Unlocking Archives - Online Tools

Harold Macmillan
Unlocking Archives, the unique collaboration between SEGfL, The National Archives, British Film Institute and English Heritage, has launched leading edge applications as part of its new 2009 education website.

Interactive history resources authored by Ben Walsh, leading ICT and history specialist sit alongside a powerful online set of tools allowing pupils to select audio and visual archive assets and drag and reorder them until they have created their own presentations. At the heart of the process is a powerful editing tool designed specifically for the project. It uses drag and drop techniques to repurpose selections from thousands of film, photographic and document records but also allows uploading of pupils? own stills, video and sound files. The edited results may be replayed or stored online to share with others or exported in a variety of file types to include in schools VLEs and pupil?s presentations. The development of these latest web 2 tools has been supported by Becta and they represent an exciting opportunity to use materials from the nations top archives not only in history but in school and home based projects across a range of curriculum areas.

Andrew Payne, Head of Education at The National Archives said: "This really is an exciting collaboration for us as it opens up access to 3 unique collections for teachers and students and provides them with an engaging, interactive, online environment in which to work with original archival material to create their own activities, interpretations and project work."
Ben Walsh, (history and ICT consultant to the project), writes: Archives are the places where we hold our history, our culture, our heritage ? our very identity is locked up in those vaults! Archives provide access into the distant world of the past but also shine light on the world as it is today.
They are not simply collections of documents, films and images. They are living records of attitudes, values, dilemmas, crises, terrible disasters and stunning achievements. They are places which hold millions of human stories of war, famine, immigration and emigration, revolution and upheaval, but also stories of everyday people doing everyday things and living their lives in normal ways.
They are particularly powerful when they are used in combination. A mix of government document, film record and photographic evidence can provide a breadth of perspective which the individual sources alone cannot achieve. How do we access these archives?
Archives are not the fusty and dusty old places which some people think they are. You can visit your local archives but you can also access their collections through cutting edge technologies.
You can access a wide range of material from the National Archives through its award winning web site, the Learning Curve. You can also book online videoconferences and virtual classroom sessions, including the chance to chat to a World War 1 Tommy!

The British Film Institute?s Screenonline web site offers a huge collection of film clips and authoritative commentaries to go with them. Whether you are looking for original footage from the trenches, the Jarrow March, popular entertainment in the 1950s or examples of how the past has been represented by film makers throughout the 20th and 21st centuries you can find them all at Screenonline.

English Heritage?s Heritage Explorer offers you the chance to explore the country. Its huge collection of photographs can bring back people and places for students to examine in detail and use in their own presentations and assignments. There are more images than you could possibly use, organised into helpful categories and supported by engaging activities.

Poppy Simpson, Education Online Developer, BFI said: ?Unlocking Archives has enormous potential to engage and inspire learners both inside and outside the classroom by providing an online space where they can make meaningful connections between a fascinatingly diverse range of rarely-seen films, documents and images.?
Footnote from English Heritage: "Archives at your fingertips! Unlocking Archives provides teachers and learners with cutting edge tools to use with images from English Heritage's Heritage Explorer website alongside material from The National Archives and BFI"

NB. The new website prototype was demonstrated at BETT 2009 and new resources are being added daily.