A new Archive catalogue for a new era

This week marks a special time for the Special Collections at the University of Southampton, as we launch our new integrated Archive Catalogue. We have worked with the Metadatis, the team that created Epexio, to deliver an archival discovery platform that brings together for the first time all catalogue descriptions of the archive collections in one online system.

Home page of Archive Catalogue

Before looking forward, however, it is perhaps appropriate to look back and consider Southampton’s long involvement in automated archive catalogues. The Wellington Papers Database marked the first foray into computerised cataloguing and it could claim to be one of, if the not the earliest, online archive catalogue in the UK. Investigations into a system to support this were already underway in December 1982, prior to the arrival of the papers of the first Duke of Wellington at Southampton in March 1983. In July 1983 the University decided to develop a manuscript cataloguing system using STATUS software and it was in use for cataloguing material early the following year. The cataloguing was done “offline” by the archivists on BBC microcomputers equipped with rudimentary word-processing packages – but no memory – all text was saved onto floppy discs. It was subsequently transferred to an ICL mainframe computer for incorporation into the database by batch programme. This being the days prior to the WWW, the initial database was made available by the Joint Academic Network (JANET) and the public switched telephone network. It was initially scheduled to be made available 156 hours a week, rising to 168. How times have changed!

Cataloguing of the Wellington Papers mid-1980s using a BBC microcomputer

The introduction of the new Epexio Archive Catalogue marks the most significant change of all for the online archive catalogues at Southampton. Drawing together and replacing the databases that Southampton has hosted via a website since the 1990s – a Guide to the Archives and Manuscripts, the Wellington Papers Database, the Mountbatten Papers Database and the Palmerston Papers Database – it is an integrated system that includes catalogue descriptions of all collections across the hierarchical structure of archival records. The Archive Catalogue enables keyword searches across the breadth of the archive holdings and the archive descriptions, allowing you to delve deep into the fine detail of a collection.

For anyone interested in just gaining an overall idea of what sort of material we hold, then the Browse collections feature is for you, offering a great introduction to our collections.

And if you wish to look at some of the significant holdings of archive, then why not look at the Featured collections.

To coincide with the launch of the Archive Catalogue we have produced a short series of four films:

Introduction to the Epexio Archive Catalogue https://youtu.be/rzHDJ3FurZA

Archives and their catalogue structure using the Epexio Archive Catalogue https://youtu.be/8YGn9wjEUsA

Search the Epexio Archive Catalogue  https://youtu.be/iCc6qoKWwo0

Features and functionality of the Epexio Archive Catalogue  https://youtu.be/gCEHNq8HUaU

So do check out the introductory films and most of all enjoy searching the richness and breadth of the archive holdings at Southampton. We would welcome to hear how you get on. Please send any feedback to Archives@soton.ac.uk.

One response to “A new Archive catalogue for a new era

  1. Pingback: 2021 – a year in review | University of Southampton Special Collections

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