Practicum : Overview of project

This post introduces the Practicum project that is being undertaken in collaboration with Met Éireann. The purpose and scope of the project is outlined and the goals and outcomes are discussed. A brief description of a pilot balloon record is given to aid understanding of the archival collection that is the subject of this project.

A project plan for  a digital archive of pre-1943 Irish pilot balloon records

A pilot balloon launch. The observers launch the balloon and follow the flight path using a theodolite. Readings  are recorded. © NOAA
A pilot balloon launch. © NOAA

This project aims to investigate the potential for developing a digital archive of the pre-1943 pilot balloon collection at Met Éireann.  A pilot balloon is an early type of radiosonde, which was used to measure wind speed and direction. Met Éireann holds a collection of pilot balloon records taken at Valentia Observatory in the early years of the twentieth century.  These records are unique because:

  • Until now the records have not been considered part of Ireland’s established radiosonde record, which officially started in 1943
  • Radiosonde technology was in its infancy at this time so the records represent very early scientific efforts in this field
  • Pilot balloon records for the time period are very sparse globally; these are the only surviving records for this time in Ireland
  • The location of Valentia Observatory on the Atlantic seaboard means it is one of the most important station in north-western Europe
  • Historic data are becoming increasingly important for analysing the past climate of the planet so these records have a significant global importance

A digital archive of these records could present these data in an accessible format and provide contextual information about the development of the technology, the observation network, Valentia Observatory, the instrumentation and other related information.

The goal of the project is to deliver a whitepaper that investigates the potential for Met Éireann to develop a digital archive of the pilot balloon records.  The whitepaper will examine work to date on similar material, investigate the historical context for the collection and attempt to identify an audience for a digital archive. It will include an inventory of the collection and a sample wireframe to outline the potential content and functionality of a digital archive. The whitepaper will recommend a set of digital tools and techniques best suited to a digital archive for these records and it will also recommend a suitable metadata standard.

Finally, the whitepaper will briefly discuss the potential costs of developing a digital archive and will outline recommendations for future work with this collection.

Regular updates on the project will be posted to this blog.

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