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Catherine Emma (Kate) Jones and Andrew Janes 4 September 2013 Geography: the missing link for archives? A case study from the London Blitz.

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Presentation on theme: "Catherine Emma (Kate) Jones and Andrew Janes 4 September 2013 Geography: the missing link for archives? A case study from the London Blitz."— Presentation transcript:

1 Catherine Emma (Kate) Jones and Andrew Janes 4 September 2013 Geography: the missing link for archives? A case study from the London Blitz

2 HO 192/862


4 Some sources for researching the London Blitz Log books, incident registers and reporting forms Maps plotting bombs or bomb damage Photographs and plans of bomb sites Investigation reports Records of institutions that were bombed Newspaper reports Local council minutes Personal accounts: diaries, memories, etc

5 Challenges of using primary sources Doing research involves doing research … Most people aren’t familiar with using archives Historical data is complex and ‘messy’ to work with Time-consuming to discover what is relevant Different archives hold different sources ‘Hidden’ records? Most archival sources are not digitised Most records are not catalogued in lavish detail

6 Bomb Sight – the project A step towards wider access to historical records Build an interactive mapping website and Android mobile app Selected Bomb Census maps from TNA Other historical data about the Blitz A resource for academic researchers A resource for geography teaching and learning A resource for ‘citizen researchers’ / the public

7 Project partners Funded by Content Programme 2011-13

8 Project team Andrew Janes Project Advisor Dr Catherine Jones Project Director Andrew Janes Project Advisor Dr Catherine Jones Project Director Jasia Warren Graphic Designer Dr Patrick Weber Tech Lead / Web Developer and student researchers Ali Nabbi and Felix Fennel Dan Karran Mobile Developer

9 Data sources Aggregate night-time Bomb Census maps, 7 Oct 1940 - 6 June 1941 – The National Archives (ref: HO 193/13) Weekly Bomb Census maps, 7-14 Oct 1940 – The National Archives (ref: HO 193/1) 24 hours of the Blitz, 7 Sept 1940 – Guardian Data Store Anti-invasion defence locations – Council for British Archaeology: Defence of Britain Dataset Photographs – Imperial War Museum Images WW2 Memories – BBC History “People’s War” Present day street map and aerial imagery – Cloudmade For full details and copyright information, see:

10 HO 193/1 sheet 15/18 NW Weekly Bomb Census map for 7-14 October 1940


12 HO 192/341

13 The impact in numbers Discussed in 70+ different global print/TV/internet media 184,436 unique visitors on 7 December 2012 378,971 unique visitors in first two months Almost 450,000 unique visitors up to 29 August 2013 Over 1,273,058 page views up to 29 August 2013 Site accessed 102,000 times with a tablet or mobile phone Quiet rollout of native mobile app: 2600+ downloads since made available via Google Play in mid-December 2012 Compares to 827 original map folder productions in 2012/13

14 Engaging with technology Transformed data: New technology brings old data to life Enhanced data: Searchable, browsable and enriched For access: From ‘hidden’ records to popular website For preservation: Access without handling fragile originals For learning: Supports students to develop the knowledge and skills for working with spatial data

15 Engaging with geography Geography: a missing link for archives? Maturity and popularity of digital mapping Academic ‘buzz’ around spatial data Using geography to link different sources together Archives: a missing link for geography? Maps are for more than just history of cartography Archives are for more than just ‘straight’ history

16 Engaging with the public User-focused development: Scenarios and user-testing Social media: A powerful tool for raising awareness Blog post and talk/podcast: Contributing to TNA’s public engagement programmes Academia is relevant: Academic work responds to and drives public interest in historical events (and sources) Archives are relevant: Sources contain a wealth of data


18 The Twitter buzz “ I have to say @BombSightUK is one of the most impressive online archive resources I've ever seen. Brings alive the sheer scale of the Blitz. ” “ The @BombSightUK map tallies well with anecdotal reports of WW2 German bombs from the old timers in my neighbourhood. Fascinating. ” “ What an astonishing use of #augmentedreality & mobile apps by @BombSightUK... this looks brilliant... ” “ Always suspected my housing block was built on a WW2 bomb site, and thanks to I can see I was right! ”

19 19 Al-Jazeera English BBC News CNN The Daily Telegraph The Economist The Guardian Huffington Post Mail Online Mashable Le Monde Sky Australia Der Spiegel Wired

20 Challenges (1) – working together A first time for everything … Academia meets civil service Joint working = staking everyone’s reputation Intellectual property rights Many WWII-era sources are still in copyright … … but much is Crown copyright or licensable Required non-commercial licences utilising open source and low cost solutions

21 Challenges (2) – margins of error Records made under wartime conditions Bombs missed during the survey Mis-plotted or unclear bombs on map sheets Transforming the data: paper to digital Mismatches between historic and modern map layers Potential for errors in manual geo-locating Inevitable errors in the Open Street Map layer


23 Long-term preservation Sustainable formats, e.g. GeoTiff To be deposited with EDINA Digimap and ShareGeo Short-term sustainability to meet public demand A small academic project went viral … Unanticipated level of public and media interest Worked with CloudFlare to keep the site running Challenges (3) – digital sustainability

24 24

25 Complete the dataset for London to enable exploration by timeline? Capture richer information from ‘BC4’ reporting forms? Expand to other parts of the UK? Crowdsource the capture of information? Crowdsource additional data, e.g. memories, photos? Develop a framework to help smaller archives create their own interactive mapping applications? Seek more funding? Some ideas for the future

26 Website – Blog – Twitter – @BombSightUK Kate – @SpatialK8Andrew – @cartivist A p odcast about the development of Bomb Sight is available via Watch this space …

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