History of English Language Assessment. Archives in context and as context. Database structure. The British Council
Archives in context and as context
The British Council
The British Council is the UK's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. Established in 1934 the Council’s remit is to "build mutually beneficial cultural and educational relationships between the United Kingdom and other countries, and increase appreciation of the United Kingdom’s creative ideas and achievements”.
Online Archival Sustainability
Many archival institutions have information online about their archival holdings usually in the form of an online catalogue. This provides the opportunity for projects such as ours to create an archival network linking related records across a number of repositories. This is hugely beneficial for researchers, as it creates a central access point to relevant information. It also has the potential to benefit the archival community through cooperative documentation of record holdings.
However a massive obstacle to the sustainability of this approach is the longevity of the online archival descriptions that the project links to. There is a critical lack of persistent, citable URLs to online catalogue descriptions. For example many of the URLS found in the course of this project have been the product of a search query. When institutions redesign their website or migrate to newer systems, links to archival content is lost .
Archival institutions need to take responsibility for their online data in order to enable the huge opportunities the Web provides for archival networks and enhanced research infrastructure.
About the project
This project aims to explore the history of the British Council’s involvement in English language testing in the 75 year period between the signing of an agreement with Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate in 1941 and the culmination of this project in 2016. In documenting this history the project is expected to contribute significantly to the reputation of the British Council as an authority in English language assessment.
Contextual entities including corporate bodies, and people are described in accordance with ISAAR (CPF). The database can turn this content into static html pages which are encyclopaedic in style, such as this example from the Encyclopaedia of Australian Science. Each page includes structured biographical information about each entity and links to related content. The database can also export data using the EAC XML-Schema.
One of the main objectives of this project is to gain intellectual control of those records not in the Council’s physical custody. The project aims to achieve this by amalgamating descriptions of all relevant records in an offline database as well as a public facing website. These records will be enriched by placing them in a network of interrelated content which includes information about relevant people, organisations, projects and events. In addition to historical records the website also includes bibliographical references, images, digitised archives and links to other online resources. This resource differs from traditional catalogues and finding aids by presenting archival material both in context and as context.
History of Assessment Project Team, January 2014