I have so many posts to catch up on! On 18th March I attended the launch of the Ghostsigns archive, overseen by project manager Sam Roberts and created as part of the History of Advertising Trust collection (more of which later).
A ghostsign, for the uninitiated, is painted advertising on a building, the forerunner of billboards that has all but died out. I became involved with the Ghostsigns project last year, when Sam Roberts contacted me on Flickr to invite me to add a photograph of a sign to his group on the photography site. HAT has enabled Sam to build up the collection from a group on a public website (which now has 450 members and 4,058 photos) to a searchable online archive that will preserve the images, which form an important part of advertising history, permanently. My photo incidentally wound up on a postcard to celebrate the launch, which was quite satisfying!
To coincide with the launch I wrote a Datablog post providing metadata for each of the signs in the archive – location information, including county and partial postcodes, and image links and descriptions for an initial set of 30 signs. The plan is for Sam or someone on the project to be able to add further image links and descriptions as time allows.
I think there are two valuable lessons from my involvement in Ghostsigns:
- firstly, learning the role a web 2.0/social media website can play in creating an archive. The Ghostsigns project wouldn’t be as far-reaching if it weren’t for the input of the Flickr group’s members, and Sam would never have been able to reach so many other enthusiasts without it. Librarians and archivists shouldn’t just jump on the social media bandwagon at random, but in certain circumstances opening up the acquisitions process to the web, or using sites like Flickr, Twitter or Facebook to reach a new and specific audience, can really pay off.
- secondly, that the Datablog can be used to serve a purpose beyond the general reporting of news. Yes, the dataset created in partnership with the Ghostsigns archive increases traffic to the Guardian site, and provides raw data for Guardian users to manipulate or use as they please. But it also provides HAT and the Ghostsigns project with a useful tool that can be developed by them in future.