Current projects

Grants awarded December 2019

Greater Manchester County Records Office

Greater Manchester County Records Office (GMCRO) will explore the use of tape systems for digital storage of archive material. The tape storage will be managed in-house by the archive service rather than outsourced to a digital preservation service. GMCRO will evaluate the viability of building and managing a digital system and securing files internally within the organisation for a fairly low cost. GMCRO will then share their learning from the testing and the evaluation with the wider archive sector to increase both knowledge of the processes and confidence to deliver a minimal digital archiving concept.

Special Collections and Archives, Templeman Library, University of Kent

Special Collections and Archives at the University of Kent will test software for machine-generated transcripts of audio recordings. They will evaluate different potential options to identify the best solution for archival use, and then develop an appropriate workflow to deliver fully searchable transcripts. The method would be tested on a collection of important lecture audio recordings held by Special Collections and Archives, and the results and lessons learned shared with the sector to enable others to deliver similar projects.

Karen Brayshaw, Head of Special Collections and Archives, said ‘We are excited to have been successful in our Testbed bid. We really believe the project has the potential to increase the value of our previously hidden audio collections exponentially. Whatever our final conclusions, we look forward to sharing our results with the archives and digitisation community.’

West Yorkshire Archive Service

The West Yorkshire Archive Service will create and test a new space for secure access to born-digital materials in the public searchroom. The archive service will test the access on a small sub-set of born digital records and evaluate what works well in this process with the aim to roll out a similar system across other searchrooms in the region. Collaborating with DALE and the DPC, West Yorkshire Archive Service will share the results of the test to aid other archive services in setting up their own digital archive public spaces.

Staffordshire Archives & Heritage

Staffordshire Archives and Heritage will pilot a new approach to their outreach activities to help them connect with hard-to-reach rural communities. A series of digital drop-in sessions will be delivered to test the feasibility and practical delivery of this type of engagement, aiming to increase the relevance of archive collections to these groups and broaden the reach of the archive service. Communities will drop in to sessions and be able to photograph or scan documents and images and receive advice on caring for collections. The success of the pilot will be evaluated and the learning shared with the archive sector, which will be of use to other archives who struggle to connect with rural and hard-to-reach audience groups.

Mountain Heritage Trust

The Mountain Heritage Trust will test a portable fundraising and information unit. The unit will contain information panels about the Trust, a promotional film that will bring their collections to life, and an inset contactless giving point to encourage donations. This project is testing the effectiveness of using contactless technology in combination with engaging film material in an archival context to improve fundraising for the Trust. A summary of the project and an analysis of the successes and failures encountered on the way will be shared with the archive sector.

Kelda Roe, Collections Manager at the Mountain Heritage Trust, said: ‘We’re excited to begin work on this project, which has the potential to both engage new audiences and raise funds to support our work preserving and sharing Britain’s mountain and climbing heritage. The Mountain Heritage Trust is very proud to be pioneering and testing this new approach to archives engagement and fundraising, and we are grateful for The National Archives’ support. We hope that there are lots of useful learning points that we can share with the wider archives profession.’

Tyne and Wear Archives

Tyne and Wear Archives will evolve some previous work from a proof-of-concept competition for digital SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) to solve digital archive challenges. They will use the Testbed grant to further explore using software to scan archive documents and automatically generate metadata. The software will be tested on 500 digitised ship plans, and the learning that results from the pilot will be shared widely across the sector to assist other archives looking at large-scale metadata generation projects.

Lizzy Baker, Archives Lead at the Tyne and Wear Archives, said ‘We are really excited to work on this project to explore how digital solutions can help us to improve our metadata and collections information, as well as develop new ways of working with significant collections of shipbuilding records.’

Hackney Archives

Hackney Archives will test a concept that is new for the archive service which will involve collaborating with creative thinkers outside the profession to re-imagine the searchroom and seek to overcome some of the barriers encountered when entering an archive space, including encouraging the library audience to enter the archive searchroom. The learning from the experience will be embedded into Hackney Archives’ own practice and shared with the sector through a special event, case studies and presentations to inspire other archives to experiment with searchroom solutions and engage with their non-users.

Tahlia Coombs, Heritage Manager at Hackney Archives, said ‘We are thrilled to have successfully secured the funding for our project. Our searchroom space has amazing potential but is not currently the shared community space we would like it to be. The Testbed fund will give us the opportunity to collaborate with creative thinkers to change this and we are really excited about what this will mean for our service. We are also eager to share our learning with others in the sector and hope that our project will contribute to the work we are all doing to remove barriers to archives.’

The National Gallery Research Centre

The National Gallery Research Centre will explore how data in the stock books of art dealer Thos. Agnew and Sons can be presented and used in innovative ways across multiple research disciplines. They will use network analysis to transform the flat imagery into a strategic data resource, with the potential to increase engagement with the collection and stimulate further research questions and topics. The learning from the project will be shared widely in the archive and research sector, adding to the growing understanding of the use of this innovative method of engaging with digitised resources.