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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.


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.

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.

RunCoCo – How to Run a Community Collection Online

The RunCoCo project organised an excellent workshop “How to Run a Community Collection Online” held at Oxford on May 26th.  This event also doubled as a low-key launch for the JISC Strand II projects.

The day was very enjoyable and informative and it was good to speak to people from the other projects who are facing the same initial challenges albeit from slightly different perspectives.

Some of the highlights were:

Case study: the Great War Archive – particularly for their experience of running community submission days (held in public libraries etc. and advertised in the local media).  Interestingly, they got far more of their community content contributed online than at these sessions. Clearly there is a limit to what can be collected in one day but also it seems that the greater benefit may have been the publicity received.

Case study: Galaxy Zoo – a fascinating example of community analysis of vast quantities of research data (images from deep space) – exploiting the scale that the web enables.  There are almost 300,000 users on this site and although we wouldn’t expect that kind of input to the MLDA project the ideas that Chris Lintott raised about tangible results and buy-in for participants, as well as a desire not to waste people’s time are transferable to a project of any size.  The Galaxy Zoo model is now being rolled out to various other projects or “zoos” including a JISC funded project to transcribe navy log books from 1914-1923 primarily to identify the climate data record within but also for the historical detail.

IPR question and answers session – A very interesting session which started with a quiz using voting handsets.  At the end we were all provided with some very useful supporting documentation covering samples of due diligence checklists, permission letters, licences etc.  During the session we asked about use of the JISC model licence for community submitted content but were advised to use a Creative Commons licence instead – easier for people to use and understand.  We also got clarification on the England and Wales CC licence compared with the international licence – the international licence does not have a legislative basis in UK courts.

In the afternoon we had a brief  get together of members from the projects from the JISC call and discussions with Ben Showers from JISC who is Programme Manager for the Strand II projects.  All in all a very useful day.