Empowering the user: the development of flexible archival catalogues

Project start date: 2006-05 Project end date: 2009-04
The project is exploring the issues involved in creating a dynamic and flexible online archival finding aid, which is responsive to the needs of individual researchers. The project’s premise is that most archival finding aids are rigid, mono-hierarchical lists, which cannot adequately reflect the multiple contexts and complex inter-relationships of records. The project is taking a more flexible approach. By separating descriptions of the content of a record from descriptions of its context, the project is free to link any individual record to any number of different contexts. These might include the organisation(s) or person(s) who created or used the record, the specific activity or activities that gave rise to the record, and the relationships of the record with other records. The result will provide researchers with as much information as possible to enable them to interpret and assess the value of the records. It will also allow them to follow paths of interest and tailor the finding aid to their own specific research needs. The project is using as a test bed, and will provide a greatly enhanced research resource to, the outstanding House of Fraser Department Store archive relating to British design, fashion and culture from the early nineteenth to the end of the twentieth century. The primary aim of the project is to assess the potential of flexible archival descriptions. The secondary aims are to assess the value of a function based approach to business archives, to clarify and define the application of archival descriptive standards to business archives, to develop a facility enabling users to add contextual information to the finding aid and to provide enhanced access to the archives of the House of Fraser. The project will firstly provide a basis for professional debate and will enhance archival descriptive practice. It has already been active in assisting the development of the new international standard for describing functions (ISDF) by the International Council on Archives and the development of Encoded Archival Context (EAC) by the Society of American Archivists. Researchers will also benefit from improved resource discovery and access to archives. The online catalogue produced will immediately enhance the existing research resources for the study of the records of design, fashion, tastes, lifestyles, consumption and consumerism.
Methods usedCategory
Cataloguing and indexingData structuring and enhancement
General website developmentData publishing and dissemination
Interface designData publishing and dissemination
Searching and queryingData analysis
Security planningStrategy and project management
Text encoding - descriptiveData structuring and enhancement
Textual interaction (asynchronous)Communication and collaboration
Usability analysisStrategy and project management
Funding sources: 
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Content types created: 
Software tools used: 
Source material used:  
The digital resource is a catalogue of the House of Fraser Department Store Archive, which is held at Glasgow University Archive Services. The archive comprises132 linear metres and approximately 10,000 items and covers over 200 different stores.
Digital resource created:  
The project will produce an online catalogue of the records of the House of Fraser Department Store Archive. The archive offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of one of Britain's leading department stores. House of Fraser has a long and distinguished history. Founded in 1849 as a small drapery shop in Glasgow, it expanded rapidly, acquiring some 200 different stores, and opening branches in many parts of the world. The archive is an important source for the history of design, fashion, tastes, lifestyles, consumerism and consumption. Features of the catalogue will include: full descriptions of all items in the archive; histories of House of Fraser and its subsidiaries and associated companies; histories of key people; details of how the company functioned; flexible search options eg the option to search by type of product or business, or by a specific company, person or place; and facilities for researchers to bookmark and tag parts of the catalogue or add their own information or comments.
Data Formats created: 
Metadata standards employed: 
Encoded Archival Description (EAD)

Institutions affiliated with this project: 

UK HE institutions involved:
University of Glasgow

Project staff and expertise: 

Principal staff member:Mrs Lesley Richmond
Other staff:Postdoctoral researcher(s) / Research assistant(s)
External expertise:Technical expertise (design of web interface) from Dr Steve North, IT consultant.

Metadata on this arts-humanities.net record
Author(s) of recordVictoria Peters
TitleEmpowering the user: the development of flexible archival catalogues
Record created2008-04-16
Record updated2010-06-11 11:17
URL of recordhttp://www.arts-humanities.net/node/2292
Citation of recordVictoria Peters: Empowering the user: the development of flexible archival catalogues. <http://www.arts-humanities.net/node/2292> created: 2008-04-16, last updated 2010-06-11 11:17
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