Thanks Everyone!

Working with everyone this quarter on this blog has been a great experience.  Since we all had a common interest of archives there was a common ground and connection from which the group could draw upon.  Archives and special collections are an invaluable resource.  Because of limitations in funding, especially with the recession, and the high cost of digital preservation, large digitization projects are not as practical as cheaper more affordable apps.

I agree with everyone’s assessment regarding the group’s performance on this project.  Thanks to everyone’s hard and efficient work, the assignment came together very quickly and easily.  It was great to be involved in a group in which all of the members were responsive and proficient.

We decided to use googledocs to collaborate and edit the paper, surprisingly I’d never used googledocs so when a group member suggested it I was excited to try it, it worked very well, and made collaboration between the group very easy.

The idea for an app, especially an app such as Stack Tracks was a great idea, and one that is truly needed.   The assignment was to make a contribution and I feel as though this app proposal is significant.  Despite library professional’s conclusions that apps are going to be trending, the app market and libraries have not produced many apps yet.  The ones that have been produced have largely been institution/library specific.  Having an app such as Stack Tracks that is collaborative between many library institutions is beneficial and useful.

Thank you Shannon, Christie, Nel, and Warren for all of your hard work, input, and posts.  Hope everyone has a fun summer.

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Budget Cuts at MOA

As the quarter draws to a close, I thought I would share one last article from the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology.  The article discusses budget cuts and how the museum and archives are affected.  The current trend of budget cuts is being felt with our neighbors to the north.  Archival projects at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia represent a large collection of culturally significant material to Canada and are in dire threat of being eliminated due to cuts to the National Archival Development Program.  Have any of you visited the MOA?  It is a beautiful place and they are doing great work there. 

The Importance of Special Collections and Archives

Special libraries and archives serve an extremely important function in today’s society.   In the last several years there have been numerous studies about the importance of special libraries and archives.   Dooley and Luce (2010) state that special collections and archives may be defined as library and archival materials in any format that possess some value, uniqueness, and rarity.  Paaviainen (2007) states that special collections offer professional expertise in particular fields.  Without getting into a debate of Lexicon and meaning, special libraries and archives can simply be defined for debate’s sake as a library or archive that holds a unique collection of information and provides further expertise.  Special collections constitute a major portion of most libraries operations and are critical to scholarship (See Panitch  2001).

In proposing an app called Stack Tracks to explore unique libraries around the world, special collections and archives in particular may benefit from such an app.  As many institutions have, at some point, undergone some form of digitization project.  However, a majority of these digitization projects are limited in scope and funding according to Dooley and Luce (2010).  As the Association of Research Libraries has pointed out, “Digitization is a tool used now in virtually all special collections libraries (See ARL 2009).”

For my portion of the literature review, I sought to highlight the value and importance of special libraries and archives.  How I approached this issue was to first examine some of the major surveys and studies already performed on the subject and then I sought to examine their references to pull out relevant and pertinent resources.  I found it rather peculiar that there are many online resources for the scholarly study of special collections yet, special libraries and archives are limited in their online digitization due to the resources necessary to digitally publish and maintain such resources (Again, see ARL 2009).  Three resources in particular offered exceptional background on the value of special collections and archives, and vast amounts of data on the subject; The Association of Research Libraries has published several studies on Special Collections in ARL Libraries and the OCLC has also published an extremely helpful and interesting survey titled, Taking Our Pulse.

 

Dooley, Jackie M, and Katherine Luce. (2010). Taking Our Pulse: The OCLC Research Survey of Special Collections and Archives. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research. Internet resource. Retrieved from http://www.oclc.org/research/publications/library/2010/2010-11.pdf

This is essentially OCLC’s follow up survey to the ARL’s 1998 landmark survey and attempts to examine how far special collections have come since the 1998 survey.  This survey also discusses library size and budget, collections, user services, cataloging and metadata, challenges, staffing issues, and departing from ARL’s study, a more significant contribution to the subject of digitalization and the issues that special collections and archives are facing in this regard.

 

Paavilainen, Elisa. (2007). The Role of Special Libraries in the Finnish Library Network.    Internet resource.  Retrieved from http://www.kansalliskirjasto.fi/kirjastoala/neuvosto/hankkeet/kokoelmakartta/Files/liitetiedosto2/Collections_special_libraries.pdf

This is a useful power point that highlights the importance of special collections.  Bulleted points provide useful references for discussion points.  The power point also highlights strategies for special collections as well as evaluating special collections.  The survey really served to highlight the importance of special collections as well as examining the significance of special collections.

 

Panitch, Judith M. (2001).  Special Collections in ARL Libraries: Results of the 1998 Survey Sponsored by the Arl Research Collections Committee. Washington, D.C: Association of Research Libraries. Internet Resource.  Retrieved from

http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/spec_colls_in_arl.pdf

This survey is a landmark survey, which, at the time, surveyed 99 ARL special collections and examined a wide variety of issues ranging from access use, preservation, structure, budgets, and was one of the first major studies to examine digitization.

 

Special Collections in ARL Libraries: A Discussion Report from the ARL Working Group on Special Collections. Washington, D.C: Association of Research Libraries (2009). Internet resource. Retrieved from

http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/scwg-report.pdf

This is another survey put forth by the ARL that deals with collections policy, discovery of hidden collections and access, cross-institutional collaborations, digitization, and the challenge of born-digital collections.  This serves as a fantastic, policy level survey and a great follow-up to the ARL’s landmark 1998 study.

Assignment 3: A Visit to the National Archives Seattle

Making a trip to a National Archives Center is something that many more people should do.  While the National Archives Center in Washington D.C. possesses the Nation’s most precious documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, most people do not know that they preserve much more than that.  Moreover, most people do not realize that there often is a National Archives Center in their region that they can arrange to visit.  I chose to visit the National Archives Center in Seattle.  The regional archives are used to conduct research, and interact with our Federal Records to conduct a wide array of research from Congressional Records, to regional departmental records (such as Bureau of Indian Affairs records), to genealogy and census research, and more.

So for the assignment evaluating the space, some of the issues I wished to explore were, the infrastructure, the functionality of the space, the access and use of materials stored; or in other words, how might the average user perceive the space.   Lastly, I wanted to examine the strategic plan for the archives to see what is planned and how will the archives be accessed and used in the future.

Upon arriving at the National Archives in Seattle, many visitors may feel that perhaps they do not have the right location or might feel intimidated.  The Seattle archival center is a large gray complex surrounded by barbed wire fencing.  There is a National Archives and Records Administration sign out front but very little directing the public on where to go.  Upon entering the space, one is immediately struck at how little is invested into the infrastructure of the National Archives.  The visitor must also figure out to go to the left and not up the stairs or off to the right.  Upon entering the archives, the visitor has to check in with the receptionist.  Fill out research request forms and then get a locker to store any items not allowed in the research room such as bags, coats, pens, etc.  The visitor again has to sign in when entering the research room.

At this point the archivist brings out a cart from a securely locked collections area with whatever records the user requested.  Within the research room there is always staff present to safeguard records and ensure some basic handling practices are being performed.  Researchers are only allowed one box on the table at a time to ensure that records remain intact and may only pull one file per time to ensure proper record sequence is maintained.  While the Seattle archives has records dating to the 1850’s, in my time at the archives researching historical records from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, some dating to the early 1900’s, one irk I did not see was that gloves were not required to handle older or newer documents.

As the Nation’s record keeper, it is imperative that the National Archives keeps records secure and safe.  Given the steps one must take to have records pulled and the research policies and having to research in the research room where there is staff present to assist in any research needs and ensure security, the National Archives still does an amazing job in ensuring proper handling from the public and protecting archival records.

As Scott McLemee pointed out in the article on the New York Public Library, the big push is for computers and online access right now.  While New York Public Library’s decision to move stacks off-site is an extreme solution to infrastructure and the digital age, the National Archives is also wrestling with infrastructure and digital needs.  The National Archives however must contend with an enormous amount of precipitously growing amount of information, some of which is in digital form.   The National Archives Strategic Plan calls for 1 percent of archival holdings to be available online by the end of this year.  The National Archives also is calling for 95 percent of archival holdings to be described in an online catalog by 2016.

Throughout my visit to the National Archives, with this assignment in mind, several thoughts came to mind.  Given the National Archives and Records Administration’s push for digitization and providing greater access to records, one has to wonder whether investment in infrastructure is perhaps being sacrificed in this push.  Also, the National Archives, in large part due to the recession and now with Republican calls to slash budgets of domestic programs, have suffered tremendously with their budget.  It is really quite remarkable how much the National Archives is able to provide to the public with the budget and infrastructure issues that they have, imagine how well they would do with a budget they deserve as our Nation’s Record Keepers.

In reexamining the issues that I wanted to explore, the National Archives in Seattle is an old and antiquated building that can be intimidating to a new user.  Regional archives must wait their turn for a limited national budget for archival centers with a majority of the focus going towards renovating presidential libraries and the main National Archives building in Washington D.C.  It is clear that the major focus for the National Archives is to expand access through the digital domain.  The Seattle archives then continues to utilize its scarce resources to provide the best access possible given their resources. 

 

References

National Archives Strategic Plan.  Retreived from http://www.archives.gov/about/plans-reports/strategic-plan/ 

McLemee, S.  (2012).  For Books, Against Boiler Plate.  Retreived from http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/04/25/second-column-new-york-public-library-research-collection#.T54jNH_sJhE.twitter 

Resources for Archival Professionals

Being as though our blog is about archives, I decided to devote this post to resources relating to preservation techniques and professional practices.  Two sources in particular offer great free resources for archival workers and museum professionals; the Canadian Conservation Institute and the National Parks Service both publish free online newsletters (links are posted below).  These brief articles provide for basic preservation techniques with both a bibliography so that the reader can read more on the subject, and in many cases, archival supply contact information to gather the required materials.  Although both newsletters focus on a wide variety of preservation topics with more of a focus on museums, there are significant contributions to archival science.

The Canadian Conservation Institute publishes CCI Notes on a wide variety of topics.  Of interest to archivists in particular are articles in Preventative Conservation, articles on pest management, articles on paper and book conservation and preservation, disaster response, and caring for photographic collections.  Every single article is posted online with free access.

The National Park Server publishes leaflets similar to the Canadian Conservation Institute.  Topics relevant to archival studies include sections with articles on agents of deterioration, paper objects, photographs, archival and manuscript collections, disaster response, and the creation and care of digital collections.

 

http://www.cci-icc.gc.ca/publications/notes/index-eng.aspx

http://www.nps.gov/museum/publications/conserveogram/cons_toc.html

Article: Archival Temples, Archival Prisons: Modes of Power and Protection

What an interesting article our professor recommended about the power of archives.  It’s called Archival Temples, Archival Prisons: Modes of Power and Protection

http://home.hccnet.nl/e.ketelaar/ArchivalTemples.pdf

The article discusses archival history, oppression through records, governmental power, control, human rights, and even has a story about Star Wars!

The part of the article that really caught my attention was when governmental power over documents and when to possibly destroy documents or whether to keep them.

“Records in our surveillance society reveal as much about the administering as about the administered. That is why it is so difficult to keep the right balance between, on the one hand, the requirement to destroy personal data when they have served their primary purpose, including that of serving the legal rights of the data subjects, and, on the other hand, the possibility that the files might get a new meaning and purpose in the future.”

Where do you think the line is between destroying records versus saving them in hopes they may have “a new meaning and purpose in the future?”  Do you think it depends on space availability, laws, privacy, or something else?

Bridging Museums and Archives, an Interview with Todd Mayberry on Implementing a Long Range Preservation Plan in a Museum Archives

For my assignment I chose to interview Todd Mayberry who is a graduate of the University of Washington’s Museology Program.  Todd had the daunting task of implementing an archives preservation plan for the Burke Museum’s Ethnology Department in completion of his Master’s degree project.  As part of his project, Todd had to reconcile how traditional archives and museum archives are approached differently and produce a coherent product to both archival and museum standards.  Todd has had a long history of leadership and service in the non-profit, public service realm with over a decade of professional experience with the Minnesota Historical Society, the Burke Museum and currently the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington where he is currently serving a multitude of capacities and duties with the JCCW.

 

How did you become interested in the Burke’s archival collection?

I became interested in the Burke Museum’s Ethnology Department’s archival collection due to the careful prodding of the Department’s collection manager – and, at the time, my boss – Rebecca “Becky” Andrews. In the preceding two years, two fellow Museology Graduate Program students had both completed, respectively, an inventory and a long-range preservation plan for the Archives as part of their thesis projects. Thanks to both Becky and funding through my program, I was hired to implement the first year of the preservation plan and quickly determined, in the very positive sense, that I had my work cut out for me. Firstly, several thousand records were either accessioned or accrued to existing collections since the inventory took place. Secondly, the long range preservation plan addressed the preservation needs of only several hundred of the nearly 50,000 records that constituted the overall archival holdings.

 

Can you tell us about your thesis?

To put a preservation management plan into action, I realized that an assessment and further planning was required. So I took a deep breath and enrolled in a Managing Archival Collections course through the University of Victoria’s Cultural Resource Management Program while also participating in archival preservation workshops. Nine months later, the products of my thesis included: an assessment report on the archival collections, environmental conditions, policy and procedures, and site; a series of planning recommendations to address managing, caring for, and providing access to the archival collections; a refined finding aid based off of a comprehensive inventory of the collections; and a how-to guide to put a long-range preservation plan into action.     

 

Can you describe the difference between library versus museum archives?

I really wrestled with this very question throughout my thesis project. Ultimately, there should be no difference between an archives within a museum and an archives within a library. However, as far as processing is concerned, there is a great divide between a museum collections manager and a trained archivist.

 

What were some of the challenges you faced in processing the Burke’s archives? 

My master’s project was rooted in providing the answers to how museologists can follow archival best practices when faced with the fundamental challenges, let alone the staffing and funding realities, of managing a small archives in a museum. On one hand, the Burke Museum’s Ethnology Archives was neglected, in part, due to funding realities – simply put, an archives within a museum can fall down the priority list. On the other hand, the rules that might apply to museum collections differ considerably when it comes to managing an archival collection. Museologists get preservation and care, but, for example, they don’t necessarily understand the implications of splitting a collection. As per my professional museological training, one of my greatest challenges was retraining myself according to SAA best practices.

 

How has that experience helped you professionally?

I now work for the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington here in Seattle which has a library, special collections, institutional archives and a museum. For me, without my experience working with the Burke’s Ethnology Archives, I wouldn’t have been prepared to address the management and care of these unique collection areas.

 

How do you see the Burke’s archives being utilized?

Well, that question is really up to the Burke Museum to answer. Access by the public is an ongoing issue for the Archives. For one, a great deal of the collections exists on a finding aid but are not catalogued in a searchable online collections management system. Another challenge is if materials are requested, access is limited by available hours and staff. But I have to emphatically state that the research value of the Archives is significant. There are collections that have been buried in that storage room that, thanks to the dedication of the department’s collections manager, work-study students, interns and volunteers, are just beginning to be uncovered and become publicly accessible.   

 

Do you see potential for digitalization?

The Ethnology Department has been very good with scanning collections consisting of photographic prints and negatives within their collection. However, as with all archival collections, the sheer volume of this collection area, in this case over 15,000 records, requires being selective with this time-consuming activity. Beyond that, reformatting of at-risk media – such as cellulose acetate film displaying early stages of vinegar syndrome – has been an issue. And born digital materials come with their inherent challenges.   

 

What work needs to continue to be done?

 I left the Burke Museum’s Ethnology Department after implementing the first year of their long-range preservation plan. The money simply ran out to fund my position. Stewardship of an archival collection requires a long-term and sustained commitment. In light of a museum that continues to actively collect ethnological archival materials, the need of fully processing a significant backlog, addressing the needs of at-risk materials, providing public access to the collections, and so on, the day-to-day work doesn’t end.

 

Can you describe the process of the work involved?

 The process of the work involved long hours and an attention to detail.

 

Can you describe any limitations you faced when working with the archives?

Again, the issue of money was a limitation in and of itself. That would apply not only for paying for staff time, but also for adequate preservation supplies, reformatting equipment, and the conservation or, at least, the stabilization of the most at-risk materials.

 

What professional training do you think the university should offer in conjunction with the museum studies program and the ischool?

Hosting preservation management workshops and offering joint classes seem to be a reasonable next step. Both of our disciplines intersect with the fact that, in the end, most of us will be faced with managing, caring for and providing access to archival collections. By the two programs working together, this can spark the beginning of building our professional relationships with each other, strengthening the bonds between our collecting institutions, and enable us to be better able to serve not only the public but the collections themselves.