Pause for Reflection, by Claire Collins

In the autumn, colleagues from Gloucestershire Archives have been showcasing our digital preservation work at a couple of conferences. The first the Archives and Records Association conference was about ‘Facing Forward: Post-pandemic recordkeeping – change, challenge, choice’ and the second was the international conference on digital preservation (iPres) focusing on ‘Data for all, for good, for ever: Let Digits Flourish’

Read more: Pause for Reflection, by Claire Collins

For both conferences we presented papers focusing on the recent work we have been doing designing a long term digital storage solution for our born digital records and curiously enough (or perhaps not!) this very forward facing topic served to highlight the basic principles that underpin the work we do here.

So first, what are archives?

Archives are the record of everyday activities of governments, organisations, businesses and individuals. Archives may take many different forms – handwritten, typed, printed, photographic or electronic – and include audio-visual material such as video and sound recordings. As authentic and reliable records, they are preserved permanently because of their evidential and historical value.

What does Gloucestershire Archives do?

We gather archive collections and local and family history resources to ensure they are kept secure and made accessible.

We can see the foundations of the Archive are provenance (that is understanding where something has come from) and authenticity. So an Archive’s worth is that it preserves both provenance and authentic content.

Historically then we expect that the documents we offer to customers are precisely the documents that crossed the Archive’s threshold and are what we have ever since kept safe. Archival authenticity does not mean that a document’s content is “true” rather it means that the document produced is the document that was received by the Archive, possibly many decades earlier.

Therefore successful Archival preservation requires more than just having access to a document. We must also know where the document is from and how it relates to other documents. And in particular we must know that our document is authentic and be able to prove this claim.

All then that we need to do for our digital records is translate these principles into the digital world.

We have been working on tools that will ensure that we not only know that our digital documents have been preserved but that we can prove it.

Provenance is captured in our hierarchical catalogue that is compliant with international cataloguing standards (ISAD(G)). This digital application is supported by our normal business continuity plans, and our “disorderly exit” plan – which protects us in case of incidents such as supplier failure.

Authenticity is based on the custody of the fixity digests of the archival information packages (AIPs) or digital objects that are held by us in our storage.

You can read more about fixity and fixity digests on the Digital Preservation Coalition’s website https://www.dpconline.org/handbook/technical-solutions-and-tools/fixity-and-checksums, but essentially you can think of a fixity digest as a digital fingerprint or unique value that can be generated from a digital object. Knowing, maintaining and comparing the fixity of a digital object allows us to prove that a digital object is authentic.

In practical terms we use a packaging tool to create Archival Information Packages or AIPs from the digital documents transferred to us. (Think of this a bit like putting some paper records into a box). As part of this process we calculate the fixity digests of the AIPs.

We are then able to deposit AIPs in a remote cloud based store. We use a storage fixity tool to calculate the fixity digests of the deposited AIP that it has received. It reports these digests back to the packager tool. The packager tool knows what the fixity digests of the AIP should be since it calculated them when the AIP was first created. So it can verify what the storage fixity manager tool is reporting and confirm that the service is reporting the expected fixity digests.

Finally, the packager tool includes the fixity digests that it created earlier in a fixity digest database which is maintained by the Archive.

Similarly when a user wants to consult a particular digital object we can request an AIP from the store using the packager tool.

The archivist identifies the AIP that is being requested. The packager tool receives the downloaded AIP. It confirms that it has located the expected fixity digests in the fixity digest database maintained by the Archive. It calculates the fixity digests of the deposited AIP that it has received so that these can be compared. Since the digests agree with the expected fixities that have remained in the Archive’s custody the Archive can prove that the requested AIP is authentically identical to the deposited AIP.

Gloucestershire Archives has been working in this field now for almost 20 years. Our approach of learning by doing has allowed us to develop our thinking and learning by actively taking discrete steps to preserve our digital collections. Our existing AIPs are stored securely within Gloucestershire County Council’s network, but now that we have defined our requirements we can explore the opportunities that new technologies offer.

Claire Collins, Collections Development Manager

Innovations in Gloucester

On Friday September 9th why not attend part or all of our History Festival/Voices Gloucester event, Innovations in Gloucester, in the Dunrossil Centre at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub?

It’s all free, although donations to Voices Gloucester are welcomed.  Bring a picnic to enjoy in the Hub’s community garden.  The building is fully accessible.  There is some on-site parking (£3) – we’re also close to NCP car parks.   For further details and to book a place see https://voicesgloucester.org.uk/events/innovations-in-gloucester/.     

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Dog dribble, Spaghetti Bolognese and a council minute book: pure beauty?

Isn’t it funny how some people find certain things attractive, yet to somebody else, the exact same thing doesn’t do anything for them. Beauty, as the saying goes, is in the eye of the beholder.

For example, some people would look at a growling, floppy-jowled, saliva-dripping bulldog flashing fangs as sharp as razorblades and would think it’s as cute as a new-born kitten.

But there are some people who would run away extremely fast because they believe they’ve just come across an evil beast from the deepest pit of doom.

I shall let you guess which category I fall into, but here’s a clue: I’m not a fan of dog dribble.

It’s the same with virtually anything – art, movies, sport, food. You name anything and someone will like it just as passionately as the next person dislikes it.

Spaghetti Bolognese for example. Some people’s eyes pop out of their heads with glee when they see it on a menu in a café or restaurant, whilst others cannot stand the awkwardly stringy, overly floppy, sauce-flinging laces of pasta that will just not stay on the blasted fork, spoon, chopsticks, fingers or whatever implement is chosen, without permanently staining everything within a half mile radius with the sauce of shame.

I shall let you guess which category I fall into, but here’s a clue: if you see a spag bol in front of me, it would be wise to give me half a mile of clearance.

There is one particular thing that I find rather good to look at that not many other people do though (although I’ve never really asked, so maybe people do?) and it’s this: a page of text.

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Gloucestershire Archives accessions, April-June 2022

It is time for our second quarterly blog looking at accessions we have recently received at Gloucestershire Archives. These can be from any place, person or organisation in Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire.

This quarter we have added 94 new accessions onto our online catalogue. This includes material relating to both Gloucestershire County Council and South Gloucestershire Councils response to Covid-19, hundreds of Magistrate Court registers, material from the former Chair of Stroud Local History Society Philip Walmsley and much more! 

Find a full list of accessions for this quarter in the downloadable PDF below.

Some items within these collections may be closed in accordance with the Data Protection Act and/or if they contain sensitive information. However you can find details of all the accessions, and further information if they have been catalogued, by visiting our website Online Catalogue – Gloucestershire Archives.

River Severn Flying Boats and Rockets!

In May 1942, six months before Churchill made his famous “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” speech at the Lord Mayor’s luncheon at Mansion House, officials in Gloucestershire County Council’s planning department were already thinking about post-WW2 reconstruction. 

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#Archive30: Travels throughout Gloucestershire by bus, train or walking boots!

This small notebook might not look like much on the outside, but it is perfect for #ArchiveDestination! This travel diary records the writers “impressions of events, mostly of places I have been to, & things that have happened there” as he travels via bus and train and enjoys walks around the area. Including a trip to Stroud Valley on 17 April 1954!

The entries about his different travels are really interesting to read and he touches on many places in the South West of England, including places such as Berkeley, Cirencester and Harefield in Gloucestershire, as well as many places in Somerset and Bristol.

The diary includes many personal snippets of the authors opinions on both where he is visiting and how he is getting there.

“We went on a Saturday at 1.50 on the 29 bus. It was, in a way a pity to go by bus, as it wasn’t half so pleasant (or so quick) as the train – but still, it was an experience.”

That being said one of my favourite parts is where you can see he has accidently skip two pages, so has crossed them out and annotated the page with “Damn!” I think this along with other comments throughout the dairy really showcase the man behind the travels and so his sense of humour!

two pages with the diary that have been crossed through and "damn!" written at the bottom of the right hand page
Unused pages in the travel diary

(Gloucestershire Archives Ref number: D15927/1)

Gloucester’s Bishops Court records unlocked, Or All human life is there…, by Judy Kimber

On the 5th December 1628 George Beard made his way to Gloucester from his home in Whaddon. A dispute had arisen concerning the will of his friend John Copp and he was going to give his testimony at the Bishop’s Court. There he was asked how old he was and he told them that he was 90.  Yes, 90! Just think about that for a minute. He had lived through the reigns of six monarchs from Henry VIII to Charles 1. He was alive when the Spanish Armada threatened England. He was in his sixties when Guy Fawkes and his gang had tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. And now he was mentally and physically fit enough to give evidence in court. So much for the notion that no-one lived past sixty in “olden times”.

An example of a Bishop’s Court case book (GDR/168)
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Women’s History Month – U. A. Fanthorpe and R. V. Bailey

To kick off woman’s history month in the UK, every Friday in March we’ll be bringing to light women in Gloucestershire, often overlooked or under appreciated.

This week’s new arrival for our local studies collection was ‘From Me to you – Love poems’ by U. A. Fanthorpe and R. V. Bailey. The authors were a couple who lived together in Wotton Under Edge until Fanthorpe’s death in 2009.

From Me to You, Love Poems

Ursula Fanthorpe was a teacher at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and went on to run the English department there. She later left that job to work in a hospital and started publishing her own poetry in 1978.

Rosemarie Bailey met Ursula when she was also working in the English department at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. Later, she worked as a University lecturer in Bristol.

They first lived together in Merthyr Tydfil, before moving to Wotton Under Edge in Gloucestershire. Both have spoken about their faith in the Quaker community, and how accepted they felt in it, which features in this book. Neither indicated which poem was written by whom, calling it a kind of ‘comic modesty’.

We think it’s fitting that Gloucestershire Archives should hold a copy of this book for future generations to peruse and learn about the life and love between these two women which inspired these poems.

You can find it by searching in our local studies collection, under B739/60038GS.

Gloucester City Council and the City War Memorial, by Jonathan Hoad

As Remembrance Day approaches, I thought I would share my findings in the Gloucester Borough Records (GBR/L6/23/B5018), on how the names of World War Two fallen on the Gloucester City War Memorial, in Gloucester Park, were collected by the Council using official sources and a public appeal.

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