Archive for the ‘Digitisation’ Category

Five Years of Flickr Commons

January 18th, 2013 by Catherine McIntyre, Archives Assistant
Lunch Hour Dance, 1920 (IMAGELIBRARY/778)

Lunch Hour Dance, 1920 (IMAGELIBRARY/778)

The Flickr Commons is celebrating an amazing five years since its inception and The Library of Congress have been organising activities to commemorate the anniversary. I would highly recommend a browse through the galleries the LOC have created, which feature the top-viewed, or most-favourited, or most-commented on photographs submitted by the Commons members.

Flickr is one of the ways that allow us to make parts of our collections accessible to users who might not be able to visit us. It also helps promote them in a different way and hopefully reach people who might not think to look to us for their needs. We have been on Flickr as Commons members for nearly four years now and have uploaded just over 1,300 pictures to our account. Many of our uploads were part of the LSE: A History in Pictures project and give an insight into both special and everyday moments in the history of the LSE. Other uploads include 19th century political posters, Soviet posters (childcare and political) and the images from the social documentary book ‘Street Life in London’. Last summer I also finished adding out of copyright images and those with no known copyright restrictions that we have scanned from our collections and we will continue to add more that we scan on an ad-hoc basis.

Harriet Taylor, c1830

Harriet Taylor, c1830 (IMAGELIBRARY/1350)

I find it fascinating to see which images are popular with users and inspire comments, “favorites” and the addition of tags. As participators in the Flickr Commons project we encourage users to add to our descriptions of the images with comments and tags. In terms of views, the top 25 most-viewed images list is dominated by the ‘Street Life…’ photographs, although Nelson Mandela gets a look-in at #9. Peculiarly, ‘The Street Locksmith’ and its accompanying extract describing the moral ethics of making keys, is our most-viewed image, clocking up over 8,500 views. Ignoring the ‘Street Life…’ images, other highly-viewed images include runners at an early LSE sports day, Sidney Webb reading at Bryans Ground, Library Staff in the 1990s and Edmund Dene Morel (with his fabulous moustache).

E. D. Morel, c1905 (IMAGELIBRARY/1355)

E. D. Morel, c1905 (IMAGELIBRARY/1355)

The Street Locksmith (R(SR)/1146)

'The Street Locksmith' (R(SR)/1146)

Flickr users can add other photos on the site as their favourites and then see them all in one place via their profile. This would seem a more assertive representation of popularity than the amount of views a picture has and it is interesting to see that the list of our photos most-“favourited” by others is also dominated by the ‘Street Life…’ images, but provides a little more variety. London Nomades is the in the #1 spot with 60 people adding it as a favourite; ‘Progressive and Moderate – The Motive Spirit’, one of our London County Council election posters, at #4 with 45 people adding it as a favourite and Student Union Officer Kathleen Libby at #7 with 26 people adding it as a favourite.

Kathleen Libby - Vice-President, Students Union 1934-1935 (IMAGELIBRARY/768)

Kathleen Libby - Vice-President, Students' Union 1934-1935 (IMAGELIBRARY/768)

Making our images available like this is a really rewarding way of sharing our collections with a much wider audience than they would get sitting in the files in our strongroom. It also allows for interesting user interaction in a way that someone looking at a photograph in the reading room might not encourage. So please feel free to spend some time on our Flickr photostream, browsing, reading descriptions, commenting, tagging and favouriting.

For more celebrations from the participating institutions, check out the discussions thread in the Flickr Commons group.

New Online Resource: Working Classes Cost of Living Committee papers

May 14th, 2012 by Catherine McIntyre, Archives Assistant

Thanks to a grant from The National Manuscripts Conservation Trust we have recently been able to digitise and have some conservation work done on the working papers of the Working Classes Cost of Living Committee. The whole collection is now available online to view as PDF files (COLL MISC/1195) and the physical copies are newly bound in mellinex sleeves, which will greatly lengthen the time period of their survival.

The Committee was appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 21st March 1918 to investigate whether the cost of living had increased for working class families, and to what extent, when compared with before the First World War. It was chaired by Lord Sumner and received evidence from government departments, schools and trade unions as well as collecting surveys on budgets from over 1,300 individual households. The Committee defined the “cost of living” as expenditure on:

  • food
  • rent
  • clothing
  • fuel
  • insurance
  • household sundries and fares

The final report is available as a government publication, but these working papers include agendas, minutes, memoranda and transcripts of the oral evidence provided. The papers would be of great interest to anyone studying the social economics of the First World War and its aftermath as there is information on prices, wages and rationing.


Maud Pember Reeves, 1900 (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/3/6/8). Copyright of the George Bernard Shaw Estate (Society of Authors), not to be reproduced without permission.

We believe the papers to be those of Maud Pember Reeves as the notes appear to be in her hand. Pember Reeves had already led an investigation into the lives of working class families in Lambeth with the Fabian Society’s Women’s Group (which she helped to create). The report from this investigation was published as the Fabian pamphlet ‘Family Life on a Pound a Week’, which the Archives also has digitised and available to access via our web site (as well as the raw data for the study).

UKAD Archives Discovery Forum at TNA, 21 March 2012: Part 1

March 22nd, 2012 by Nick White, Assistant Archivist

Sue and I attended yesterday’s Archives Discovery Forum organised by UKAD (UK Archives Discovery Network) and here are highlights of some of the sessions I attended.

The Digital Public Space

Bill Thompson from the BBC, opened the Conference with a talk on the Digital Public Space (DPS) which is being developed along with other leading cultural and private organisations. He wanted archivists to think about the time (soon) when most people are online for most of the time. If we don’t have a significant online presence, including much digitised material, then there was a danger that archives and similar organisations would become irrelevant. If information is not easily available via search methods that online users utilise (mainly meaning Google at the moment), archives may easily be forgotten. Bill emphasised the importance of a strong online presence by pointing out that online newspapers now compete with Twitter and Facebook as news outlets: and their print editions are already seen as the second draft of history.

The DPS aims to make digital material from many organisations available, with an awareness that some institutions will need to make money from such assets. It will consider shared standards for storage, digital preservation, born-digital records and metadata/cataloguing. Making digital material more easily available should enable online users to use and re-use the material in the ways they want. Bill also made the point that if archives were not being used then the case for their funding is weaker. By showing that digital versions are being used, it should make it more obvious to funders why the originals should be kept. Often a digitised version of a document is not as easy to read as the ‘real’ thing (unless of course it was born digital) and not everything is likely to be digitised for a long time anyway – even if copyright issues could be sorted out easily, which they won’t. Digital material can be seen as a great place for users to start their research, and should encourage them to visit archives to see the original and related material.

The National Archives new catalogue

I then stayed on to listen to the presentations relating to user interface and linked data opportunities. The first of these talks was by Guy Grannum, who introduced us to the new National Archives catalogue, Discovery. The two main aims of Discovery are: (1) to make the catalogue easier to use,  and (2) bring together the many different datasets that the TNA have developed over the years, as outlined on their current “Catalogues and online records” page. He emphasised that Discovery was still being developed. Apart from the catalogue, Discovery also contains material from DocumentsOnline (both the original datasets will be closed by the early summer). It will be interesting to see how the other datasets wil be integrated into Discovery, particularly the National Register of Archives, ARCHON and A2A, which all contain contributions from LSE Archives.

User-generated content at People’s Collection Wales

Tom Pert and Alan Chamberlain then talked about ways that their audience could use the interactive features of the People’s Collection Wales. The website contains digital material from various Welsh cultural organisations, but it encourages users to add their own content too. By creating their own routes on a map - perhaps a walk or a drive - they can upload their own content (may be some photographs or videos) and pull in digital content from other parts of the site too. The site is now using a third party tool, Placebooks to make it easier for users to do this. Placebooks can easily be shared on social media sites such as Facebook, and there are versions for mobiles  and iPads. Uploads to People’s Collection Wales are moderated, and it is hoped the new tool will help that process. A placebook should take around 15 minutes to create and can be edited after it has been published. 

Linked data

The early afternoon session was about linked data – basically meaning  breaking data into a form which a computer can understand, so making it easier for users to make links between different data sources. In archives this means, for example, linking catalogue data between different repositories and pulling in data – articles, photographs, videos, you name it - from a wide variety of external websites. This enables users to create stories and narratives personal to their own interests.

Jane Stevenson, spoke about using linked data in the Archives Hub. This will be a part of the site called “Linking Lives.” The design is still being worked out, but each page will probably contain several units:

  •  basic identifying information (who or what is this page about?) from archives catalogues;
  • if possible a photograph or picture, perhaps from wikipedia or another site;
  • administrative or biographical information (from archive catalogues) and hyperlinks to archival descriptions;
  • related sources, linking to relevant data in external websites.

 This is an exciting project, but Jane made it clear that the main constraint at the moment was the relative lack of sites using linked data which she can link to.

Geoff Browell (King’s College, London) and Robert Baxter (Cumbria Archive Service) spoke about the Step Change project in AIM25. A primary aim was to make it easier for busy archivists to create linked data by making it part of our day-to-day cataloguing workflows. For instance, catalogue databases (such as CALM) could link to live online services to help index names, places and subjects (i.e. using UKAT). Speaking as a cataloguer. this will be a very welcome development and help archives standardise our index terms. Other aspects of the project were also discussed, including using Historypin to link archival descriptions to maps (and, presumably, vice versa).

These are just some of the highlights of yesterday’s conference, which was certainly worth attending. Sue will soon be writing about some of the other sessions.

Shaw the World Traveler

February 8th, 2012 by Imogene Inge, Man and Cameraman Project Archivist

The cataloguing of George Bernard Shaw’s 35mm film negatives is now complete. Shaw began to use 35mm film in the 1930s using a Leica Camera. In comparison with his earlier photographs they have an almost snapshot feel and document the places and people he visited. There are over 1900 images and they date from the early 1930s to around 1946. His trips around the world are recorded, including his cruises to South Africa, New Zealand and New York and his visits to Russia and Israel. There are also a number of images of Cliveden, seat of the Astor family and Chateau Impney, former home of the industrialist John Corbett.

In April 1931 the Shaws took a break from the Hellenic Travellers’ Club tour of the Mediterranean and went to stay in Venice for three weeks. During this time GB Shaw took over 80 photographs of the city’s unique sights. Here are a few of my favourite images.


Venice, 1931

View of San Giorgio Maggiore and the Venetian Lagoon


View across the piazza towards the Basilica di San Marco

View across the piazza towards the Basilica di San Marco


View of the statue of the winged lion representing St. Mark on the column in the Piazzetta di San Marco

View of the statue of the winged lion representing St. Mark on the column in the Piazzetta di San Marco


View of the facade of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

View of the facade of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute


Copyright: LSE, George Bernard Shaw Estate (Society of Authors) no part of this post may be used without permission.  


Manuscript, typescript ….. digital! Beatrice Webb launches LSE Digital Library

February 2nd, 2012 by Sue Donnelly, Archivist
Beatrice Webb, photographed by G.B.Shaw

Beatrice Webb, photographed by G.B.Shaw

In January I blogged about a couple of entries in Beatrice Webb’s diary and we are excited to announce the launch of the the LSE’s Digital Library with a complete and fully searchable version of both the manuscript and typescript versions of Beatrice Webb’s seventy years of diary entries.

Beatrice Webb was born in 1858, the eighth daughter of Richard Potter, a wealthy businessman, and Lawrencina Heyworth. Although Beatrice did not put much stock in novel writing, she nevertheless expressed a desire in her diary to write creatively and at length, and hence the diary, and the autobiography upon which it is based, was born. In the diary Beatrice records the activities of her daily life, the interactions with friends and family, and her most private thoughts and fears. In 1883 Beatrice took up social work in London, acting as a rent collector for the Charity Organisation Society and working undercover as a seamstress in a sweatshop in 1888. She began writing on social subjects and eventually started moving in the same circles as Sidney Webb, her future husband. The Webbs devoted their lives to socialism, becoming  central members of the Fabian Society, founders of the London School of Economics, and constant campaigners for the welfare state.

Two versions of the diary have been digitised – the actual manuscript as well as a transcription produced during Beatrice Webb’s life that is cross-referenced with the date fields indexed from the manuscript version.  Both versions can now be viewed side-by-side for comparison.  The diaries are fully-searchable and contain a wealth of information not just on Beatrice’s personal and working life, but on the social history of Britain and the world, spanning 70 years of social upheaval.  The project also includes a bibliography of all Beatrice and Sidney Webb’s printed works with the ability to link to full text versions where available and a gallery of photographs, including for the first time some colour portraits taken by G.Bernard Shaw. Webbs on the Web was funded generously by the Webb Memorial Trust.

In future we will be adding further material to the LSE Digital Library – we already have plenty of material in digital format from both the archive and print collections including Fabian Society pamphlets, Charles Booth’s Poverty Maps and 19th Century photographs. We are also excited that the Digital Library will open the doors to collecting and revealing a much wider range of material such as LSE theses, blogs, working papers and podcasts from LSE’s lively public events programme.  We are also considering statistics, posters, microfiche, audio visual content, historical broadcasts, exam papers, websites and material relating to LSE history and staff.

LSE Library’s collections are at the heart of the life and research of the School and of internationally recognised importance to the social sciences. They have been growing in breadth and stature for over 100 years and include many rare and unique materials. Collecting and preserving digital material is central to the continued distinction of these collections and a part of LSE Library’s role as a research library for the next 100 years.

To explore Webbs on the Web visit LSE Digital Library at

A Tale of Two Beatrices

January 12th, 2012 by Sue Donnelly, Archivist
Beatrice Webb in 1904 photographed by G.Bernard Shaw.

Beatrice Webb in 1904 photographed by G.Bernard Shaw.

Diaries hold a fascination for the reader – to enter into the interior world of another person is an intriguing and privileged experienced. Our best known diary at LSE is  the diary of the social reformer and LSE founder Beatrice Webb who kept a diary, with some gaps, from 1873, when she visited the USA with her father, until her death in 1943.

January 1898 was an exciting time for Beatrice on two fronts – in late 1898 she and her husband, Sidney Webb, had published what was to become one of their best known and most influential works Industrial Democracy and they were planning a trip to the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Beatrice had been closely following the reviews of Industrial Democracy.

Beatrice Webb's diary, 11 January 1898

Beatrice Webb's diary, 11 January 1898

Delighted with the press reports of Industrial Democracy she writes: ‘Our big book has had a brilliant reception. The Times gave us two columns on the day of publication, the Standard an abusive leader, the Daily Chronicle and the Daily News and half a dozen big provincials were all properly enthusiastic. ….. Altogether a small triumph in its way. The scientific charactier of the work is recognized, though of course the critics chaff us for our ‘pompous phraseology’. It is a big plant on the public: a new method and a new theory!’

At the same time her mind is clearly on other things as they prepare for their nine months out of England: ‘The old Eve in me is delighted with buying a trousseau for our nine months’ journey.’ After the hard work of research and writing retail therapy is calling.

Beatrice Webb diary, 11 January 1898

Beatrice Webb's diary, 11 January 1898

She continues: ‘I am revelling in buying silks and satins, gloves, underclothing, furs and everything that a sober-minded woman of forty can want to inspire Americans and Colonials with a due respect for the refinements of attractiveness! It is a pleasure to clothe myself charmingly! For the last ten years I have not had either the time or the will to think of it. For this tour, I harmonize some extravagance with my conscience by making myself believe that I must have everything new and that I must look nice! I believe that it is a deliberate expenditure because six months ago I determined that I would do myself handsomely as part of a policy, but I daresay one or two of the specially becoming blouses are the expression of concrete vanity, My childish delight in watching these bright clothes being made is a sort of rebound from the hard drudgery of the last two years. But is is rather comical in a women of 40! – 40 all but two weeks – forty, forty, FORTY – what an age, almost elderly! I don’t feel a bit old.’

The modern reader would quibble with the idea of considering forty to be old!

With the launch of the LSE Digital Library at the end of January researchers and keen diary readers will be able to explore both the manuscript and typesscript version of the diary either browsing through the entries or searching for people, places or dates. This will be the first time that the complete text of Beatrice Webb’s diary has been easily accessible to researchers and we are excited about the new research that the project will encourage.

We’ll be publishing more about the launch soon – so watch this space!