Archives 2.0

The Archives here in Deseronto has a rather patchy selection of local newspapers for the twentieth century. There’s a good run of The Quinte Scanner from 1968 to 1982 but apart from that we really only have lucky survivals of The Deseronto Post and a few editions of the Daily Intelligencer, Belleville’s newspaper. Finding out what newspaper we have for a particular year or decade involved consulting two different lists, the contents of which are not easy to absorb.

We’ve now combined the information from those lists into a single online resource. It’s a Google Calendar into which each newspaper edition has been entered as an event. If you have a Google account, you can view the newspaper calendar, which we’ve made public. From the calendar page, click on the small Add to Google Calendar symbol at the bottom right. This will add the newspaper calendar to your Google calendar page.

In order to see what we have for a particular year, you need to install the ‘Year View’ feature for your calendar (in Google Calendar, go to the ‘Settings’ page, then ‘Labs’ to do this). Once you have the Year View, you can use it to get to a particular year, then click on any month to see if we hold any local papers for that particular time period. The picture below is of the month of October 1925, where we have two issues of the Deseronto Post and three of the Daily Intelligencer. Click on the image for a closer look.

Newspapers for October 1925

This is just an experiment, really, but it’s already proving useful in making it much quicker to answer questions about whether we have any newspapers for a particular date.

It’s ‘Follow an Archive’ day today, where everyone is being encouraged to discover more about history and archives through the online updating service, Twitter. Twitter is a great way of finding out what’s happening in all sorts of areas of interest: ranging from breaking news via long-established media organisations to information about local events and activities.

In Ontario, there are now quite a few archives who are talking (tweeting) about their activities and their wonderful collections on Twitter. You can receive updates from the Archives of Ontario, Dundas Museum and Archives, the Cobourg and District Historical Society, Port Hope Archives, Appleby College Archives and Elgin County Archives (and, of course, Deseronto Archives!).  The organizers of this event have compiled a directory of tweeting archives all around the world.

On Twitter, the #followanarchive tag will be used to share information about what archives are doing on Twitter to bring their treasures to a whole new audience.

Detail of Sambro Island Lighthouse lens from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

The annual conference of the Association of Canadian Archivists has just come to an end. It has been an excellent event, with many stimulating papers. One of Thursday’s sessions was particularly relevant to Deseronto, as the speaker, Ian Richards, did his Masters thesis on the topic of the contribution that archives can make to the development of their local communities. His particular focus is on the City of Brandon in Manitoba, but the general points he made are relevant to many other municipalities, including Deseronto. His thesis is available from the University of Manitoba’s electronic thesis collection.

Other sessions covered issues such as Access to Information and Privacy laws, measuring the impact of an archival program and the role of outreach in a networked world.

I gave a talk on the Saturday about the work we’ve been doing in Deseronto, including this blog and our Flickr and Twitter accounts. This dovetailed quite well with Ian’s talk and with the talks on outreach and impact, as I was trying to show what the effects of our engagement with these Web 2.0 technologies have been.* My main arguments were that people need direct access to online cultural materials from search engines, that they have to be able to share those materials with other people and that if they are experts on a particular item, they need to be able to contribute to improving its description.

I summarised the main impacts of sharing Deseronto’s photographs online as:

  • Comments and notes from users
  • Collaboration with users
  • New accessions: virtual, digital and tangible
  • New creative works
  • Funding for new projects

Many of these consequences have been featured in posts on this blog. The difficult thing to measure is the impact that the Archives’ activities have had upon the community of Deseronto as a whole. One of the sessions this week suggested that we need to measure the ‘hard to measure’, over an extended period of time. I look forward to hearing about the best way of achieving that.

*The slides are available on SlideShare.

“Look out for two grey-haired, not-very-tall people in green anoraks”.

This was how Mrs Devos described herself and her husband. We had arranged to meet at London City Airport, although we had only known each other through the Internet, and for a mere five weeks.

Mr Devos had put ‘Deseronto’ into Google in February and had come across this blog. He got in touch by email on February 18, to tell me about his father’s photograph album, which I’ve described in an earlier post. We were delighted to get copies of the photographs, but as Mr Devos lives in Worcestershire, England, our interaction has been purely through email.

Last Friday I posted a ‘Thank you’ letter to Worcestershire from Manchester, where I was attending the Archives 2.0 conference and talking about the work we’re doing in Deseronto using online resources such as Blogger and Flickr (including, I might add, the story behind the Devos photo album). Noticing that the letter was posted in England, Mr Devos emailed to say that he would be in London this week and to see if there was any chance of meeting up. As it happened, I would be on my way from Edinburgh to Kent via London today.

So we arranged our rendezvous (despite misgivings of friends of both parties, who were automatically suspicious of meetings arranged with strangers over the Internet!). We found each other without mishap (the green anoraks were instantly recognisable) and had a lovely chat over a cup of coffee in the airport café. We’ve gone from a chance international online encounter to a face-to-face meeting in London in just over a month!

When I talked about our accession of the Devos photo album in Manchester last week, as one of the consequences of putting materials online, I didn’t know that I would actually be getting to meet Mr Devos and his wife. It is another example of the fact that you never know quite where these online initiatives are going to take you, if you are willing to let them.