is deliciously explanatory and self- aware, which engenders empathy from the reader.

I have a natural curiosity, it is not enough for me just to know that the object of my work stayed or visited with friends in this house or that house, I like to research to see if I can find out what the house looked like and if it still exists so that I can share a little of what has been described; the approach to such houses, their thoughts and opinions of the exterior and interior and the appreciation of the landscape surrounding them. One such house Lady Hamilton was invited to was Guisachan in Scotland as the guest of Lady Tweedmouth. In 1854 the Guisachan Estate was bought by Edward Dudley Coutts Marjoribank, who later in 1881 became Lord Tweedmouth.

 

Guisachan House

Another view of Guisachan House

Lord Tweedmouth had built lodges for visitors, kennels for his dogs, farm steads and importantly a new village which was called Tomich. He then began to move tenants from their crofts because they were too near the main house: they had no choice but to be relocated. The village was provided with a school, brewery and laundry.

Lord Tweedmouth was very interested in dogs of the hunting and sporting kind and at Guisachan he established a new breed. ‘Nous’, a wavy coated retriever, was bred with ‘Belle’ a Tweed Water spaniel: this created three yellow wavy-coated puppies which were named Primrose, Crocus [a male dog] and Cowslip – the first ‘Golden retrievers’ were born.

‘Nous’ photographed in old age

Nous in old age

Those Golden Retriever owners who are aware of the importance of Guisachan and Lord Tweedmouth go on an annual pilgrimage to what is left of the house and grounds in celebration of the breed. In July 2013, the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland hosted more than 350 people from 15 countries and 222 golden retrievers at a gathering on the Guisachan grounds. Not long afterwards, an organisation called the Friends of Guisachan [www.friendsofguisachan.org] raised money for a statue of a Golden Retriever at Guisachan to commemorate the achievement of Lord Tweedmouth.

Statue commemorating the establishment of the Golden Retriever breed

The GRCS will be hosting a ‘Guisachan Gathering’ in July 2018. The gathering will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Golden Retriever breed at Guisachan House by Lord Tweedmouth. The event will begin on Monday 16th July 2018 and end with a Breed Championship Show at Cannich on Friday 20th July 2018.

guisachan-photo-shoot

To return to the house, it now lies as a ruinous shell, purchased and denuded of its contents, roof and anything of value. Open to the elements and almost totally destroyed, it shines like a beacon to those who know and love the breed called the Golden Retriever.

Ruins

MEMORIAL

 

Bibliography

Clan Marjoribanks Society website http://www.marjoribanks.net/lord-tweedmouths-golden-retrievers/

https://friendsofguisachan.org

Barbara Cornford

 

13 Days: An Escape from a German Prison

While adding metadata to the album of photographs and ephemera of Brigadier John Alan Lyde Caunter (1889 – 1981) I became interested in the fact that during World War One he had escaped from captivity in a German prisoner of war camp. I would like his achievement to be brought to the fore through this blog as in 2017 it will be a century since he made ‘his great escape’.

Caunter 00092

Our room at Crefeld camp (Caunter 92)

Captain (later Brigadier) John Alan Lyde Caunter of the 1st Battalion the Gloucestershire Regiment was taken prisoner during World War One by the Germans, captured at Gheluveld on the 31st October 1914 while on active service near Ypres. Upon capture he was confined in Crefeld prisoner of war camp and then with 400 other officers of differing nationalities moved to a camp at Schwarmstedlt, Hanover; eventually managing to escape in the summer of 1917.

During the journey to get back to England he met two other escapees, one of whom was Captain Fox D.S.O (an Irishman) of the Scots Guards. Together the two men managed to reach the Dutch frontier and safety – although during the last 24 hours they became separated. Upon their return to England on July 7th 1917 they were photographed together outside the Guards Club in the clothes they had worn during their hard won journey to freedom.

Caunter 00003 Caunter 00004

Outside the Guards Club (Caunter 3 and Caunter 4)

On the 18th July 1917 both men were invited to Buckingham Palace for an hour long audience with King George V.

Caunter 00015

Seeing the King (Caunter 15)

Captain Caunter wrote of his adventures in a book entitled 13 days an escape from a German prison, published in 1918, which also contained hand drawn illustrations by the author. The book is now out of copyright and can be downloaded free from various internet eBook providers for those that are interested in his story. The following is a review of the book copied from a newspaper cutting that was in an album of photographs and ephemera belonging to Caunter.

BRITISH OFFICER’S THIRTEEN DAYS JOURNEY TO FREEDOM

ESCAPE FROM GERMANY

Life and letters by J.C Squire published in Land and Water October 10th 1918.

“Captain Caunter was taken in 1914; he went to Crefeld and thence to Schwarmstedlt, in Hanover. His escape from the camp was extraordinarily ingenious and of the prolong nerve racking kind. He got on a top shelf in the parcels room, before the very eyes of a German; lay there, cramped and stifling, for hours; then stole out of the window while a sentry on each side turned his back. He crossed two rivers – there is a thrilling account of his wait by one bridge while the sentries carried on a conversation with two girls who seemed as though they would never go away and leave the men free to move or doze – and then, under a hedge, amazingly met two brother officers who had escaped after him. His chapters on the crossing of the Weser, the long walk along a railway track, and the final agonising wait in the marshes by the Dutch frontier, are wonderfully vivid; one’s heart stands still when a townful of dogs starts barking at him in the moonlight, and when Major Fox, an Irishman used to bogs, side-tracks the frontier guards into a morass. Major Fox slightly sketched is revealed as something of a Titan for strength and audacity. Captain Caunter’s exact wash drawings greatly elucidate his tales”.

Barbara Cornford

Sergeant Albert Rumbelow: the Royal Albert Hall connection

Albert Rumbelow

Albert Rumbelow

In 2014 I was working as usual adding metadata to the photographic images on the Serving Soldier database. The albums, paperwork and ephemera I annotated at the time were donated by the family of the late Major General Charles Howard Foulkes CB CMG DSO (1ST February 1875 – 6th May 1969) to the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, a leading repository founded in 1964.

While adding metadata and keywords to the images the handwritten notes written by Major General Foulkes caught my eye. Underneath a photograph of a not so youthful moustachioed Sergeant were written the words ‘Sgt Rumbelow 4 Platoon A company, 7th RB at Arras March 1916, DCM Gazette 6.6.16.’

I am not a researcher but curiosity caught hold of me and I decided to do a quick internet search firstly to find out what a DCM was (part of the learning curve when working with photographs of the Military so that I can give correct information) then to see if I could find out more about this rather more mature soldier who looked quite hauntingly tired as he gazed into the camera lens.

Upon entering his name, I was directed to a website dedicated to holding information about ‘fallen’ military personnel of Buckinghamshire http://buckinghamshireremembers.org.uk. Low and behold there was a record of Sergeant Rumbelow with details of his name, regiment, where he enlisted, where he died and the location of the memorial on which his name is displayed. I took it upon myself to send an email to the person who ran the website to ask if they had a photograph of Sergeant Rumbelow, in actuality they had all of his information but didn’t possess a picture of him. I forwarded a photograph and was met with a lovely response ‘I just cannot thank you enough for helping me to discover the full details of this brave man, I would never have discovered these extra details’.

My discoveries did not stop there: from the information I had gleaned I then knew that Albert Rumbelow worked at the Royal Albert Hall as a cleaner and hall attendant; he was one member of a quarter of the staff employed at the Royal Albert Hall who volunteered to fight during World War I, enlisting in 1914 at the age of 35 leaving behind a wife and four children. I contacted the organisers of an exhibition planned at the Royal Albert Hall in which I knew that Sergeant Albert Rumbelow was mentioned and asked if they would like a photograph of him. The response was they would because they did not have one.

In the summer of 1916 (we know it was in June) Albert gained the Distinguished Conduct Medal for ‘Conspicuous Gallantry’. His citation reads that he ‘exposed himself to machine gun and shell fire when going across the open to rescue a wounded man. Later he went under fire to fetch a stretcher’.

Albert was returned to England badly injured and died two months before Armistice Day in a military hospital in Ashford, Kent, at the age of 39. He was one of the few soldiers to be buried on English soil because the government had taken the decision not to repatriate the bodies of those killed in battle. His grave is located in the churchyard of St Peter Parish Church, Aylesford Kent and his name is alongside many others on the War Memorial at High Wycombe Hospital.

Barbara Cornford

 

Visualising Medical History

I have recently been helping to co-ordinate academic input to a relatively new project supported by Jisc that is building innovative tools to help with searching and presenting data from the UK Medical Heritage Library (UKMHL) project. The UKMHL, which is supported  by the Wellcome Library and Internet Archive, is an ambitious initiative to digitise and provide online access to thousands of books on the themes of medicine and healthcare published during the ‘long’ 19th century (until 1914). The books are being made available to the public in a rolling programme from the Wellcome and Internet Archive websites.

mhl blog

Prof. Williams’ Complete Hypnotism

The books are drawn from ten UK research libraries, including King’s College London, and cover a huge variety of subjects including public health and sanitation, infection and epidemiology, nutrition and cookery, the history of disease and its treatment and psychiatry and psychology. Up to 40% of the books were published abroad, notably in the US, Germany and France, and this international dimension provides a fascinating opportunity for comparative study.

Ultimately, the UKMHL will provide access to some 15 million pages of OCR text and millions of embedded terms including the names of people, organisations, geographical locations, diseases, treatments and associated data such as medical equipment, and references to contemporary culture and society which will mean the resource is useful not only to medical historians but a much broader range of interested scholars including biographers, geographers and literary experts.

The visualisation project, which is led by the Knowledge Integration company in association with Gooii, is developing a range of new data visualisation tools such as graphs, timelines and maps. These will enable established scholars, students and other users such as journalists find what they need quickly from a huge corpus of material, whilst also supporting serendipitous browsing and providing the space in which the user can discover completely unexpected facts and relationships, not least between people, places and ideas.

My work involves the design and review of data sets that will help with the selection of presentation of the data, and its contextualisation, and to co-ordinate the contributions of a number of King’s and other medical historians, who are ensuring that the resulting visualisations are both accurate and useful.

The new visualisations will be available to use in summer 2016.

Geoff Browell