THE BRITISH LIBRARY

UK Web Archive blog

3 posts categorized "Contemporary Britain"

09 August 2017

The Proper Serious Work of Preserving Digital Comics

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Jen Aggleton is a PhD candidate in Education at the University of Cambridge, and is completing a work placement at the British Library on the subject of digital comics. 

If you are a digital comics creator, publisher, or reader, we would love to hear from you. We’d like to know more about the digital comics that you create, find out links to add to our Web Archive collection, and find examples of comic apps that we could collect. Please email suggestions to Jennifer.Aggleton@BL.uk. For this initial stage of the project, we will be accepting suggestions until the end of August 2017.

I definitely didn’t apply for a three month placement at the British Library just to have an excuse to read comics every day. Having a number of research interests outside of my PhD topic of illustrated novels (including comics and library studies), I am always excited when I find opportunities which allow me to explore these strands a little more. So when I saw that the British Library were looking for PhD placement students to work in the area of 21st century British comics, I jumped at the chance.

Having convinced my supervisor that I wouldn’t just be reading comics all day but would actually be doing proper serious work, I temporarily put aside my PhD and came to London to read lots and lots of digital comics (for the purpose of proper serious work). And that’s when I quickly realised that I was already reading comics every day.

The reason I hadn’t noticed was because I hadn’t specifically picked up a printed comic or gone to a dedicated webcomic site every day (many days, sure, but not every day). I was however reading comics every day on Facebook, slipped in alongside dubiously targeted ads and cat videos. It occurred to me that lots of other people, even those who may not think of themselves as comics readers, were probably doing the same.

Forweb2-slytherinpic
(McGovern, E. My Life As A Background Slytherin, https://www.facebook.com/backgroundslytherin/photos/a.287354904946325.1073741827.287347468280402/338452443169904/?type=3&theater Reproduced with kind permission of Emily McGovern.)

This is because the ways in which we interact with comics have been vastly expanded by digital technology. Comics are now produced and circulated through a number of different platforms, including apps, websites and social media, allowing them to reach further than their traditional audience. These platforms have made digital comics simultaneously both more and less accessible than their print equivalents; many webcomics are available for free online, which means readers no longer have to pay between £8 and £25 for a graphic novel, but does require them to have already paid for a computer/tablet/smartphone and internet connection (or have access to one at their local library, provided their local library wasn’t a victim of austerity measures).

Alongside access to reading comics, access to publishing has also changed. Anyone with access to a computer and internet connection can now publish a comic online. This has opened up comics production to many whose voices may not have often been heard in mainstream print comics, including writers and characters of colour, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, those with disabilities, and creators who simply cannot give up the stability of full-time employment to commit the time needed to chase their dream of being a comics creator. The result is a vibrant array of digital comics, enormously varying in form and having a significant social and cultural impact.

But digital comics are also far more fragile than their print companions, and this is where the proper serious work part of my placement comes in. Comics apps are frequently removed from app stores as new platform updates come in. Digital files become corrupted, or become obsolete as the technology used to host them is updated and replaced. Websites are taken down, leaving no trace (all those dire warnings that the internet is forever are not exactly true. For more details about the need for digital preservation, see an earlier post to this blog). So in order to make sure that all the fantastic work happening in digital comics now is still available for future generations (which in British Library terms could mean ten years down the line, or five hundred years down the line), we need to find ways to preserve what is being created.

One method of doing this is to establish a dedicated webcomics archive. The British Library already has a UK Web Archive, due to the extension of legal deposit in 2013 to include the collection of non-print items. I am currently working on setting up a special collection of UK webcomics within that archive. This has involved writing collections guidelines covering what will (and won’t) be included in the collection, which had me wrestling with the thorny problem of what exactly a digital comic is (comics scholars will know that nobody can agree on what a print comic is, so you can imagine the fun involved in trying to incorporate digital elements such as audio and video into the mix as well). It has also involved building the collection through web harvesting, tracking down webcomics for inclusion in the collection, and providing metadata (information about the collection item) for cataloguing purposes (this last task may happen to require reading lots of comics).

Alongside this, I am looking into ways that digital comics apps might be preserved, which is very proper serious work indeed. Not only are there many different versions of the same app, depending on what operating system you are using, but many apps are reliant not only on the software of the platform they are running on, but sometimes the hardware as well, with some apps integrating functions such as the camera of a tablet into their design. Simply downloading apps will provide you with lots of digital files that you won’t be able to open in a few years’ time (or possibly even a few months’ time, with the current pace of technology). This is not a problem that can be solved in the duration of a three month placement (or, frankly, given my total lack of technical knowledge, by me at all). What I can do, however, is find people who do have technical knowledge and ask them what they think. Preserving digital comics is a complicated and ongoing process, and it is a great experience to be in at the early stages of exploration.

And you can be involved in this fun experience too! If you are a digital comics creator, publisher, or reader, we would love to hear from you. We’d like to know more about the digital comics that you create, find out links to add to our Web Archive collection, and find examples of comic apps that we could collect. Please email suggestions to Jennifer.Aggleton@BL.uk. For this initial stage of the project, we will be accepting suggestions until the end of August 2017. In that time, we are particularly keen to receive web addresses for UK published webcomics, so that I can continue to build the web archive, and do the proper serious work of reading lots and lots of comics.

17 May 2016

Saving BBC Recipes Website

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There's been much coverage today of plans to remove the recipe pages from the BBC website.

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The UK Web Archive has been collecting selected pages from the BBC, mainly news, for over ten years and since 2013 we have attempted to capture the entirety of the BBC web estate. A small number of pages are available on the Open UK Web Archive website. Most of the BBC's online presence, however, is only available in the reading rooms of UK Legal Deposit libraries, including both of the British Library sites at St. Pancras and Boston Spa in Yorkshire.

We have today instigated a further crawl of the BBC website with the specific aim of ensuring that we save the recipes from the food pages. We can also report that the Internet Archive, Library of Alexandria and the National Library of Iceland have also captured these pages so their future is assured.

Polly Russell, British Library Curator and Food Historian says 

"Cookery books, like cookery websites, obviously serve a practical purpose but that is not all. For historians, sociologists and anthropologists they also tell us about people's culinary aspirations and anxieties, cultural tastes and trends, dietary preoccupations, social expectations and economic conditions. They are, therefore, a rich source for researchers. So while it's sad news to hear about plans to close the much trusted and well-loved BBC Food website, it's a relief that the British Library is going to be able to archive the website for posterity."

 

 

26 April 2016

Easter Rising 1916 Centenary in Print and Digital

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Ireland has been gripped by  commemorations of the Easter Rising in the last month. The Rising took place from the 24th April to the 29th April 1916 in Dublin. A packed programme of events and activities took place across Ireland and in Irish communities further afield to commemorate this centenary.

In March 2016, addressing a colloquium at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the Irish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, his Excellency Daniel Mulhall, emphasised the transnational and inclusive nature of the commemoration programme in his opening remarks. The 1916 Rising had a global impact with ripples felt as far as Asia and India. This is reflected in the range of events taking place in the United Kingdom, supported by the Irish Embassy.

In military terms the Rising was a failure and had consequences for the people of Dublin with 415 people killed, the majority of whom were civilians.

Print
Turning to the documentation of the Rising, there are a number of interesting documents within the Library’s collections relating to the Rising. The British Library does not hold an original broadside of the Proclamation of an Irish Republic. Nevertheless, later examples of the document were acquired retrospectively.

The earliest example of a version of the proclamation in the British Library’s collections, can be found at C.S.A.24/3.(1.). This is interesting from a bibliographical stand point because it is the first entry under the new heading in the British Library Printed Catalogue to 1975:

ProvisionalGovernmentEntryBLPC

Provisional Government of the Irish Republic 1916. Miscellaneous Public documents. 

That the Library classified this proclamation as a public document and gave the document the C.S.A., official publication pressmark prefix, which originates from the 1890s, is of particular interest.  The third factor which is of interest is that this version of the proclamation is the only item in the green bound guard-book which is embossed on the spine in gold.

Poblacht na heireann1916

IRELAND. PROCLAMATIONS, ETC.

Although the red (purchase) stamp appears on the reverse of the document, because of the way it has been mounted in the volume it is unclear when the item was acquired. It appears to read 15 May ‘59. The volume itself bears the British Museum binders stamp B.M.1961 on the inside of the rear board. These dates indicate that this item, as with other ephemera relating to 1916 Rebellion, was acquired retrospectively. 

Poblacht na heireann 1941

The second example of the proclamation is a more ornate affair. It is a single sheet dating from 1941, measuring approximately 325mm x 255mm. The text of the document is laid out in the same fashion as the original, but the type face has been standardised, removing the anomalies from the original, and the list of signatories has been centred rather than justified to the right as in the original. What is most striking about this item are the portraits of the seven signatories surrounding the text and connected by the decorative boarder. At the bottom centre surround in a circle is the Irish Army sunburst emblem, designed by Eion MacNeill, and interestingly it is reproduced without the inscription "Óglaigh na hÉireann" or Irish Volunteers.

Irish War News Irish War News p4

The third document is a piece of contemporary ephemera which traces its lineage to the focal point of the rebellion. Dated Tuesday April 25 1916, on the last page of the first issue of Irish War News it is an article headed:

“Stop Press (Irish) ‘War News’ is published to-day because a momentous thing has happened. The Irish Republic has been declared in Dublin and a Provisional Government has been appointed to administer it is affairs.”

 The article goes on to name the signatories of the proclamation as the Provisional Government while outlining the situation in Dublin from the rebel prospective.       

Digital
The Rising, or more particularly the centenary of the events in Dublin a hundred years ago, is being explored and represented in new ways thanks to technology and the work of colleagues at Trinity College Dublin and the Bodleian Library Oxford. In the last year they have built and curated a collection of websites related to the commemoration.

These have been archived as part of the open UK Web Archive.  To have the opportunity to build this collection of Irish and UK websites is an exciting prospect for the future of web published content. This endeavour illustrates how the internet is not confined by national boundaries. The work on the Easter Rising collection exemplifies how archivists working together can build a contemporary collection which provides a range of perspectives from all corners of the .uk and .ie domains.   

Archiving websites about anniversaries and centenaries such as Easter 1916 is of prime importance because such sites can be transient and are soon overwritten or taken down. Archiving them creates a research resource for the future which offers scholars and anyone interested the opportunity to explore and examine the response to this centenary on the published web.

The Easter Rising collection is currently a growing part of the UK Web Archive special collections where it can be freely consulted online.

By Jeremy Jenkins, Curator Emerging Media, The British Library
@_jerryjenkins

 

Further Reading

Bouch, Joseph J. “The Republican Proclamation of Easter Monday, 1916,” Bibliographical Society of Ireland, Publications vol.5. no.3 1936. General Reference Collection: Ac.9708/2 [A reissue].

The Easter Proclamation of the Irish Republic, MCMXVI
Dublin : Dolmen Press, 1960. General Reference Collection: Cup.510.ak.37

The Easter Proclamation of the Irish Republic 1916,
[S.l.] : Dolmen Press, 1976. Document Supply Shelfmark: D76/23312