Under the avuncular eye of fellow Pembrokian William Pitt the Younger, I was presented with my Churchill Fellowship Medallion by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall at the City of London Guildhall on Friday 21st May. Unfortunately, I can’t blog the picture of me receiving my medallion; partly because its locked down by some horrible DRM system, partly because it looks as if my head has been stuck on at the wrong angle. I also couldn’t find a decent picture of Mr Pitt’s Guildhall monument (slightly naff, it has to be said – with Britannia riding a sea-horse – apparently the design was chosen for its cheapness rather than its artistic merit). So here instead is a picture of the much nicer Pitt statue at Pembroke, although I have often worried that a toga is really not the best costume for sitting outside on a cold Cambridge day. No wonder his toes are blue:
I was amused by the text of the inscription¹ at the Guildhall:
HE REPAIRED THE EXHAUSTED REVENUES, HE REVIVED AND INVIGORATED THE COMMERCE AND PROSPERITY OF THE COUNTRY; AND HE HAD RE-ESTABLISHED THE PUBLICK CREDIT ON DEEP AND SURE FOUNDATIONS;
Sounds like he’d be a handy chap to have as Prime Minister right now really, although I’m less sure about this part (just about pulls it back in the last line):
HIS INDUSTRY WAS NOT RELAXED BY CONFIDENCE IN HIS GREAT ABILITIES; HIS INDULGENCE TO OTHERS WAS NOT ABATED BY THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS OWN SUPERIORITY; HIS AMBITION WAS PURE FROM ALL SELFISH MOTIVES;
Joking aside, it was a suitably grand occasion to celebrate the incredible variety of all the recent Churchill Fellowships. After the award ceremony, 2009 Fellow Michael Kernan sought me out. Michael is the Honorary Historian and Archivist at the Fire Service College in Gloucestershire, and wanted advice on digital preservation with regard to the Fire Service College’s collection – both for digitised archive documents and born-digital oral histories of firemen’s exeriences of the Blitz. So further proof, if proof were needed, of the ongoing relevance of the central tenet of my Fellowship – that we need to develop digital preservation solutions which scale down to the local level, as well as scale up to the (inter-)national.
I was able to point Michael towards the work in both digitisation and digital preservation taking place locally to him at Gloucestershire Archives. This would not have been possible when I first put my Churchill Fellowship application together back in 2007. Last week I also heard from a colleague at Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archives, where similarly they are now taking some real, practical steps towards addressing digital preservation at a local level. I would like to think that my Churchill Fellowship has played a small part in encouraging local archivist colleagues in the UK and giving them the confidence to take up the digital archives challenge.
Coincidentally, as I was picking up my Churchill medallion at the Guildhall, Viv Cothey, the developer at Gloucestershire Archives, was speaking at the seminar, ‘Practical Approaches to Electronic Records: the Academy and Beyond‘, organised by Chris Prom and held at the University of Dundee. I was very sorry indeed to have to miss this event, but fortunately it has been covered in the blogosphere by Sue Donnelly of the LSE Archives and Simon Wilson from the University of Hull, representing another new digital preservation project, AIMS – Born Digital Collections: An Inter-Institutional Model for Stewardship. Chris Prom will shortly be returning to Illinois at the end of his Fulbright scholarship. I am sure that the following sentiments were expressed copiously on the day at Dundee, but I would also like to add my own personal vote of thanks to Chris for the huge contribution his project has made over the last year in discovering, developing and disseminating practical digital preservation methods and tools for ‘real’ archivists. Safe journey home!
Edit: to add a link to Peter Cliff’s presentation from the Dundee seminar on Developing and Implementing Tools to Manage Hybrid Archives (slideshare).
¹ Copyright, apparently, George Canning – why do these people follow me about?