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February 19 2019


The personal story of Holocaust survivor John Dobai

John Dobai was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1934. To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, John delivered a talk at The National Archives on 25 January 2019 about his personal story and the plight of Hungarian Jews.

July 27 2018


Historic Encryption Protocols disabled

Very recently we revisited the configuration of our infrastructure, did some upgrades, and put old/new settings to the test. TLS v1.0 and v1.1 is officially deprecated. The PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) for safeguarding payment data recommends TLS v1.2 or higher. Version 1.0 and 1.1 won't get you a PCI certification any more. The future is here. Since TLS v1.2 dates back from 2008, it is already 10 years old. TLS v1.3 is right around the corner. Web browser support it, some SSL/TLS libraries and some servers have it enabled.

The first thing you notice when turning off TLS v1.0 and v1.1 is almost nothing. Version 1.2 is widely supported. Some web sites still haven't made the switch. When it comes to email transport, some email servers haven't progressed either. Sadly this includes a couple of Facebook MTAs (Mail Transport Agents, the email servers that do the actual transport of email messages). The servers insist on using TLS, because our servers advertise it, but they cannot agreed on a cipher algorithm. Since we do not use Facebook, this is not an issue. The same happens for a bunch of Yahoo! MTAs and the occasional newsletter distribution system. We keep monitoring the logs, but so far there is no reason not to disable TLS v1.0 and v1.1 completely.

If you want to test TLS, Firefox offers a way to restrict TLS version to specific levels. To do so you need to access about:config and look for the security.tls substring. security.tls.version.min sets the minimal level. TLS v1.0 is 1, v1.1 is 2, v1.2 is 3, and v1.3 is 4. The security.tls.version.max can be safely set to 4. If TLS v1.3 is not supported, Firefox will take the next lower version. Qualys's SSL Labs have a test for you, so you can see if it works.

July 23 2018


Big Ideas Series: Entity disambiguation in digital cultural heritage

To enable people to explore a digital collection, the platform that hosts that collection needs to have a comprehensive understanding of the information it is presenting. However, the level and quality of assistance that can be provided to a user by a computer is largely dependent on the amount of information that the system has about the collection. While such information can be provided by a process of manually tagging and annotating archive contents, this can be expensive, time-consuming or even infeasible if the collection is too large.

This talk will explore the challenges involved in the automatic identification and disambiguation of entities within digital cultural heritage collections.

Seamus Lawless is Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin.

Our Big Ideas seminar series is funded by the Friends of The National Archives.


Big Ideas Series: The role of archives in addressing refugee crises

This presentation provides an overview of a project called ‘Records and ICT at the Boundaries of the State: Refugee Needs, Rights and Uses’ which looks at the ways in which archivists  in affected countries might use digital systems design to identify, protect and certify the records of refugees. 

It’s presented by Anne Gilliland (UCLA Center for Information as Evidence, University of California) and James Lowry (Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies, University of Liverpool).

Our Big Ideas seminar series is funded by the Friends of The National Archives.

July 10 2018


The Annual Digital Lecture: Semantic Capital: what it is and how to protect it

In this talk Luciano Floridi presents new research on ‘semantic capital’, which he defines as the capital of ideas, knowledge, meaning and culture, and how it can be protected and fostered by the digital. What may digital ethics do to ensure its care, protection, and development?

Luciano Floridi is Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford, where he directs the Digital Ethics Lab (DELab) of the Oxford Internet Institute. He is also Faculty Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute and Chair of its Data Ethics research Group, and Chairman of the Ethics Advisory Board of the European Medical Information Framework. He sits on the EU’s Ethics Advisory Group on Ethical Dimensions of Data Protection, on the Royal Society and British Academy Working Group on Data Governance, and on Google Advisory Board on ‘the right to be forgotten’. His areas of expertise include the philosophy of information, digital ethics, and the philosophy of technology. His recent books include ‘The Fourth Revolution – How the infosphere is reshaping human reality’ (2014), ‘The Ethics of Information’ (2013), and ‘The Philosophy of Information’ (2011).

July 04 2018


Big Ideas Series: Archives and Linked Data

Is linked data an appropriate technology for implementing an archive’s catalogue? Dr Jean-Luc Cochard from the Swiss Federal Archives presents the results of two studies conducted to explore the potential of linked data in supporting archival information systems.

The Big Ideas talks series is supported by the Friends of The National Archives.

June 18 2018


West Africa and the First World War

The First World War had a great impact on West Africa, as Britain ordered the invasion of German colonies in Cameroon and Togoland, using its own colonies as base. The West African Frontier Force, drawn from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria and Gambia played a key role in the campaign. War had also had a great impact on the civilian population, as the British drew off workers and resources. How did African soldiers experience the campaign, and what did the war mean for West African societies as a whole?

May 17 2018


Big Ideas Series: Datafication, Distribution and the Future of Archival Science in the Age of Homo Deus

Victoria Lemieux examines how we can ensure and establish authenticity in a world of increasing datafication of records. Where and how do we create, find and preserve records and the archives in an increasingly distributed world? Will the preservation of human history and human collective memory be the main concern of archival science in the age of AI, robotics and, possibly, post-humanity as we know it?

Dr. Victoria Lemieux is an Associate Professor of Archival Science at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Her current research is focused on risk to the availability of trustworthy records, in particular in blockchain record-keeping systems. She holds a doctorate from University College London (Archival Studies, 2002), and, since 2005, has been a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). She is also the winner of the 2015 Emmett Leahy Award for outstanding contributions to the field of records management, a 2015 World Bank Big Data Innovation Award, and a 2016 Emerald Literati Award for her research on blockchain technology.

Our Big Ideas seminar series is funded by the Friends of The National Archives.

May 01 2018


UFO files at The National Archives

Originally set up at the request of Winston Churchill, the Ministry of Defence’s UFO Desk ran for over 60 years, collating mysterious sightings and records of strange objects in the sky.

In this talk, Dr David Clarke, Principal Lecturer in Journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, discusses the remarkable stories behind some of the images from his book, ‘UFO Drawings from The National Archives’.

April 27 2018


Suffrage 100: Did militancy help or hinder the fight for the franchise?

By 1912, militancy associated with the Suffragette movement hit its peak, with regular arson attacks, window-smashing campaigns and targeting of MP’s houses. In retrospect, these tactics are often what the movement is famed for. But did they help or hinder the cause?

Hear from Dr. Fern Riddell (BBC’s Suffragettes Forever!) and Professor Krista Cowman (University of Lincoln). Due to technical issues, we unfortunately were not able to capture Elizabeth Crawford’s participation in this discussion.

March 21 2018


Big Ideas Series: Artistic Practice and the Archive

In this seminar, Professor Andrew Prescott explores the ways in which artistic practice can help us re-imagine the archive and the contents of the collections they hold. Drawing on the work of different contemporary artists, Professor Prescott argues that new technologies enable us to rethink the shape, structure, and character of the records we collect.

Professor Andrew Prescott is Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Glasgow and Theme Leader Fellow for the Arts and Humanities Research Council strategic theme of ‘Digital Transformations’.

Our Big Ideas seminar series is funded by the Friends of The National Archives.

March 12 2018


Digital Archives of the Future

To mark forty years since The National Archives moved to Kew, our digital director John Sheridan discusses the challenges that archives will face in the future. John is currently leading efforts to transfer our digital offer to become an archive that is digital by instinct and design.

January 26 2018


Reformation on the Record: Suzannah Lipscomb on Henry VIII and the break with Rome

Reformation on the Record was a two-day conference which brought together research using original records of Church and State from our collection to explore this period of religious, social and economic turmoil.

In this talk, historian, broadcaster and award-winning academic Dr Suzannah Lipscomb explores one of the fundamental turning points of the 16th century Reformation: Henry VIII's separation from the Roman Catholic Church.



Reformation on the Record: Richard Rex's keynote address

Reformation on the Record was a two-day conference which brought together research using original records of Church and State from our collection to explore this period of religious, social and economic turmoil.

In this talk, Professor Richard Rex - a Fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge, where he is Director of Studies in Theological and Religious Studies - delivers the keynote address on 'The Reformation as Disruption'.

January 12 2018


Big Ideas Series: In Their Own Write: Welfare, Discipline and Pauper Agency in the Nineteenth Century

In this seminar, Dr Paul Carter introduces his new research project which he is undertaking in collaboration with Professor Steven King, University of Leicester, after receiving a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Paul examines the correspondence between paupers and the state, focussing on the nature of complaints in the context of welfare, and the importance of Victorian records management in producing a history ‘from below’.

Dr Paul Carter is the Principal Records Specialist for Domestic Records here at The National Archives. His research and publication interests include early labour movements, popular political, and poor law records.

Our Big Ideas seminar series is funded by Friends of The National Archives.

January 08 2018


CPU bugs Meltdown and Spectre

You have probably heard from the CPU bugs Meltdown and Spectre which affect many systems around the world. While the media is writing lots of articles about these bugs, there is still no final word on the consequences of the bug family. Meltdown and Spectre consist of multiple bugs and affect specific situations. The developer of operating systems, applications, and the processor vendors are still investigating when and how the bugs can be exploited and how they can be patched.

GNU/Linux users might want to start with the patches supplied by the web browser developer. The Linux kernel has some fixes in 4.14.11 and 4.14.12. Further changes to the code are expected as soon as the kernel developers know more details about the bugs.

While the world may not end yet, we will review our hardware policies.

December 28 2017


Happy New Year and Lucky Code!

Updating our web site is a tricky business. You can either hack configurations / write code or come up with informative texts. Doing both is hard, especially when being constantly interrupted. So we just wish you a Happy New Year 2018!

In case you missed some content, there were presentations at the Linuxwochen in Vienna/Eisenstadt, at the Privacy Week, and at ITSecX in St. Pölten. The year starts early with a presentation about secure design of software and IT infrastructure. Stay tuned!

December 18 2017


Big Ideas Series: Surfacing the Page

This Big Ideas seminar consists of three short presentations exploring the theme 'surfacing the page'.

In the first talk, Professor Maryanne Dever looks at how the presence of digital technologies for the reproduction and circulation of archival artefacts have placed questions of materiality at the centre of how we value analogue originals. New debates around the materiality of the archived page are pushing us away from focusing simply on physical properties of the page and toward a consideration of the page in terms of its potential.

In the second talk, Dr Jacqueline Lorber Kasunic looks at how attention to the materiality of the archived page has often assumed a literal reading, one that fails to engage with how readers come to understand a text not only through the linguistic signs but also through the graphical and formal properties of the text. She argues for the acknowledgement of the role of the visual as integral to the relationship between the archived page and its interpretation.

In the third talk, Associate Professor Kate Sweetapple discusses her explorations in visually manipulating existing archival documents in order to create new objects of inquiry. These speculative artefacts are designed to be provocative and disrupt the authority of graphic conventions. They also reveal the affordances of archival material in digital environments, and highlight the role design can play in realising this potential.

December 11 2017


Sylvia Pankhurst: suffragette, socialist and ‘scourge of the empire’

From militant suffragette at the beginning of the 20th century to campaigner against colonialism in Africa after the Second World War, Sylvia Pankhurst dedicated her life to fighting oppression and injustice. Katherine Connelly will examine Pankhurst’s role at the forefront…

December 04 2017


Black Power and the state

The late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the flourishing of Black Power, a movement of major global impact. In Britain, black radical campaigns were monitored by Special Branch, MI5, the Joint Intelligence Committee and the Home Office, in an attempt to frustrate and ultimately demobilise the movement.

In this talk, Robin Bunce will use sources from our collection to reconstruct the state's campaign against black radicals in the UK, from the trial of Malcolm X in 1967, through the prosecution of Obi Egbuna and the Mangrove Nine, to the trial of the Old Bailey Three in 1972.

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