The annual Society of Archivists Conference was held from the 1st-4th September in the comfort of the Marriott Hotel in
Andrew Motion kicked off proceedings on Tuesday morning with the presentation that, for this observer, stole the week. Discussing the Poetry Archive, Motion gave us the full weight of his intellect, experience, depth of reading, and the occasional tease that he may burst into impressions of some of his favourite poets. At the core of his paper was the understanding that the full sense of a poems meaning can emerge through hearing the poet give voice to his own poems. As Robert Frost said “the ear is the best reader” and it benefits the listener to hear the interpretation of the poet, the pauses and the line endings. The Poetry Archive is currently receiving around 175,000 visitors per month and this archivist will soon be joining the crowd – hearing Robert Browning forgetting one of his own poems provided the biggest laugh of the week from me! Motion should also be congratulated for inducing something I never thought I would come across during an archives presentation – bringing a fellow member to tears. Jenny Moran informed Motion and the audience that the sound of a Cornish poet presenting his poems two weeks before he died had made her well up.
Following Motion was Randall Jimmerson from
Some mentions should be made of the following papers:
Janet McBain issued a cautionary warning that Digital Preservation is not a substitute for the celluloid itself. Digital storage was also found to be 11 times more expensive than traditional storage of film cans. I apologise to Janet but, as with Motion and his sound recordings, what will live long in the memory was her choice of film. We were shown the 4th Marquis of Bute’s wedding in 1905. The highlight was surely the Pipe Band in a rowing boat following the happy couple as they were transported to the steamer for their honeymoon. McBain also explained why social networking sites were not necessarily advantageous to the role and functioning of the archive. Mentioning YouTube and film McBain raised the following issues: (1) Provenance – Film is broken up into clips and given a new title through which they take on a new life. Is this the commodification of our heritage?; (2) The moral rights of the individuals documented; (3) Ripping and re-use – there is easy access to corrupt the original; (4) Is their value in the new user? McBain raised the cheap and offensive comments that are sometimes attached to pieces of archival film on YouTube.
Steve Bailey presented one of the more out-of-the-box presentations of the week by using the example of Amazon to explain how records management decisions should be made from analysing user behaviour. I sense that many practitioners will take a lot of persuading that this is a suitable means through which to make RM decisions (in itself no bad thing) but questions of legislation, regulation, and business requirements instantly made me sceptical. I look forward to Steve’s continuing work in this area to see how it can be developed over the following years.
Tim Padfield spent an hour taking the audience through every conceivable facet of copyright in the digital environment; George Oates presented a riveting take on how collections could be awoken from their conceptual slumber in the archival repository to take on a new life in environments such as Flickr (in some respects this functioned as a counterpoint to McBain); and Susan Healy and Richard Blake provided an overview of the review of the Records Management Code of Practice. This is a Code which, in my limited experience, has aided RM practitioners immensely in ensuring compliance with regulatory and legislative procedures and it was interesting to see how they are planning to alter and tweak it.
A mention should also go to the Pump Rooms at
Shetland Archives/SoAS Publicity Officer