Laura Giles

Laura Giles

Last updated on 1 June 2021

Laura Giles is Digital Archivist at the University of Hull.

It’s been a long time since we at the University of Hull have contributed to the DPC blog so we are just checking in to say “Hi” to the community and that we’re still here! We are still working on processing the digital archives that form the Hull UK 2017 City of Culture collection and developing a set of workflows to try and ensure that records are processed efficiently, preserved and eventually accessed in as straightforward a manner as possible for researchers.

Before the pandemic hit we had been planning a series of in-person workshops with university academics to share our work around digital archives and to find out what potential they see for the use of digital archives (and specifically the City of Culture collection) in their learning and teaching. We were also keen to encourage the participants to think about the digital records that they create – how they store them and what the long-term plan is (if there is one at all!). Of course we had to rethink our plans when lockdown was imposed and we realised being in the same room would be an impossibility for quite some time. We used Canvas - a virtual learning environment used for online teaching - to deliver multi-day workshops that allowed academics to access content we’d prepared in their own time and to contribute their thoughts to discussion boards that we monitored and interacted with. Given how difficult it sometimes can be to pin academics down, this asynchronous approach really worked and allowed some interesting discussions to develop.

It’s true of archives of all descriptions that we as custodians are often surprised by the sheer range of research angles and uses that our researchers and audiences see in our records. The potential of the City of Culture digital collection as a rich research resource about major cultural events has always been obvious to us but it was heartening to see the collection through new eyes and to acknowledge fresh ideas and angles. It was especially exciting to hear ideas that focussed on the format of the record and the potential seen for introducing students to new ideas about digital curation, the relationships between “traditional” and digital archives and innovative manners of processing digital archival data in research.

Continuous engagement with our audiences is so important, especially when introducing new systems and ways of accessing records. Like many, we have found that in some ways the pandemic has forced us to find new ways to communicate with (and advocate to) people across our organisation. As we move towards a return to a slightly more normal way of life we have to make sure that we keep up our new relationships and acknowledge that our digital connections can be as fruitful as our “real life” ones.

Looking to the future, we hope to launch access to a small but significant portion of the Hull City of Culture digital archive through our online Blacklight catalogue ( within the next month or so and to use the experiences we have gained in bringing that endeavour to fruition to continue to engage with colleagues across the university so that digital archives hopefully become more embedded in research and teaching across disciplines. We’ll let you know how it goes!

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