18 Aug

The stories have been selected!

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We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has voted on our heritage survey to select the 8 newspaper articles that we will be transformed over the coming months into animations. Here’s the 8 most popular that will be given a bit of creative sparkle very soon…

  • A sinister tale of fraud at Toxteth cemetery. The registrar had been caught defrauding families who had paid for graves…but only after his own death.
  • A case of fakery…A Toxteth resident pretended to a surgeon when he was not.
  • A supernatural tale of superstitious nurse and mysterious ghost…
  • An Exeter man discovered a cure for lunacy & wanted to test it on Toxteth folk!
  • A family mourned and buried the wrong person; their Mary Jones was alive & kicking!
  • A Toxteth workhouse inmate was charged with stealing clothes. Ironically, when apprehended she was almost nude!
  • After biting into a sausage butty a Toxteth resident discovered that he’d got more than he’d bargained for with his sausages…they also contained a chopped off finger!
  • Deformities and limb-shortening…that was what the residents of Liverpool faced until Dr. Thomas revolutionized splint technology (all whilst riding around in a scarlet-coloured custom sports carriage!)

We can’t wait too see how our scriptwriting and storyboarding groups put creative spins on them…and then it will be over to Robot Foundry VFX to transform them into quirky short animations!!!

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27 Jun

It’s time to cast your vote!

SurveyWe’ve come to the end of our research phase and we’ve logged all of the interesting stories found by our archive research team…and now it’s over to you guys! Our team has selected 20 of the best stories about unsung heroes and undisclosed villains from Toxteth’s past. It’s now up to our online and offline communities to select which 8 will get transformed into animations and form part of the forthcoming heritage trail.

We’ve got tales of fraudulent registrars, fingers found in sausages, dogs worrying cats, Doctors inventing revolutionary treatments and much more! To cast your vote on which stories make it to the animation stage follow this link.

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15 May

It’s logging time!

researchWe are currently busy bees logging all of the stories and research that our fabulous team of Volunteer Archive Researchers have done and we’ve come across some brilliant stories so far concerning fingers in sausages, adulterated milk, a murderer trying to suggest he is a ‘lunatic’ to escape punishment and a story about what we (or Kanye West ) would nowadays term a ‘golddigger’. These are just a few of the hidden gems that the team has uncovered and we will be putting the best of these tales up for an online and offline vote so that you can select your favourites. The top 8 will then be transformed into animations.

The logging process has been slightly longer than anticipated and therefore we have had some thoughts on how (in hindsight) we could have improved or streamlined this process. First, if we would have got the research team to log on a ‘cloud’ document as they located the results the process would have been shared out amongst a number of people and this would have streamlined the process significantly. As a previous blog post writes about, we didn’t initially opt for this process as we had never had experience of teams of people working on the same document using cloud computing before and we thought we could potentially encounter some technical issues. Also we didn’t want the digital/techie element to put people off from being involved.

Another approach we could have taken was to recruit a small team of Admin Support volunteers to help with the data processing. This could have provided people with an introduction to arts administration processes and research logging skills, and would have been a significant help to the project. If we were to do this again, we would probably opt for this second option and perhaps use cloud documents as part of the logging process with the Admin Support volunteers.

Despite the amount of logging that has needed to be done, we are almost there. So the voting system for selecting the best stories will be online soon(ish)!

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14 Apr

Adverts and Gobbledygook

AdvertsThe project is currently hurtling towards the end of stage one and our team of researchers are working flat out to be able to log and process all of the new search pages and results that have been recently uploaded onto the British Newspaper Archive’s online database (you can find out more about this unexpected increased in source material here.) This new body of source material, however, is not exactly like the previous search results that we have been processing. In fact, there have been two issues encountered by our team as they have begun to log these stories.

The first issue is that many of the search results that have been categorised as articles are in fact advertisements. As we are not looking at advertisements in this heritage project they are irrelevant to our research – however, as one of our researchers has noted, you could have made a good living at the time by locating lost dogs! We’re not too sure why they have been categorised as articles – perhaps, the British Newspaper Archives will correct this at the some point (we’ll probably drop them an email to let them know about our discovery!) – and there is nothing we can see that we can do in order to remove them from our corpus of search results. What we are currently doing is logging them on our paper records as advertisements and not including any specific details as to what type of advertisement they are. We will also not include them in the digital database that we will produce from all of the researchers’ paper logs.

The second problem with this new batch of results is that the information that accompanies each scan/search result (e.g. the title and a blurb) frequently don’t make much sense…in fact, in quite a number of instances they are complete gobbledygook. This means that in order to log the title and get a sense of the article (in order to determine whether it is an article or in fact an advertisement) the researchers are having to look through the digital scan itself. This takes more time than if the brief bit of information about each search result was readable. We can only surmise that this is due to a software being used by the British Newspaper Archive is not recognising the typeface/text in the old newspapers, and is therefore not registering a readable title and blurb. We would imagine that these descriptions and information that accompany the search results will be updated/corrected manually at some point in order to provide more accurate details. Again, we will drop the British Newspaper Archive an email to ask about this…but in the mean time, has anyone else encountered these types of problems before and do you know what were the reasons behind them?

28 Mar

An unexpected increase in research source material

SearchResultsIn our original methodology we suggested that we would be examining and logging 192 pages of digital results of the Liverpool Daily Post from the British Newspaper Archive. This amount of source material was quite a job in itself so imagine our surprise when earlier this week one of our eagle-eyed Volunteer Archive Researchers spotted that the number of pages of search results had almost doubled to 340!!! Upon further investigation our team discovered that this was in fact the case and that the number of articles mentioning ‘Toxteth’ had indeed increased. So why was this?

Well, the British Newspaper Archive is a growing (and currently incomplete) archive and new digitised versions of newspapers are being added periodically in batches. So what has happened is that a new batch of Liverpool Daily Post newspapers have been digitised and formatted for the site, and uploaded right in the middle of our research phase. This is one of the problems with using archives that other people and organisations are curating and producing. In hindsight, we should have asked the British Newspaper Archive if any significant updates were planned during The Good, The Bad and The Scouse’s research phase, this may have made us aware earlier of the growth in source material. This is one of the lessons we have learned whilst working on this project.

The growth in source material doesn’t really impact on our method as continuing to order the search results via ‘earliest first’ will maintain the original order as the new uploads are all from later newspapers from the ones that were in our original search results list. However, the question the Splendid Things team are currently contemplating is do we add this new batch of research results to our project or do we stop at page 192? We’ll keep you posted on what we decide…

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19 Mar

Houston, We Have a Problem!

DamagedmicrofilmWell, perhaps we should say “Toxteth, we have a problem”. Like any heritage project, our team have encountered a few issues along the research route and we thought we’d share them with you and offer some reflections on how we are working with or around them! One of the issues that we’ve come across on our journey is the quality of some of the micro-films. For example a significant number are damaged or a very dark around the edges – this makes if difficult to read certain parts of the articles. It appears to be more the case with the earlier Daily Post micro-films than with the Echo versions. What this means is that we could miss an article that mentions ‘Toxteth’ or not be able to fully understand what the article was about because part of the story was missing or unclear. We’ve also come across newspapers in the micro-film that have had sections of them carefully cut out. We’d love to think that this was some form of censorship…that someone out there is censoring old newspapers from us, but the reality is probably be that the original newspaper that the micro-film version was taken from probably had clippings taken out of it. It got us wondering, what was so important on the clippings that people took them out? Was it stories about them, their friends or family? Were they important bits of news they wanted to keep? Or were they coupons or adverts for fantastic bargains? I guess we’ll never know for sure! In both of these instances there is very little that we can do in terms of getting better quality micro-film copies. All we can do is check out things on the online British Newspaper archive and hope that their copy is better.

Another problem that we’ve noticed when using the online British Newspaper Archive is that some of the titles they have noted down for the articles are either wrong or misleading. For example, the article title stated on the search result page may in fact correspond to the article previous to one that actually mentions Toxteth. We are currently noting these alternative titles down on our paper logs to make it easier for future researchers. Also, this online archive is throwing up a few anomalies. For example, although we are searching only for articles it does sometimes display the odd advertisement. These advertisements are not your usual types of advertisements…more like what we would nowadays refer to as an advertorial (a mixture of advertisement and editorial content). When we come across these we are also making a note of them on the database. We tend to think of advertorials as a new concept, but apparently they are not. Perhaps another great heritage project would be to look at the development of advertorials? Just an idea…but let’s get this project finished first!

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25 Feb

It’s all in a word…

It's all in a wordAs part of our research method we are looking for newspaper articles between specific dates and from specific publications that mention the word ‘Toxteth’. This is useful as 99.9% of the articles that this unearths are actually about Toxteth and are therefore relevant to our heritage project…the 0.1% of articles are usually someone’s surname! However, there is a slight flaw in this research methodology in the sense that there are also articles in newspapers that are either about people from Toxteth or have took place in Toxteth but do not actually contain the word ‘Toxteth’ in them. For example, it may mention a street that we know was located in the Toxteth boundaries at the time or it may mention a well-known person from the area, but make no reference to Toxteth or Toxteth Park. In these instances the articles do not fit into our research criteria in terms of the database we are producing, but they are relevant to our heritage project. Our team have therefore made a little addition to our method and are logging these stories separately in order to make sure we don’t miss a great story! Good solution to the problem? What do you think?

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25 Feb

“But she’s a lady!”

newspapersThe research process has been unearthing an array of newspaper stories from Toxteth’s past…from sacrilege in a Church through to severed heads…but the story we thought we’d share with you this time is one about a lady – a lady medical assistant nonetheless! In the 1850s the workhouse in Toxteth was recruiting for a medical assistant and when surveying the applications that had come in, the board of people who ran the workhouse came across an application that stood out from all of the others. “Why did it stand out?” we hear you ask…well it stood out for the simple reason that the applicant was a female.

Yes, you read correctly, the application stood out because of the person’s gender. The gender of the applicant created a divide in the board, with those wanting to offer the female in question an interview as she did have the relevant experiences and those objecting to this on the grounds that she was a lady. Unfortunately the latter group were the majority and the female applicant was rejected on the basis of her gender. It would have been great if the board would have appointed the female medical assistant and in their own way broke down gender barriers. That would have been a great tale for our collection – but they didn’t…nonetheless we feel that this story is still a little gem as it says so much about the social, cultural and political climate of the time. The story has the scope to lead into a discussion about gender equality and more general equality & diversity issues within the workplace. We feel it’s an educational resource in the making!

The story also got us thinking about what heritage researchers in 100s of years to come will think about our society? When looking back through newspaper stories from our times what will the researchers of the future think about us and the way that we lived? Will they judge us as a fair and equal society, or will they think our ideologies and social structures are wrong? We guess part of the answer will be dependent on which newspapers they read!!! We’d love to hear what you think…How do the newspapers represent us? Is gender discrimination alive and kicking – if so, in what forms? Answers to the above on a postcard – or on a comment below!

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10 Feb

Thunderbirds are go!

researchpacksWith the archive research training sessions delivered, the next stage of the process was for our Project Worker to produce individualised research packs for each volunteer archive researcher. During the training sessions, the volunteers completed a quick survey as to how many days they would like to contribute to the project and what type of research they would like to do (digital or microfilm). With the results of the survey collated, our Project Worker set about creating the research packs with the necessary resources in for our volunteers. And with the flick of a magic wand (or more accurately a trip to our local post office), the research packs where on their way to our volunteers!

Whilst producing these research packs we began to question whether or not the paper-based approach was the most appropriate. Earlier in the process, in fact whilst writing the original grant application, suggestions of opting for a digital approach were discussed. It was proposed that the research results could be logged using cloud computing technologies and shared/collaborative document editing software in order to stream-line the process, reduce printing and their associated costs, and the effect on the environment through paper usage. Despite its benefits this process was also deemed to have a major downside – what if the people doing the archive research were not used to using such technologies? This question was debated and it was decided that (a) adopting a digital process may be a barrier to engagement for some people and (b) it may in turn throw up unexpected technical problems that could hinder the project. These are the two main reasons the paper-based approach was adopted.

Although we are still currently adopting the paper-based system as it is too late now post-volunteer training to change it, we’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has used cloud computer technologies and shared/collaborative document editing software on a large group research project and to find out how it worked out for you. So if you’ve tested a similar approach out, let us know how it went.

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03 Feb

Bring on…the archive research training workshops

ArchiveresearchtrainingLast week 15 local and not-so-local volunteers ascended onto Splendid Things’ HQ to embark on some archive research training. Here’s what happened behind-the-scenes…

The team decided that the best approach was to offer our volunteer archive researchers two dates to choose from to attend a training workshop – one in the week, the other at the weekend. We did this as we were conscious that people’s other commitments varied from university study to working hours to childcare responsibilities and we didn’t want to exclude people from getting involved. This seemed to work out well as 15 out of the 18 people who originally expressed an interest in the voluntary role were able to attend. So far, so good…

The training days were split into two sessions; session one introduced the volunteers to the project and the British Newspaper Archive and session two introduced the volunteers to using the micro-film archive. The training team were initially worried that the timings of the different activities would be difficult to stick to because of (a) the amount of information being delivered in the sessions and (b) the travel time to and from Splendid Things HQ and the different libraries that we were using to conduct the training. But thanks to the smooth operations and staff at both Toxteth and Liverpool Central Library it all ran like clockwork…well, apart from a couple of late taxis but even that didn’t hinder us too much!

The team was also anxious as to how the research processes designed for the online and micro-film archives would work out when being used by a team of volunteers. This anxiety proved to be unfounded as the volunteers took to both research processes like ducks to water, and found the instructions and handouts easy to follow. At this point, the Splendid Things let out a collective sigh of relief.

What we have learned from this experience of designing a research methodology and training people how to adopt it, is that it is worth spending a significant amount of time developing research processes and fine-tuning your strategies. Through doing small-scale tests of the methodology before the training sessions we were able to iron out any issues with it and in reflection this made it significantly easier to train a team of volunteers in how to implement it. Whether or not the methodological approach was the right one to adopt for this project in order to give us the desired results is yet to be determined, and we will only be able to reflect on this later in the research process…but for now it appears to be working!

The training sessions were also well-received by the volunteers, with one person describing them as “informative and interesting”, another explaining how it provided them with an opportunity to “meet like-minded people” and another volunteer saying the training was “well delivered…a friendly approach”. So on that note we think we can give ourselves a pat on the back, before moving onto our next task – producing the research packs!

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