Members of the Platform to platform (P2P) and Heritage organisations and podcasts: scoping study (HOPSS) project teams from the Centre for Social Informatics have enjoyed presenting their work at two conferences this month. First, at the start of September I attended part of the Archives and Records Association’s annual conference 2022 in Chester. Then, with my colleagues Dr Bruce Ryan and Marianne Wilson, I spent most of last week in Bradford at the BBC at 100 Symposium.
I have already previewed our presentations, with links to resources, in two blog posts:
- How does engagement with an archive differ depending on its digital format? Preview of presentation on Lorna Lloyd’s Diary of the war at #ARA2022
- Case study on the creative use of digitised archives: presentation on Lorna Lloyd’s ‘Diary of the War’ podcast series at #BBCat100
Writing this blog post gives me a chance to reflect on participation at both events, and share some of the photos that I took on my most recent work-related travels.
Reflections on the ARA Conference 2022, Chester, 1st-2nd September 2022
Due to other commitments, I was only able to attend the ARA conference from the evening of Thursday 1st September (day 2) until late afternoon on Friday 2nd (day 3). Fortunately, this timing allowed me to join the conference gala dinner on the Thursday evening, and to get to know some of the other delegates, ahead of my presentation the next day. I listened to four presentations on Friday morning, then another two in the afternoon. Then it was my turn to speak about audience engagement with digitised archives in the last paper session of the conference.
For me, the highlights of the ARA conference gala dinner were: (1) hearing work-related tales recounted by the people seated each side of me; (2) listening to citations for those who had won tihs year’s awards for their work in archives and records; and (3) the post-dinner entertainment. I soon discovered that both my dining companions worked in records/information/knowledge management roles in large UK public sector organisations. However, each was at a different career stage: the person to my left was in a first professional post, and the one to my right nearing retirement. The age difference was made evident when everyone at the table reminisced about their first memory of a news story. My neighbour to the right remembered hearing parents discussing the news of the last hanging in England; the person at the other side had vague memories of the 2008 financial crisis. The different perspectives on similar work roles from people at each extreme of the career lifespan were fascinating
The post-dinner entertainment was a live band. I wondered how the dancing would work for me given that I only (very vaguely) knew two people at the conference. It turned out that it was rather like a Freshers disco. You just made your way to the dance floor and joined in. It helped that the band was superb and seemed to know exactly the kind of music that would draw, and then keep, a bunch of archivists, records managers, and conservators on the dance floor.
By the following morning the venue of the previous night’s dinner had been set up for Friday’s keynote presentation by Zoë Reid on the Virtual record treasury of Ireland and the role of the conservation team in its development. The rest of the papers in this session were presented by: (1) Louisa Blight on archiving physical tributes left around Plymouth following the shooting in the city on 12th August 2021; (2) Katie Finn on cataloguing Public Health Wales NHS Trust’s pandemic response; and (3) Toby Green of Coherent Digital on ensuring that valuable information generated about the COVID19 pandemic will be easily found the next time that the world faces a similar global health crisis (which has not been the case in respect of the 1918/19 flu outbreak).
After lunch, I took my place in a smaller breakout room to learn about the design of long-term storage for archives and records from Viv Cothey of Gloucestershire Archives, and parsimonious preservation from Eve Wright of National Records of Scotland.
Then it was my turn to take to the stage to talk about the ways that engagement with a digital archive differ according to its format, drawing on the case of the Blipfoto and podcast versions of Lorna Lloyd’s Diary of the war. By this point of the day I realised that my paper was a little different from the others at the conference. It was unusual as a report of the findings of an empirical study conducted by researchers and presented by an academic: most of the earlier papers centred on case studies and training material presented by practitioners. My presentation was also more of a ‘performance’ than most of the others that I had witnessed already that day. This is because I spoke to the slides, rather than read from a script. So, when I stepped up to the podium, I wasn’t sure how well my work would be received.
I was somewhat relieved when members of the audience came up to me afterwards to say that they enjoyed learning about the research, pointing out that practitioners rarely have the opportunity to test audience engagement with their collections in the way that we have done in the Platform to platform (P2P) project. I was particularly delighted to read the tweet below. I can just be seen in action on the right hand side of the shot.
I’d like to thank everyone at ARA for giving me the opportunity to speak to the archives and records management community about the main findings of the Platform to platform (P2P) project. In particular, I’d like to mention Deborah Mason (ARA Communications Manager) who made me so welcome during my short trip to Chester.
Reflections on the BBC at 100 Symposium, Bradford, 13th-15th September 2022
I was pleased to be able to attend all three days of the BBC at 100 Symposium in Bradford last week, along with my colleagues Dr Bruce Ryan and Marianne Wilson. As well as joining symposium sessions, I enjoyed (another) conference dinner at the Midland Hotel (where we were staying), and a tour of the Switched on exhibition at the National Science and Media Museum (the main conference venue). When my turn came to present this time around, it was in a panel session with my two Napier colleagues and Jake Berger of the BBC Archive. (It was Jake made it possible for us to use original BBC radio broadcasts and news scripts in our podcast series of Lorna Lloyd’s Diary of the war.)
The Symposium was organised by AHRC/BBC 100 Fellow Dr Marcus Collins of Loughborough University as a once-in-a-century opportunity for those with an academic interest in the BBC to celebrate this unique institution. Marcus wished to make it an inclusive and open event. As such it was free to attend, no rejection letters were issued, and full hybrid delivery allowed for participation of delegates from six continents. The format was also different from that of more traditional conferences. There were no keynote speeches, presentations took the form of round table panel sessions (rather than full papers), and speakers were instructed to limit their contributions to five minutes each. When this worked well (and it did in most cases) there was plenty of time in the sessions for reflective dialogue between panel members and the audience (both in-person and remote).
Over the course of the three days I attended sessions on: popular music; interwar broadcasting; ethnicity and sexuality; BBC archives; local, regional and national broadcasting; television studies; literature; the history of broadcasting; documentaries and features; radio drama; and Northern Ireland and ‘the Troubles’. While most of these themes are beyond my own main professional interest (information sharing in online environments), I found much of the discussion fascinating, not least because of my recent research assessment work as a member of REF2021 sub-panel 34 covering Communication, Cultural and Media Studies and Library and Information Management. In addition, since I worked in a Department of Communication and Information Studies for a decade in my earlier career, I have maintained an interest in media studies over the years. It was interesting to hear names-checks for my fellow REF panel members, and contacts of my (old) Communication Studies colleagues.
I also enjoyed informal chats with others in the breaks between sessions: I learnt all about a technology that I had never heard of before (the electrophone); I discovered someone else who has a strong interest in publishing family archives from World War II – in this case letters; I reminisced about schools broadcasting in the 1960s and 70s; I connected with a Napier colleague from our School of Arts and Creative Industries (Aleksandar Kocic); and I found two other delegates who hold the same Masters degree as me.
On Wednesday afternoon it was our turn to present our panel session on digitised archives, chaired by Professor Tim Wall of Birmingham City University. Our session went very well – so much so that nearly all the copies of Lorna Lloyd’s Selected poems that we transported down to Bradford were carried off by our audience.
There was some great discussion in the second half of our session. This covered topics such as means of maintaining the authenticity of digital archives as they move from one format to another (covered in greater depth in my ARA presentation a couple of weeks earlier), ways of developing the Platform to platform (P2P) and Heritage organisations and podcasts: scoping study (HOPSS) research further, and our plans for the formal dissemination of the findings from our empirical work. We were also pleased to make contact with others who share our research interests in digitised archives. These include Dr Eleni Liarou of Birkbeck College London, who is also using BBC archives in her research for a project entitled Decolonising the BBC archive: radio news and the language of race in post-World War II Britain.
We were able to continue the conversation with Jake and Eleni about the use of BBC archives in research at the symposium dinner on Wednesday evening when we decided to sit together for the meal. The dinner itself was held in the French ballroom of the Midland Hotel. I’m pleased to report that quality of the food matched the grand setting. I don’t think that I have ever eaten such a delicious confit de canard, nor seen such a large portion of this dish as a first course.
Dr Marcus Collins is to be congratulated on his superb organisation of the symposium, especially under the challenging circumstances of COVID19, rail strikes, and the death of a monarch. Thanks also to his colleague Tasha Kitcher, who assisted in the delivery of the event in Bradford, and the excellent on-site tech team. The idea behind the event was to create connections and identify new research directions. I think it is safe to say that this was achieved. It will be interesting to see the extent to which the discussions in Bradford lead to valuable collaborative work in the future.
Finally I would also like to acknowledge here Stella Wisdom of the British Library. Stella has been a great supporter of the Centre for Social Informatics‘ work on archives and podcasting, and it was she who first suggested that we make a submission to the BBC at 100 Symposium. Without her, we would have missed this great opportunity to spread the word of our work on the Lorna Lloyd archive and the support lent to us by our colleagues at the BBC in these endeavours.