As we near the end of the Palladium project, I’d like to share some of the resources we’ve created, and some of the conclusions we’ve reached, which will inform the direction of our future work on email archives.
In particular the following guides for donors and users, which we hope will be of value to organisations external to the Rylands:
We were successful in delivering the aims of the project. We have created and implemented end to end workflows and new tools for the ingest of email archives, including the new management software ePADD. We have carried out development work to augment the software in multiple areas and have been successful in appraising 35,000 email using ePADD from the Carcanet Archive. We have cleared over 3,300 email for access using collaborative and individual appraisal approaches and developed and implemented a new appraisal rubric. We consulted with academic colleagues at the University of Manchester to experiment with and produce a range of data visualisations as examples of what is possible with large anonymised datasets via ePADD, Datawrapper and Gephi.
We have also collaborated with 2 artists, Mary Griffiths and Gregory O’Brien to produce creative responses to the Carcanet email archive, and these pieces will be displayed permanently on our digital exhibitions site, Manchester Digital Exhibitions.
Despite making good progress with our procedures for appraisal, the number of email we were able to appraise with concerted effort over several months represents only a small portion of the total of the Carcanet Press email archive, and it is expected that the collection will continue to accrue new accessions. A reassessment of our approach to appraisal of digital records may be required.
An important lesson learned through the collaborative appraisal process was that it requires a lot of support and explanation for the donors and copyright holders involved. This is hardly surprising, as so many steps of the process are entirely new and unfamiliar. This applies to email archive process, to ePADD and its capabilities, and intentions for access and methods of access.
The augmentations we were able to introduce to ePADD would have not been possible without specific provision in the project budget for the input and work of a developer. We are pleased by our decision to employ ePADD as our email management system, and intend to continue with its use. We also hope to continue to be part of the community of archivists and developers working to improve and augment its functionality.
Although the data visualisation results we have produced in the Palladium project are of a pretty basic nature, we hope that they will act as enough of an example of what is possible to inspire our academic collaborators and researchers to pose new questions that we can use ePADD to generate data sets to support.
The Palladium project would not have been achievable without the generous support of Arts Council England, and collaboration between the project archivist and donors, third parties who feature in the archive, academic and library staff, developers and consultants. It would not have been possible at all without the support and input of Carcanet Press. This is a testament to the new working practices that digital collections require of us as a profession.
This project is a stepping stone in our work with email archives, and there is still a great deal to do, but we are pleased to have made significant progress and taken some really positive steps.