14 Jan

Planning our archive research process

planningpostWith the question of “How should we implement our methodology?” still looming from before Christmas, our lead Archive Researcher and Project Worker met up to tackle this enigma head-on…and we think they came up with a pretty water-tight strategy! Together they designed a system that would (a) be straight-forward to follow and (b) avoid any duplication of research results…so here’s what they decided*.

First, the micro-film and the British Newspaper Archive research was separated into two distinct projects, each with their own individual research process. When approaching the micro-film research the first stage was to see how many boxes of micro-film were held in the archive for each newspaper that we were examining. In total there were 192 micro-film boxes for the Liverpool Daily Post and 42 boxes for the Liverpool Echo. It was anticipated that each micro-film box will take roughly 6 hours/one-day to read through and log – we will reflect on whether or not this was an accurate estimate later on in the project.  With this in mind, the team was able to allocate different box numbers to each volunteer archive researcher and staff member (depending on the amount of time they were giving to the project), avoiding any duplication of research. A log sheet was also devised that each researcher would use to log the results of their research and this would then be inputted into a database of results. In logging the results via the same form, a standardisation of research results was possible and in putting this information into a database it them becomes easier to search through for future users.

The team then turned their attention to the British Newspaper Archive. The archive held 192 pages of results from the Liverpool Daily Post and a further 58 pages of search results for the Liverpool Echo. In the same way as the micro-film research was allocated via box number, the online archive research was allocated by page number. However, unlike the micro-film box number ordering system that stays the same whenever accessed, the ordering of the search page results is dependent on selections made when inputting the search criteria. This means that the person conducting the search has to do so in a way that orders the search results in a standardised format, meaning that page one will always display the same results, page two will always contain the same results and so on. In order to do this we embedded a simple step in the research process – asking all researchers to select the ‘show results by date: earliest’ option offered by the British Newspaper Archive’s search engine. This meant that the way in which the results were displayed would be fixed, allowing us to allocate specific pages to specific researchers. In a similar way to our micro-film research process, the researchers then logged the results they found on page ready for them to be inputted into the master database.

With our seemingly water-tight process in place and handouts and step-by-step guides produced, all that was left to do was to plan the archive research training sessions (and arrange the all important catering!).

*Full guides as to how we conducted both forms of research can be found on our resources page.


19 Dec

A meeting on method

Liverpool-Central-Library-Interior-Cofeley-fmj-june-13Yesterday the Splendid Things team met with our Heritage Consultant to put the finishing touches to our research methodology (basically, the way we are going to do the research stage of the project). Our original idea was to use the British Newspaper archive and Liverpool Central Library’s micro-film newspaper archives to search for and log all stories from within any Liverpool-based newspaper that mentioned the word ‘Toxteth’, focusing on the years 1850 – 1900. Yet, some of our initial testing of this method raised some issues – most significantly, that the data this would uncover would be an unmanageable amount for our 18-month project. So it was back to the drawing board – how do we go about doing our research?

After looking at a range of options, the team decided that the best way to create a manageable data set  was to limit the number of newspapers we would look at. During the decades our project examines – 1850 to 1900 – three main Liverpool-based publications were in circulation; Liverpool Mercury, Liverpool Echo and Liverpool Daily Post. Of all of these newspapers the Liverpool Mercury was the most prolific at the time and has had a number of other researchers examine it. The Liverpool Mercury however, is less well-known with contemporary audiences. Therefore the team decided that our focus was be the Liverpool Echo and Liverpool Daily Post because of the following reasons:

  • Both newspapers were born out of the abolition of newspaper stamp duty that occurred in 1855.
  • The number of publications released by both of these newspapers provided a manageable data set.
  • Until recently, both newspapers were still in circulation and would therefore resonate with contemporary audiences.

The team would still be using both the British Newspaper online archive and the micro-film archive in Liverpool Central Library to conduct the research, and our focus would still be on logging all of the stories that contained the word ‘Toxteth’, but this time we could actually conduct the research in the time allocated. All the team needed to do now was to plan how we would implement this method…

You can download an outline of our research methodology from our resources page.