Free the archives!

March 31st saw Hyperlocal Bloggers meet the BBC in the West Midlands, a much-needed event organised by Nick Booth.  At the start Nick asked people present to say the issues they’d like to be discussed so I took the opportunity to have a conversation around something that’s becoming a bit of a bugbear of mine: archive material and getting those who hold it to publish it online in a way that’s easy for people to find, filter and use to share amongst their own contacts and audiences.

Now I’m no historian or archives expert – I just enjoy the insights these little snippets of history give us and think everyone should be able to access and use them. As people increasingly are online, especially those researching something, this seems the obvious place to put them. And to make the materials easy for these people to discover and use, they need to be published in a way that makes them easy to find, filter by area/subject/whatever and share.

The last point always seems to be the stickiest one of all because of copyright but I believe it’s an important one – not all of the community around a particular subject/area will go delving through archive sites to find relevant material, so the one member who does is doing their community a service by sharing it with them. This copyright infringement for the greater good is something I’ve been guilty of a few times on Digbeth is Good (this being just one example) but it’s not always technically possible, especially with online video.

I shared my concerns with the BBC, who have a wealth of archive material that is often hard to access and impossible to share, to see what they’d say about it. Robin Morley’s answer was surprising – that the BCC had several years ago made available an online archive of video material that was easy to filter through and share by embedding but he was unsure what had happened to that. A lot of the above video is me begging him to “BRING IT BACK!”

This short film from JISC does a much better than I ever could of showing the great things that can come from it and how far we have to go:

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