Sunday, 17 November 2013
MCLM Fall Workshop
Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum – November 16, 2013
Earlier this week, I was approached by the executive director of the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, Larry Earl, and asked if I wanted to facilitate the first workshop in the “Preserving our Heritage” series. Larry explained that he wanted someone to explain how archivists arrange a collection, tell the story of a collection’s origin, and store the collection materials. I kindly accepted the invitation, knowing that I had ample content from my recent ACA exam preparation materials and current enrollment at Pasadena City College. I imagined that the audience members would be curious about what archivists do or fancy themselves as archivists working with their family collections. I started my presentation with information about the role of an archivist, focusing on selection, preservation, description, and outreach. I used examples from MCLM’s Antoinette Culpepper Architecture Collection and the Barryte, Broussard, and Dismukes Doll Collection to illustrate the difference between folder level and item level descriptions.
I went on to explain how they can apply some of these techniques to their family history collections. One of the perks for attendance at the workshop was an archival starter kit, which included archival folders, photo sleeves, several pencils, and a flip top box. I explained that these supplies are important to have in bulk and if they wanted to order more, we may be able to facilitate a discounted cost to the group of attendees. Although the attendance was small, just two volunteers, the discussion was lively. As volunteers at the museum, they began to develop a better understanding for why certain decisions are made by the archivists on staff. They also grappled with the same concerns that professional archivists grapple with, how do we balance privacy concerns with open access mandates? Even with every disaster preparedness plan in place and heavy insurance policies, how could we ever replace the content of our collections? I was surprised at their interest in something that has become such a passion for me. Perhaps with more advertisement, and advance notice, more community members would be more encouraged to learn about what it takes to properly describe and make accessible materials from the past.
The concept of metadata, an idea that is thrown around by archivists as if its complexities were the picture of lucidity, has finally been breached in this program. I have been talking about metadata ever since my first exposure to archives during an Arizona Archives Online internship in the spring of 2010. I have always understood its significance but the nature of its requirements for implementation has always been a little foggy. Today’s class was so refreshing because our instructor, Linda Stewart, encouraged us to ask as many questions as we needed, and the class was so full of novices and diverse individuals that none of the questions or comments were dismissed. Linda prefaced our lecture with, “we would begin our discussion of metadata with Dublin Core, rather than EAD which has a steeper learning curve”. That comment resonated with me because entering the archival field at the graduate level forced me to “run” rather “crawl” into an understanding of metadata. Throughout the lecture, I came to understand why Dublin Core has been supplemented by other metadata schemas in order to create more specific and harvestable metadata records. I did not know that there are controlled values for format (Internet Media Types), language (ISO), and type (Dublin Core Type List). We also discussed qualified Dublin Core and the Dublin Core elements used for our digital projects would map onto ContentDM fields. For the second half of class, we created Dublin Core Records for 10 photographs within a template in a Microsoft Word document. The description field was the most difficult because we wondered how much detail to include and if we were using the correct terms for various fashion elements. Overall, it was a very informative class and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to truly understand a concept rather than use my graduate degree to glaze over it.
Sunday, 10 November 2013
Making the Most of the Intern: Working With and Managing Students, Interns, and Volunteers
SCA Fall Workshop
UC Riverside – November 5, 2013
Liza Posas, the archivist at the Autry National Center of the American West prepared a PowerPoint that outlined nine keys to successful volunteer programs. She described the importance of drafting good job descriptions, solid staff commitment to the project, well planned recruitment, careful screening and selection, appropriate training, good supervision, appropriate surveillance, adequate recognition and rewards, and lastly systematic evaluation. Liza gave us time to do some exercises that would allow us to reflect on the structure and success of the programs that we currently have in place, and brainstorm about how we can improve our programs. Liza also gave handouts that instruct volunteers on how to draft biographical/historical notes, a sample volunteer packets (includes contact information, library policies, places to eat, how to use institutional databases, volunteer application, and internship project sheet), preservation notes worksheet, and a processing checklist. Liza explained that her institution does not have many computers so she utilized many low tech processes and forms, many of her forms were adapted from the online “Forms Forum” from Georgia State University Library.
The afternoon’s panel included Joanne Lammers, director of Writer’s Guild Foundation Archives, Jackie Dooley, a program officer at OCLC, Liza Posas, and me, the project archivist at Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum. We had discussed the format over the past two weeks; intended to use our session as case studies of our diverse institutions and give the audience plenty of opportunities to share their experiences. I learned about a plethora of resources that can help archives set up volunteer programs, namely a pdf from SAA, “Resources for Volunteer Programs” that gives guidance. Joanne shared that she asks her interns about the current classes that they are taking and tries to give them work that will allow them to apply what they are learning about. The general theme was to take time developing projects that will allow archival professionals to nurture and mentor interns, volunteers and student workers.
Chaitra’s Panel Remarks
I was very honored to be asked to participate on the panel with my peers, so I spent a great deal of time preparing my comments. Of course, the panel was after lunch and it took our group a good amount of time to get started, so we all needed to truncate our remarks from 15 minutes to 10. For my time, I gave an institutional background to the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum and how we incorporate volunteers into our workflows, and four examples of challenges and solutions that I have tried to incorporate in my 15 months working there. For one, we have a wide variety of obstacles to task completion, such as internet is down, computer has a virus, insufficient supplies, etc., so I make sure that I go through the process before I assign the task to a volunteer. I explained how our volunteers can make mistakes on their assignment, and how I check in often in order to catch problems early. I went on to talk about maintaining “realistic” relationships with older volunteers who may not be willing or able to work on collection processing. “Realistic” meaning that we encourage their membership, institutional memories, and presence but utilize newer, more focused volunteers to get the archival work done. Lastly, I discussed how high expectations from the museum’s leadership can crop up when a high volume of volunteers are present; we rely heavily on volunteer metrics to demonstrate how attendance, attitude and aptitude can reduce the positive impact of volunteer hours.
The subject of this week’s lecture addressed the question of “how do we ensure that the images that we are scanning are of the highest quality?” We had a detailed review of sample digitization workflow which included the assignment of identifiers to each item, bench marking, equipment calibration, quality review and returning the originals to the archives. Most of the steps were very intuitive, essentially checking in periodically to make sure that some egregious mistake was not incorporated into the whole project, but the equipment calibration component was brand new to me. We discussed hardware (Spyder 4 pro) and software applications that can create a color profile for the monitor in order to assess if it is displaying the accurate depictions of the scanned item. We can also test spatial resolution, and purchase color targets to measure the monitor’s display and make any necessary adjustments. Many people think that these tactics are unnecessary because Photoshop allows for color correction and editing, but Photoshop can introduces its own bias, for the archival .tif file, we should endeavor to get the most representative depiction possible. We also discussed how we can use the “d-screen” option on Epson software to correct the moire effect, which looks like wavy discolored lines in the image and results from scanning a glossy page. As we review the quality of the scanned images, we should check 10% of our images for their resolutions, tonal values, any noise (lines) or interference, also checking the file names and directories. More information on edge detection can be found in Cornell University’s Computer Science website. Sometimes it helps to have a second pair of eyes take a look at your work, a photographer is a great candidate because they usually have a good idea for these details. At the end of class we were tasked with calibrating the monitors on our personal computers. I followed the directions from Windows 7 on my HP Pavilion laptop, and adjusted the gamma, the brightness, and the color balance of my screen. At the end of the process, I was asked to compare my old settings to my new, and there is no question that the quality was improved, everyone should do it.
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
To the unaware observer, it may seem that I have been slacking on my blog posts but the truth is that class has been fairly one dimensional for the past three weeks. Our mid-term assignment (due during week 8) was to submit an idea for a digital program, as well as digital project proposal. I titled my digital program, “Gone Too Soon” and pitched it as a way for bereaved individuals to create a tribute to their loved ones who seemed to have died prematurely. The specific project that I will be working on for the duration of the semester is “Hearts Afire: Marie and Larry Powell’s Wedding Photographs”. My parents passed away recently, (my mother in 2010 to lung cancer, and my father in 2012 to liver disease) and I often turn to their old photographs to remind me of the good times that they were healthy and happy. I chose 25 images from their 1982 wedding album to digitize for class. My project plan included a budget for the necessary equipment, software, and staffing, as well as a timeline, file-naming conventions, and strategies for recruiting other community members to design their own digital projects. For the past two weeks, we have had ample class time to scan each photograph in a high resolution .tif file, as well as a lower resolution jpeg file. I thought that my 4GB jump drive (which was 50% full of random files) could store my digital images but I was wrong. I had to return to class the following week with a new jump drive to complete the assignment. I wound up scanning all of my .tif images at 1200 dpi in order to get at least 4000 pixels on the long side, since the original color photographs were about 4in. by 4in. in area. Even as I got into a rhythm of placing the photo on the scanner and selecting the appropriate specifications, I found that it was easy to save in the wrong folder or incorrectly name the image if I was not paying attention. Overall, the assignment was completed with plenty of time to spare, and I’m looking forward to the next phase of the project….applying metadata, AH YEAH!
Thursday, 10 October 2013
Due to mandatory professional development for the instructors at PCC, last week’s class was canceled. I went in this week to learn more information about scanner specifications and scanning procedures than I had ever hoped to grasp before. I recently purchased an inexpensive printer/scanner, and now I can read the specifications and see what my $50.00 scanner is worth. It turns out that my scanner could not produce archival quality scans, because the maximum scan resolution is only 2400 dpi. For spatial definition, I learned that we should strive for 4,000 dpi on the long side of the image for archival quality. For example, an 8”x10”, needs to be scanned at 400 dpi in order to achieve a decent resolution. All of the information that is included in a scanner’s specifications is still a little confusing to me, especially since the different aspects are measured in the same units. After we discussed specifications, we spent the second half of class scanning images at the appropriate resolution for their size, the bit depth for their color, and saving them as TIFF and JPEG files. Once again something that is very simple, which I have been doing haphazardly for years has the potential to be a much more clear and streamlined process.
Thursday, 26 September 2013
I’m not sure what the rest of the semester has in store, but I feel like the information about file management might be the most portable knowledge set for me. The key to all of the topics was the importance of “responsible” file management. I scanned a great deal of the photographs at Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum for various researchers, saved the JPEG in a random file folder and never looked back. If I was going to make the best use of my time, I would have chosen the appropriate scanner settings to create a TIFF file for preservation, a JPEG file for access, and a GIF file for posting thumbnails on our website. I also would have named the files according to a prescribed format and stored them in a place that my colleagues could access. Our discussion included a description of lossless versus lossy file types, bit depths, and pixels; which had been explained to me many times before but digital scans gave a concrete example of their applications. When we were talking about Photoshop and proprietary software file types, all I could think about was how frustrating iTunes’ “.aac” file extensions could be when I was not using an Apple music player. There are so many consequences of digital obsolescence when we invest in file types that are not open or popular. Linda recommended that we stick to these open file types (TIFF, JEPG, PNG, GIF) because there will be a better chance for us to access them in perpetuity. As for file naming strategies, the methodology seems endless but the most important aspect is documentation, if no one knows the logic, it won’t be replicated. The idea that all of the work would have to be renamed or ignored is a scary enough notion to make me record every step in my process.
Today in class, we were asked to work in teams and look at several archival collections and make recommendations about including them in a digitization program. Over the past two classes we talked about copyright, scanning processes, preservation, costs, research values, and digital program purposes as factors in the digitization selection process. Among the members of my group, we had very different ideas of what should make an item eligible for digitization. For a collection of romantic correspondence between two members of the Pasadena community, dating back to the late 1890s, I thought we might encounter privacy concerns, the copyright was ambiguous, making the hand written text searchable would be challenging, and the paper was relatively stable in its current state; therefore there was no urgency to digitize. One my peers insisted that the content of the letters was very important for researchers, the copyright could easily be determined, and the stability of the paper meant it was an excellent candidate for a flatbed scanner, therefore it was a high priority digitization candidate. Our group also examined a collection of annual reports from the school’s physical education department and some student scrapbooks. Throughout the lectures, we looked a flow charts and selection criteria that were designed to remove the bias and inconsistencies from the selection process, but our assignment demonstrated how difficult that could be. For the assignment, there was no concrete context, nor real budget, staffing, or equipment limitations that could help us to make better decisions. When these things are defined and the flow charts that are created with agreed upon definitions and parameters that make sense within a given institution, a set of criteria would be invaluable.
Tuesday, 17 September 2013
This week’s lecture delved into the basic administrative questions regarding digital programs. How much is it going to cost and what kind of equipment will we need? Linda shared a cost estimate broken down as follows, 10% - preparation, 10% - digitization, 40% - metadata, and 30% - delivery. We asked her what was included in this metadata portion, and she replied, “research and data entry”. Someone who can generate quality metadata has the earning potential of a traditional cataloger, garnering as much as $50.00 per hour. The next phase in this community college certificate program is a 16 week course on metadata, and how many of the library techs in my class are going to get jobs allowing them to earn $75,000 per year? Although I have my MLS, I’m under-employed and battling people with much more experience in this job market, this certificate will make me more competitive. At the same time, I feel like the more tasks that I can usurp from a library technician, the bigger advantage I would be giving to a future employer, allowing the company to pay one decent salary and receive the expertise of 2-3 professionals. To make matters worse, doing the work of 2-3 professionals promises to be a trying endeavor, personally, on a daily basis. As hard as I try to find it, there is no singular pathway towards success in archives. My most recent experiences in non-profit organizations made the discussions of the cost and function of scanners and digital cameras almost comical. Forty thousand dollars for an overhead book scanner would never be considered at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum. Overall the information about the digitization technology was useful as I would be able to provide organizations with a better idea of the feasibility of their projects within their budgets.
Tuesday, 10 September 2013
This week’s lecture launched right into the positives and negatives of digitization as described in our assigned readings. The two most compelling advantages of digitization for me were virtual re-unification, and using digitization to build community. Linda used the example of a website dedicated the reunification of the sculptures that were removed from the Parthenon and are currently housed at institutions in Paris, Heidelberg, Vienna, Munich, London, and Athens. I learned about the Elgin Marbles when I visited the British Museum in London back in 2009. This example is rather dramatic because of the antiquity of the items, and the politics of so many world powers, but I have also seen this story play out at The Mayme Clayton Library and Museum, as we share stewardship of Congresswoman Diane Watson’s papers with UCLA , California State Archives, and UC-San Francisco. I believe that strategic digitization and linking of our collections would pull more researcher traffic into MCLM and allow researchers to have a more complete idea of who the congresswoman was. When it comes to using digitization to build communities, I could think of a good number of examples from SAA’s annual meeting in New Orleans. I mentioned the MediaNOLA and African Americans in the Ozarks project in class, and Linda brought up the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration among others. The most unfortunate consequence of most digitization programs is the difficult opportunity cost that it presents. In other words, if an institution moves forward with funding and staffing for a digitization program, someone else’s program or position will be reduced or eliminated. This is when the strategic plan of the organization needs to be consulted and significant data analysis should be consulted to be as sure as possible that an implementation will provide enough benefits to outweigh the negative impact to other departments and staff members. I was happy to spend some time discussing this topic because we should not presume that all technology is good for an institution, user needs, budgetary resources, and staff member skill sets should all be considered before our new reputation as the “most digitally advanced library in the tri-state area”, for example.
Wednesday, 28 August 2013
Shortly after I learned about the Digitization Skills for Cultural Heritage Institutions at Pasadena City College from Linda Stewart’s presentation at an LA as Subject meeting in June, I signed up. As I continue the job search, I thought that this would be a great credential to add to my resume and give my days a bit more structure. The first class is LIB 121: Introduction to Technology for Digital Collections, we meet Tuesday nights from 6:00 to 9:00 from now until December. Our first class was a discussion on the scope of the course, individual introductions, and the textbook. Following the first class, we were asked to read, “Nobody cares about the Library: How Digital Technology makes the Library Invisible and Visible to Scholars” from Tom Scheinfelt’s blog, “Found History” (http://www.foundhistory.org/2012/02/22/nobody-cares-about-the-library-how-digital-technology-makes-the-library-invisible-and-visible-to-scholars/). The post is about the dichotomy of invisibility versus visibility in the library’s digital environment. The author gives examples like a focus on the institution’s special collections where users should be aware of the original content that the library is making available, to demonstrate the importance of visibility. He also cites “searching” and “social media” as times where the library’s website should be a permeable border that takes users directly to the information that they need. The conclusion was a plea to encourage librarians to adapt to the changing expectations of their users or face obsolescence. I agree with the author’s message and it seems fairly apparent in my recent experiences and readings about the direction of the profession. Librarians and archivists have to meet users where they are at; this is unequivocally a service industry, within the constraints of an institution’s human, financial and technological resources. Reading this article led me to discover what a Wordpress “pingback” is…when a blogger references your blog in his or hers.
Saturday, 24 August 2013
Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting
Hilton Riverside, New Orleans, Louisiana
August 14-18, 2013
Academy of Certified Archivists
Ever since May, I have had the nagging suspicion that I was not going to be adequately prepared for the ACA examination on August 14th. My preparation regime involved making flashcards with key words, concepts, individuals, and article/book reviews. I also created flashcards with the sample questions from the exam handbook. I worked diligently throughout the summer and amassed about 150 flashcards that accompanied me on road trips, airplanes, and visits to the local coffee shop. Outside of making me an archives groupie, (Randall Jimerson, Harold T. Pinkett, and John A. Fleckner are rock stars to me) I think that I was fairly prepared for the exam. I also have to credit the Minnesota Historical Society for making archivally sound conservation resources available online. Initially, I was irritated that the exam was in a multiple choice format because it did not allow for a nuanced response based on the context of the situation but the more I studied I saw that I was better able to recognize proper procedures even if I could not articulate them verbatim. During the exam, it took me a minute to get adjusted to the complex structure of the questions, but age old test taking strategies like, eliminating wrong answers, answer the easy questions first, and plugging each response into the question to see what makes sense, helped me along. At the end of the exam, I counted 23 questions where I guessed the answer, which gives me a decent shot at a passing score (providing my absolutely “corrects” were not absolutely wrong). At this point in my career, I know that the certification will open up many more opportunities for employment, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that I made the cut this year.
Reflecting on my three years of annual meeting attendance at SAA has shown me how much I have grown. In 2011, I attended the program in Chicago for one day because it was all I could afford and I did not talk to anyone. By San Diego in 2012, I had my clique of HistoryMakers fellows and we soaked up every session in anticipation for what we could use in our host repositories. I walked into New Orleans last week with a packed schedule of sessions to attend and potential questions to ask as a result of my experiences at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum (MCLM). I talked to my peers before sitting for the ACA exam and wound up going to lunch afterwards with two archivists that worked alongside me at the Johnson Publishing Company photo archives in Chicago. I went out for drinks with a former volunteer at MCLM who is currently working at the Computer History Museum in San Jose, CA. The HistoryMakers tour of the Amistad Research Center and reception was a classy affair that allowed me to talk with former IMLS fellows, host repository supervisors, and other distinguished stakeholders in African American archives. I was entertained and impressed by the wide variety of issues that were discussed. I also ran into a former supervisor from Arizona who gave solid career advice in the soul crushing way that only she could pull off. I found myself tapping folks on the shoulder and reminding them who I was and where we met. I’m looking forward to scrapping together my pennies in order to attend next year’s meeting in D.C. so that I may keep this momentum going.
Graduate Student Posters
During the graduate student poster sessions, I had a chance to talk to some interesting students and read over their posters. Stephanie L. Martin from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign titled her poster, “Over a Century of Collaboration: Libraries, Archives and Museums in the United States”. Her analysis of the archival records of the American Library Association allowed her to explore the similarities and differences within the fields as well as benefits and barriers to collaboration among individuals, institutions and professional organizations. Sara Ann Howard from Queens College shared her poster about community access and culinary ephemera. This website, links to the digital exhibit that showcases some of the menus that have been digitized. The entire project is a great example of using ephemera to create an authentic picture of how communities have grown and thrived over time. Dorothy Berry is a student at the University of Indiana at Bloomington and she shared a poster on the Ozarks African American History Museum in Ash Grove, Missouri. Her topic is extremely special because it is based on a collection of materials that her family has collected since the 1800’s, documenting the lives and struggles of Black communities that history often forgets. Berry’s push to bring the museum and its collections into a digital space is remarkable and she has curated an incredible digital exhibit, with Omeka software. Other interesting posters which I saw throughout the conference included Alexandra Chassanoff’s (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) poster on “How Historians Search for, Access, and Use Primary Source Materials”, and Jordan Patty’s (George Mason University Libraries) “Another Look: Reprocessing Photograph Collections”.
Archivists and Archives of Color Roundtable
I was only able sit in on the first thirty minutes of the roundtable’s meeting but I caught a glimpse of the administrative tasks that the group has been involved with other the last year. Dr. Tywanna Whorley shared how the Diversity Committee was collecting case studies that would diversify the archival record. The mentoring program needs more mentors, and the Mosaic scholarship program is looking for more graduate students. The outgoing president, Stephen Booth (NARA), talked about an increase in the group’s social media followers, the recently award winning Black Metropolis Research Consortium in Chicago and SAA Fellow designation bestowed upon AACR member, Deborra Richardson. The committee also discussed the sessions it endorsed, its advocacy for the Grenada National Library which has been closed since 2011, and its memoriam comments for the passing of Spelman University archivist, Taronda Spencer. Danna C. Bell-Russel the new Program Chair for SAA introduced herself and discussed her ideas about educational outreach through the Library of Congress, Common Core standards, and participating in National History Day. The incoming president discussed his focus on establishing task forces to focus on outreach/advocacy, history, and social media, based on the recent membership survey. Lastly, I heard a brief presentation about the AERI program which introduces students of color to Ph.D. programs in archival science.
Session 101: Digital Preservation and Records Management in the Cloud: Challenges and Opportunities
Due to my breakfast run to Café DuMonde on the Riverwalk, I missed the presentation from the State Archives of North Carolina and half of the talk from Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. I did catch that Kentucky uses Tesella for cloud computing. The advantages include geographically dispersed copies, automated services, and plenty of access bandwidth and storage. The disadvantages were identified as increased dependencies, legal issues and a dampened public trust. They have tried to mitigate risk at every opportunity; for example in order to combat issues with access restrictions, only open collections are put in the cloud. This state department subscribes to NARA guidelines as much as possible. The Oregon State Archives have used the cloud as a records management solution. They have found that the cloud provides a significant cost savings, is faster, more efficient and frees up the IT staff. As a part of Oregon’s official budget, the state archives leadership has worked to move the definition of a record beyond a tangible piece of paper and re-brand the archive has an institution for government transparency, accessibility, and accountability rather than just a place for historians. I chose to attend this session because MCLM has dabbled in putting collection information on Google Drive. This session was about massive records management strategies for state archives, it was not at all what I expected. I suppose that I should have paid more attention the institutions that the speakers represented.
Forum: Memory and Power: How Diversifying the Archives Can Help Us Welcome the Future
Dr. Abdul Aklalimat from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) began his remarks with the story of “Free” Frank McWhorter (1777-1854), a former slave and the founder of New Philadelphia, Illinois. McWhorter is an example of the self-determination and agency of black people. Dr. Alkalimat relayed the message of the role of the archivist in correcting the historic record by telling the truth about our collective histories. He hoped that we would continue to uncover evidence of the genocide practiced by the original European colonizers, the horrors of slavery, imperialism in South America, and how capitalism destroys the American worker. In contrast to the ways that the histories of marginalized populations have been treated in the past, UIUC is helping the black community in Champaign compile their stories and artifacts in a wiki-format. The university provides staff and training to help residents upload and download information from the site, they currently have 250 people who have contributed 1600 entries. As a social science researcher attempting to address real world problems, Dr. Alkalimat described his methodology with 7D’s: Definition, Data, Digitization, Discovery, Design, Dissemination and Difference. He concluded with the fact that in terms of population, the “minority” is becoming the “majority”, so we have to legitimize their ancestors and welcome every voice in understanding of our history.
Session 203: Lights, Camera, Archives! Working with the Media and Moviemakers
I went to this session to see what my former supervisor Julieanna Richardson had to share about the HistoryMakers project; I had no idea what the other speakers would be talking about in this lightning round. In her short session she mentioned the challenge of protecting the sensitive information shared in an oral history while providing broad access to researchers. Laurie Austin from the JFK Presidential Library and Museum shared how she worked with the crew of Mad Men without much courtesy given on their part. Megan Wood from the Independence Seaport Museum recommended setting up a Google alert to let you know if there are similar stories or exhibits to your topic, so that interviewers have a harder time stumping you with questions. Miriam Meislik from the University of Pittsburgh talked about the benefit of taking time to teach new filmmakers how to access archival film and pull their own clips while helping students with a Nate Smith documentary. Katy Rawdon of Temple University discussed how being interviewed is a learned skill that practice will improve, while representing the Barnes Foundation on film. Pamela Whiteneck from Hershey Community Archives has been on 25 cable broadcasts since 1995 and reminds herself to focus on enthusiastically telling the stories that the documents represent, whenever she is interviewed. Travis Williams of Louisiana State University, a former actor, said we only had to tell media personnel (actors) where to stand and what to do when they see fit to make a film set up out of an archive space. Nicole Joniec from the Library Company of Philadelphia discussed how a surprise visit from Dr. Henry Louis Gates and his production crew was challenging but ultimately beneficial publicity for the library. Susan Pevar from the Lincoln University Archives gave an anecdote about Gil Scott Heron photograph usage in a BBC documentary as a warning to always have image request and usage forms available with addendums for international users. Timothy Wisniewski from John Hopkins Medical Institutions talked about HIPPA restrictions and the surprisingly diverse uses of photographs from the medical archives, from cancer cells as art to set designers looking to make period specific back drops for film and television. I wanted to ask him about Henrietta Lacks but there was not anytime at the end of the session. Nicholas Meriwether from the University of California at Santa Cruz talked about the unavoidable politics and wide ranging response related to the existence of a Grateful Dead archive. Eric Chin, the studio archivist at NBC Universal used the Fast and Furious and Bourne franchises to discuss how the archives function to support continuity within films, as well as preserve the production (pre and post), theme park, and business (corporate) history of Universal. Dan Linke of Princeton University shared some tips for being on camera that he learned while preparing for his talk about the history of the senior thesis for the Princeton Pause’s “Then and Now” campaign. Lastly, Mark Young from the Conrad N. Hilton College at the University of Houston, book-ended the session with the challenges of working with the team of Mad Men as they brought Conrad Hilton into the series. Overall the session featured some interesting projects but it was a terribly unfocused interpretation of “media”, at least five separate and more informative ninety minute sessions could have been designed.
Session 309: Streamlining Processing of Audio-visual Collections for Preservation and Access
Joshua Ranger from Audiovisual Preservation Solutions started off the session with the hard to swallow fact that if we aren’t working towards re-formatting audiovisual content, we might as well throw it away. In order to prioritize the processing of these collections; data entry and documentation has to be standardized. Ranger and his team have designed a spreadsheet that requires every item in the collection to contain (at a minimum) unique identification number, location number, media type, title, and description. The spreadsheet can be manipulated and analyzed to make smart decisions about where to start. Another innovative strategy that he shared was the idea of taking pictures of materials, uploading them, and cataloging them off-site. Siobhan Hagan is the AV Specialist for Special Collections at the University of California at Los Angeles and she approached audio-visual materials with information gleaned from collection finding aids. Unfortunately, the finding aids had sparse information and incorrect identification of media types. To compound the issue, the physical storage of the materials was accelerating their degradation. To buy the collection some time, Hagan decided to train students and staff on how to identify A/V formats and update records in Archivists Toolkit. She used an acronym F. (Film/Flat) V. (Video/Vertical) A. (Audio/Also, Vertical) O. (Other/Oh, also vertical) to help the staff remember how to store materials. She concluded that we have to use a standardized vocabulary, even if we have to make it up. Harrison Behl, a processing archivist from the Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/index.html) introduced us to the overwhelming notion of re-formatting the millions of items that come through their institution each year. Behl shared that they have recently adopted an archival approaches, for example a collection summary form (read: finding aid) to help managers sift through the materials and make strategic decisions on what to process next. This session was very informative, especially the speaker from UCLA because it alerted me of how specialized the knowledge required for the description and preservation of AV materials is, and how I have so much more to learn.
Session 410: Rare Books in the Archives
Micah Erwin from the University of Texas at Austin’s Ransom Center discussed how he used a crowd sourcing (Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter) model to identify the text fragments (http://www.flickr.com/people/ransom_center_fragments/) that were used in the bindings of 16th century books. The experiment was a complete success with close to forty percent of the fragments being correctly identified by rare book enthusiasts outside of the department. Although Flickr presented some challenges with zoom and description capabilities, it provided enough functionality for the staff to use the submissions to modify bibliographic records thus improving knowledge and access to their collections. Christine Parker from Queens College discussed her institution’s solution to the problem of patrons not accessing any of the thousands of rare books in the library’s collection, even though the titles were entered in the library’s online public access catalog. They decided to identify a Don Quixote sub-collection among the rare books, scan some pages, link to related information, and make a digital exhibit powered by Omeka. The site (http://archives.qc.cuny.edu/books/collections/show/2) also has browsing capabilities, searchable homepages, tag cloud, interactive title page, visual catalog, interactive timeline, and links to other print history exhibits. Outside of Omeka, the site also uses a Spicy Nodes interface and Visualize (open source) software from the University of Virginia. Heather Oswald from Kennesaw State University demonstrated how they used the library module of Past Perfect to link rare books to related resources. For example Lyn Ward’s predominantly illustrated book, Wild Pilgrimage, record is linked to graphic novels and children’s books. Identifying these tangential relationships is a popular assignment for students at the college. Lois Hamil from Northern Kentucky University talked about a recently received grant to digitize a rare White Water Shaker Hymnal book. They used Finale software to record/transcribe the music and digitized every page to preserve the book and provide access. David Richards, the head of special collections at Southwest Missouri State University described how he went about planning a Rare Books and Wine fundraiser in the library. Richards provided comic relief in his commentary about inviting community members with money, using the processing space as a preparation station for the chefs and servers, and re-decorating the reading room for the wine and food. He also illuminated some basic party planning tips like picking a date that doesn’t conflict with other major social events, finding donors for door prizes, selecting a theme and collecting RSVPs. Richards communicated the importance of signature event in building rapport with a donor community and the monetary gains are very likely in the long-term. I was interested in this session because of the large volume of rare books at MCLM, and I liked learning about the creative ways that these individuals have made their rare books come alive and be relevant to the general community as well as scholars.
Session 509: Multi-group Conversation: Updating Our Community Outreach Activities
This session was not at all what I expected; the format made it very susceptible to extreme successes or failures. The panelists gave brief descriptions of their outreach experience with Labor, African American, Women, and LGBT archives respectively and then opened the floor for questions. The best advice that I gleaned came from Alexandra Krensky (History Associates Incorporated) when she outlined her best practices for engaging traditionally marginalized folks in the archives. She said that we should endeavor to hold their programs in the archives spaces, attend their functions, teach them about archives (ethics, legality, preservation, etc.), and identify a liaison from the donor community. Her comments aligned with many of the efforts that we have made at MCLM and the next challenge that we seem to be faced with, lack of resources to accommodate these engaged donors. I asked the panel this question, and received some solid advice from Conor Casey (Labor Archives of Washington State), train them on how to do some of the initial inventory and address basic preservation concerns while our institution works to secure the necessary resources. I think that more pre-planned questions, and relevant responses from the panel would have inspired the audience. It did not appear like the panelists were grappling with anything, seems that they should have had some “issues” instead of relying exclusively on the audience to present them.
Session 610: Digitization Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary, Cross-Profession Discussion
Gina Costello from Louisiana State University talked about her role in the digitization process in the library. Her equipment consists of three flatbed scanners, two planetary scanners, an archive writer (converts digital to microfilm), and a digital camera studio. Costello and her team collaborate with other departments (French, Student Media, etc.) to get work done. Departments provide the funding, while her team provides equipment and staff, assists with copyright, provides long term access, and produce high resolution images and files. One of her biggest challenges is helping the donors understand which digitization project can and cannot be done based on copyright laws, technological limitations and library standards. Andrew Stauffer an English professor and director of NINES (http://www.nines.org/) at the University of Virginia brought up a sticky detail that we should consider as groups like Google Books and Hathi Trust move forward with the large scale digitization of 19th century books. The issue is the significant annotations, inscriptions, and marginalia that accompany so many of these texts, forming a shadow archive in so many institutions. Stauffer identified thousands of examples of poems, drawings and messages in the circulating collection at his institution, and hopes that these aspects are considered before we assume that a digital surrogate will satisfy all of our historical, literary and general analytical needs. Vicki Mayer, the director of the MediaNOLA (http://medianola.org/) project at Tulane University has helped to create a digital community archive that documents New Orleans life and culture from the 1800s until today. Many of the contributions to the website are service learning projects from university students. MediaNOLA uses creative commons licensing, a flexible tagging system to identify content, and posts audio clips and images. Jessica Linker had a similar presentation to Andrew Stauffer and Micah Erwin about shadow archives, but hers referred to female scientists leaving leaves and intricate drawings in science books during the 19th century. As interesting as these topics were, I was very glad that an audience member commented on the universality of “shadow archives”, most communities re-purpose book pages to suit their needs. In many African American families, a Bible is much more than a book, it is a record of deaths, births, and marriages. I would like to believe that however wealthy book donors to the University of Virginia and female scientists reconcile digitization and marginalia, other populations can model for the preservation of their unique resources.
Session 704: Working on Your Perfect Pitch: Elevator Speeches from the FieldI thought this session would be a great asset for my on-going job search, but it turned out to be so much more. It seems that from seeking funds, to explaining your job to a kid, to recruiting donors, pitching never stops. The session’s ten speakers had distinctive voices and diverse anecdotes that communicated their best practices for a successful pitch; I’ll just mention some of my favorites. Carolyn Hines from the University of Tennessee described “archives mad libs”, where you identify nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives that demonstrate the value of an archival project. For example, MCLM (N) authentically (ADV) tells (V) the unbelievable (ADJ) story of Los Angeles’ Wattstax concert in 1972. Stacie Williams from The University of Kentucky tells a six year old that archivists use old stuff to tell stories. She drives the point home by asking the little girl to gather some of her things (a coloring book, stuffed animal, etc.) in a box and asks what kind of girl someone might think she is based on the contents of that box. Jill Severn from the University of Georgia used the preservation of archival records from Freedom University (http://www.freedomuniversitygeorgia.com/index.html) to illustrate how making sure that you tell your own story can motivate people to preserve their records. Very bluntly, Hank said, “you’ll be seen as a bunch of middle class white women who tried to help some poor Mexican kids”. The founders know that Freedom University is so much more than that so they were motivated to keep track of their archives. Helen Wong Smith from the University of Hawaii at Hilo communicated how effective you can be when you are knowledgeable about your collection, its uses and the community it serves. Her remarks are exactly what made me seek experience and employment in African American archives, if I was not passionate about the content, it would be hard to demonstrate my utility to anyone else. Dorothy Waugh had a hilarious observation when a friend dropped her phone in the toilet and essentially lost thousands of important photographs to illustrate the world of difference that digital files can make. This would be impossible in the world of traditional photography. This story is a great lead in to discussing an archivist’s work in preservation, storage and description of digital files. Overall the session was informative and it was nice to see how a community of archivists navigates through a society, institution or family that does not fully comprehend the value of what we do.
Thursday, 18 July 2013
Title: Early Records of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
Author: Harold T. Pinkett
Publication: American Archivist, Vol. 25, No. 4, October 1962 (407-416)
As I start the process of writing my first scholarly article, I understand that I will need a robust literature review. The paper will be a case study about the process of defining and institutionalizing an archive at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum. Among many challenges, I struggled with the process of incorporating accretions, meaning new deposits of similar materials. With this in mind, I used accretions as a keyword search and came up with several articles in the American Archivist. I am a big believer in signs, so the fact that an article from the prolific writer and first Black archivist at the United States National Archives, Harold R. Pinkett, was in search results, I think that I am on the right track.
This article is about the state of the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century and the laws that governed their administration. Pinkett wrote the article in 1962 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the department’s archives. Even though there are estimates of over 39,000 pieces of correspondence going through the office per year, only a minimal amount of original records were actually kept between 1862 and 1879. To the department’s credit, they compiled comprehensive annual reports which captured the bulk of information from the times, and many of their key intellectual contributors and administrators had personal collections that were preserved by local and private archival organizations. Into the 1890’s record retention improved so much that the department’s leadership cited a federal statute from February 16, 1889 which allowed departments from the executive office to dispose of unnecessary documents, in order to deal with the abundant telegrams. On March 4, 1907, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture initiated an act to give special authority to the Department of Agriculture to dispose of records without petitioning Congress, this was the beginning of their record retention schedules. Both of these pieces of legislation were superseded by the National Archives Act in 1934 which centralized federal record keeping and established the role of archivist for the United States as the chief administrator.
Unfortunately this article did not give me any information about dealing with accretions. However, I am pleased to have come across it because it gave me more of a context about the historical trajectory of archives in the United States, which will come in handy as I sit for the certified archivist exam in 27 days, yikes!
Monday, 15 July 2013
Title: Archival Training in a Changing World
Author: Angelika Menne-Haritz
Publication: The American Archivist, Vol. 63, No. 2 (pp. 341-352)
This article is about the theoretical and pedagogical practices of the Marburg Archives School in Germany. The author claims that in the constant bickering between history and library science, archival science has earned its place as an independent discipline, which has led to a new set of demands to be placed upon archival instruction programs. I recently read Randall Jimerson’s article concerning the instructional methodology in Western Washington University’s archival science program and was wondering how other schools approached the topic. The beginning of Menne-Haritz’ article discusses how archives specifically and history in general are shaped by ideas of memory and oblivion and enforced by laws alternately protecting privacy and access. The skill of the archivist lies in the ability to be an interface and refrain from “adopting the same biases of the creators”. The Marburg Archives School uses a three pronged approach in their program; pre-employment education, continued training, and archival research. Although the article does not explicitly state the nature of an internship or the school’s commitment to post graduate employment or connectivity with its students, it implies just as much. The students are trained in the basics of the profession, experience the problems of daily archival work, and participate in the production of new knowledge through archival research activities. The author does state that it is this cycling through the curriculum that informs the coursework in subsequent years and gives examples of student projects and research that have had an impact over time. As I did not have an archival concentration in my MLS program, I can attest to the difficulty of trying to put the pieces together on my own. My practical experience has been invaluable, but gaining this experience while simultaneously learning about archival terminology, processes, and history would have been ideal. Comparing the WWU program with Marburg, I would say that they are different in description, 6-7 broad learning outcomes at WWU and 3 major ones at Marburg; their final products are fairly similar. They both have an emphasis the importance of archives as an independent discipline, and how critical it is for instruction to resemble the actual practice of working in the archives.
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
LA as Subject Members Meeting
June 11, 2013
California African American Museum
Things That Cannot be Seen Any Other Way: The Art of Manuel Mendive is on display from April 26th until October 20th, 2013. The Legacy of the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company: More Than a Business was on display from April 4, 2012 until March 3, 2013. This year’s Diverted Destruction 6 found object assemblage show will debut on June 29th and be up until September 17, 2013. Afrodescendientes: Photographer Roberto Chile in Guanabacoa, Cuba will be on display from March 28, 2013 until October 13, 2013.
Executive Committee Update
Last minute votes for the election of the new executive committee took place at the beginning of the meeting. The results will be announced on the LA as Subject website on June 12, 2013. The Executive Committee has been working on ways to make the LAAS Directory more robust. The strategic plan has been updated and is available on the website. Lastly, the group has been engaging in discussions about the nature of the organization’s relationship with USC, the leadership wants to be careful in making decisions that will ensure our independent footing in partnerships with the university.
The 8th annual Archives Bazaar will take place on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at the Doheny Library at USC. The planning committee has decided to include a “pazuchua” which are lightning style presentations for institutions to present the most compelling aspects of their collections. They are also trying to screen a film, The Good Giants, which documents Black WWII soldiers in Europe. There is still a lot of work to be done in planning for the Archives Bazaar and volunteers are encouraged to contact the planning committee to get involved.
Pasadena City College Certification Program
Linda Steward from Pasadena City College presented to the group about the digitization specialist certification program that is offered through the library tech program at Pasadena City College. The program takes a year to complete and is marketed to working professionals by being offered on Tuesday nights from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. The students in the program learn about the equipment, software, and project planning skills required to execute large scale digitization projects. They also learn about four metadata schemas and basic competencies in understanding copyright. The last portion of the program is an internship where students can apply the skills that they have learned. The cost is $46.00 per credit unit for California residents and the next class begins on August 24th.
One member has been approved by a publishing house to compile a book filled with Los Angeles diary pages, similar to an existing book, New York Diaries. He encouraged all of our repositories to share any of the published or unpublished diaries from our collections. The group is also interested in collaborating with the New York City archives group, NY Metro; perhaps in a synchronous archives crawl. The Center for Political Graphics is moving to Culver City and is looking for volunteers to help with the relocation. One member shared resources from the Creative Commons, National Endowment of Humanities, and the Library of Congress that could help archivists with questions about preservation and copyright.
Now that the fellowship is over, I am looking forward to embarking on my next adventure in archives. Instead of this blog being a play by play of my work at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, it will be a reflection of everything that I am doing to stay competitive in the archives job market. The blog will include my reviews of articles and books about archives, my participation at various conferences and seminars, and my experience volunteering and working in archives. This blog will also serve as a priceless resource as I begin to study for the Certified Archivist exam, which I will be sitting for in New Orleans on August 14, 2013, wish me luck!
Monday, 3 June 2013
In my 39th week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I worked fervently on my final HistoryMakers reports, watched a couple films from the Pan-African Film Festival, and bid farewell to all of my friends at the museum.
I devoted all day Monday and Tuesday to the completion of these reports. I could not believe how much I have learned and accomplished over the last nine months; writing about those projects and collections brought all of the memories back to me. One of the most striking realizations for me came when the survey asked if this experience increased my ability to find a position in an archive. I answered no, because I have become a generalist, rather than an expert in anything. I’m not an expert on preservation, digitization, or donor relations because of the fellowship, but I have gained more experience in all of these avenues as a result of the fellowship. For all of this time, I thought that I would like nothing better than to be the processing archivist in a large institution, but perhaps I could be more dynamic archivist for a smaller community archive, like the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum. I brought this issue up at my farewell dinner with Larry, and he said that I had the potential to do either. I appreciate the vote of confidence and I believe that my conclusion will be very important as I make decisions about my next career move.
The Pan-African Film Festival has been a staple in Los Angeles for the past 21 years. The films come from around the world and are screened at a major movie theater for four days straight. The festival relies heavily on their staff of volunteers to get through the program. As a treat to their volunteer staff (who never get watch the movies) the program screens all of the movies at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum exclusively for their volunteers. The museum was open until midnight on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday while the films were rolling. Cara, Larry and I took turns staying late to lock up the building. On Monday, I found some time to sit down and watch “Mugabe, Villian or Hero?”, a documentary on the controversial leader of Zimbabwe, and “The Pirogue” which was about a group Senegalese immigrants who are stranded at sea in their attempt to emigrate to Spain. The administrators from the film festival bring food and cooks in our kitchen space throughout the night. There was popcorn, candy, hot dogs, nachos, cookies, soda, and beer in abundance at this event. Good films and tasty snacks made me look forward to a long night at “work”.
As I ticked down to my last days at the fellowship, I began to feel deliriously happy that I would be free to travel and explore Los Angeles. I had been working six days a week trying to finish my work, and leave my plans and instructions for moving forward in the collection. I finished organizing all of my files, digital and print, and putting my binder of materials together by Saturday morning and spent the rest of the day chatting with the volunteers in the building. It has been an incredible experience getting to know all of these individuals and they are the primary reason that I have decided to give Los Angeles a chance. I know that there are good people here who would help me if I ever needed it. These are people that appreciated all of my hard work and my vision for the future of the museum’s collection. Just when I thought I would be leaving my position without much fanfare, all of the volunteers, Lloyd, Rose Marie and Cara popped into my office to present me with gifts and friendly farewells. It was so nice. I have a few ideas about what I will be doing after this fellowship, but I am sure that today will not be the last time that I see all of those smiling faces.
In my 38th week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I attended an IMLS Careerfest in Riverside, California.
I felt very fortunate to have met Dr. Patricia Smith-Hunt at the MCLM board meeting and I happily accepted her invitation to her IMLS Career Festival in Riverside, 60 miles east of Los Angeles. Dr. Smith-Hunt is one of the administrators for an IMLS grant to increase diversity in librarianship for the Inland Empire area of southern California. The majority of their participants are current students in MLS programs and the grant supports them with funding for tuition and professional development. Their program had funding to pay for me to spend the night before the event in a hotel in Riverside. This way I would not have to fight traffic out of Los Angeles to make it to Riverside for the 8:30 AM start time. The day was jam packed with guest speakers and opportunities to network. The best part of the event is that all of the information was geared toward individuals that were starting careers in special, school, academic and public libraries. I learned about trends in the job market and how we can frame our experience to be more attractive to employers.
The career counselor for San Jose State University spent the entire afternoon talking about resumes, interviews and cover letters. She even workshop-ed our resumes at the end of the day. I have not seen my paper “bleed” that much since my freshman honors English class. She encouraged me to be more direct with the information in my resume with less narrative; and focus on my accomplishments. She also recommended that I use “Related Experience” rather than “Employment History”, so that I could put my volunteer experience alongside my “work” experience. Prior to the HistoryMakers, I had read so many books about resumes and assumed I had a strong one, but I thought that her advice was sound and I am going to spend some time updating mine. She also said that every resume should be tailored to fit the job that you are applying for, no exceptions. She recommended that we create a master resume that lists everything that you have ever done and just pull what is extremely relevant when drafting the resume for a prospective job.
One of the speakers gave one fact and asked one question that pointed to the fundamental problem of any job search. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of people find their jobs through networking and when she asked how we felt about networking; the answers were awkward, forced, fake, and uncomfortable. She encouraged us to re-frame the way that we look at networking and just take the time to get to know one new person at a time; it doesn’t have to be business card collecting marathon. With the MLS degree as the common denominator for everyone in the room; it was nice to hear how we can manipulate our skill sets to work in a grand variety of atmospheres. I am guilty of just entering “archivist” in the search field and wondering why I don’t get very many hits; why not enter “content manager” or “researcher” or “metadata” and see what comes up? Libraries and archives are not the only places that need archivists. Overall, I took five pages of notes and talked to a good number of folks that are excited about pursuing careers in information science.
Sunday, 2 June 2013
In my 37th week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I presented my work to the Collection Advisory Board and the museum’s Board of Directors.
I have had four meetings with the Collections Advisory Board of the museum this year and I am thoroughly satisfied with the symbiotic relationship that we have established. When I speak at The University of Chicago in a couple of weeks, I will be sharing the importance of having a strong group of diverse professionals giving advice on the direction of our work. It was the Collections Advisory Board who recommended that we focus exclusively on Dr. Clayton’s collection before moving on to any other materials. I was proud to share that I had completed an exhaustive finding aid for Dr. Clayton’s collection. This 14 page document sparked an idea for a researcher’s symposium to be sponsored by the Advisory Board in September. The event would showcase Dr. Clayton’s collection, let researcher’s know that we are open and begin a new focus on scholarship in the museum. I’m not sure what my role with this group will be in the future but I am proud that I could be the impetus for the discussions and the recommendations that will move the museum forward.
On Sunday, Larry asked me to present at the monthly Board of Director’s meeting. I knew that their evaluation of me would carry a lot of weight when they were allocating money for my continued employment at the museum, so I was a little nervous. Then I remembered that I had worked very hard on my projects and if they could not see the value in what I had done, I probably should not be working there at all. I was one of their last agenda items, and I came in with my handouts and list of talking points. I shared that I was going to be presenting on this information in a few weeks and would love their feedback at the end of my remarks. I started off talking about my work on the duplicate book project (from the general collection), and how it generated the inventory (1145 books) for our upcoming book sales and the permanent bookstore within the museum. I also discussed the 119 duplicate books that we had pulled from the rare book collection, which we were shopping around to auction houses. I gave a brief overview of the Audio Assault exhibit and how well it has been received by the visitors to the museum. I also shared how I designed the Roses and Revolutions Listening Party as a complement to the exhibit, and what I learned from planning a public program at MCLM.
When it came to my work on the collections, I identified seven challenges that I encountered and how we managed to deal with them. One of the highlights was the establishment of an accession chart, so that we would know when everything was received, how big it was, and prioritize collections for processing. I also discussed my drive to move collection processing toward the industry standard in order for inclusion on the Online Archive of California. I used the Dr. Mayme A. Clayton Collection of African American History and Culture finding aid as an example of what we should generate for every collection that we have identified, thirty nine in total. I felt like I was talking too fast because I thought they were all ready to get out of that long meeting. I did get some positive feedback from some of the members of the board and several followed up with me after the meeting to discuss what my plans were for after the fellowship. Overall, it was a good exercise for me to showcase the leadership, execution, and work ethic that I exhibited in my time at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum.
Friday, 24 May 2013
In my 36th week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I finished sorting the Black LGBTQ Papers, tinkered with Google Drive, and worked on the magazine inventory.
Last week, Jerome spent a few hours sorting the last box of LGBTQ materials. Since the Black LGBTQ Collection has been identified as one of our priority collections, I decided to come in on Monday to file the last of what Jerome had sorted. The next steps are to enter the folder names into a container list and finish filling in the finding aid. These tasks are much less subjective and I’m planning to delegate to any volunteer who is available, barring any objections with the content.
I was very impressed with our volunteers this week that came in to the museum this week with every intention of using Google Drive. I had uploaded most of the content for Dr. Clayton’s Collection of African American History and Culture, and created folders for the other 38 collections in the institution. I assumed that I could share the documents with volunteers who had Google accounts and they could log in and edit, however I learned that there are some subtle difference between Google Docs and Google Drive. Google Drive is the cloud that can hold all files in all formats, Google Docs is the application that allows you to create and edit the documents. When I uploaded an excel document to Google Drive, I had to open it with Google Sheets in order to edit it, and only the owner of the document could make changes that would save. I think that I have to share the documents while I am in Google Docs in order for others to make changes that would save. I also had to bring in my wireless device to be sure that volunteers could access the internet anywhere in the building where they would be working on the collection. This week I had everyone logged into the museum’s account so that the changes would save, I plan to work out the “share” features in the days ahead. In the meantime, it is good to see everyone’s progress from my office and have consistent file names which provide a clear indicator of which inventories are missing from the collection.
The serials series in Dr. Clayton’s collection has been something that I have approached with reluctance. In the past, the staff has recorded magazine inventories with X’s and O’s as well as entering month and year for each item. I also know that there are random drop offs in the magazine room that have been filed without respect to provenance. Lastly, there have been several attempts to label boxes that have resulted in a variety of alpha and numeric tags. One of our interns, Erick, from San Jose State University did his best to make sense of the magazine room, but last Saturday was his last day working with us. I feel like we have the majority of the information that we need, the problem is that it is scattered across six or seven documents. Through all of my cutting and pasting, as well as sorting I have about 8,000 rows in the excel document. I plan to do some spot checking and re-labeling of boxes in the week ahead, but this is definitely a task that is not appropriate for the faint of heart.
In my 35th week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I went in on Sunday, and trained two groups of volunteers on collections processing.
As time is ticking for this fellowship, I feel the need to spend as much time as possible working in my processing space for Mayme’s Papers. A couple of weeks ago, I had sorted out the materials that belonged in other series of Mayme’s collection. I came in on Sunday to get a jump on the inventory for these disparate series. Although the material types indicate a need for these items to be integrated into other areas of the collection, finding those inventories and adding these new pieces is proving to be more complicated than one might think. For example, there are five different files titled “complete” magazine inventory. The photographs need more sleeves than we have available right now. The visual art materials are scattered throughout the museum and the inventories mix Mayme’s materials with an art collection that we have on deposit. It would behoove me as well as the museum to sort out these inventories before I put “new” materials in the queue. Just in case I run out of time, I want to have a record of what I found in Mayme’s Papers and where I think it belongs within the collection. At the same time, I am performing some quality control on the container list that is being created for the boxes that represent my work with Mayme’s Papers.
Early in the week, the donor of our Black LGBTQ collection, Jerome, brought in two volunteers to help with the sorting and filing of his materials. Larry had encouraged me to let other people help with the sorting but I was really afraid that they would misinterpret the categories and ruin everything. I have so many other things going on, that I was forced to take his advice and to my surprise, the sky did not fall. The group caught on quickly, and after 2.5 hours, one large full box was completely filed, with small “question” pile that I addressed without any problems. In keeping with the vein of managing projects rather than spending all of my time “in the trenches”, Cara, Larry and I decided to put together a volunteer training program, for Saturday. In our planning meeting, I was asked to talk about our finding aid formats, and how we were going to process collections from now on. My biggest challenge was trying to get my points across without using archival words and acronyms that would be unfamiliar to the audience of volunteers. For my portion of the training, I decided to “begin with the end in mind” and show them the Online Archive of California. I demonstrated how powerful of a tool that this platform could be by searching for primary documents in the entire state of California about “Black Talkies on Parade”, which has been a community staple for over 30 years, and there was only one hit. I searched for female aviators and there was nothing about Marie Coker Dickerson. These are strengths of our collection and no one knows that they are here.
I explained how this service was free and easy to adopt, we just need to generate our content in a format that conforms to industry standards. I showed them our accession chart that has identified all of our collections and explained how the inventories are a great start; but only provide a portion of the necessary information about a collection. I pulled up the new Google Drive account and explained that there should only be two, sometimes three files in each collection’s folder; a finding aid, a container list, and sometimes an organizational schema. I handed out a glossary of finding aid terms and we went around the room reading them aloud while I answered questions and provided context. I used the example of a clothing collection to get them to think about how organizational schemas could be created. A pile of clothes could be separated according to color, season, utility, size, designers, etc. The only requirements were that the organization had to reflect original order, and be as objective as possible; I gave candy to anyone who came up with an idea of how to sort a clothing collection. Larry talked to a group about the best practices for giving tours within the museum. He used my biographical note on Dr. Clayton to give the volunteers a more accurate description of who she was when they were walking visitors through the “Remembering WSBREC” exhibit. He also handed out a biography on Jacob Lawrence and shared some contextual information on the Toussaint L’Overture, Hiroshima, Great Migration, and Genesis series pieces that we currently have on display.
Lastly, Larry had me walk the volunteers through the Audio Assault exhibit in the hallway. The imagery of the Black Power Movement from the 1965 riots in Watts to the Wattstax concert at the LA Coliseum in 1972 is pretty obvious, but there were a few details that I was able to point out. I explained why Dick Gregory and James Baldwin were included. I shared what the Roses and Revolutions album was about. I also talked about how music was grouped at the end, and the details of the album artwork that represent black power themes of self-determination, pride in heritage and uplifting of community. At the end of the training, most of the volunteers commented on how well organized and informative the training session was; and how they hope that I am able to keep working with the museum after the fellowship. The entire experience was very rewarding for me, because I have worked very hard to show the staff, our volunteers and any visitors that making MCLM a major resource for researchers is not beyond our reach. Dr. Clayton did most of the work for us, we just have to keep working in a consistent and strategic manner and let the technology buoy us to the next level.
In my 34th week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I welcomed one of our new interns, drafted a deposit agreement, and helped with the Leimert Park Program at the museum.
Back in March, Larry and I interviewed three candidates for internship positions. On account of unexpected expenditures, we could only hire two and we changed the time frame from 12 weeks to 8 weeks. Both candidates agreed to the new terms and we are happy to welcome a public programs intern (Laura) and a public relations intern (Susan) to our staff. Although Laura’s job description does not involve collection processing, I was asked to show her around the museum and introduce her to some of the tasks that our volunteers perform. I set her down with a stack of Mayme’s papers to organize, and I was surprised at her reaction. The dust was wreaking havoc on her allergies, the room was too cold, and multiple dead spiders were more than she could take. I commend her for finishing the task, and I am glad that her normal responsibilities will be better suited to her disposition and environmental requirements. I never thought of myself as one who could do the “dirty” work but seeing as how the grime never bothered me, maybe there is job security somewhere among those dusty papers.
A good friend of MCLM is Ian Foxx, a local photographer. Ian had the personal papers of the author, Herbert A. Simmons, an American author and editor. Ian and Herbert became friends when Herbert hired Ian to take pictures for his newspaper in Detroit, back in the late 60’s or early 70’s. Fast forward to 2013, Herbert has passed away and Ian wants MCLM to archive the papers of his old friend. The terms of this accession were not clear to me at first, but another conversation with Ian and Larry cleared it up. The papers would be on deposit with the museum, and Ian would retain the copyright and could remove them at his discretion. The Black L.G.B.T.Q. collection is at MCLM under similar circumstances. When Ian came in to sign his paperwork, he told me more about Herbert A. Simmons. Simmons was one of several black novelists from the middle of the 20th century who were known around the world for their portrayals of the black experience in America. Simmons’ peers include Chester Himes and Richard Wright. The Simmons’ collection is primarily comprised of materials from his novel Corner Boy, about the drug problems in black communities, which was also made into a script and formed the basis of the show, The Wire. I’m looking
forward to processing this collection and reading more about Mr. Simmons.
On Saturday, the monthly “Black Talkies on Parade” series featured a documentary about Leimert Park Village, a community of artists in Los Angeles. Lloyd Clayton had orchestrated an event that included historic photographs on display in the hallway, and a panel discussion including the film’s director and the author of a local history book about Leimert Park. We had over 150 people in our great room for this event. Our volunteers also turned out in high numbers; greeting guests at the door, checking them in, and answering any questions about the museum. My biggest contribution was probably cutting the fruit, cheese, and vegetables for the light refreshments table.
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Professional Development Call: Ms. Gretchen Gueguen
Professional Development Call: April 25, 2013
Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library (University of Virginia) – Charlottesville, VA
Ms. Gueguen earned her bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Anthropology from Pennsylvania State University. After graduation, she worked at an engineering consulting firm. She did not have any library experience until her job as a graduate assistant at the University of Maryland, in their Digital Humanities department. This experience led to her first professional appointment as a Digital Collections Librarian at the University of Maryland.
University of Maryland
Gueguen’s main tasks at the University of Maryland included coordinating projects across multiple departments, building the digital repository and digitizing pieces from the Special Collections. Other skills that she picked up involved project management, coordinating people, and communicating across departments. One challenge that she encountered was managing expectations, for example, what the Special Collections thought should be digitized did not always mesh with the digitization work flows.
East Carolina University
In 2008, Gueguen accepted a position as the Digital Initiatives Librarian at East Carolina University. This position was more about organizing born digital records and integrating the department with other units on campus than building a digital library. Gueguen published and encoded finding aids while working at ECU. She also worked on their institutional repository, searching across platform capabilities and the 300,000 pages of government documents that came through the library each year.
University of Virginia
Since 2011, Ms. Gueguen has worked in Charlottesville, Virginia as the Digital Archivist at the Albert Shirley Small Special Collection Library at the University of Virginia. She works with exclusively digital collections as well as hybrid (paper and digital materials) collections. Gueguen strives to use sound archival principals and look at digital materials in a broader perspective. She is a part of an international team that is working on a white paper which will discuss how archivists can use burgeoning software to arrange, describe, and provide access to born digital material.
Ms. Gueguen was very generous in sharing the wisdom of her experience in the field of archives. She encouraged us to think of digital archives as a continuum of analog archives, as opposed to something completely foreign. Archivists will need to become familiar with all kinds of metadata standards, such as MARC, EAD, METS, and MODS. Regardless of how archivists feel about digital collections, the reality is that the amount of digital materials is going to dwarf the amount of paper materials very soon, and archivists are going to need to know how to speak intelligently to technologists. We should also consider our users in this move toward digitization; having materials available online has become the norm.
The good news about all of these technological advances is that archivists have ample opportunities to increase our knowledge base. There are webinars that explain how web harvesting and web archiving work, or the basis of computer scripts. Ms. Gueguen encouraged us to learn what computational synching is, and become familiar with XSLT, ArchiveSpace, and Archivist Toolkit. Social media is still a critical skill set, especially website design and blogging. There is no better way to get familiar with these technologies than to practice and get involved in the professional communities. She recommended taking an introduction to Computer Science class, checking out free coursework from Harvard University, learning through the Code Academy (CSS, Python, Java, and Ruby) or building a dynamic website for your own branding.
Ms. Gueguen expressed that there are plenty of challenges in her current position. She stressed the importance of communication and collaboration while working on a team, many of her projects have diverse stakeholders that need to have their perspectives considered. In terms of the digital environment, there are challenges related to storage, data migration and antiquated technologies. She has to do some cost benefit analysis when approaching certain collections because the time and monetary costs of accessing the information could outweigh the collection’s value to the institution. In some cases, her institution has asked the donor for additional funds for the staff to get through those materials.