Jenny Higham

Jenny Higham

Last updated on 23 June 2021

Jenny Higham is Head of Special Collections & Archives at the University of Liverpool Library

Amongst many significant changes – including a long period of reading room closure and limited staff access to collections - one lasting impact of Covid-19 on the University of Liverpool’s Special Collections & Archives has been an accelerated transition to delivering more of our service digitally. Unlike some of the other changes, this one is likely to remain permanent as the organisation moves forward with a proposed model of hybrid working.

The pandemic has seen us move our exhibitions, teaching and enquiry service online to varying degrees. We have been able to take advantage of the Omeka platform to create digital exhibitions, and have worked with Liverpool University Press to produce an open-source digital resource showcasing the high quality digitised images we have of some of our medieval manuscripts. It has been interesting to note that increased management expectations in this area has had the effect of bringing the sustainability of digital outputs more onto their radar, and digital preservation has a higher profile as a result, which we hope to capitalise on as and when funding is made available.

In terms of our current born-digital collections, we have recently captured information about our digital records into a Digital Asset Register (DAR). With 300GB worth of digital records, the DAR provides a clear overview of what we have and where to find it. It includes data such as file type and file size, which allows us to more easily monitor preservation risks.  The DAR is also a useful document to demonstrate to the wider institution the work that we are currently doing on our digital records and the increasing need for investment in digital preservation software and expertise as the extent of digital material continues to grow. 

We are also currently in the process of revalidating our Accredited Archives status with the National Archives. Two key recommendations made when the award was given in 2018 were to develop our capacity to ingest, store and make available digital records, and to undertake preservation of some of our audio-visual and photographic collections, which were at risk of physical deterioration. With the establishment of the DAR, and the use of project funding to digitise part of the archives which are at risk, we are taking the opportunity to capitalise on the increasing profile of our digital activities and aiming to ensure their sustainability over the longer term.

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