Professional Development

Author Archive

A Trip to the Tattoo Archive

Friday, October 12, 2012 4:27 pm

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.

Volume One.

Volume One.

 

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!

Quick visit to WSSU Archives

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 1:58 pm

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.

Large monitor for slideshow

Large monitor for slideshow

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:)

Michelle Obama doll.

Michelle Obama doll.

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.

Kevin and Erick immortalized.

Kevin and Erick immortalized.

Thanks to Tom for hosting our visit!

Rebecca at THATCamp Philly

Friday, October 5, 2012 4:50 pm

Friday and Saturday I had the great opportunity to visit Philadelphia for THATCamp Philly. THATCamp(The Humanities and Technology Camp) is one of the many outcomes of the creative and innovative minds at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. THATCamp is an “un-conference” where the participants suggest the sessions and vote on what will be in the schedule the morning of the event.

THATCamp Philly was held at the beautiful Chemical Heritage Foundation and was a terrific and centrally located venue for humanists, technologists, librarians, archivists, curators, professors, students, and many other professionals to convene and discuss issues affecting each of these groups.

The first session I attended was titled Digital Humanities for Newbies and was immensely helpful for people new to the profession or still trying to wrap their head around what exactly Digital Humanities is. Some of the takeaways from this session are the fantastic Digital Humanities projects, blogs, and guidelines out there to help people who are new:

The next session Evaluating Digital Humanities Projects included a lively discussion by a large group. The conversation focused on the need for evaluation of digital humanities projects as opposed to the subjective nature of such evaluation. Beyond analytics, the members of the discussion threw out ideas to evaluate projects. The Visual Website Optimizer is a way to implement A/B testing to make small but significant changes to optimize the user experience. Projects like NINES, 18th Century Connect, and MESA includes the traditionally accepted peer review model into Digital Humanities projects. Focus groups came up time and time again as a more effective way of getting user feedback. Participants discussed the success of focus groups in comparison to the challenges of getting survey responses.

The following session was something that is close to home, as we in Special Collections are working on a pilot audio digitization project. Providing Access to Audiovisual Materials Online highlighted the fact that so many archives do not do anything with their backlog of obsolete audiovisual materials. The issues of time, money, and copyright. In addition to actually getting audiovisual materials online, the discussion turned to digital preservation and maintenance of the digital surrogates.

The final session I attended, Outside the Classroom, but on Campus: New Media, DH, and Campus Culture, included a lively discussion of how to engage the students in the activities they are participating in outside of the classroom. What kept coming up was the fact that once the “adults” took charge, students lost interest. It is the spontaneous and organic actions of student groups and engagement on campus that makes the interactions so unique. Some universities assign students blogs or html folders to encourage digital engagement. Unfortunately, the members of the discussion that have this at their University find that the students do not use these spaces. Students are creating their own online spaces (think “WFU-Hey Girl” blog) but not necessarily utilizing what they are being offered.

THATCamp Philly was a great opportunity to have open discussions with professionals across the board. I am thankful for the opportunity to travel to Philadelphia and participate in this innovative conference.

 

Rebecca at SAA

Thursday, August 16, 2012 4:03 pm
New San Diego Public Library

New San Diego Public Library

I have traveled to and from San Diego for the Society of American Archivists Annual Conference “Beyond Borders” and I have a lot to tell you all about. The first day was a long day of travel and an equally long facilitated “SAA/Regional Archival Organization Summit” where myself and Katie Nash of Elon University represented SNCA (the Society of North Carolina Archivists). The idea of this summit is to gather state and regional archives associations and prioritize what is important to us and create an action plan. There were quite a lot of representatives from regional conferences including Rocky Mountain Archivists, Inter-Mountain Archivists, California Archivists, Metropolitan New York Archivists, Ohio Archivists, Northwest Archivists, Southwest Archivists, Hawaii Archivists, Florida Archivists, and Midwest Archivists. After discussion, the efforts to establish formal lines of communication between state, regional, and national organizations are now a priority. In addition to this, the issues of advocacy, national continuing education programs, and a regional committee at SAA are all ideas that will be presented to SAA Council in an effort to make the regional and state organizations heard.

I did have a chance to pop my head into the Archivists’ Toolkit/ Archon Roundtable Meeting. Archivists’ Toolkit (AT) is the data management system we currently use in Special Collections at ZSR but there has been talk of AT and Archon merging into ArchivesSpace. This talk has been going on for many years now, but some of the news I heard at this meeting was that Lyrasis will be the organizational home of the ArchivesSpace and that Hudson Molonglo will be the development partner. There wasn’t much new information about ArchivesSpace. Two very basic and brief screenshots of ArchivesSpace were shown as well as encouragement to join the Google Group or participate in beta testing. Needless to say, the wait continues on what is promised to be a very exciting software change in the archives world, eventually.

Sky bridge from conference hotel

Sky bridge from conference hotel

 

Finally, Craig and I left the conference hotel and our own fabulous Gaslamp District hotel in search of a San Diego staple, fish tacos. We ended up at the fantastic, fresh, and adventurous Mariscos El Pulpo where we had fish and octopus tacos! Yum!

Mariscos El Pulpo

Mariscos El Pulpo

 

Day 2 began with an inspiring Plenary Session featuring both the Archivist of the United States David Ferriero and Historypin‘s Jon Voss. The AOTUS Ferriero discussed the history making Presidential Memorandum on Managing Government Records as part of the Open Government Initiative that in the words of Barack Obama will “establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy, and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government.” Voss emphasized the “mashup culture” of linked open data in libraries, archives, and museums (LODLAM). His interest in taking a search from an idea, to a location, to a picture, to a catalog record, etc. is possible through linked open data. Instead of closing information off, we should open it up. He stated simply “we are a community of innovators, not litigators. We want your data.” I must say, he got the crowd excited.

 

My first session of the day interested me because of the prospect of hearing about the digitization of audiovisual collections, something we here at ZSR are talking about. “Choose You Own Arrangement: Using Large-scale Digitization Efforts to Process image and Audiovisual Collections” was a very interesting session indeed, if not all that applicable to our audiovisual collections, definitely helpful in some of our photo digitization initiatives.

Sarah Dorpinghaus of the University of Kentucky spoke of her work at the Lowcountry Digital Library on the Rabbi William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection and Papers. This particular collection came with no original order, was a very large and varied collection, and was under tremendous time constraints due to grant funding and donor expectations. In an effort to make this project happen, the archivist decided to forgo arrangement and use digitization as a form of arrangement and description. By starting at the beginning of a box, assistants took each item from the box, scanned it, put it in a folder, assigned metadata and location information, and out it in a box for it to stay. No series arrangement by subject, date, format, or anything we are used to. The processing staff spent the most amount of time creating extremely robust metadata (although the Sarah did say she would lessen it if she could do it again) to match to the digital images in ContentDM rather than re-arranging the materials beforehand. She did put together a finding aid that included front matter to contextualize the container list style of finding aid, but no other processing was done on the collection. The advantages are that there is a better handle of the contents of the collection as well as access to some of the materials. The disadvantages are that the collection isn’t completely digitized nor is there a clear understanding of the whole collection yet.

Benn Joseph of Northwestern University provided another perspective on a negative digitization project. The Justine Caldwell photo collection is limited to campus use only as part of the art slide library. This collection consists of negatives of Caldwell’s PhD work in African Studies at Northwestern in the 1950′s. A verbal agreement was struck between the donor, 90, and the library to digitize the negatives and return them to the donor, to be given back to the library upon her death. Time was of the essence to have the donor help identify metadata for the negatives before this information was lost. The workflow went from scanning the items in batches, printing copies for Caldwell, her handwriting information on copies, and returning them to the library. The narrative nature of her description proved both helpful and hindering. During the process, the donor passed away, leaving incomplete metadata and an incomplete project in general. In addition to the question of completion, the archivist now asks the question, is this collection processed? He discussed the fact that there was so much work done in description and scanning that the 1 linear foot of “processing” seems to sell short the amount of work and time spent. These questions were thought provoking and on the minds of many archivists processing and digitizing collections.

Finally, Amanda Ross of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum spoke of the Nixon Era White House tapes. Needless to say, she has a very interesting job.

Lunch followed with colleagues from near and far. Katie Nash of Elon University, the archivist formerly known as Audra Eagle, Craig and I had a delicious meal at a restaurant called Mission.

Craig and Katie at Mission

Craig and Katie at Mission

 

 

Audra!

Audra!

A very exciting after-lunch experience was the mass of archivists waiting to see the Green Bay Packers exit the conference hotel on their way to play the San Diego Chargers. Although we didn’t see (or recognize) anyone famous, it did put the archivists into quite a tizzy and got all of us to get out our smart phones and start snapping pictures. See the crowd in the picture below:)

Archivists waiting to look at football players

Archivists waiting to look at football players

The second session of the day “Hybrids and Legacies: Challenges of Finding Aids in the Digital Age” talked about something everyone is talking about, born digital collections.

Eira Tansey of Tulane University and Lucinda Cockerell of Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Popular Music both spoke of their efforts to get their paper finding aids in a digital format, something we here at ZSR are very familiar with.

Alexis Antracoli of Drexel University described her work with a hybrid collection of traditional “born physical” materials as well as 35GB hard drive and 500-plus pieces of removable media. The issues that came up such as original order and space are ones that archivists grapple with all the time, but the fact that digital media was part of it created an interesting twist. She discussed her decision to retain the full connection of the born digital items to the analog folder and not process it as two parallel collections, analog and digital. This meant creating an access copy to integrate into the finding aid in addition to a preservation copy. The conversion and description of the newly created copies added time to processing. It was imperative that description of the digital copy was present and consistent with the analog folder it corresponded with.

Olga Virakhovskaya of the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library described her work on a hybrid collection that was processed quite differently than Alexis’. In spite of the fact that the analog portion of the collection was already processed when a 10GB hard drive showed up at the library, Olga would have processed this separately anyways. Because the hard drive was a separate entity, they treated it as a unique series within the larger finding aid. With file renaming, creation of access copies, and some rearrangement to make things more understandable Olga integrated the digital files into the finding aid for the whole hybrid collection.

The day ended with the opening of the Exhibit Hall where we could mingle with vendors and archivists. The All-Attendee Reception finished the evening. It was a beautiful party on the lawn of the hotel next to the bay front. As soon as the cake pops were gone, we called it a night.

All-Attendee Reception

All-Attendee Reception

 

“Crowdsourcing Our Collections: Three Case Studies of User Participation in Metadata Creation and Enhancement” was a very interesting session on Friday morning.

Courtney Michael spoke of her time working on the WGBH Educational Foundation. At WGBH they approach the crowdsourcing of their educational videos as a mixture of private and public contributions. Although the “public” can contribute, one must acquire a login and password to be able to see items that need transcription on metadata. This allows WGBH to control who is altering what. This is what they call a “participatory cataloging” project where people can tag, identify, transcribe, and add metadata.

Meredith Stewart of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) talked about the amazing Citizen Archivist program which is an amazing program started by the AUTOS in 2010. As a citizen archivist you can tag, transcribe, edit articles, and even index the census. There is no login, meaning anyone can contribute at any time. The variety of work, the degrees of difficulty, and the access to materials has made the program extremely successful. NARA has not had issues with bad work as the work is iterative and people can continue fixing records as expertise permits.

Finally, Greg Prickman of the University of Iowa Special Collections and University Archives described the crowdsourcing effort to transcribe their Civil War Diaries. He described that he started the project with no budget, software, or administrators and now it has been an incredibly successful. It was slowly going along before it went viral from a reddit.com “TIL” post “TIL [Today I learned] how to participate in history while sitting on my a** by transcribing Civil War Diaries online.” Although this viral coverage did crash their server, it also brought a lot of attention to the project resulting in completion of the transcription of all of the Civil War diaries they had online at the time.

All in all, I had a very good conference. I heard a lot of great ideas, met some wonderful new archivists, and caught up with some wonderful old archivists. If anyone would like to discuss more about my experience or hear about any round table or section meetings, please ask me. I would love to chat about it.

Petco Park

Petco Park

 

Rebecca at MARAC

Thursday, April 26, 2012 12:44 pm

I traveled to Cape May, New Jersey for theMARAC (Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference). Why am I at aMid-Atlantic Conference when Wake Forest is clearly not Mid-Atlantic you ask? Besides being a great regional association that is bigger than SNCA and smaller than SAA, I specifically wanted to come to the Omeka workshop that they were hosting on Thursday. Omeka is an open source software created by George Mason’s Roy Rosenwig Center for History and New Media for digital collections and exhibits that is specifically created to include Dublin Core metadata. We have been talking about hosting our own version of Omeka to highlight our digital collections and holdings better than our current system. Although only an introduction to Omeka, this workshop was most helpful in introducing me to the ins and out of Omeka. Rebecca Goldman of La Salle University led the workshop of 35 people. We had to do some pre-work establishing our own hosted Omeka site to play with and download some text files, images, and a csv file of metadata she had already arranged. Once in the workshop, Rebecca showed us how to create “items” that are files (images, pdfs, etc.) with accompanying metadata. She showed us how to batch import a CSV file with image urls if they are already available on the web. If not, you can import the metadata and attach files of whatever it is you are describing separately, etc. In addition to files, you can create collections and exhibits in Omeka. Rebecca walked us through the steps and although the internet connection was quite slow with 35 people simultaneously working on the same website, I found the navigation of the software to be quite easy. Playing around with the themes and plugins, Omeka is quite customizable. Plugins for csv files, exhibits, OAI, simplepages, LC subject headings, and many others exist and there are more being developed every day. During the Q and A, Rebecca mentioned that at Drexel, they have students use Omeka to create their own online exhibits. What an exciting idea that is full of possibilities for students to work with Special Collections in the future!

A very interesting session I attended was “Preservation and Conservation of Captured and Born Digital Materials” moderated by Jordan Steele of Johns Hopkins University. The first speaker was Isaiah Beard from Rutgers University Libraries who spoke of the need forstandards as illustrated in the Rutgers guidelines “Digital Data Curation: Understanding the Life Cycle of Born Digital Items.” He stressed the need to create standards and workflow practices, train staff on handling digital assets, and perform quality assurance. He suggests taking an active role in storage decisions, technical metadata, audit trails, and chain of custody. MAKE SURE that the hardware actually holds when breaking down!

An interesting point that Beard made was the idea that digital assets are easier to destroy and are more readily deleted than physical objects. Physical objects are typically stored, left behind, forgotten and rediscovered. But with digital objects, casual collectors typically delete what they don’t want when they are low on space or see no need to retain content. One keystroke, one unsaved item can be quickly deleted, whereas physical items tend to grow old gracefully. The iterative process of digital curation means constantly looking back at decisions and re-informing what is coming next. Start with the data, ask the creator how it was created, then ingest, preserve and curate. Often,we must accept that de facto industry standards become de facto preservation standards. Sometimes you have to adapt to the software even though it is not what you want to use. Establish a format guide and handling procedures. Document our decisions and rationale. Publish, share, and use the findings! Determine methods of access, how are we gonna share these digital assets. Above all, we do no harm. Do not do anything that will harm the preservation masters, make copies and then change them. Document these changes-make themtraceable, auditable, and reversible. When it comes to format migrations you must periodically reassess the relevant format, migrate, and continue to document.

As you can see, I thought Beard’s presentation was quite good. He made two points in the Q and A that I would like to mention. He said that when it comes to formats, they are not always great, but they are valuable. Even if a picture of a great event is snapped on an IPhone it does not make it less worthy of preservation. Another point that Isaiah brought up that really hit home is that fact that we are entering a digital dark age. Without archivists and institutions making an effort to capture and preserve the born digital assets, the record of our time will be lost forever. Some suggested links:www.dcc.ac.uk,www.ands.org.au, page2pixel.org

Next up was Tim Pyatt of Penn State, formerly at Duke. Tim addressed the presence of hybrid collections in the archives. Hybrid collections are analog collections with some portions that are digital. Because users are familiar with accessing analog collections in the reading room, born digital materials can be put in other platforms to provide access to more materials. Tim described a “quick and dirty” project that put some materials in flickr. According to analytics,digital content on flickr gets hit 8 times more than the digital content in ContentDM. Pyatt made the point that when scanned images and born digital items are together, users don’t care if it is a scan or the original.

Gretchen Geugen, UVA Digital Archivist, was the final speaker for this session and she was very encouraging to those of us who might feel a bit overwhelmed when it comes to born digital. She discussed the AIMS project:AIMS Born Digital Collections: An Inter-Institutional Model for Stewardship. This is a 2 year project to create a framework for stewardship of born digital archival records in collecting repositories. UVA, Yale, Stanford, University of Hull are all partners.

AIMS Framework: http://www2.lib.virginia.edu/aims/whitepaper

Gretchen discussed the next steps that she is taking to tackle the born digital items within UVA’s collection. UVA is using the AIMS framework on Collection Development and Accessioning to make a program specific to their institution. She stressed that this is a work in progress!! The decisions they are making now are affecting the decisions that they will make in the future.

Some points Gretchen brought up:

  • #1 items to work on: Copyright, access, ownership. Realistically, the donor probably doesn’t have copyright or licensing. You must realize that access is different for different items. Perhaps items cannot be made available online right now, your institution can possibly provide online access in future. Gretchen discussed the changing world of ownership. How do you give someone your blog? With digital formats, if the donor still has the original-they can donate it to 10 other archives. Users don’t know what is the institution of record.
  • The idea of “Enhanced curation”-interviewing the creator about their digital habits. Documenting their file naming style or screen shots of how they use it might help when describing it. Digital materials are interactive and you need to know how the creator interacted with the materials.
  • Accessioning: Take file, create bit by bit copy as preservation master, move it to our own preservation secure network, extract some technical metadata, look for duplicates and don’t accession, triage and see if further processing is necessary, update accession records as appropriate. This seems logical but not easy! With ALL the formats, going forward with the accessioning and processing it is not as easy to do. Priority is to inventory, get data off of it, put it somewhere safe and findable. Tasks: inventory, triage, transfer. UVA has aForensic Workstation: FRED Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device. Bought with grant funding, this is a very expensive machine but can be put together piecemeal.

All in all, this was a very interesting session. The speakers all had great ideas and insights on a very challenging aspect of archives.

I heard other wonderful strategies for processing large collections, preservation, and a lot about the History of Cape May county. I am happy to talk about the conference with anyone who would like to hear more. I am grateful for the opportunity to attend this conference and had a great time talking with other archivists.

Rebecca at SNCA 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 5:40 pm

Last week, Vicki, Craig, and I traveled to Greensboro for the Society of North Carolina Archivists (SNCA) Annual Conference. UNCG hosted both days of the conference and it was a great opportunity to spend time with and learn from colleagues from all over the state. Thursday’s lunch-time plenary speaker was Kate Theimer,author andblogger. Kate is a visionary in the archives world and it was wonderful to hear her perspectives on future trends in archives.

“Putting Your Patrons to Work: Crowdsourcing Success Stories” was the first session on Thursday. Lisa Gregory spoke of the North Carolina Family Records Online project. This project uses flickr to transcribe digitized vertical files that get very high use by genealogists and family historians. Lisa explained how the digitized materials are tagged on flickr asking people to transcribe them in the comments. A script then emails the comments back to the archivist who then makes a text file to be loaded into CONTENTdm. Lisa explained that she does not do any quality control but has found that people who do this type of transcription usually have an interest and enthusiasm for what they are doing and are usually very accurate. Michelle Czaikowski of the State Library also described a project using flickr. NCPedia encourages people to tag their own pictures on flickr that apply to all things North Carolina. Lastly, Tom Flynn of Winston-Salem State talked about accessioning and outreach in the cloud. Using SnapCrowd, Tom encourages students to submit and tag themselves in pictures at various campus events. His mode of encouragement is to attend events with a big sign with the address where you can email your photos. I think this is an interesting and interactive way to get students involved in documenting their experiences at the University. Although the potential for abuse is obvious, Tom is pleased with the overall success of the project.

“Managing Copyright for Digital Collections: Strategies from Three Recent Digitization Efforts” featured projects from the NC Digital Heritage Center, UNCC, and Duke. Maggie Dickson of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center spoke of the City Directory digitization project. She documented the extensive research she did to make sure that the directories are in the public domain and available for display. Kristy Dixon of UNCC described the ongoing work to get permission to digitize the Eugene Payne Cartoon Collection from the Charlotte Observer. Lynn Eaton of Duke University described the extensive copyright investigation and requesting of permissions for the ROAD project and Ad Views both of which are very large digital projects that highlight advertising. This really was an impressive and daunting presentation that illustrates the work it takes to investigate copyright as well as the great benefits that come from the digital projects that come of this work.

Thursday’s sessions ended with the SNCA business meeting. Our very own Craig Fansler was elected as a Member-at-Large for the board and my work as Archives Week Committee chair was extended for two years. The night ended with a reception at the Greensboro Historical Museum. This was a great opportunity to spend time with colleagues, walk through the museum, and honor one student and one professional in the field. it was a great day for North Carolina archivists!

Friday began bright and early with a the opening speaker Ralph P. Ganis. His speech “Tarheel Jesse: the Document Trail of the Outlaw Jesse James in North Carolina” highlighted the work he has done in NC archives to prove a connection between Jesse James and the James Gang and North Carolina. I must say, the speaker’s enthusiasm and love of archival materials was infectious. Following this speaker and the poster session, I attended the session “Architects, Scientists, and Mobile Apps: Reimagining Archival Engagement” featuring three archivists from the NCSU Special Collections Research Center. Kristen Merryman described the Cultivating a Revolution digital project. Focusing on the agriculture holdings of NCSU collections, this digital project is an ideal resource for the agriculture students and faculty but it is not as highly used as the Special Collections team would like. Kristen offered some tips to get out on campus and promote the collection to both traditional and non-traditional users. What was said over and over again in this session is that you must go to your audience and not expect the audience to always come to you. She suggested stopping by faculty office hours to have a chat about your collection. She also mentioned going through applicable finding aids with professors and highlighting what exactly is in there and how it could be used in their classes or research. Emily Walters presented about NCSU’s extensive architecture collection. Emily again reinforced the need to meet their users in their own space. “Pop Up Library” is the idea of taking drawings and blueprints to the school and space where users are. Design students have taken advantage of having some of the 40,000 original drawings of American Modernist architecture showing up in their space for a short amount of time.Genya O’Gara’s topic covered “Red, White, and Black: Commemorating African American History at NC State”, a mobile app-led tour of NC State campus focusing on African American history. Originally inspired by WolfWalk, Red, White, and Black meets people in their own space and with familiar technology. It is one thing to read through a box of papers in the Special Collections reading room, but to stand in the spot where a campus event took place and listen to an oral history or see an archival photo of an event has a lot more impact. This event has been immensely popular and the content is growing as people add their experiences on the topic.

I’m sure you will hear more on these sessions and more from Vicki and Craig. I had a fantastic time, learned a lot, and had a great chance to network with North Carolina archivists. I’m happy to chat more about these sessions.

Intro to Digital Preservation #1 — Steps to Identify and Select Content

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 2:10 pm

Today, Vicki, Patty, Mary Beth, Steve, Susan, Rebecca, and Molly sat in on the ASERL webinar Intro to Digital Preservation #1–Steps to Identify and Select Content, facilitated by Jody DeRidder, Head of Digital Services, University of Alabama Libraries. John Burger of ASERL said that more than 150 people were registered to listen in on this session. This is the first of three sessions on digital preservation.

The content of this webinar comes from the Library of Congress Digital Preservation Outreach and Education Modules. This consist of 6 modules covering: identify, select, store, protect, manage and provide. The goal is to provide a collaborative network to enable us to work together and face the challenges ahead.

This Intro #1 covered the “Identify” and “Select” aspects of the 6 parts. In order to identify materials for digital preservation, DeRidder suggests identifying the scope of materials eligible by creating an inventory. She suggested that “good preservation decisions are based on an understanding of content to be preserved.” Content categories include institutional records, special collections, scholarly content, research data, web content, and digitized collections. She stressed that the content of these materials is more important than format, but the format may make preservation more of a challenge. An inventory should be simple in format that is general with reiterations that become more focused on details.Inventory results should be: documented, usable, available, scalable, current (incorporated into current workflows). Sorting by content and file type will help prioritize equipment, planning, and future priorities. The process of selecting involves these steps:review the potential digital content, define and apply selection criteria, document and preserve, implement. Thinking about the mission of the institution, the collection development policy, the priorities, the uniqueness will allow the selection process to conform with the rest of the institutional standards. DeRidder stressed that this process is facilitated by open communication and knowledge withe incoming collections and donors. Starting the dialog early with potential digital contributors will allow you to block any incoming materials that do not warrant digital preservation. In the case of materials that are already in one’s holdings, selection for digital preservation begs the questions:does it have value? fit your scope? can you do it?

This webinar focused on the importance of putting a structure in place with the right people, clear policies and procedures, and organization. Open communication with the digital curator will answer the questions :does the content have value? Does it fit your scope? Whereas a conversation with an IT person will allow you to know ifit is feasible for you to preserve the content? Or is it possible to make content available?

DeRidder made a clear outline of how to go about identifying and selecting materials for digital preservation, but the prospect of actually implementing these steps is daunting. I am looking forward to the next to two webinars.

 

Tour of Reynolda House Archives

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 1:32 pm

This morning, Craig, Vicki, Megan, and Rebecca visited Todd Crumley, Archivist at Reynolda House, for a tour of their facility. We stayed out of the historic home and spent our time on the new wing, where they moved the library and archive in 2005. Todd showed us the library, which is primarily made up of secondary sources to support research of the art collection, and we also got a birds-eye-view of the deconstruction of the latest Modern Masters exhibit. Very cool!

We then moved to the floor below the gallery level to where the archive is housed. New offices, a catering kitchen, and a loading dock are other features below the public level. It is obvious to those who watched the video of the mounting of the most recent Modern Masters exhibition, that large open space is necessary when moving pieces of art. Todd showed us the archives where the collections include Katharine Smith Reynolds correspondence and other family papers from the 1910′s and ’20′s. Apparently Katharine Reynolds was a saver and a meticulous woman to work for. Todd described the level of detail she captured from each building, all the furnishings, and even the gardening. The archive focuses on the historic home, the family, and the buildings within the village, but is growing as the business of the home has transformed into a museum and a public institution. Beyond the family’s papers, an extensive photograph collection along with building and landscape blueprints, allows users to see the evolution of the site from the turn of the century until now.

We also had a chance to hear from Kim Sissons about a large three year project that the museum is working on to collect digital images and information about all of their artwork, furnishings, and hopefully some of the archive into an amazing museum software called TMS (The Museum System). Over a hundred of their pieces of art have already been put into this database and the level of detail and the flexibility of the software is amazing. We look forward to accessibility on their new website by as early as Summer 2013.

We had a wonderful time visiting with Todd and everyone else at Reynolda House. We hope this conversation will spark some collaboration between our two collections and look forward to working with them in the future.

Digitizing Hidden Collections: Success Stories from Small and Medium-sized Digitization projects

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 3:26 pm

Today, Vicki, Craig, and I sat in on an ALA Office of Information Technology Policy (OITP) webinar on the topic of digitizing hidden collections. Each of the four presenters discussedinteresting and uniquedigitization projects.

Erin Kinney, the Digital Initiatives Librarian at Wyoming State Library, spoke about the Wyoming Newspaper Project. Besides having a great logo, the project has attempted to digitize all Wyoming newspapers from 1849-1922. The project has aimed for newspapers already on microfilm, but some poor quality or unavailable microfilm forced them to resort to paper copies (sounds suspiciously like the Biblical Recorder project). Although the project planners originally applied for a National Digital Newspaper Program Grant, they did manage to get a CLIR grant and state funding for $940,000 to complete the digitization. Outsourcing the digitization, hiring metadata workers, massive storage requirements, and a variety of other factors played a role in this project, but they have managed to create a great interface and a successful browse hierarchy for access to this important and highly used collection.

Larry Carey of the Tompkins County Public Library in Ithaca, NY took the local history collection (similar to the North Carolina Room at our own Forsyth Public Library) and sought out copyright permission for almost 300 books and publications including city directories, local histories, and a variety of other sources. The learning curve regarding copyright and technical expertise was mentioned numerous times. Carey did reference Peter Hirtle’s Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums as a valuable tool when working towards obtaining copyright clearance for the digital project. I must say, we were impressed with the time and dedication this small public library staff put in to making these materials available online. The benefit, however, is that the site gets approximately 1,500 visits a month.

Devra Dragos, of the Nebraska Memories Project,explained the statewide project to digitize archival materials excluding newspapers. Using ContentDM as their repository, libraries, historical societies, and other cultural heritage institutions across the state of Nebraska digitized, created metadata, and contributed what they could to this project. Each contributor must sign off that they have copyright for materials and the metadata is standardized. Devra did mention that contributors tend to add information to the metadata that is not standard but is very useful and otherwise potentially lost information.

The final presenter was Natalie Milbrodt of the Queens Memory Project. This is a fascinating project attempting to gather oral histories of the changing landscape and cultural makeup of the borough of Queens while supplementing these oral histories with archival materials. Highly collaborative, innovative, and supported, the Queens Memory Project is only just getting started but it is quite an exciting and interesting effort.

These speakers were highly enthusiastic and had some great projects and ideas. It is always good to hear that other institutions face the same challenges as we do when completing digital projects. What was great was the effort put in to making these projects happen. Smaller libraries with less support technically have manged to make collections accessible to those who seek them out. These are great models for what can be done when a need is realized.

SAA’s Sweet Home, Chicago!

Monday, August 29, 2011 6:02 pm

Last week, I had another wonderful opportunity for professional development by attending the SAA Archives 360 Conference in Chicago. I learned quite a bit and met some wonderful archivists doing amazing projects. I will try to summarize my experiences each day with highlights but I am happy to talk about my experience with anyone who wants to know more.

Wednesday:

Attended the Archivists’ Toolkit/Archon Roundtable

  • Heard that the merger of these two (ArchivesSpace) will not be public for at least 3-5 years
  • Marisa Hudspeth of the Rockefeller Archive Center presented a very interesting Plugin they created for a reference module that can be used within AT. This is something that we should look into for use in Special Collections and Archive, although we have been successfully using LibStats in the same capacity for some time now
  • ArchivesSpace (the next generation merger) does not plan to have a reference module

Attended the Cubs vs. Braves Baseball game at Wrigley field

  • Over 270 archivists from the SAA conference attended
  • Had the chance to meet many great archivists in a fun setting, including Kristy Dixon from UNC Charlotte, Renna Tuten from The University of Georgia, Laura Starratt from the Atlanta History Center, and Erin Lawrimore from UNCG
  • The Cubs WON!

Thursday:

Pay It Forward: Interns, Volunteers, and the Development of New Archivists and the Archives Profession

  • Linda Sellars of NCSU’s Special Collections Research Center spoke of her approach to working with students, interns, fellows, and volunteers. Her talk “Balancing Productivity and Learning in Work experiences for Beginning Archivists” stressed making the priorities of student projects fit in with the overall program of the department, not just “busy work.” Linda talked about the major time commitment involved in supervising students but the great amount of productivity that can be achieved when students are supervised effectively. Building in the time and the tools benefits the supervisor and the program on a whole, checking in with students often, and having a question answer area (in their case a wiki) where students and supervisors can post questions and answers, building common knowledge for the whole team. She stressed “Excellence not Perfection” when it comes to interns and students, if you strive for perfection, nothing will ever get done.
  • Lance Stuchall of the Henry Ford delivered a thought provoking and informative talk “Wanted: Free Labor: The Impact and Ethics of Unpaid Work” that really got the room buzzing. He spoke of the importance of paid internships and not “cycling one unpaid position after the other” but instead “affording dignity to the students for their professional level work.” He stated that “unpaid positions are not equal to professional positions without pay” and “if you can pay-pay” even if it is a very modest amount. An archivist from Kent State spoke up in the question and answer portion suggesting that institutions are perpetuating a cycle of poverty by requiring a MLIS for unpaid internships. I must say this was a very passionate discussion and got me thinking about how we treat our own students and interns and would love to talk more about it with anyone interested.

Rights, Risk, and Reality: Beyond “Undue Diligence” in Rights Analysis for Digitization

Friday:

Practical Approaches to Born-Digital Records: What Works Today

  • All I can say is Wow! What a session. Led by Chris Prom of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, five panelists discussed born digital materials and “hybrid” collections emphasizing the need to plan, have an open dialog with donors, and most importantly take action!
  • Susanne Belovari of Tufts University encouraged having discussions with donors regarding the materials coming in and how they see their own “archive.” Most donors are not thinking about the digital aspect of their donations nor of their lives, it is just “stuff.” Ms. Belovari stressed that hybrid collections (that is ones containing traditional paper-based formats as well as born-digital materials) have been organized by the donors with specific record keeping practices, naming conventions, and structuring. In some cases, there is much overlap between paper and digital materials.
  • University of Wyoming’s archivist Ben Goldman encouraged action by getting the materials off the disks, drives, etc. He explained that immediate action not only got valuable materials off of potentially fragile or obsolete formats but also eliminated one more backlog of things to do later.
  • Seth Shaw of Duke University was inspirational, informative, and influential to the conversation. Many of the speakers before him had mentioned using his Duke Data Accessioner as a way of migrating data off disks. Seth encouraged institutions to “do something, even if it is not perfect” and left us all thinking about ways to better serve the needs of our patrons, donors, and institutions in a digital way.

The Archivists’ Toolkit: Innovative Uses and Collaboration

  • This was my first time speaking at a conference, I was lucky it was just a lightening talk (only 8 minutes)! I was lucky to be with a group of impressive people doing exciting things with software that I use everyday.

I did get a chance to go to the Chicago Art Institute…amazing!

 

Saturday:

Exposing Hidden Collections Through Consortia and Collaboration

Fostering a Diverse Profession: Mentoring and Internship Programs

  • A panel of four archivists and a graduate intern discuss how internship and mentoring programs intersect with SAA’s Strategic Priorities, which include promoting and fostering diversity within the profession.

Like I have said, I would love to talk about this further with anyone who wants to hear more about my experience. I learned quite a lot and look forward to adding this knowledge to my work here at ZSR. Many thanks to Lynn for making this experience possible!

SUE the T. rex, surrounded by archivists at the Field Museum reception. Very cool!

 


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