I have, for longer than I care to remember, maintained membership of the Royal Archaeological Institute. It is an organisation that anyone can join and for a relatively modest sum each year receive a copy of the Archaeological Journal, the summary of the annual field trip, attend lectures if you so desire and use the library of the Society of Antiquaries. I think the latter was the reason I joined, and membership has had its uses in the past. I also like the fuzzy glow I get from supporting the grants and awards the institute makes to students and researchers. As an archaeologist who hasn’t done any archaeology for a long time I’ve been content to let the President and the various Council members, drawn from the great and the good of the profession largely get on with running the organisation on my behalf. Until yesterday.
Inside their latest newsletter, Number 47, dated April 2014, is a request for members to indicate whether they would want to pay £35 for a cumulative index to volumes 161 to 170, which have been published over the last 10 years. While not all members actually seem to want an index, it seems a bit steep to ask those that do to stump up for something which used to be provided as part of the subscription because each journal itself was indexed. And particularly so when the RAI is sitting on a healthy looking bank balance.
Indexes to journals are most useful when they summarise the work over a period of time, making it possible to compare what has been done in different time periods. A decade’s worth of work can show how an organisation is changing what it does, where it puts its emphasis and, by what is omitted, where it could plan to do so in the future. For a researcher having a cumulative index can make it really very easy to track down examples of things spread over many volumes. An index can also help you find things you had realised you needed to look for! The item in the newsletter mentions word-searches and e-journals as a possible way forward. The Society of Indexers has some useful things to say about why word-searches aren’t as good as human made indexes in electronic books and journals.
If you’re a member of the RAI, please do contact David Hinton, the President of the society, to make your views on indexing the journals felt. But note that the newsletter got his email address wrong (again), so you’ll need to contact him via the address on this page. I’ve already sent him mine and I think we’ve started a useful dialogue.
If you’re a member of a learned society, take a look at how they do their indexing now and if they’re going to make any changes in the near future.
The London Book Fair attracts book sellers and buyers from around the world. This year it is being held in Earls Court. I was there with Ann Kingdom on Tuesday. We were there for two reasons. Ann participated in one of the early seminars on the first day and we were to try and market the Society of Indexers, and indexing in general, to publishers and other exhibitors, and I was hoping to target some in my areas of expertise.
The seminar was a joint event with the Society of Indexers, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, the Institute of Translating and Interpreting and the Chartered Institute of Linguists. The aim was to explore how editors, proofreaders, translators and indexers work together behind the scenes before publication and the added-value these professional bodies provide to the publishing industry. Each organisation fielded a speaker and the format was a series of questions posed by the chair, sometimes to all of them, sometimes to just one. As the audience was mixed, the information imparted was necessarily of a general nature, but the listeners gained an awareness of the special requirements of each of these professions, and the need for dialogue between authors, translators, editors and indexers to ensure that the author’s intent was preserved as their work passed through the hands of these professionals.
The second reason for our attendance was to ‘spread the word’ about the Society and its activities among the exhibitors at the show. The Society has prepared a small leaflet and armed with a handful I sought out some likely targets. There were exhibitors from all over the world, so a fair number of potential targets were not relevant. The exhibitors’ booths ranged from those of large international publishers such as Hachette, who had the largest single stand area, to tiny booths with just room for one chair and a table. The purpose of the exhibitors at the fair was to sell books so they sent people to man the stands who were from marketing and sales departments. They were not the people who edit the books and who might have needed to know where to find an indexer. Ninety of the smaller publishers were represented by the Independent Publishers Guild, so together they had a larger stand area and could share the costs of attending the event. It was therefore hard to find anyone to approach among the publishers, and several of those I spoke to had previous experience of the Society. Among the publishing solutions exhibitors I found a few in the ‘self-publishing’ market who had not heard of the Society. I think this highlights how important it is for individual indexers to market themselves directly to publishers.
The good news is that there were plenty of printed books on show. The death of the printed book has been greatly exaggerated. It may be hard to find work as a new indexer, but I’m encouraged that there is still a large pool of potential work out there.
The clocks go forward at the end of March and suddenly it is another season, although given the weather this week I’m not sure yet what it is. But time has flown at a different rate for the members of the Hendon and District Archaeological Society.
I’ve been working on an index over the last few weeks for the Hendon and District Archaeological Society. This is a report of an excavation that took place 40 years ago, but the post-excavation work has been on-going over a number of years and has involved the society, a finds analysis course and some support from professional archaeologists, as well as historic document research and some specialist work by a pottery specialist to identify the origins of some of the medieval pottery. The resulting book is nicely illustrated with photographs of finds, of the features found on the site and various maps and historic photographs of the buildings in the area. I think they’ll be very pleased with the result.