Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Session Bloggers’ Category

The student poster session allowed six students a chance to showcase projects they had done.  Alexis Logsdon won for her poster titled “Preservation at Quatrefoil.”  The other posters were created by Kaitlin Dunn (Voices of the Ironworkers: collecting oral histories and creating outreach opportunities for public folklore projects); Elizabeth Haeuptle (Capstone Project: Mound Science and Energy Museum); Noel Rihm (Community Outreach: Public History Educational Programs); Eric Schoenbaechler (The Julian C. Wyche Collection: Issues in Researching and Developing a Digital Exhibit); and Sara Stambaugh (A Case Study: More Product Less Process for Access, PDF/A and the Walter F. Mondale Papers at the Minnesota Historical Society).

Congratulations to all participants for doing such a great job!

Read Full Post »

The morning session on the final day of 2011 MAC offered an interesting look at the practical application of the concept of “good enough” in arrangement and description. Jennifer Graham (Wisconsin Historical Society), Michelle Ganz (Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum), and Dennis Meissner (Minnesota Historical Society) described their institutional experiences with a eye toward reasonable expectations rather than perfection.

Through her work at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Jennifer Graham encountered a difficult dilemma with over 4,600 cubic feet of unaccessioned materials. The WHS storage is currently full, and an offsite facility is being built, requiring the preparation of those materials shipped offsite. The “good enough” arrangement description allows for efficient retrieval for offsite materials. This process required description at the folder level, and limiting it to abstracts and short scope/content notes. All of the finding aids were developed with EAD, allowing for searching of the online findings aids by keyword (a key element).

Graham discussed several factors to consider:

  • Types of collection will often determine the original organization of the collections
  • Formats as descriptions will vary based on format
  • Various levels of difficulties with each collection
  • The current level of access to unprocessed collections

Additionally, there are several constraints, including staff, space, time, knowledge, and money. She also noted the importance for good project management, most importantly, a central place to store records. Her development of a task worksheet allowed her to quickly/easily instruct volunteers, interns, and paraprofessionals on the needs for each collection. The WHS project resulted in over 4,600 cubic feet being cleaned up or described in 535 EAB lists in 0.5 to 2.0 cu. ft. per hour. This was possible by switching focus from arrangement to description for access.

Michelle Ganz explored the concept of “good enough” through her experiences at the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum. As a professional who wears many different hats, in combination with budgetary strains, Ganz stressed “good enough” is not a luxury, but necessary to functionality. She stated, simple solutions can be the most elegant and often the easiest and most cost effective. Ganz reflected on if she could ever achieve perfection. Recognizing perfection was unobtainable, allowed her to focus her attention on what is possible, rather than what is perfect (although she did note that sometimes good enough is not enough).

Ganz achieves the good enough principles through breaking big projects into little, achievable steps and applying real world solutions. Most importantly, she advocates the motto: recycle, reuse, and reduce. For example, she very rarely throws out a used folder. Ganz also notes the importance of creative thinking, such as her bartering with another department (in this case she traded a volunteer for a month for custom boxes). Another example described the application of good enough to cataloging the archival collections, of which only 10% were cataloged when she started (it now sits at 90%). Finally, she stressed it is all about advocacy and persistence combined with knowing when to walk away.

As the final presenter, Dennis Meissner expanded on the application of the more product, less process (MPLP) model to special collections. Several problems exist with current practice: the processing bench marks and practice are inappropriate; it focuses on the ideal and not what is needed; it is fixated on item-level tasks; preservation anxiety trumps user needs; and we achieve only a fraction of our productivity potential. Meissner proposed a solution through switching from an old model to a new model. Whereas the old model was process driven, the new model would be audience driven. The old model was resource intensive, and the new would be resource sensitive. Rather than focusing on artisan quality, the new model uses good enough, or production quality. The switch would result in lower unit costs, rapid turnarounds, and the ability to deal with uncertainty of future resources. Overall, the new model focuses on making use the preeminent objective.

Read Full Post »

The three presenters on the Faculty-Archivist Collaborations: Promoting Archival Use panel demonstrated ways in which they successfully collaborated with faculty on mutually beneficial projects. One of the chief accomplishments was getting students into the archives early in their academic career, informing them of what an archives is and what role it serves. Of particular value, a professor in the English Department (Dr. Kim Crowley) also presented the faculty view of these collaborations.

Curt Hanson highlighted work with faculty that went well beyond the history classes which are a logical fit with many archives. Hanson has worked with History of Higher Education instructors and with Records and Information Management courses for IT students, showing them record series and providing real world context for theoretical discussion. Graphic design classes have used archival holdings to compare a Gutenberg Bible replica and the White Bull manuscript. Hanson also highlighted collaborative digitization projects with faculty, such as the University of North Dakota Pottery Collection and Elwyn B. Robinson Collection. Overall, Hanson stressed the value of the “snowball effect” where one project can lead to others, that planning and discussion can be informal, having a good relationship with the library director, and providing a consistent, constant message to faculty.

Lisa Sjoberg stressed the value that the primary sources that can be found in the archives can be of great benefit to a variety of classes. By collaborating with faculty, archivists can introduce students to the archives early in their academic career, and make the archives an indispensable part of the curriculum. Primary sources can foster critical thinking skills, form a connection with the community, reduce plagiarism, and increase awareness of information possibilities. In Sjoberg’s most successful collaboration, first year writing students read the historical fiction novel March while using a collection of civil war letters as the starting point for research papers. These and other projects helped build support for the archives, increased usage, and opened the door to other collaborations; however, they also create challenges in time commitment, finding enough archival resources for an entire class, and requiring significant advance planning. Ultimately, these collaborations were a balancing act where the rewards outweighed the challenges for both archivist and faculty.

Dr. Kim Crowley is a member of the English Department who worked with Lisa Sjoberg on many of the projects she discussed, and provided a welcome perspective from the other side on collaboration. Crowley discussed the value in using primary sources to study historical fiction as a way to get students to start talking about facts and conducting research. Overall, Crowley found the archives useful for fostering critical thinking skills, avoiding plagiarism, and teaching students how to dig for resources beyond electronic search engines. In general, students felt more engaged with their projects, thought about sources differently, and a small but significant fraction (Crowley estimated three out of twenty-two students per class for four classes) had their interest in the archives piqued, and told her they continued to use it for projects in other classes.

All of these presenters demonstrated that the archives hold materials which can be useful to a wide variety of classes, not just for direct historical research. By getting students in as freshman or during their introductory courses, the archives can be demystified and made accessible, creating a resource the students will be aware of for the rest of their academic career. The wide range of successful projects show the versatility of archival holdings, and the value of collaboration for both archivist and faculty.

Read Full Post »

In the Student Research Presentations both Suzanna Conrad and Edward Benoit highlighted the need for archival awareness of two often overlooked areas. Suzanna Conrad discussed the state of digital curation for films, while Edward Benoit explored the legal ramifications of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act on archives.

Suzanna Conrad presented An Analysis of Current Film Archiving Practice and Hesitance to Embrace Digital Curation. While film is a critical medium for studying digital heritage, the media of modernity, commercially valuable, and constitutes a unique and threatened media its preservation is largely stuck in analog. The film industry simply does not view digitization as a means of preservation, and current preservation technique relies on the “store and ignore” model of placing analog film stock in environmentally controlled storage areas. While this may be surprising for an industry where digital filming and effects are increasingly common, the 100 year longevity of analog preservation medium vastly exceeds the three to ten year span of digital medium. The lack of a clear preservation strategy for digital films and other born-digital ancillary objects (such as video game characters and animations) highlights the need to encourage industry discussion and interaction. However, even when technical problems can be overcome, legal issues may still need resolution.

Edward Benoit presented Archival Preservation and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act: The Need for Relief. Benoit provided a detailed discussion of the often overlooked aspect of federal copyright law on digitization and duplication efforts. While restrictions are not as severe for non-profit organizations such as many archives, the DMCA can still constitute a legal minefield for archivists unfortunate enough to run afoul of its provisions. The restrictions of the DMCA will likely only become more relevant as anti-duplication software reaches individual users, and format migration becomes increasingly difficult. Benoit stressed that the changing restrictions on different types of material form the crux of an issue which archivists would do well to be aware of, not just for their personal legal protection, but so that they can effectively advocate for federal copyright policy which will benefit archives and their users.

What both of these presentations have in common is that they are ultimately about educating people about the archives. This can be in the form of engaging the film industry in a discussion about matters of digital curation, or informing the federal government on how copyright laws effect archival practice. Both presentations show that in providing education archivists need to engage creators early in the creation of the records, and not neglect the institutions that generate laws governing their use.

Read Full Post »

Using What Works: Practical Approaches to Born-Digital Archives discussed archiving personal or organizational born-digital material. While born-digital records can be intimidating, the panel found that the basic tenets of archival practice were still applicable in accessioning, arranging and describing, and providing access to born-digital records.

Ben Goldman of the American Heritage Center discussed accessioning or “ingesting” born-digital records. These records can be accessioned in a manner which is very similar to current practice, beginning with the electronic equivalent of a basic preservation check: running a virus scan. From there basic descriptive metadata about files (name, author, and directory structure for example) can be captured and documentation to ensure authenticity can begin. Storage decisions can then be made regarding the digital materials, and arrangement and description conducted.

Laura Carroll of Emory University discussed the arrangement and description of born-digital documents donated by well known author Salman Rushdie. Even though they were born-digital, the questions Carroll began with should be familiar to archivists: where do these records fall in processing priority, what is their research value, what kind of resources will be given to the project, what is the work plan, and what are the restriction issues? The access decisions shaped arrangement and description, with a thorough review of files being necessary because of those access restrictions. Files were grouped into broad categories, and the release to the public was staggered due to the resources available.

Seth Shaw of Duke University Archives discussed providing access to born-digital records in a practical manner. One of the first issues to address is the legal aspect of digitizing information. While Fair Use can be a legal defense against copyright infringement, a stronger protection would be to write digitization licenses into donor agreements. Even this may not be sufficient in cases such as email, where the donor is often not the original author. Beyond legal considerations, Shaw boils the criteria for access down to three questions: what are you providing access to, what do your users need or expect, and what can you actually do? With projects limited to two of the categories of fast, good, and cheap, Shaw stressed starting small and building incrementally, and not expecting to find a single unified access mechanism for all materials.

Ultimately, the panel discussion was quite encouraging for archivists who might find born-digital records daunting. While technical and software problems may seem different than the difficulties encountered with manuscript or other more well known collection formats, the overall basis of traditional archival accessioning, arrangement and description, and access remain valuable guideposts for dealing with born-digital records.

Read Full Post »

The “I Didn’t Know We Had an Archives!” Outreach Successes and Challenges in Corporate Archives highlighted the importance and challenges of outreach in a corporate archives setting. Three archivists shared their experiences in performing outreach, offering valuable advice on how to build a successful archives program that can serve a global institution with a huge number of employees.

Jennifer Johnson, of Cargill, Inc. discussed the importance of five key factors in outreach efforts: flexibility, patience, trying new things, building relationships, and finding a sponsor. While it may sound intimidating to try to co-ordinate all of these activities at once, Johnson stressed that often one activity might lead to another. Having the flexibility to try new things or the patience to wait until the time is right for a project can lead to new relationships, which can lead to new sponsors.

Jamie Martin of Target Corporation discussed the positive and negative aspects of several features of working in a corporate archives. The independence can give an archivist the freedom to try new things, but they may still be limited by corporate policies and rules. Enthusiastic high level support can also mean greater scrutiny, and more input which must be considered when designing projects. Long range planning is necessary, and exhibits must be refreshed or they will become part of the background. Martin has also found that the communication team can be a very useful ally in getting news of the archives’ activities out to the rest of the corporation, and taking the initiative to build a good working relationship with them is critical.

Susan Wakefield of General Mills, Inc. stressed the value of having the archives listed in the main directory of the corporation, where potential patrons could easily spot it when searching for resources. Wakefield experimented with a variety of sizes of history walls, which displayed artifacts and information about the company. These ranged from large displays to smaller walls that could be shipped to distant offices for display. Expanded tours, thank you cards, and highlighting a relevant historical event each week also served to keep the archives in people’s minds.

While all of the presenters are corporate archivists, the lessons and experiences they shared can easily be generalized to nearly any institution. Users and potential users need to be educated about the archives, what it does, and what it can do for them. The needs of the users have to drive this activity, and projects cannot be driven by the archives. Start small and build, and keep identifying new ways that your archives can support the goals and activities of the institution. Ultimately, be your own best advocate, and show your users just how much the archives can do for them and what a valuable resource it can be.

Read Full Post »

This session was introduced by Chris Prom from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign who asked poignant questions including: (1) How many of the audience members have read papers or heard about how this profession has not made any progress with digital archives? And (2) how many understand the OAIS Reference Diagram?  The first question was greeted with many assenting nods and raised hands, the second with a chuckle.

Before introducing the first speaker, he referenced his recommendations for gaining confidence and skills with handling born-digital materials at his link.

Ben Goldman, American Heritage Center in Laramie, Wyoming
Goldman begins by stating that his intent is to share initial and progressing process at his institution, what decisions were made and how these decisions fulfill some of the best practices being established in the field.  Most of the challenges he’s encountered have to do with aligning what they want to accomplish with established archival workflows.

The speaker states common belief that born-digital items are undercollected, undercounted, undermanaged and inaccessible.  Most of the born-digital materials acquired by the American Heritage Center came from floppy disks, zip disks, CDs and DVDs, which were put in boxes and then ignored.  Rather than refer to digital media as documents, he claims digital media is rather containers of items, and we should think of them as boxes or collections when accessioning.

First the archive attempted to gain control of the digital media and concluded that it was important to develop procedures for born-digital content that still adhere to archival policy.  The speaker also cites difficulty in aligning ideals with other professionals who follow digital preservation initiatives, specifically comparing the idea of “accessioning” vs. “ingest”.

Goldman outlined basic requirements including (1) performing a virus-check, (2) capturing descriptive metadata about files and folders, (3) capturing data about file formats, (4) verifying authenticity (InterPARES can be used as a good starting point for understanding integrity) and using checksums, and (5) beginning documentation that records the management and preservation actions taken over time, including where to deposit the information whether in digital repositories such as Fedora, server storage or on external hard drives.

In practice, the American Heritage Center followed the following process:  Transferred files using Data Accessioned, captured checksums, produced XMLs with metadata.  This process was completed twice for each disk, so that master copies were stored in a dark archive and one was kept available for access.  To conclude, Goldman recommends that you make your born-digital material countable, manageable and accessible and then…iterate, experiment and evolve.

Laura Carroll, Emory University
Carroll gave a background of how her university successfully processed one born-digital collection, the Rushdie Archive.  Three questions she said one should consider before beginning processing included:  (1) Where does this collection fall within your priorities internally? (2) What is the research value of this collection? And (3) what kind of resources will be given to this project?

The university acquired the Salman Rushdie papers in 2006 after a long relationship with the well-known novelist through university lecture series.  Rushdie was intrigued to preserve his digital records and donated four computers and one hard drive for this purpose.  The collection included a substantial amount of paper material (over 100 linear feet).  In the early stages of acquisition, they established restrictions on several of the papers, which shaped the planning and workflow of the project.

Before Carroll could analyze and process the files, a team member accessioned and prepared the data.  A triage was conducted to determine what had been received, including taking an inventory of the media, creating disc images of media, duplicating data, using checksums and harvesting the metadata.  Because of the restrictions, it was necessary to review every single file.  After the data was processed, they started considering access tools.  The final decision was to emulate his computers and provide a searchable database of the files, offering two points of access.   The file structure of some of the files did not need to be modified however Carroll referred to an analog comparison: if we have a box with no organization, we would intervene to provide titles.  Important in this process is to keep track of what we do and make the process transparent.

General advice that Carroll noted was that the application of archival theory and principles may shift to accommodate digital media, but the underpinnings still guide the process.  What we do will not change, just how we do it.  She asserted that we should not panic, and should rely on the foundation that has carried us through to this point.

Seth Shaw, Duke University Archives
Shaw focused on the topic of practical approaches to creating access to born-digital archives.  He posed the question of how your repository can provide reliable access to born digital materials and answered that it depends entirely on the resources available within your specific situation.
Major topics he discussed included issues of copyright and whether or not the materials can be made available online; creating either donor or researcher use agreements to prevent infringement of use; digital rights management (DRM) as a short-term possibility to restrict environments; and issues of what he dubbed “promiscuous access”, i.e. that a collection is available to the whole world rather than a selected group of researchers.

Major topics he discussed included issues of copyright and whether or not the materials can be made available online; creating either donor or researcher use agreements to prevent infringement of use; digital rights management (DRM) as a short-term possibility to restrict environments; and issues of what he dubbed “promiscuous access”, i.e. that a collection is available to the whole world rather than a selected group of researchers.

Major questions that should be considered included (1) what are you providing access to? (2) What do your users need or expect? And (3) what can you actually do? Picking from the criteria of fast, good and cheap is difficult, as most often, you can only select two of these criteria.  He closed by stating that it was difficult to provide a simple access mechanism, so it was important to think back on the three questions mentioned above while deciding where you trade off between good, fast and cheap.

Read Full Post »

This session has a different format than any of the other lecture series at the conference, as participants split into three groups to discuss the speakers’ projects.  The format is interesting as it allows the audience to pose more questions and participate actively in discussion.  The session is split into three sections:  in the first section, participants split into the three groups.  After 25 minutes the participants have the option of sitting in on another group.  After the second session, one elected scribe from each group summarizes the discussion.  I took part in the Knowledge Transfer session and summarized for that group.

Knowledge Transfer – Institutional Memory with Nancy Richey, Suellyn Lathrop, Sue Lynn McDaniel from Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green
The topic of Knowledge Transfer and Institutional Memory started when one of the speakers found a photograph of a dog in a map case and one in the team knew that the dog belonged to a prior faculty member.  This made them realize how easily they could lose institutional knowledge due to retirement or departmental changes.

Nancy, Suellyn and Sue Lynn introduced the business concept of “knowledge management” defined as collection and preservation of the history, procedures, undertakings, etc. of an institution.   In an academic library this refers to the history of the university and how the library played a part, changes to the collection, why choices were made, how collection are created, stored, de-accessioned, changed or discarded over time.

Due to complete turnover of staff due to retirement and staff changes, procedures from past staff members were lost.  Many items were without labels, or unique terms were on the card, and it was important to learn from those who were leaving.  The “tyranny of the urgent” had left little time to take care of these kinds of important knowledge.  They decided to conduct a knowledge audit and to map out knowledge needs, inventory of who has what kind of knowledge, how it flows or should flow from group to group and break down communication barriers.

After this introduction, the discussion was opened to the audience so that we could share our ideas and challenges in this regard.  Some of the following topics were discussed:
– Need to weed out the bad parts of knowledge transfer, i.e. issues with coworkers and management, bad processes, gossip, etc.
– Consider using a wiki or creating a manual to enable knowledge transfer
– Archivists and librarians are learning to work together
– Need for knowledge transfer when someone transfers departments, not just when they leave
– Creating shared access to sources, i.e. putting shared documents on shared drives
– Reducing the places you need to look for collections. Sue Lynn gave a specific example about putting things in the OPAC or PastPerfect and also creating aids to find that information
– What do you teach new staff:  Encourage them to find their own style and path, important to have willingness to communicate and willingness to change.  Access is becoming more powerful than knowledge.
– Learn to adjust when dealing with difficult people
– Donor relations:  How to deal with donors and transferring knowledge regarding dealing with donors, should you document how you deal with donors
– Storytelling as a means of transferring knowledge
– Mentoring as a means of transferring knowledge
– How do you pull information from those you don’t work with personally?  5-minute stand up meetings, small receptions to invite other departments in, coffee breaks, informal meetings, etc.   Different buildings can isolate departments so management may need to do some proactive cross-training.
– Make a Facebook page to share what’s happening
– Reporting on sessions from conferences when you return to your organization so potential ideas can be implemented

Processing Music Collections with Christina Prucha from the American Choral Directors Association, Jill Flowers from University of Oklahoma and Robin Guthrie from St. Gregory’s University
The American Choral Directors Association had a goal to promote good choral conducting and had been collecting for over 30 years with a part-time librarian.  The collection was not organized, at one point they moved to a new building and 800 linear feet of boxes and choral material needed to be processed.  They received a grant to get control of the collection using Archivists’ Toolkit and to create finding aids. Eighteen finding aids were created for eighteen collections within fifteen months.  The collections development policy was to document the history of choral directors, including their professional and personal lives.

The collection was divided into two main parts: donated collections including personal papers of choir directors and organization documents including administrative records.  Personal collections were more challenging to process as they were not as organized.  Folders were scanned to determine content in the folders, however they couldn’t go very deep into the folder due to the grant project restrictions.  Some re-foldering occurred where appropriate.  Collections were divided according to those that had notes and didn’t have notes, as the prior might be very interesting for some scholars.  Non-annotated scores were kept with their collections of origin.  Per grant restrictions they were permitted to create a general description of the entire collection.  Donations were accepted and were only pursued actively early in the process as they already had enough material to manage.  Nothing could be discarded according to the grant.

Some learning acquired during the project included discovering the importance of using a controlled vocabulary, incorporating standardization and the trouble of manually correcting fields later in the process.  There were some pitfalls due to the minimal processing restrictions, i.e. classifying was not as simple and they were not aware when something went missing.  Some digitization was possible with cassette and video tapes.  The team had interlocking strengths that made their project successful including different skills in IT, organization, music and language.

Women in Spirit, Catholic Sisters in America Exhibit with Deanna Carr, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dubuque, Iowa and Lois Hoh, Archives of Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin

The national exhibit of Women in Spirit started at the Smithsonian and twelve different repositories in the upper Mississippi river area decided to include a local component.  It was determined that the local component needed to be seamless from the national traveling component.  This seamlessness was achieved by closely reviewing the website.  Some challenges were faced when donors brought in items, which the individual donor was excited about, but may not have been as suited for the exhibition as other objects.

The goal of the exhibition was to display the contributions of Catholic women to American history with a concentration on the history aspect, not the religious aspect.  The river was used as a source to tie items together, and early in the project they decided to focus on one single story related to the river and the concept.  They discovered the importance of being honest, either in history or in an exhibit, even when this truth may reveal the darker sides of your institution or group.  This concept may be challenging for many, especially those in universities.

The national exhibit times can be found on the website, and the national collection may come to your town.  Additionally a documentary airing in the fall as well as the ongoing website should make the national collection accessible to more people.

Read Full Post »

Emily Walters:  Changing the Landscape 

Emily Walters, Project Librarian at North Carolina State University, opened the session describing the establishment of processes in her “Changing the Landscape” project.  The project is a two-year CLIR-funded project to make collections of certain architects and landscape architect collections available.  The project is intended to expose the legacy of modernist architects and landscape architects.  The collection includes 40,000 original drawings and project files at approximately 1,200 linear feet.  The goals of the project are to process materials, conduct a cost analysis and develop efficient processing procedures for both internal learning and to share with the broader community.

As of this week they’ve processed 1,046 of 1,200 linear feet and fully processed 4 collections.  They’re adding additional collections, including some that are entirely digital or include significant digital materials.  They achieved this accelerated processing by hiring experienced processors, receiving well-organized collections, repurposing of all available information and through the ease of collecting metadata from the drawings.

Nathaniel Parks:  The Goldberg Archive: A Case Study

Nathaniel Parks from Ryerson and Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago presented his institution’s implementation of MPLP (more product less process) in a large, modern architectural collection.  The Goldberg Archive, which consists of design documents, construction documents, visual materials and post-construction documents from architect Bertrand Golberg’s records, included more than 600 linear feet of material spanning over 5 decades.  The project was constrained by strict deadlines from the donor and had to be completed within 18 months following the donation.  The library decided to use MPLP to process this collection, as it was the largest collection they had ever worked on and time was limited.

Selection was very important for this collection, as it was not possible for the library to include the entire 600 linear feet of material.  The collection was reviewed using the following factors for appraisal: quantity, format, redundancy, potential use and record type.  Furthermore, processing order of the series was based on the likelihood that something would be learned early to assist in processing the rest of the collection, i.e. attention to business papers would help those reviewing the documents have perspective when processing later documents.  The library managed to process the collection within the required time frame and reduced the total collection to 300 linear feet of material.

Penny Peterson: History for Money

Penny Peterson, a researcher for Hess, Roise and Company, professes to “do history for money”.  She looks for rare historical documents, which can assist developers in getting tax credits, fleshing out highway plans, altering buildings, fulfilling compliance requirements, etc.  She works with archives to find documents that may be pertinent for her clients.

Peterson spoke about the importance of a good archivist who knows his or her collection well as it helps her in locating historical paperwork.  She likes online catalogs and finding aids, because these features help her determine relevancy of documents she may be interested in viewing.  She expressed the importance of providing information about your collections online, so that it is easily accessible and browsable.

One specific example she presented was a client that wanted to remodel or tear down a room in a “Soap Factory” warehouse and factory in Minneapolis.  The brick warehouse was built in 1885 and the attached factory in the late 1940s.  She discovered through research that the factory had been designed by Liebenberg and Kaplan, well-known designers of theaters in Minneapolis.  Once the client realized they had a Liebenberg and Kaplan interior in one of their buildings, they decided not to make any modifications.  Peterson asserted that by explaining to the client that they had something unique, they began appreciatively looking at the building and the building environment differently.

Read Full Post »

Mark Neuzil’s Plenary Address “The Mississippi River of Henry Bosse: Government Photography as History” brought this year’s MAC to a start with an interesting look at photographer Bosse’s documentation of the Mississippi of the past.  Appropriate for a conference taking place on the Mississippi, his address, based on his book “Views on the Mississippi: The Photographs of Henry Peter Bosse”, spoke to those who might have a sentimental relationship to the rivers of their past, i.e. the idea that you personally identify with the river you grew up on, sentimentally remembering who you used to be.

Neuzil claims this personal interest in the Mississippi and became interested in the photographs of Henry Bosse due to what these photographs said about the environment at that time.  Many of the photographs of the river show the Mississippi as it has never been seen before, and as it will never be seen again.

During Mark Twain’s time, the Mississippi was very difficult to navigate due to sandbars, floods, droughts and snags.  After the Civil War, the shipping industry began pressuring government to make the river suitable for navigation.  In 1866 Congress passed the first Navigation Act on the upper Mississippi as an unfunded mandate, so only dredging of the sandbar and snag removal was managed.  The core purpose of the act, to create a 4 1/2 foot channel, is not implemented at that time.  Shipping industries, feeling pressure from the railway industries, continue to exert pressure on Congress until Congress guarantees the 4 1/2 foot channel implementation.  The clear channel was never really built, only segments were built as the Mississippi was not ever fully tamable.  The lock and dam system, implemented starting in the 1950s to enable easier navigation of the Mississippi, has forever changed the river.

As these photographs are documenting a river no longer known, they’re commercially valuable and are incredibly rare.  The prints are worth anywhere between $20,000-30,000 each and only about 350 are known to exist.  Only seven negatives, printed on heavy glass plate negatives, remain.  Unfortunately the Corps of Engineers broke or threw out most of the negatives due to limited storage.

All photographs were from civil engineer, mapmaker and photographer Henry Bosse.  Bosse was a self-assumed descendant of General Gneisenau, a Prussian general.  He was tracked on a census in 1870 in Chicago, the first record of Bosse in the U.S.   Hired by the Corps of Engineers in 1874, Bosse began making maps for them by the end of the same year and is believed to have used Robert E. Lee’s maps as a guide, as Lee had been employed by the Corps of Engineers in the 1830s.  Bosse’s greatest period by creativity is cited by Neuzil as beginning in 1878 with his cartography and from 1883-1893 when he was taking photographs of the Mississippi.  Neuzil believes that Bosse began photographing the Mississippi river to assist himself in mapmaking.  In 1903, Bosse died as a result of poisoned asparagus, a death that remains shrouded in mystery, and was frequently used by Neuzil as a way to maintain audience interest and intrigue.

Neuzil also tells a fascinating story of the discovery of these photographs in the house of an engineer, passed down through his family and their heirs.  Henry Bonds, a piano student of the engineer’s daughter, inherited the house and consulted an antiques dealer on the value of the photographs.  Photographs were later found on a dredge, in the possession of private and public institutions and individuals in other states.  Neuzil even gets phone calls from people who think they might have some of Bosse’s photographs.

On my flight back home, I will be looking down over St. Paul to see if I too can spot the wing dams, which may be remnants from Bosse’s time and are displayed in some of his photography.  I might even start looking for blue pictures in antique shops and am slightly scared of eating anymore canned asparagus.

Read Full Post »