Wednesday, 4 October 2017

My year as a Transforming Archives Trainee

It has been a while since I finished my Transforming Archives Trainee with The National Archives at Hull History Centre and I just wanted to reflect and write about my experience.

Francisco (left) with Tom the other Trainee we hosted this year
When I look back, I can’t be more grateful to both the Hull History Centre and The National Archives for this unique opportunity. I’d also like to give special thanks to my managers Simon Wilson and Emma Stagg for their patience and effort to make this an exceptional experience.

The final outcome of my training was a successful job application. I am now working as a Digital Imaging Officer at the London Metropolitan Archives

My traineeship also inspired me to launch a job board for digitisation jobs, which aims to help other trainees and professionals find a job in the sector.
Digital Preservation Guidelines
I had the opportunity to attend the course ‘An Introduction to Digitisation and Digital Preservation’. This was provided by The National Archives and The University of Dundee. The essays I wrote and conversations I had with my tutor Melinda Haunton gave me a clear understanding of the problems that institutions can experience with Digital Preservation.

For example because the concept of digital preservation is quite new, many institutions are still trying to understand what digital preservation strategy is best for them, how to carry out this process and how to raise or allocate funding and resources. There is not a widely accepted consensus, this can lead to poorly thought out execution and a lack of funding necessary to produce useful results.

Completed NDSA Levels self assessment grid 
I also understood the technical challenges of “software obsolescence” and how file formats that we use now may not be usable in 10 or 50 years. For example, most people are familiar with JPEG formats for images now, but in 50 years time, we may have moved onto other file formats.  It could be very hard for future generations to access these file formats. That is why any attempt to preserve documents/files in a digital format must consider this and ensure documents are stored in simple, secure, affordable, open source, popular and easy to access formats.
With assistance from University Archivist, Simon Wilson and fellow trainee, Tom Dealey, we completed a self-assessment exercise using the Levels of Digital Preservation developed by the National Digital Stewardship Alliance, which aims to build awareness of current capacity and inspire organisations to develop their digital preservation activities. (see the full blog on this from March this year).

Digitising the Hotham pedigree roll
I really enjoyed digitising medieval parchment rolls from the 16th century. Our last exhibition '’The Hothams, Governors of Hull & the Civil War'’ required us to capture oversized scrolls that were 3 metres long, this was particularly challenging as our equipment could only capture small sections of the scrolls at a time, we then had to stitch these images together with Photoshop.

I was also involved with many other events relating to Hull City of Culture 2017 including the ‘’Hull Charters’’ exhibition which showed how the people of Hull were granted privileges, rights and responsibilities which now form the bedrock of how we live as citizens today. I assisted in retouching the digital images of some of these charters.

I helped with preparations for ‘’Larkin: New Eyes Each Year’’, an exhibition that explored connections between Larkin’s life and work in Hull. I helped digitise a wide range of materials including photographs, letters and documents from his collection. I enjoyed learning about Larkin’s life and understanding how exhibitions are put together from beginning to the end.

Spanish Civil War items
I believe this traineeship has been about much more than developing my skills. It is about empowering and inspiring people to develop their passion for the Archives and the Heritage world, being in a privileged position to unlock and reinterpret the past whilst understanding how future digital generations will be able to use, access and interact with our heritage records.

I was given so many opportunities to move forward in my professional career. I had a life coach who helped me to focus on my strengths and motivated me to find new ways to develop my confidence. I had the chance to attend a wide range of workshops and conferences around the country and I had hands on experience which honed my skills.

As a result of all this, I gained not only skills and a job at the London Metropolitan Archives, but developed new ideas, I launched a job board for digitisation jobs I am working on a new project related to ai jobs, which aims to empower the new workforce as digitisation, the fourth industrial revolution and AI enter the mainstream.

(now former Transforming Archives trainee)

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