Last updated on 4 October 2021

Jessica Hooley is a MA Archive and Records Management student at Aberystwyth University. She attended the ARA 2021 Virtual Conference with support from the DPC Career Development Fund, which is funded by DPC Supporters.

The MA Archive and Records Management course at Aberystwyth University has provided a great basis to start my professional career in archives and records management. Seeing the schedule for the ARA Conference, it sparked my interest as it would support and develop what I had already learnt from Aberystwyth University, as well as hearing from various professionals from multiple archives holding various collections and numerous academic interests.

The schedule for the conference included many webinars focused on digitisation and digital archives, with others focusing on archives in general, and various webinars covering advocacy and diversity, which included discussions of digital aspects important to these collections. With the Conference being online, the sessions could be attended from the comforts of our own homes, but the sessions were also recorded, so we could rewatch events to take note of what we missed and watch sessions we were unable to attend live.

Some of these included:

  • Session B4 The Unheard voices of London – why digitising sound archives is so important to our understanding of underrepresented histories. This session by David Baldwin notes that oral history is a simple alternative. Oral histories bring experiences to life, add context, and encourages intercultural exchange. Digitising these sound archives to battle obsolescence, encourage intergenerational activities and engage the community. It was interesting to learn about the importance of these collections, and just how important it is to regularly update the hardware and software to be able to continue to use these important records.

  • Session E4 discussed Plugged In, Powered Up, led by the TNA. The TNA created a survey for archiving professionals which saw that confidence in digital skills were low in the sector. As a result of this, the TNA created various resources to aid the development of skills including Digital Preservation Workflows, a Peer Mentoring Programme, an Archival School, Digital Archival Learning and Exchange, and Computing for Cultural Heritage. The TNA also pointed to other areas for skills development including the DPC Novice to Know-How, which I have worked on and was useful to support what has been taught in my course. Furthermore, the TNA also has further sections to aid in developing digital skills for archivists, which I may use to further develop my skills. This session was useful to attend because it pointed me and others to various factors to develop our digital skills in relation to archiving and records management.

  • Session E5 considered the use of DiAGRAM for archival practices. DiAGRAM was created by the TNA to allow archivists to understand their collections to a greater extent, including the storage needs which are unique to each archive. It allows factors to be changed and can be used to support arguments to increase funding to develop portions of the archives. The session started off with a run through by David Underdown from the TNA, and then we split off into break out rooms to practice using the software. DiAGRAM is rather simple to use, and as a student I played around with the adjustments to get used to the software. However, the webpage reloaded every few minutes due to being overwhelmed by the number of people using it, but moving onto Microsoft Edge helped, and David Underdown adjusted the parameters to allow for the number of people using the page. Within the breakout rooms, it was useful to talk to others in the profession and allow people to talk about using the page and to aid each other.

  • Session C9 discussed Conservation for Digitisation, which identifies the 70’000 papers of the Royal Albert Collection to be digitised after the required conservation is made. The talk notes that some bindings were easier to scan, and inserts were included as they were essential to the document. Conservation was undertaken, and an archivist was appointed and they used a scanning technician. The British Library has a Preservation Unit to aid with this process, with conservation possible after working as a team. Digitisation is important because there may be significantly less handling of the document itself.

In conclusion, the ARA Conference sessions I attended, both live and on catch up, gave me a chance to develop my knowledge, supporting what I have learnt during my MA at Aberystwyth University. The sessions included talks from a variety of people from different organisations, which gave unique insights to various collections and the aspects of digital preservation that has been used, as well as the available resources for further development of my knowledge and skills.


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