So for those who have been following on, Roy Metcalfe provided me with photos (available here) of the 1968 BR1 Catalogue. Quite honestly, this has been a torturous process. There’s something like 109 pages to get through (and I’m only on page 15 or so).
Let’s have a look at what we’re dealing with.
and for comparison, here is a screenshot of the spreadsheet (actually, it’ll be a CSV), that I’m transcribing to.
I will admit, I have been slightly scarred by the process I went through with the ADM8 Database. Specifically, the way that I’ve redesigned the database *twice* in order to fix surprises that I’ve found as my friend Larry and I have been doing the transcription of the documents. (In truth, Larry’s been doing the transcription, I’ve been doing the coding and checking and other things). One of the issues is we’ve had to change the transcription interface a few times, in order to make it work. Mostly because I didn’t read through the entire series of documents first to make sure there wouldn’t be any surprises. You’d think I’d learn from that mistake.
Well, not so much. Thankfully, the issues are going to be more limited since this time I will actually be transcribing everything before I create the database. So hopefully I’ll avoid some of the mistakes there. I also intend to transcribe the 1970 and 1972 versions as well.. so, well, first contact with the enemy and all that. We’ll see what happens.
But as I’ve been going through this process, some realizations have come down. I was going to talk about a list of issues, but I’ve realized.. those details don’t really matter. It’ll be better to talk about approach, philosophy, and flexibility.
These are the things that are needed when doing manuscript transcription projects and you realize that:
The manuscript you’re transcribing will have mistakes, and inconsistencies. These will muck up your ideal system. That’s okay. And you should include the mistakes when possible, and flag them when possible.
For me, for this project the big one is that the Admiralty is not consistent in the way that BR numbers are assigned. The BR number is often followed numbers in parentheses. These could be volume numbers, or part numbers. Sometimes, Volume is in the “main” title, and the bracketed numbers are parts. Sometimes there are amendments, which are notated differently. Sometimes the BR numbers are accompanied by letters. Sometimes there is a combination of numbers and letters. The one that really gets me, frankly, is when it’s say BR 217 (3)(A) and then title is XYZAB Pt 1 Some Title – so you have that mix of things and it’s just inconsistent and I wish somebody who was neurospicy like me had been able to exert some kind of influence- some kind of consistency.
One of the issues is that a database- to get the full use out of the structure of the database and the possibilities of queries, it’s important to get as much data out of each and every single entry as possible. And then you want to make sure that you’re able to differentiate between volume numbers, part numbers, amendment numbers so that you can easily pull all the records, and be able to easily differentiate between the different categories. The problem is that sometimes, it is not clear from the records what is what. But that’s an ongoing issue and the truth is things can be fixed if there is later clarification, even in a live database (thankfully for the ADM8 Database, it’s always possible to go back and fix mistakes)
As a person who is neurospicy, I find this extremely frustrating. So much so that I have to put things down sometimes, and just change the spreadsheet on the fly. My hope is by the time that I’ve finished transcribing the 1968 one, that the framework will have settled down and that the uploading to the database will be relatively straight forward- hence when I’ve got the suffix column and I’m trying not to worry about volume number sometimes.
Now, just a few other updates.
First of all, thank you to Clive Richards, who has been able to sort me out re: RAF and Army frameworks for publishing documents. The short version is: the RAF basically had a system very similar to the RN.
AP – Air Publications- which by the 1950s had both unrestricted and Restricted volumes. Thre were also the SD and CD levels- which I’m guessing correspond to the Admiralty’s CB (Confidential Books) and SP (no idea) levels. I’ve had a rummage through the Discovery (Kew) Catalogue, and while I’ve not been able to have much of a look yet- there are some things that can help me put together some kind of context for the Admiralty’s publications based on what I’ve seen also in the search results for OU and BR holdings. Another tidbit from Clive is that just after the FWW, the RAF also had the FS series- which he described as “Inherited from the Army”. This has led to another search. Likewise, Clive mentioned the existence of WO 279 “Confidential Print”. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what the War Office/Army used to denote their lower or higher levels of confidentiality, but it’s a good start. I fully intend to email the National Army Museum and the RAF Museum to see if I can get some basic numbers from them. It turns out the AP Catalogue (Air Publications) are held at Kew, so I’m probably going to pay for somebody to take photos of that for me as well, to do the comparisons. And more comparisons.
Also, I have now found out that Kew holds two further BR1 catalogues- 1970 and 1972. I have made the insane decision to get somebody to take photos for me and I’m going to transcribe them into the database as well (this really makes the database worth it) and we’ll be able to chart differences over that 4-6 years.