Project blog for the cataloguing and preservation of the papers of Maurice Wilkins and the King’s College London Department of Biophysics at the King's College London Archives. The project was undertaken at the College from May 2010-May 2011 with selected material from the archives later digitised as part of the Wellcome Trust Codebreakers: Makers of Modern Genetics project.
August Project Update
The project is entering its final months and a quick update as it what has been happening is in order:
To date, 24,000 images have been produced by our digitisers which roughly breaks down as 4000 glass plate and acetate images and 20,000 images from the paper collection. Over the next two months the remaining part of the paper collection will be scanned. Sections that have already been scanned include papers from Wilkins’ early life, scientific working papers, correspondence with scientific colleagues, papers associated with the history of the research on DNA and sections of his autobiography.
Above, is a low resolution copy of some of the images that are being produced. The example is a postcard received by Maurice Wilkins from Francis Crick dated May 1955 and sent from Paris. The postcard reads: "Having a lovely time telling people about your work and my ideas! Hoping to see you in Cambridge for a quiet weekend - Francis".
Our main tasks over the next few months involve the construction of metadata and copyright and sensitivity checking. The latter is the most time consuming as a detailed survey requires a systematic check of all potentially risky material. Our catalogue descriptions are written at a level to summarize the contents of the physical file but because the images will be accessible individually an item level approach to sensitivity and copyright is needed to be certain that legally and ethically all necessary precautions are taken before publishing on-line. Needless to say this process is time-consuming and has proved to be the most taxing element of the project.
Apart from the construction of metadata and the sensitivity checking the only other main strand of the project to update everyone with is outreach. The project continues to gather interest from its social media sites (like the one I’m writing on now). Besides the blogs, the project has had a presence on Twitter and new images have been added to the project’s Flickr site. In May, the archives participated in a Radio 4 piece on the Wellcome Digital Library which was reported previously on this blog. Alongside this, we were privileged to have been visited by Raymond Gosling in March as part of a television documentary. It was wonderful to meet a contemporary of Wilkins and Franklin and hear from one of the key workers his own experience working at King’s at the time. We are quite fortunate to have a copy of Gosling's original 1954 PhD thesis, titled ''X-ray diffraction studies of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid' which has been selected to be digitised as part of the King's College London Biophysics collection.
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