Update from the Planets project (and some good background on digital preservation)

In March 2009 the Planets project engaged in a collaborative WePreserve training initiative to introduce the preservation challenges and the solutions emerging from various European projects. The event was organised by the four projects DPE, Planets, CASPAR and Nestor under the WePreserve umbrella and took place at the University of Barcelona, Institute of Catalan Studies.

Presentations from this event are now available on the Planets website and present interesting introductions to Planets and the issues relating to digital preservation:

Introduction to Planets


Hans Hofman (Dutch National Archives) introduces and presents the Planets project.

Introduction to Digital Preservation


Manfred Thaller (University at Cologne) gives an overview of the issues in digital preservation.

Digital Preservation Process: Preparation and Requirements


Hans Hofman (Dutch National Archives) discusses new methods and explores the main components of the preservation planning process.

Preservation Planning with Plato


Hannes Kulovits (Vienna University of Technology) presents, by means of Plato, how to create a preservation plan.

Digital Preservation Metadata


Angela Dappert (British Library) introduces digital preservation metadata and preservation metadata in practise.

File Formats and Significant Properties


Manfred Thaller (University at Cologne) describes the principle of file formats and discusses what formats to choose for what.

The Planets Testbed


Max Kaiser (Austrian National Library) explains the need for a testbed for digital preservation and describes the possibilities for experimenting and testing in the Planets Testbed.

To view the full programme for the WePreserve event, please visit: www.wepreserve.eu/events/barcelona-2009/programme/

You can find more presentations about digital preservation and Planets tools on the Planets website’s publication page, please visit http://www.planets-project.eu/publications.


New shiny Aquabrowser

We’ve released an updated version of our Aquabrowser powered integrated search service.   We added new functionality as a result of poking around other Aquabrowser implementations, integrated another dataset (thats 4 now, only another 3 to go!) and checked our accessible version was working as required.  Our Aquabrowser database now contains more than 4.25 million records.  Wow!

The new functionality stuff includes:

  • an Advanced search option that allows users to keyword search within specific indexes such as title and author and  subject
  • the ability to retract the word cloud so that there’s more space to display the search results and facets
  • some changes to the results display including showing the shelf mark, series and subjects
  • the AddThis button so folks can easily email, Tweet and Digg records
  • on the full record display for main catalogue data we are grabbing live data about availability and location from our Voyager system
  • and other little things that address issues that our colleagues in Enquiries and Reference Services identified like improving the display on full records for 800×600 screens and trying to enhancing the visibility of the Request item link

The new dataset we integrated into Aquabrowser is the catalogue of Scottish Bibliographies Online (SBO).  This MARC based catalogue of nearly 200,000 records includes the Bibliography of Scotland, the Bibliography of Scottish Gaelic and the Bibliography of the Scottish Book Trade.  You can spot SBO records in Aquabrowser because they are listed as “Forms part of Scottish Bibliographies Online” or you can choose SBO from Select Collections.

Aquabrowser at NLS

Many of the records in SBO are derived from our main catalogue and Meindert, our Aquabrowser implementation engineer over at Medialab in Amsterdam, had his work cut out for him in matching SBO records to those from main catalogue.  This was made even more challenging for him because the relationships between records in the two catalogues has not been consistently recorded.  As I have learned, problems such as this are not unusual and are as a result of data migrations and changing cataloguing policies and priorities.  But the challenges of integrating numerous datasets with varying metadata schemas,  differing terminologlies and cataloguing practises is a whole other post and a lifetime of work. So while I get on with that why don’t you try our Aquabrowser service and feedback you impressions (we like to hear both the good and bad).

Until next time …


Everyone should AddThis

While hanging out at Denver Public Library’s new Aquabrowser catalogue I noticed a wee Bookmark & Share button that allows you to send information about a record you have just found to the printer, email address, Twitter,AddThis button FaceBook and many other  services.

Of course I have seen buttons like this before and mostly ignored them but as I was in “Aquabrowser Implementation Mode” I did pay attention and asked Meindert, our Medialab engineer, if we could have this functionality too.

I thought the Bookmark & Share button was part of Aquabrowser but No.  It’s a free service called AddThis and it’s the easiest thing to implement.  You configure how you want your button to look and what services you need included,  then just copy the script that is automatically generated, into your application.  Meindert had it in our Aquabrowser development server within minutes and Tony, who works in our team, liked it so much that he put it in many of the Library’s other services such as the  Scottish Screen Archive, our new Digital Archive and the Map Library web pages.

AddThis service analytics

Not only does AddThis allow our customers to bookmark, organise and share aspects of our services but it also provides us with useful analytics that show usage, the most popular services and content.

I’ve been wondering if I could include AddThis in our Voyager OPAC. Tony thinks it’s do-able but if anyone else has already done this in a Voyager catalogue then let us know.  Also, I thought it might be nice to have the Ask a librarian service added as an option so may get in touch with the folks at AddThis to see if it can be included.

Until next time …


The NLS Digital Archive

I thought that I should post an update on the blog to let everyone know that we’ve just put the link up on the main NLS site to the Digital Archive. Its been a long time coming, but thanks to the efforts of the team, I’m very pleased that its now up and available.

The public version of the Digital Archive only contains images and metadata specifically created for online public display – and is a refined subset of the wider Digital Object Database (the DOD) at the NLS, which is in itself an overall record of all NLS digitisation work. 

We have an ongoing programme of assurance work which will steadily increase the volume of resources available in the Digital Archive.

There are some great resources in there already, comprising around 10,000 images and its growing steadily. Some highlights include

The Gutenberg Bible

The first book printed with moveable type. Printed in Mainz, Germany, around 1455 by Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of printing, and Johannes Fust. One of around only 20 complete copies to survive out of the original 180. Two volumes. Also known as ‘The 42-line Bible’ or ‘The Mazarine Bible’.

Soviet Posters

The Woodburn Collection of around 70 posters issued between 1919 and 1930. A few relate to the Russian Civil War, but most deal with economic and social issues of the 1920s. Brought back from the Soviet Union by Scottish Labour MP Arthur Woodburn after his visit there in 1932.
First World War Official Photographs

Black-and-white photographs mainly of the Western Front during the First World War. Official British war photographers took many of them for propaganda purposes. Unless otherwise stated, titles are the photographs’ original captions. From the papers of Field Marshal (Earl) Haig (1861-1928). The Haig Papers also contain Douglas Haig’s diaries.

The Aberdeen  Breviary

Prepared and edited by William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen. Printed in Edinburgh in 1510 on Scotland’s first press set up by Walter Chepman and Androw Myllar. The largest product of that press. Two volumes, entitled ‘Pars hiemalis’ and ‘Pars aestivalis’. The whole breviary is also known as ‘Breviarium Aberdonense’.


We hope you enjoy browsing the resources – you can view complete books and other printed texts page by page, together with photographs, posters, maps and drawings.  Much more will be added, in due course, so watch this space!


The mysteries of Flickr…..

Soldiers comrades watching him as he sleeps, Thievpal, France, during World War I

Soldier's comrades watching him as he sleeps, Thievpal, France, during World War I

I was looking at our Flickr account as normal this morning and noticed that our most viewed image is creeping towards the 1000 views mark over the last 3 months.  That might not be a hugely significant number, but its interesting  in that it stands about 300 image views over the next most popular image, and I don’t know why.

We’ve done quite a lot of the usual things with it – joining groups, tagging as relevant etc, but nothing that is different  from any of the other images.  There have been no massive peaks in viewing,  just a steady trickle.

Other things that have puzzled me a bit are that its only been favourited 4 times, and has had no comments whatsoever….

So, all in all a bit of a mystery.


Warning: this post contains blatant self interest & promotion of NLS collections 😉

I was thinking about Christmas presents the other day.  I was of course doing this thinking in my lunch break (honest Boss)!  One should never think of festive gifts while, for example, writing a little script to do a global edit on your entire MARC database as it could get very, very messy and in the worst case scenario may convince Santa that you’ve been quite bad and don’t deserve a visit from him.  But I digress ….

So in my lunch break I was reading my RSS from Neatorama a great blog full of silly present ideas like the Zombie wall decals and Crime scene scarf.  On Neatorama I found these beautiful prints of Scottish mountains and rivers.

Comparative view of the heights of the principal mountains of Scotland.

Comparative view of the heights of the principal mountains of Scotland. From John Thomson

Comparative view of the heights of the principal mountains of Scotland.

A comparative view of the heights of the principal mountains of Scotland.

So I’m thinking Hmmm I know someone that would love to have a copy of these prints for Christmas.  I wonder where I can get them? So I’m clicking away and find myself on the lovely BibliOdyssey which is a blog full of beautiful illustrations from books and Wow! they say that the atlas where these prints are from is in NLS.  More clicking and I find that the NLS copy of John Thomson’s Atlas of Scotland has been digitised.  What’s more NLS offers a service to print digital copies.

So that’ll be Christmas sorted then.  Eh … I mean … my knowledge of the NLS collections and services enhanced, and yours too.

Until next time ….


More flickr additions. The RLS Haig “Official Photographs”

Today I’ve put a number of new photographs into our Flickr account, as a draw to the whole collection that forms part of the papers of Field Marshal (Earl) Haig (1861-1928). The images have now been through the quality assurance process prior to their inclusion into the discovery interface of the Digital Object Database that is in the final stages of being prepared for the shift from beta to live release. Note that the selections are randomly taken from the thousands of available images and are in no particular order.

Some of the pictures are very striking. For example;

The official description of the collection is a follows;

“These images form part of the papers of Field Marshal (Earl) Haig (1861-1928), held by the National Library of Scotland. Like many World War I generals, Haig remains a controversial figure.

The collection contains diaries, papers and photographs from every part of Haig’s career, the Great War diaries being of special importance to historians. Photographs in the “Official Photographs” series (which were destined for publication and have captions on the back describing the image) are in black-and-white. World War I saw the development of a system of ‘official’ reporting by professionals especially recruited into the forces. Initially reluctant to allow cameras near the fighting, it took some time for the authorities to appreciate the propaganda and recording potential of photography.

These photographs provide us with an invaluable record of how the Government and Military wanted the war perceived. Official photographers were encouraged to record morale-boosting scenes of victory and comradeship. Despite the restrictions placed on them, official war photographers succeeded in giving the most comprehensive visual account of the war. It is important to remember that these images were propaganda; few that could depict the war in a disheartening or disconcerting way passed the censors. As a result the photograph taken was often posed. They were intended to reassure those at home and boost morale. They were printed in newspapers, and were intended to confirm that ‘Tommy’ was winning the war.

Unless otherwise stated, titles are from the photographs’ original captions. Headings (in block capitals), captions and part references, all written in pencil, are generally on the back of each original. “Western Front”, mentioned in many of the headings, refers to a narrow border of land between Belgium and France where the Allies dug trenches from the North Sea to the Swiss Frontier, i.e. the fighting zone in France and Flanders, where the British, French, Belgian and later American Armies faced that of Germany. For three years, neither side advanced more than a few miles along this line.”

The ‘RLS Haig “Official Photographs”‘ contains the following 6 items:

  • Ernest Brooks
    Ernest Brooks was the first British official war photographer to be assigned to the Western Front in 1916. Previously a ‘Daily Mirror’ photographer, he was given the honorary rank of Second Lieutenant. His remit was to take as many photographs as possible, with as much variety as possible. Using his inconspicuous hand-held camera Brooks was free to wander, sometimes capturing his subjects unawares. Many of the images taken by Brooks were used to fuel the propaganda machine at home and abroad. Despite this Brooks, who was very aware of composition and light, produced some very artistic and thought-provoking images.
  • John Warwick Brooke
    John Warwick Brooke, of the Topical Press Agency, was one of two British official war photographers, the first being Ernest Brooks, to be sent to the Western Front in 1916. The demands placed on both men were heavy. They had to take as many photographs as possible, with as much variety as possible; a difficult task for two men covering an army of over two million. Despite this, Warwick Brooke managed to take what would become some of the most memorable images of World War I.
  • Tom Aitken
    Tom Aitken was a newspaper photographer from Glasgow who was assigned in December 1917 as a war photographer along with David McLellan and Armando Consolé. McLellan’s work also features in the National Library of Scotland’s Haig Papers. War photographers held a hybrid position during World War I, being part of yet not ultimately responsible to the military.
  • David McClellan
    Formerly a photographer with the ‘Daily Mirror’, a newspaper which led the field in pictorial journalism, McClellan was appointed as an official war photographer in December 1917 along with Tom Aitken whose work also features in this collection. McClellan is especially noted for his work capturing the huge scale of operations on the Front.
  • French Press Stamps
    Photographs from the Haig “Official Photographs” series with French Press Stamps.
  • Canadians
    Photographs from the Haig “Official Photographs” series that are connected with Canadian troops.

I hope you enjoy this thought provoking collection – I certainly have.