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New Tools

This covers the ever-changing world of new tools at hand for archivists and librarians.

Forget the Paradigm Shift and Try the Collapse of Control (but it’s a good thing)

February 18th, 2012 · No Comments

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In writing, research, lecturing and just plain old working, I see over and over again the need for us not just to educate ourselves about technology, and project management but to remind ourselves that this is “not your Grandfather’s Archive” (with apologies to Oldsmobile aficionados).

In some ways the archives world that I was trained in was more of a warehouse atmosphere. Preservation and scholarship were the goals….and if you get a chance… do a little promotion.

That is a far cry from the reality that television documentaries and technology tools have created today. The archive is the star of more than a few television shows now and the archivist or librarian is the key to the new economy…the world of information.

As gate-keepers of the past, we took that job so seriously (maybe a little too seriously) that we often forgot to have fun with our collections and more importantly our users.

I am happy to report that fun is back in the archives! These technology tools have empowered archivists to be creative with promotion, crowd-sourcing and documentaries.

Many archives realize that the power of these new (often open source) tools have allowed us to creatively reach the masses and show the world how interesting their history is. For many years I have said that “History is not boring, history books are boring!”

The ability to show someone their great-grandmother screaming at a WWI protest march from halfway around the world, or transcribing the price of strawberries in NYC in 1915 (as in NYPL -What’s on the Menu Project) or developing a coalition of the great-grandchildren of a WWII regiment is not connecting people less to history, in fact it is connecting them more to history and to their global cousins with shared interests.

An archivist is supposed to be a good citizen of their community. It is what I and generations of archival professors have taught their students. You must be involved in your community. Today with a global presence potential in every archive, our global audience yearns for connection to our forefathers, our heritage, our hobbies and each other.

This is a really exciting time in the profession but it means some loss of control. Cutter numbers and authority files are going to take a hit in order to engage our communities to our collections. It does not mean that we will not continue to quality check our records but it means more time might be spent on those communication connections with our users. Certainly more time will be spent evaluating community tags than we will spend re-vamping the controlled vocabulary. Some of you might think it is better, some worse, but even in my deepest control freak heart of hearts, I am really enjoying the sense of community that these tools are creating.

Archives are a true part of this global community. Welcome neighbors!

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Category: Archiving Challenges · New Tools · Skills with a Capital I and T

Digital Archiving: Fun for everyone?

September 23rd, 2011 · No Comments

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How did one institution attract 50,000-plus volunteers to help with an archiving project?

The National Library of Finland is in the process of digitizing its archives so that they are fully searchable on the Internet. Scanning the centuries-old newspapers, journals, and documents isn’t so much the problem as is accurately transcribing the text. OCR (Optical Character Reading) software can only do so much. Standard fonts are easy enough for a computer to identify, but aging print in fancy scripts are more difficult. Obscure language, proper names, and decaying paper also interfere with OCR’s text recognition. In order for the materials to be accurately digitized, every document must then be double-checked by human eyes.

To help with the process, The National Library of Finland teamed up with Finnish technology company Microtask to come up with an innovative solution: make a game of it. Granted, it’s hard to imagine how anything like checking manuscript text against a computer’s digital interpretation could really be fun. But Microtask saw things differently—instead of pages of repetitive work, they broke down each individual word-check into what they (appropriately) call microtasks.
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Category: Developing A Digital Collection · New Tools

Digital Preservation at NDSA – Making It Work

August 15th, 2011 · No Comments

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A few weeks ago I was honored to attend the National Digital Stewardship Alliance meeting. The NDSA was planned by the Library of Congress as part of their NDIIP project.  There were more people there than I expected and it was a humbling experience to hear some of the brightest and most creative brains in Digital Preservation speak.

The high volume of information was overwhelming.  I spent more than six hours at the end of the conference compiling a PowerPoint of the important research highlights.   A small sample of this information is included below.

There were many wonderful presentations giving case studies on how institutions used their own creativity to try and enhance the longevity or migratability (new word?) of their digital files.  The amazing work often was done on a shoestring which though unfortunate, also forced a certain level of imagination and invention.

A few examples are:

Jack Brighton, of campus radio station WILL, gave a wonderful presentation on what a small station is doing to make their civil rights collection more accessible.

Kickstarter.com did a great presentation on how they are helping arts projects get funded and we hope that as they branch into community work that digital preservation might fit into that.

The UK Web Archiving project covered some of the complexities and true effort that it takes to try and tackle capturing the online history of its nation.   http://www.webarchive.org.uk/ukwa/

- As of December 2010 – 9 million sites with .uk, probably 1M more

- 10,027 websites archived

- Need skills in Linux, Java, Hadoop, and SOL

5 keys processes to web archiving

- Selection

- Harvesting

- Storage

- Preservation

- Access

http://www.webarchive.org.uk/ukwa/ngram/

 

So after taking in all this good information, what is it that I have left the conference with?

People just like us are doing some wonderful problem solving out there.  There is some potential being unlocked, but there is so much to do.

As I see it the Action Items are:

1)    Greater broadcasting of the successful case studies for migration and open solutions.

2)    Training classes in how to boil this down for each type of format/issue.  The NDSA Outreach group held a session called “Digital Preservation in a Box”.  This is the beginning of standardizing the tools that we need.

3)    Overarching education to information and production professionals, as well as, the general public about the dangers of digital fragility and the need for migration (at the least).

I have mentioned to my classes for years that future anthropologists, sociologists and historians will have little to sift through from the late 20th century.

Some of it is being worked on by archivists now but much is gone.  Let’s keep making progress so that the future of our current history is not lost, like the way of silent films.

More informational tidbits from NDSA:

 

Other Great Projects

—       ThatCamp.org

—       http://www.scola.org/scola/sampledigitalarchive.aspx

NYPL Labs

—     http://search.creativecommons.org/?q=nypl+map+rectifier&sourceid=Mozilla-search

—     http://menus.nypl.org/

Archiving Facebook

Grad student designed Firefox add-on for individual archiving of Fb.

www.Bit.ly/archivefb

Preserving Virtual Worlds

—      www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/17097

 

Cool Tools

—  http://www.google.com/landing/historypin/

—  http://blogs.yu.edu/cpa/2011/02/23/open-source-video-platforms-kaltura-vs-entermedia/

 

Great Quotes

—    JackBrighton”(DAM) is more like an appliance than an Ecosystem.”

—    Michael Nelson “We need to raise the level of user expectations.”

—    Michael Nelson “In all good computer science functions you solve the problem through indirection.”

—    Wheatley and Frieze “The world does not change one person at a time.  It changes as networks of relationships form among people        who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.”

—    Tim O’Reilly(?) “Teach preservation as a mindset.  Bake this into the tools.”

 

New Phrases

—    Social Curation

—    Metadata Ecologists

 

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Category: Archiving Challenges · Digital Obsolescence · History of Media and Access · New Tools · Preservation · Professional Resources · Skills with a Capital I and T · Social Media

The DAM Metadata Disconnect

February 7th, 2011 · No Comments

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After reading some marketing information from a DAM vendor, and working in the field for nearly 20 years, I just needed to vent about how some present their product.

Some DAM system vendors often tout their automated systems as replacements for what they claim is “costly manual tagging”. Yet, after implementing one of these expensive systems, their customers often turn to information professionals for metadata development help, because their end users are unable to find the assets they need in a timely manner. There is an obvious disconnect between full automation versus high-end manual service.
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Category: Developing A Digital Collection · New Tools

News from Second Life

July 30th, 2010 · No Comments

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Sara Martin, Second Life Avatar If you’ve heard of Second Life but wasn’t really sure what it was, or perhaps you’re feeling hesitant about learning “another” new thing, take heart. I’m here to provide information and guidance to this new social media tool. Check out this 3 minute YouTube video for a quick demo on Second Life and how it’s being used to teach university classes.

In a nutshell, Second Life is a software program that looks like you’ve entered a three dimensional (3D) world on your computer. It’s fantastic for demonstrating processes, displaying artifacts and information, interacting with other people, collaborating, building in accountability to distance education courses, teaching complex concepts, simulations and more. As if it couldn’t get any better, creating an account in Second Life and using their software is free!
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Category: Introduction · New Tools · Social Media

Needs Assessment for Social Networking

May 26th, 2010 · 3 Comments

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In March, Rachael Clark discussed the necessity of completing a needs assessment as one of the important skills used in developing a digital collection. I would definitely agree that it is a vital skill for any information professional. Cliché as it is, one of my go-to phrases is, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” and performing a needs assessment is an essential part of the planning phase for any project. This includes diving into the world of social networking.

The first decision to consider with your team is what kind of social media outlet will be most beneficial. There’s more to the world of social networking than microblogging on Twitter. You can get your professional persona out there with LinkedIn, share attention-grabbing images of your collection using Flickr or post a webinar on YouTube. Consider your needs, speak with people who are fully immersed into the world of social networks and learn from them. There are many options from which to choose. Do a bit of research into what will work best for your organization before you spend too many “hit and miss” hours. Time is money, folks!
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Category: New Tools · Social Media

History is Big Business

May 19th, 2010 · 1 Comment

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I have been using for the above phrase for many years. I say it with conviction in my voice while making sure to maintain eye contact. I believe it deep in my bones.

Why is the history business such an important issue for me and thousands of archivists across the country? Part of it is the growth in demand over the last 15 years by cable networks to fill their channel with documentary programming. Some of it is the keen interest I personally have in learning about the human condition and learning from those events. Mix that in with years of licensing negotiation and seeing how amazed producers are with what archivists can provide and I know that this is big business.
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Developing A Digital Collection · Licensing and Access · New Tools

Archiving Social Networking Sites: Why?

May 7th, 2010 · No Comments

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Earlier this month, the Library of Congress announced that it would house every “tweet” ever posted on Twitter. Every 140-character-or-less blurb on the site is now part of the vast LoC archives. This got me thinking: what are the issues at hand in archiving social networking sites? And why is it important?

Recently, while cleaning out my apartment, I found a relic of primitive social networking—a printed-out Facebook message from 2005. Nostalgia instantly struck. Five years ago, Facebook was [thefacebook], with a much simpler interface. A toolbar on the left listed the humble features of the relatively new site: My Profile, My Groups, My Friends, My Away Messages. Clearly, Facebook was trying to emulate MySpace —which was then by far the preferred means of social networking.
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Digital Obsolescence · New Tools · Social Media

When Technology Tools Are in Control of You

November 6th, 2009 · No Comments

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In the last month, I have had to replace a one year old refrigerator, a 30 day old phone, a two week old portable drive and a one-day old server. Technology is not always our friend!

When I first got involved in digitization (15 years ago!), I was sorely disappointed with the inefficiencies and struggles to get output as promised. I teach my students today that the information world is a difference place. We finally have tools that talk to each other, tools that can be modified through menus as well as hard-coding. This is a wonderful world of possibilities.
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Category: New Tools