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

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