The National Archives Blog (Ruth Ford) – Interview #1

 

“The organisation is so diverse with what we do.  We have government archive sector, genealogy, family history, academia; people have specialisms and they want to talk about them”

–          Ruth Ford (TNA)

BloggingforhistorianslogoThe first podcasted interview for the Blogging for Historians project was conducted on 9 January 2013 at The National Archives (TNA), in Kew (London).  The recording is a 22 minute long conversation between myself and Ruth Ford (Online Editor for the National Archives) in a room just off from the TNA main offices.   We discussed in some detail The National Archives blog; why it was set up, how successful it has been and how the TNA go about managing it on an institutional level.  The blog was set up early in 2012 to better enable the TNA to reach their varied audience in a more informal way than they can do elsewhere.   A distinctive element of the blog is its design and we talked a little about that as well and to the changes they hope to make on its first birthday.

The podcast is available to listen and download here or on the SMKE website:

Ruth Ford – The National Archives Blog Download

Outline of Questions asked in the Podcast

Purpose of the blog

  1. Before we begin could you tell us a little more about yourself and your position here at the TNA.
  1. Let’s move on to the blog itself.  When and why was the blog set up?
  1. Do you remember what discussions were had at the time?  What were the concerns, priorities, and hopes for the blog?  Could you give us an insight into the original thought processes?
  1. Which blogging platform did you use and for what reason?  What did it offer you that made it the most appealing and useful?
  1. This is a collaborative blog.  How is this managed?  Is there a process to ask staff to write posts for the blog or is it done more informally?

Promotion and popularity

  1. Who do you think is your main audience?  Does this affect what is written on the blog?
  1. In your view how successful has the blog been and what do you base this view on?  (i.e. stats, public discussion, in-house interest etc.)
  1. How many people tend to visit the blog each month?
  1. Have you received much in the way of feedback from those writing blog posts and those visiting the blog?  Do visitors often leave comments related to particular blog posts?
  1. How have you promoted the blog?  Other social media (Twitter, Facebook etc.), websites, leaflets etc.?

Best practice

  1. In your view, what makes a good blog post?
  1. Do you have any suggestions for best practise in using and managing blogs as an institution or individual?
  1. Is there anything else you would like to add?
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Interviewing History bloggers – the first interview done

The National Archives
The National Archives

A couple of weeks ago I was on the London Underground – a rarity for me.  It just so happened that it was the 150th anniversary of the Tube in London.   There was nothing on the Tube itself to mark such an occasion as far as I could see, but it gave me a little thrill to think that I was making a similar journey as the first person to travel it did some century and a half ago.  But this is all rather beyond the point of this blog post.  I was on the Tube to head out to Kew where the National Archives are based.  The reason: to carry out my first interview for this project.

It’s been about seven years since I last visited the TNA (National Archives).  Not much has changed so it was quite comforting to be back there.  My interview was being conducted with Ruth Ford (Online Editor for TNA) and was to focus on best practise, purposes of blogging, and success of the blog.  One thing that I was particularly interested to ask was about the unique design of the blog.  Ruth confirmed that they had had someone in-house to design if for them, but that the system itself was an ordinary wordpress site.  I hadn’t realised this, as most wordpress blogs are instantly recognisable once you’ve been blogging for a while.  It was nice to be surprised by this little revelation.

The interview went well and lasted a little over 30 minutes.  Afterwards there was time to quickly check out the exhibition where, to my excitement, there was a copy of the Act of Supremacy which had placed the English Church officially under Henry VIII’s direct control and various letters by Bess of Hardwick.  Being a Lord of the Rings/Hobbit fan, I was also interested to see various letters and military documents relating to J.R.R. Tolkien.  The exhibition is well worth a look.

I will be editing the interview file very soon and it will shortly afterwards appear on the Blogging for Historians blog – so watch this space!

Please also don’t forget that I currently have an online survey about blogging for Historians.  If you haven’t already filled this in I would be really appreciative if you can spend a few minutes on it:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MHVXQ2W