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Archive for the ‘Sessions & Meetings’ 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!

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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.

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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.

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Open Mic Session

The open mic session is designed for informal presentations by anyone in attendance. It provides an opportunity for archivists to share stories and experiences in their institutions. This years session offered several interesting accounts from a wide range of topics.

Rachael Bussert discussed her experience working on digitizing the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron company records. They operated iron mines, but were also involved in the lumber industry, agriculture, and tourism. The collection consisted of over 70,000 digital images from two records series consisting of annual reports and 235 maps. The project website included social studies lesson plans and instructional blog. The annual reports provide a plethora of information regarding the company’s activities.

Roughly 30 of the maps were too large for the archives’ scanners, however they found a local person who could help. For the best lighting, the maps were laid out in the WNMU-TV studio since it provided even lighting. The maps were then digitally photographed. While not providing the same level of detail as the scanned maps, the digital photographs allowed the maps’ inclusion in the final product. Overall, the project created an interesting digital collection, and a glimpse into the corporate life of CCI. (The project was funded through a grant from the NHPRC) http://cciarchives.wordpress.com

Nebraska U is a collaborative history project for the University of Nebraska. The project collaborated with several faculty members across the campus. Currently is offers all the yearbooks through 1961 online. Students develop parts of the website as part of courses across campus, each researching/writing on an aspect of Nebraska University history. Not only does this build the website, it introduces more students to the archive and encourages its use. Originally, the website was developed in TEI, however many students were too focused on trying to get the technology work, rather than enjoying the historical research. In response, the project switched to Mecca, an open source platform.

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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.

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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.

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Twitter: Dina Kellams

Kellams discussed her experiences using Twitter at Indiana University. The process required examining how Twitter was being used elsewhere, within the university, and its potential for the archives. It was decided that everyone could use the account to send tweets, although in reality only the presenter used the account. Time was another initial concern, would Twitter take up too much valuable time. This was not an issue after all, as it was easy to update the account on a regular basis.

She demonstrated the various features of the Twitter website, and how to navigate the interface including: timelines, hash tags, lists, mentions, etc. Finally, she discussed the benefits of Twitter software, such as TweetDeck, especially for those with multiple accounts (including both a facebook and Twitter account).

Lessons: learn the lingo, watch the voice being used, remember your audience, and read the terms of service.

Facebook: Kevlin Haire

Organizations have only been allowed to make pages for four years. At the Ohio State University, the archive decided to ‘step out of the stone age.’ in 2010, they decided to join facebook, encouraged by a student. What is the mission, however, for joining? Simply put, to meet users where they are, especially where they spend free time.

Important: you must be on facebook personally prior to setting up and administrating an archives account. Also, it can take a lot of time to write posts…a lesson learned there, keep posts short. Contentwise, make it timely and relevant. Keep the users in mind, especially if they might be people who cannot access facebook at work; suggests duplicating posts on blog or website.

Miracles: The interactivity with the collection; ability for creativity–such as the National Archives’ name that caption; and you can do things just for fun! The biggest surprise is that people will like you and interact/comment

Blogs: Sloan Kommissarov and Elizabeth Fox-Corbett

The blog project began as a celebration of archives month, and was so successful, it was continued for the following year. For 2009, the focus on scrapbooks allowed the project to highlight archives throughout the state of Wisconsin. Over 20 repositories were used, with graduate students serving as the authors. Marketing the blog through social and local media increased viewership of the blog. For 2009, the traffic doubled from the previous year. The blog won the 2009 Make an Impact contest of the SAA.

Key points: select a blog team, consider workload, scope & content, and using colleagues from a distance. Also make sure to plan how long you wish to maintain the blog and the frequency of posts. Content-wise, establish a focus, select a platform, and maximize the medium.

http://archives month.blogspot.com

Social media strategies based on NARA’s lead can help on the local level. The 2010 blog was not part of a seminar, and had limited funds. The SAA chapter at UW Madison used facebook to help as an outreach tool. By advertising blog posts on personal facebook pages, the blog visits nearly met the previous year’s blog with only 60% of the number of posts. The next step would be to include Twitter in the outreach efforts.

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