Great to see Sophie Clapp, the Boots archivist, featuring on this BBC2 programme and such a natural in front of the camera! The concept of the series is that a family give up all their modern technology and live life as if in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and so on, where they find, of course, that their lives – and roles – would have been very different. Sophie talked about the revolution in makeup and how it started to become a necessity, rather than a luxury, for women.
Interesting piece on BBC radio 4’s “Today” programme this morning that a “lost” story by Beatrix Potter – “The Tale of Kitty in Boots” – has been uncovered and will be published later this year. The presenter referred to the find as being in a dusty archive but the researcher, Jo Hanks, swiftly replied that the V&A [Victoria & Albert Museum] look after their archives!
Then, only about 30 minutes later, there was another piece referring to archives! One of the latest files to be released by The National Archives (TNA) is about an MP’s proposal to Churchill that the UK should introduce a McCarthy style search to root out communists in the BBC which, thankfully, did not happen.
Delighted to attend the launch of Margaret Crockett’s new book, “The No-nonsense Guide to Archives and Recordkeeping” at the British Library last night and to have the opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues after entertaining short talks from David Leitch (Secretary-General, International Council on Archives), Alison North (Director, AN Ltd), and Iain Brown (IT Security Consultant). David gave an entertaining overview of the international archive and records management scene, whilst Alison’s talk was all about information governance and how the use of that phrase is far more ‘sexy’ than records management but, nevertheless, the route to ensuring that better RM is in place! Iain followed up with an interesting and amusing account of current challenges such as cyber theft, which tied in much of what the previous two speakers had said.
The book is a practical guide for those just starting out in the profession or who have no formal training and is based on the excellent training days run by Margaret and her business partner Janet Foster as The Archive-Skills Consultancy Ltd. More details on Margaret’s book here – http://www.facetpublishing.co.uk/title.php?id=048552#.VqddsyqLTIU
Whilst on the subject of new books, another friend, James Earlby, has brought out an e-book about corporate governance in the football world, which is based on his Master’s dissertation in Corporate Governance. And, as we all know, good recordkeeping has its part to play in corporate governance! For more on James’ book – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Corporate-Governance-Performance-Scottish-Football-ebook/dp/B01AC1H98M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1452586610&sr=8-1&keywords=corporate+governance+and+firm+performance+in+english+and+scottish+football
Autumn seems to be the preferred season for self promotion and advocacy in the information world. Maybe because everyone is back at work after their summer break…? First off the starting blocks was the Society of American Archivists’ “#AskAnArchivist Day” on 1 October to launch American Archives Month. Archivists around the States took to Twitter to answer questions posted with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist, which the SAA hoped would help break down some of the barriers which might make archivists seem inaccessible. I’ve yet to see a full critique but the feedback looks like it was very effective.
6 November saw AIIM’s annual event “World Paper Free Day”, which asks everyone to pledge to reduce the amount of paper we generate in our everyday working and personal lives. Every little helps, as the well-known advertising saying goes!
This week sees the Archive & Record Association’s annual “Explore Your Archive” campaign with events, talks, exhibitions, creative workshops and activities for children taking place in archives all over the UK to raise awareness of archives. Let’s hope it’s as successful as last year.
In the last two weeks I’ve had the delight of staying in both London and Dublin. It seems to be my year for speaking engagements! In 2018 The Economist newspaper will be 175 years old and a European Research Council funded project at University College London has been looking at the status and practices of this singular publication. On 24-25 September UCL hosted a conference about The Economist with the aim of identifying a set of people and themes which will lead to a book of essays on the past and present of The Economist to be published to mark the 175th anniversary. I was asked to speak about the archives of The Economist (where I have been helping to identify and arrange material) and to suggest areas for potential research.
The following week I was off to Ireland to speak at a one-day conference on “Issues in Contemporary Records Management” at University College Dublin. Records Management is still somewhat in its infancy in Ireland, so all credit to Julie Brooks of UCD for obtaining the funding and pulling together an excellent cross-section of speakers, mostly from the UK, who spoke about different challenges, including Julie McLeod on current research in the field, Zoe Smyth on dispositioning in the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Conan Tormey on the corporate world of banking, Alan Bell on FOI and the challenges of RM in the university environment, Claire Johnson on her experience as a consultant, Mark Farrell on the scope for working in the RM sector in Ireland, and my own talk on the “big bucket” approach to retention scheduling. There’s clearly a demand for this type of training and for information about RM as the event was fully booked within a day of being advertised. The audience came from all sectors of work and included the students on the UCD course. The panel at the end of day faced a multitude of questions and the audience clearly had more but most of the speakers had long journeys home, so a halt had to be called! A very enjoyable and successful day.
Can the situation in Iraq and Syria get any worse? Not only have ISIL extremists spread fear and terror amongst the population of those countries and elsewhere, they are now destroying culture and heritage which belongs to the world. In February they released videos of ancient statues being smashed in the museum at Mosul, and later bulldozed Nimrud, the ancient Assyrian capital. Since overrunning Palmyra in May they have started to systematically destroy that beautiful and impressive city. The murder of Khaled al-Asaad was unbelievable. This renowned scholar of antiquities was interrogated for a month – probably tortured – but refused to tell them where valuable artefacts had been hidden and was brutally killed in retaliation. He was a brave and honourable man. How many of us would be prepared to give our lives in such circumstances? And the irony is that ISIL claims that such sites are idolatrous yet it does not destroy everything for it is happy to sell looted artefacts to fund its murderous activities.
There was an interesting article posted recently by Geoff Jones, Professor of Business History at Harvard Business School in the US, in which he argues that business history should be an essential part of business life. The MBA students at Harvard are asked to look at examples of successes and mistakes from the past, some of which he cites in the article. As decisions taken by business leaders can affect the lives of real people, Jones believes that learning from the past about the consequences of decisions should form part of every manager’s toolkit. Read the full piece here – http://www.livemint.com/Companies/LoGGBPJQiLwrAhhBPozQNN/Geoffrey-G-Jones--History-has-its-place-in-business.html
It was great to hear that the Boots Archive has been successful in obtaining funding from the Wellcome Trust to make the archive more accessible to academic researchers, including digitisation of much of its content. A Wellcome-Boots Advisory Board, comprising representatives from Boots, including the archivist, Sophie Clapp, and from the Wellcome, as well as academics from Warwick Business School, will recommend how best the archive can be opened up and suggest potential research themes across disciplines. Following on from the ICA conference in Milan, this is a great way of demonstrating how the archive can provide a good return on investment.
The South Downs National Park Authority has given planning permission to the Weald & Downland Museum’s ambitious Gateway Project. It will be the biggest development in the museum’s 40-year history which aims to maintain the site’s future viability and will transform the way in which visitors experience the museum. There will be two new clusters of buildings: one providing a ticket hall and shop, leading through to new interpretation galleries, and the other will house new catering facilities and a community learning space to use as a classroom and for meetings. Two of the historic buildings will be dismantled and moved to new sites, providing opportunities for trainees and volunteers to be involved with conservation work and learn heritage related skills. The project is scheduled for completion in 2017.
Just back from the International Council on Archives’ Section for Business Archives annual conference in Milan, which comprised two days of interesting and thought-provoking papers under the above heading. I chaired session on ‘Innovative models of management for business archives’ and gave an introductory overview to the topic before the three speakers presented case studies of their own particular model. Other topics included inter alia the role of advocacy, both internally and externally, and the issues in managing multimedia collections and of finding the right people for the job.
The spectacular venue was Pirelli’s headquarters, the auditorium being within a former cooling tower, which had been re-purposed and surrounded by a glass box. The site is also home to a 15th century villa in traditional Lombardic style with amazing frescoes, where we were privileged to have our conference dinner (accompanied by a tremendous thunderstorm!) and the Pirelli archive, which houses an incredible array of advertising. They even have their own Pirelli monogrammed boxes and researchers’ gloves! We were also given a demonstration of the tyre testing within a soundproof room in the R&D building. The day before the conference we were able to visit to the Gallerie d’Italia, opposite La Scala opera house, which holds the art collections of the Banca Intesa Sanpaolo, our hosts, and on the last evening we visited the Galleria Campari which, again, has an incredible display of advertising and promotional material.
The humidity and thunderstorms aside, it was an excellent conference and the SBA continues to go from strength to strength. Next year’s conference will be in Atlanta, hosted by Coca-Cola and 2017 will see the SBA in India for the first time, in Mumbai – can’t wait!
My thoughts, views and musings about what's happening in the world of archives and records management, information and heritage