Sunday, 5 January 2014

LIB 121: Week 13 (November 19, 2013)

This lecture started with an explanation of various types of software used to work with collections, such as collection management system, digital asset management software, digital library software, and preservation systems. 

Collection Space is an open source, digital content manager that the Museum of the Moving Image (New York, NY) and The Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology (Berkeley, CA) are using. After clicking through the demonstration, it looks like a great resource for item level description, especially for digital files. One of Linda’s warnings about open source was confirmed when I looked at the FAQs, “Installing Collection Space requires someone comfortable with a command line interface and package manager (for Linux and Mac installations), and who has some familiarity with editing text files”. These skills were not an element of my graduate education, and as the lone archivist in a community archive without an IT staff, implementing this “easy and free” software could present a bit of a challenge.

PastPerfect Software is a very popular option for small museums and archives. It has an object, photograph, archive, and library modules that allow for the cataloging of diverse collections. It also has capabilities of managing other aspects of the museum functioning including item loans, donor and volunteer information. The leadership at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum is strongly considering the adoption of PastPerfect, but I would caution them to clearly define the organizational structure of their collections, because provenance and consistency could easily get lost in the midst of all of those fields and modules.

Greenstone Digital Library Software has a more international presence, and can be used in at least six different languages but various American institutions like the Allen Park Veterans Administration Hospital Archives and the Detroit Public Library’s E. Azalia Hackley Collection. Both websites incorporate search “buttons” across the top of the screen which allow you to browse by relevant categories, titles, people, organizations, lyrics, etc. The catalog records are diverse (oral histories, photographs, sheet music) and clearly displayed. In the case of the Detroit Public Library, there are images alongside the item descriptions.  

Fedora, which is an acronym standing for Flexible Extensible Digital Object Repository Architecture, is being used by Arizona State Universities Libraries and Grinnell College, among others. The software seems to be best utilized as a digital repository as it showcases faculty output, conference papers, data sets and learning objects. Fedora is open source and supported by DuraSpace (DSpace). DSpace functions more like a content management system and works collaboratively with Fedora. My delve into the website confirms that has a complicated infrastructure that has the power to support high volume and diverse types of digital objects. Fedora does not seem like an appropriate application for a small staffed community archive.

Simple DL is a brand of digital library software that allows organizations to publish and describe the contents of their collections online. Mount St. Mary’s College and the University of South Alabama, among others who are using currently using it. The interface is web-based which allows you to work from any computer, includes a 30 day trial, and a bulk upload of files. The pricing ranges from $80.00 to $160.00 per month depending on much data you require. One public library in Nevada has used Simple DL to post oral histories, periodicals, and photographs. This software application could be a good choice for a place like the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum.

Omeka is an open source content management system designed for publishing digital collections. Omeka is not as intense as Fedora or DSpace and uses an unqualified Dublin Core metadata standard. Rather than entire organizational collections, Omeka is extremely powerful for storytelling through online exhibits; examples include, the “Bracero History Archive” or the “Frontier to Heartland” digital exhibits. I have seen some incredible websites created through Omeka, and I can think of so many to create at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum. For example, a digital exhibit dedicated to Marilyn White and her experience as a black female athlete in the 1940’s or C. Jerome Woods’ collection telling the story of the Black LGBT community in Los Angeles from the 1960’s up until now.

Readers could probably tell that I had specific perspective while learning about these topics in class. When I first began working in archives, I assumed that I could plug myself into any university, corporate, or library archive but as time goes on, I feel like I have found my calling with the perpetual underdog, small to medium sized community archives. I am drawn to the resources that can allow these institutions to strategically use our resources to educate ourselves and those around us.

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