On Monday, Vicki Johnson and I presented at the Society of North Carolina Archivists (SNCA) Conference on the Secrest Artists Series. Our theme, like that of the SNCA conference, was on community engagement and connections. We used the Secrest Artists Series, and the archival collection for the series, as an example of holdings in Special Collections and Archives that has a great deal of potential to bridge the gap between Special Collections, campus, and the Winston-Salem community. With the retirement of the long time director of the series, Lillian Shelton, Special Collections and Archives acquired a large archives of the Secrest Artists Series and began processing. Shortly after Lillian’s retirement, Marion Secrest passed away prompting community interest in the series and the collection. Special Collections and Archives made the Secrest Artists Series collection a processing priority for patron use, community outreach, and digitization. We have completed the processing and are pleased to have the Secrest Artists Series finding aid available for researchers and people interested in the series! Like the series itself, this collection is an amazing testament to the arts and Wake Forest’s commitment to bringing world-class performers to campus. Many attendees of our SNCA presentation showed interest and suggested ways to connect this collection to the greater Winston-Salem arts community. I enjoyed SNCA and appreciate the opportunity for Vicki and me to showcase such a great collection.
Last week, Chelcie Rowell and I traveled to Raleigh for the Code4Lib Pre-conference focused on archival discovery and use. I found this to be a very enjoyable and thought provoking day of discussion and idea sharing. Led by Tim Shearer from UNC Chapel Hill and Will Sexton from Duke, the format of the pre-conference was focused talks rather than presentations. The room was broken up into groups such as digitization, outreach, assessment, description, and access. I joined the description group and saw many familiar faces that I have followed professionally.
The morning session began with the provocative statement “Why I hate finding aids.” Each group discussed the pros and cons of this statement and presented their groups opinions at the end. As you may imagine, my description group *loves* finding aids and found this statement to be an insult to the very core of archival practice and foundation. Although we defended finding aids, there was discussion of lack of uniformity both within institutions as well as across archives. Bibliographic description has such a structured input, but that structure is still not established in archival description. Our group felt that although there are things wrong with finding aids including authority control, archival jargon, and access points, the archival foundation of provenance and respect des fonds leave the finding aid as a concept our only option of description as of now.
Another provocative statement made to prompt our breakout group discussions pertained to digital collections content grouped together in something like an exhibit versus within the context of a finding aid or the original order of the collection. Again, my group made up of mostly “description” archivists emphasized the need for archival context in a digital world. So many times researchers are “dropped” into a digital collection and find something “cool” but they don’t always realize that it is part of a larger, and most times, richer archival collection. We hope that with new archival software such as ArchivesSpace and linked data, digital collections will have the infrastructure and the metadata to be more closely connected with the creator and archival collection.
After Chelcie’s suggestion of a delicious lunch at a place calledBeasley’s Chicken and Honey (Go there. Seriously.) we returned to a more presentation based format. The topics included ArchivesSpace and crowdsourcing. I enjoyed the afternoon sessions with the theoretical implementation of ArchivesSpace juxtaposed with actual crowdsourcing projects, big and small. I must say, I enjoyed this pre-conference very much and found that the format was the best part. It is rare to sit at a table with colleagues you respect and who are doing amazing things in your field and just get to talk, and share stories, and brainstorm. Thank you for the opportunity!
Recently, I had the great pleasure of attending the Modern Archives Institute (MAI) at the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) in Washington, DC. This was a two week intensive archival training course covering all aspects of archival work. Held twice a year (January and June) the MAI session I attended was the 115th. With thirty two attendees from all over the United States, this was a tremendous learning experience for all of us. The format was mostly lectures by professionals in the field as well as some tours, hands-on exercises, and plenty of time for discussion. Although we all had a wonderful time and saw some really cool stuff, priority number one was learning as much as possible.
The first week was spent at “Archives I” which many of you may know as the main NARA building in downtown Washington, DC. We were guided throughout the two week course by the amazing Mary Rephlo and welcomed the first morning by the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero. We had roughly eight hour days of lectures on topics including: introduction to archives, overview of records management, appraisal & acquisition, arrangement & description, archival management, grants, and archives & law. We were lectured by leaders in the field with years of experience. I cannot express how grateful I am to have been able to sit in on the first week of lectures and would be happy to discuss each and every one further.
Week two appropriately kicked off with two days at “Archives II” in College Park, Maryland. For our class, Archives II was all about non-textual materials. We attended lectures on and took tours of: preservation, conservation, cartographic records, photographic records, A/V media preservation and reformatting, and electronic records.
These sessions were invaluable in addressing the much messier, confusing, and sometimes un-readable materials that lurk in archival collections.
We continued our week at Archives I with an immersion day into education, access, exhibits, and reference. As you can imagine, like so much of what we learned at NARA, the scale they work on is slightly larger than what we do here. It was inspiring to see, however, how important of a priority they make these aspects of archival management. As well as one arranges, describes, and preserves the records, they mean nothing if no one knows about them, uses them, or sees them.
We spent our penultimate day at the Library of Congress where the Manuscript Division hosted our visit. We had a very inspiring presentation by Laura Kells and Meg MacAleer, two processing archivists, titled “The Truth Behind Original Order: Or What To Do If A Collection Shows Up In Garbage Cans.” Although the LC Manuscript Division is also working on a scale far larger than ZSR, it was great to hear from two archivists who are working with personal papers and manuscript collections rather than large government record groups.
As you may imagine, we got to go on some pretty cool tours at the Library of Congress. Both the Music Manuscript Division and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division pulled out some treasures to show off to us gawking visitors.
After picking ourselves up off of the floor of The Library of Congress, we spent our last day back at Archives I discussing ethics and ongoing professional issues. It was a bittersweet day for our group knowing it was all over but we were excited to get back to our institutions to use the knowledge we had acquired. I am inspired by all of the professionals I met on this trip and equipped with information and a solid network of people to turn to with questions. I am confident that each and every lecture I attended will inform the work I do here at ZSR and will impact the Archives positively. Thank you to everyone here who made it possible and to my teachers and cohort in Washington, DC. This was a once in a lifetime experience! I would be happy to talk anyone’s ear off about the minute details I have written in my notes and floating around in my head.
On Wednesday, I traveled to Chapel Hill with Tanya and Chelcie to attend CurateGear. It was a very enjoyable day and I learned a lot about software and services that are available. I want to add to Tanya’s post by discussing some of the most interesting things I heard about during the day.
As part of my work, I manage the web archive for ZSR. We subscribe to ArchiveIt, a service through the Internet Archive, so I was excited to see and talk with Lori Donovan. Lori has been a point person for our work. She was demoing ArchiveIt for potentially new customers, but I did have a chance to speak with her about tackling the ever changing arena of social media captures. She described that ArchiveIt is working on “headless browsers” to better capture social media sites. This was good news to me and a very exciting development for web archiving!
I also briefly sat in on a discussion of ArchiveSocial, another web archive tool. I had seen a presentation about this at SNCA and was excited to hear more. The State Archives is successfully using this tool to wholly capture social media outlets of government officials as mandated by law. This software requires the login and passwords of the social media accounts in order to capture (and display) everything related to the account, including direct messages. This tool is great for the State Archives because of the nature of public records and transparency, but I don’t believe we’ll be implementing it here anytime soon.
Finally, I was very excited to hear from Brad Westbrook about ArchivesSpace, a new software that is merging Archivists’ Toolkit and Archon. This has been a very exciting and talked about development in the archives world. Brad did a brief demo showing both the user and back end experiences of the new software. Much of it was similar to Archivists’ Toolkit, but there were certainly more changes to come and some lingering questions as the development continues.
I must say, I found CurateGear a valuable experience and it certainly stretched my understanding of some tools and technology. I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend and look forward to using all that I learned here at ZSR. If anyone would like to talk more about my experience, I’m happy to!
Last week, I traveled to Furman University for the Tri-State Archivists Conference. In addition to attending sessions, I represented SNCA as the Archives Week chair and did quite a bit of promotion of this year’s Archives Week. I must say it was a very worthwhile conference and I will try to hit some highlights for you.
“All Together Now! The Archives as Collaborative Space”
Katie Nash and Patrick Rudd of Elon University discussed their collaboration to work with the Education department at Elon to require the use of primary sources in their classrooms. Kristy Merryman from NC State highlighted her wonderful work with the “Cultivating a Revolution” project and her effort to make this project accessible to K-12 teachers. The project integrated a teacher portal with lesson guides to assist teachers in utilizing the online content. Kristy emphasized that these materials were all web based and the reasoning was that when teachers are preparing and executing lesson plans, they are not traveling to the archives, they are accessing materials online. Finally, Paula Jeanette Mangiafico from Duke spoke about their efforts to make intern experiences more valuable for both the individual as well as the institution. Giving students more context, encouraging discovery and collaboration, and creating a real learning experience allows everyone to “be awesome together.” I found this session extremely helpful and encouraging! I hope to use some strategies and ideas in my work here at ZSR.
“Social Media Archiving in State Government”
Rachel Trent from the State Archives of North Carolina and Kathleen Kenney from the State Library of North Carolina presented on a very timely and interesting topic, web archiving. The efforts of the State Archives and the State Library mirror much of the work we are doing here at ZSR with ArchiveIt. They discussed challenges they have had in terms of privacy, access, and completeness. They discussed using Archive Social to more effectively gather social media content, but also the pitfalls of display. Although Archive Social captures content, the content does not look like it does when hosted by the social media sites. This is an issue to archivists when presenting how something looked to future generations. I hope to further discuss strategies with Rachel and Kathleen to more effectively capture the social media presence at WFU.
“We the People: Creating a More Perfect Archive”
Vicki and I put together this panel (along with Maureen McCormick Harlow) to discuss a variety of diversity programming in N.C. I spent my time discussing the success of SNCA’s 2012 N.C. Archives Week “Journeys to Justice: Civil Rights in NC.” The theme was chosen to allow archives across the state to showcase materials relating to a variety of civil rights issues: integration, women’s rights, LGBTQ community, Amendment One, and many others. SNCA’s role in N.C. Archives week is to help facilitate, promote, and encourage institutions across the state to plan events, hang posters, and generally get the “archival” word out. Beyond heralding the successes of last year’s N.C. Archives Week, I shamelessly promoted this year’s Archives Week “Home Grown! A Celebration of NC Food Culture & History.” I was very pleased with the response I got from archivists seeking promotional materials or sharing events they were planning for Archives Week.
Overall, I found the Tri-State conference to be a success! I enjoyed my time networking, learned a lot from archivists in the region, and promoted Archives Week 2013. Thanks to Lynn, Wanda, and Tanya for the opportunity to attend.
Last week, I traveled to New Orleans for the Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) Annual Conference. I found the conference to be a very valuable experience, one that I would like to try to highlight for y’all.
I started my conference by representing the Society of North Carolina Archivists (SNCA) at the Regional Associations Group Meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to figure out how this group will be run, as we are just beginning to organize as a “regionals” group. “Regionals” include state associations like SNCA, regional associations like MARAC (Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference), or area associations like the Association of St. Louis Area Archivists. We are hopeful that this group will ensure more “cross-cultural” exchange that is often overlooked due to the size and scope of SAA.
I continued my first day with the Web Archiving Round Table meeting that Craig covered so well in his write up. The web is becoming more of a focus not only for the archives community, but my work specifically. I saw a lot of colleagues who attended CrawlCamp NYC in July and had a chance to talk with archivists who are really on the cutting edge of web archiving. As this is a new round table, I believe you will hear more about this group in SAA reports for years to come.
Here are some highlights from the conference (that have not been covered by other reports) listed by session title.
There Is No Going Back, Only Forward: Value-Added Processing in the Age of MPLP
Chaired by Linda Sellars of NC State, this session was packed with people looking for the balance between the revolutionary (at least to archivists) MPLP style of processing (that is “More Product, Less Process”) and ease of use and reference capabilities within collections. In an effort to decrease backlogs and create access, MPLP processed collections leave researchers and reference librarians wanting more. What this panel reinforced is the iterative process of processing collections along with the variable value of each individual collection. Depending on research value, size, and format, panelists put together a valid argument for processing more- but only if it was necessary. For many collections, or parts of collections, the bare minimum is just fine. This was an encouraging and informative session.
Professional Poster Pitch
A first at SAA, Craig and I had a chance to get up in front of an audience and “pitch” our poster before we actually presented it. You probably saw the beautiful poster Craig put together, but for our poster pitch we tried to prime the pump of curiosity with this image.
The Process of Processing: Management Strategies and Solutions
Another crowded session, managing processing is certainly something that applies to my everyday work. The panel of archivists discussed best practices and strategies to reduce backlogs, leveraging student workers to process more effectively, and how to get institutional buy-in on MPLP processing. This session was great in that it showed how to get through your backlog, but also showed that there are so many other institutions, big and small, that are going through the same everyday struggles as we are here.
Reference, Access and Outreach Section Marketplace
In the afternoon, I facilitated a discussion on “Strategies for Documenting Diversity” during the Reference, Access and Outreach Section Meeting. I must say this was a very rewarding conversation. I led 6 discussion groups for 15 minute intervals with about 20 people in each. I started by talking about our Documenting Diversity initiative last October, but the conversations went in many different directions including web archiving, embedded archivists in student life, and a variety of other ideas. I must say that this was my favorite part of the conference, and probably one of my most valuable experiences at a conference. Many people were inspired to plan programs like ours, and others were eager to tell me what strategies worked for them. Unlike a panel discussion, I felt that I connected with my audience and had a much more beneficial experience as both presenter and listener.
And many more!
Some other sessions I attended included “Building Better Bridges: Archivists Cross the Digital Divide”, “Accession Confessions: Exposing Accessions in the Era of Minimal Processing”, and “Advancing the Ask: Proactive Acquisitions for the Modern Age.” I must say that each and every session I attended was chock-a-block full of great ideas and brilliant archivists, information technologists, and students. I had a great time learning what others were doing and certainly felt humbled by the large scale (and small scale) projects that this group of people are completing on a daily basis.
I would love to talk about any or all of these sessions, our poster, or what I ate in New Orleans (yum!!!). Please let me know if you want more details. Thanks to the Dean’s office for the opportunity to attend.
Last week, I traveled to Minneapolis for my first Rare Book and Manuscripts Section pre-conference. Many of you may know that RBMS is a section of ACRL, which is a division of ALA. It is a niche group of people within a very large organization, so it makes sense that the preconference is separate from ALA. I found the conference to be intimate and thought provoking and I am glad I had the opportunity to attend.
This year’s RBMS theme “O Rare! Performance in Special Collections” fit perfectly with ourGertrude and Max Hoffmann Papers, allowing Megan and I to present a poster on the topic. We traveled to Minneapolis last Sunday for two an a half action-packed days of conferencing. Anna and I hit up the “Technology Petting Zoo” where a variety of librarians and archivists showed their innovative use of technology in their everyday work. Projects included an automated recall system for Special Collections holdings over *seven* Special Collections libraries at the University of Minnesota! Following the petting zoo, we attended the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America’s Showcase Reception. This was really an amazing reception highlighting the beautiful books that the vendors were selling. Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything.
Monday morning began with a very interesting Plenary Session “Submerged Voices in Underground Performance” in which Dr. Larisa Mann, Professor of Culture & Communication at NYU and Brooklyn College spoke of the Jamaican Dance Music scene, and Katherine Reagan and Ben Ortiz spoke of theCornell University Hip Hop Collection. The session brought up the topics of documenting living cultures, marginalized communities’ claim to the documentation of their own culture, the disconnect between the stakeholders within the living culture and the people documenting them, and the value of both groups. Truly fascinating stuff. In both instances, the “otherness” or “underground” nature of the original scenes (both Jamaican dance music and hip hop) is what makes it unique. Integrating these into mainstream institutions takes away the legitimacy within the community the institution is trying to document. I really could go on and on about the implications these projects have on the communities, but I will just say that this plenary was talked about in many later sessions and had everyone thinking. If you want to hear more about it, I am happy to discuss.
The next session, “Collecting in the Moment,” was very applicable to my work. Gretchen Gueguen of the University of Virginia talked about her work “capturing” all of the tweets, blogs, new articles, and Facebook posts relating to the ousting and reinstatement of UVA’s President Teresa Sullivan. With both a sense of “collecting in the moment” and an extreme sense of “immediacy” the library decided to save the historic record of events. As digital archivist, Gretchen along with the rest of the University Archives, had not decided on a clear policy for web-archiving, especially in terms of social media. Some points that I found particularly interesting:
- “The Internet is not longer ephemeral”
- “It is THE publishing platform”
- “The HOW of the medium was part of the message”
Gretchen described the ad-hoc methods she devised to gather the materials and advised the audience not to do what she did. In addition, the conversation turned to privacy and ownership, duplicates, and censorship. I enjoyed this session and have a lot more to think about in terms of our web-archiving initiative.
I attended an afternoon discussion “Putting Diversity into Action: Showcasing Diverse Collections” where a lively discussion followed that focused mainly adding diverse community collections to your Special Collections. One of the main takeaways was the importance of bridging the cultural gap before approaching diverse groups. Implying to a separate community that their cultural heritage materials are better taken care of by your institution can be a tricky and sometimes disastrous implication. Even if an archivist has the best of intentions, sometimes a breakdown in communication can turn community members off from donating their materials. Similar to the plenary session, the ins and outs of working with a collection that represents a collective, and living, culture is not easy business. This session gave me a lot to think about, and I hope to be able to apply it to my work.
On the second day, Megan and I represented Wake Forest with our poster “Hidden Treasures: The Max and Gertrude Hoffmann Papers.” Our poster was well received, sparking discussion about the variety of resources within Max and Gertrude’s collection.
After lunch, I attended a very interesting seminar “Metadata, The Reboot: Making Reusable Metadata and Making Metadata Reusable” with Jenn Riley from UNC Chapel Hill, Aaron Rubenstein from UMass Amherst, and Matthew Battles from Harvard. The presenters put together a very provocative panel stressing the move from structured data towards linked data and the “web” of information. Jenn Riley quoted heavily from David Weinberger’s “Everything Is Miscellaneous” and urged archivists and librarians to “let go” of their metadata in an effort for others to use it in innovative and exciting new ways. “In a relatively open digital information network characterized by linkability, metadata is ripe for change, for a new paradigm of utility, of re-usability.” The idea that people make their own connections, not just the connections we make for them is coming across in many digital humanities projects. The panelists urged us archivists to take part in a psychological shift to expose our metadata to the web and embrace what can be done with “our” metadata when we “let go.” This was a truly interesting session and gave me a lot to think about in terms of structured data.
The afternoon session allowed me to sit in on Megan and Anna’s session, which was quite a good conversation. We rounded out the evening with a reception at the Mill City Museum. A beautiful and creative use of mill ruins, we had a great time mingling with rare book librarians, archivists, special collections librarians, and even the odd ILL person:)
This is a brief recap of a fun-filled and informative conference. If anyone wants to hear more about the sessions I mentioned, or others that I didn’t, I am happy to have a cup of coffee and discuss. Thanks to all who made it possible to attend, I appreciate the opportunity.
On Tuesday, Lauren Corbett and I attended part one of a four part series of webinars on digital preservation hosted by ASERL. John Burger provided the introduction for the webinar and told us that the attendance was somewhere near five hundred, when normally the turnout for an ASERL webinar is about fifty. I guess that is a testament to the murky landscape of digital preservation! We were lucky enough to have Lisa Gregory of the State Library of North Carolina as the speaker for the first installment. I enjoyed her presentation immensely and especially appreciated her breakdown on how to get started and her encouragement to not be overwhelmed by the process. I will refrain from adding links and references in my post, as Gregory does that quite well in her materials. I encourage you to take a look at her slide deck and handout, she provides great resources and insight.
The presentation was broken into two sections. The first part on planning and first steps truly spoke to me and are applicable to my immediate work in our current digital preservation. The second section was a brief overview of PREMIS and how it applies once you have made inroads to digital preservation.
Lisa began the conversation by encouraging an assessment and inventory of all of the possible places your institution may have materials appropriate for digital preservation, including workstations, hard drives, removable media, content management systems, and mobile devices, to name a few. Her apt description of this as a “HOT MESS” helped to lighten the dread that the previous list had instilled. What followed was a concise and encouraging list of steps we can take to begin the very necessary.
The process begins with “Reconnoiter”-which Gregory describes as information gathering. She recommends reading current practices, successes, and implementations of digital preservation before getting started and after you have begun. This process, along with all of the following steps, are iterative and constantly changing. Digital preservation is a moving target and so is the literature to support it.
Following an understanding of strategies to implement digital preservation, Gregory suggests an “Assessment” of your digital content. Where is it hiding? Who is working with it? Make a list, a plan, a file naming system, and write it all down!
The assessment leads to “Documentation”-your policies, your plans, your best practices. She mentioned being transparent to your stakeholders and sharing workflows with involved parties. Again, this step is not a fixed point, and will need review regularly to keep up with changing materials, people, and strategies.
What is documentation without “Communication” the next step? Assessing and documenting does nothing unless you share those tools with users, administrators, and peers. Digital preservation is not happening in a vacuum, communications makes the process easier for everyone.
Finally, you have to “Implement” all of the steps into the “nitty-gritty” of digital preservation. There is a point where you just have to start. You have to consider storage, obsolete media, organization, workflows, and metadata when you begin (and continue) the process. What I found most helpful was the fact that Gregory said you don’t have to know it all or be perfect, you just have to start. Of course, laying the best groundwork will make you more successful, but she encouraged us to “do the research and just go for it.”
I look forward to the next three parts of the digital preservation webinars and am happy to have anyone join in on the sessions. Let me know if you’d like to sit-in or discuss the webinars.
Last evening, Vicki, Craig, and I joined other local archivists at theTattoo Archive on Fourth Street downtown. The event was sponsored by theSociety of North Carolina Archivists and coordinated by Dianne Johnson from Carpenter Library.
I have seen this storefront many times, but have never taken the time to go inside. I must say, I was very impressed with the space, the collection, the owner/archivist C.W. Eldridge, and his wife, the Book Mistress collection of books.
The space is beautiful and the materials are arranged on the walls like an art gallery. I highly recommend stepping inside and taking a look at the collection of pictures, flash (that is what the hand drawn tattoos mounted on the wall are called), artifacts, books, and other materials. You can also get a tattoo from Mr. Eldridge. He knows his stuff!
Yesterday, Vicki and I had the opportunity to visit the Winston Salem State University Archives and the archivist Tom Flynn. Although a smaller collection than WFU’s and with only Tom as a full time employee, WSSU is doing some great new things to promote their archives to the campus and beyond. The hallway leading down to the Archives is not exactly on a busy path for students, but they have taken some measures to get their materials outside or to entice people in.
A new exhibit case has recently been added to the hallway outside of the Archives. Tom has chosen sports memorabilia and photographs to showcase materials that may interest students.
The hallway dead ends into the Archives where a large monitor displays a slideshow of the evolution of the WSSU campus. In addition to the digital display, another case holds memorabilia and artifacts from the Archives holdings. Tom showed us some of the archival collections that have been processed, but he also showed us some of the funny things that can be found in their Archives. We all have them:)
One final similarity between WSSU and WFU was the “go to” names they have permanently in their digitization rooms. Look carefully at the board below.
Thanks to Tom for hosting our visit!