To review a small specialist repository's strategic and opportunistic approach to utilising collaborative regional and national digital initiatives to increase access. The…
To review a small specialist repository's strategic and opportunistic approach to utilising collaborative regional and national digital initiatives to increase access. The Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD) Archives activity is evaluated to determine whether a project‐based approach recognises and meets the needs of historians, or in manufacturing a digital semblance, does it in fact mislead historians.
The context in UK higher education and the archives domain of an emphasis on the digitisation of resources evident in national policies is outlined. Recent studies into the requirements and expectations of academics and historians as users of archives and digital resources are considered. BIAD Archives' creation of a repository web site and participation in national collection level description schemes are examined. The experience of two collaborative digitisation projects, a national subject‐based virtual collection and a regional collaborative information literacy initiative, are described and reflected upon.
An opportunistic project‐based approach does not easily accumulate as a cohesive strategy for increasing access. Collaboration is problematic. It is beneficial in raising profiles and can act as a legitimising agent. It entails compromise, applying an external filter to collections and potentially creating a digital semblance. The proliferation of projects raises concerns of sustainability, invisibility within the deep web and that merely signposting may not satisfy user needs. To address this problem archives as a domain require a more sophisticated understanding of all our different users.
Critical reflections on collaborative practice beneficial to archivists and resource managers embarking on digitisation initiatives and to those developing collaborative projects.
The first Report of the Radiobiological Laboratory of the Agricultural Research Council (reviewed in the August issue of the B.F.J.) reveals something of the comprehensive monitoring system for radioactive fission products in the human diet, animal products, pasturage and crops, and the soil. The Report contained the results of a survey of Strontium 90 in the human diet in this country. The survey is continuing into radioactive pollution of food. The service will be available for “accidents” at the gradually increasing number of atomic plants and doubtless it will be extended to cover imported foods, that is at the port of entry, since these may come from countries with higher levels from fall‐outs than in the U.K. Such a service is a public health necessity in any country even though present levels are generally insignificant in relation to the Medical Research Council's recommendations for maximum allowable concentrations. These levels, at which the M.R.C. say action would be required, were doubtless fixed with wide safety margins before definite danger levels would be approached and as maximum allowable concentrations are unlikely to be reached in the peace‐time uses of nuclear energy, including present rates of testing nuclear weapons, except in areas adjacent to possible “accidents” at nuclear plants, perhaps our fears of danger to health from radiation are exaggerated. Possible war‐time levels are another matter; these are unpredictable; unthinkable. There are fairly large areas in different parts of the world, extremely rich in radio‐active materials; where the indigenous population has, as long as it has been settled there, received many times the dose to which the population of the remainder of the earth have so far been exposed. These people in a few areas have been studied; they appear to suffer no ill effects and are as healthy and fertile as those who do not live on radio‐active earth.