2019 – the year online

Open Memory Box

So here we are at the end of another year. Who knows where the time goes? Only the archivists. Anyway, as is now traditional, it is time for some reviews of the year, noting the things cultural that attracted me over the year. As is also traditional, we start with a review of the year online. Here is a selection of websites, databases, datasets, apps and so on which I came across over 2019 – some of them new, some more established but I only found them this year.

  • British Library Research Repository – The British Library has just launched this ‘repository’ for research outputs from its staff and associates. It has articles, blog posts, datasets, reports, exhibition texts and much more. I’m particularly proud of the contribution made by my news colleagues, a listing of all 24,000 or so British, Irish, British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies newspapers held by the BL, available for anyone to download and reuse. Expect more such news datasets in 2020
  • Open Memory Box – A strikingly-designed web archive of digitised 8mm home movies from the German Democratic Republic, 1947-1990, ingenious in construction and expertly curated. This is the sort of classy treatment that home movies deserve
  • TimeMapper – Create stylish maps out of a spreadsheet with just dates and places
  • MOI Digital – An online history of the Ministry of Information 1939-46, created by teams from the Institute of English Studies and the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. The project is ongoing, but they have started off by publishing Home Intelligence Reports and Wartime Social Surveys created by the MOI, an absolute treasure trove in themselves. Try out ‘RG 23/2 – Ministry of Information Films and the Public, 1941‘ for starters. Fantastic
  • Voyant Tools – Working on news data this year I’ve been introduced to some great visualisation tools. This is one of the clearest and the best – type in any URL with text, and get graphs, word clouds, correlations, phrase analysis and more. Now anyone can be a data scientist
  • Pages from the 1974-75 Argos catalogue
  • The Book of Dreams – Browse your way through every Argos annual catalogue since 1974. Such a poignant record of the humble extent of human wishes
  • The Walking Englishman – An invaluable guide to walking in Great Britain, with, maps, photos, commentaries, guides and data. The Long Distance Footpath Directory alone demands that you get out there now, and explore
  • A London Inheritance – Talking of walking, this superb blog documents the history London (and environs) through photographs old and new and detailed investigation, of the kind that can make the plainest street alive with interest
  • Poetry Atlas – Mapping the world through poems. Search by poem, author or location, with poems reproduced where copyright permits. Irresistibly browsable
  • Edited by – Organised like a book, with a table of contents and web pages through which you scroll sideways, this site by American filmmaker Su Friedrich is a biographical guide to over two hundred women editors across film history, bringing an artistry too often hidden to the fore. A labour of love
  • Image from Redemption Songs
  • Redemption Songs – A quite fascinating cartoon history for Topic magazine on the little-known history of Chinese-Jamaicans and Chinese reggae, written and drawn by Krish Raghav, with sound files
  • Ideas of India – From the early years of the 19th century through to 1947, many English language periodicals were published in India by Indians that counteracted the dominant British-language journals. This epic undertaking by Rahul Sagar is an index to many of them, held in archives worldwide
  • Awful Library Books – An amusing guide to obsolete library books that are sometimes awful (Backgammon for Blood, God Loves Mimes), but more often simply no longer relevant yet have a peculiar nostalgic feel. Compiled by two Michigan librarians with a sense of humour as well as a sense of purpose
  • myNoise – A background noise machine, offering you the right sounds for your mood and to help you concentrate (rain on a tent for when you can’t sleep, the sound of an autumn walk to help you overcome writer’s block – that sort of thing)
  • The Margaret Oliphant Fiction Collection – This is such a charming site, celebrating the work of a Victorian writer little-known now but still able to captivate and surprise. Produced by Joan Richardson, with summaries of all 176 of her fiction works, with helpful thematic cross-referencing
  • Himmelskibet (A Trip to Mars) (Denmark 1918), via www.stumfilm.dk
  • Danish Silent Film – The Danish Film Institute has launched a video streaming site for silent Danish film, which when complete will feature over 400 works from 1897-1928 (currently there are 45 on the site). This was a golden age for Danish film, and the exemplary presentation matches the quality of what is on show
  • Database of 1960s Films – Gradually we are starting to see open datasets on film history subjects being release. This output of the Transformation and Tradition in Sixties British Cinema research project provides details of the cast, crew, production, financing, distribution, awards and reception information for the 991 British films released between 1960 and 1969. Go and dowload
  • User Inyerface – A mocking guide to UI (user interface) design, bringing together all of the annoying design elements that can make a bad website even worse
  • Playlist Converter – Want to turn your Spotify playlist into a spreadsheet or plain text file? Here’s how
  • ColouriseSG – I have written with a mixture of frustration and alarm at the growing taste for colourising black-and-white film and images, but I have to admit this tool for converting those old family photos into synthetic colour is compulsive in its way…


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