Developing a Digital Archive for Symbolic Resources in Urban Environments - the Latina Project


The project described in this paper was funded to establish the foundation for a digital archival resource for researchers interested in the way people interact with urban environments through graphic communications. The research was internally funded by Loughborough University as part of its Research Challenge Programme and involved two members of academic staff and two library staff.[1] Two PhD students also participated.

The archive consists of a small number of images and will act as a proof of concept, not only for this project but also for current and future funding applications. It is hoped that an extended archive will be useful not only to visual communication researchers, but also historians, architects, town planners and others. This paper will describe the data collection process, the challenges facing the project team in data curation and data documentation, and the creation of the pilot archive.

The creation of the archive posed challenges for both the researchers and Library staff. For the researchers:

  • Choosing a small number of images as a discrete collection but which also demonstrated the utility of the project to other disciplinary areas;

  • Acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills to enable good curation and usability of the digital objects, e.g. file formats, metadata creation;

  • Understanding what the technical solution enabled and where compromises would have to be made.

For library staff:

  • Demonstrating the utility of the Data Repository;

  • Understanding the intellectual background to the project and the purpose¬†of the Data Archive within the project;

  • Clearly explaining the purpose of metadata and documentation.

The Latina Project has demonstrated the value of a true partnership between the academic community and the professional services. All parties involved have learnt from the creation of the pilot archive and their practices have evolved. For example, it has made the researchers think more carefully about data curation questions and the professional services staff identify more closely with the research purposes for data creation. By working together so closely and sharing ideas from our different perspectives we have also identified potential technical developments which could be explored in future projects. All members of the group hope that the relationships built during this project will continue through other projects. [1] Academic staff: Drs Harland and Liguori. Library staff: Gareth Cole and Barbara Whetnall.

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