Professional Development

Author Archive

Rebecca at SNCA Tri-State Conference

Friday, October 25, 2013 10:46 am


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.

Rebecca at SAA

Friday, August 23, 2013 4:55 pm

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.


Rebecca at RBMS 2013

Friday, July 5, 2013 3:17 pm
Minneapolis from across the Mississippi River


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.

Our lovely poster

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.

From the top of the Mill City Museum

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.


Intro to Digital Preservation #1: “Preservation Planning and Overview of PREMIS for Beginners”

Friday, April 5, 2013 2:25 pm

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.

Slide from Lisa Gregory's presentation

Slide from Lisa Gregory's presentation

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.





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





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 “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,,

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:

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.

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