Final project and evaluation reports

Our final project and evaluation reports are now completed.

The project report has been written in the style of an ‘article’ and will be used by JISC – together with reports from other recent JISC digitization projects – as the bases of a future publication illustrating JISC funded digitization initiatives.

The findings and recommendations in the evaluation report are summarized below.

The findings show that the project’s objectives have been successfully achieved except that the Web 2.0 implementation has been delayed and will now not happen until the summer of 2011. This has impacted upon other aspects such as user testing. The approach to running the project has provided a strong base for success and has included all partners in decision making and in the process of developing the content. The website has had a number of users, with web statistics showing repeat visits and use of a wide variety of pages. The evaluation does highlight the need for a fully thought out marketing strategy for the future to increase the user base.

Recommendations My Leicestershire History is a valuable resource and thus needs to continue to be supported through:

  • Making sure Web 2.0 happens,
  • Developing a strategy for sustainability which enables the continuation of digitization of data and of continuing to advertise and promote the site with the general public but also perhaps with further funding to support the education sector,
  • Promoting the best practice that this project highlights,
  • Maintaining contact with the local history societies that have contributed.

Other digitization projects would also benefit from using an approach similar to that trialed here, with the inclusion of partners from voluntary and professional organizations. Including all partners in the setting up, management and practical completion of the project provides a strong structure. It should be remembered that such projects take a great deal of time and require:

  • Development of an inclusive management process.
  • Early development of a marketing strategy.
  • Early inclusion of different user groups to find out what they are interested in and later testing of the site design.
  • Considering the types of IT, and associated programmes etc early on, budgeting for appropriate resources and support.
  • Supporting and training those involved and using networks to find advice and further support.
  • Considering sustainability and the best approaches before the end of the project.

Lastly it must be mentioned that projects such as this rely heavily on the voluntary help those in local history societies (and similar) can give and the skills and knowledge they bring with them. Their enthusiasm and time is central to success.

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What next?

So, now that the Archive has been created and the project phase has come to an end, what are our plans for the future?

We will be re-naming the archive My Leicestershire History – as we think this name more clearly describes what the site is about.

The site and collection will be maintained by the University of Leicester Library and we will continue promoting and publicising it.

Future development of the collection is uncertain at the moment but meetings of the Steering Group will continue for the time being and within the Library we will be looking at how we can sustain digitisation initiatives in the future.  We have learnt a lot over the course of the project and now have an ‘infrastructure’ for digitisation work on which we can build.

End of project workshop

Ten months have passed by very quickly and the project ended formally on 31 March 2011.

My Leicestershire Digital Archive – to be renamed My Leicestershire History when we update the user interface this summer – is now a reality and contains a rich set of resources covering the history of Leicester and Leicestershire from the seventeenth century up to the 1980s.

All the project partners came together on 31 March for an ‘end of project’ of workshop to share our perspectives on what we had learned from the project.

Copies of the following presentations are available:

The project team’s perspective

The Leicestershire Industrial History Society perspective

Digitising the oral history and radio programmes (East Midlands Oral History Archive)

We covered a lot of ground in our discussions and so the summary below is fairly lengthy.  However, it is included here for the sake of completeness.

Project set-up

Never underestimate the amount of time that project ‘set-up’ can take – from ensuring that technical systems are in place, to appointing and training staff, to developing relationships and communication channels with project partners.  While this is often said of project start-ups it is easy to overlook the practical implications of this fact for overall project timescales.

Digitisation takes time

Everyone stressed the amount of time which digitisation can take and the need to be prepared for this.  The time required to create metadata (a separate point below) is also linked to this.

Copyright

There is no need to re-invent any wheels with lots of existing good practice and standard documentation to draw on with respect to licences and permissions.  However, you need to be able to explain and document copyright permissions in very accessible and understandable terms to rights holders who are usually private individuals in a project of this kind.

Build on existing relationships

Build on existing relationships where you can.  The project benefited hugely from the contacts which one of our partners already had with a number of the other partners who became involved.

Metadata creation takes time

All partners found the process of describing and uploading items very time consuming.  The community partners found it particularly time consuming to contribute the required metadata although we simplified this as far as possible.  At the same time, the descriptive metadata which they provided added greatly to the usefulness of the Archive.

Respect volunteers’ time

Our community partners were giving freely of their time and there were limits to how much time they could give.  They contributed hugely to the expertise and resources available within the project but you need to be realistic about the level of commitment that volunteers can give.  We tried to involve an additional local history organization in the project a few months after the project had started but, unfortunately, they were not in a position to contribute any volunteer time.

Provide high quality, self explanatory support materials for volunteers

Help sheets on use of CONTENTdm and the creation of metadata were created and used as part of the project.  However, more detailed and user friendly support materials would be required if a larger number of community partners were to be involved in the future.

Hosted services

Using a hosted service for the Archive worked very well for us as it meant that we did not need to allow time (which we did not have) for server set-up and software installation.  We also received good technical support from the supplier.

Second staff where you can

The project team were seconded members of Library staff which meant that we had the benefit of their existing experience and skills – and that the skills they developed during the project would not be lost to the Library at the end.

Publicity and promotion takes sustained time and effort

Effective publicity and promotion requires a great deal of sustained time and effort.  Most of our publicity effort has fallen in the last few months of the project after most of the content has been added.  We will need to find ways of continuing the publicity effort well after the formal end of the project because, if not, we will not realise the full benefit to the University and to the local community of creating the Archive.

Community created content is about much more than managing costs

The content added to the Archive by our community partners cost less in monetary terms because the project had the benefit of volunteers’ time.  However, in creating a digital collection we would say that it is not a question of ‘professional’ or ‘volunteer’ time being better or cheaper than the other.  The project benefited from both.  The community partners contributed expertise and resources which were not available to the ‘professional’ partners and vice versa.

Digitising audio recordings from scratch

This was the first time the East Midlands Oral History Archive had digitized their audio recordings.  The laptops used worked well – for processing sound most modern laptops cope very well – as did the Adobe Audition 3 software used. For budgetary reasons, two relatively inexpensive E-mu Tracker digital/audio converters were purchased and, with hindsight, we are not sure we would use them again. There still needs to be some testing done to confirm their superiority to the standard laptop sound cards, but they are not simple to set up with the software, and their use, while fairly simple, is not intuitive. Also, they could not handle the high quality output of the Studer tape players used and some attenuators were made up to compensate for this. For all this, the results of the digitization process were perfectly acceptable.

The model worked

Collaborating with local history organizations to identify and add relevant content to the Archive worked.  But, as outlined above, there are limits to the amount of time which volunteers can contribute and sufficient resources need to be in place to provide the necessary support and co-ordination.

User testing – today

We are running some user feedback sessions today.  Primarily we will be investigating the functionality and usability of the website, but we also intend to ask about their impressions of the community content on the archive, and their impressions of the archive as a whole.

We are trying to combine a task focussed approach with some flexibility for participants to explore the site and talk about what they ould expect to see or didn’t expect to happen etc.

We are doing the testing in 6 pairs, the idea being that each pair will discuss the tasks or options more throughly and allow us to make notes on the processes involved in using the site.

None of the “pairs” know each other. We have been lucky enough to find 12 of our users by advertising on the archive home page and the university website.  The offer of a £10 book token for 45 minutes work may also have helped.

Home page redesign

We have made a few changes to the site in the past week.  This has mainly been prompted by the minor delay with CONTENTdm 6 – the next iteration of the software we use for the archive.

Behind the scenes the server has been switched from Windows to Linux which we think has improved performance quite significantly.  At the front we have made small changes to the colours, font sizes and page widths but the most obvious change is the new homepage.  We hope that the new page highlights what collections are available and gives users of the site a better indication of what the archive contains right at the outset.

It also changes the emphasis from searching to browsing which at present seems the most useful way to investigate MLDA.

Participants needed for user testing of a local history website and archive

Remuneration by £10 book token.

The My Leicestershire Digital Archive is a free and fully searchable online repository of photographs, films, sound recordings, and books about the history of Leicester and Leicestershire.

It is available at : http://myleicestershire.org.uk/

We are looking for around 10 people willing to spend up to an hour of their time testing the site with us.  What we will be asking you to do is explore the site and complete some pre-arranged tasks, whilst talking to us about what you find intuitive, what you would expect to be able to do, what you don’t like, etc.

The project team staff will make a note of what you say and this will be used as part of the project evaluation and to improve the site either with small immediate changes or when it is redesigned in the summer.

For more information or to register interest please contact Ed Kirkland at mlda@le.ac.uk or 0116 229 7399.

My Leicestershire on tour

We’ve had a flurry of events last week to do with High Street History, all timed to tie in with the BBC reality/documentary Turn Back Time: The High Street.

First we went off to Belgrave Public Library to be part of a BBC Radio Leicester event to discover people’s memories of Belgrave Road (known as The Golden Mile) one of the most historically interesting areas of Leicester.  Due to the weather the event was not an outside broadcast as intended but several attendees were interviewed on the radio by telephone.  It was a good opportunity to show people the My Leicestershire archive – including the items relating to Belgrave such as photos and oral histories.  And we also collected a few scanned images people had brought with them.  We are also hoping that the audio recordings made by the BBC will be available for adding to My Leicestershire.

The second event was also themed with High Street History in mind and was held at the County Records Office in Wigston Magna (South Leicester).  Again the weather played a part in our plans with a small turnout.  We were fortunate however that the die-hard few brought some nice items such as postcards of Leicester City Centre & a collection of Ghost signs which will complement those we already have.  We also made contact with a few local history organisations – Leicester Villages & Ashby Museum being two.  We are looking to work with these organisations in the coming months.

The events also helped raise the profile of our project & site, with mentions in the local newspaper and on the BBC website & radio.  we have had some direct enquiries following this and are following these up.