ACROSS THE DECADES - 40 years of data archiving

Research and development

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The Archive's research and development activities have always focused on developing the tools and products on which its data preservation and dissemination service depends.

Although vital for the core services it provides, additional funding must be sought to cover research and development costs, and the Archive has been particularly successful over the last five years in securing awards from sources including the ESRC, the European Commission and JISC.

As the nature of data becomes more global, there is an increasing emphasis on collaborative international projects such as the recently completed MADIERA project. This project, involving archives from seven countries including the UK, aimed to break down language barriers in searching for data by employing a multilingual thesaurus, based on HASSET - the thesaurus developed over the last 20 years at the Archive.

The authors of the first version of HASSET, Ivor Crewe and his colleague Bridget Winstanley, could scarcely have imagined that their brain-child would not only have stood the test of time, but would be translated into seven different languages (soon to be ten).

It is often the case that the technology developed for one specific purpose will have wider application in the future. Kevin Schürer expects this to be true of the technology developed for Histpop, a recently completed JISC-funded project. This project produced a web site with the complete collection of British historical population reports from 1801 to 1937, providing a comprehensive resource for historians. But, as Schürer explains, "it has also taken the Archive into the new and important area of delivering images online within a searchable browsable content".

Schürer forecasts an increasing demand for visual and indeed audio-visual data, such as CCTV. "The whole nature of what researchers need in terms of data is changing and we need to be prepared for that", he says.

Further information on research and development over the last 40 years.