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Winners of the Hilarys Announced

Yesterday, it was my great privilege to announce the winners of the Hilarys at the UKAD Forum 2014, and now I get to do so again here on the blog (drum roll please)…

The winner of the award for Most Thought Provoking Encounter goes to The National Archives’ Files on Film competition, which gained 39 out of a possible 69 votes cast.

The winner of the award of Most Promising New(s)comer goes to The Last Days of Aaron Swartz, posted by Myron Groover on his blog Bibliocracy on 13th January 2013, which gained 87 out of a possible 191 votes cast.

Congratulations to both of the worthy winners, but ultimately the Hilarys has never really been about a competition to win an award. Rather it has always been meant as both a reminder and a challenge to the archives and records management field.

A reminder in that it has sought to get us to look up and outwards, to actively seek new ways of thinking and to try to see through the eyes of others.

A challenge in that it has sought to encourage us to become better at inserting ourselves and the importance of recordkeeping into the story. Not everyone will agree that what Aaron Swartz did was right, but no one would deny that he stood up for what he believed in. His story was brought to the Hilarys by a blog written by Myron Groover and I will end with a quote from that post;

“Let us be less willing to shy from the challenging aspects of our work at the level of policy and advocacy – our voices are desperately needed. We no longer have the luxury of silence and whispering position statements is no longer enough”

Shortlist for the Hilarys announced

Please note voting is now closed.

Following last night’s meeting I am very pleased to be able to announce the shortlist for the Hilarys 2013. The self selected Awards Committee first spent a bit of time debating the criteria for the various awards and also the seeming lack of nominations for the category of most promising newcomer. As a result they ended up slightly changing this category and adding new wording to try to explain a little better what was being looked for in that and the most thought-provoking encounter category. Next the nominations were shortlisted – see below – and an extra nomination was added because the committee saw it as a glaring omission given the re-jigging of the newcomer category.

We would like to send out both congratulations and commiserations to all those nominations that did not make the shortlist. It was very hard to choose between so many excellent possibilities. The final shortlist (in no particular order) is however as follows.

Most thought-provoking encounter – the outside perspective that best conveys to the profession an insight into, or illustration of, the multiplicity of meanings of archives and records

Most promising new(s)comer – the news story or event that offered the greatest potential for communicating the issues involved in, and the importance of, recordkeeping to wider society

As you can see you can vote for your favourite. Everyone is eligible to vote, but please only vote once in each category. The formal presentation of the winners will take place at the UKAD Forum on 27 March 2014 so voting will close the evening before. Plenty of time then to have a think and place your vote.

An update on the Hilarys

With Christmas fast approaching, a quick update on the Hilarys, which were launched back in October. So far we have fourteen nominations (see below), but more are always welcome, especially those in the category of most promising newcomer. Nominations will close at midnight on 19 January 2014 so be sure to get yours in before then.

A face to face London meeting will then be held on 20 January at 6.30pm to decide on the shortlist and to work out the mechanism for deciding on the final winners. So, if you want to be part of the shortlisting panel and make the case for your favourites, then please come along to the Arts and Humanities Staff Common Room, ground floor, Foster Court, University College London (map).

The winners be announced at the end of March at the UKAD Forum 2014, but for now the nominations (in no particular order) are as follows…..

Fuller explanations of these nominations can be read in the comments section to the earlier post so why not take a look and decide who you think should be shortlisted. And, if you can’t make the meeting, please leave your views below.

North East Volunteer Debate

The North East Group met on 29th of October (only taken me a month to write this up!), to discuss the volunteer theme set out by the North West group.

We found fairly similar themes occurring. Some variations of these were that group members would not have gone on to become archivists if they hadn’t gained volunteering experience. As with the North West group it was recognised that taking time out of education or full time employment to volunteer is difficult. However, we did note that it’s a valuable way of discovering what you are interested in within the sector. It was found that Archive and Records Management courses can affect why people take time out to do volunteer work. For example, one of our participants worked in records management but was told they weren’t eligible for the course because of their lack of experience in archives. They then had to take time out to fulfil this requirement through volunteering.

There were a lot of opinions about work with volunteers, and the different types of volunteers that get involved in archive work, such as social volunteers, as discussed by the North West, volunteers with specific subject interests, those gaining new skills for their CVs, volunteer groups like NADFAS, and retired archivists! This led us to chat about how they all bring different skills and expertise that can enhance our work, but also the other side to this that they may be a hindrance to an archivist trying to get specific work completed.  We talked about how volunteers are managed within institutions and the difficulty of offering training to everyone and being available to help and be hands on all the time.

We also discussed the “devaluing” of the profession and came to similar conclusions to the North West.

Another interesting side was the role of Community Archives and the volunteers that run them. We discussed how these archives are enriching and can benefit from professional guidance. Specifically, we talked about the West Yorkshire Archive Project and how they reach out to these communities to offer advice, while these are run purely through volunteer involvement. This discussion extended to the issues of Community Archives and their sustainability because most are created and led by volunteers.

Attention the North East

The Cardigan Continuum North East will be meeting on the 29th October (next Tuesday) at 6pm ish in Brown’s, Leeds. Brown’s is in The Light building which is just on the Headrow about a 7 minute walk from the Station and there are parking facilities in the building. They serve food and drinks:

Browns Leeds
The Light
The Headrow

(There is a table booked under Rebecca Bradley if you want to ask when you arrive)

We will be carrying on the discussion from the North West group focussing on volunteering and internships in the records keeping industry. You can find their report here.

Everyone is welcome! Sorry for the short notice about the venue!

If you have any questions, or just want to let me know you’re coming, please get in touch at

Report from the North West

Thanks to Maria for the following report….

The North West group met on 7 October and had a wide ranging discussion on the subject of volunteers, interns and the impact of associated issues on the profession.  It was generally agreed that it was important to differentiate between people volunteering as a social activity or as a contribution to society (social volunteers), and those volunteering in order to gain experience in order to become archivists.

The enormous contribution made by social volunteers to huge numbers of projects across the archive sector was acknowledged, but it was noted that such projects required input and commitment from a professional archivist.  There is no way in which such volunteers could ever replace a professional archivist and we need to make sure that that is recognised.  There was also a note of caution that some social volunteers can feel a very personal connection to the archives and their ideas and aims may sometimes be at odds with those of the archivist – a situation requiring tact, and one which can be avoided if the purpose of a project and the role of the volunteers are clearly defined right from the start (a luxury not always possible where volunteers are inherited or come with the archive).

From the perspective of those volunteering in order to gain experience, it was noted that people simply can’t afford to devote large chunks of time to volunteering.  At a time when students are having to fund themselves through university, and benefits for unemployed people are increasingly limited, there are few people who can afford not to be earning money.  It was suggested that volunteering was easier to manage (and combine with paid work) if it was one or two days a week.  It was also felt that more emphasis should be placed on the quality and variety of work undertaken while volunteering, rather than the time spent.  The idea that everyone needs to spend a year volunteering was felt to be misleading and has possibly grown out of the fact that few people go straight from their degree to an archive course, so, by necessity, have to wait a year.  Some questioned why the universities insist on practical experience – is it to show your commitment, is it to ensure you really know what you’re getting in to, or does it benefit you while studying?

The issue of interns was discussed, and it was generally agreed that the recent ARA statement was helpful.  There were, however, questions about how it would be enforced and who would enforce it, and as long as internships are mainly unpaid, the issues already discussed about finances remain.  The idea of linking internships to places on university courses was floated, as a way of ensuring positive outcomes for the intern and reducing the chance of the intern simply being used as free labour.

From the perspective of archive services, there were strong feelings that they shouldn’t rely on volunteers of any kind to maintain their basic functions.  The risk that professional archivists can end up spending all their time devising and managing projects, while volunteers do the actual work was highlighted.  This state of affairs makes it easy to overlook the skills and experience the archivist brings to such projects, and we need to ensure that we don’t sell ourselves short – if we don’t value our own skills, we can’t expect others to.  While it is a good idea to have a clearly defined document setting out what a volunteer can expect from an archive and what the archive expects in return, it was generally agreed that a ‘job description’, requiring specific skills, should come with a salary.

Our final, and rather gloomy, thought went back to the subject of money, and the very real risk that archivists in the future would be drawn from a small pool of those who could afford to go to university and work for free.  If that were to be the case, we would miss out on a genuinely diverse and inclusive workforce.

Announcing the Hilarys

The two trend articles under consideration at the last Cardigan Continuum London meeting certainly got the discussion going. Quite apart from thoughts about whether or not we recognised the trends identified and whether we could come up with some more, we also talked about the idea of looking for trends in general. 
We all saw the value in reflecting on what was going on in the wider world and trying to articulate that. Doing so then enabled us to think about what that meant for our own (archival/records management) interests and aims and how we should respond. From this point we then discussed the difficulty faced in keeping up with developments from both within and (especially) without the field. We commented that there was no UK equivalent of the ArchivesNext blog, in the sense that, although there are several excellent commentators on specific areas (e.g. digital curation, freedom of information etc), there was nothing quite as broad in outlook. Perhaps the archives-nra listserv acts in a similar way, or perhaps there is something else you think does?
And so, this train of thought led eventually to the idea of compiling a list of the most thought-provoking articles, books, ideas, news stories, technologies and so on that we had encountered this year from outside the field. To this end we have decided to seek nominations for our own version of the Oscars – the Hilarys (for want of a better name). These nominations will then act as the list suggested previously and help to draw attention to things you may have missed, but which you probably should be aware of. Please help us by leaving any nominations below. Nominations should take the form of details of whatever you are nominating plus a few words about why you think it should win.
All those attending the next Cardigan Continuum London meeting (date to be confirmed) will be deemed to constitute the awarding committee and get to decide on the shortlist. These will then go to a Twitter vote to decide the winners.
The categories are as follows;
  • Most thought-provoking encounter (the idea, article, book, news story, technology or whatever from outside the field of archives and records management that has had the most impact in making you think about what you do in a different way this year)
  • Most promising newcomer (a development from outside the field that has occurred in 2013 that you think is most worth keeping an eye on)
So get your thinking caps on and start nominating your favourites. The full list of nominations and the winners will be published here in due course.

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