Towards final versions of Templates

The first scheduled Preservation Maintenance operation on the large and complex PAWDOC collection started on 1st September. Well, actually, it started a bit before then in early August when I started to investigate the items in the ‘Possible Future Issues’ section of the PAWDOC Preservation MAINTENANCE PLAN. There were 15 such items – most relating to files that had proved inaccessible in the initiating preservation exercise three years ago; but four concerning the numerous contents of CDs that had been included in the collection. Two of these proved particularly demanding: one is a disk that was distributed with the April 2001 issue of PC Magazine; and the other is the Nautilus disk – a 1991 attempt to issue a technology magazine with lots of software, advice, news, and multimedia files on disk. I couldn’t get either to open; and without an interface there’s no way of knowing what they contain or whether the contents still work; so I decided to try and create a guide to the material by going through all the contents. It was a laborious process (there were over 1500 files in all), but I did get a result, and guides to both disks now reside alongside the zipped up contents.

The challenge presented by the huge volume of files on CDs, as illustrated above, was also manifested in the maintenance process proper that I started at the beginning of September. The process requires that an inventory is made of all files in a collection (which I achieved by using the National Archives’ DROID tool); and that an attempt is made to open two or three files of each type. Problems identified in this investigation stage can then be addressed. The CDs in the collection (now all residing alongside the rest of the collection in Windows folders) comprise a large proportion of the overall collection, and this overloads the analysis and investigation process. However, many of the CDs are installation disks for the collection’s document management software (no longer used) and for old versions of its indexing software. In subsequent maintenance operations, all such sets of files will be excluded from the DROID analysis: I have decided that the mere presence of such material in the collection is sufficient to signal its previous inclusion – there is no need for it to actually work going forwards. Perhaps this is an example of a sort of additional decision that may have to be made with a digital collection as compared with collections of physical objects. Digital collections are very different animals.

The culmination of the investigation phase is to produce a Project Plan with tasks which are specific enough to enable effort and elapsed duration to be reliably estimated. I got to this point yesterday, and, as per the first task, I have started converting 28 Help files from the old .HLP format to the HTML based .CHM format. The plan prescribes a finish date of 3rd December. After that I shall be producing the final updates to the Preservation Planning templates which I have been refining since 2015, and which are published in the Website of the Digital Preservation Coalition.

Musings on Physical/Virtual Objects

I’ll be exploring the practicalities associated with destroying physical objects by rationalising my mementos, letters, and a few books. However, before diving in (my analogies are influenced by the Olympics which are underway), here’s an attempt to try and order my thoughts about the subject.

Digitisation has added another dimension to the world we perceive: in addition to the physical objects we’ve always had around us, now there are virtual objects that exist in either physical objects we can see and touch such as laptops or hard disks, or in some remote place we refer to variously as system, web, internet, cloud etc.. Some of these virtual objects, such as on-line games or tik-tok videos, are new entities that did not exist previously; other virtual objects have actually replaced physical objects that would have been created, for example, letters, LP records, printed photos, brochures etc.. A third category of virtual object replicates physical objects, for example, a scan of a physical document/painting or a 3D scan of a piece of pottery. I don’t have any numbers associated with the objects in each of the above categories; but my instinct tells me that the quantity of physical objects that we humans are now dealing with is somewhat less than it would have been if digitisation had not occurred – this despite the undoubted increase in physical objects spurred by digitisation and the growth it has spawned. My instinct also tells me that the ratio of digital:physical objects that individuals interact with is steadily increasing year by year; and that our perception of the things that make up our lives, is changing from being almost totally physically oriented to one in which the virtual is assuming a growing normalcy and importance.

Within this shifting landscape, the options we have for dealing with physical objects are changing. Where we once chose paper, we might choose to go paperless; where we once filed we might choose to scan; where we once kept an object we might choose to simply keep a photo; and where we once may have simply destroyed an object we now might digitise it first and then destroy it. These are the sorts of choices most of us are now making quite often; and they have a number of potential impacts:

  • All these choices affect the number of physical objects in the world.
  • The changing mix of physical/virtual objects in the world, and people’s perception of both types of objects, are probably going to affect what people collect, and the composition of collections eventually acquired by curating institutions.
  • When we choose the virtual as an alternative to creating a physical object we are reducing the number of physical objects that our future progeny will encounter.
  • When we choose to replicate a physical object virtually, and then destroy the physical object, we both reduce the number of physical objects that our future progeny will encounter, and prevent our future progeny being able to experience the physical essence of the object – something will have been lost.

The decision to destroy an object is often considered with either an impulse of certainty (as in the case of destroying evidence of a crime), or a tinge of regret (as might be the case with old love letters). Sometimes both emotions may be present (as perhaps with writings produced our youth which may be both embarrassing yet integral to our past). Such feelings are not the only things that affect the decision. Others include:

Space: a shortage of space may dictate that some things have to go.

Relative age: at 70, an item from one’s youth may or may not be more or less precious than an item from your 70s when you are 90, or an item from your teens when you are in your mid-twenties.

Representation: the emotions that an object conjures up by reminding you of people or events.

Uncertainty: the possibility of wanting or needing the object again in the future must be set against the certainty that the destroyed object can never be reconstituted.

Legacy: the knowledge that other people will be encountering the objects after one’s death, and a possible accompanying desire to bequeath things to others, may inspire notions of organising and rationalising one’s possessions.

In summary, the landscape of our relationship with physical objects is changing. We are a very long way from being physical-objectless, but the direction of travel seems clear – as illustrated by this quote I read in today’s Guardian, “Zuckerberg believes the internet will take on an even bigger role in people’s day-to-day lives in the future, and instead of interacting with it via mobile phones people will be immersed via virtual reality headsets. He said Facebook would transition from a social media platform to a “metaverse company”, where people can work, play and communicate in a virtual environment. Zuckerberg said it would be “an embodied internet where instead of just viewing content – you are in it “[Neate & Rushe]. Now, of course, we should treat such conjectures with a healthy degree of scepticism – but Facebook does have over two billion users…

Whether all this really matters is difficult to say right now – things are changing at a speed which gives us little time to see impacts and make choices. However, our relationship with objects is pretty fundamental, so we should keep an eye on it and try to ensure that we understand what’s going on. My explorations in this journey will attempt to make a small contribution to that understanding.

Neate, R. & Rushe, D., Google, Apple and Microsoft report record-breaking profits, The Guardian, 27th July 2021.

The Halfway House

People have always kept precious physical objects and then destroyed some of them for a variety of reasons. However, digitisation has invaded this relationship by offering a halfway house in which a virtual representation can be retained while still destroying the object. This journey seeks to investigate the impact this might be having on collecting and collections; and on the rationales associated with keeping and discarding. I have already encountered this phenomenon in other investigations documented in this blog – in particular the Digital Age Artefacts journey, though that focused on rationales for keeping things whereas my focus in this Object Obliteration investigation will be the thinking associated with destroying things. The Electronic Bookshelf journey is also relevant since it investigated what digital material would have to be provided to persuade an individual to destroy a book (the follow-up Electronic Story Board journey may also provide further insights). However, this will be a more focused look at the issues associated with completely obliterating an object for ever, as informed by my continuing search for space in my study (space – often the final frontier in which keeping/destroying decisions have to be made) among my books, mementos and letters.

Taking Stock and Set to Go

In 2019, I started collaborating with Peter Tolmie with the aim of producing some overall results from my 40 years experience of personal electronic filing. It wasn’t long before Peter observed that my PAWDOC filing collection was just another manifestation of my inclination to keep things; and he suggested I keep a log of my keeping activities. I realised then that whatever we produced would be about more than my PAWDOC activities, and that I might as well write up my latest thoughts on PAWDOC there and then in this blog. Peter and I prefaced this summation with a post about the impact of digitisation over the last 40 years. Since then, Peter has gained further insights into my activities by investigating my attempts at understanding knowledge development; and by reading my write up of comments I made when being reunited with certain documents after many years.

We both now feel it is time to get on and do what it takes to produce some outputs. Namely, a book on the subject of digitisation’s impact on personal curation of any assemblage of materials where the assemblage is premised upon not only current but potential future use. This will be based upon all the investigations and writings already described, as well as auto-ethnographic investigations of a variety of collections that Peter and myself have been associated with. The questions to be asked range from the Use, Curation and Searching of the collections, to the Security, Preservation and Loss of the contents; all considered from both pre and post digitisation perspectives. We now have the provisional list of collections listed down the left-hand side of a spreadsheet and the questions along the top, so we’re pretty much set to go.

Armchair living

I spend a lot of time doing things in my study – which is not a very sociable thing to do when your partner spends a lot of time in the lounge, particularly during lockdown times when we weren’t getting out much. I’ve often thought I could have been doing some of the things in the lounge – but it lacked a suitable work surface. Putting a desk in the lounge wouldn’t be acceptable; what’s needed is a work surface that can be concealed until you need it, and in a position preferably where you can watch the TV just like your partner. Clearly the answer is to build a folding desk into the back of a lounge suite armchair that you can either stand at (addressing the problem of too much sitting) or sit on a folding stool also incorporated into the back of the armchair. Maybe there’d also be space for a bit of stationery and paper storage.

Comments on reunions with old documents

My colleague, Clive Holtham, was instrumental in putting me in touch with suppliers who loaned me a scanner and document management software around 1995, to enable me to progress my mission to understand how personal electronic filing would work in practice.  Some six years later, in February 2001, Clive and I met up for dinner and a catch up on what we’d both been doing. I explained that as well as scanning new hardcopy as I acquired it, I was also trying to scan all the legacy documents I had acquired since 1981, when I started this electronic filing adventure. Clive pointed out that it would be interesting to see what I thought of each document in retrospect, as I carried out the scanning process. After all, the point of indexing and filing the documents, was based on the assumption that some of them would have some value downstream. Here was an opportunity to get an insight into what their downstream value might be.

I took Clive’s suggestion on board towards the end of 2001; but, to minimise the effort required, I decided I would only comment on those documents which prompted some particular thoughts. The comments would be recorded at the end of the Title field in my filing index; and they would be identifiable by being placed within a special set of characters in the following format: <<! Date: Comment Text here !>>. To make it easier, I created a script in my Indexing software to automatically place the delimiter characters with current date at the end of the title field, and assigned it the keyboard shortcut CTR-8. This seemed to work in practice, and I got into the habit of making my comments in real time as they occurred to me. After a while, I started to use the facility to record other information, such as a document being duplicated in another Index entry, or problems I had had with scanning a document. Now, in 2021, 20 years after starting to record these comments, I find that 584 records within my filing index possess such comments; and 20 of those have two comments.

This is an analysis of what those comments say. They have been placed into one or more of 5 categories:

  • Comments on the impact of the material (7% of the 584 records with comments)
  • Comments on the contents of the material (32%)
  • Comments which prompted questions and thoughts (23%)
  • Comments about memories forgotten and/or remembered (17%)
  • Comments about filing, indexing and scanning activities (46%)

The full list of comments and the categories to which they have been allocated is provided in this link. The comments have been further allocated into sub-categories  which are used in the discussion below. However, the following two salient points need to be born in mind when considering the results of this investigation:

Scale: Although 584 records with comments may sound a large number, in fact comments have only been made on a small subset of the contents of the filing system: 584 is only about 3% of the 17,350 records in the index. This could indicate that the sample size is too small to be generalised; though, I believe it is more likely to indicate that relatively few documents merited a comment. Unfortunately, there is no data to investigate which of these two possibilities is the case – the decisions to include comments were made in an arbitrary manner over many years.

Lag: The time between a document being included in the filing system and when a comment was made about it, has almost certainly affected many of the comments. Presumably, the more time that passes, the less likely the contents of a document are to be remembered, and this may make them more remarkable when they are encountered again. The actual lags that occurred have been calculated as a number of years by the difference between the Creation Date field in the Index, and the date recorded at the beginning of each comment. This shows that over 93% of the comments were made more than 10 years after the documents were included in the filing system; and over 50% had comments with a lag of over 20 years. Only 12 items had comments with a lag of less than 5 years.

Comments on the impact of the material (43)

These comments include remarks about documents which have influenced my thinking (8). For example, “This is a most important paper because it alerted me to the key insight that to get the most out of an OA investment the organisation must change the way it does business”. A further 9 comments relate to documents which were more generally important to my work, for example, “This was an important edition of EDP analyser and highly relevant to NCC’s OA team of which I was a part”. Finally, 26 comments were made about documents that are special in a variety of other ways, for example, “This is a great example of how to do brainstorming”, and “This is an interesting document to have from the early days of the net”.

Comments on the contents of the material (188)

Just over a third of this category is concerned with comments about a document I wrote or activity I was involved with. This is hardly unexpected given my intimate relationship with the events. For example, “Have just read the suggestions I made to Esprit about its CSCW program. I wonder if they made any kind of difference”; and “This was my one not very successful claim to broadcast fame – and I’m not even sure it got broadcast”. A quarter of the comments just remark on ‘interesting content’, for example, “This is a fascinating article because it represents a twilight period in the change from old style typists to individuals doing the typing all themselves”; and “This was worth another read – definitely food for thought…”. The remainder includes comments in a range of other sub-categories – listed below together with an example for each one.

  • Comments on technology developments (16) – “Seems very advanced for 1978”
  • Assessments of predictions (8) – “The prediction of a day in the life of the CEO in 2013 didn’t get it quite right”
  • Comments on the author or other people (8) – “I’ve been thinking about getting in touch with X again”
  • Comments on photos in documents (7) – “While scanning this I discovered that it contains a photo of X”
  • Content which I thought I might find useful (26) – “This document is highly relevant to the assignment I am about to start”
  • Comments which provide a critique of content (5) – “I think this process missed out the key element of Improvement by Learning by Doing”.

Comments which prompted questions and thoughts (135)

The majority of these comments – some 60% – were general reflections and musings prompted by the documents concerned. For example, “I think it demonstrates that prior to the internet and the web there was a different way of thinking about information: in those days having the information meant having the actual item, whereas today in the internet/web/mobile era having the information is all about having a device and knowing where to look”; and “It would be interesting – amazing – to re-run this event with the same people”. The other six sub-categories are all specific questions:

  • Is this still around/available/the case today? (10 comments – for example “I don’t hear the term ‘Groupware’ much these days – I wonder if it has fallen out of use”
  • What’s a person doing today? (15 – “I wonder If X is doing anything related to this now – havn’t seen him for about 20 years”)
  • Is this still relevant today? (12 – “This might be interesting to read to see if 25-year-old advice about dealing with Info overload still applies”)
  • How does this look in retrospect? (4 – “There was a big fuss about X’s thinking on this – would be interesting to see how it all looks in retrospect”.
  • What was the impact of this? (5 – “This work on Teletel was ground breaking and was subsequently successful. How it affected the French use and take-up of the web I don’t know”)
  • How did these predictions fare? (6 – “The Booze-Allen Hamilton report was very influential. It would be interesting to see how its predictions fared”)

Memories forgotten and/or remembered (100)

70% of these comments are about things I’d forgotten either partially or wholly; and 30% about things I remembered about associated aspects, or about people. Examples of each are provided below:

  • Forgetting something about a document or a related activity (28 comments), for example, “I’d forgotten these details and didn’t know I had these notes”
  • Forgetting about the document or activity all-together (41): “Can’t remember giving this talk”
  • Remembering associated aspects or it prompted memories (19); “This was a pioneering machine – we really liked the Snake game, and the early type of remote access mail through the phone lines was relatively quite advanced”.
  • Remembering the author/other person (12); “That’s a name I haven’t thought about for years! – think I met him”

Filing, indexing and scanning activities (266)

Over a third of all these comments concern filing practicalities – not an aspect which was envisaged when I established this comment facility. Recording information about the operation of a filing system is definitely an overhead, so there is a natural tendency to minimise the effort spent on it. Consequently, the fact that it was quick and simple to create comments in a form which was tightly coupled with individual documents and their index entries, made this facility an obvious choice for quickly documenting issues or important observations. The 22 separate sub-categories of comment listed below together with an example for each one, illustrate the extensive range of topics that were encountered as the PAWDOC collection grew and aged (note that over 93% of these comments were made at least 10 years after the document concerned had been included in the collection).

  • Practicalities of using PAWDOC (5) “Must force myself to search for stuff even if I don’t think it’s in this index!”
  • Deciding what to include/remove (5) “Artefact removed for inclusion in PAW personal collection”
  • Notes about where items originated (6) “The Quick Reference Card was included in Nov2018 when I found it inside the WGEM starter pack”
  • Notes about what version is filed (8) “This Aug86 version must have replaced an earlier version in my collection”
  • Notes about artefacts (6) “Specified this as an artefact at this late date because it’s the first issue I have in this new format”
  • Notes about cross-references in the collection (7) “See also PAW/DOC/0110/145”
  • Notes about duplicates in the collection (87) “Some of these documents are duplicated in PAW/DOC/7971/01”
  • Notes about Archiving (6) “This was in an archive box but archive status had not been specified in the Movement field”
  • Comments on Reference Number (16) “This document has the number PAW/DOC/0005/03 at the top – but that number is for something else”
  • Comments on Title field (9) “Inserted the info about the abstract when I was scanning because there was no reference to it in the title”
  • Comments on Creation date (12) “Don’t understand how the date on this paper is 1986 but the record was created in 1984”
  • Comments on Publication date (3) “2019 properties of the word doc say this was modified on 31May1985 so this was probably the publication date”
  • Comments on Movement field (10) “Don’t know why this says it was scanned and paper destroyed in 2004 – in Feb 2006 there was a full envelope of material in the box”
  • Losing/deleting index information (4) “I deleted the title text of this accidentally when scanning so this is a replacement title text”
  • Lost or misplaced documents (17) “Found the electronic version of this filed in FISH under PAW/DOC/4052/01”
  • Relationship with Personal files (8) “I found these PAW/DOC papers in one of my personal home files”
  • Notes about physical characteristics of items (17) “This printout had almost completely faded so it was a challenge to see if the scanner would bring the text to light – and it didn’t do a bad job!”
  • Notes about disks in the collection (6) “This included a disk containing a DOS version of the ITSforGKProposal”
  • Management of the FISH DMS (8) “This seemed very necessary at the time when disk space was short – and very complicated. Now in 2006 with 40Gb on my PC it doesn’t seem to be an imperative at all”
  • File formats & Digital Preservation (7) “No longer able to read the floppy disk when it came to take this material out of archive to scan it in 2006”
  • Notes about loading electronic files to FISH (17) “The Word version doesn’t have the appendices so I PDF’d the Word version and then scanned the appendix pages from the hardcopy. Unfortunately, the pagination of the Word document is slightly different from that of the hardcopy – but the words are all the same”
  • Notes about Scans and Scanning (49) “These pages were too thick to go through the duplex scanning process so I had to do one side first and then the other side”.

Conclusions

No great revelations have emerged from this investigation. However, its clear that reviewing old material in this way provides an opportunity to reflect, and perhaps to rediscover potentially useful material. These are luxuries that are hard to come by amidst the pace of modern life. Whether such activities actually provide any tangible benefits is hard to say: I can’t remember if any of the rediscovered documents made a difference in my subsequent assignments; and the benefits of reflection are difficult to pin down at the best of times (though I personally feel it is always worthwhile).

The one practical finding that has emerged from this exercise is that there are significant advantages in being able to quickly and easily annotate a filing index with any relevant additional information, be that extra detail about content, or factual information about the way that content has been filed. The former augments the information provided by the filing system, and the latter assists in its smooth operation. In fact, the latter is more than a mere nicety. My experience has shown that, as this type of personal filing system grows and ages, the number of imperfections it possesses increases substantially. The long list above of sub-categories of ‘Filing, indexing and scanning activities‘, and their associated examples, provides an indication of the range of issues that can arise. Having the ability to quickly note details of those issues in a place where they are likely to be immediately visible to the user, is of great benefit.

Pandemic constrained Plans

The second of our investigations involved me marking up 19 documents on which I had previously placed sidebars next to parts of the text between 22 and 39 years ago. This was completed in August last year, and, since then, we’ve been analysing the results. My collaborator, Peter Tolmie, made a numerical assessment of the match between my mark-up of the original and my new mark-up; and I reviewed my original and new mark-ups and documented my comments on what I had done. We then recorded a one-hour video conference in which we discussed what had occurred with three of the documents – we had no time to discuss any more because such a wide variety of general points emerged from this conversation. The recording was processed through the Otter transcription service from which a written transcript of the session was produced. Peter is now planning to produce an overall interim report on our findings to date.

Our original plan (documented in the post for 10th August 2019) involved undertaking a further similar investigation of mark-ups on documents; but this time conducted in the form of a face-to-face interview in order to be able to examine the reasoning for what is marked up in greater detail, and to discuss the findings of the previous two investigations. However, the pandemic has interrupted these plans. We still feel this final investigation is worthwhile undertaking if and when travel restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, however, the Otter transcript and the interim report Peter plans to produce, will be the primary outputs from which we hope to be able to summarise some hard and fast findings in a post later this year.

The Gallery Debut

The Trophy Gallery that I’ve created consists of some 150 Thumbnails representing 67 Publications, 97 Reports and 42 Awards & Certificates. They were assembled in a single Powerpoint Slide of custom size 30 x 88 cm – the size of the frame that they were to be mounted in. To print it, I split the slide into two and printed each one out at different ends of a sheet of paper of width 30.2 cm (the maximum physical width my A3 printer would take) and length 86.2 cm (twice the paper length permitted by the printer software). It took a little trial and error but I eventually was able to adjust the position of the contents of each slide so they joined up satisfactorily. The print was then placed in the frame, and the frame fixed to a place on my study wall where it is easy to see the thumbnails and to read the relevant numbers.

The end result does look reasonably presentable and is certainly accessible. The accompanying numbered electronic files are all in the SideBooks app in my iPad as shown below.

I have now packed up the Publications and Reports taking space on my bookshelf. They are all in a case and stored away in the loft.

I have to say, I did feel a tinge of sadness as I took the volumes off the shelf and put them into the suitcase – after all they not only represent some of my achievements, they are also old friends that have been with me for many years, and that remind me of times past. I think I’m unlikely to see them again. The next time they see the light of day may well be when my nearest and dearest have to decide what to do with them. Of course, this isn’t anything particularly new – no doubt there have been millions of relatives in the past who have been presented with such a dilemma (it IS a dilemma because such material is massively uninteresting to the vast majority of the population). However, something has changed: the rock solid undisturbability of those volumes on the bookshelf has been breached by the IT hurricane, and their essence can be reproduced in other ways. Authors, Owners, and Recipients, all have other options, which may, in turn, give rise to other interests, motivations, and desires.

I must confess that I was too timid to take the ultimate step of banishing the books I’ve had published, to the loft. I retained those select nine volumes to still sit on my physical bookshelves and proclaim to myself and the world that I made a tiny contribution to the development of our race’s awareness and understanding of the universe and our place within it.

With the physical items stored away, I’m going to give myself about a year to see how I get on with my Electronic Trophy Gallery. I’ll be reporting my verdict here towards the end of the year.

Designing and Assembling the Gallery

I started this journey off with the idea of having a numbered list of the trophies down the middle of a page surrounded by equivalently numbered thumbnails of one or more of the following for each trophy: Publication cover, First page, Place of creation/achievement, Associated people, Topic. However, I soon realised that not only was there insufficient space for lists and extra thumbnails, but that actually they were superfluous. All I needed was a single thumbnail to remind me of a particular achievement and a number to enable me to access the associated file.

I experimented with thumbnails of longest side 3, 2.5, and 2.3 cm; but ended up with 2.2 cm because of the limited space that I had. However, that size seems to be quite adequate, as does the 12 point font size that I used for the numbers latched onto each thumbnail. I think they’ll be plenty big enough to be able to discern when the Gallery is on the wall.

Choosing the thumbnails was sometimes easy, as in the case of a cover of a book or a photo of a swivelling workstation that I designed; but sometimes it was very difficult – especially for reports on esoteric subjects with first pages comprising entirely of small text, for example, the X500 Schema document. In those cases I resorted to overlaying some Text Headings in large bold font on the front pages; and, in three instances, I just put large coloured text in a box (for example, ‘Radii Lessons’). In some cases, it seemed appropriate to represent two or more items with a single thumbnail, and in these cases I placed all the related numbers around the edge of the thumbnail. All of these approaches seem to produce usable results.

The contents of the Gallery are in three parts – Publications (67 items), Reports (97 items), and Awards & Certificates (42 items). The Publications were self-selecting – if I’d had something published it was on my publications list. The choice of reports, however, was at my own discretion. At the time when I selected them from my archive of work documents, I’d been looking for significant pieces of work. However, about a year later I had produced a book of my IT experiences in which I had included supporting images, which must have given me different perspectives on some of the material. Consequently, when I came to assemble the reports section of the Trophy Gallery, I was surprised that some of my original selections either didn’t seem worthwhile including or that some things which I thought should have been included were missing. I guess it just goes to show that the things we choose to focus on and the stories we tell can vary hugely depending on our motivations and accumulated experiences at any one time.

Assembling the Awards & Certificates was a different experience again. For a start, they were all over the place – photos of trophies I’d thrown away, certificates in envelopes in drawers, items indexed in sets of mementos, and engraved glass tankards in kitchen cupboards. They were also different because many were very old from my childhood, and I’m sure several were just missing (for example the china lamb that I got in primary school for my Times Table, and that I think I must have sold off in my train trunk in my late twenties – a great shame). So, I made no attempt to create a definitive list – I just assembled the ones’ that I could lay my hands on quickly. Perhaps that was fortunate because even the subset I assembled seemed somehow very trivial, and I felt embarrassed to include some of the items. Is the bronze swimming personal survival certificate I got when I was 14 really a substantial achievement to be celebrated? Does the Certificate for coming second in the Intermediate Boys High Jump at the North East Derbyshire Inter-Schools Championships celebrate my athletic capabilities?

In fact, going through them made me realise that I’d never been the outstanding performer that I imagined I had been. Nevertheless, they do testify to the fact that I did DO things. The Trophy Gallery is primarily for me, and these are things I can be reminded of. They are all as relevant as each other because they are all true and have a slot in the jigsaw puzzle of my life.

Despite my misgivings about missing and trivial items, the overall assembly of Publication, Report, and Awards/Certificate thumbnails makes for a very crowded assortment of small images on two A3 pages. I suspect that, once the display is framed and on the wall, quantity is going to be more apparent than quality.

Feelings about Achievements

The Electronic Bookshelf and Electronic Story Board expeditions enabled me to eliminate most of the physical books that were no longer central to my interests. However, there is still one set that is taking up precious bookcase space in my study – the originals of my publications and reports. They are rarely accessed, but I do value them as physical testimonies to my achievements, and I’m not prepared to destroy them and be left with just their virtual equivalents. So, I’ve concluded that I would be happy to have them safely packed up and stored in a box in the loft, provided that I can install some physical reminder of them and that I am able to access their contents electronically.

My current thoughts about how I would do this entail listing the numbered items down the middle of a page and surrounding them with numbered thumbnails of any or all of the following elements which apply to each item:

  • Cover of the publication
  • First Page of the paper, article or report
  • Photo of the place it was created or delivered
  • Photo of any person(s) strongly associated with it
  • The Topic in abbreviated words and/or photos

This should enable the viewer to go from a surrounding thumbnail to the relevant item on the central list. A correspondingly numbered PDF will be provided to enable the viewer to look at the full contents on either the iPad or the Laptop.

While trying to think of an appropriate name for this journey, I came to realise that, in a way, these publications and reports are trophies of my work achievements. However, from that perspective, I realised that I have other physical items which represent other types of achievements – Cups and Tankards for my athletic successes; and Certificates for academic and other types of achievements. So, I decided to combine these other types of physical objects with my publications and reports in a single overall journey to explore the Electronic Trophy Gallery.

I already have complete lists of my Publications and Reports, and all the associated PDFs. So, my first task will be to come up with an equivalent list and associated PDFs of my cups, certificates etc.  Then it will be a matter of going through all the items to identify appropriate thumbnails. I currently envisage arranging all this material on a vertical page and mounting it in a 32x90cm frame which is currently unused in the loft and which will conveniently fit in one of the few available spaces in my study walls. Whether this approach will be viable, usable and useful has yet to be established.