Archive Inspection Services Unit: Archival Mapping of Places of Deposit in England and Wales: Projects, datasets
The Archival Mapping of Places of Deposit in England and Wales: Projects datasets encompass the three archival mapping exercises which were undertaken during the period 1997 to 2001. These were the English Archival Mapping Project (Phase 1), the Archival Mapping Project for Wales and the English Archival Mapping Project (Phase 2). The data within each dataset largely corresponds with the content and composition of the questionnaires that were issued to the individual archival Places of Deposit (PoD). In addition to the main mapping project questionnaires, a separately compiled out stores questionnaire was also issued to PoDs.
The mapping projects requested information about the following key areas:
- Accommodation and storage;
- Public access and services;
- Preservation and conservation;
- Finding aids and reference services;
- Information and communications technology;
- Electronic records;
- Training and development.
For every mapping exercise, each archive was allocated a statistical score according to the returned questionnaire information. This facilitated the national, regional and inter-regional comparisons of services and facilities and provided an indication of where services were managing well and where improvements could be made. Individual participating record offices received copies of their own scores to assist their work on the development of regional archival strategies. In each case, however, no league tables or ranks of results were published for any purpose. The mapping projects were initiated to enable the archive sector to identify funding needs throughout England and Wales and to alert funding bodies to specific regions and areas of provision.
An extensive amount of dataset documentation was transferred to and retained by NDAD as the mapping projects largely focused upon the production of scoring bands and the compilation of graphical representations to indicate and compare levels of service provision. The many graphs and comparative analysis (largely displayed via Excel spreadsheets) were compiled by the creating agency to be an effective visual aid to the presentation of general data and are considered equal in research value to the datasets themselves.
The datasets in this series are available to download. Links to individual datasets can be found at piece level.
Operating System: Microsoft Windows.
Application Software: The database application was owned and developed by the Public Record Office, and based upon Microsoft Access 97.
User Interface: The Archival Mapping Project data input module comprised a number of Access forms based upon the main sections of the survey questionnaire form. The interface also provided access to a lookup selection list containing the names of the Archival Places of Deposit. The main data processing was primarily undertaken using scoring systems that were processed within Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
Logical structure and schema: The data structure for tables was defined by the archival mapping questionnaires issued for the respective mapping projects. The datasets were transferred with original field descriptions which indicate the questions to which the fields relate. The English Phase 1 and Welsh archival mapping project datasets are identical in structure in view of having adopted the same data gathering methodology. Most records in each dataset include the key field 'PoD' (Place of Deposit). This key remains confidential.
How data was originally captured and validated: Data was input onto the paper questionnaire form issued to Archival Places of Deposit. Data was then transcribed from the questionnaire forms into a customised Microsoft Access database. One of the central functions of the structured Access database of questionnaire results was to ensure that statistical validity could be incorporated into the final survey report.
No data entry was undertaken within Excel. Excel was solely used for the purpose of analysing scoring results based upon established scoring systems. This type of data processing was used in order to produce statistical data of the kind required by major funding bodies, planners and senior managers. For example, graphical representations of regional aggregate score pivot tables and pie charts. Such information can be found within dataset documentation.
Levels of provision were assessed by placing record offices in 4 priority bands (see below). Many of the graphs compiled were expressed as percentages of the number of record offices falling within each of these priority bands. These were rounded to the nearest whole percent, for ease of comparison and analysis.
1. Very poor provision;
2. Poor provision;
3. Fair provision;
4. Good provision.
Excel data in the form of scoring results/priority bands was validated in order to identify and address any anomalies that were apparent. The Mapping Project Board decided that in certain instances where scores were seen to be unusually high or low, scores would be reassessed.
Constraints on the reliability of the data: Interpretation of the data is constrained in a minor respect by there being some additional data documented within the original questionnaires which was not captured within the datasets themselves. For example, certain entries for a number of fields in the dataset may include an asterisk '*' symbol. This symbol is often qualified in the comments field of an entry to indicate that the user must refer to the archive's original questionnaire form in order to obtain further comments relating to these answers.
The Archival Mapping of Places of Deposit in England and Wales projects were initiated by the Public Record Office to enable the archive sector to identify funding needs throughout England and Wales and to alert funding bodies to specific regions and areas of provision.
The mapping projects built upon a significant amount of other empirical work such as Historical Manuscripts Commission reports, the annual publication Archive Services Statistics, and the comprehensive Survey relating to Local Authority Archive Services (SOLAAS) conducted in 1992 and 1996. The Historical Manuscripts Commission first carried out a pilot Archival Mapping Project in Wales in 1996-97. The results of this project were invaluable, and the experience laid the foundations for future mapping initiatives. Ultimately however, the Archival Mapping Project for England set the pattern and methodology for future mapping projects.
While the mapping projects documented in this series were therefore not surveying completely uncharted territory, they nevertheless took the surveying process a stage further (at least for those areas of provision which were eligible for Lottery funding) and were designed to achieve the following more specific objectives:
- A more precise measurement of the unevenness of provision by giving each local archive service a priority band for each major area of activity;
- An overall assessment as to whether some areas of provision stand in greater need of funding than others;
- An analysis of any regional variations from the national pattern;
- An identification of those record offices which are centres of excellence in one or more areas of provision and therefore merit support for innovative projects, which will help to provide a benchmark and raise industry standards.
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