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.