My name is Marco Brunello, and I have recently joined the Special Collections Team at the University of Leeds Library as a Bridging the Digital Gap trainee. I will hold this position, seconded from The National Archives, until the end of December 2020.

Bridging the Digital Gap is a training program created to offer people with digital skills the chance to join the archive sector. With processes such as digitisation and digital preservation becoming established common practices in the sector, The National Archives acknowledged the need for a workforce with relevant skills. This is why this program exists.

How do I fit into all this? I originally come from a humanities background, but I have been shifting towards more technical subjects during my academic career. During my MA I became interested in computational linguistics, and I did some research in Italian corpus linguistics. In particular, I have contributed to the compilation of PAISÀ, a 250 million words corpus of contemporary Italian texts from the web, licensed under Creative Commons (Attribution-ShareAlike and Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike).

After that, I completed a PhD in machine translation at the University of Leeds, then I went on to work for several digital marketing agencies in the Yorkshire area.

However, I have always been attracted by the idea of working on the preservation of knowledge for the future generations. In particular, I see how the digital aspect of archiving offers undeniable advantages but new challenges as well. Therefore, I am glad to have been given the chance to bring my skills to the archive sector, and hopefully provide a positive contribution to it. One of the main projects I will be working on, in collaboration with Northern Ballet, is the completion of their 50 year archive, which will be eventually hosted at University of Leeds Special Collections.

The National Archives building, Kew, Richmond
The National Archives building at Kew. Image courtesy of Nick Cooper, CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/)

I started my traineeship at the beginning of October 2019. I am receiving a comprehensive overview of what’s going on at University of Leeds Special Collections. Additionally, I have recently spent three days at The National Archive headquarters in Kew for an initial “Basecamp” training session. This has given me the chance to meet the other seven trainees who joined the Bridging the Digital Gap program this year.

The training provided by The National Archives is divided into five modules, delivered via e-learning hosted on Moodle. Additionally, there will be other five face-to-face training sessions held at The National Archives. Topics covered during the training include digital acquisition, preservation, access and engagement.

So far it has been an extremely positive experience, and I am looking forward to continuing my traineeship in digital archives and beyond.