Titanic – a century of news

Image A few weeks ago I blogged about neglecting the blog because I was working on my first ebook, about the Titanic. I finalised it last week and it’s now in the Amazon store for Kindle, and on iTunes!

The book is a collection of Guardian articles on Titanic, from its inception as the world’s largest ship (rumours first circulated that the White Star line was planning a mammoth liner in 1907), through the excitement of the launch and the tragedy that followed, and on to the present day, with the discovery of the wreck in the 1980s, James Cameron’s 1998 film and the creation of the Titanic ‘brand’.

The most moving pieces I found were firsthand accounts of the disaster from survivors, given to journalists on their arrival in New York and to the official inquiry that followed the tragedy.

Titanic is obviously the story of the moment, with the 100th anniversary of the sinking looming this weekend, and the ebook has reached #33 on Kindle’s world history list (yay!). The From the archive blogpost I wrote in conjunction has been shared more than 76,000 times on Facebook.

You can read more on the From the archive blog (Titanic – a maiden voyage that ended in tragedy) or, you know, download the ebook! It’s only £2.56…


Throwaway blogging: of morons and Mormons

I wrote my first post for the shiny new research department blog, From the archive, today. Well, two really, but the other one won’t launch until Thursday night.

Both posts are based on stories from the Guardian and Observer digital archive (the blog does what it says on the tin!), but are very different beasts.

Thursday’s post pulls together five or six articles, and a British Pathe video, to give the reader a rounded, comprehensive view of a moment in history (in this instance, the death of Brian Jones and the Rolling Stones’ Hyde Park concert a few days later). It took the best part of the morning to compile, with numerous rewrites, and still isn’t finished.

Today’s post is a one-paragraph correction I chanced across while I was editing an article for the On This Day column. It took less than half an hour to capture the image, write the blurb and post online. It had been retweeted twenty times by this evening and will no doubt be forgotten by the morning. But it is no less valid a blogpost because of it.

That’s what I like about blogging – there’s a time to be measured and a time to post a rapid, throwaway remark that nonetheless captures the imagination, however briefly.

Site visits: History of Advertising Trust

At the Ghostsigns launch in March I met Chloe Veale, archivist/curator at the History of Advertising Trust, who was kind enough to arrange a tour for a team of Guardian librarians, in the interests of career development and an exchange of ideas. Although the roles of archivist and librarian don’t always converge, there is common ground. Many of the basic tools and skills are the same; and HAT deals mainly in print advertising – the ad industry was sparked by the development of newspapers – so the connection is even more obvious here.

  • HAT makes acquisitions when approached by a client – either a full collection or single items
  • Each acquisition is detailed in a list, giving some background and itemising the contents (each with an acquisition number)
  • A catalogue is then created in spreadsheet when there is time (one for each collection, plus the HAT collections made up of items donated individually)
  • Can currently search each database, and search for a brand across all databases
  • In the process of moving all databases to Calm, to enable better searching and uniformity
  • Archive consists of print advertising – tear sheets, guard books from agencies and brands – jingles on disk, and 25,000 TV ads on VHS/older format, plus lithos (Jacobs biscuits)
  • Have to keep old machinery to run pre-VHS cassettes, no money/time to transition everything to digital but are doing it piecemeal as queries come up
  • No systematic process of digitisation – do it piecemeal when answering queries or when a client requests and pays for it; too expensive to do it across the board
  • Get about 1,500 queries a year, lots of interest from students – will answer individual queries, or allow visits if the query is broad and will be worthwhile
  • 8-10 paid staff, plus occasional interns and 12 volunteers
  • Have a 2-year grant to set up Moodle, an education online learning platform for teachers/students of creative media
  • Want to launch their gallery and encourage journos to use it as a paid resource –  funding comes from donors, looking to develop new revenue streams

Recommended sites:

Reflections on visit to HAT:

  • Digitisation is desirable but realistically too expensive and time-consuming for many organisations
  • Despite the difference in size between HAT and the Guardian, problems are similar – funding and support for our industry, finding new revenue streams, more work with fewer staff