Archiving for the future

I had an exciting invitation recently; the British Library asked permission to archive my website. Well, who wouldn’t jump at that? I replied with indecent haste. We all want maximum readership for anything we write, worried about our ephemera being lost in the ether.  Whenever I give a talk the most FA’d Q is always ‘How will biographers of the future manage without old fashioned letters?’   Admittedly this is not preserving my letters and emails (phew!)  But from now on not only will all of you today and for the next week or so read my words but so will future generations.  These words which I am typing at haste, imagining no one will ever again see them, will I know now,  be preserved in the bowels of the British Library.  Or, as the request from the unnamed archivist describes it in its own funny language. ‘We will crawl over your website as soon as we can.’  So my website may not be available to view in the public archive for some time as they archive many thousands of websites and perform quality assurance checks on each instance.

Archiving for the future

So I cannot claim exclusivity. I am one of almost ten thousand!  New sites are added every day and the Web Archiving Programme actively solicits the public to nominate other websites that may be suitable

Radio Gorgeous

Radio Gorgeous

The current archive can be viewed at the above site where you will see the enormous variety of websites are preserved …from   to Alistair Campbell’s fruity blog to AL Kennedy’s all singing, all dancing site listing her books or her shows as well as the sites of many industrial or commercial airfields in Yorkshire to cyber-geography research projects and South Bradford Methodist church. Do not despair all ye doubters that biographies will never be written in the future, I can hear them proclaiming. As if that weren’t enough to persuade you all that there will still be words to provide content for future books,  last week I had the pleasure of being a guest on the wonderful Radio Gorgeous currently housed in an office block in Hammersmith. The host is Josephine Pembroke who after a generous half hour interview told me her plan is to build up an archive of women’s voices women talking about their books, the arts, fashion life  or – the day I was there – an astrologer was my fellow guest,  and keep them all in that library in the sky as cloudcasts. To learn more.



Sympathy for the devil-woman by Lesley McDowell, Independent on Sunday 22.01.2012

There have been several attempts to demythologise the relationship between Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII. It is variously alleged that she never really loved him and he never really loved her, or that theirs was a great love affair that the establishment tried to destroy. And of course, there is that photograph of the pair shaking hands with Hitler, making them not only a couple who perhaps weren’t in love but who were also fascist and treacherous, too.

Simpson in particular has always been demonised. A possible hermaphrodite who learned the ways of prostitutes while in Shanghai, her sexuality has been called into question, never mind what British biographers loyal to the Royal Family consider her “brash” American ways.

But in this commendably restrained biography, Anna Sebba creates some sympathy for a woman who endured a brutal and sordid first marriage before leaping into the comfort of a second, with Ernest Simpson, that, alas, could never save her. Sebba’s real coup, though, is the discovery of letters between Wallis and Ernest, dated long after she had become involved with Edward. Indeed, Simpson’s genuine sorrow at the loss of Ernest (“the grave of everything that was us”) and her terror at the Abdication show an ordinary woman caught up in events she couldn’t hope to control, and help to balance the damning indictments written even by some of her closest friends.

“This Enjoyable Biographical Romp”

Inevitably, this enjoyable biographical romp mentions Wallis Simpson’s rumoured sexual technique, “the Baltimore grip, Singapore squeeze or Chinese clinch”. Sebba dismisses such theories… The Independent January 26 2012