A New Website for the Bagpipe SocietyBy:
To mark our 30th anniversary, the society is getting a new website. You’ll find information about bagpipes, the society, and the complete archive of everything we’ve published since our founding. If all goes to plan, the site will have launched by the time Chanter goes to press.
In addition to the paper copy, members will now be able to read new editions of Chanter directly on the website. This means that our members will finally be able to achieve their ambitions of reading the latest development in Cabrette tuning on their smartphone on the number 38 bus. It also means that we’re starting to build an archive of articles for the future.
We are continuing our policy from the Online Library: the last two years’ worth of Chanter material is available to members only. PDF downloads will still be available to members only. Non-members who come across such a Chanter article will be invited to join the society to continue reading. After two years these articles will become free to read.
The sad spectacle of the table of back-issues of Chanter looking for good homes has haunted Blowouts past. There is a wealth of fascinating and valuable material in there, documenting the development of the society, past events, the evolution and research of bagpipes. It’s been there for anyone to read but it’s difficult to find an article you’re looking for in a table full of Chanters.
Three years ago I started the Online Library project. Collecting and collating PDFs of old Chanters from previous editors and scanning back-issues that weren’t available, Ian Clabburn and I pieced together a digital archive of all of the material that the Bagpipe Society has published. Every Chanter edition also had its table of contents catalogued, complete with authors. Whilst I took care of the technology side of things, Ian Clabburn put in an extraordinary effort in scanning in and entering tables of contents. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to him for the completeness of the archive’s catalogues.
The result, the Online Library, allowed anyone access to any article. People do use it: it attracts a constant stream of visitors, spiking at over 700 people in July 2015. But it still faced the same problem as the Chanter table: you have to actually open each magazine to look inside.
Opening the Archives
The new website transfers all of the archived back-issues of Chanter, the Diary and the Newsletter into the same place. The website now contains the most recent Chanter and the first edition, side-by-side. Anyone visiting the website can easily dive into the archive and be transported back in time. Thanks to Ian’s efforts, the title and authors of every article are already catalogued.
I feel that in the new site we are doing justice to decades of accumulated knowledge, information and discussion.
Every article on the site (and we have over a thousand) is in the process of being tagged, categorised and catalogued. If you’re reading an article about Cornish Bagpipes you will be offered other articles on the subject. You can also find other articles by the same author, about the same country or region and so on. This means that the archives aren’t just available, they’re waiting to be explored.
Hopefully the cross-referencing between articles, from the first edition of Chanter to the most recent, will give people new ideas, help new research, and who knows, maybe rake up old arguments. It will also help us fulfil our mission of promoting bagpipes by providing readily accessible information and articles about a huge range of bagpipes, culture and related topics.
Promoting Bagpipes to a Wider Audience
For as long as I can remember (which isn’t as long as most people reading this) there has been discussion in our ranks about the future of the society and how we increase our membership. Andy Letcher has advocated that promoting bagpipes should be front and centre of what we do.
The focus of the old site was very much “here’s the Bagpipe Society”. The new site, enabled by the influx of newly available content, is much closer to “look at all these kinds of bagpipes! The Bagpipe Society can tell you about them”.
Our website has gone from a few dozen pages to well over a thousand. We can now show visitors interested in the British Northumbrian Smallpipes or the Bulgarian Kaba Gaida everything we’ve ever published on the subject. In bringing this wealth of information to the surface we can expand the readership of Chanter and bring the good news of the Bagpipe Society to a wider audience. We’ll also turn up more often in search engine results.
Every edition of Chanter will have a ‘featured article’ or two on the website. Members of the public can read these for free, as a sample of what’s on offer. This keeps the website fresh and shows what Chanter has to offer new members.
The next 30 years
The new site showcases the achievements of the society over the last 30 years. It also serves as a permanent record and archive of our history. No-one knows what the next 30 will bring, but it will all be archived on the website.
The cataloguing journey has only just begun. If you find an article that is missing tags or incorrectly tagged, please contact us. If you’re computer savvy and want to volunteer to help or improve the site, we’d be glad to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org