Wednesday, 28 January 2015

From Digital Preservation to Minecraft …

…This is the fun of working in archives!

When I took up my traineeship at the Hull History Centre in October last year I never realised just how varied working in archives could be. I've just recently been to two very different events but which both help my work in digitisation, engagement and outreach.

On Friday 16th January I went to the Digital Preservation Coalition's (DPC) conference “Digital Preservation: What I Wish I Knew Before I Started 2015” at the British Library Conference Centre in London.

The day was a very useful overview of the vast, ever-changing world of digital preservation. 
This conference introduced me to the ongoing processes and decisions that organisations and individuals make in the battle against obsolescence and the threat of the “digital dark ages”.

Eagerly awaiting the beginning of the conference at the British 
I learned about bit preservation and making data quickly and easily accessible, storage types, preservation standards (acronym overload!) and the importance of planning.

A fact I had not previously considered before was how accidental damage by people is one of the highest threats to digital data, therefore we must make staff trained and aware in how their actions can affect data.

The talks I particularly enjoyed were Helen Hockx-yu’s (British Library) presentation on ‘Archiving the Web’ on the UK Web Archive Project. I agreed with her that historians of the future will need to use archives of today’s websites to research the modern age. I also really enjoyed Deon Cotgrove’s (BBC Archives) talk on how the BBC digitise for preservation and the tensions between commercial value, heritage value and legal requirements.

A key statement I took away from the day was by Dave Thomson (Wellcome Collection) who emphasised the significant (and quite possibly frightening role of the archivist) stating “If the amount of personal data that Google holds is scary, then the power of archivists to manipulate this data is even scarier…” leaving us with the thought that “one day archivists will rule the world”….

Exploring playful learning through LEGO
One exciting day over and done with, from London to Leeds I then ventured in the snow to the Leeds City Library for a ‘Playful Leeds’ event called “Minecraft Unplugged”.

This was a really fun, interactive workshop led by Adam Clarke (@thecommonpeople) and Alan Lewis (@theo_the_ape) aimed at using Minecraft for education. 

As I am currently working on the HullCraft project this was my chance to get some hints and tips from the experts themselves!

A Minecraft workshop cannot begin without first playing with LEGO as a demonstration of the transformation from tangible to virtual playful learning. This was interesting because our HullCraft project also developed from our craft and LEGO days at the Hull History Centre, now called History Makers.

We had lots of productive discussion, from talking about the potentials of Minecraft where I suggested you could use the game as a tool for reassuring anxious child patients about the hospital environment using visualisations of a hospital, to mind mapping.

3d printed Minecraft figure
Adam also brought along his 3D printer demonstrating how we can print our own Minecraft models as examples of bringing your models into the real world. He showed us his 3D printed Minecraft characters which I thought would be a particularly good way of rewarding our HullCraft players if we could give these away as prizes for the best architectural reconstruction (now who has a 3D printer we can borrow?).

Overall I had a fun-filled weekend which has given me lots of ideas to bring back to my work at the Hull History Centre and I hope that there will be more to report in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Hannah Rice
Transforming Archives Trainee

Thursday, 22 January 2015

HullCraft Presents at the Digital Utopias Conference

On the 20th January I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to present at the Digital Utopias conference run by Arts Council England.
The aim of the conference was to “capture topical and diverse approaches to curation, archiving, collecting and creating from a range of art forms, from the visual arts to theatre” (Arts Council England). With this in mind, I went to the conference in the knowledge that I was going to be surrounded by lots of highly creative, digitally-minded experts... and I wasn't wrong!

I was presenting alongside Joel Mills (iLearning UK) in the "Curating Networks" session on our engagement project called HullCraft (see This was my first national conference as a speaker. The most anxious part was waiting on the stage knowing I'm up next! Once it was my turn, I soon realised it was easier to speak than I had initially thought as the theatre became a sea of silhouettes rather than faces.

In the ten minute (and timed!) slot I spoke about many aspects of the HullCraft project, from how it came about, how the project opens up the archival material of Francis Johnson to participants and the people of Hull, and how Minecraft affects the user’s experience of learning about archives.

Joel then spoke about the research he has been doing with HullCraft and Minecraft in Higher Education, the future plans of HullCraft (such as Bring Your Own Device days, teacher workshops) and potential developments for linking in with Hull City of Culture 2017. 

The most exciting part of our talk was the “world premiere” of our HullCraft trailer which you can watch below (make sure you have it on full screen and your speakers on - it’s VERY exciting!)

There were lots of other interesting talks at Digital Utopias too!
The day began with a welcome from Martin Green, head of Hull City of Culture, who advocated that Hull has a “digital cluster” and is already paving the way as a digital utopia. There was a very positive and energetic feeling in the theatre when a vast show of hands arose to the question of "who's from Hull?" demonstrating his point that Hull is certainly paving the way as a "digital utopia".

Afterwards I went to see James Davis, Programme Manager at the Google Cultural Institute. I was most interested in his talk on their online exhibition of collections from museums and archives from around the world, all curated by the institutions themselves. My favourite aspect of the project was the World Wonders digital exhibition which enables you to browse and interact with historical locations such as Angkor Wat and the Taj Mahal using street view, 3D animations and archaeological and archival photographs. James spoke about how the technology allows for institutions to collaborate on content curation and to extend the reach of their digital collections globally.

I also attended the “Archiving and Preserving in the Digital Age” clinic session led by Dragan Espenchied (Rhizome) and Luke Collins (Lux). This session asked: how do we ensure long-term access to digital information through collecting, archiving and preservation, and how do we archive digital art? During this workshop we explored emulation, migration and the issues surrounding preserving ever-evolving media. This is an area I find fascinating and is something I'm hoping to research more into during my traineeship.

Overall I had a fantastic day promoting the Hull History Centre in front of a huge audience and I hope we have inspired people to look further into integrating Minecraft with their work. This was a great opportunity to showcase HullCraft to an arts, heritage and culture audience, and I felt very privileged to have spoken on the same stage as the Google Cultural Institute and the V&A!

As we were busy presenting it meant we missed a lot of other talks, so have a look on the Arts Council England Website to see the online programme for the full list of presenters and to view official photography, podcasts and videos. See if you can spot us!

You can also follow the Twitter conversation with #artsdigital and #digitalutopias

Hannah Rice
Transforming Archives Trainee

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

We are back on Facebook- what would you like to see?

As part of my role as ‘Transforming Archives’ Trainee I have been looking at the use of social media and archives. I am now coordinating our Facebook and Twitter accounts and as a result would like to ask you your opinions about what you would like to see on our newly-reinstated Facebook page:

·  What content would you like to see posted by the Hull History Centre? Images? Informative links? Video?
·  Would you like to see our events (eg. History Makers and Lunchtime Club) advertised on Facebook? Or post-event photographs?
·  Are you interested in photographs of collections?
·  Are you interested in hearing about our latest projects?

We would like to provide content that would interest and inspire you and will appreciate any feedback received.

You can find our Facebook page on:

Why are we recommencing our Facebook account?
Facebook is a channel which we began using in 2009 to update the public on the construction of the new building and moving of all the archives but we did not continue to use it, and efforts concentrated on our Twitter account (@hullhistorynews).

I have been researching the use of Facebook specifically to engage online users with archives services as a whole, and discovered that most services who use Facebook use it to show the online world images of their archival collections and also to promote outreach events and talks. Facebook has been harnessed by other archives as a very visual platform which makes it very appealing for sharing images and video.

A UK focus group in the Taylor & Francis report (October 2014)  “Use of Social Media by the Library” stated that “Institutions follow us on Twitter but students follow us on Facebook”, furthermore it was reported that “Facebook is most effective for delivering multiple objectives”.  Are we excluding audiences who only use Facebook and not Twitter? Do different audiences prefer using Facebook over Twitter?

After much research, we have decided to recommence our use of Facebook, although there is the issue of evaluating the success of using this additional platform. How can we measure the impact of Facebook influencing the number of visitors to the Hull History Centre and the events we host (such as History Makers and Lunchtime Club Talks)?

These issues we will experiment with in the next coming months as we develop the page and hopefully engage more people with the fascinating work going on at the Hull History Centre.

Hannah Rice
Transforming Archives Trainee

Friday, 9 January 2015

Introducing ‘History Makers’

Everyone get excited – our ‘History Makers’ series is almost here…

Join us on the 17th January 9:30-12:30 as we launch our 2015 programme. We will be exploring our favourite things about history with fun activities. 

As well as building Lego, drawing, creating collages and sticking stuff, we will be designing and making pin badges that show what we love about history. 

We also have a special competition
… as well as making your own badge, we want you to create a design for a ‘History Makers’ pin badge. Your design can be as creative as you like so long as it includes the words ‘History Makers’ somewhere in there. 

The winning design will be printed and made into badges that we will give out to everyone who comes to the 2015 ‘History Maker’ events! 

The winning artist will receive a family ticket (for upto four people) to see the History Boys at Hull New Theatre in February!

Thanks to Hull City Council for donating this great prize

Make sure you don't miss out on your chance to get involved – we promise it will be a lot of fun! 

Don't forget to check in next month to see how we get on and what's up next...

‘History Makers’ team

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Hull History Centre’s Jewish project

Mizrach Sign   1 Feb 1859
{Ref C DJC/2/1/1/15/2)
The Written Record and the Spoken Word: The Collective Memory of Hull’s Jewish Community

The records of the Jewish community are a significant collection consisting of 76 boxes of material documenting over 300 years of history from the 18th century, when the Jewish community could be found worshipping at a former Catholic chapel in Posterngate, to the present day. 

The collection, which is on permanent loan to the Hull City Archives at The Hull History Centre was catalogued by Archivist Claire Weatherall and the catalogue made available to search at: .

Records relate largely to the Ashkenazi Orthodox section of the Jewish community, although some references can be found to the Reform section of the community. Papers consist of minutes and registers relating to the activity of the synagogues including an original marriage register from the Hull Old Hebrew Congregation covering 1838-1879 and copies of later registers relating to this congregation as well as Hull Western, Central and Hebrew  Congregations. 

Officers and guests at the official opening of the Osborne Street 
Synagogue,  9 Sep 1928 (ref U DCJ/2/1/11/4)
Other records of note include research papers relating to Jewish burials within Hull which include approximately 2400 photographs of headstones in the cemeteries, a file on genealogy which contains the family trees of many of the Jewish Hull families and a Notice of a General Meeting of Hull [Old] Hebrew Congregation dated 1852 which lists 66 members of the Robinson Row Synagogue. A series of papers of particular interest are the subject based research files created by Mr Jack Lennard which include files on the Kindertransport children who came to Hull and the arrangements for their care.

In April  2014 Hull History Centre secured external funding of £18,000 in order to enhance, promote and make more accessible the records relating to Hull’s Jewry held within the city and university collections. 

The funding secured has allowed us to engage two of our part time archivists, Elspeth and Paul, to work one a day a week on the project until the end of March 2015. We will also be assisted by Dr Nicholas Evans from the Wilberforce Institute of Slavery and Emancipation who will be conducting interviews with members of the Hull Jewish community past and present. This will allow us to capture and preserve individual stories, complete gaps in our collections and examine why what was a vibrant community is now fast diminishing. The interviews will then be transcribed and the transcriptions made available in the searchroom at the History Centre. The digital interviews will then be preserved within the History Centre’s digital archives.

We will also create a high quality exhibition to be shown at the History Centre and which, due to its portable nature will be displayed at synagogues, local libraries and schools around Hull.  To accompany this we will produce a glossy source guide to promote all relevant material held at the History Centre which will aid research and allow us to highlight documents and collections within our holdings. In addition, working with the MyLearning website team we will create a learning resource for educational use which will be accessible to every school across the country.

Through this project we hope to encourage broader national and international engagement with the rich illustrative and archival collections within our care and raise awareness of the significance of Hull’s role as a conduit for the expansion of British and North American Jewry. 

Carol Tanner, 
Access & Collections Manager, Hull History Centre