THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Social Science blog

Exploring Social Science at the British Library

Introduction

Find out about social sciences at the British Library including collections, events and research. This blog includes contributions from curators and guest posts by academics, students and practitioners. Read more

27 January 2015

Activist Archives: Making Marks

Add comment Comments (0)

Abolition-slave-trade
Minutes of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, 1787. Add.21254. Copyright  The British Library Board

The British Library has been collecting the publications and records of various campaigns for hundreds of years, including the Chartist movement, and campaigns for the abolition of the trade in slaves, and for the right for women to vote. But what is it that’s important about the records and archives of activists and campaigners, and why should we care about whether they are kept?

On Monday 19 January 2015, the Library hosted a one-day workshop on this subject, as part of the Sheila McKechnie Foundation’s Mark of a Great Campaigner project. This project is about remembering the life of Sheila McKechnie, and using records associated with her work to help others learn about campaigning. The Sheila McKechnie Foundation is gathering memories of Sheila and her campaigning activities for an online digital archive.  If you are interested in contributing please email zibiah.loakthar@smk.org.uk

The “Making Marks” workshop was an opportunity for people working in libraries and archives to come together with people working in campaigning organisations, and explore what is important about activist archives and what the practical challenges might be in collecting. Following are some of the issues that we discussed:

Activist archives are important

It was interesting especially to hear those connected to campaigns talk about the value of archives to them in their work. Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter, described campaigning as a process that required continued momentum, and frequent change to adapt to new situations. Records of past activity were important to help understand the processes by which change happens, and how changes were achieved. Maurice Frankel, UK Campaign for Freedom of Information, further argued that records were important as concessions won at an earlier point in a campaign could be challenged later on. Archives could play a role as a reminder, and to challenge misconceptions.

Websmall-MauriceFrankel
Maurice Frankel, photo courtesy of Hala Al-Ukaby, Sheila McKechnie Foundation volunteer

Older archives also remained important. One attendee commented on their role in “keeping ideas alive”, and another describing them as a, “historical push” and inspiration to action. At the British Library, we have used our records of campaigners in exhibitions and learning resources, to talk about the tactics and use of written words and speech that campaigners have used to make a change. Elspeth Reid, archivist at Falkirk Community Trust, talked about the use of archives in showing the recurrence of campaign themes across time.

Timing is crucial to collecting

Keeping records of campaigns and campaigning organisations was also seen as important from the point-of-view of accountability. There was a sense from some that campaigning organisations had a particular obligation to be open about their activities. However, not all organisations are so aware of the need to keep records, or that there might be future interest in their activities. This might be especially true of campaigns that might organise around a particular event, where organisations may disband shortly after the end of an event, and records are dispersed or lost. For example, the National Library of Scotland, in collecting archives connected with the Scottish Independence referendum, began contacting campaigning groups at the start of the campaign to ensure that there was a good awareness about the value of records. Stefan Dickers, of the Bishopsgate Institute, spoke about the need for archivists to be pro-active in contacting organisations, and promoting awareness of the use of archives – including to campaigns organisations themselves. 

How to manage volume

A recurring theme through the day was that of the desire to ensure that records survive from as many activities as possible, against the considerable costs of keeping archives. However, as with campaigning itself, this is an environment that is changing. More recent actors, such as “Information Shops” and other activist-run libraries, are supporting some of this need for access to libraries of campaigns materials and advice. Also, the move to using online methods, and new social media, for campaigning raise new challenges for collecting, but also allow the use of new tools. The UK Web Archive has recorded examples of the use of websites in supporting campaigns, including specific collections related to UK general elections, the impact of spending cuts, and the web as a tool for political communication and action.

Websmall-discussingmaterials
Attendees, discussing campaigns materials past and present. Photograph courtesy of Hala Al-Ukaby, Sheila Mckechnie Foundation volunteer. 

The whole day was lively and creative, with many more issues raised, such as the role of communities and activists in co-creation of knowledge (for example, through participating in oral histories or collaboratively producing films), and questions about ownership and re-use of such knowledge by third parties. I am grateful to everyone who came and took part in discussions, and, personally, I have learned much from the day.

The Mark of a Great Campaigner is a partnership project between heritage organisations (including the British Library) and charities led by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

22 December 2014

SWOTY 2014

Add comment Comments (0)

Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator of Spoken English, writes:

It's customary at this time of year for individuals, societies, institutions and industries to reflect on the previous twelve months and nominate people, events or phenomena for special recognition. In  November, for instance, lexicographers at the Oxford English Dictionary selected vape [= 'E-cigarette'] as Word of the Year 2014 (succeeding 2013's selfie) and last week BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2014 was awarded to Lewis Hamilton - best driver in a field of 24 (22 of whom apparently had inferior equipment) - ahead of Rory McIlroy - best driver, best chipper and best putter in a field of 175. So, in an equally subjective attempt to combine my two great interests - sport and language - here are my nominations for Sports Word of the Year 2014 selected from examples of interesting English usage in the British sporting press and media:

May (Adrian Chiles commenting on Hull City defence, ITV FA Cup Final): they must be too cream crackered to sort it out.

July (Guardian G2 Tour de France special):  Ey up or allez allez allez?

September (Peter Allis spotting two spectators in fancy dress watching difficult bunker shot, BBC Ryder Cup highlights): I'll tell you what they're two bobby-dazzlers there and is this going to be a bobby-dazzler?

October (Mike Selvey, Guardian Sport): He was, said Smudger, [...] the fellow who would pay the way for all of us, and he was not wrong.

October (Asteras Tripolis, Guardian Sport): The Argentinian scored twice but it was his first-half rabona that sparked a gasp from all inside the stadium.

November (Sachin Nakrani quoting QPR captain, Joey Barton, Guardian Sport): If you're not playing for Liverpool, who couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo, how do you get into the England squad?

November (Simon Cambers & Kevin Mitchell, Guardian Sport): Lamri [...] played a handful of minor matches on the Futures circuit, the last recorded of them when he double-bagled in a qualifier in Morocco two years ago.

November (Lizzy Ammon, Guardian Sport): [Moeen Ali] will be leaving his doosra delivery firmly in the locker for the foreseeable future.

December (Dean Ryan, Guardian Sport): "Jackling" [...] is something which can be taught as, apparently, the exceptional Francois Louw is doing with Burgess in training with Bath.

December (Martin Castrogiovanni): The widely reported, extraordinary rant that demonstrated the Italian prop's perfect mastery of the F-word and C-word.

Though not comprehensive, the list encompasses six sports: cycling, football, cricket, tennis, golf and rugby and entries were chosen to offer a range of linguistic research enquiries.

Four terms stand out as they are restricted to the discourse of their respective sports. Of these, two are loan words: rabona [= Spanish for 'to play truant'] - an impressive skill whereby a footballer kicks the ball by wrapping the kicking foot behind the standing leg thus appearing to kick the ball cross-legged; and doosra [Hindi/Urdu for 'the second/other one'] - a ball in cricket which spins away from a right-handed batsman but is delivered with a bowling action that appears to suggest the opposite. The other two are examples of the kind of jargon that inevitably occurs in descriptions designed for a specialist audience: jackling [= a blend of 'jackal' and 'tackle'] - the skill in rugby of winning the ball in a tackle before a ruck has been formed; and double-bagel [= a visual reference to two zeros] - a 6-0, 6-0 defeat in a three set match of tennis.

Six entries demonstrate how vernacular forms occur even in relatively formal sports discourse. Two items might best be categorised as dialect forms: ey up [= 'hello' or 'watch out'] and bobby-dazzler [= 'someone/something striking or impressive']. Dialect is extremely useful shorthand for conveying a sense of location and/or identity. Three are slang forms typical of an informal register: cream crackered [= rhyming slang for 'knackered', i.e. 'exhausted'], Smudger [= nickname for anyone called Smith] and couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo [= 'wildly inaccurate in front of goal']. This deliberate use of slang creates a sense of shared conversation between presenter and viewer/listener or between journalist and reader. Finally, swearing, though generally still taboo in mainstream press and media sports coverage (albeit part and parcel of the live experience itself), is included here as the Guardian remains unique among British newspapers in printing the C-word and F-word without resorting to asterisks to represent the letter <u>. I've often wondered whether this is confirmation of the paper's sociolinguistic maturity or more a reflection of childish editorial glee.

Most of the terms above are documented in authoritative dictionaries in the British Library's collections, but some are yet to appear in print reference works, so their presence in our newspaper collections is an invaluable resource for language scholars monitoring the continued evolution of English. For anyone interested, the Oxford English Dictionary (online) includes doosra, bobby-dazzler and cream crackered, the Collins English Dictionary (online) has an entry for jackling and includes rabona in a set of 'new word submission[s]' under consideration, while the Macmillan Dictionary (online) records bagel as 'in tennis, a score of 6-0'. The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English noted Smudger in the mid-20th-century, while ey up appears in the 19th-century English Dialect Dictionary. Finally, the first person I ever heard use the phrase couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo was my brother-in-law who used it on a golfing holiday in the late 1980s to describe his wayward driving (and his unpredictable long-irons, inconsistent approach play and inept putting). I've not found it in a print publication, but I'm sure he'd be delighted to know it's accorded an entry at Urban Dictionary (online) and features in George Sandford's English Idioms blog.

And this year's winner is ... it's got to be bobby-dazzler, hasn't it?

12 December 2014

ODIN - Linking datasets and their creators

Add comment Comments (0)

Rachael Kotarski, Content Specialist for Datasets, gives us an update on the ODIN project:

Odin-logo

You may or may not have noticed from various blog posts that we love persistent identifiers at the British Library, especially for data. There's no better way to tell the difference between two datasets – or books, papers or people, than by checking their identifiers.

While these identifiers are important parts of the research machinery, they haven't been as well connected as they could be. Over the past two years the British Library has been involved in the EU-funded FP7 project, the ORCID and DataCite Interoperability Network – ODIN. The aim of the project was to investigate where the integration of identifiers for research objects (primarily research datasets) and the people involved in creating them could be improved.

There were many strands to this work carried out in parallel over the past two years. One that we have been heavily involved in is proving the concept of identifier use in humanities and social science, as compared with high energy physics data archives.

Proof of Concept in Humanities and Social Science

As part of the ODIN work here at the British Library, we have worked very closely with three major data archives in the UK to develop workflows for object and people identifiers. We worked with the UK Data Archive (UKDA, a node of the UK Data Service), the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) and the MRC National survey of Health and Development (MRC NSHD).

While these data archives all exist within a similar subject area, they all have different challenges in identifying long-term, dynamic and historical data. They have also all been at different stages in their use of identifiers. Despite these differences, the ultimate approach has been similar across humanities and social sciences, as well as in high energy physics:

  • Object identifiers are given to datasets as part of the ingest process
  • For highly dynamic and aggregated datasets, it may be possible to assign identifiers to the subset of data as downloaded
  • Identifiers for authors and contributors are requested as part of the submission information, and can be associated with other forms of identity or profile management at the archive
  • Identifiers for legacy datasets are added in a bulk-process

Feedback to the project has helped to direct technical changes to the way in which DataCite and ORCID work.

Websmall-ODIN_FinalEvent
ODIN final event: standing room only. Photograph by Sergio Ruiz

If you run a data repository, find out more about DataCite in the UK. If you create, contribute to or manage research data, see if you have an International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) or consider signing up for an ORCID iD.

ODIN Partners

Not all the reports from all the strands of work are available yet, but once they are they will be linked from http://odin-project.eu/project-outputs/deliverables/.