On March 29th and 30th, I attended the annual conference of the Society of North Carolina Archivists or SNCA (along with Rebecca and Craig). We were fortunate that it was held at UNC-Greensboro this year, making it an easy drive. Being on the planning committee, I knew that there were more people registered for this conference than ever before, so I looked forward to being part of it. (Plus I was in charge of making name tags and wanted to put faces with all of the 160 names I had printed out)!
The experience did not disappoint, and there was a good crowd from all over the state as well as some out-of-staters. Since Craig and Rebecca have already done a great job summarizing much of the conference, I will recount what I thought were highlights of the sessions and what I took away from them.
Plenary speaker- Kate Theimer
Kate is the author of the blog ArchivesNext. She discussed the 6 trends that will or already are affecting archives and asked us to think about how we’ll deal with them. The trends are:
*Changes in how people document themselves
*Changes in scholarly practice
*Popularization of history
*Blurring of organizational roles
All of these are external forces that we can’t control, so we have to adapt. While there isn’t one answer that will work for everyone, Kate suggested that we step back, look at new technologies, look at other cool projects that are being done, and watch the new trends in history scholarship. Using this information we can adjust our own institutions in the ways that will best help us to be productive and responsive to researchers. As Kate was talking about what our mission is as archivists (preserving the past), she teared up and had to stop talking for a minute. Why, you ask? Because it is such and IMPORTANT job!
**Stepping on soapbox now** The job of keeping stories alive, of being the institutional memory, of preserving that information that someone will need to see again in 20 years… it really does matter! I know that many people think that we in Special Collections are a bit obsessive about “keeping stuff” and that we should just throw things away because most things are online now. But that fact is that we aren’t and they aren’t. To give a voice to those who have gone before us and to have things available that you can really “touch”, we have to be a little obsessive about making sure that important things don’t get tossed in the trash can (ask Beth about a book that belonged to Charles Dickens). When Dr. Hatch’s office needed a photo of a distinguished alumni, we had it. When a display needed an original King James Bible, we had it. When a professor needed to see Dr. Tribble’s original correspondence and notes to write a book, we had it. When Tom Hayes needed to see page after page of his father’s (Harold Hayes) hand-written notes and manuscripts for a documentary, we had it. If we hadn’t saved these things, huge pieces of history would have been lost.
We have no problems with digitizing things and sharing them online, but it’s also important to keep the original items as well. It’s just not the same to see a letter signed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., online as it is to actually hold it. It’s a direct connection to the past. And even if something is saved digitally, there is no guarantee that you’ll always have the technology available to access it, i.e. floppy discs and reel to reel tapes. That’s why paper hard copies are still pretty useful. ** Stepping off soapbox now**
So, to sum up, Kate Theimer is a strong believer in adapting to change and making history appealing to the public. But she is also keenly aware of the huge task that belongs to archivists which is to keep primary sources and make them accessible to researchers both in person and on the web. Her ideas and observations about archives were thought-provoking and I’m glad I got to hear her speak.
-The presentation that followed discussed how to successfully Crowdsource projects and get good results!
*Lisa Gregory from the NC Department of Cultural Resources described how they used Flickr Uplodr to have volunteers help transcribe documents from their collections. They promote the project, North Carolina Family Records Online, through Facebook, Twitter and their blogs. Their volunteers have done great work, and are very meticulous about their projects. Lisa said they give personal thanks to their volunteers often, and also give them recognition for their help.
*Lynn Richardson of the Durham County Public Library North Carolina Room told about the Durham Civil Rights Heritage Project. Library workers and volunteers held “collection days” in different parts of the city, when private individuals and local professional photographers could bring in pictures as well as have their stories recorded, telling the the history of the civil rights movement in Durham. The library staff scanned the photos and shot negatives of them as well. The photos were then given back to the owners, along with a “thank you scan” of it. They had good turn out at each location, and more collection days are planned for the future.
*Michelle Czaikowski from the State Library of North Carolina talked about NCpedia. The target audiences as possible contributors for this site area subject specialists, writers and history enthusiasts. If you’d like to contribute, here is what to do
“Anyone interested in contributing is encouraged to peruse the NCpedia’s at http://ncpedia.org and contact Steve Case or Michelle Czaikowski, Digital Projects Manager for the State Library with the topic on which you are interested in writing, even if the topic is still listed on our list of “Topics Needed.” This will insure there is no duplication. (We don’t want anyone to go through the effort of writing an article on a topic already fully covered!) Please also include a target date for completing the entry. Entries may vary in length between 500 – 2000 words depending on the topic”.
They are also looking for images to use in NCpedia. Have some you’d like to share? Then read this:
NCpedia is currently seeking images for Flickr slideshows for NCpedia’s county profiles. http://ncpedia.org/geography/counties
Do you have digital photographs of places in North Carolina? Do you use Flickr? Would you like your Flickr photos featured in NCpedia’s county profiles?
Contributing them is an easy two-step process.
First, let Flickr know you are okay with sharing your photos with us. To do this, go to the “Privacy & Permissions” settings on your account to make sure the answers to the following questions are as follows:
- “Allow others to share your stuff?” Yes
- “Allow your stuff to be added to a gallery?” Yes
- “Hide your stuff from public searches?” No
Second, add the following tags to the photos you would like to appear in NCpedia:
- the county name, as one word. For example: wakecounty, pendercounty, cravencounty
So far response has been great, and they are always looking for new information and pictures!
*Tom Flynn from Winston-Salem Sate shared about the efforts he’s making to increase the photo collections there. He literally goes to events and holds up a sign that says “send your pictures to this address” which is set up to go to and archives account that is set up on their SnapCrowd (cloud storage) account. Response has been good so far, and they hope to produce QR codes for the yearbook eventually as well as stream the videos at the sporting event, in the student center and in the archives. He also mentioned that there they do some screening to weed out inappropriate photos or video, but so far there haven’t been any problems.
-A presentation on Copyright for Digital Collections highlighted just how difficult it really can be, and is many times, to get permission to provide online access to materials. Lynn Eaton from Duke, Kristy Dixon from UNC- Charlotte, and Maggie Dickson from UNC-Chapel Hill all recounted the long, involved process of researching who holds copyright for various materials, what to ask when you send a letter to get permission to put materials online, and what the Fair Use Provision of the Copyright Act of 1976 says. (Fair Use) Duke is working with advertising materials from a large number of companies, UNC-Charlotte is working with the Payne Editorial Cartoon Collection and UNC-Chapel Hill is working with city directories. Needless to say, very few things were cut and dried for these projects, but they are all moving ahead without any problems so far.
-Craig, Rebecca and I enjoyed hearing about the projects that are going on at NC State in their Special Collections Research Center, but I must admit we were more than a little envious of their resources and number of staff.
*Kristen Merryman, Digital Projects Librarian, described how they have been identifying potential users for their agricultural collections. Going by professors’ offices, spreading the word through student employees and doing departmental outreach has helped them connect with departments that didn’t know what resources were available in Special Collections.
*Emily Walters, Project Librarian with the architectural and design school, discussed the grant-funded project, Changing the Landscape, that helped them process 1200 linear feet of over 40,000 original drawings and project files. They refined their processing procedures and were able to make the materials available for use. They actually take the materials to the students in the design library and have had good response.
*Genya O’Gara, Project Librarian for Student Leadership Initiative, told of the Red, White and Black project which celebrates the African American student experience at NCSU. It is a guided walking tour around campus that lets use familiar technology to hear a speaker tell what happened at a certain place or see a picture of how things “used to be”. Response has been very positive, overwhelmingly so, and there are plans to continue to expand the information included in it.
After a great lunch at Jack’s Corner, Rebecca and I made sure things were ready for our presentation on digitizing the Biblical Recorder from our NC Baptist Collection. While we didn’t bring the audience to tears, all went well and there were some good questions for us at the end. Our co-presenter, Gwen Gosney Erickson, described how Guilford College’s Historical Collection, along with other Quaker schools, had partnered with Ancestry.com to have many of their church record holdings put online and be available to researchers. Their project isn’t complete yet, but should be within the year. Closing out our session was LeRae Umfleet from the NC Department of Cultural Resources. She discussed how they have used social media to share many of the resources they have about the Civil War. What she thought would encompass writing 2-3 blog posts a week morphed into 2-3 blog posts a day! She went through multiple diaries and letters and has found a corresponding entry for each day of the Civil War. She calls that job security for the next 3 years! There are many loyal followers of the blog, and they are anxious to hear what happens each day.
It’s always great to talk with other archivists and find out what they are doing and get new ideas from them. The 2012 SNCA conference was a place to do just that and I look forward to the next conference!