Here, you’ll find various resources to support your Pararchive research project (click on the titles to link through to the related pages).  These resources include existing digital archival sites and material, examples of digital storytelling (though, please don’t let these limit how you want to tell your own tales!), and material on copyright and sharing.  If you come across any other resources (this is a collection that will keep growing!), then please do share them with us.

Archival resources

BBC’s World Service radio archive

BBC World Service

“BBC Research & Development is running an experiment with the BBC’s World Service radio archive to demonstrate how to put large media archives online using a combination of algorithms and people.  With your help we aim to comprehensively and accurately tag this collection of BBC programmes.

The prototype website includes over 50,000 English-language radio programmes from the BBC World Service radio archive spanning the past 45 years, which have all been categorised by a machine. You can explore the archive, listen to the programmes and help improve it by validating and adding tags.

Some of the audio for programmes is not available to listen to because the BBC does not retain a copy of the programme in its archives or because of rights considerations.”

The British Council Film Collection

The British Council Film Collection is an archive of 120 short documentary films made by the British Council during the 1940s designed to show the world how Britain lived, worked and played. Preserved by the BFI National Film Archive and digitised by means of a generous donation by Google, the films are now yours to view, to download and to play with for the first time.

The resource also includes ‘trivia, photos, and screen grabs, as well as the original synopses’, plus ‘Case Studies‘ and ‘Essays‘ by those involved in the preservation and digitisation project.  Remarkably, and in contrast to many of the digital archival resources listed here, the British Council is actively encouraging us to download and play with its documentary footage.  110 films are available under a Creative Commons ‘Attribution-Non-Commercial’ licence, which means that users can do what they like with them, as long as the British Council is attributed and the purpose is non-commerical.

The British Council observes that:

Digitisation isn’t a replacement to archiving, but a means to provide anyone around the world with unlimited access to films that need great attention and care. With digital technologies and ever-wider internet access and faster speeds, it means that we can both protect the original film stock whilst providing the public with 24-hour worldwide unlimited access.

The British Council is currently running a competition – View from Here – which invites users to repurpose the films, ‘to use [them] to tell us another story about Britain – or about your own country – now.’  The website includes a useful links to film-making resources.  The competition closes on Friday 29 August, so you’ve still got time…

British Library Images

We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images to us, allowing us to release them back into the Public Domain.

The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.”

See the British Library’s ‘Highlights from the Mechanical Curator’11234482436_058a59eaa6_n, and here is a lovely Yorkshire-related image from its set (from page 5 of John Leyland’s Wensleydale and Swaledale Guide … Illustrated (1896)).


British Pathé on Youtube

Back in April 2014, British Pathé made its entire film archive – a whopping 85,000 films (3, 500 hours) – available via its Youtube Channel.  This impressive feat of digitisation has won it accolades, and was, it says, ‘part of a drive to make the archive more accessible to viewers all over the world’.  This archive includes news and entertainment footage – newsreels, serials and films – and spans the years 1896-1976.  It uses a simple word search tool, which worked well during my trawls.

For the average user (i.e. not a verified producer, someone affiliated to an educational institution with a subscription or a museum professional), British Pathé’s content is only viewable and searchable; if you want to download the content, you need to click through to its website and pay (c.£30 a clip, or c.£20 a still), where it also reminds you that: ‘All purchased clips are FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY and cannot be published or used on the worldwide web.’  The streamed content can be shared via the usual social media routes: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc, and users are able to keep a store of ‘Favourites’ as well as filing others in various ‘Workspaces’.  These Workspaces are then available to other users – a peer-produced cataloguing system (though, it’s not clear who writes the blurbs for the films).  If you search for ‘Bute’ my collection of 13 films will show up.  Despite the limitations of (re)use, this is a rich cache of content that will hopefully prove of interest or inspiration to our various Pararchive projects.

British Photographic History Blog

British photographic History

The British photographic history blog was launched at the start of 2009 by Dr Michael Pritchard.  “The blog,” he writes, “provides a forum for news of events and happenings within the British photographic history community. This can include lectures or meetings, exhibition news, jobs and general news affecting collections of photographic material or individuals within the field.”

Connected Communities Media Collection

The Collection brings together community media from Connected Communities projects across the UK. It is a resource for academic researchers, community groups and the general public to better understand the changing nature of communities and the role communities play in sustaining and enhancing quality of life.

Connected Communities Media Collection


Europeana is an internet portal that provides access to millions of books, paintings, films, museum objects and archival records that have been digitised from across Europe.  More than 2000 heritage institutions have donated material to Europeana, including the British Library.  The platform is run (non-commercially) by The Europeana Foundation.  Europeana is a linking site, which means the digitised media is housed by the donating institutions, and what you see on the platform is just a small image, plus contextual information.  If you register with the site, you can create your own space – ‘My Europeana’.  And, if you find something you want to use, then, you can: “Download it, print it, use it, save it, share it, play with it, love it!” (though some contributing institutions do retain their copyright, so check what you are able to do before sharing images).

Europeana includes a number of websites, including its recently relaunched Europeana 1914-1918 , which “now brings together resources from three major European projects each dealing with different types of First World War material. That means that national collections from libraries now sit alongside personal stories and treasures as well as important film archives. Together, this creates a unique perspective of the First World War, showing it from every side of the battle lines and with insights from every point of view.”

European Collected Library of Artistic Performance (ECLAP)

ECLAP is an online archive for all the performing arts in Europe.  It provides “solutions and tools to help performing arts institutions to enter the digital Europe by building a network of important European performing arts institutions and archives and publishing content collections on Europeana, the European Digital Library.”

Getty Images

In early March 2014, Getty Images announced that it was making 35 million images free for use on social media sites.  It has created an ‘embed tool‘ that allows you to share images on sites like Twitter or Tumblr; these images cannot be re-sized and will include a Getty Images logo, plus an attribution to the photographer (see IBL Bildbyra/Heritage Images’ 1947 photo above of ‘Evaporated milk in barrels for export on the quayside’ in Malmö, Sweden).  The BBC notes of Getty’s move:

In essence, it is admitting defeat. By offering the ability to embed photos, Getty is saying it cannot effectively police the use of its images in every nook and cranny of the internet.

Plenty of photographer’s were understandably not so pleased, and it remains to be seen what move Getty will now make to monetise this content.  Any commercial users of Getty’s catalogue will continue to be charged.

Internet Archive

“The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library. Its purposes include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.

Founded in 1996 and located in San Francisco, the Archive has been receiving data donations from Alexa Internet and others. In late 1999, the organization started to grow to include more well-rounded collections. Now the Internet Archive includes: texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages in our collections, and provides specialized services for adaptive reading and information access for the blind and other persons with disabilities.”

LeodisA Photographic Archive of Leeds

According to the Leeds Library & Information Service, Leodis is a searchable photographic archive containing over 59,000 images of Leeds – both old and new. The oldest images date from as early as 1690 to the present day, and can be searched by location, date, keyword, collection and image type, together with collections from West Yorkshire Archives Service, the Thoresby Society, the Civic Trust and Leeds Museums and Galleries. Leodis is reported to have been successful in making the photographic heritage of Leeds accessible to people across the world, as well as being instrumental in the preservation of this original material through the digitisation.

Leodis-A Photographic Archive of Leeds

Manchester District Music Archive

MDMArchive is a user-led online archive established to celebrate Greater Manchester music and its related social history.  Its archive currently contains 3090 bands, 553 DJs, 1027 venues and 9564 artefacts contributed by 2810 members.  While there are lots of great images and clips here, copyright is held by MDMArchive or licensors, and any reuse of content beyond the website itself is currently prohibited.  Nonetheless, this is a great place to start researching Greater Manchester’s rich cultural heritage.  Moreover, what the site does allow is for you to curate your own online exhibition within its pages as a MDMArchive member, which includes drawing on other members’ artefacts.  Once your exhibition’s complete you can share it on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.  Check out ‘Queer Noise’ by Abigail here.

National Archives

The National Archives is a government department and an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. We incorporate the Office of Public Sector Information and Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. We also perform the Historical Manuscripts Commission’s functions in relation to private records.

As the government’s national archive for England, Wales and the United Kingdom, we hold over 1,000 years of the nation’s records for everyone to discover and use.

While the National Archive is a helpful site for locating records, and has a wealth of online material (despite only 5% of its holdings being digitised), its digital content is predominantly not free to download and re-use.  You can search its Discovery catalogue which includes all records, as well as its Image Library, though note that, again, this is a commercial facet of the National Archive.

A search for ‘Rothesay’ in the Image Library brings up an image titled ‘Dobbie’s International Prize Leek, Rothesay‘ (1895) plus various vistas of the town, while using ‘Bute’ brings up one for Bute Tea.

Using the ‘Search our website’ tool, a ‘Noor Inayat Khan’ request produces an educational pack, comprising related records, about the spy and children’s writer.

Finally, there is an easy to use and helpful set of links taking you through starting your research in the National Archives, including a page on ‘What are archives?‘, which is a question that keeps cropping up.

From Jane Austen’s will, courtesy of the National Archive.

National Media Museum, Bradford

“The National Media Museum is home to over 3.5 million items of historical and cultural significance, and our diverse Collection encompasses some of the finest and most compelling visual material to be found anywhere in the world.

Amongst the Collection are three pivotal firsts – the world’s earliest known surviving negative, the earliest television footage and the camera that made the earliest moving pictures in Britain.

Choose from the National Photography, National Cinematography, National Television and National New Media Collections to explore an online selection of artefacts.”

Like the British Library, the National Media Museum shares photos on Flickr Commons.  Courtesy of NMM, here is Francis Bedford’s ‘The Bute Docks, with Shipping’ (c.1880):

Bute Dockyards bigger

The National Screen and Sound Archive, Wales

The Archive is home to a comprehensive and unrivaled collection of films, television programmes, videos, sound and music recordings relating to Wales and the Welsh. […] The Archive was established in 2001, when the Wales Film and Television Archive was merged with the National Library of Wales’ Sound and Moving Image Collection.

There are a few clips available to view, and which give a taster of the sort of material that is available.  None of these can be shared.  Additionally, a range of interviews with Welsh sporting luminaries are available via the Wales Video Gallery.  Again, these can’t be shared.

A word search for ‘Bute’ doesn’t raise anything in digital format (but there’s lots of material featuring David Lloyd George).

Science Museum, London

Museum Objects: “We curate over 200,000 objects, preserving them for the nation’s heritage.  You can browse a selection of our objects below, arranged by gallery. You can also read stories about our collections on our blog Stories from the Stores or add your memories and knowledge to our Object Wiki.”

Here, we have one such Museum Object, a Massey-Fergusson Type 780 combine harvester, 1953-1962. Registration number J 3162 C. Made by Massey Ferguson at their factory in Kilmarnock, Scotland.

Science & Society Picture Library

The Science and Society Picture Library represent the visual content of the National Museums of Science and Industry. Our trio of museums are London’s Science Museum, the National Railway Museum and the National Media Museum.

This is the commercial arm of the Science Museum Group, which means that whilst this is an easy way to search for images from our partner institutions, anything you do find can’t be copied or reused.  What it does offer is a ‘Lightbox’ feature, which allows you to collect the images you’re interested in, and then email them to yourself (or someone else) or print them off.  Some of the images found here, however, do feature elsewhere on the web, on more open sites.  For instance, the National Media Museum’s Flickr Commons Stream provides greater access to images, such as those from Julia Margaret Cameron‘s photograph album (compiled for her son), including one of the (truly striking) series she did of the astronomer, Sir John Herschel:

John Frederick William Herschel, 1867

(Click on the image, and it takes you through to the National Media Museum’s Flickr Commons Stream.)


“ScotlandsPlaces is a website that allows users to search across different national databases using geographic locations. The user is able to enter a place name or a coordinate to search across these collections or they can use the mapping in the website to both define and refine their search. The results pages provide the data relevant to the search conducted, from each of the project partners. These partners currently include:

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS)

The National Records of Scotland (NRS)

The National Library of Scotland (NLS)

with support from School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Government.”

Scotland on Screen

Scotland on Screen is an exciting educational resource that puts hundreds of important historical film texts online, providing students with a rear-view mirror on our society over the past century.

Scotland on Screen

Although developed for teachers, lecturers and their students, Scotland on Screen still provides a great way of exploring and viewing audiovisual resources from the Scottish Screen Archive.  Additionally, you can apply for a login, which, if granted, provides access to the website’s suite of tools for collecting, editing and telling digital stories.  As with the material available via the Scottish Screen Archive re-use beyond the website is prohibited because of copyright restrictions.

See here for ‘Scotland’s first wedding video’, the ‘Wedding of the 4th Marquis of Bute’ (1905).

See here for the films and clips that come up with a ‘Milk’ word search.

‘Twixt Aire and Calder

Did you know that Wakefield

gave rise to one of Britain’s best loved nursery rhymes, ‘Here we go round the Mulberry Bush’: the ‘Bush’ from this rhyme was and still is situated within the walls of Wakefield Prison’s exercise yard. Wakefield’s reputed connection to the tales of Robin Hood stem from George-a-Green, the Pinder of Wakefield, who at first fought with Robin but then joined him and became one of his ‘Merry Men’?

‘Twixt Aire and Calder website, a Big Lottery Fund (previously New Opportunities Fund (NOF)) project, provides access to the Wakefield District’s historic heritage.  It is an “online archive of images of Wakefield and District and related areas [that] shows the diversity of life in our area both past and present.”  The website is published and cared for by Wakefield Council Libraries and comprises a range of memorabilia and ephemera, including photographs, postcards, maps, prints, and posters.

As well as being able to search (via keywords) for digitised images provided by Wakefield Council Libraries, local groups and individuals, you can also take five virtual heritage trails, including ‘Wakefield’s War: Wakefield in the Second World War’.

Like many of the resources discussed here, currently the images compiled in the ‘Twixt Aire and Calder digital archive can only be viewed and/or shared by social media (Twitter and Facebook); the rights are reserved, so further sharing, such as via our own Pararchive resource, is restricted.

Wellcome Images

“Over 100,000 images ranging from ancient medical manuscripts to etchings by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Francisco Goya are now available for free download as hi-res images on our website.

Drawn from the historical holdings of the world-renowned Wellcome Library, the images are being released under the Creative Commons-Attribution only (CC-BY) licence. This means that all the historical images can be downloaded here to freely copy, distribute, edit, manipulate, and build upon as you wish, for personal or commercial use as long as the source Wellcome Library is attributed.”  Here, we have Chadwick’s sanitary map of Leeds, courtesy of the Wellcome Library.  Check out Fiona’s Bute-focused trawl of Wellcome Images.

Your Paintings: Uncovering the nation’s art collection

A joint initiative between the BBC, the Public Catalogue Foundation (a registered charity) and participating collections and museums from across the UK, the Your Paintings website aims to:

show the entire UK national collection of oil paintings, the stories behind the paintings, and where to see them for real. It is made up of paintings from thousands of museums and other public institutions around the country.

As with a lot of online national collections (see, for instance, the BBC’s World Service radio archive and the Smithsonian Collection) the website also encourages crowdsourced data enrichment, inviting us to share our expertise and knowledge through tagging the paintings. The site defines tagging as:

choosing your own words to describe what can be seen in a selection of paintings and classifying paintings in a variety of ways.

Another way we are invited to get involved with the national collection and, again, share any expertise is by becoming an ‘art detective’:

Art Detective aims to improve knowledge of the UK’s public art collection. It is a free-to-use online network that connects public art collections with members of the public and providers of specialist knowledge.

As with a number of the other digital collections we’ve discussed here (such as British Pathé’s), there is a tool – ‘My Paintings’ – that allows you to build your own collection of images, as well as to annotate them.  To use this you need to create an account.  On a more public front, the ‘Guided Tour’ tab allows you to take virtual tours of collections made by public intellectuals, such as Mary Beard, and personalities, such as Penelope Keith.

As for sharing images in digital storytelling and research projects, despite the suggestive title the digitised images are covered by the BBC’s standard terms and conditions, which means that they can’t be reproduced without first seeking the necessary copyright permissions.  We are able to share the images via select social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, but there is no scope for embedding them in other platforms, which is a shame for Pararchive.

Examples of digital storytelling

Andy Turner’s Digital Storytelling Project  

Pararchive history and heritage: A geographical art and industry focus in Leeds

Andy’s googledoc was first drafted in December 2013 following various liaisons and the start of the Pararchive project. Essentially it is based on discussions about storytelling, history, heritage, archive, the built environment and information entropy.  The story begins . . . “In clearing out the attic of 9 Miles Hill Crescent, Leeds, LS2 9JT Andy found some interesting artefacts that he kept and puzzled over.  These became the initiating linkers, opening windows and doors into a complex tangled web of history and intrigue focused in and on the City of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England.”


“Cowbird is a library of human experience.

We are a community of tens of thousands of storytellers, located all over the world. We offer free and simple storytelling tools for anyone to use, combining photos, audio, and text into heartfelt personal vignettes.

We’ve designed Cowbird to reflect the basic truths that all human lives are interconnected, that great stories can come from anywhere, and that we can learn a lot from each other, once we make the time to listen.

This is a place to slow down and go deeper — our mission is to build to world’s first public library of human experience, so the knowledge and wisdom we accumulate as individuals may live on as a part of the commons, available for this and future generations to look to for guidance.”

For more on Cowbird and its founder see: Imran on ‘Jonathan Harris on Navigating Stuckness‘.


Launched in 2008, the two-year project was:

based in North East England collecting digital stories from people across the region. Over 550 people have engaged in digital storytelling workshops to create their own personal digital stories, learned skills in IT, creative writing and communication and taken part in group dialogue and discussion with one another.

As its subtitle – Digital Stories by people in the North East, Inspired by Museums and Galleries – suggests, it was an effort to encourage engagement with cultural institutions.

Digi Tales – Digital storytelling

“DigiTales is a digital storytelling project involving people from across Europe making short films about their lives.

The DigiTales method works with people to develop story ideas through story circles, drama, photography, drawing, music, video clips and narrative. They learn how to write a script, edit photos and drawings, and make them into a two minute film, which is, with their permission, posted onto the DigiTales website: personal stories across nations are exhibited and exchanged and, as the site grows, a patchwork-quilt of personal moments builds to create an evolving picture of diverse populations in Europe and beyond.”


“Historypin is a way for millions of people to come together, from across different generations, cultures and places, to share small glimpses of the past and to build up the huge story of human history.

Everyone has history to share: whether its sitting in yellowed albums in the attic, collected in piles of crackly tapes, conserved in the 1000s of archives all over the world or passed down in memories and old stories.

Each of these pieces of history finds a home on Historypin, where everyone has the chance to see it, add to it, learn from it, debate it and use it to build up a more complete understanding of the world.”

Lives of the First World War

To mark the centenary, the Imperial War Museum (IWM) is creating Lives of the First World War, what it calls a ‘permanent digital memorial to all of the lives of the first world war’.  According to the IWM, this

innovative digital platform will bring fascinating records from museums, libraries, and archives across the world together in one place.

IWM invites everyone to participate in making the links – you can ‘enrich’ the material by uploading your own digital images and including family stories as ‘personal knowledge’: ‘You can keep your precious mementoes and share the images with the world.’ Unlike the Pararchive resource, however, this platform is firmly rooted within an institution, so it will be interesting to see what IWM, and other institutions, share when the site launches on the 12 May.


Storehouse is a new visual storytelling app for iPad.  Check out Simon’s story, and Imran’s thoughts.