ARCHIVER : Angus & Robertson Collection for Humanities and Education Research

Funded by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) and using the State Library of New South Wale's signature holdings on the iconic Australian publisher Angus & Robertson and the company's historical operations throughout Australia, this project has been about how we might make use of paper-based historical collections through digital technologies in ways that sustain and enhance archival practice and principles. Focusing on the diverse activities of Angus & Robertson's competition, cooperation and conflict with other Australian firms and individuals during the twentieth century becomes a way to focus on the interdependence of publishing organisations and players, in which each participant is part of a larger and complex whole. With so many interactions distributed among multiple boxes and volumes, understanding Angus & Robertson's total business through a historically tuned cultural analysis requires a step change in how research exploits digital technologies. Parallel with teasing out the complexities of Angus & Robertson's activities nationwide with other Australian authors, booksellers and publishers is the key principle of linking collections in new ways, where a document's relationship to other items in a box or volume is not only maintained but its relationship to other volumes and collections is exposed in ways more in tune with our networked, data-intensive knowledge landscape.

The 'Linked Archives' data collection was gathered during research undertaken for Dr Jason Ensor's PhD completed in 2011 within the context of Richard Nile's CI-1 Australian Research Council Discovery grant (2006-2009), “Colonial Publishing and Literary Democracy in Australia: An Analysis of the Influence on Australian Literature of British and Australian Publishing”. The collection contains noteworthy parts of the Angus & Robertson archive relating to the book trade and publishing in Australia across the 20th century (even as it is only a small fraction of the total State Library holdings). The Archiver project presents both the digitised archival records and metadata drawn from the archive, and new metadata enrichment added by the Project Associate, Dr Helen Bones. To preserve the fragile status of the paper-based documents and curated boxed documentary archives, digital approaches have been used to structure and link archival holdings across volumes and boxes. The data collection's transmission from a paper-based to a digital format allows for the construction of a linked data concept, exposing the data's relationship in regards to their origin, to other records within a volume and to other collections. A considerable part of the project therfore has been focused on developing and integrating a linked data concept for the data collection, which will enable searching across multiple volumes and boxes for keywords, titles, names, places and dates. To handle the granularity of analogue materials indexed within a manuscript-based archival system and to facilitate citation at the level of individual digitised items, this has been configured to reflect the archival conventions of citing materials with regards to their manuscript (MSS) number, volume / box number, and item number. Open file formats have been used where possible.

Phase One, supported by ANDS funding, involved joining expertise in designing and prototyping a new interface to the digitised collection in terms of how content is ingested and organised with regards to other collections and their metadata. A key factor has been to develop a proof-of concept workflow that contributes to the broader aim of a semantically linked archive, where the content of documents in one volume in one box links to relevant content in documents in another boxed volume. It draws on volumes from the Mitchell Library's Angus & Robertson collection, MSS 3269 ML, with regards to a current dataset of over 18,000 digitised images. A subset of content (5,000 documents and images) from the Angus & Robertson archive was ingested into the prototype system for later search, discovery and analysis as a pilot case. Phase Two, post ANDS funding, applied lessons learned from Phase One with regards to ingesting the remainder of content from the collection of 18,000 digitised images.

Project Members (Western Sydney University)

Jason Ensor (2016-Current: Project Lead and Developer), Helen Bones (2016-Current: Project Associate), Michael Gonzalez (2016-2017: Steering Committee), Stephan Hannan (2016-2017: Steering Committee), Simon Burrows (2016-2017: Steering Committee).