THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

22 September 2014

Bringing Archive Catalogues to Life – the SNAC Project

Some readers of this blog will know that we at the British Library have spent the last few years developing an integrated catalogue for our archives and manuscripts collections which is made available online as Search our Catalogue Archives and Manuscripts.  A bonus of having all the catalogue records in one system is that we can now share them with projects en masse beyond the British Library, and this includes the 300,000 or so records of the people who were involved in the creation of, or who are the subject of, the archives and manuscripts.

These records then have been included in the US based Social Networks and Archival Context project – more memorably known as SNAC.  Part of this is looking at how to help researchers find all the relevant material relating to a particular person, both archives and publications and so has developed a ‘Prototype Research Tool’  with this in mind: 

  SNAC Noc

 
The British Library’s records are included alongside those from many US institutions and data is being loaded from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and university repositories in the UK. Anyone can click one of the ‘featured’ images on the front page or search for an individual they are interested in. The result will be a page for an individual such as this entry for Robert Clive:

SNAC CliveNoc

 Here information about related archive collections is presented with links back to the originating repository’s catalogue, where details of how to get access to the material can be found. There are also links to publications and other resources relating to the person with links to WorldCat  which again can help with accessing the material.

The project is also interested finding out if the links between people found in catalogues when they are brought together in this way might help researchers navigate around all this data, so as well as providing links to related people the project provides a visualisation for the social and professional ‘network’ of individuals in a ‘radial graph view’ such as this one again for Robert Clive:

  SNAC Clive 2Noc

Given the richness of the catalogues and the millions of records included links can be found to the humble individual as well as the ‘great and the good’, so here can be seen a link between Lord Clive and one Mrs Bayly Brett, whose commonplace book includes a copy of a letter written by him to his mother in 1757.

Please have a look at SNAC and tell us what you think. Happy hunting!

Bill Stockting
Cataloguing Systems & Processing Co-ordinator Cc-by

 

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