Winning Endeavours: sources for 20th century international sporting heroes

Summary of the project

A successful partnership project to create and launch, a searchable website of London's Olympic history which contains over 1,700 images relating to the 1908 and 1948 Olympics and to London Olympians and London sports.

Led by Archives for London Ltd (AfL), Winning Endeavours was a web-based project developed in partnership with the British Library and London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) who provided management support and capacity, including recruiting project staff. The project was carefully constructed to fill a gap in resources, bringing them together in a convenient and accessible form within the HLF Your Heritage limit of £50,000.

The project digitised images, sourced from 25 individual archive repositories from London and the south east of England, and compiled contextual notes and metadata to provide background stories and details of the images themselves. All the items included in the project were unique and under pressure either through over use or poor storage conditions so this project supports their future survival while opening up access to a wider audience. It is envisaged that the website will be used by journalists and researchers requiring instant background stories in the run up to and during the 2012 Games, as well as by schools and individuals interested in the sporting past.

A series of outreach events were also held aimed at encouraging a greater public understanding of the achievements of UK athletes who have taken part in past games, and in stimulating contributions to the People's Record.

How were people encouraged to use the archive service?

Promotion for the new website was aimed at journalists, researchers and the public, and also at schools. Over 15,000 people were made aware of Winning Endeavours through displays, leaflets and personal contact. A further 1,500 people participated through attendance at the launch event, seminars, Olympic talks and guided walks as well as at different events across London, such as the TES Fair for schools, Games On school and family events and the Field of Dreams, Spa Fields events where LMA ran specific Winning Endeavours activities.

Of those polled at the Spa Fields events, 96% said they would use the new website. More than 700 people attended the four Field of Dreams and seven Game On events, the majority of whom were children and young families. Schools have also been targeted through an additional 3,500 promotional leaflets, a Continuing Professional Development day for teachers and archivists at LMA and through specially written resource materials, including the Marathon and Austerity School Packs and Inclusion School Pack, downloadable from the website.

Google analytics show that 1,360 people visited the site in the first month after launch (April 2011) and users of the site left positive feedback such as one comment from a 70-year-old user based in Moscow: 'Hello, I am very glad that thanks to the internet got on your site! Interesting information, good design. A lot of interesting materials.'

What impact did the project have on the records and collections it aimed to improve?

Many of the items published on the website are rare and vulnerable due to a combination of heavy use, the fragility of the newsprint medium and the often inadequate storage conditions in which newspaper collections are held. Creating surrogates for these vulnerable resources and making them available online, with associated re-keyed titles, by-lines and key words, should therefore maximise access while minimising the potential for physical damage.

How did the project demonstrate good practice in relation to project planning, management and evaluation?

AfL inherited the working relationship that the Greater London Archives Network had with the London local authority archive services, and the leadership role exercised by the London Archives Regional Council working with LMA on the A2A retrospective conversion programmes in London. Working with LMA, and leading on behalf of a wide range of record offices therefore had firmly established roots, though this was the first time they had done so outside the London area. Working with the British Library was also new. The project was supported by a volunteer project board and by additional capacity supplied by existing paid LMA staff.

Originally AfL had intended to work with a wide number of library services drawing on newspaper resources, but in the event Newsplan London & SE was not able to serve as an active partner (and no longer existed), and the British Library took on the whole of the newspaper role.

How did the project help staff and any volunteers to improve their skills and knowledge?

AfL has no staff and is run as a voluntary organisation. LMA helped to develop and manage the project and used community and other contacts, as well as existing links with the 25 contributing partners, to help deliver it successfully. As a result of the project those involved in planning and helping to deliver it, from LMA, the British Library and AfL, felt that they had improved their skills and knowledge of partnership building and interpreting the collections. Specifically, LMA also felt they had developed their understanding of creating tailored learning resources, building partnerships with community groups, consultation with target audiences and managing events. AfL had, in addition, further developed their advocacy skills.

What has been the value of the project to your organisation?

It has helped to raise the profile of AfL, which is good, but it has also reinforced the need for paid staff to help develop projects as the project was very reliant on LMA for its development and delivery.

Find further information on Winning Endeavours.