Through my work in the archive and exploring our digital collections I’ve encountered several incredible photographs. Recently I have been preoccupied with thoughts on how we provide access to these images, and particularly how digital technology allows us to explore things in particular ways.
Through digitisation we have extremely high-resolution copies of original documents. These act as surrogates that we can share much more widely online, proving access beyond only to people who are physically close enough to visit the archives in person, which is great; access and knowledge are democratised. What I’ve found in looking through these high-resolution digital copies is that they change how I look at images.
This shows the interior of a tank factory during the First World War. The composition and lighting are striking. The sense of scale and level of industry and resources, both in terms of workers and material, are made very apparent.
The digital copy of this image was scanned at a resolution of 6,919 x 5,656 pixels. At this extremely high-resolution we can zoom right in and explore the image in great detail. As I zoomed and panned around I ended up lingering on different sections of the image, fascinated by vignettes I was seeing. I was drawn to the people.
The first thing I did was zoom in on the area showing the boys at the work bench. They seem so incredibly young. Looking back at the image as a whole, you can see them, but at this scale they become individuals, with their own lives.
These different faces and poses have such personality. My colleague and I spent time a long time exploring this one image, fascinated by all the individuals. As you go through each part in this way, zooming in and panning around, the screen becomes a new frame within the original frame of the photograph. Isolating elements of the photo in this way allows you to see things in different ways, and obviously at an incredible level of detail.
It seems clear that the workers have been called to look towards the camera. Some are posing, some are looking up from their work, and others are ignoring it and just carrying on.
Look at the pose of the man leaning on the tank tracks!
The upshot of all this is that I found this ability to zoom all the way in and pan around the image was a different experience to looking at the photograph as a whole. One could compare the experience to that of looking closely at a physical print of a photograph with a magnifying glass. I think the point is that we should carefully consider how we present digital copies of material to users. The technology is now such that we can provide this experience to people online, whereas even relatively recently a digital copy was a lesser version of the original, but at least you could see something. And having found that the experience of roving across the photograph impacted the thoughts and questions that were coming to me, I think it’s more than just ‘oh, we can stick really high-resolution images of photos online.’ The act of zooming and panning to create new frames within the image felt very different to just panning around a fixed level of zoom.
Due to storage limitations I can’t share the same experience in this blog. But there are tools available that mean in the near future we should be able to provide this experience to users accessing material remotely, looking through collections online. This democratises not only the access to material but also to the experience of getting extremely close to material.
Joyce-Elena Ní Ghiobúin graduated from Trinity College, University of Dublin, with an MPhil in Reconciliation Studies in 2012. Since then she has been researching denominational aspects of British-Irish nursing history in the late 19th and 20th centuries and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writing to a friend in 1960, Dr Cicely Saunders commented on the increased crisscross of letters, “We’re going to need an archivist someday to make sense of this!” 
That anticipation crossed my mind when first confronted with a selection of files at the King’s College London Archives. I was amazed by Dr Saunders’ eye for detail and her foresight in creating records of so many encounters – she must have had future generations in mind!
The documents I consulted were filed thematically, thereby often dating back to a specific period in her life. Yet two core interests spanned the years from her first involvement in hospice care in the late 1940s up until her death in 2005: her restless initiative in expanding her own medical awareness, and a preoccupation with the spiritual aspect in care provision.
These are encapsulated in the words of a patient who served as the founding narrative of the hospice: “I only want what is in your mind and in your heart”.  Saunders invested herself in caring for patients in the 1940s, saying “we had so often nothing to offer but ourselves”.  Because of this, her mentor Dr Barrett urged her to read medicine if she wanted to change end-of-life care because, in his words, “It’s the doctors who desert the dying”. 
The material at King’s College London Archives provides a trail of primary documents beginning from the point at which Cicely Saunders decided to follow that advice. Among the papers placed in my hands as a researcher were the drafts of her M.D. thesis examining pain control among terminal cancer patients, which was a novel direction for research in the mid-1950’s as most doctors focused on curative care problems. The material includes her handwritten calculations and brainstorming exercises, interspersed with letters from her supervisor on how she might rearrange her thesis chapters to best effect. Two of Saunders’ letters are addressed to a professor of veterinary science who had developed tranquilizers for rhinoceros in Uganda using a mixture of morphine derivatives: she wrote to him in 1964 for further insight into analgesics and their tested effects. Still more files contain cuttings from medical journals on the most up-to-date pain control debates [Fig. 1]. Such early investigative thrusts – St Christopher’s would not open until 1967 – attest to Saunders’ resolve to base future hospice work on the best medical and ethical practice. She later affirmed that St Christopher’s was neither the first nor “the model” hospice, but an example of how up-to-date research might be conducted alongside intuitive patient attention in the same care-giving space.
Figure 2. Sketched on reverse of “St. Christopher’s Hospice: First Newsletter” (June 1964), draft. Saunders collected and encouraged the use of poetry for articulating the complex experience of giving and recieving palliative care. In this sketch, the handwritten text reads, “Sudden and Sweet/ Come the expected feel/ All life is new and new all art/ And He too Whom we love by heart” [K/PP149/2/3]
The collection also offers a chance to read through the layers of her accumulative insight into “total pain”, as she had called it by 1964, an understanding gained through hours of listening closely to hundreds of patients she interviewed while working at St Joseph’s Hospice. Through them she came to comprehend fully the patient’s place in a larger community and the need for a social and emotional aspect of care, such as in extending bereavement support to patients’ families. This not only symbolically tied the mind with the heart, but drew further on her available knowledge of “creative sensitivity” to the needs of everyone in the hospice community. Among Saunders’ papers are her collected poems, quotations and articles which substantiate this intuitive, artistic direction [Fig. 2, above]. They include lines written by patients in Britain and the U.S., some quotations translated “from the Chinese” and a few English poems from the 8th century A.D., including one dated c 780 called No Man is in the Fields. This latter poem found its way into her 1983 anthology for the bereaved and suffering, Beyond all Pain.
Figure 3. Saunders’ own copy of “Beyond All Pain” is held as part of the library of Dame Cicely Saunders, King’s College London Archives
What is especially interesting in Saunders’ 1960s poetry collections is her preference for Christian poetry – including, for example, an amusing song from 5-year-old “Lucy” beginning with the line, “When the Baby was borned, Joseph said to Mary …” Her 1983 publication replaces most of these poems with choices that are more wide-ranging both denominationally and geographically, in itself reflective of Saunders’ personal journey in later years to reach beyond her “home” in the Anglican Evangelical tradition. Nevertheless, the thematic framework of Beyond all Pain’s chapters (e.g. ‘Suffering’, ‘Dying’ and lastly ‘Resurrection’) preserves a Judeo-Christian framework of meaning. For Saunders, “spirituality” was “much wider than religious practice. It is the search for meaning, the look at one’s own most important values, the feeling of looking beyond yourself and of somehow belonging to something more than you are”.  All researchers looking back on Saunders’ collections, regardless of their individual evaluation of the importance of the spiritual, face the fact that nearly a third of her publications, if not more, were concerned with the dynamics of “spirituality” in end-of-life care.
Figure 4. The library of Dame Cicely Saunders, King’s Building. Access is available upon request through King’s College London Archives.
2017 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of St Christopher’s Hospice. This commemorative year, together with the research it promotes, is itself a season of transition, appreciation and learning, like that of Saunders’ in the years leading up to the establishment of St Christopher’s in 1967. As she herself remarked on Desert Island Discs in 1994, the modern hospice is not about “bricks and mortar” but rather about the attitudes, skills and ideas that are “spreading widely” because of St Christopher’s Hospice, enabling many patients to count their last days as their fullest. Her dedication in promoting pain control and personal concern helped to forge a comprehensive approach to medical care, a lifetime’s actualisation that is thankfully well-documented and well-looked-after. For the researcher of Hospice History as much as for the patient in its care, it might well be said, to quote a favourite anthology of Saunders’, “All in the end is harvest”.
 David Clark, “Making Sense of Cicely Saunders”. International Symposium on Cicely Saunders, Hospital San Juan de Dios, Pamplona, October 17th 2015.
 David Tasma, quoted in Shirley du Boulay, Cicely Saunders: The Founder of the Modern Hospice Movement (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1987), 56.
 Saunders, Watch with Me (Sheffield: Mortal Press, 2003), 41.
 Norman Barrett, quoted in du Boulay, Cicely Saunders, 63.
 This line is from Edith Sitwell’s poem Eurydice and was adopted as the title of an anthology by the same name edited by Agnes Whitaker. All in the End is Harvest: An Anthology for those who Grieve (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1984) was a valued volume in Dr Saunders’ personal collection.
This is a remarkable photograph of the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Alec Douglas Home, being held aloft by an Iranian strongman in a gym in Tehran. Lord Home (pronounced ‘hume’) is surrounded by no fewer than 13 athletes. It is not entirely clear … Continue reading →
I was fortunate to attend the biennial Linked Open Data,
Libraries, Archives, Museums summit in early July in Sydney, Australia. I
played a very small role in setting it up, as a member of the organising
committee. The conference is an opportunity for archivists, librarians, museum
curators and information professionals and IT experts to meet and discuss the
latest developments in Linked Data among higher education, heritage and
‘memory’ institutions, worldwide. Delegates have the chance to hear about
successful (and unsuccessful) projects and take part in targeted discussions on
the future of the technology, and encourage new collaborations. The event
features the ‘Challenge’ – an open competition for the best application of
Linked Data in a cultural setting. The
summit adopts the ‘un-conference’ format without pre-prepared papers, at which
relevant issues can be aired and debated and sub-groups convened to address
Linked Data is a way of structuring online and other data to
improve its accuracy, visibility and connectedness. The technology has been
available for more than a decade and has mainly been used by commercial
entities such as publishing and media organisations including the BBC and
Reuters. For archives, libraries and
museums, Linked Data holds the prospect of providing a richer experience for
users, better connectivity between pools of data, new ways of cataloguing
collections, and improved access for researchers and the public.
It could, for example, provide the means to unlock research
data or mix it with other types of data such as maps, or to search digitised
content including books and image files and collection metadata. New, more
robust, services are currently being developed by international initiatives
such as Europeana which should make its adoption by libraries and archives much
easier. There remain many challenges, however, and this conference provided the
opportunity to explore these.
The conference comprised a mix of quick fire discussions,
parallel breakout sessions, 2-minute introductions to interesting projects, and
the Challenge entries.
[photo: Work in progress at the LODLAM summit]
Quick fire points
Need for improved visualisation of data (current
visualisations are not scalable or require too much IT input for archivists and
librarians to realistically use)
Need to build Linked Data creation and editing
into vendor systems (the Step change model which we pursued at King’s Archives
in a Jisc-funded project)
Exploring where text mining and Natural Language
Processing overlap with LOD
World War One Linked Data: what next? (less of a
theme this time around as the anniversary has already started)
LOD in archives: a particular challenge?
(archives are lagging libraries and galleries in their implementation of Linked
What is the next Getty vocabularies: a popular vocabulary
that can encourage use of LOD?
Fedora 8 and LOD in similar open source or
proprietary content management systems (how can Linked Data be used with these
Linked Data is an off-putting term implying a
data-centric set of skills (perhaps Linked Open Knowledge as an alternative?)
Building a directory of cultural heritage
organisation LOD: how do we find available data sets? (such as Linked Open
Implementing the European Data Model: next steps
(stressing the importance of Europeana in the Linked Data landscape)
Can we connect different entities across
different vocabularies to create new knowledge? (a lot of vocabularies have
been created, but how do they communicate?)
This talk showcased a new product called OASIS from
Synaptica, aimed at art galleries, which facilitates the identification,
annotation and linking of parts of images. These elements can be linked
semantically and described using externally-managed vocabularies such as the
Getty suite of vocabularies or classifications like Iconclass. This helps
curators do their job. End users enjoy an enriched appreciation of paintings
and other art. It is the latest example of annotation services that overlay useful
information and utilise agreed international standards like the Open Annotation
Data Model and the IIIF standard for image zoom.
We were shown two examples: Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus
and Holbein’s The Ambassadors for impressive zooming of well-known paintings
and detailed descriptions of features. Future development will allow for
crowdsourcing to identify key elements and utilising image recognition software
to find these elements on the Web (‘find all examples of images of dogs in 16th
century public works of art embedded in the art but not indexed in available
This product mirrors the implementation of IIIF by an
international consortium that includes leading US universities, the Bodleian,
BL, Wellcome and others. Two services have evolved which offer archives the
chance to provide deep zoom and interoperability for their images for their
users: Mirador, and the Wellcome’s Universal Viewer (http://showcase.iiif.io/viewer/mirador/).
These get around the problem of having to create differently sized derivatives
of images for different uses, and of having to publish very large images on the
internet when download speeds might be slow.
Digital New Zealand
Chris McDowall of Digital New Zealand explored how best to
make LOD work for non-LOD people. Linked Open Data uses a lot of acronyms and
assumes a fairly high level of technical knowledge of systems which should not
be assumed. This is a particular bugbear of mine, which is why this talk
resonated. Chris’ advocacy of cross developer/user meetups also chimed with my
own thinking: LOD will never be properly adopted if it is assumed to be the
province of ‘techies’. Developers often don’t know what they are developing
because they don’t understand the content or its purpose: they are not
He stressed the importance of vocabulary cross-walks and the
need for good communication in organisations to make services stable and
sustainable. Again, this chimed with my own thinking: much work needs to be
done to ‘sell’ the benefits of Linked Data to sceptical senior management.
These benefits might include context building around archive collections,
gamification of data to encourage re-use, and serendipity searches and prompts
which can aid researchers. Linked Data offers the kind of truly targeted
searching in contrast to the ‘faith based technology’ of existing search
engines (a really memorable expression).
He warned that the infrastructure demands of LOD should not
be underestimated, particularly from researchers making a lot of simultaneous
queries: he mooted a pared down type of LOD for wider adoption.
Richard Wallis of OCLC explored the potential of Schema.org,
a growing vocabulary of high level terms agreed by the main search engines to
make content more searchable. Schema.org helps power search result boxes one
sees at the top of Google search return pages. Richard suggested the creation
of an extension relevant to archives to add to the one for bibliographic
material. The advantage of schema.org is that it can easily be added to web
pages, resulting in appreciable improvement in ranking and the possibility of
generating user-centred suggestions in search results. For an archive, this
might mean a Google user searches for the papers of Winston Churchill and is
offered suggested other uses such as booking tickets to a talk about the
papers, or viewing Google maps information showing the opening times and
location of the archive.
The group discussion centred on the potential elements (would
the extension refer to thesis, research data, university systems that contain
archive data such as Finance and student information?), and on the need for use
cases and setting out potential benefits. I agreed to be part of an
international team through the W3C Consortium, to help set one up.
[photo: Shakespeare window at the State Library of New South Wales]
This Dutch service facilitates the linking of different
controlled vocabularies and thesauri and helps address the problem faced by
many cultural organisations ‘which thesauri do I use?’ and ‘how do I avoid
reinventing the thesauri wheel?’. The services allows users to upload a SKOS
vocabulary, link it with one of four supported vocabularies and visualise the
The service helps different types of organisation to connect
their vocabularies, for example an audio-visual archive with a museum’s
collections. The approach also allows content from one repository to be
enhanced or deepened through contextual information from another. The example
of Vermeer’s Milkmaid was cited: enhancing the discoverability of information
on the painting held in the Rijksmuseum
in Amsterdam through connecting the collection data held on the local museum
management system with DBPedia and with the Getty Art and Architecture
Thesaurus. This sort of approach builds on the prototypes developed in the last
few years to align vocabularies (and to ‘Skosify’ data – turn it into Linked
Data) around shared Europeana initiatives (see http://semanticweb.cs.vu.nl/amalgame/).
Services project: Introduction by Ingrid Mason
This is a pan-Australian research data management project
focusing on the repackaging of cultural heritage data for academic re-use.
Linked Data will be used to describe a ‘meta-collection’ of the country’s
cultural data, one that brings together academic users of data and curators. It
will utilise the Australia-wide research data nodes for high speed retrieval (https://www.rds.edu.au/project-overview
Jon explained how the popular historical mapping service,
historypin, is dealing with the problem of ‘roundtripping’ where heritage data
is enhanced or augmented through crowdsourcing and returned to its source. This
is of particular interest to Europeana, whose data might pass through many
hands. It highlights a potential difficulty of LOD: validating the authenticity
and quality of data that has been distributed and enriched.
Chris McDowall of
Digital New Zealand
Chris explained how to search across different types of data
source in New Zealand, for example to match and search for people using
phonetic algorithms to generate sound alike suggestions and fuzzy name
This 6 million Euro EU-funded project aims to make
audio-visual material more accessible and has been trialled with thousands of
hours of video footage, and expert users, from the BBC. Its purpose is to help users
mine vast quantities of audio-visual material in the public domain as
accurately and quickly as possible. The team have developed tools using open
source frameworks that allow users to detect people, places, events and other
entities in speech and images and to annotate and refine these results. This
sophisticated tool set utilises face, speech and place recognition to zero-in
on precise fragments without the need for accompanying (longhand) metadata. The
results are undeniably impressive – with a speedy, clear, interface locating
the parts of each video with filtering and similarity options. The main use for
the toolset to date is with film studies and journalism students but it
unquestionably has wider application.
The Axes website also highlights a number of interesting
projects in this field. Two stand out: http://www.axes-project.eu/?page_id=25,
notably Cubrik (http://www.cubrikproject.eu/),
another FP 7 multinational project which mixes crowd and machine analysis to
refine and improving searching of multimedia assets; and the PATHS prototype (http://www.paths-project.eu/) ‘an interactive personalised tour guide through
existing digital library collections. The system will offer suggestions about
items to look at and assist in their interpretation. Navigation will be based
around the metaphor of a path through the collection.’ The project created an
API, User Interface and launched a tested exemplar with Europeana to
demonstrate the potential of new discovery journeys to open access to
The NSW State Library sought to find new ways of visualising
their collections by date and geography through their DX Labs, an experimental
data laboratory similar to BL Labs, which I have worked with in the UK. One
visually arresting visualisation shows the proportions of collections relevant
to particular geographical locations in the city of Sydney. Accompanied by
approving gasps from the audience, this showed an iceberg graphic superimposed
onto a map showing the proportion of collections about a place that had been
digitised and yet to be digitised – a striking way of communicating the
fragility of some collections and the work still to be done to make them
accessible to the public.
Open Memory Project. This Italian entry
won the main prize. It uses Linked Data to re-connect victims of the Holocaust
in wartime Italy. The project was thought provoking and moving and has the
potential to capture the public imagination.
Polimedia is a service designed to
answer questions from the media and journalists by querying multi-media
libraries, identifying fragments of speech. It won second prize for its
innovative solution to the challenge of searching video archives.
LodView goes LAM is a new Italian
software designed to make it easier for novices to publish data as Linked Data.
A visually beautiful and engaging interface makes this a joy to look at.
EEXCESS is a European project to
augment books and other research and teaching materials with contextual
information, and to develop sophisticated tools to measure usage. This is an
exciting, ambitious, project to assemble different sources using Linked Data to
enable a new kind of publication made up of a portfolio of assets.
Preservation Planning Ontology is a
proposal for using Linked Data in the planning of digital preservation by
archives. It has been developed by Artefactual Systems, the Canadian company
behind ATOM and Archivematica software. This made the shortlist as it is a good
example of a ‘behind the scenes’ management use of Linked data to make
preservation workflows easier.
A selection of other
Public Domain City
extracts curious images from digitised content. This is similar to BL Labs’
Mechanical Curator, a way of mining digitised books for interesting images and
making them available to social media to improve the profile and use of a
Project Mosul uses
Linked Data to digitally recreate damaged archaeological heritage from Iraq. A
good example of using this technology to protect and recreate heritage damaged
in conflict and disaster.
The Muninn Project
combines 3D visualisations and printing using Linked Data taken from First
World War source material.
LOD Stories is a
way of creating story maps between different pots of data about art and
visualising the results. The project is a good example of the need to make
Linked Data more appealing and useful, in this case by building ‘family trees’
of information about subjects to create picture narratives.
Get your coins out of
your pocket is a Linked Data engine about Roman coinage and the stories it
has to tell – geographically and temporally. The project uses nodegoat as an
engine for volunteers to map useful information: http://nodegoat.net/.
Graphity is a
Danish project to improve access to historical Danish digitised newspapers and
enhancing with maps and other content using Linked Data.
Dutch Ships and
Sailors brings together multiple historical data sources and uses Linked
Data to make them searchable.
Corbicula is a way
of automating the extraction of data from collection management systems and
publishing it as Linked Data.
[photo: delegates at the summit]
Day two sessions
Day two sessions focused on the future. A key session led by
Richard Wallis explained how Google is moving from a page ranking approach to a
triple confidence assertion approach to generating search results. The way in
which Google generates its results will therefore move closer to the LOD method
of attributing significance to results.
Need for a vendor manifesto to encourage systems
vendors such as Ex Libris, to build LOD into their systems (Corey Harper of New
York University proposed this and is working closely with Ex Libris to bring
Depositing APIs/documentation for maximum re-use
(APIs are often a weak link – adoption of LOD won’t happen if services break or
Uses identified (mining digitised newspaper
archives was cited)
Potential piggy-backing from Big Pharma
investment in Big Data (massive investment by drugs companies to crunch huge
quantities of data – how far can the heritage sector utilise even a fraction of
Need to validate LOD: the quality issue – need
for an assertion testing service (LOD won’t be used if its quality is
questionable. Do curators (traditional guardians of quality) manage this?)
Training in Linked Data needs to be addressed
Need to encourage fundraising and make LO
sustainable: what are we going to do with LOD in the next ten years? (Will the
test of the success of Linked Open Data be if the term drops out of use when we
are all doing it without noticing? Will 5 Star Linked Data be realised? http://5stardata.info/)
There were several key learning points from this conference:
The divide between technical experts and policy
and decision makers remains significant: more work is needed to provide use
cases and examples of improved efficiencies or innovative public engagement
opportunities that the technology provides
The re-use and publication of Linked Data is
becoming important and this brings challenges in terms of IPR, reliability of
APIs and quality of data
Easy to use tools and widgets will help spread
its use; avoiding complicated and unsustainable technical solutions that depend
on project funding
Working with vendors to incorporate Linked Data
tools in library and archive systems will speed its adoption
The Linked Data community ought to work towards
the day Linked Data is business as usual and the terms goes out of use
Last week a member of the Faculty of Natural and
Mathematical Sciences brought in a very large, old, framed photograph which had
been hanging in the Physics Department for many years. Sadly, no one in the Department knew who it
was of but they felt it might be of interest to us here in the Archives.
My difficultly was trying to identify the young man in the
portrait. Judging by his clothes, his
moustache and his hairstyle, I estimated that the picture was probably taken
around 1900-1910. It was a large
photograph in a very fancy frame so he must have been important. So, who was he?
Well, I believe it is an early photograph of Charles Glover
Barkla who was appointed to the Chair of Physics in 1909. He remained at King’s for four years during
which time he published extensively on his research into x-rays. Barkla then
moved to Edinburgh and in 1917 he was awarded a Nobel Prize for this work.
Here is a later photograph of Barkla for comparison:
[By George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
Am I right, have we found a photograph of
Charles Barkla in his 20s?
Selected by Patricia Methven, Director of Archives & Information Management What: ‘Diary of development of British respirator’, 1915-1919. Why: Albeit visually dull, this six page text charts British attempts to protect millions of men from the initially disabling, eventually lethal, … Continue reading →
Selected by Diana Manipud, Archives Assistant Group Captain Albert Peter Vincent Daly was posted with 29 Squadron, when he was shot down over Achiet-le-Grand on the 1st February 1917 by Lt Werner Voss. Daly was wounded in the shoulder but … Continue reading →
Selected by Barbara Ball, Metadata Assistant Lord Kitchener was appointed Secretary of State for War at the outbreak of the First World War. He began a recruitment campaign for ‘volunteer’ regular troops. At that particular time mass conscription was somewhat … Continue reading →
Selected by Stephen Miller, Web Editor What The spark that began the first global war in 1914 was the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his duchess Sophie Chotek on 28 June. The … Continue reading →