Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Devon bibli-blography: an update on progress

The update blog has been superseded by the somewhat irregular newsletter Westcountry studies : a bibliographical newsletter. Issues that have appeared so far are:

Issue 3, Summer 2018.
Issue 2, January 2018.
Issue 1, June 2017.

Devon wikiography. After discussion with the Friends of Devon's Archives, the Devon History Society and members of the Devonshire Association, it has been decided to enlist volunteers to search for local publications across the county, submit records in an agreed form and endeavour to pass copies of items discovered to the Westcountry Studies Library in the Devon Heritage Centre. There has been some hesitation in taking this step as it requires a considerable editorial commitment, preferably by a professionally qualified librarian, but such people are thin on the ground in the present political climate. In the meantime there is a growing gap in the record since 2011 so something must be done to record the present for the future. Those interested in becoming involved should look at the recent page on participation on the Devon Biliography website and, if you are not frightened off, email Ian Maxted on ianmaxted@hotmail.co.uk. You may like to concentrate on items relating to a particular area such as Holsworthy and around, a district council (while they still survive) or a subject area, such as social care or planning.

Etched on Devon's Memory and other websites. One reason that prompted action on the wikiography is the withdrawal in February of the Devon County website, which held much local studies information. The South West Heritage Trust is not in a position to make this information so easily available through the Devon Heritage Centre, even after the Devon website had lost much of its functionality recently, including the loss of many images. This particularly affects the Etched on Devon's Memory website with its thousands of images and accompanying information. The archived versions of the website on the Wayback Machine do not give access to the 4,000 or so catalogue records, often with accompanying images. The project was undertaken from 2002 to 2003 with Lottery funding of £60,000 through NOF-digitise, one of the provisos being that the results should remain permanently available to all. Work is under way within the Devon Bibliography and Exeter Working papers in Book History projects to reconstitute the website and rectify this lamentable state of affairs, following comments by researchers, including those working on recording the area affected by the recent fire in the Royal Clarence Hotel. While it is hoped to provide listings shortly, it will take longer to link to the images.
January 2017
The final months of 2016 saw little visible progress on the Devon Bibliography, although work was maintained on publications for 2015 and 2016. The beta version of Devon Heritage Centre's database was unveiled in November but did not have all the features on the public interface of the website which would be required for a bibliography covering five centuries of publications in a variety of formats. This included appropriate search facilities and display of information and the capacity for generating reports. There will be more developmental work during 2017 and then discussions will be required on procedures for uploading and amending records. In the meantime work has been undertaken on converting the existing records to Excel spreadsheets, using a subset of the fields on the South West Heritage catalogue, in the hope that this will facilitate eventual uploading of the many separate files onto one large integrated database.

Exeter Library, since becoming independent of Devon County Council as part of Libraries Unlimited has shown great enthusiasm for its early printed collections, setting up displays in the Central Library, and working imaginatively with the University of Exeter, the Wellcome Foundation and the British Library as well as other outside bodies, including the setting up of an Adopt a Book scheme to help in conservation work. This requires good documentation of the collections and work has been diverted from the Devon Bibliography to produce databases in a format which matches that of the bibliography to cover the main heritage collections. The following, all very much work in progress, have now appeared on the Exeter Working Papers website:
The pre-1801 imprints (1650 records for many of which ESTC references have now been provided)
The early children's book collection (2200 records, with some duplication but including the annotations provided by Marjorie Moon)
The Pocknell Collection on shorthand (540 records, including some items probably lost in the 1942 bombings)
The Heber Mardon Collection on Napoleon (400 records, chielfy of engravings and lithographs) The post-1800 imprints (perhaps as many as 3000 records) remain to be tackled.
February 2016
Recasting the records. Following the discussions work has been undertaken to convert records from HTML marked up files to Excel spreadsheets, a format that System Simulation can use to accept records. The record structure has also had to be changed to be compatible with that of the local studies database. This is a slow process and will affect the format of the records on the database until such time as System Simulation devises a suitable report format. The opportunity has also been taken to develop new sections to test the revised format – PDF files, theses and records for 2016.
January 2016
Working together. Discussions took place with the database software supplier, System Simulation, to ascertain the cost of obtaining a tailored database and website to hold the Devon Bibliography to make it accessible and fully searchable on-line. As so much of the database content would have been represented in the Westcountry Studies Library, it was suggested that it would be more realistic for the bibliography to he housed by the South West Heritage Trust. The Index+ database which System Simulation had provided for the local studies collections Westcountry Studies Library was being updated as it was intended to broaden its use to collections in Somerset. It was possible to participate in discussions on the format of this revised database and on the relationship that the bibliography records would have with the library records.
December 2015
End of year update. As 2015 ends there is some movement on the project to reinvigorate the Devon Bibliography using volunteers to supplement the residual staffing attached to the Westcountry Studies Library, now housed in the Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter. The South West Heritage Trust, which manages the Centre, is hopeful that the project can be accommodated within the upgrade currently being implemented by System Simulation, the company which provides Index+, the Trust's main library database, both in Exeter and in Somerset. This would mean that volunteers could use a template to add and revise records, including many now available on the present draft Devon bibliography website. Revisions to the present website are on hold until discussions due to take place in the New Year make the way ahead clearer. Whatever the outcome, it is hoped that the Westcountry Studies Library database will serve as a searchable on-line bibliography, while the present website could be used to archive records in easily accessible marked-up text files, probably subdivided by date as at present. I will provide a further update on progress in 2016.
November 2015
Westcountry Studies Library. A study day organised by the Devon History Society on 9 November made it clear that there was little awareness of the Westcountry Studies Library since its removal from Exeter Central Library to the Devon Heritage Centre. I have therefore revised and updated sections of In pursuit of Devon's history, published in 1997, to produce Westcountry Studies Library: a guide to the collections. Much remains to be done, including the extending of hotlinks, but hopefully it will open up the riches contained in this collection, which does not only cover Devon but extends over the entire south west peninsula.
October 2015
Steady progress. Over the past few weeks work has been undertaken to rationalise the files which were added in indecent haste earlier in the year in preparation for the July seminar. This has included the removal of many unpublished items (manuscripts and typescripts) which have been retained in a separate file. So far this has been done for manuscript items between 1500 and 1910. The same will be done for offprints which will be moved to the appropriate periodical files with a note where they are known to be held as offprints in individual collections. Some images have also been added for ephemeral items. Little work has been undertaken on recent publications, but it is good to know that the Westcountry Studies collection has recently resumed the acquisition of books, although on a diminished scale. There are also plans to update the on-line catalogue and discussions will be held to ensure that the Devon bibliography remains compatible with their record structure.
September 2015
Devon publishers. This month a page giving details of a selection of Devon publishers has been added. This should be of assistance to heritage collections attempting to maintain a record of local publications. Of course there are many publishers producing books on the county who are located outside Devon. Among these is Ordnance Survey, the national mapping agency. A page on maps will soon be added to the Devon bibliography website and it has been noted with great concern that no Ordnance Survey Publications at any scale appear to have been added to the Westcountry Studies Library since 2008.
August 2015
Of making many books there is no end: the bibliography of Devon, past, present and future. This is the title of a seminar arranged by the Devon History Society on 28 July to promote the Devon bibliography. It was held in Exeter Central Library and attracted a considerable amount of interest. It was stressed that it was too big a task for one individual and it was important to involve heritage groups, local history organisations and publishers in the county, both commercial and institutional. It was also desirable for a database to be acquired which could enable all the records to be searched and possibly added to on-line. Perhaps a funded project could help set up the networks and IT infrastructure required for this but an institutional base would be required to maintain such a bibliography. It is not a task for a single mortal individual to undertake in his or her spare time.
Additions. During August various additional pages have been loaded onto the website, mainly covering periodical articles. Extensive additions have been made to pages for recent years, including local ephemeral publications and announcements for books due to be published in 2016. The digital archive has also been increased. After some consideration it has also been decided to add pages for separately published prints and printed maps. These should be added during September.
Publishers page. It is also planned to include a page featuring present-day Devon publishers in an attempt to involve them in making the bibliography as complete as possible. At a later date it may also be possible to extend this to museums, community archives and other holders of local printed material.
July 2015
The Devon bibliography was launched this month, born out of despair at the havoc wrought on the local studies service in Devon by years of central government cuts – more about this can be found elsewhere in this blog - time for hand-wringing is over and action is needed. At its launch it included chronological listings of many thousands of books published about or within Devon from 1505 to 2016 and also listings of periodical titles, periodical articles, newspapers, broadside ballads and election ephemera.

This page last updated 11 June 2018