Posts Tagged ‘digitization

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.

31
Aug
11

SAA Days 4 & 5: e-records, metrics, collaboration

Friday in Chicago started with coffee with Christian Dupont from Atlas Systems, followed by Session 302: “Practical Approaches to Born-Digital Records: What Works Today.” The session was packed…standing-room only (some archivists quipped that we must have broken fire codes with the number of people sitting on the floor)! Chris Prom from U Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, moderated the excellent panel on practical solutions to dealing with born-digital archival collections. Suzanne Belovari of Tufts referred to the AIMS project (which sponsored the workshop I attended on Tuesday) and the Personal Archives in Digital Media (paradigm) project, which offers an excellent “Workbook on digital private papers” and “Guidelines for creators of personal archives.” She also referenced the research of Catherine Marshall of the Center for the Study of Digital Libraries at Texas A&M, who has posted her research and papers regarding personal digital archives on her website. All of the speakers referred to Chris Prom’s Practical E-Records blog, which includes lots of guidelines and tools for archivists to deal with born digital material.

Ben Goldman of U Wyoming, who wrote an excellent piece in RB&M entitled “Bridging the Gap: Taking Practical Steps Toward Managing Born-Digital Collections in Manuscript Repositories,” talked about basic steps for dealing with electronic records, including network storage, virus checking, format information, generating checksums, and capturing descriptive metadata. He uses Enterprise Checker for virus checking, Duke DataAccessioner to generate checksums, and a Word doc or spreadsheet to track actions taken for individual files. Melissa Salrin of U Illinois, Urbana-Champaign spoke about her use of a program called Firefly to detect social security numbers in files, TreeSize Pro to identify file types, and a process through which she ensures that the files are read-only when moved. She urged the audience to remember to document every step of the transfer process, and that “people use and create files electronically as inefficiently as analog.” Laura Carroll, formerly of Emory, talked about the famous Salman Rushdie digital archives, noting that donor restrictions are what helped shape their workflow for dealing with Rushdie’s born digital material. The material is now available on a secure Fedora repository. Seth Shaw from Duke spoke about DataAccessioner (see previous posts) but mostly spoke eloquently in what promises to be an historic speech about the need to “do something, even if it isn’t perfect.”

After lunch, I attended Session 410: “The Archivists’ Toolkit: Innovative Uses and Collaborations. The session highlighted interesting collaborations and experiments with AT, and the most interesting was by Adrianna Del Collo of the Met, who found a way to convert folder-level inventories into XML for import into AT. Following the session, I was invited last-minute to a meeting of the “Processing Metrics Collaborative,” led by Emily Novak Gustainis of Harvard. The small group included two brief presentations by Emily Walters of NC State and Adrienne Pruitt of the Free Library of Philadelphia, both of whom have experimented with Gustainis’ Processing Metrics Database, which is an exciting tool to help archivists track statistical information about archival processing timing and costs. Walters also mentioned NC State’s new tool called Steady, which allows archivists to take container list spreadsheets and easily convert them into XML stub documents for easy import into AT. Walters used the PMD for tracking supply cost and time tracking, while Pruitt used the database to help with grant applications. Everyone noted that metrics should be used to compare collections, processing levels, and collection needs, taking special care to note that metrics should NOT be used to compare people. The average processing rate at NC State for their architectural material was 4 linear feet per hour, while it was 2 linear feet per hour for folder lists at Princeton (as noted by meeting participant Christie Petersen).

On Saturday morning I woke up early to prepare for my session, Session 503: “Exposing Hidden Collections Through Consortia and Collaboration.” I was honored and proud to chair the session with distinguished speakers Holly Mengel of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries, Nick Graham of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, and Sherri Berger of the California Digital Library. The panelists defined and explored the exposure of hidden collections, from local/practical projects to regional/service-based projects. Each spoke about levels of “hidden-ness,” and the decisionmaking process of choosing partners and service recipients. It was a joy to listen to and facilitate presentations by archivists with such inspirational projects.

After my session, I attended Session 605: “Acquiring Organizational Records in a Social Media World: Documentation Strategies in the Facebook Era.” The focus on documenting student groups is very appealing, since documenting student life is one of the greatest challenges for university archivists. Most of the speakers recommended web archiving for twitter and facebook, which were not new ideas to me. However, Jackie Esposito of Penn State suggested a new strategy for documenting student organizations, which focuses on capture/recapture of social media sites and direct conversations with student groups, including the requirement that every group have a student archivist or historian. Jackie taught an “Archives 101” class to these students during the week after 7 pm early in the fall, and made sure to follow up with student groups before graduation.

After lunch, I went to Session 702: “Return on Investment: Metadata, Metrics, and Management.” All I can say about the session is…wow. Joyce Chapman of TRLN (formerly an NC State Library Fellow) spoke about her research into ROI (return on investment) for manual metadata enhancement and a project to understand researcher expectations of finding aids. The first project addressed the challenge of measuring value in a nonprofit (which cannot measure value via sales like for-profit organizations) through A/B testing of enhancements made to photographic metadata by cataloging staff. Her testing found that page views for enhanced metadata records were quadruple those of unenhanced records, a staggering statistic. Web analytics found that 28% of search strings for their photographs included names, which were only added to enhanced records. In terms of cataloger time, their goal was 5 minutes per image but the average was 7 minutes of metadata work per image. Her project documentation is available online. In her other study, she did a study of discovery success within finding aids by academic researchers using behavior, perception, and rank information. In order from most to least useful for researchers were: collection inventory, abstract, subjects, scope and contents, and biography/history. The abstract was looked at first in 60% of user tests. Users did not know the difference between abstract and scope and contents notes; in fact, 64% of users did not even read the scope at all after reading the abstract! Researchers explained that their reason for ignoring the biography/history note was a lack of trust in the information, since biographies/histories do not tend to include footnotes and the notes are impossible to cite.

Emily Novak Gustainis from Harvard talked about her processing metrics database, as mentioned in the paragraph about the “Processing Metrics Collaborative” session. Her reasoning behind metrics was simple: it is hard to change something until you know what you are doing. Her database tracks 38 aspects of archival processing, including timing and processing levels. She repeated that you cannot compare people, only collections; however, an employee report showed that a permanent processing archivist was spending only 20% of his time processing, so her team was able to use this information to better leverage staff responsibilities to respond to this information.

Adrian Turner from the California Digital Library talked about the Uncovering California Environmental Collections (UCEC) project, a CLIR-funded grant project to help process environmental collections across the state. While metrics were not built into the project, the group thought that it would be beneficial for the project. In another project, the UC Next Generation Technical Services initiative found 71000 feet in backlogs, and developed tactics for collection-level records in EAD and Archivists’ Toolkit using minimal processing techniques. Through info gathering in a Google doc spreadsheet, they found no discernable difference between date ranges, personal papers, and record groups processed through their project. They found processing rates of 1 linear foot per hour for series level arrangement and description and 4-6 linear feet per hour for folder level arrangement and description. He recommended formally incorporating metrics into project plans and creating a shared methodology for processing levels.

I had to head out for Midway before Q&A started to get on the train in time for my return flight, which thankfully wasn’t canceled from Hurricane Irene. As the train passed through Chicago, I found myself thinking about the energizing and inspiring the projects, tools, and theory that comes from attending SAA…and how much I look forward to SAA 2012.

(Cross posted to ZSR Professional Development blog.)

31
Aug
11

SAA Days 2 & 3: assessment, copyright, conversation

I started Wednesday with a birthday breakfast with a friend from college, then lunch with a former mentor, followed by roundtable meetings. I focused on the Archivists’ Toolkit / Archon Roundtable meeting, which is always a big draw for archivists interested in new developments with the software programs. Perhaps the biggest news came from Merilee Proffitt of OCLC, who announced that ArchiveGrid discovery interface for finding aids has been updated and will be freely available (no longer subscription based) for users seeking archival collections online. A demo of the updated interface, to be released soon, was available in the Exhibit Hall. In addition, Jennifer Waxman and Nathan Stevens described their digital object workflow plug-in for Archivists’ Toolkit to help archivists avoid cut-and-paste of digital object information. Their plugin is available online and allows archivists to map persistent identifiers to files in digital repositories, auto-create digital object handles, create tab-delimited work orders, and create a workflow from the rapid entry dropdown in AT.

On Thursday, I attended Session 109: “Engaged! Innovative Engagement and Outreach and Its Assessment.” The session was based on responses to the 2010 ARL survey on special collections (SPEC Kit 317), which found that 90% of special collections librarians are doing ongoing events, instruction sessions, and exhibits. The speakers were interested in how to assess the success of these efforts. Genya O’Meara from NC State cited Michelle McCoy’s article entitled “The Manuscript as Question: Teaching Primary Sources in the Archives — The China Missions Project,” published in C&RL in 2010, suggesting that we have a need for standard metrics for assessment of our outreach work as archivists. Steve MacLeod of UC Irvine explored his work with the Humanities Core Course program, which teaches writing skills in 3 quarters, and how he helped design course sessions with faculty to smoothly incorporate archives instruction into humanities instruction. Basic learning outcomes included the ability to answer two questions: what is a primary source? and what is the different between a first and primary source? He also created a LibGuide for the course and helped subject specialist reference/instruction librarians add primary source resources into their LibGuides. There were over 45 sections, whereby he and his colleagues taught over 1000 students. He suggested that the learning outcomes can help us know when our students “get it.” Florence Turcotte from UF discussed an archives internship program where students got course credit at UF for writing biographical notes and doing basic archival processing. I stepped out of the session in time to catch the riveting tail-end of Session 105: “Pay It Forward: Interns, Volunteers, and the Development of New Archivists and the Archives Profession,” just as Lance Stuchell from the Henry Ford started speaking about the ethics of unpaid intern work. He suggested that paid work is a moral and dignity issue and that unpaid work is not equal to professional work without pay.

After lunch, I headed over to Session 204: “Rights, Risk, and Reality: Beyond ‘Undue Diligence’ in Rights Analysis for Digitization.” I took away a few important points, including “be respectful, not afraid,” that archivists should form communities of practice where we persuade lawyers through peer practice such as the TRLN guidelines and the freshly-endorsed SAA standard Well-intentioned practice document. The speakers called for risk assessment over strict compliance, as well as encouraging the fair use defense and maintaining a liberal take-down policy for any challenges to unpublished material placed online. Perhaps most importantly, Merrilee Proffitt reminded us that no special collections library has been successfully sued for copyright infringement by posting unpublished archival material online for educational use. After looking around the Exhibit Hall, I met a former mentor for dinner and went to the UCLA MLIS alumni party, where I was inspired by colleagues and faculty to list some presentation ideas on a napkin. Ideas for next year (theme: crossing boundaries/borders) included US/Mexico archivist relations; water rights such as the Hoover Dam, Rio Grande, Mulholland, etc; community based archives (my area of interest); and repatriation of Native American material. Lots of great ideas floated around…

(Cross posted at ZSR Professional Development blog.)

15
Jun
11

Teaching digitization for C2C

Most of this post is duplicated on the Professional Development blog at my institution.
I recently volunteered to help teach a workshop entitled “Preparing for a Digitization Project” through NC Connecting to Collections (C2C), an LSTA-funded grant project administered by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. This came about as part of an informal group of archivists, special collections librarians, and digital projects librarians interested in the future of NC ECHO and its efforts to educate staff and volunteers in the cultural heritage institutions across the state about digitization. The group is loosely connected through the now-defunct North Carolina Digital Collections Collaboratory.

Late last year, Nick Graham of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center was contacted by LeRae Umfleet of NC C2C about teaching a few regional workshops about planning digitization projects. The workshops were created as a way to teach smaller archives, libraries, and museums about planning, implementing, and sustaining digitization efforts. I volunteered to help with the workshops, which were held in January 2011 in Hickory as well as this past Monday in Wilson.

The workshops were promoted through multiple listservs and were open to staff, board members, and volunteers across the state. Each workshop cost $10 and included lunch for participants. Many of the participants reminded me of the folks at the workshops for Preserving Forsyth’s Past. The crowd was enthusiastic and curious, asking lots of questions and taking notes. Nick Graham and Maggie Dickson covered project preparation, metadata, and the NC Digital Heritage Center (and how to get involved); I discussed the project process and digital production as well as free resources for digital publishing; and Lisa Gregory from the State Archives discussed metadata and digital preservation.

I must confess that the information was so helpful, I found myself taking notes! When Nick stepped up to describe the efforts of the Digital Heritage Center, which at this time is digitizing and hosting materials from across the state at no cost, I learned that they will be seeking nominations for North Carolina historical newspapers to digitize in the near future, and that they are also interested in accepting digitized video formats. Lisa also introduced the group to NC PMDO, Preservation Metadata for Digital Objects, which includes a free preservation metadata tool. It is always a joy to help educate repositories across the state in digitization standards and processes!

17
Aug
10

Reflections: SAA 2010 in Washington DC

*Portions of this post are duplicated at the WFU ZSR Professional Development blog.

This has been my favorite SAA of the three I have attended, mostly because I felt like I had a purpose and specific topics to explore there. The TwapperKeeper archive for #saa10 is available and includes a ton of great resources. I also got the chance to have my curriculum vitae reviewed at the Career Center not once, but twice! I loved every moment of being in DC and will definitely be attending more of the receptions/socials next time!

Tuesday, August 10 was the Research Forum, of which I was a part as a poster presenter. My poster featured the LSTA outreach grant given to my library and the local public library and explored outreach and instruction to these “citizen archivists.” I got a lot of encouraging feedback and questions about our project, including an introduction to the California Digital Library’s hosted instances of Archivist’s Toolkit and Archon, which they use for smaller repositories in the state to post their finding aids.

Wednesday, August 11 consisted primarily of round table meetings, including the highly-anticipated meeting of the Archivists Toolkit/Archon Round Table. The development of ArchivesSpace, the next generation archives management tool to replace AT and Archon, was discussed. Development of the tool is planned to begin in early 2011. Jackie Dooley from OCLC announced that results from a survey of academic and research libraries’ special collections departments will be released. A few interesting findings:

  • Of the 275 institutions surveyed, about 1/3 use Archivist’s Toolkit; 11% use Archon
  • 70% have used EAD for their finding aids
  • About 75% use word processing software for their finding aids
  • Less than 50% of institutions’ finding aids are online

A handful of brief presentations from AT users followed, including Nancy Enneking from the Getty. Nancy demonstrated the use of reports in AT for creating useful statistics to demonstrate processing, accessioning, and other features of staff work with special collections. She mentioned that AT can be linked to Access with MySQL for another way to work with statistics in AT. Corey Nimer from BYU discussed the use of plug-ins to supplement AT, which I have not yet used and hope to implement.

Perhaps more interestingly, Marissa Hudspeth from the Rockefeller and Sibyl Shaefer from the University of Vermont introduced their development of a reference module in AT, which would allow patron registration, use tracking, duplication requests, personal user accounts, et cetera. Although there is much debate in the archives community about whether this is a good use of AT (since it was originally designed for description/content management of archives), parts of the module should be released in Fall 2010. They said they’d post a formal announcement on the ATUG listserv soon.

On Thursday, August 12, sessions began bright and early. I started the day with Session 102: “Structured Data Is Essential for Effective Archival Description and Discovery: True or False?” Overall summary: usability studies, tabbed finding aids, and photos in finding aids are great! While the panel concluded that structured data is not essential for archival description and discovery due to search tools, Noah Huffman from Duke demonstrated how incorporating more EAD into MARC as part of their library’s discovery layer resulted in increased discovery of archival materials.

Session 201 included a panel of law professors and copyright experts, who gave an update on intellectual property legislation. Peter Jaszi introduced the best practice and fair use project at the Center for Social Media, a 5-year effort to analyze best practice for fair use. Their guidelines for documentary filmmakers could be used as an example for research libraries. In addition, the organization also created a statement of best practices for fair use of dance materials, hosted at the Dance Heritage Center. Mr. Jaszi argued that Section 1201 does not equal copyright, but what he called “para-copyright law” that can be maneuvered around by cultural heritage institutions for fair use. I was also introduced to Peter Hirtle’s book about copyright (and a free download) entitled Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitization for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, which I have started to read.

I wandered out of Session 201 into Session 209, “Archivist or Educator? Meet Your Institution’s Goals by Being Both,” which featured archivists who teach. The speakers emphasized the study of how students learn as the core of becoming a good teacher. One recommendation included attending a history or social sciences course in order to see how faculty/teachers teach and how students respond. I was inspired to consider faculty themes, focuses, and specialties when thinking about how to reach out to students.

Around 5:30 pm, the Exhibit Hall opened along with the presentation of the graduate student poster session. I always enjoy seeing the work of emerging scholars in the archival field, and this year was no different. One poster featured the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries in a CLIR-funded project to process hidden collections in the Philadelphia region — not those within larger repositories, but within smaller repositories without the resources or means to process and make available their materials. The graduate student who created the poster served as a processor, traveling to local repositories and communicating her progress and plan to a project manager. This is an exciting concept, since outreach grants tend to focus on digitization or instruction, not the act of physically processing the archival materials or creating finding aids.

On Friday, August 13, I started the morning with Session 308, “Making Digital Archives a Pleasure to Use,” which ended up focusing on user-centered design. User studies at the National Archives and WGBH Boston found that users preferred annotation tools, faceted searching, and filtered searching. Emphasis was placed on an iterative approach to design: prototype, feedback, refinement.

I headed afterward to Session 410, “Beyond the Ivory Tower: Archival Collaboration, Community Partnerships, and Access Issues in Building Women’s Collections.” The panel, while focused on women’s collections, explored collaborative projects in a universally applicable way. L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin from the University of Delaware described the library’s oral history project to record Afra-Latina experiences in Delaware. They found the Library of Congress’ Veterans’ History Project documentation useful for the creation of their project in order to reach out to the Hispanic community of Delaware. T-Kay Sangwand from the University of Texas, Austin, described how the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives were processed and digitized, then stored at UCLA. Ms. Sangwand suggested that successful collaborations build trust and transparency, articulate expectations from both sides, include stakeholders from diverse groups, and integrate the community into the preservation process. One speaker noted that collaborative projects are “a lot like donor relations” in the sense that you have to incorporate trust, communications, and contracts in order to create a mutually-beneficial result.

On Saturday, August 14, I sat in on Session 502, “Not on Google? It Doesn’t Exist,” which focused on search engine optimization and findability of archival materials. One thing to remember: Java is evil for cultural heritage because it cannot be searched. The session was a bit introductory in nature, but I did learn about a new resource called Linkypedia, which shows how Wikipedia and social media interact with cultural heritage websites.

Then I headed to Session 601, “Balancing Public Services with Technical Services in the Age of Basic Processing,” which featured the use of More Product, Less Process, aka “basic processing,” in order to best serve patrons. After a few minutes I decided to head over to Session 604, “Bibliographic Control of Archival Materials.” The release of RDA and the RDA Toolkit (available free until August 30) has opened up the bibliographic control world to the archival world in new ways. While much of the discussion was outside of my area of knowledge (much was discussed about MARC fields), I learned that even places like Harvard have issues with cross-referencing different types of resources that use different descriptive schemas.

My last session at SAA was 705, “The Real Reference Revolution,” which was an engaging exploration of reference approaches for archivists. Multiple institutions use Google Calendar for student hours, research appointments, and special hours. One panelist suggested having a blog where students could describe their work experience. Rachel Donahue described what she called “proactive reference tools” such as Zotero groups to add new materials from your collection and share those with interested researchers, and Google Feedburner.

It was a whirlwind experience and I left feeling invigorated and ready to tackle new challenges and ideas. Whew!

09
Jun
10

The NC Digital Heritage Center is (Finally) Here: Reflections

This morning, Nick Graham sent out a message to the North Carolina Library Association announcing DigitalNC.org, the new digital repository for primary resources across the state digitized at UNC Chapel Hill.  Nick, formerly of NC Maps, is the newly-appointed coordinator for the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, a development which I have followed closely here at Touchable Archives. The focus of the NC Digital Heritage Center and its matching website, according to the site:

“The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center is a statewide digitization and digital publishing program housed in the North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Digital Heritage Center works with cultural heritage institutions across North Carolina to digitize and publish historic materials online. Through its free or low-cost digitization and online hosting services, the Digital Heritage Center provides libraries, archives, museums, historic sites, and other cultural heritage institutions with the opportunity to publicize and share their rare and unique collections online. The Center operates in conjunction with the State Library of North Carolina’s NC ECHO (North Carolina Exploring Cultural Heritage Online) project. It is supported by the State Library of North Carolina with funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act.”

Some of you who are familiar with North Carolina may wonder, “what happened to NC ECHO?” Based on discussions with colleagues across the state, it looks as though NC ECHO no longer exists as it originated*. (*Since I am relatively new to the state as a librarchivist, I am still unclear about the original purpose of the NC ECHO Project. Two of the largest deliverables from NC ECHO include its survey and institutional directory and its LSTA digitization grant funding program.) The preservation and emergency response focus of NC ECHO has become NC Connecting to Collections and NC SHRAB’s Traveling Archivist program, as well as possible regional emergency response networks like MACREN. The digitization planning and project funding aspect of NC ECHO appears to have joined with UNC Chapel Hill to form the NC Digital Heritage Center.

In previous posts, I have been excited about this Digital Heritage Center being North Carolina’s version of the California Digital Library’s Calisphere. I originally thought that the CDL was a statewide initiative of the state library, but recently realized that it is, like the NCDHC, an initiative of a university system. The CDL is not a resource provided by the state library of California. It is a project of the University of California system. This is what the digital collections portal of the California State Library looks like; this is what the State Library of North Carolina’s digital repository looks like. Why do the statewide library and archives systems for these states have such limited digital resource, while academic libraries in these states carry digital collections technology and access into the future? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the state library to be the digital repository, instead of providing funding for it?

The obvious answer is that the state library does not have the technological resources or expertise to make this happen. Academic libraries and archives are research-oriented, so they are able to do more experimentation and use the knowledge of systems librarians and programmers to create new and innovative resources. Perhaps most importantly, the state library supports academic libraries that make these resources accessible, which is possibly the only reason I am willing to overlook the potential conflict of interest of having UNC and the state library so closely intertwined.

The NC Digital Heritage Center arrives at an exciting moment in the history of digital libraries and digital collections. The team and advisory board exist to provide project management, digitization, and web hosting to smaller and less-funded institutions in the state in order to create access to primary resources across the state. I hope that institutions both large and small can participate in this effort to create a statewide digital repository. In this way, resources from community-based institutions and repositories holding the history of underrepresented groups can be made available for research and review like never before. I continue to follow closely the development of the Center.

25
May
10

Digitization policies: drafts

In a few weeks, I will have been in my position here for four months. If there is one project that I hope to complete before my first year, it is to successfully create a sustainable digitization process for our library!

With feedback from the digital/web librarian who attempted to create a digitization policy about two years ago and a lot of reading, I created four documents to get our digitization “task force” talking about our project process. These documents, in draft form, are as follows:

  • Digital Collection Development Policy: This document is modeled after the original policy document. It describes types of digitization projects, defines a “digitization advisory group” that decides what projects to do and who will be part of the projects, as well as project selection criteria.
  • Digital Project Life Cycle: This document describes the process of identifying and implementing a digital project. Team roles are described, as well as technical and metadata specs (still in development).
  • Digitization Project Proposal: This is a very short form that groups can fill out to propose a digital project to the “digitization advisory group.”
  • Project Proposal Checklist: This is the checklist that the “digitization advisory group” would use to help the group decide on and prioritize digitization projects. Adapted from Syracuse University Library’s “Digital Library Project Proposal Checklist.”

There are other forms and policies, such as a work order submission form and copyright research policy — I have some great guidance from the Society of Georgia Archivists’ Forms Forum, which has a lot of excellent examples. Some of the other resources I consulted and adapted include:

For me, the development policy and life cycle documents are the most important. Once our “task force” comes to agreement on these documents, they can serve as the backbone for our projects, as well as evidence that we all support a long-term, collaborative digitization effort. Feedback and suggestions are welcome. Thank you for reading!

As an unrelated note, Touchable Archives is the blog of the month for May 2010 at Simmons’ GSLIS!