During 2020, the Archives team at Kew Gardens developed a collaboration with the University of Roehampton, the University of the Third Age (U3A), and the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), to create a model for the archive sector, which uses volunteer-driven, remote methods to transcribe and research collections, making them easily shareable and accessible using TEI-XML encoding. We wanted to create ways in which TEI could be embedded in the archive sector and managed by archivists with little experience of textual encoding, or time to carry out encoding themselves. In creating this model, we would also digitise, transcribe, encode, and make accessible in BHL one of Kew’s most important, but inaccessible volumes – the Kew Record Book. For Kew, it was important that the volume would be made fully accessible, as part of our commitment to transparency around our history and involvement in colonialism.
The model we created was timely, as the COVID-19 pandemic meant many institutions could no longer accommodate volunteers on-site, and remote ways of working have persisted. The Travelling Plants project built a community and model of engaging with and developing the digital capacity of older people remotely, a sector of society that particularly felt the impact of social isolation during the pandemic.