Professional Development

Stephanie at the Midwest Archives Conference 2016

Thursday, May 12, 2016 9:32 am

My time in Milwaukee for the Midwest Archives Conference was not quite as jam-packed as Tanya’s but I made the most of the trip!

I was a member of a panel entitled “The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good: Creative Solutions and Common Sense Approaches to Archival Problems.” My fellow presenters and I gave Pecha Kucha presentations: 20 slides, each 20 seconds; it was a fun mental exercise to distill our actions and key takeaways into 6 minutes and 40 seconds. I also acted as a MAC Pal for a first-time conference goer, which is a fun way to welcome new folks to the archival fold. My pal this year was a UW-Milwaukee student who had dabbled in archives and was attending in part to see if she was interested in pursuing archives further.

I attended a couple of sessions on diversity and inclusion, including the plenary talk from current Society of American Archivists vice president/president-elect Dennis Meissner of the Minnesota Historical Society. He covered many points about diversity and inclusion, but my takeaways were that individual and institutional biases affect workplace performance in very serious, and somewhat different ways, so we have to be aware of both. Also, in order to move towards increased inclusion, training is valuable for getting folks on the same page and mitigating biases.

I also attended a session on processing collections, “Seeing the Details in the Big Picture: Getting a Handle on Processing.” One woman had created nearly 1500 finding aids in two years (this is an astronomical number!), so I was curious to see how she managed that. Turns out that the collections were already physically processed – organized, housed appropriately, with folder titles – and she created biographical or historical descriptions and described the materials; she pointed out that without the physical arrangement work, 1500 finding aids would have been impossible. Another presenter who processed a huge collection with help from graduate students shared that, to process 1 linear foot of materials: inexperienced graduate students took 10 hours (!!!); graduate students with 1 year of processing experience took 3.25 hours; and professional archivists, 30 minutes. Good reinforcement that there’s no magical replacement for skilled labor.

In addition to all the learning, I saw some of my former Iowa State colleagues, got to test out a (stationary) Harley Davidson motorcycle at the Harley Davidson Museum (they have a huge archival repository of bikes, parts, tools, etc), and took a stroll through the Milwaukee Art Museum. All in all, it was a great and busy MAC!

Tanya @ MAC (Midwest Archives Conference), Milwaukee, WI

Thursday, May 5, 2016 10:34 am

I recently attended the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) annual meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. MAC is one of the largest regional archival organizations, and I have been an involved member since 1995. It was, however, a nasty shock to arrive in Milwaukee with the high only being 40—apparently, I am now completely acclimated to the NC climate.

One of my duties as a Past President of MAC, is to chair the Presidents’ Award Committee, which recognizes individuals, groups, or organizations. This year, the awards were given to the Ability Center of Greater Toledo, and three individuals who founded the Urban Appalachian Council (UAC) in Cincinnati in 1974. After the UAC was closed in 2014, these three made sure 40 years of records were transferred to Berea College for preservation. I had other duties at MAC, including co-teaching a workshop on Career Planning for Archivists and giving a presentation on community beyond the archives, focusing on the St. Benedict 75th anniversary project.

I also was able to attend a number of interesting sessions, but wanted to share more specifically about two that really struck a chord with me:

Crowdsourcing Beyond Transcription:
This pecha kucha style panel presentation offered panelists sharing various stories of how they utilized crowdsourcing in a unique way. The most fascinating was offered by Laura Alagna (Northwestern University) who had received a mobile phone as part of the personal papers of actress Karen Black (one of my favorites, who could ever forget Trilogy of Terror?). It was an old-school mobile phone, and Algana decided to crowdsource donations of charger cords in the hopes of finding the right one to access the contents. Of course, they now have a large collection of charger cords, which they hope to utilize in accessing other obsolete media.

Preparing Students for a Future of Working with the Past: Designing Undergraduate and Graduate TPS Curricula:
This was probably one of the strongest sessions I have ever attended at a MAC meeting. The topics included teaching students about:
Not judging historical resources
Developing an appreciation of changing language
The value of digital hands-on work in research, such as using city directories

There were also presentations on how archives and special collections instruction can focus on engaging your students, as opposed to simply show and tell. The best takeaway? The concept that digital collections are the one thing from Special Collections that students CAN browse.

All in all, attending MAC was well worth shivering in the Milwaukee rain.

Stephanie at the Image Permanence Institute in Rochester, NY

Friday, November 13, 2015 4:43 pm

In mid-October, I spent three days soaking up the science of image preservation and conservation at the Image Permanence Institute, located at the Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York. I am relatively science-minded (for an English major) and am fascinated by the work of IPI in general and the workshop specifically, which focused on digital image creation and care. The participants came from Australia, Peru and, you know, Urbana-Champaign, which gave us fun topics for breaks besides the microscopic patterns of offset lithographs (also fun!).

Testing the reaction of different inks and printing methods in water

The work of IPI outside of its workshops is worth highlighting, because their expertise is available widely. They manage the Graphics Atlas, which can be used to identify images throughout the history of photography. IPI’s Digital Print Preservation Portal focuses specifically on digitally created works; given digital’s relative “youth,” we are learning on the fly about the best ways to create, care for, and restore digitally printed images. Tip: when in doubt, treat a digital print like its analog counterparts.

“Digital image” is a concept without definitive definition, but for the workshop’s purposes, it included prints made using digital technology, whether that meant an electronic file or a digital printing method instead of an analog one (for example, an inkjet printer in lieu of a printing press). Skilled IPI faculty members Daniel Burge, Doug Nishimura, and Andrea Venosa guided us through lectures on the analog and digital methods of image creation; lab experiments where we destroyed different print types, pictured above; more labs where we practiced IDing print methods and substrates (typically paper or canvas) to provide correct care; and more lectures about identifying and preserving all kinds of prints, digital or not. Now I’m well-prepared to put all of SCA’s prints under my new pocket microscopes!

After the workshop, a few members of my cohort piled into a car and took a quick trip to the George Eastman House, a museum of photography and historic home. Archivists and conservators both speak about it in hushed tones, and indeed there was a lot of photographic and film equipment that I’d never had the chance to see in real life. If you’re into obsolete technologies, put the Eastman House on your list!

Stephanie at NEDCC Digital Directions

Thursday, August 6, 2015 5:05 pm

Along with Chelcie, I just spent three days in Raleigh at the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s Digital Directions workshop, learning about “best practices and practical strategies for the creation, curation, and use of digital collections” – the quote is from the conference write-up and is spot on.

The conference was a good mix of high-level thinking and nitty-gritty details. I was especially happy to have the opportunity to talk with experts; a challenge with special collections is that our holdings encompass a variety of formats, including artifacts, books, papers, and various forms of audiovisual cassette, reel, and disk. I attended three sessions that discussed various aspects of audiovisual materials handling and vendor management, since these materials types are fragile and the bulk of ours are not yet digitized. As anyone who has used cassette tapes knows, AV materials have unique quirks; since digitization is the only way to preserve that content, vendors are often used to ensure quality products. In another practice-based session, the former Library Fellow for digital Special Collections at NC State University, Jason Evans Groth, described NCSU’s workflow for processing digital materials, which covers files on physical media as well as network file transfers. Archivists are responsible for preserving original records, and digital files are more difficult to keep in original condition than folders from a desk drawer.

The 30,000-foot view sessions covered a variety of topics, including copyright issues for (digital) collections, given by archivist and Berkman Center fellow Peter Hirtle, who has been a leading voice in copyright; selecting collections for digitization; and conducting risk management assessment for digital collections. Greg Colati, who leads UConn’s University Archives, Special Collections and Digital Curation unit, gave a pair of thought-provoking talks about managing digital collections for preservation and access. Those concepts are central to archives work, so I think about them a lot, but digital access and use can be very different from analog counterparts. Chelcie and I were able to have a quick probing discussion with Greg about the LSTA-funded digitization that will be taking off here soon, too, which was useful. On Wednesday afternoon, we wrapped up our Digital Directions experience with a quick visit to see NC State’s digital processing workstation, get a demo of their workflow in action, and meet the library developer who worked with Jason.

All in all, this conference provided a well-timed opportunity for me to think more deeply about how my role as Collections Archivist intersects with digital collections and digital preservation efforts. It would have been valuable had I attended solo, but being able to compare notes with Chelcie and share expertise across the days was an added bonus!

Stephanie to attend Image Permanence Institute workshop

Friday, June 26, 2015 10:57 am

Special Collections and Archives would like to announce that Collections Archivist Stephanie Bennett has been selected to attend an Image Permanence Institute (IPI) workshop, Preservation of Digitally Printed Materials in Libraries, Archives and Museums. Bennett was one of 15 participants selected from a pool of more than 50 applicants. The workshop, for which tuition of waived due to generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will be held October 20-22, 20115, at IPI’s facilities at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. IPI is a nonprofit, university-based laboratory and recognized world leader in the development and deployment of sustainable practices for the preservation of images and cultural property.

Archives Leadership Institute (ALI) 2015 (Decorah, Iowa) by Tanya

Monday, June 22, 2015 3:22 pm

I recently attended our third and final iteration of the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI), located in Decorah, Iowa. Funded by the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC), the goal for the Institute is to “bring to tomorrow’s leaders the insights and understanding necessary for increasing public use and appreciation of archives.” However, while we won’t be coming back to Decorah, we were recently notified ALI has been funded for another three-year run, and our new location will be Berea College in Berea, KY, where the Project Director resides. I will continue as part of the Steering Committee: (Rachel Vagts, ALI Director) from Berea College as well as representatives from New York (Geof Huth), Massachusetts (Beth Myers), Ohio (Dan Noonan), Oregon (Terry Baxter), Texas (Brenda Gunn), and of course, North Carolina (Tanya). For our third year, we worked with the faculty to revise the schedule and again reviewed applications (there were nearly 100 for 25 slots). The Committee conducted daily evaluations of the curriculum, and monitored the overall process by serving as facilitators for small groups in the cohort. Again, we had a wonderful week and built many new relationships.

The core curriculum remained the same, the first day focused on New Leadership Thinking and Methods (faculty and facilitator, Luther Snow). Our second day brought Dr. David Gracy (retired from the archives faculty at UT-Austin) who spoke on Advocacy. Day three brought Dan Noonan from Ohio State who presented on Strategies for Born Digital Resources. Sharon Leon (Director of Public Projects, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and Media, George Mason) who oversees OMEKA and Scripto, focused on project management for day four. Christopher Barth, from West Point, spoke on Strategic Visioning and Team Development.

The week again ended with a special celebratory dinner (which included heartfelt stories from the participants as well as inside jokes). The group is scheduled to meet again at the annual meeting for the Society of American Archivists, being held in Cleveland in August. There will be a dinner (including ALI alumni from past years) as well as a workshop to discuss potential service activities.

The ALI Team was also recently notified we have been awarded the Society of American Archivists’ Distinguished Service Award! ALI has had a tremendous impact on the archival profession by developing the potential leadership skills in a wide range of archival professionals throughout the country. I am glad I am able to continue my participation in this important program.

Stephanie at Midwest Archives

Tuesday, May 12, 2015 9:33 am

As Tanya mentioned, I also attended the Midwest Archives Conference annual meeting last week. It was my first trip to bourbon country, and thanks to the local arrangements committee, I kicked it off at Buffalo Trace, the longest running bourbon distillery in America, and a narrated amble through horse country. Another first for an archives: the plenary speaker was Joel Pett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Lexington Herald-Leader; his talk was a laugh a minute.

The trip was not all fun and games, though, I did make time for learning! I attended a very informative session on audiovisual preservation, which is timely since I’m currently processing about 8 linear feet of cassette tapes, videotapes, and audioreels in the Edgar Christman collection. All the sessions were great, though. Other highlights included:

  • A hands-on session about digital forensics presented in part by Jason Evans Groth of NC State: I may be taking a field trip soon to see their digital imaging workstation
  • A quick brown bag lunch session on strategic career planning featuring our own TZB
  • Event planning and social media management solutions for solo archivist shops (translates well to our department, as well)
  • A “speed geeking” session on records management-related outreach and marketing that provided four different, creative approaches

It’s rare that every session of a conference offers something that is directly applicable to my work, but happily this was the case in Lexington. I also presented a poster on Saturday morning, “How Much Do You Earn? An Informal Look at Archives Salaries,” presenting the results of a survey that I conducted last spring. I got some good questions and feedback, which was useful for thinking about my next steps. Many thanks to Craig for providing some tips on making the poster look good! Alas, I failed to take a photo of my masterpiece.

Midwest Archives Conference Annual meeting–Lexington, KY–Tanya

Monday, May 11, 2015 1:18 pm

I had a wonderful time at the most recent MAC meeting—there was learning, sharing information, and hearing horror stories. I was able to attend the Society of American Archivists workshop: Accessioning and Ingest of Electronic Records. The workshop was excellent, and included discussion of how to combine the practice of archival appraisal with accepting and documenting born-digital records. There was a focus on policies, file formats, storage considerations, and a number of tools available for archivists to use. The donation of born-digital and electronic records is becoming an increasing issue for the University Archives, and the time could not be better to attend a workshop such as this.

I also gave a presentation on Thursday on Assessing our Public Services, part of a broader session on Assessment (including Collections and Trusted Digital Repository Criteria). We had around 70 people in the room and there were lots of questions afterwards. My presentation is available here:
https://www.academia.edu/12321931/Assessment_in_Action_Using_Results_to_Improve_the_Archival_Experience

The opening reception was held at The Carrick House (http://carrickhouse.com/index2.php#/info1/1/) in downtown Lexington. There were variations on ham and biscuits, and yes, I witnessed archivists square-dancing. They also had a photo booth and it was just as popular as ours was at the Dean’s List Gala. I was able to attend more sessions on archives internships and implementing organizational change, and see posters on Documenting Ferguson and the current status of archivists’ salaries (courtesy of our own Stephanie Bennett).

Finally, I was able to knock another item off my bucket list as I traveled back via the Cumberland Gap Parkway.

2014 Archives Leadership Institute (Decorah, Iowa) by Tanya

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 4:25 pm

I recently attended the second iteration of the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI), hosted by Luther College and located in Decorah, Iowa (I participated in the 2008 ALI held in Madison, WI). Funded by the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC), the goal for the Institute is to “bring to tomorrow’s leaders the insights and understanding necessary for increasing public use and appreciation of archives.” I am now part of the Steering Committee, organizing the current 3-year set of ALI (still sponsored by NHPRC):

http://www.archivesleadershipinstitute.org/

The Steering Committee consists of archivists (Rachel Vagts, ALI Director, and Sasha Griffin) from Luther College as well as representatives from New York (Geof Huth), Michigan (Beth Myers), Ohio (Dan Noonan), Oregon (Terry Baxter), Texas (Brenda Gunn), and of course, North Carolina (Tanya). For our second year, we worked with the faculty to revise the schedule and again reviewed applications (there were nearly 100 for 25 slots). The Committee conducted daily evaluations of the curriculum, and monitored the overall process by serving as faciliators for small groups in the cohort. Again, we had a wonderful week and built many new relationships.

The core curriculum consisted of the following: The first day focused on New Leadership Thinking and Methods (faculty and facilitator, Luther Snow). Our second day brought Dr. David Gracy (retired from the archives faculty at UT-Austin) who spoke on Advocacy. Dr. Gracy is such a personality, the tweeters in the group couldn’t keep up with all of his quotes! Day three brought Dan Noonan from Ohio State who presented on Strategies for Born Digital Resources. Sharon Leon (Director of Public Projects, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and Media, George Mason) who oversees OMEKA and Scripto, focused on project management for day four. Christopher Barth, from West Point, spoke on Strategic Visioning and Team Development. A new addition was StrengthsFinder, so, yes, I managed to take it again. My number 1 strength Activator has remained the same, but I have added Achiever and Connectedness. My other two, Learner and Responsibility remain. Of course, during our Strengthsfinder presentation, we had a tornado warning and had to complete part of the presentation in the laundry room. Good times.

The week again ended with a special celebratory dinner (which included funny and heartfelt stories from the participants). The group is scheduled to meet again at the annual meeting for the Society of American Archivists, being held in Washington, D.C. in August. There will be a dinner (including ALI alumni from past years) as well as a morning workshop to discuss potential service activities. ALI has had a tremendous impact on the archival profession by developing the potential leadership skills in a wide range of archival professionals throughout the country. I am glad I was able to continue my participation in this important program.

 

Tanya–Tri-State Archivists Meeting (Greenville, SC)

Friday, October 18, 2013 2:46 pm

I was able to sit in on one day of the Tri-State Archivists 2013 (Society of Georgia Archivists, Society of North Carolina Archivists, Society of South Carolina Archivists) joint meeting at Furman University, Greenville, SC. While my time was short, the quality of the presentations definitely made the trip worth it.

The opening plenary was by Emily Gore of the Digital Public Library of America and provided an excellent overview of the DPLA’s mission, organization and structure. She also recommended numerous apps to access their collections, including OpenPics and Culture Collage, which could also have implications for instruction. Dr. Clifford Kuhn, the Director of the Oral History Association was the lunchtime plenary and shared examples of oral history projects focusing on the Southeast. One of his most interesting comments related to the role transcription has played in giving access to oral history–traditionally, there has been a focus on providing text for audio interviews, which is extremely time consuming and expensive. Things have changed somewhat, and as he noted, we are moving towards thinking and authoring in sound, which raises the importance of sharing the audio and video directly with researchers, so they can hear actual voices. During the afternoon, there were a fascinating set of presentations focusing on MPLP (More Product, Less Process) processing and decision-making in regards to collections; the role of description in assisting researchers; and the role of reappraisal in assessing collections. All raised excellent points, and one of the speakers utilized a University of California-developed set of criteria (user interest, quality of documentation, institutional value, and object value) for determining collection priorities, which I hope to use in the future. There were also interesting poster sessions, including the Clarence Herbert New poster by Rebecca and Craig, and others on dealing with small disasters, archives internships, and using Dropbox for reference service. All in all, I picked up many valuable tips and food for thought.


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