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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.

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.

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.

BBC Turn Back Time themed event

Turn back time on Leicester’s high streets

Contribute to a digital archive of Leicester’s history at an event on 4 December

Does the BBC’s latest history-based reality show Turn Back Time – The High Street have you wondering what Leicester’s high streets were like?

Or how many bakers and grocers were there in Leicester in 1901? Perhaps you’d like to know what was shopping was like in Leicester before World War Two?

My Leicestershire Digital Archive, a new online local history resource for and about Leicester and Leicestershire, is being developed by the University of Leicester in partnership with local history organisations to help you find answers to these and similar questions.

Do you have your own historical items relating to Leicestershire’s high streets that could be added to the Archive such as photographs, postcards and letters? If so bring them along to the Leicestershire Records Office in Wigston on Saturday 4th December 2010 from 10.00am to 3.00pm, where the My Leicestershire team can assess and scan your items for adding to the Archive.

Explore the videos, photographs, directories, rare books and more available online now at www.myleicestershire.org.uk

Turn Back Time: The High Street

Tonight is the first in a four part series looking at the historic high street over six eras. Shopkeepers will experience what it was like to live in these eras, and tonight follows an 1870’s Baker, Butcher, Grocer and Ironmonger. The show will be aired on BBC1 at 9pm.

We have already included some items in the archive that are related to the high street, especially in the Vanished Leicester collection, the Historical Archives and among the Ghost signs.

Digitisation & OCR

Disclaimer – This is not gospel. For sensible advice on digitisation go to the JISC Digital Media site http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/

The first phase of this project has required a substantial amount of digitisation. Through working with partner organisations we have covered a wide spectrum of media including moving image, audio, and rare books. In the next few weeks each of the groups will report on their travails but the university library will go first to discuss the digitisation of rare books.

A key item identified for digitisation is the important historical study of Leicestershire – “History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester” by John Nicholls which is a large work (slightly more than A3 and running to 5,000 pages) with around five million words and many illustrations. The work is in four volumes each of which are split into two parts. It is a very important piece of work and quite unprecedented in terms of scope and detail even in comparison to similar works beinging undertaken at the time. It is also quite difficult to navigate due to poor pagination and the sheer size.

The recent BBC series Story of England featured Michael Wood referring to this book several times. What we want to achieve is a digital version of the book which is searchable and available to all online. It would be a nice test of how well this succeeds if we asked Michael Wood to use it for his research, in terms of how his familiarity with the print copy translates to a keyword searchable version.

Due to the size of this book we sent it to a commercial digitisation service and it is due back with the digital files next week. We have seen samples and are very pleased with how it has turned out. There were many worries with the original item as there is significant bleed through on the pages, and the volumes are very unwieldy. One major issue that we have had to tackle is OCR. The typography in contains the long ’s’ which resemble an ‘f’ and this is how conventional OCR software reads them. The typography also includes ligatures which are not well read by OCR. The solution proposed was to use ABBYY X1X http://www.frakturschrift.com/  high-end OCR software designed to cope with old texts. The samples we have seen are fantastic – the quality of the OCR output is very high indeed almost as good as having someone transcribe the text.  As we are using CONTENTdm for the archive which uses the OCR output to build an index for full-text searching we felt this was an important requirement and thus could justify the not insignificant extra cost of this software whihc is charged on a per page basis. The decision was whether we could live with users who search for “Leicester” getting no hits because it is Leicefter throughout the index.  We didn’t think we could.

Website live

We are pleased to say that the My Leicestershire Digital Archive is now available at www.myleicestershire.org.uk

The archive is still a work in progress and more content will be added in the coming weeks and months.  A major software upgrade is scheduled for 8-12 weeks time which will introduce some Web 2.0 features such as comments, rating, and tagging, as well as a complete redesign of the interface.

If you have a moment please take a look and give us your feedback.  It would be much appreciated.