Last weekend was the 2012 general meeting of the Society of California Archivists. The conference, held in Ventura, was my first time attending SCA and I was able to connect with a lot of interesting people and projects.
I drove up from Orange County on Friday morning and arrived just before the opening plenary to register and visit the exhibitor hall. I spent so much time catching up with colleagues and connections that I completely missed the plenary!
Session 1, “Changing Moving Image Access: Presenting Video Artworks in an Online Environment,” focused on a large collection of video art from the Long Beach Museum of Art that was acquired by the Getty Research Institute. Annette Doss and Mary K. Woods of the Getty Research Institute described this and another collection related to women adding up to over 5000 videotapes of multiple formats. The videotapes were individually cataloged with help from AMIM2 and chapter 7 of AACR2. Perhaps the most important takeaway from their presentation was the Getty’s transition from creating DVD user copies into digital user copies of the works of art on videotape. Their workflow is now: Umatic (or other tape) to DigiBeta to digital. Their System for Automatic Migration of Media Assets, or SAMMA, machine, is a multi-encoder that does real-time conversion in up to 5 output files simultaneously. At the Getty, they create JPEG2000 with an MXF wrapper. Their digital repository is DigiTool, used as an access platform (as opposed to preservation platform), ingested in MODS created via MARCedit, with a METS wrapper. During the Q&A, members of the audience asked about artist involvement in the process, to which they responded that artists frequently weigh in on reformatting — and that most of them are more concerned with display over format.
I met my archives buddy (and LACMA archivist) Jessica Gambling for lunch at a local Thai restaurant and then headed back to the conference hotel for Session 6, “The Business of Audio-Visual Preservation.” The session emphasized knowing standards for preserving audiovisual materials, especially video (as opposed to film). Most of the speakers were a bit too general for my needs, although I did learn from Leah Kerr of the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum that they have posted their library catalog online (just click on anonymous user login). One takeaway: keep in mind that video has a 15-20 year lifespan. Lauren Sorensen from the Bay Area Video Coalition gave an engaging introduction to the nonprofit, including its history and services.
That evening, I met up with a few UC archivists at an Aeon mixer in downtown Ventura, then drove up to Santa Barbara for dinner. The next morning, I got up bright and early for my presentation in the lightning talks, Session 7. Moderator Lisa Miller from the Hoover Institution Archives introduced all of us and we proceeded to give 6-minute, 20-slide max talks on a variety of topics. Jill Golden from the Hoover Institute Archives discussed how she used Google Hot Trends to find a potential area to focus on in her next processing project — she found the name “Saul Alinsky” listed, which happened to be the source of an unprocessed collection. Jason Miller from UC Berkeley described his process of creating “digital contact sheets” to allow users to view massive amounts of 35mm slides at once. Essentially, Miller does sleeve-page scans of 20 slides at a time, batch edits these pages, then attaches them as low-res images to the finding aid. My presentation, “Forget About the Backlog: Surfacing Accessions Using Archivists’ Toolkit,” highlighted a triage approach taken at my institution with regard to accessions. I am interested in exposing unprocessed accessions via the web, which I see as an even more minimal approach to accessioning as processing. I plan to do further research into this area, since finding similar practices at Yale and Emory.
I took a break from sessions and walked around the historic district and beaches, including a stop at the San Buenaventura Mission. After lunch, I attended Session 14, “Online Archive of California Contributor Meeting,” led by Sherri Berger and Adrian Turner. Adrian described the upcoming collection-level record tool, which is essentially a web form that allows OAC contributors to create a collection-level record and, optionally, attach a PDF inventory or other non-standard finding aid. Adrian’s use of the “mullet” record metaphor included a brilliantly-placed photo of a kid with a mullet hairstyle — short in the front (collection level minimal DACS record) and long in the back (PDF inventory attached). The tool should be available next week. Sherri reported on a survey of OAC/Calisphere users and the results were remarkable: 27% of users of OAC identify as “other”, including historians, researchers, and writers. A full 51% of OAC and 53% of Calisphere users get to the sites via web searches; 35% and 20% respectively get there via referrer (top referrer is, of course, Wikipedia). Nearly 70% of K-12 users get to these sites via web searches. Adrian and Sherri discussed ways to connect users to related content, including the use of a “more like this” feature. They hope that tools such as this, as well as EAC, will help connect users to related archival material.
I loved connecting with archivists at the regional level and hearing about practices from across the state. Presentations will be posted online at the SCA past meetings page.