Exploring digitized resources in a better way: workshop at the British Library

Posted on 30 January 2018

PhD Student Arnab Chakraborty reports on a recent British Library workshop

The India Office Medical Archives of the British Library conducted a workshop on its digital resources on 26th January 2018. This was to inform and educate scholars about the digitization project they have been doing with a grant from the Wellcome Trust. The workshop was organised by Dr Antonia Moon, lead curator of post-1858 India Office Records (IOR) and her other colleagues.

The speakers ranged from geographers, software developers to the British Library staff engaged with the digitization process. The participants were mostly those who extensively use the IOR and included senior historians like David Arnold and Mark Harrison among others. There was discussion on newer methods of researching digitized documents and using techniques implemented by organisations such as JISC, using images and maps to explain the medical topography in the IOR and also how visualising metadata can be used for exploratory research work.

The digitization process was started following the sources listed in the ‘health’ segment of the book ‘Science and changing environment in India, 1780-1920: a guide to sources in the India Office Records’ and the present work has covered the Sanitary and Annual Reports until 1910.

The work that the India Office Medical Archives has undertaken is indeed huge and will require plenty more time to be further organised and completed, but during the multiple group discussion sessions that were an integral part of the workshop, critiques and new ideas were exchanged on using visual techniques to explain the historical research in a different way; whereas the participants present also raised concerns about the extent to which we can and should depend on technology to ease the process of research. The workshop concluded with details of collaborative work and funding opportunities provided by the British Library and the Wellcome Trust.