Workshop

Open source archive software: a report on National Archive’s workshop on ATOM and Archivematica

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By Geoffrey Browell, Head of Archive Services, King’s College London 


 

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.


The blog was originally posted on the King’s Collection blog: https://blogs.kcl.ac.uk/kingscollections/2016/12/20/open-source-archive-software/

Archives

Publication of the Survey of Hospital Records In Ireland

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The National Archives of Ireland have published their survey of hospital archives in Ireland. The survey funded by the Wellcome Trust was carried out between May 2014 and December 2015 with the objective of establishing the location, extent, content and condition of the archives of hospitals in the Republic of Ireland. Approximately 200 locations were identified as holding records and It was envisaged that the survey findings and recommendations would provide a basis for the development of policy on permanent preservation and access, and facilitate the formulation of a strategy to ensure the transfer of all records of permanent value to the custody of archival institutions.

For more information on the survey and to download a copy please visit the following link: http://www.nationalarchives.ie/2016/11/talk-on-survey-of-hospital-archives-22-november-at-1800/

 

Guest Post

‘A Corporate Humanity’ – Cataloguing the Records of the Glasgow Public Health Department

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Alison Scott, Project Archivist, Glasgow City Archives


The Wellcome Trust is funding a project to catalogue the records of the Glasgow Public Health Department and its predecessor authorities.

Glasgow paid a heavy price for being the ‘second city of the empire’. Rapid industrialisation led to over-crowding and dangerous levels of pollution. The resulting effects on the health of the people were profound. In 1895 the Public Health Department was formed, as the city attempted to address these effects. Under its succession of dedicated Medical Officers of Health it slowly created a better city.

 

[View over Glasgow tenements, 1897 ref: D-HE/4/1/8/10]
The Department’s work lent itself to statistical analysis and the ultimate expression of this was the annual report of the Medical Officer of Health. The Department used the report both to quantify the issues and illustrate their progress. They date from 1863, when the first Medical Officer of Health was appointed, and the amount of information in them increases over time with a typical report from 1913 having 58 tables as appendices as well as further statistics in sections on population; maternity and child welfare; infectious diseases; respiratory diseases and tuberculosis; venereal disease; the work of the Port Local Authority; housing; Bacteriological Laboratory; food; air purification; and the work of the hospitals.

[Children receiving light treatment, 1926 refL D-HE/7/2/1/6]
The annual reports are supported by files of raw data used to compile them, along with weekly and fortnightly returns of mortality statistics (1844-1973); and reports on specific events such as the typhoid outbreak in 1880 and the influenza epidemic in 1957. Although not all the administrative files of the Department have survived, those that there are in the collection also help to add meat to the bones of the ‘official version’.

 

The collection also contains the Department’s working records such as reports on housing conditions and insanitary tenements (1920); returns of infectious diseases (1920-1973); prosecutions for smoke pollution (1899-1960); and files on the wartime inspection of shipping.

 

Apart from the core records other resources include 137 newspaper cuttings files on a wide variety of health and social subjects (1907-1939); publications by the Department (1897-1974); and a large number of glass negatives and lantern slides.

 

Work is already finished on the departmental records themselves and an item-level list of this important collection is available for the first time.

 

[Cover of a Public Health Department publication, c 1944 ref: D-HE/6/1/24]
The project has not stopped with the records of the Department, however. Acknowledging the complicated history of health functions in Glasgow, the current work of the project is to re-catalogue the Police records. In the 19th century policing the city was seen as much more than a crime-fighting operation. Records of the Board of Police and its committees date from 1800 and cover such subjects as health, hospitals, cleansing, and sewage disposal.

 

The project is similarly extended to the records of the burghs absorbed into the city through boundary extensions as they also had public health functions. Their records will be re-catalogued, including a substantial amount of previously unavailable material.

 

The quotation in the title come from the sermon given at the funeral in 1904 of James Burn Russell, Glasgow and Scotland’s first full time Medical Officer of Health. The minister presiding looked to a future where there would be ‘a corporate humanity, a public virtue, a body-politic with its laws, duties and responsibilities’. He saw Russell as having fought against both ignorance and selfishness to create a model of his work in sanitation for the rest of the world to follow.

 

An online article in celebration of James Burn Russell, Glasgow’s first full time Medical Officer of Health, can be found at: http://bit.ly/2dxyiZl

 

For further information contact Alison Scott, Project Archivist: alisone.scott@glasgowlife.org.uk.

 

News

Upcoming event: ‘Cracking the case note conundrum’ – Lothian Health Services Archive, Edinburgh, Wednesday 19th October 2016

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LHSA holds over one million patient case notes covering a wide variety of medical specialties. These folder-based case notes contain a range of documents relating to patient care, and can be a rich primary archival source for an array of historical, scientific and medical disciplines. Cataloguing such records, however, can be a difficult undertaking.

As part of the Centre for Research Collections’ exhibition Enhance, Access and Understand: The University of Edinburgh and the Wellcome Trust, archivist Louise Williams will explore how LHSA has overcome the challenges involved in cataloguing neurosurgical and tuberculosis case notes to realise the unique research potential of these two significant collections. This talk will take place on Wednesday 19 October from 12.30pm to 1pm, at the Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh.

This event is free but places are limited – please visit the event page to sign up.

Meetings

Hosting HARG

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By Ruth Honeybone, Manager of the Lothian Health Archives


LHSA has been a member of the Health Archives and Records Group (HARG) for a long while, and today is the second time in five years that we’ve hosted their AGM. HARG is a group of archivists and records managers with responsibility for health records across the UK that come together a couple of times a year (usually once in London and once somewhere else!) to discuss shared issues and brief each other on changes in legislation and how they will impact on the records in our care. The membership is a bit wider than that though – anyone with an interest in health records and the history of medicine is welcome to join.

We were pleased to invite the group to the Centre for Research Collections for their ‘somewhere else’ meeting this year, and spent a really interesting and informative day with fellow professionals. Much of the discussion was around HARG’s brand new website: how we would like the site to look and what information we want to include to benefit those using it as much as possible (https://healtharchives.co.uk/). But it was also a chance to catch-up on others’ news and developments as well as share our own.

The afternoon concentrated on the Scottish perspective, and the group of us who look after NHS records in Scotland were able to introduce some of our work to ensure compliance with the Public Records (Scotland) Act and a conference we hope to run next year focusing on how NHS archives have been used in artwork and installations in Scottish hospitals to help patients and staff. Our Project Cataloguing Archivist, Aline, also talked about our case note cataloguing projects and there was time for those attending to take a behind the scenes tour and to have a look at our two current exhibitions, both of which draw heavily on the history of health and medicine (see our blog from 19 August for more info if you’d like to see them).

What kind of hosts would we be if we hadn’t made time for some lunch…?

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[This post originally appeared on the Lothian Health Services Archive blog, on 23 September 2016, http://lhsa.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/hosting-harg.html]