New Humanist Archive — A Feat of Preservation

Every issue of the New Humanist and its predecessors dating back to 1885 is now available through the state-of-the-art digital edition developed in partnership with Exact Editions. We like to think that those historical issues have now moved into the ‘safe pile’. In their digital format, they will stride forth into the future to be read by new generations of readers and thinkers.

What makes this archive special is that it contains a full set of periodicals, from Watts’s Literary Guide through to New Humanist, as well as journals such as the Agnostic Annual and Question. This is the first time these periodicals have been collectively organised into a digital database and this illustrates how not-in-print publications can be revived to see new usage. Alongside the latest issue of New Humanist, subscribers will also be able to travel back to trace the development of the atheist, humanist and rationalist movements since the RA was founded in 1885. Before this intervention, those older issues may have been gathering dust on a shelf, now they will play an active role in the studies of academics around the world.

1_qUxOErSWzmR72CLtAmI4Aw

The development of covers over the years

Building digital archives to preserve valuable voices and historical content is an integral element of maintaining a connection to our past, which is just as important as our future. As information providers, magazines are unique in the sense that they are often focused on a particular topic, providing readers with detailed, high-quality and reliable commentary. Not only that but they are exhibitions of the design methods and stylistic choices used by different generations. Exact Editions takes great pride in preserving every page of every issue, including advertisements, letters from readers and even expired special offers! The New Humanist archive is a perfect example of this as you can watch the magazine develop over several generations. From the early days of black and white text, to the tentative uses of coloured covers in the 30s and 40s, followed by the use of photographs to attract attention from the 60s to the 90s, and then from 2000 onwards we can observe the prominence of graphic design and illustration. It is through digital preservation that we are able to track these developments so readily.

We are sometimes asked, “How can you guarantee that these magazines will survive the technological development of the next 10 or 50 years?” Realistically, it is difficult to predict how technology is going to shift even in the next 5 years, but we are acutely aware of what is at stake. Take, for example, VR or AR (Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality). These technologies look as though they may be real and widespread by 2024, it is still too early to say how they will work with our cultural heritage, but we believe that the emphasis will be on preserving the exact look and feel of the magazines. Magazines are defined by their pages and content, that has not, and will not, change. We stick to our guns when we say that magazines are in a strong position for survival. Read our article on the Future of Magazines for more insight into this claim.

To finish, a thought experiment — imagine Augmented Reality tools interacting with magazines in 2024. Do you think those virtual, digital objects for the AR headsets will be manipulating something that feels like an ebook, or a stream of XML? Or will we be virtually playing with something that looks like a print magazine? Of course, if magazines become streams of XML from the user point of experience, then that is what we should be preserving. But for now, we should aim to preserve the content in the form in which we experience it and use digital formats that look as though they might last a long time. PDFs, JPEGs and ASCII all have that aura of reasonable longevity and our work with companies such as Portico ensures the content is safeguarded for future generations.

Explore the Archive

Through the years, the Rationalist Association has published cutting-edge articles on an array of topics such as religion, poetry and history. To celebrate the World Digital Preservation Day, we have opened up some of the best articles in the archive for readers to enjoy.

George Bernard Shaw, “What is my Religious Faith?” — Rationalist Annual, 1945.

Bertrand Russell, “Are the World’s Troubles due to Decay of Faith?” — Rationalist Annual, 1954.

Philip Larkin, “This be the Verse.” — The Humanist, August 1971.

Richard Dawkins, “Lions 10, Christians nil.” — New Humanist, June 1992.

Philip Pullman, “The Cuckoo’s Nest.” — New Humanist, Winter 2014.

Exact Editions – IDPD17

This year brings us the inaugural International Digital Preservation Day, organised by the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) and supported by digital preservation networks, institutions and universities world-wide. The commendable drive behind IDPD17 is to encourage institutions and individuals to celebrate resources which have been preserved and to encourage initiatives to be taken for the future.

Exact Editions works to build, preserve and deliver complete online archives for libraries and individual subscribers. The aim is to make every magazine on the platform fully searchable, easy to access and as readable as the print version, serving to secure objects of cultural importance for future generations.

To read more about the cultural importance of magazines, and why they should be preserved, take a look at this post: https://blog.exacteditions.com/2017/11/28/preserving-magazines/

The digitisation of an archive involves numerous challenges such as; creating a fluid platform on which to view the archive and maintaining a perfect digital standard through quality control. At Exact Editions the production team has mastered this process so that thousands of pages are now safe, saved from their perilous paper existence.

To see all the work which goes into digitising an archive, look out for our forthcoming blog to be released on digital preservation day!

When we heard about IDPD17, Exact Editions, and our publishing partners, were very keen to join the digital celebration — and we know you can’t turn up to a digital preservation party without bringing your own bytes to eat. So in the spirit of this digital fiesta we’ve opened up 36 issues to the public for a one month period. Twelve of our publisher partners have kindly allowed us to open three issues from their beautiful magazines.

You can browse these windows into cultural history here: https://institutions.exacteditions.com/showcases/idpd2017

Every single page, issue, year, decade and archive is fully searchable by keyword on the Exact Editions platform. So make sure to explore the free issues in their entirety and have fun with the platform. For example; the 1999 issue of New Internationalist which covers the Radical Twentieth Century surely must mention Che Guevara, right?

1_bHE0qx4nU_yU1sOMcBtndQ

Search results for ‘Che Guevara’ in the January 1999 issue of New Internationalist

Make the most of our easy-to-use toolbar which is located at the bottom of every page on the website. Share your favourite pages on social media channels, and be sure to follow us on Twitter and tag us in any pages which catch your eye!

1_seIGK1BmmK7ue_7fj798yg

Moonlight feature from the March 2017 issue of Sight & Sound

Jokes and freebies aside, Digital Preservation is a potent issue in the modern world. We have the unprecedented opportunity to preserve our history and culture for the future, and Exact Editions is proud to participate in an event dedicated to crystallising our digital legacy.

If you want to hear more from us, follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/exacteditions

To see what other magazines we work with, visit our shop pages:

Individual Shop: https://shop.exacteditions.com/ 
Institutional Shop: https://institutions.exacteditions.com/