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What is Janus?
Janus is a self-funded project, established in October 2002 to provide a single point of networked access to catalogues of archives and manuscript collections held throughout Cambridge. The number and range of participating repositories - both University and non-University - continues to widen, promising in due course the near comprehensive coverage of archives in the city and surrounding area.
The site was named ‘Janus’ after the god of gates and doors in Roman mythology. The god Janus has a distinctive appearance in art and is often depicted with two faces. Some sources claim that the reason Janus was represented in this way was a reflection of the concept that doors and gates look in two directions. In this way, one of the god's faces could look forward, while the other looked backward. By embracing new technology, Janus looks forwards, while the content of the site looks back. The site's logo is based on the above Roman coin showing the god Janus. The coin is held by the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and is dated to the early second century BC.
What does Janus offer researchers?
The main purpose is to make it easier for researchers with remote access to locate information about archival collections held within Cambridge; details include catalogues of the archival holdings of each participating institution, together with repository information and contact details. These catalogues are individually browsable on the website and there is also the capacity for searching across the catalogues of all contributing repositories. Some collections are only described as a whole; but in the case of larger archives, these catalogues may extend down to individual documents.
Additional information, such as bibliographies and glossaries of terms, provide an essential tool to assist researchers in navigating administrative histories and vocabulary peculiar to the Cambridge setting. Through this means, Janus facilitates wider and better-informed access to the archives held by participating institutions and informs researchers with a general or specific interest in the histories of these institutions.
Why are these collections important?
Cambridge University is one of the oldest educational establishments in the world. But its institutional records, and indeed the records of Cambridge organisations outside the University such as Addenbrooke's Hospital, are sources for more than simply the history of education. The corpus of material generated by Cambridge institutions bears on topics as diverse as social organisation, religion, gender, charitable giving, healthcare and land holding. In addition, the personal papers collected by the University and the Colleges reflect developments in the wider world of British culture, the arts and sciences.
Examples of established collection strengths among the participating institutions of Janus include:
- Politicians' papers (Churchill Archives Centre)
- Scientists' papers (Trinity College)
- Economists’ papers (King’s College)
- Medical and healthcare history (Addenbrooke's NHS Trust)
How is the work of the project done?
Overall management of the project is the responsibility of a steering group appointed from among the Cambridge archival community. Each participating institution is responsible for the creation and submission of catalogues to this website. All catalogues are created using the latest version of the cataloguing standard ISAD(G), which is the General International Standard Archival Description, 2nd edition, September 2000, and these are stored in Encoded Archival Description (EAD), a standard for encoding archival finding aids. Additional standards used for the construction of catalogue entries and index terms (or "access points") include NCA Rules (1997) - National Council on Archives rules for the construction of personal, family and place names; the UK Archival Thesaurus (UKAT); the Getty geographical thesaurus.
The two faces of Janus are also reflected in the division of the website into public and private. Behind the scenes, on the private site, the self-service architecture of the Janus webserver allows each participant institution to upload EAD catalogues to its own directory. Catalogues are then put through a process of tidying and validation before publication.
Tidying irons out common infelicities, including converting catalogues created for other networking projects into a form acceptable to Janus and altering punctuation of name index entries. Follow the link for more information about the tidyer. As an aid to participants, the steering group has prepared guidance on how to use the NCA rules and how to use the Getty thesaurus.
Validation checks that the files are valid EAD, as well as reporting errors in construction or likely duplication of index terms.
Finally, publication moves the files and their index terms into the Janus database, where they may be previewed before release into the public domain for browsing and searching by researchers on the world wide web. The Janus stylesheet transforms EAD data for display on the web. Should participants wish subsequently to emend a catalogue, then a new version may be uploaded, tidied, validated and published over the previous one. Should they wish to remove a file completely, they may first delete it from the database and then remove it from the server. Janus incorporates a programme to remove any index terms left unattached to catalogue entries by either of these processes.
The project has been divided into two stages. Stage 1 set up this website which is hosted and managed by Cambridge University Library, the infrastructure to mount browsable finding aids together with repository information, historical metadata and glossaries from participating institutions, and a simple search facility. We are now at the end of Stage 2. This has added a profiled search engine to Janus and provided the tools for local mounting of catalogues created for other networking projects.
How does Janus interact with other related archival projects?
The National Council on Archives (NCA) and its constituent bodies, representing the users, owners and custodians of archives, have drawn up a blueprint for a 21st-century network of archive information in two reports Archives On-Line: the establishment of a U.K. archival network (1998), and British Archives: The Way Forward (2000). As a first step towards mapping archival collections in the UK, the NCA advocates the development of "resource discovery information", that is, identifying the location and relevance of archives for any particular research project. Janus will thus contribute through the establishment of an additional gateway or portal to (eventually) a national archival network. The archival catalogues mounted on Janus, conforming to the international standard ISAD(G), will facilitate the future exchange and integration of information.
For the future it is hoped, as resources may permit, that more detailed catalogues and ultimately digital imaging of the archives themselves will be included. Further details and links to other UK archive networks may be found here.
How is Janus funded?
Thanks are due to the University, its Colleges and other organisations in and around Cambridge for making this project a reality. Specifically, we acknowledge the generosity of the University's Fingland Fund, Addenbrooke’s Hospital NHS Trust, Churchill, Clare, Darwin, Downing, Girton, Gonville and Caius, Jesus, King's, Lucy Cavendish, Queens', St. John's, Selwyn, and Trinity Colleges, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Royal Commonwealth Society Library, the Local Examinations Syndicate and the East of England Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. Several bodies have also contributed towards the creation of the data mounted on Janus.
The progress and aims of the project will be re-examined on an annual basis by all participants. In addition, we invite researchers to send us their feedback on both the Janus website and the contents and facilities of its database, so that we may continually improve these services.