Archive for the 'LAM Convergence' Category

25
May
12

The present and future of audiovisual archives: Screening the Future 2012, Los Angeles

This week, I attended the second annual Screening the Future conference, held at the University of Southern California. Screening the Future 2012: Play, Pause and Press Forward was organized around three themes:

  • For the record: should we talk about data or media?
  • Meeting the demand: how can we match users’ expectations with institutional capabilities?
  • “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small!”: what we can learn from each other

The conference program details these themes, which revolve around the current state and challenges facing archives that include audiovisual material. As the event website notes, the conference brought together “archivists, production companies, filmmakers, TV producers, CTOs, scientists, vendors, strategists, funders, and policy makers to develop solutions to the most urgent questions facing audiovisual repositories.” I drove up to campus daily for the intense, three-day event.

I was struck by the unique format of the conference, which was somewhat TED-like in structure. Three hour sessions (without breaks) brought together experts and innovators from the US and Europe to address the issues listed above.

While I kept track of the event via the #stf12 hashtag on Twitter, I learned about PrestoCentre, a European member organization focused on audiovisual and digital preservation — they also have a blog with lots of free content and a new magazine.

Overall, there was a continual theme of presentations around the need to address the non-materiality of digital audiovisual content. There is a great deal of anxiety about the “problem” of digital preservation, which Kara Van Malssen points out should also have some opportunities. Presenters seemed to fluctuate between the move from media-based to file-based audiovisual content and acceptance that, in the end, digital preservation is about the preservation of very real, physical storage technology (including servers) with a limited life span.

Some institutions and organizations with adequate funding are focusing on migration, such as James DeFilippis of FOX Technology Group. DeFilippis asked the audience to consider the “archive horizon,” looking 5, 10, or 100 years into the future of our digital storage media — an understanding of the life cycle of your storage will help inform a migration policy, which ensures the transfer of media to new/updated storage on a regular basis. He also described how quickly we are filling our storage media, noting that if 1MB were equal to 1 raindrop, 1 PB (petabyte) is roughly equal to the wine consumption of France over a thousand years. He used FOX Film Entertainment as an example, noting that their digital vault has 15 PB available. “Only” 1.5 PB has been used to date, but they expect over 2000 TB per year to be added.

Rob Hummel from Group47 explored a lot of technical jargon in the film archives world, including frame rates and lossless compression. What interested me was his comparison of tape media and digital media, which are similar in that they were considered new, better, and faster technologies — but also similar in that they are fragile, have a short life span, and require specialized equipment to read or view. He noted, “Cloud storage is still just a bunch of spinning disks. We’re acting like electricity is infinite.” He referred the audience to this article about the future accessibility of digital media, then introduced a physical medium called Digital Optical Technology System, or DOTS. According to their website, DOTS is metal-based digital storage media that was patented at Eastman Kodak (Group 47 bought the patent) that is non-magnetic, inert, store-able under normal RH and temperature conditions, with a lifespan of at least 100 years. Their website says that DOTS is a “true optical ‘eye readable’ method of storing digital files” that is write-only, and requires only magnification to be seen (as opposed to specialized equipment/hardware). I found it interesting that we are considering a return to physical media and am curious to know what the future holds for DOTS.

Howard Besser from NYU (professor/director of MIAP program) delved into audiovisual material used as research data. One example included use of video to observe left-handedness over time, whereby the researchers watched early films of sporting events for audience members waving. The films, he noted, were not indexed for hand waving…so it made it challenging to find appropriate films.  Besser noted that the Center for Home Movies created multiple ways of describing its films, including genre, tropes, actions, and recurring imagery — imagine a category for “look Ma, no hands!” He also emphasized what he called a shift in academia, where scholars are interested in everyday life as subjects of study, and urged archivists to consider that what is collected heavily influences what is studied. Besser insists that we need to be able to attach metadata to specific time-codes in audiovisual material, so that multiple topics can be discovered.

Pip Laurenson from the Tate Gallery discussed something I heard about at SCA: video artworks. While the presenters at SCA (Annette Doss and Mary K. Woods “Changing Moving Image Access: Presenting Video Artworks in an Online Environment” (PDF)) mentioned that artists seemed more interested in display over format, Laurenson said that there are artists concerned with the preservation and presentation of their video artworks. She argued that some artists want the textures and quality of older (at times obsolete) formats. She noted that some artists are interested in the aesthetic variety of different technologies.

Lev Manovich from UCSD (Visual Arts Department) described a whirlwind of digital humanities projects he has been working on with students as part of the Software Studies Initiative. In one project, Manovich’s student used the 5930 front pages of the Hawaiian Star newspaper from 1893-1912 to show the design shift in print media over time, using images from the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America project. Manovich spoke quickly, so I wasn’t able to keep up with some of the projects, but he described a project whereby a computer grouped artworks by hue and saturation for a particular stylistic period, but I could only find the project he did on visualizing modernist art. After describing another project to map out a million pages of manga artwork by shading, Manovich suggested that our genres are artificial and perhaps flawed. With computer-generated groupings based on visual themes/consistencies, visualizations can help create new groupings of content…although I would add that human intervention, especially verification and quality control, is vital to these projects.

A master class the next day on managing the cost of archiving ended up being much more high-level than I anticipated, exploring economics and models for pricing out long-term preservation of digital content. Stephen Abrams from the CDL referred the audience to a CDL white paper on cost modeling for preservation, noting that the cost of preservation consists of a full set of requirements. The CDL and other groups provide a service beyond just storage: if you buy a TB flash drive or cloud storage, you’re only buying storage. Not service or maintenance. Matthew Addis from IT Innovation Centre suggested that cost and risk for digital preservation are linked. More copies and more scrubbing equals less risk of loss, but also greater cost.

A second master class on Tuesday explored archiving future data — Lev Manovich was notably absent as he was sick, so the conversation veered towards personal digital archives with a presentation by Jeff Ubois. Ubois, the original organizer for the Personal Digital Archiving conference, suggested that what is personal has become collective through social media, and that people are curating themselves through tools like Facebook Timeline. Ubois’ most compelling argument (from my perspective) is that we cannot trust companies for preservation of permanent records. One great example was a site called “mylastemail.com,” which was supposed to save your final messages upon your death. Ironically, the company went under just a few years after its peak. Businesses are ephemeral, with objectives outside of those of archives. He quoted Jason Scott, who said that “Google is a museum like a supermarket is a food museum” — continuity and preservation are not compatible with the market environment. I was inspired by the discussion regarding personal digital archiving and educating the users, and whether it should be patron or research driven — for me, the unspoken theme was archival appraisal. How can we teach users to do personal digital appraisal, and let users decide what to keep? I don’t  believe every digital shard should be retained, and tools like Stanford’s Self Archiving Legacy Toolkit could present that kind of opportunity to people. Oh, and there was a shout-out to work by Cal Lee and Richard Cox!

The evening ended with a screening of Rick Prelinger’s Lost Landscapes, featuring a multimedia presentation of digitized film footage of Los Angeles.

On the final day of the conference, Brewster Kahle (of the Internet Archive) spoke — he worries about one (commercial) solution to preservation of human knowledge, and says there should be lots of groups involved. I agree. Sam Gustman, one of the conference organizers and head of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute and Associate Dean of the USC Libraries, showed off some of the great features of the Shoah Visual History Archive, which “enables researchers to search cataloguing and indexing data of nearly 52,000 videotaped interviews conducted with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust in 56 countries and 32 languages.” The videos were manually indexed, with timestamps by themes and names of people mentioned. A new geographic search also allows users to see locations mentioned across the interviews, as represented on the Google map. They also created  a K-12 site that is consistent with the ISTE standard, which they have called IWitness. The site has a ton of interactive features, including the ability for teachers to cut and edit interviews — there’s even a video guide to “ethical editing” of the interviews.

Ben Moskowitz from Mozilla gave a dynamic presentation about web video. He showed off some great tools and coming attractions from Mozilla. One tool, called the Gendered Advertisement Remixer, allows people to use the HTML5 tool to mash up video and audio from gender-oriented children’s television commercials. One example: My Little Ponies audio mixed with video from a toy gun ad. He mentioned a tool called Hyper Audio as a new way to engage critically with media — I know it has something to do with popcorn.js, and it allows people to switch languages, interact with audio transcripts, tweet parts of the transcript and link directly to that point in the audio, and more. At that point, he revealed plans for Mozilla Popcorn, which is a video authoring interface that allows people to create things like multimedia essays consisting of maps, tweets, and archival video — as he said, “be like Jon Stewart.” Finally, Moskowitz urged archivists to provide interfaces to archived material and allow for unanticipated uses of our audiovisual and other records.

Kara Van Malssen of AudioVisual Preservation Solutions (and a super cool digital/video archivist and instructor at NYU/Pratt — check out this video of her talking about oral history in the digital age and her presentations on SlideShare) brought an important topic to the conference: an exploration of the needs/tools for smaller archives with regard to preservation of digital archives. She mentioned the Open Planets Foundation as a forum for discussion between archivists and coders — they have annual hackathons and also have a problems/solutions area on their website. She emphasized the need for smaller institutions to communicate with developers in order to contribute to the success of digital preservation tools.

Whew! I thought I would only write a few paragraphs…but there were so many valuable and interesting presentations at this conference. I plan to steal some of the conference’s ideas about speakers and session formats in hope that we can incorporate master classes and the like into SAA someday. I met a number of audiovisual archivists who I normally would not meet (they go to the AMIA conference instead) as well as other important folks involved in the audiovisual preservation realm. I was reminded at how there is still very little overlap between representatives of LAMs, but encouraged that this forum exists.

07
Jul
10

An archivist at ALA

Note: this post is duplicated at http://cloud.lib.wfu.edu/blog/pd/.

After completing my project as a 2009 Emerging Leader (updating the wiki and resources of the Joint Committee on Archives, Libraries, and Museums, also known as CALM) I was nominated to join the Emerging Leaders subcommittee, which is a big reason why I participated in ALA Annual 2010.

On Friday, June 25, I attended the 2010 Emerging Leader poster session, which included excellent reports from this year’s EL cohort. Final projects have been posted to ALAConnect. The 2010 EL group assigned to CALM created a podcast that included an interview with the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero. After the poster session, I joined the hush of librarians that waited patiently for the Exhibit Hall to open.

On Saturday, June 26, a session entitled “Developing a Sustainable Digitization Workflow” was canceled, so I wandered over to the professional poster sessions and discovered a relevant and interesting poster by Melanie Griffin and Barbara Lewis of the University of South Florida’s Special & Digital Collections department. Entitled “Transforming Special Collections: A (Lib) Guide to Innovation,” the poster detailed the department’s creative use of LibGuides to create special collections guides that unify digital objects and EAD into one interactive interface. Here is an example of a guide to graphic arts materials, with a specific collection tab selected. Their MARC (via Fedora) and EAD (via Archon) is displayed in LibGuide boxes using script created by their systems librarian. Perhaps the most interesting result of the experimental project is that statistics show higher hits to collections that were displayed as LibGuides. I am in touch with Melanie and Barbara, who continue their project and are working to create a new stylesheet for their EAD as well.

After lunch, I attended the Emerging Leaders summit, which was a discussion led by current and past Emerging Leaders to reflect on the process and experience of the EL program. I gathered feedback to bring to the EL subcommittee meeting. On Sunday, June 27, I participated in the EL subcommittee meeting (my first experience with ALA committee work). We discussed the EL mentor experience and project development, as well as assessment and managing expectations from both the EL and mentor/sponsor perspective.

After lunch with Atlas Systems regarding the Aeon archives management program, I attended the LITA Top Tech Trends forum. This was my first time at TTT, which Erik explores in greater detail in an earlier post. Cindi Trainor brought up a topic that I thought I would hear only at an archivists’ gathering: after declaring the end of the era of physical copy scarcity, she asked “what will the future scarce commodities be” in libraries. Of course, my ears heard “what will future special collections and archives be?” For the first time, I started thinking that as an archivist, I should be part of LITA.

11
May
10

Blooms Among the LAMs: Early‐Career Professionals and Cross‐Pollination between Libraries, Archives, and Museums

This post was co-authored by Audra of Touchable Archives and Lance of the NewArchivist blog, on which this post also appears.

As the lines between libraries, archives, and museums continue to blur and professional identities become less and less concrete, a question arises on how to best foster collaboration and knowledge‐building between these sectors. In some regards, this question is even more profound for new professionals. In graduate school, there are opportunities to take classes in other disciplines or even specialize in multiple areas. Is this type of education actually bringing together the best of the theory and practice of these disciplines, or merely teaching library skills in one class and archives skills in another?

Furthermore, it can be difficult for new professionals to know which of these identities belong to them. For example, what if you are a graduate of an archives program, working in a library setting, and putting together a few online and physical object exhibits? What are you? What professional organizations do you belong to and what journals do you read? Being new (and most likely carrying a mountain of education debt), we probably have to choose between the SAA, ALA, or AAM annual meetings.

Where does one look to learn more about the issues and opportunities surrounding the convergence of libraries, archives, and museums? Is there something out there for new professionals interested in cross‐discipline topics and fostering collaboration? If not, what types of groups would suit our needs? The purpose of this post is to solicit answers to some of these questions.

A Little History
The Joint Committee on Archives, Libraries, and Museums (CALM) was established by the American Library Association (ALA) Executive Board in 1970 as a partnership between the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and ALA, with the American Association of Museums (AAM) joining in January 2003. An in‐depth history can be found on the ALA website. The committee consists of fifteen members, five from each organization, as well as three co‐chairs from each organization. There are also staff liaisons and sometimes interns (mostly from ALAbut the committee is largely made up of experienced and well‐known archivists, librarians, and museum professionals. It is clear from the official functions of CALM that it is an administrative, high‐level committee that fosters communication between these three large organizations.
CALM’s official function is to:

(1) foster and develop ways and means of effecting closer cooperation among the organizations; (2) encourage the establishment of common standards; (3) undertake such activities as are assigned to the committee by one or more of its parent bodies; (4) initiate programs of a relevant and timely nature at the annual meetings of one or more parent bodies either through direct Combined Committee sponsorship or by forwarding particular program plans to the appropriate unit or on or more parent bodies for action; and (5) refer matters of concern to appropriate units of one or more of the parent bodies.

Both of us had never heard of CALM as graduate students. It was not until Audra was selected to be a part of the 2009 class of ALA Emerging Leaders that she was introduced to the committee and its priorities. (In case you’re curious, the 2008 EL class created a wiki for LAM (libraries, archives, and museums)‐related issues, which the 2009 EL class updated and supplemented with a del.icio.us page, and the 2010 EL class is working on a podcast series for LAM‐related issues.) CALM was born as a policy‐based group of representatives from SAA, AAM, and ALA. Their willingness to work with ALA’s Emerging Leaders program seems to demonstrate an interest in the ideas of early‐career professionals.

There is potential for CALM to become a major vehicle for encouraging discussion and scholarship about LAM convergence. The OCLC‐related hangingtogether blog as well as the new IMLSUpNext wiki present opportunities for discussion and debate around LAM issues.

A Call for Ideas
So other than getting involved with the big OCLC working groups and the super‐committee known as CALM, what opportunities are there for early‐career librarians, archivists, and museum professionals to be a part of the convergence of libraries, archives, and museums? Where is the “Emerging Leaders” program for new/young professionals who think and work between the LAMs?

Convergence is an exciting thing. How does this generation of new professionals understand and interact with it? That is what we are asking you. When we were first discussing this idea, we thought that an informal type of group focusing on these issues would be a good start. Perhaps it could have an online access component to foster collaboration and not require travel. We need your help and ideas on filling out this idea and make it into something tangible and usable for us new information professionals. Please leave comments or email us at lam_ideas@newarchivist.com to let us know what you think!

03
May
10

Newly discovered

While I work on some posts, here are some of the archives and digital humanities blogs I recently discovered:

As archival studies, digital humanities, libraries, museums, and public history overlap and converge, I find more to read and learn about the work that I do.

01
Sep
09

SAA Research Forum: collaboration for the greater good

My presentation at the 2009 SAA Research Forum was “Sharing for the Greater Good: Outreach and Collaboration from the Perspective of Community-Based Archives,” which was an attempt to bring attention to collaboration between large and small memory institutions. You can read the abstract here.  

Following the initial shock of actually being selected to participate in the forum, I realized that there was much I wanted to say and very little time (10 minutes to be exact) to say it. I attempted to explore the process of creating a successful collaborative partnership, using the Collaboration Continuum created by Gunter Waibel in the now-famous report “Beyond the Silos of the LAMs.” While the OCLC report was meant as a high-level analysis of primarily intra-insititutional collaboration, I felt that the continuum could be applied to many local-level projects and relationships between libraries, archives, and museums.

For example, Digital Forsyth is a county-wide collaborative digitization project bringing together LAMs for a common goal. The technical and grantwriting expertise of Wake Forest University was key to the creation of the project, while Forsyth County Public Library, Old Salem Museum and Gardens, and Winston-Salem State University provided the content depth. All of this was done without the smaller institutions feeling obligated to donate their materials to Wake Forest. As a result, the DF website has become the new archive of visual history of Forsyth County, undefined by physical or institutional boundaries.

I believe that these boundaries can be blurred, indeed erased, by the formation of digital archives/libraries/museums. Through the creation of topical/geographic digital LAMs, we can permit greater access and findability to the researcher/patron/end-user. This carries great significance for community-based archives, who can keep their records in cultural and geographic context. Communities and individuals can re-define their context artificially and create new archives without diminishing or erasing historical/evidential/documentary/cultural value.

By including records and collections in subject-based archives (like the Walt Whitman Archive) or union catalogs/federated searches (like ArchiveGrid or OAIster), multiple points of access — and description — can be conceived. Some archivists ponder the interest of non-archivists in such a project. I think “non-archivists,” particularly those coming from community-based archives, would welcome the opportunity for autonomy and laying claim to their records online.

Problems arise when we consider the lack of physical preservation and digitization resources available to these community-based archives. That’s where larger institutions come into the picture: to collaborate “for the greater good.” I think the state of North Carolina is headed in a very positive direction with the Traveling Archivist program and the NC Digital Heritage Center (see previous post), both of which focus on smaller, community-based memory institutions. Smaller institutions can then take the initiative to make contact with larger institutions and be responsible for their community’s history being represented (if they so choose).

I guess my ramblings demonstrate the largeness of my topic, and the overall squishiness of my argument. I believe collaboration can be much more than a buzzword. Between the large and small repositories I can see convergence, which the Collaboration Continuum notes as the high-investment, high-risk, high-benefit result of a successful partnership. Through it, both actors are responsible for their roles and become intertwined in a mutually-beneficial relationship and at least one “common function.”

I plan to post a paper exploring my topic in a bit more detail for the forum proceedings later this month. I hope to make better sense of all this by then!

31
Aug
09

Reflections: SAA Austin (Thursday/Friday — North Carolina sessions)

On Thursday I attended Session 109, “Not Another Survey!” about statewide collections inventories and needs assessments. I have often wondered who creates the sometimes long and always investigative surveys of collections and preservation needs. Of course I found the presentation by Hilary Perez, the Project Archivist at NC ECHO the most interesting of all! What is fascinating about NC ECHO’s survey was that it entailed actual site visits, which were done a week at a time and included a 17-page survey. They focused on non-living, permanent, non-local government collections in the state of North Carolina. Here are some of the facts following their 5-year project:

  • Over 850 institutions were visited
  • 761 institutions responded to the survey
  • 16% have no web presence
  • 72% have no disaster response plan (including my department)
  • 59% describe their storage facilities as inadequate
  • 25% are entirely volunteer-run

The resulting institutional directory created by NC ECHO serves as a clearinghouse of information about these statewide cultural heritage institutions. For some, it is their only web presence. Another conclusion made during the presentation: digitization is the fastest, best way to preserve the cultural heritage of the state.

(I also attended Session 202 and Session 210 on Thursday.)

On Friday I attended Session 408 entitled “Advocacy, Education, and Money: How State Historical Records Advisory Boards Can Help.” Sarah Koonts, Head of the Collections Management Branch of the North Carolina State Archives, spoke about our state’s SHRAB and some of its advocacy initiatives. She pointed out in her presentation that while NC ECHO is IMLS-funded, the NC SHRAB does not have any full-time staff.

As part of the SHRAB’s funding from a SNAP (?) grant, the Traveling Archivist Program was developed. By offering best practices, demonstrations, and consultation about preservation, the Traveling Archivist will provide valuable guidance to small cultural heritage institutions in North Carolina. I will be applying for the first round of the program, which is due on September 30, on behalf of my library. It is limited to 40 institutions between the two rounds of the program.

Since this is focused primarily on physical preservation of primary resources, what about digital preservation? NC ECHO’s role appears to have been defined early on as the place for digitization initiatives, but it seems that it has shifted in recent years to help identify institutions and create an information clearinghouse.

Perhaps in relation, UNC-Chapel Hill recently announced this position as part of a new North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, to be housed as part of the North Carolina Collection. The NC Digital Heritage Center will “provide digitization and hosting services for cultural heritage materials held by libraries, archives, historical societies, and other institutions in the state of North Carolina.” That’s right, they are going to be a digitization center for the state!

While at SAA, I spoke briefly with NC archivists and speakers about the possible relationship between the Traveling Archivist Program (physical preservation) and the NC Digital Heritage Center (digital preservation). Some archivists had not heard of either program; others had not seemed to consider the fact that these programs were being developed simultaneously. They are both incredibly valuable programs and demonstrate a renewed focus on archival advocacy and education for community-based repositories.

One question I forgot to ask: do either of these projects have to to with the IMLS statewide planning grant? One was awarded in 2009 to North Carolina entitled “North Carolina Connecting to Collections” as a collaboration between the NC Department of Cultural Resources (which encompasses NC ECHO and the SHRAB), the North Carolina Museums Council, the North Carolina Preservation Consortium, and the Federation of North Carolina Historical Societies to “identify, coordinate, and assess collections preservation and disaster preparedness activities in the state’s cultural heritage community.” Any ideas?

(I also attended Session 411 on Friday.)

In the meantime, I will be following closely the development of these programs since they are near and dear to my librarchivist heart.