Our 150th Fiction Special: An Archivist’s Perspective

Barry is Assistant Archivist at DC Thomson Ltd. He provided invaluable help to the Fiction team when they were compiling our 150th Fiction Special.

Here, he gives his perspective on the publication.

Each of the larger projects we’ve helped with over the last few years have followed a somewhat familiar pattern:

  1. Initial concept (hampered in equal measure by either too much or too little material)
  2. Preliminary research (like paper archaeology)
  3. Targeted research (akin to sifting for gold)
  4. Selection and scanning (turning a paper forest into a digital mountain)
  5. Follow-ups (putting on our detective’s hats to source half-remembered items)

Although working on the 150th Fiction Special largely adhered to these principles, for the Archives team at least it wasn’t nearly as challenging as other, similar-sized projects.

Perhaps the main reason for this is that the “Friend” staff have a decent working knowledge of their own collection. The research we did for the 150th Anniversary Special undoubtedly helped here.

For the most part, they knew what they wanted and where they’d find it.

It sounded like they were actually enjoying their task

That’s not to say there wasn’t a lot of digging and sifting! But having such a targeted brief definitely made things a lot easier for all concerned.

In fact, judging by the laughter we could hear from the search room area, it sounded like they were actually enjoying their task!

For us, the most challenging aspect of the project was scanning pages of very small, very dense text (often from tightly bound volumes, which really impedes access), and attempting to make these images readable through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software.

Modern technology and 19th century fonts are not often terribly compatible it would seem!

In truth, that probably made things harder for Fiction Editor Shirley than it did for us, but we still did what we could to provide the best images possible.

You can order your copy of “The People’s Friend” 150th Fiction Special by visiting the DC Thomson Shop.

You can also order both our 150th Anniversary Special and the 150th Fiction Special together for just £10. Click here to find out more