Social Science blog

1 posts from February 2010

10 February 2010

Capturing the Olympics

Ideally, the London 2012 Olympics ought to be the best documented (and most efficiently archived) Olympic Games ever, so that future researchers have as comprehensive a record of the Games as they can possibly have. And if London does it right, there will be a legacy – a blueprint - for future host cities (and their libraries) to follow. As the sport subject specialist in the British Library, I’m conscious that ‘stuff’ about the London Olympics will be coming at us from all directions as 2012 approaches: books and journal articles obviously, but also web publications, conference papers, images, films, broadcasts, planning documents, ephemera and artefacts of various kinds, and probably Olympics computer games and toys! (there will certainly be a fluffy mascot of some kind, like that mad bear at the World athletics championships). I have this vision of some researcher in the future silently thanking us for collecting it, in much the same way as we are thankful for all the bits and pieces of documentary evidence we hold about the Great Exhibition of 1851. It must be added, of course, that the BL doesn’t necessarily want all of this material for its own collections, but it certainly wants someone to have it or rather, some institution which will catalogue and archive it properly and to which we can direct researchers when they ask us where to find things. At the Olympics conferences and seminars that I attend, I always pop up with my question about the published and documentary legacy of the Games and who’s taking care of it, and it’s surprising how a question like that can take people by surprise, even those who are actively creating the documentary record. But we are making history, after all, so we ought to be concerned about providing for the historians.

Now that the website itself has gone live, I’m working on plans for its future development, and hoping to solicit contributions from practising researchers: things like research papers perhaps, or discussions about the sort of resources they would find useful now and in the future. We want the site to have an interactive feel about it, an air of currency, and not just be a listing of books and journals held here. Having said that, the website is also turning out to be a wonderful opportunity for us to discover what we actually have in the way of sport-related materials in this vast collection, so creating bibliographies of sport-related materials can be very enlightening for us too; and the discoveries we make allow us to make decisions about how we plan our future collection of materials from mega-events like the Olympics.