Thursday, 1 December 2011

Online 2011 - Unlocking Archival Magazine Content for Academic Research

Matt Kibble from Proquest gave a talk about their project to make archives of magazines available to libraries. Obviously this was essentially a promotional talk but it was quite interesting.

They are launching two archives. The first one includes every copy of the American edition of Vogue from its launch in 1892 (I had no idea it was that old) to the present day. The second features a range of different magazines on the popular entertainment industry. These range from the big names like NME or Variety to less well-known titles which researchers might have previously overlooked entirely. The popular entertainment collection spans from 1880 to 2000.

From the magazine publishers’ point of view this is a great project because it creates value from previously unexploited resources which they’ve just been sitting on.

The archives will be useful for students and researchers from a range of different academic disciplines. Vogue is most obviously valuable for the study of fashion but it is also a great resource for historians and others. The popular entertainment archive also has historical value. It will help film studies and music students to trace developments in their fields.

There was a lot of work involved in preparing the archives. The Vogue archive alone includes over 400,000 pages. They needed to carry out specialist indexing both in terms of subject matter and the format. Proquest are used to indexing academic journals which have fairly straightforward metadata and very well-established practices. Items like images and adverts needed non-standard metadata and a bit more thought. They also cross-referenced related information and created a controlled vocabulary for fashion.

All kinds of previously largely untapped primary sources are increasingly available for study and research. These archives are an interesting example of that and I appreciated the chance to take a behind the scenes look at all the work that goes into making them available.

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