British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Digital Journey Timeline

Here’s a snapshot of our digital journey and what we learnt along the way.


Our Digital Journey (on a limited budget)

  • How can this work?

    Looking at text but seeing data

    How do you find a way of structuring twenty years worth of press packs? Three steps to help configure your thinking

    1. Understand what you’re looking at, then the structure will be meaningful

    2. Find patterns in the collection. What’s common to everything? How can it be divided? How do these parts relate? What’s consistent? What isn’t? What is the hierarchy?

    3. Analyse difference in interaction. What questions do you ask of the packs on the desk? What questions might you ask of digital copies? How can you ensure users will find what they don’t know they’re looking for?!

    The answers helped me to see sections in the packs & dates and times within the sections. I described the parts and their relations in an XML schema.

  • Can we…?

    Agreements & copyright

    Ask this question as far in advance as possible! Think about all the variations of use e.g. what you might require for publicity purposes.

    Get the agreements in place with your partners and those relating to publication before you start.

    Some elements e.g. photos or music you may not be able to publish now but that rarely means never . Allow for this contingency.

  • It’s all in the filename


    This stage is all about planning

    1. Identification of gaps, duplicates & missing pages in the collection. Arrangements to borrow these from Channel 4 Archive

    2. Agree specification – scanning / output files /filenames

    3. Integrating section into filename = identifying every page in terms of section…manually. It was time-consuming but we could understand every page from it & the user from the URL

    4. Always do a pilot! We selected five packs that represented a range across time and design. Automatic insertion of filename via spreadsheet

    5. Check-amend-check-amend-check-amend….

  • Wouldn’t it be great if…

    XML & programme listings

    All digitization projects have a ‘wouldn’t it be great if…’ stage & best to think of it as the experimental dimension sowing the seeds for another project.

    Lack of consistent formatting turned this task of tagging the programme listings into a labyrinth excursion. The success rate wasn’t good enough so now this exercise is a detailed scoping study.

    The XML structure raised questions about season/strand/series definition which had a significant impact on the research dimension of the project

  • Can’t we just create our own pdf viewer?

    Highlighted search terms

    We had our pdfs and we had our OCR’d text, so highlighting the search term in the page should be easy, right? Wrong!

    We looked at pdf viewers and none of them seemed to give us what we wanted. Either they had small print that seemed aggressively possessive of the content or they didn’t highlight the search term or we had to pay for proprietary viewers which raises questions of dependency and sustainability.

    So we created our own

  • Do we need advanced search…?

    Designing forms; presenting results

    Questioning the basics can help to get the search page/s and results right. Every field you put on a search page helps the user to understand how the text is structured but it also guides them in certain directions. The balance here is really important.

    Information on the search results page is not so much an exercise in what you put in, as what you leave out. This is a summary, so you’re looking for the minimum metadata for the results to be understood. How they are understood is informed by how the packs are remembered e.g. by week or date. The connection to memory was striking.

  • We need an analogue experience


    After a long arduous trek we reached the summit of the search mountain but it soon became clear that user’s sense of the packs was very fragmented. They struggled to envisage a whole pack so we needed to restore a sense of the packs as objects.

    We developed a separate browse facility utilising thumbnails within the pdf viewer which addressed this but it still wasn’t quite right. What was missing was the ability to switch into browse mode from a single page of highlighted search terms.

    This integration provided the optimum model of digital tools and a semblance of analogue experience.

  • Where do we put…?

    Designing & editing the microsite

    One of the fundamental aims of the project was to incorporate the whole of the research team into the development of the site. So we gave them full editing privileges so that they would be fully engaged in the presentation of their research within an online environment, and hopefully gained some useful skills along the way.

    This has really driven us to design new ways of presenting material, ones that emphasise the visual element of text. It has also taken us back to basics as both parties assess from different perspectives what works, what doesn’t and why.

    We’ve gone a little way to merging our areas of expertise and the site is all the better for it!

  • Bringing it together

    Integrating Content & Context

    The challenge here was to integrate two different environments in a way that would encourage the use of both in a complimentary way. The design of the landing page, a guide to the press packs and contextual essays were all important elements in providing links between search and research.