Lingerie, Giant Frisbees and Heavy Lifting: Tackling the ITI Collection at Edinburgh University

By Abigail Hartley, Appraisal Archivist and Archives Collections Manager

Colour image of white shelving along a long grey floor corridor. Three or four bankers boxes sits on each shelf, showing an extensive amount of material.

ITI prior to processing, totalling over 70 linear metres of material

Several months ago, my colleague Jasmine Hide and I wrote two introductory posts about our new roles and what they entailed. This time, I would like to draw attention to a collection we recently appraised, that of the Information Technology Infrastructure, or, in its condensed form, ITI.

Now, it is no secret that – aside from our crucial Digital and Web Archivist team members – most archivists are not experts on the early history of computing. Having said that, for sixty years Edinburgh has prided itself on its forward-thinking approach to IT, particularly artificial intelligence. This is therefore an important collection that needed processing.

Arriving from the Department of Computer Science in 2017, the collection contains material that shows the development of the Edinburgh Regional Computing Centre, as well as the development and implementation of large-scale computing projects, services, applications, and programs from 1966 up to around 2000. It will be of particular interest to anyone researching the development of computing science, both as a practical feature in people’s lives, as well as the academic field.

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CRC: A Space Odyssey – Day in the Life of a Collections Management Technician 

My name is Jasmine, and I’ve been working here at the University for five and a bit months as the Collections Management Technician. I’m the other half to Robyn Rogers’ role as Collections Care Technician, whose fantastic blog post about her recent work you can read here, and I work directly with the Appraisal Archivist and Archives Collection Manager, Abigail Hartley, whose equally wonderful blog post was featured last month.  

Abigail did a great job of defining appraisal and the challenges to the archivist when it comes to choosing what material to preserve. The archivist is often put in the position of assessing the ‘value’ of the record, a thorny process which comes with a number of ethical challenges. Thinking through these problems, it might seem easier to suggest that we simply keep everything we receive. If we get to keep everything, we don’t have to think through complicated questions, like what is the purpose of the record? And what is the purpose of the archivist? After all, if something has found its way into the archive, isn’t that an implicit statement of its value? Why appraise at all? 

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Appraisal Made Easy (If Only…): A Day in the Life of an Appraisal Archivist

Welcome to our Day in the Life Series, where each of our new team members will give you an insight into life behind the scenes at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections. In this post, our new Appraisal Archivist and Archive Collections Manager, Abigail Hartley, discusses what she has been up to since joining the Heritage Collections team in March. Expect one more post in this series, as we introduce our Collection Management Technician, Jasmine Hide.

You may have seen the other week my colleague Robyn upload a new blog regarding her role as Collections Care Technician. If you haven’t… Go go go! Take a look at the fantastic work she has undertaken thus far. Once you have returned, it is my turn to introduce myself and the work I’ll be tackling for the foreseeable future.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? My name is Abbie and I have been working at the University of Edinburgh as its Appraisal Archivist since April 2023. These past three months I have been creating an appraisal process and enacting some practice runs on smaller collections in preparation of being let loose amongst the backlog of records held at the assorted Heritage Collections sites across campus.

But what even is appraisal?

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