Where did my work go?

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As I look around for work (my current search is for freelance pieces of work in the digital humanities area), I’ve been working out how much of what I did in my sixteen years at ILRT at Bristol University has survived in a recognisable form. Obviously there are publications, such as an article in Ariadne and more recently a prizewinning essay. But my online legacy is harder to trace.

Many projects I worked on were pilots for services which never appeared, or in one case planning what one might do if suitable funding could be found. Others were never intended to last long (e.g. surveys), or have changed out of all recognition over time. Few websites provide anything like the same service as they did in the last millennium, when I started working. The mighty edifice that was SOSIG and then Intute (in which I had a small hand) was frozen when the funding on it was pulled. Other services are now inaccessible to me: for example, BOPCRIS and the 18th century parliamentary papers are behind a paywall, and INASP may or may not be using the repository I designed for them.

A recurring pattern seems to be that my clients (the people I worked and communicated with directly) and their superiors had different ideas about what should actually be done. A case in point was From History to Her Story (for WYAS); our site was on the point of release when the content ‘had to’ be moved to another service provider. Most of the content vanished from the new site, and what remained was largely broken. Years later the site moved again to a third host and the content reappeared – at the cost of paying twice for the same piece of work! Something similar, but with less duplication of effort, happened to EPPI. I have written elsewhere about some of the aftermath of BOPCRIS. I could give several more examples.

Also, looking more closely and bearing in mind the passage of time, what strikes me is not that there isn’t much online now, but that a lot of things I worked on never saw the light of day at all. Perhaps this was the nature of work there, that we undertook a lot of pilot, proof-of-concept and experimental projects.

So what remains? Hidden Lives Revealed (for the Children’s Society), which won a prize from the Institute of Archivists, was handed over smoothly to another service provider and is still active. Another functioning continuation of my work is Bristol University’s Research Data Management service, for which I was involved in the pilot phase, data.bris. data.bris made sufficient impact that its name is still attached to the service, although not all the staff could be retained. The Bristol University InfoSafe tutorial (aimed at support staff), which I helped to write, is also still available as is Jisc Digital Media’s ‘Developing Community Collections’ resource, although in the latter case I was only involved with putting the content online, not creating it. There are other tutorials and the like around the place which I helped to put together. Not very easy to point out my contributions to a potential employer, but there is a body of stuff there.

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