Angus & Robertson Collection for Humanities and Education Research

Funded by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) and using the State Library of New South Wale's signature holdings on Angus & Robertson's operations throughout Australia as its central study, this project is about how we make better use of paper-based historical collections through digital technologies in ways that sustain and enhance archival practice and principles. Focusing on the diverse activities of Angus & Robertson's competition, cooperation and conflict with other Australian firms and individuals during the twentieth century becomes a way to focus on the interdependence of publishing organisations and players, in which each participant is part of a larger and complex whole. With so many interactions distributed among multiple volumes, understanding Angus & Robertson's total business through a historically tuned cultural analysis requires a step change in how research exploits digital technologies. Parallel with teasing out the complexities of Angus & Robertson's activities nationwide with other Australian authors, booksellers and publishers is the key principle of linking collections in new ways, where a document's relationship to other items in a volume is not only maintained but its relationship to other volumes and collections is exposed in ways better suited to our networked, data-intensive knowledge landscape.

The data collection will contain noteworthy parts of the Angus & Robertson archive relating to the book trade and publishing in Australia across the 20th century. It will present both the digitised archival records and metadata drawn from the archive, and new metadata enrichment added by the Project Associate. To preserve the fragile status of the paper-based documents and curated boxed documentary archives, digital technologies will be used to structure and link archival holdings across volumes and boxes. The data collection's transmission from a paper-based to a digital format allows for the construction of a linked data concept, exposing the data's relationship in regards to their origin, to other records within a volume and to other collections. A considerable part of the project will be focused on developing and integrating a linked data concept for the data collection, which will enable faceted searching across multiple volumes and boxes for keywords, titles, names, places and dates. To handle the granularity of analogue materials indexed within a manuscript-based archival system and to facilitate citation at the level of individual digitised items, DOIs will be used at the collection level with extensions for items within a collection. This will be configured to reflect the archival conventions of citing materials with regards to their manuscript (MSS) number, volume / box number, and item number. Open file formats will be used where possible.

Phase One, supported by ANDS funding, will involve joining expertise in designing and prototyping a new form of access to digitised collections, in terms of how content is ingested and organised with regards to other collections, and metadata. A key factor will be developing a proof-of concept workflow that contributes to the broader aim of a semantically linked archive, where the content of documents in one volume in one box links to relevant content in documents in another boxed volume. It will draw on volumes from the Mitchell Library's Angus & Robertson collection, MSS 3269 ML with regards to a current dataset of over 18,000 digitised images. A subset of content (5,000 documents and images) from the Angus & Robertson archive will be ingested into the prototype system for later search, discovery and analysis as a pilot case. Phase Two, post ANDS funding, will apply lessons learned from Phase One with regards to ingesting the remainder of content from the collection of 18,000 digitised images.

Project Members