Transforming Archives and Opening Up Scotland’s Archives are three-year projects funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, working in parallel to change the skills base of the archives sector across England and Scotland. We are applying for an award in recognition of the programmes’ achievements in their first 18 months, during which one cohort of trainees completed their full year of training in each nation; the second cohort were recruited, began their workplace activities and completed their formal studies; and final cohort recruitment was designed. These programmes are critical to the greatest challenges facing the archives sector: the unfolding digital transformation and the need for new workforce skills. Partners include Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland) in recognition of the importance of this work. The DPC itself has supported two Scottish digital preservation traineeships.
Developing a blended learning approach Each trainee has a training plan developed by their host, revised and adapted in line with the individual’s skills and their future development. Traineeships focused on digital preservation need to cover: - Working with depositors of digital material to accession it in formats that can be accessed and preserved - Selecting digital material - Ensuring the longevity and integrity of digital materials - Developing tools to ensure widespread access to digital materials - Developing and sharing best practice The traineeships are hands-on. Trainees are expected to learn through doing as well as through a university module. Reflective learning is encouraged through monthly learning logs and identifying additional training which benefits individuals’ development. Many trainees, in multiple skill areas, have opted to attend extra digital preservation training and conferences.
Creating a route of entry focused on work-based learning allowing trainees to use their skills to solve real-life issues in archive services - At Glasgow University Archives, Mary and Olivia have worked across university services to identify existing practice and support a new digital preservation strategy - At Gloucestershire Archives, Roz is testing upgrades to in-house preservation software, coping with real-life pressures within a local authority IT environment. Her traineeship also focuses on the need to communicate digital preservation needs. - At Hull History Centre, David is a core part of preparations for Archivematica implementation, while improving the existing workflow for born-digital and hybrid collections - At Historic Environment Scotland, Naomi is collecting digital material such as folk songs and applying digital preservation practice when adding them to collections - At Norfolk Record Office, Pawel has surveyed and reported on existing digital objects, while successfully deploying Archivematica for ingest in a test environment.
In evaluation, practical progress is evident on multiple fronts: “transfer, accessioning and cataloguing of images previously on CD… undertaking backlog ingest to the digital store… establishing records for digital data sets…Enabling fundamental progress in digital preservation.”
Commissioning formal training which supports workplace learning, equipping trainees with core digital preservation understanding We jointly commissioned an undergraduate module in “Digital preservation and digitisation” from CAIS University of Dundee, taught through distance learning. Trainees can opt for this module; 16 have so far. This spread learning about digital preservation beyond traineeships which focused directly on that skill area, ensuring many trainees have studied current theory. Trainees on both programmes are supported with on-site experience at TNA in a ‘base-camp’ week to meet peers and learn from expert staff. During the mirror base camp week in Edinburgh, trainees visited National Records of Scotland where DPC’s William Kilbride presented, bringing digital preservation out of the specialist skills area and ensuring all trainees, no matter their specialism, can understand and appreciate the key challenges of digital transformation. These phased base camps are designed as a progression, moving from understanding basic archive principles to how core archive skills work in the digital context. The digital preservation trainees in cohort 2 returned to TNA to undertake additional shadowing of emerging digital practice at Kew, identifying this as one of the most valuable parts of their traineeship so far.
Changing the recruitment basis of the archives sector The programmes take a skills-focused approach to recruitment, underlining the importance of confidence in handling technical issues rather than specific qualifications. We work with employers to meet their recruitment needs, such as more sharply defining recruitment criteria around IT skills which are most relevant. HLF funding allowed us to take risks with new recruitment strategies, using IT job boards and in Scotland working with ‘Adopt an Intern’ to offer a recruitment approach based on potential. We draw trainees from a range of backgrounds, including computer science qualifications, IT support roles, and more indirect routes such as TV production management. These are skilled individuals who would not otherwise have found their way to working in archives, and who bring diversity into our sector.
Creating recognition of the value of skills-focused recruitment and training Our hosts are advocates for the programme’s approach and the value of this diverse skillset. Multiple hosts attend the Transforming Archives Project Board, and OUSA host meetings, demonstrating commitment to the programme. In evaluation, individual hosts testify to the impact of their digital trainees in bringing confidence and capacity to digital preservation approaches - including an ability to communicate with IT that some had been lacking. Trainees have brought elements of their CAIS module back into services, sharing recent practice with hosts.
Sharing trainee experiences through high-profile communications A vital element of both programmes has been communicating this initiative. All trainees have been able to blog for the programme sponsors (TNA: http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/tag/transforming-archives/, SCA: http://www.scottisharchives.org.uk/sff/blog). The first cohort of OUSA trainees were the focus of a fringe event during SCA’s high-profile 3-day advocacy event at the Scottish Parliament. Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, presented the Scottish trainees with their certificates at the first cohort farewell event. SCA’s Broadsheet issue 33 focused on trainees, reaching an audience of thousands, including MSPs. Transforming Archives trainees have a twitter account to raise their profile with employers. They attend the Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities conference annually, where HLF present their certificates, raising the profile of digital preservation with this key funder.