The project undertaken was a unique partnership between three organisations – the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) – a pioneering centre for alternative energy production, the National Library of Wales (NLW) and Aberystwyth University’s Department of Information Studies (AUDIS).

CAT’s project, Voices from a Disused Quarry completed, in January 2013, the collection of 90 oral history interviews from those involved in the early development of their centre. Interviews were of varying quality and between 15 and 210 minutes long (adding up to a total of 150 hours).

From January to May 2013, AUDIS MSc Econ Archive Administration students undertook the activities required to prepare these oral histories for deposit at NLW. These activities, known as ingest activities, were to ensure the long-term preservation of the materials while at the same time enabling the material to be integrated into the national digital portal - People’s Collection Wales (PCW). There was a limited travel expenses budget for the project but no other funding.

Three students undertook the project, Kerry Evans, Ann MacDonald and Sarah Vaughan, liaising as required with relevant staff at CAT, NLW and PCW, and supported by their tutor Sarah Higgins.

In the course of the project students:

  • Participated in a public oral history collecting day in the local town, Machynlleth, to enable them to understand where the information came from;
  • Enjoyed a personalised tour of the CAT site enabling them to start to understand the history and the scope of the organisation;
  • Participated in a hand-over day between the oral historians and the archivists to ensure that the creation methodology and copyright were understood;
  • Prepared and implemented a project plan, including a risk analysis, to ensure the project stayed on track and everything was completed on time;
  • Ensured that all relevant materials were collected and identified (both digital and hard-copy) –oral history files, summary sheets, Welsh language transcriptions and copyright agreements and other supporting documentation;
  • Ensure the completeness and the integrity of the collated materials;
  • Assigned appropriate identifiers to ensure individual materials could be unequivocally identified and related materials effectively associated;
  • Designed appropriate data models for cataloguing the materials, which would enable them to be integrated with the holdings of both NLW and PCW as well as standalone equipment at CAT, using profiles of current digital information standards. These included cataloguing standards (International Standard Archival Description (General) (ISAD(G)), Dublin Core and the XML mark-up standard schema Encoded Archival Description (EAD);
  • Developed and documented rules to ensure cataloguing consistency so that searches across the catalogue would be fruitful for users – particular attention was paid to dates and names as the ability to index these was a core requirement;

Developed appropriate hierarchical cataloguing – as required by archival tradition and NLW.

  • Further explored CAT’s history through desk and archival research to enable the addition of background information to the cataloguing;
  • Catalogued each interview, using relevant software, to ensure the maximum access for users: themes discussed were described and time-stamped while names and dates were highlighted;
  • Extracted cataloguing information into the database required by PCW and the XML mark-up required by NLW and deposited the data with relevant personnel;
  • Developed a flowchart to enable successful integration of any new materials into the collection;
  • Trained a member of CAT staff to integrate and catalogue any new materials;
  • Prepared a comprehensive project report, including recommendations to ensure long-term access;
  • Undertook individual and group reflective evaluations of the project;
  • Presented their work for assessment, to the full project team and students and staff at Aberystwyth University;
  • Disseminated their work at the Digital Preservation Coalition event Getting Started in Digital Preservation at NLW in June 2013.

The students worked professionally throughout, collaborating with the wider project team, with minimal tutor support. Problems were solved and documentation created as required. The portfolio of work submitted went beyond the project brief, and fulfilled the requirements of the multiple partners. The students undertook other tasks which they realised were needed for the project’s success – but were not required to do so for their formal assessment. These included attending events led by CAT in their own time and at their own volition; undertaking a risk assessment; developing handover instructions; a group reflection on the process and presenting at the DPC event. Their final catalogue, report and presentation were of high distinction level, clearly articulating the project stages; how they were achieved; what needed to happen next and the lessons learned during the process. The project was delivered on time and to the complete satisfaction of the project partners and with due regard for the work’s future longevity.

The complete archive, both the oral histories and the analogue material, were used as the focus for a dissemination event for local people at CAT in February 2014 and formally deposited at NLW during a day-long event celebrating the archive on 26 July 2014.

One member of the project team subsequently accepted a job with CAT to digitise and prepare the analogue archive for deposit at NLW. Another accepted a digital preservation internship at the British Library. The third joined a local authority archive.

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