Two new SAA awards–Emerging Leader and Archival Innovator–I know you know some people/projects who qualify

This year SAA has two brand new awards that I’m very excited about because I think they provide an effective upgrade and replacement for the two awards I’ve sponsored on this blog, the Best Archives on the Web and Movers & Shakers in Archives awards. I always hoped that eventually SAA would offer awards in these areas, and now that they have the Emerging Leader and Archival Innovator awards, I think ArchivesNext can retire from the field of awards.

So, first things first, the deadline for nominations for both is February 28, so you have to get moving on this.

The Emerging Leader award (brought forward and championed by SAA President Gregor Trinkaus-Randall) has the following purpose and criteria:

Created in 2011, this award celebrates and encourages early-career archivists who have completed archival work of broad merit, demonstrated significant promise of leadership, and/or performed commendable service to the archives profession.  Nominees will have more than two years and less than ten years of professional archives experience. Nominees must be SAA members and must meet as many of the following criteria as possible:

  • Work of merit that has made a substantive contribution to an area (or areas) of the archives profession beyond the nominee’s local institution and that holds promise for future contributions.
  • Demonstrated leadership through collaborative work or exemplary service to local, regional, and/or national archival and cultural associations.
  • Formal archival education through a graduate degree program in history, library science, information science, or a related field; through participation in an archival or preservation institute; and/or through certification by the Academy of Certified Archivists.
  • Involvement in successful outreach and advocacy efforts on behalf of the nominee’s institution and the archives profession.

Full information on the Emerging Leader Award is available here.

The Archival Innovator award (proposed, with love, by me) has the following purpose and criteria:

Created in 2011, this award recognizes an individual archivist, a group of archivists, a repository, or an organization that demonstrates, through a combination of as many as possible of the criteria below, the greatest overall current impact on the profession or their communities.

  • Creativity or innovation in approaching professional challenges.
  • Demonstrated ability to think outside of professional or institutional norms.
  • Ability to translate creativity, innovation, and new thinking into working solutions.
  • Development of an archives program or outreach activity that has an extraordinary impact on a community.
  • Commitment to the advancement of professional knowledge through traditional or emerging information-sharing media.

Complete information about the Archival Innovator Award is available here.

I know time is short and I apologize for not posting this earlier, but you still have enough time to put nominations together. The people who deserve these awards are doing great work and should be recognized and celebrated. Please make the work of the awards committee difficult and send in some great nominations.

Winners: Most Innovative Archives on the Web

And lastly, we focus on the winners of the Most Innovative Archives on the Web category of the Best Archives on the Web awards.

Winner: The Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, Rich Media: Conservation History Association of Texas, Texas Legacy Project Records

“It is innovative on all kinds of fronts– pulling together all these descriptive tools into one interface; embedding the Google Earth mash-up; using the creativity and tech savvy of students to build the tool; and last but not least, giving primacy to the voice and body language and not just the transcript, something not all archives do with oral history but I feel is very important.”

“This is a great use of technology to bring two resources together and provide access and searchability, the latter of which seems like an especially useful feature.”

“They should be applauded for their interface design, including its use of maps, time-coded transcripts, and other features.”

So said the judges in evaluating the Briscoe Center’s impressive multimedia site. Here’s a description of the project in the nominator’s own words: “Previous to undertaking the project of turning the Texas Legacy interviews into rich media, the Conservation History Association of Texas had created interview transcripts and time codes for each of the 150 Texas Legacy project interview videos. While these resources are substantial, they stood segregated from the video content itself, and the potential within them remained dormant.

Using a software called Glifos: Social Media, students from the University of Texas’ School of Information re-purposed the existing transcripts and time codes, and created three distinct research tools: 1) transcripts synchronized to the video content, 2) tables of contents and other indices, and 3) maps which display geographical information. All three of these tools were derived from the transcript-as-descriptive-data.

The first tool, the synchronized transcripts, brings together the source video and its transcript for the first time. Besides following the words of the interviewee as they watch the video, users have the ability to conduct keyword searches of the transcripts for topics of interest to them. Once a keyword is located, users can go directly to that location within the video. Users can search within a single video, or throughout the entire Texas Legacy Records collection.

The second tool allowed the School of Information students to create subject-based, non-linear indices of the videos’ contents. These indices, too, can be searched and are synchronized to the video content.

Additionally, students derived geographical information from the transcripts and created maps that display the locations which a given interviewee discussed. In these cases, students used Google Earth software in addition to Glifos: Social Media. The results give users an exact idea (plotted by latitude and longitude) of places mentioned in the transcripts, and, again, the places are synchronized to the point in the interview where it was mentioned.

An interview with H.C. Clark which features all three of these research tools can be found here.”

One of the aspects of this project that most impressed the judges was the degree of collaboration between the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and the University of Texas School of Information. It appears that the participants succeeded in capitalizing on all their available resources, including people, materials, and software. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Honorable Mention: HerStory 360, The HerStory Scrapbook

The judges also wanted to recognize an unusual site from outside the traditional world of archives. While it had some shortcomings, the judges thought the HerStory Scrapbook:

“. . . was able to provide an alternative browse interface to New York Times stories related to women’s suffrage, and the creator of the site used a number of social marketing tools to make the content available, including Twitter and Facebook.”

“Interesting and dynamic use of mainly newspaper clippings and repackaging content from another source. Would be better if it drew on multiple types of archival sources for the scrapbook, but good within its limitations.”

Here’s the nominator’s description of the project: “For the first time, The New York Times Archive as been organized by subject matter into an easy-to-use website. From 1917 – 1920, The New York Times published over 3,000 articles, letters, and editorials about the women who were fighting for, and against, suffrage. The HerStory Scrapbook includes more than 900 of the most interesting pieces, as if someone had saved clippings of the original articles from The Times in a scrapbook.

Many of the books, written by the suffragists, about the final stages of the suffrage movement focus on either the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) led by Carrie Chapman Catt, or the National Woman’s Party founded by Alice Paul. The New York Times reported on both women. And, that makes our understanding so much richer.

The HerStory Scrapbook organizes the items from The Times in an easy-to-navigate format. The links to The New York Times open in a new browser window or a new browser tab, if your browser is set up for automatic tabbed browsing. The articles in The Times then open in another browser window or tab. To avoid opening too many windows, the next time you click on a New York Times link, the webpage will appear in the window or tab that is already open, behind the HerStory Scrapbook webpage.

In addition to an easy-to-use format, the HerStory Scrapbook provides a full-text search of the descriptions introducing each article. The advanced features on the search page include word stemming and case sensitive searching. There is also a link which allows searching of the entire New York Times’ archive. (However, full-text searching of articles is not provided by The New York Times.)

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, the HerStory 360° Challenge section includes 90 stories, published during the first 90 days of 2010, about 90 women who fought for suffrage. Each story includes links to rare source material to answer the question: “What’s Her Story?”

Congratulations to everyone who helped contribute to both these sites, and to all the winners of the Best Archives on the Web awards! Thanks again to everyone who nominated a site and to judges Christine Di Bella, Cory Nimer, Lance Stuchell, and Chela Weber.

Winners: Best Re-Purposing of Descriptive Data

And now to highlight the winners of the Best Archives on the Web awards in the category Best Re-Purposing of Descriptive Data. As stated in the call for nominations:

This award was inspired by the efforts of many archives to liberate their descriptive data and make it available for creative re-use. The winner of this award will be the person or organization who takes descriptive data (whether about collections or people) and does something new with it. This could be a complete creative re-imagining of the data for another purpose or creating a more usable interface for discovery.

And the two nominees who best met those criteria are:

City of Burnaby Archives, Charting Change: An Interactive Atlas of Burnaby’s Heritage

As described in their nomination statement: “Charting Change: An Interactive Atlas of Burnaby’s Heritage , allows users to see how historical events, ranging from First Nations settlement to European exploration, through pioneer land-clearing to the Depression, and through the Great War to post-war population boom have shaped the community of Burnaby [British Columbia, Canada]. These stories are graphically represented online by using existing archival databases in a new, unique manner to illustrate the evolution of the city. Four maps of Burnaby have been created ‘each representing a significant period in Burnaby’s development’ and on each map, points of interest or historical significance have been plotted. Each map and each point of interest includes an historical overview and links to historic photographs and records related to that point or map. These points are all “clickable” and when clicked, they open a panel that contains a brief description/history of the point as well as hyperlinks to related records in our descriptive databases. Behind the scenes, the information shown on each map point is pulled from the existing Inmagic databases currently searchable from the Heritage Burnaby website. Heritage landmarks, historic buildings, and neighbourhoods are plotted and linked to the records for photographs, artifacts, textual records and bylaws. Tools and resources from all of Burnaby’s Heritage partners – the City Archives, the Burnaby Village Museum, the Burnaby Planning Department and the Burnaby Historical Society – are combined to provide a unique perspective of Burnaby. Coincidentally, Google Street Views became available in the Vancouver area the day of the kick off meeting for this project and as a result, we were able to include this new capability so that users can zoom into many of the heritage sites and historic buildings to view them in their present context. Over 1500 photographs from the Burnaby Village Museum collection were scanned and described specifically for this site, which added to an existing inventory of approximately 8000 photographs from the City Archives. Funding for this project was provided in part by the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canadian Culture Online Program by way of an Archival Community Digitization Program grant.” [Note that in a comment on the previous post, people were advised to visit the Andornot web site to learn more details about the project:]

The judges praised Charting Change for “building an engaging, collaborative site celebrating the history of their community” and observed, “Mapping collections is a really powerful way to display and engage users with collections, particularly in a local history collection where patrons are very knowledgeable of and often have a relationship of their own to the location. This site is a great example of how to implement this technology.”

Winner: The Smithsonian Institution, Collections Search Center

As the home page for the Smithsonian Institution’s Collection Search Center states, behind the simple search box are ‘over 4.6 million records with 445,000 images, video and sound files, electronic journals and other resources from the Smithsonian’s museums, archives & libraries’ waiting to be discovered. Everyone knows the Smithsonian is big, but you might not know that it’s comprised of 19 museums, 18 archives, and 20 libraries (not to mention various research centers and the National Zoo). The physical as well as digital assets across the Smithsonian are managed in an appropriately diverse array of systems using various metadata standards.

How did this jungle of systems become accessible through one search tool? I’ll let the nominator take it from here: “To leverage the metadata from this diverse set of databases, the Office of the Chief Information Officer authored custom extraction mechanisms for every system, which maps the data to a common metadata model (inspired by library, archive, museum standards) and allows it to be aggregated into a single database. To accommodate the diverse datasets, the extraction mechanism enables collection stewards to determine the display labels which most accurately represent the content. While all originally contributed data is retained for display, the extraction automatically processes the data to harmonize content for the various user-friendly browsing taxonomies the site offers. The taxonomies are also used for filtering existing search results. For example, a search on ‘james smithson’ (3009 hits) can easily be narrowed down to ‘Smithson Bequest’ (taxonomy: topic) to find documents related to the founding of the Smithsonian Institution in the Archives.

The Collection Search Center website is based on open source software Solr/Lucene. The underlying single database communicates through a set of webservices, which leaves the door open for future innovative services built on top of this data aggregation.”

The judges agreed that as visible (and highly usable) proof that we can break down walls between the “silos” of libraries, archives, and museums, SI’s Collections Search Center deserved to be recognized for greatly increasing the accessibility of descriptive data about archival collections. One judge wrote: “Federated search across disparate collections and collection databases is the “holy grail” for many institutions, and it is really well done here.” Another judge added: “The task of mapping and extracting all the data in this interface from the myriad of systems and schemas had to mind numbing, infuriating, and totally amazing when it actually worked. Beyond that, it sets a wonderful example of pulling data out of our silos and working together with libraries and museums in a way which complements and elevates all collections.”

Congratulations to both the City of Burnaby Archives and the Smithsonian Institution for your excellent work!

Announcing the winners of the 2010 Best Archives on the Web Awards

At long last, I’m happy to announce the winners of this year’s Best Archives on the Web Awards.

Best re-purposing of descriptive data

Winner: The Smithsonian Institution, Collections Search Center

Winner: City of Burnaby Archives, Charting Change: An Interactive Atlas of Burnaby’s Heritage

Best use of crowdsourcing for description

Winner: Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, Waisda?

Honorable Mention: PhotosNormandie on Flickr

Most innovative archives on the Web

Winner: The Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, Rich Media: Conservation History Association of Texas, Texas Legacy Project Records

Honorable Mention: HerStory 360, The HerStory Scrapbook

This week each of the winners in each category will be featured in a new post, so you can learn more about each of these terrific projects. For more information about this year’s categories, see the announcement post.

I’d like to thank everyone who submitted a nomination, as well as this year’s distinguished jury:

  • Christine Di Bella, Institute for Advanced Study
  • Cory Nimer, Brigham Young University
  • Lance Stuchell, Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research
  • Chela Weber, Brooklyn Historical Society

Call for nominations for Best Archives on the Web awards–new categories this year

Yes, it’s time for another competition, and this year’s Best Archives on the Web awards features all new categories designed to highlight innovation. This year’s categories are:

Best re-purposing of descriptive data
This award is inspired by the efforts of many archives (including our National Archives and Records Administration) to liberate their descriptive data and make it available for creative re-use. The winner of this award will be the person or organization who takes descriptive data (whether about collections or people) and does something new with it. This could be a complete creative re-imagining of the data for another purpose or creating a more usable interface for discovery. I hope this award isn’t ahead of its time and that we get some strong nominations!

Best use of crowdsourcing for description

Whether through Flickr, wikis, blogs or allowing users to comment on descriptions in their online catalogs, many archives are starting to harness the power of their regular researchers as well as experts around the world to help augment or create descriptions for their collections. This award will recognize crowdsourcing efforts that have resulted in a significant exchange of information for the institution. I know the Library of Congress on Flickr may seem like the obvious winner in this category, but I suspect that are a lot of other efforts out there that can give them some competition. Remember, if the crowdsourcing efforts produced results that were significant for the institution, then that’s what counts. This is your chance to beat out the LoC and their 23 million views!

Most innovative archives on the Web

At this point, many archives have embraced the use of social media and have blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts, so this award is designed to recognize archives who are exploring something new in their Web presence. We’ll leave the category open to your own interpretation–what do you think is innovative? This could include using familiar social media in new ways, using a new technology, exploring a creative partnership, taking a new approach to presentation, or something that I haven’t even thought of providing as an example. If you know of an archives doing something cool and different, nominate them and we’ll be happy to highlight their achievement with this award!

Nominations are due by midnight on Tuesday, June 1. Nominations should be submitted to: nominations[at] and must include:

1) Nominator’s name and contact information
2) Name and contact information of person or organization being nominated
3) Category in which the person or organization is being nominated
4) A statement of no more than 500 words that describes how the site meets the criteria for the category.

You may nominate yourself, and if you have any questions about whether or not a site is suitable for one of the categories, don’t hesitate to ask. Nominate early and often!

Last, but not least, ideas for opening up digitization at NARA

Yes, those of you who don’t care about improving the services of our National Archives will be happy to hear that this is the last post in this series (remember, comments are due tomorrow). However, most of the ideas for improving interactivity and openness are applicable to almost any kind of archival organization, so these issues should really be of interest to any archivist.

As has been discussed here previously, currently NARA relies on partnerships with commercial sites (such as Ancestry and Footnote) for much of the digitization of their holdings. While this is no doubt a necessary part of NARA’s digitization strategy, that strategy (written in 2008) is in need of some updating. I am not suggesting that NARA abandon all commercial partnerships, but certainly they need to explore options for expanding the ways that records can be digitized and made available to users at no cost–either via NARA’s own site or on the sites of non-profit partners.

This could be accomplished in many ways, but the ones that seem most obvious to me are to follow the scanning model provided by the Amsterdam City Archives, and to establish policies that encourage non-profit organizations, scholarly collaboratives, historians, and any researcher to become scanning contributors. First, the Amsterdam model charges researchers for the initial scanning and access to digital copies of documents, and then continues to make those scans available to all researchers for a fee. (See the earlier post and presentations for more details.) A NARA model could operate in a similar fashion, but perhaps identify a point at which the costs of scanning have been recovered and at that point the scans would be made available at no cost. In my opinion, the goal should be to provide access to the digitized documents for free, although it seems fair to charge for the initial digitization, if the per unit cost can be made reasonable. (Note that the National Archives of Australia has also implemented “scan on demand.”)

Second, while a more complicated and risky option, creating policies that allow organizations and individuals to contribute the scans they create would harness the power of potentially all NARA’s researcher community to crowdsource the digitization of collections. This could be accomplished by capturing scans created when researchers duplicate materials in the reading room, allowing users to contribute the scans they have created, and setting up dedicated areas for researcher scanning, whether for their own benefit and NARA’s or strictly as volunteer scanners. While, of course, processes would have to be established for ensuring proper metadata is created and that minimal quality control is in place, opening the process up in this manner would capture the results of digitization that is already being done. It would also promote the digitization of records that people are interested in–or records that at least one researcher is interested in. I haven no idea if models such as these have been tried or implemented in any archival setting, but I see no reason why NARA could not explore some of them on at least a pilot basis.

As always, I’m interested in hearing your reactions to these ideas and your own suggestions for how NARA can broaden and increase the number of digitized records they make freely available to the public.

Note that the topic of digitization is on the agenda for tomorrow’s NARA-sponsored Researcher Meeting. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to attend, but the minutes of that meeting will be posted (and I will, of course, let you know the results here also). I’ve been told that we can also expect to see a new FAQ from NARA on its digitization efforts in the near future. I will be interested to see if in either tomorrow’s meeting or the FAQ a timeline is provided for the migration of the digitized documents created by NARA’s commercial partners to open access on NARA’s own web site.

Incredible presentation about the Amsterdam City Archives’ “scan on demand” program

Last Friday Ellen Fleurbaay and Marc Holtman of the Amsterdam City Archives gave an incredible presentation about their new approach to scanning. With their permission, I’ve posted their slides here and you can see more information on the “DVD extras” presentation here. You may remember that the web site associated with this project, Archiefbank, was one of our Best Archives on the Web award winners earlier this year. It was a pleasure to be able to meet Ellen and Marc in person, and almost everyone I know who saw this presentation in Jersey City was blown away by it and by what they’ve accomplished.

UPDATE: Dan Santamaria has posted audio, powerpoint, and supplementary files from the presentation by Ellen Fleurbaay and Marc Holtman at Princeton University on November 2, 2009 here. This is essentially the same presentation they gave at MARAC. Thanks, Dan!

Friday miscellany

Here are a few links and new stories to keep you busy over your holiday weekend (in the US, that is):

  • The award-winning Amsterdam Stadsarchief officially announced the English version of its site last week, and unveiled some new indexes in their Genealogy Section. They have plans to expand their offerings on the English version of their site, so if you’re interested you should check in on them regularly.
  • The National Archives of the UK is launching a new study “into how archived websites are collected and made available to users.” In true UK fashion, they are “keen to involve users and potential users of web archives,” so they encourage potential users to get in touch with them. See the site for details.
  • SAA has extended your chance to sign up for their Electronic Records Summer Camp at the early-bird rate–you now have until May 28 to take advantage of this discount. The camp takes place at UNC Chapel Hill from July 27-31. Click here for details.
  • If you are not on the A&A listserv, you may have missed a call from SAA for input and comments from members on how SAA can best utilize Web 2.0 tools, and general comments on SAA’s Web presence and overall brand. This is an important topic and one I know many readers have opinions about. Please take some time and send your thoughts to Brian Doyle at bdoyle [at]
  • In case you missed it, President Obama gave his important speech on national security yesterday from the Rotunda of the National Archives, with the murals and “charters of freedom” as a background. Here’s a link to the Times article. Nice that they had some positive things to think about after such a week of bad news (see here and here, if you’ve missed them).
  • Follow up on Honorable Mention: Archives of American Art

    As mentioned previously, the website for the Archives of American Art received an Honorable Mention in this year’s Best Archives on the Web Awards, just as it had the year before. However, even though they didn’t quite make the cut, I think they’re doing some cool things that aren’t apparent to the public but that would very interesting to archivists. So now I’m turning this post over to Barbara Aikens of AAA, who will describe what they’re doing on their site, particularly with their EAD finding aids. Enjoy!

    Continue reading “Follow up on Honorable Mention: Archives of American Art”

    Winners: Best Archives Website

    And now, continuing our wrap-up of the winners in the three categories of the Best Archives on the Web Awards, we’ve reached the last category, the big one, the winners of the Best Archives Website. For last year’s awards, there was a separate category for “Best Use of Web 2.0 Technologies.” This year, after consultation with the judges, I included the following statement in the information about the awards: “A critical criterion for judging nominees for Best Archives Website will be the effective use of Web 2.0 technologies.” I think you’ll see from this year’s winners that the judges took that statement very seriously. And now, let’s take a closer look at the winners:

    Continue reading “Winners: Best Archives Website”