Links from MAC talk on participatory archives

If you were among the lucky (?) people in the audience today, here, as promised, are the links to the sites I mentioned in my talk. If you are one of the millions of people who were not there, these are the sites I mentioned as examples of participatory archives. I know there are a great many others, so I apologize if  I left out one of your favorites. I’m happy that there is an overabundance of riches when it comes to choosing examples on this topic. (At least examples that meet the criteria I use.) I’ll probably be posting my slides to SlideShare soon, or I may post them here on the blog so I can add the explanatory text that would help make some of them comprehensible. (Here’s a post about the talk I gave on this topic at the 2011 SAA Annual Meeting.)

Here are the links: Continue reading “Links from MAC talk on participatory archives”

New resource: National History Day and Archives

I’m also happy to share that there is a new resource available, a National History Day and Archives Toolkit, created by SAA’s Reference, Access and Outreach Section’s National History Day Committee. The toolkit resides on a wiki, and is intended to provide support for both archivists as well as teachers and students participating in NHD. It has sections such as:

Information for Students and Teachers

  • Introduction and Video
  • Using Primary Sources
  • What Makes Archives “Different”
  • Finding Primary Sources in an Archives
  • Making a Visit to the Archives
  • Online Primary Sources
  • Glossary of Terms about Archives
  • Flyer to Print out to Give Teachers

Information for Archivists, Librarians and Media Specialists

  • Introduction
  • Whether to Participate in NHD
  • Do’s and Don’ts for Archivists
  • Timeframe
  • Highlighting Your Collections
  • Best Practices: Some Examples
  • Preparing for Class Visits
  • Flyer to Print out to Give Archivists

I know a lot of archivists who love working with National History Day students, and hopefully this resource will encourage more collaboration between archivists, teachers, and NHD participants.

The new book is now available: A Different Kind of Web

It’s been a long time in the works, but my new book is now available for purchase from the SAA Bookstore (SAA Member price $49.95; everyone else $69.95). I say “my book” because I conceived the idea and lined up many many smart people to contribute. Don’t believe me? Here’s the table of contents:

Continue reading “The new book is now available: A Different Kind of Web”

How should NARA support user contributions to enhance description of collections?

Note, that’s not “Should NARA support user contributions,” it’s “How should NARA support user contributions.” The time has come for our National Archives to start drawing on the collective wisdom and energy of the Web to enhance its online descriptions. The question is, how should that best take place?

In considering this question, I was reminded of a previous post about how the “space” in which interaction takes places affects the quality/quantity of interaction. Building on that discussion, I can see several possible ways to proceed (although I’m sure there are others).

First, allowing users to add tags, comments, and additional information to the catalog records in ARC or to other descriptive information on the NARA site. Questions immediately arise about the level of moderation this would entail, both to avoid information with no value and potentially offensive information. Does the question of moderation arise if only tags are permitted? I think it would, although it certainly might involve less time. I would be surprised if NARA would allow users to post information on their site (even if the information were clearly differentiated from NARA-provided data) if it did not go through a moderation process, wouldn’t you? This also requires that users add their information within the current descriptive structure (Record groups, series, file units, etc. and as well to the the records for people and organizations). So this option is essentially allowing users to annotate and supplement NARA’s information within NARA’s current descriptive products.

A second option would be creating a separate space, still controlled and moderated by NARA, dedicated to collecting user-provided information along the lines of The National Archives (UK)’s Your Archives wiki. The advantage of this option is that it clearly separates user-provided information from “official” information, and also allows the user community more freedom in how it structures the information it provides (at least in the wiki model, users can add pages, etc.). In such a model there might be a greater reliance on the kind of community policing one sees in Wikipedia, where inaccurate information is identified and deleted by the community of interest for the topic. Clearly this kind of site would also have to be monitored or moderated. And, of course, it wouldn’t have to take the form Your Archives does, of one large resource that is sub-divided. Smaller topical “spaces” could be established, perhaps around areas that have an active community of interest (or for which information is particularly needed).

Another option would be to directly solicit the participation of researchers in the description of materials. If a researcher is working with a given group of records, there’s a good chance he or she may know more about the materials than the description reveals. Why not provide them with a template for providing descriptive information (and guidance about what information to provide) and let them take a crack at adding more to the description provided? Yes, of course, all of it would have to reviewed and some of it might be worthless, but there are many highly skilled researchers who might be able to provide either relatively complete descriptions or at least valuable supplementary material. NARA may even have developed its own online tutorials for its staff about how to write descriptions, which could be easily reworked as a tool to train researcher volunteers.

I don’t know about the viability of this idea, but I’ll throw it out there anyway. As a way of possibly mitigating “frivolous” tags, comments, and notes in Option #1, provide a “space” that’s dedicated to adding personal or creative content to collection descriptions. A place where people can essentially have tools to remix or annotate NARA’s content any way they want. (Yes, again, within the terms NARA would have to establish to ensure people weren’t creating offensive products.) But think about the potential for that one–galleries, exhibits, videos, performances? If it actually took off it could even the kind of thing where notable examples were highlighted on a regular basis. And, while we’re at it, why not actually make this area a larger playing field and have it also draw from the collections of the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress? That’s an idea, isn’t it?

But I wandered away from the issue of description. Still, providing an area for “play” might help keep the “serious” area more serious. Just a thought. Similarly, providing designated “discussion spaces” (in either of the first two options) might provide a channel for debate or information exchange other than the comments on the descriptive information.

In the comments on the earlier post I referred to above people also discussed the need to consider collaborative sites that the archives doesn’t control, created by communities of interest–either scholarly or not. “Partnering with a community, in a neutral space, as power equals” as one wise commenter put it. I feel as though I’m once again wandering away from the topic of user contributions to descriptions, but not entirely. Communities might be more inclined to share their knowledge in a space where they are “power equals.”

So, I’ve provided you with a range of options, from small steps that have already been implemented elsewhere to possibilities that might not yet exist anywhere. Can you add any other possibilities for harnessing the wisdom of NARA’s users? Which of the ideas above do you think has the most promise?

New poll question: when do you find the time to do social media for your archives?

I’m involved in a couple of other project rights now which is (as you may have noticed) cutting into my blogging time here. This is a temporary situation, have no fear. But, someone raised a question in one of those venues that I think all of you might be able to help answer. When do you find the time to engage in social media for your archives?

This brings up a question I have been wondering about. Blogging/FBing/Twittering archivists: are they composing and publishing during working hours, or are these projects they engage in outside of work? The archivists I’ve spoken to in person all do so outside of the office even when the account is officially sanctioned. Any thoughts?

Vote in the poll below (and add a comment too, if you want to explain your answer), sharing whether you participate in social media on behalf of your archives within working hours, after hours, or both.

Where do you find the time?

When do you engage with social media (blogs, Twitter, FB, Flickr, etc.) on behalf of your archives?

All outside of work hours
Entirely within work hours
Both–more outside than in
Both–more inside than out
Current Results

You can now buy a copy of “Web 2.0 Tools and Strategies for Archives and Local History Collections”

Yes, my book is now available—there’s a Neal-Schuman version (published in the US) and a Facet version (published in the UK). You can find them both on Amazon. Let me make this clear: this is not a scholarly book. I wrote the book that contained everything I thought anyone needed to know who was thinking about implementing social media in their archives, special collection, historical society, or local history collection. I wrote it to be practical. (You want a scholarly book? I’m working on that one for SAA. It’s going to be, if I do say so myself, really good. But that’s a whole different blog post.) You can see for yourself by looking at the table of contents on the Neal-Schuman site.

As I say in my Acknowledgments:

This book would not have possible without my own social network of friends and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter, and the wonderful community of people who have engaged in discussion of these issues with me on my blog, ArchivesNext. A friend joked that this would be a crowdsourced book, and in some ways, it is. The world of Web 2.0 is too large for anyone to keep up to date on everything that’s happening, and so I am happy to be part of a community of archivists working toward integrating Web 2.0 technology and thinking into our archival institutions.

One of the things I’m most pleased with are the interviews with so many archivists who have successfully implemented Web 2.0 tools. These interviews are usually a couple of pages long and focus on their own experiences and lessons learned. My thanks to these lovely people who contributed interviews (in order of appearance):

Sara Piasecki, Oregon Heatlth & Science University
Stephen Fletcher, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Gavin Freeguard, The Orwell Prize
Emma Allen and Joshua Shindler, The National Archives (UK)
Heather McClenahan, Los Alamos County Historical Society
Lin Fredericksen, Kansas State Historical Society
Julie Kerssen, Seattle Municipal Archives
Amy Schindler, The College of William and Mary
Katrina Harkness and Joshua Youngblood, State Library & Archives of Florida
Mark E. Harvey, Archives of Michigan
Ann Cameron, Gill Hamilton and James Toon, National Library of Scotland
David Hovde, Purdue University
Matt Raymond, The Library of Congress
Lauren Oostveen, Nova Scotia Archives
Molly Kruckenberg, Montana Historical Society
David Smith, Archives New Zealand
Tracey Baker, Minnesota Historical Society
Michele Christian, Iowa State University
Colleen McFarland, University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire
Tim Sherratt, National Archives of Australia
Matthew Davies, National Film & Sound Archive (Australia)

When I was writing the book I wanted to include as many real-world examples as possible to illustrate the different things archives and historical organizations are doing on the web. It was only when I was compiling the index that I realized just how many places I referenced. Here, for my amusement, and I hope yours, is a list of all the archives sites and organizations mentioned: Continue reading “You can now buy a copy of “Web 2.0 Tools and Strategies for Archives and Local History Collections””

Four “places” for archives to interact with users

So, building on the post from a few days ago with Clay Shirky’s observations about how to create a situation that will lead to fruitful collaboration with online users, I’m going to talk about four different “places” where archives invite user participation, and the kinds of implicit and explicit social contracts created by them. This is the first time I’m presenting these ideas, which need a lot more work and thinking through, but in the spirit of collaboration, I’m sharing them here in their raw form. Continue reading “Four “places” for archives to interact with users”

Example of wiki as an internal managment tool: The Archives Service Center at the University of Pittsburgh

This article was originally published in the July 2009 SAA Archives Management Roundtable newsletter, available at: I’m sure there are other archives doing similar things, but I think this implementation provides a useful example of how wiki software can help with internal coordination in addition to being a tool for outreach.

Ed Galloway, Head, Archives Service Center, University Library System, University of Pittsburgh

The Archives Service Center (ASC) at the University of Pittsburgh Library System implemented a wiki hosted by PBworks to better track and manage projects within the department. The ASC consists of five full-time archivists, two part-time archivists, two support staff and many part-time student assistants. Rather than relying on a whiteboard, email exchanges, or trail of Word documents, we needed a better way to know what projects are in the pipeline, their status and completion dates. Our wiki allows everyone in the department to read and update pages, including students, but it is not publicly accessible since it contains information on unprocessed collections and is designed to be used as an internal management tool.

Our wiki is divided into five sections. The Finding Aids section tracks what collection guides are in the process of being created, if they have been reviewed and by whom, if they are ready to be encoded, if they are encoded and ready to be mounted online, and if our ASC News page needs to be updated to announce the release of new research collections. This section also
includes a workflow for creating a finding aid and moving it through the appropriate steps to completion, including EAD mark-up.

The Collections section contains an inventory of unprocessed collections. While we are moving to implement Archivists’ Toolkit later this year, in the meantime this inventory has provided us with a snapshot of collection descriptions and processing tasks. Students conducted this inventory and entered the data in a template in the wiki. As a result of the inventory and storing the data on the wiki, the collection information is now accessible to everyone in the department. Previously, this information existed in three different places.

The third section of the wiki comprises Student Projects where anyone can share project ideas for undergraduate student interns (History majors) and graduate library school students. The ASC frequently employs 10-12 students per year who work on a variety of processing and other projects. We need to always be generating project ideas and needs.

The Use of Collections section is designed for staff to briefly describe interesting encounters with patrons or research requests or uses of our collections. We’re always seeking anecdotal information to share with administrators about how our collections are used. This wiki tool enables staff to easily record this information for everyone to see.

Lastly, our wiki contains a section on Digitization Projects where we list the description, scope and status of all scanning projects. The staff who play a part in our digitization program update the wiki every time material is transferred to/from the digitization department. We list ideas that we think would make good scanning projects. Our guidelines for creating metadata for
digitization projects are included on the wiki, again so that every member of the department has access to the same document at any time.

We will likely come up with other uses of the departmental wiki. For now, it has been an important management tool to track numerous projects and add a layer of transparency to all that we do. As a result, it has helped us be better organized within the department and build a sense of teamwork.

My thanks to Ed and the roundtable for allowing me to re-publish this article, and if you have any questions about the wiki I’m sure Ed would be happy to try to answer them.

It’s not really ready, but here’s the Archives 2.0 Wiki . . .

Ok, yes, I’ve been dragging my feet on this forever and have decided to walk the walk and not just talk the talk–so, even though it has lots of problems and it’s not perfect and I haven’t added all the content I want to …. here’s the Archives 2.0 wiki.

This is a replacement for the list of archives doing 2.0 stuff that I’ve had on this blog, but which was getting too long to be easily navigated. And the number of archives using these tools has exploded and I can’t keep up. Which is great news, and makes the wiki a natural step.

Like many archivists, I’m a bit of a control freak so I’m not super comfortable with opening the site up to editing. Because there’s a structure that I want to maintain and I’m not sure people will follow it properly. But, ok, let’s give it a try. Although the site has disclaimers that say you can’t edit it, right now, you can (if you register), so if you have something to add, please do so. If I find this isn’t working out, I’ll change the permissions and accept submissions via the email address: wiki [at] — which you can also use if you’re not comfortable editing and you want me to add your link. But be aware that it may take me a while to get around to it.

So, here it is, add your stuff and let me know if you think there should be new pages or sections. Remember it’s a work in progress. Hope you find it useful!

Digital Preservation Fallacies and Good Things from the Smithsonian

Yes, the posts seem to be coming fast and furious these days. If you missed yesterday’s post about Flickr, you should really go back and read it. I love that story.

I think everyone should take a look at “Excuse Me… Some Digital Preservation Fallacies,” an article posted at Ariadne back in 2006 that people have been writing about on Twitter lately. In it the author argues that the following commonly-held beliefs are fallacies:

1. Digital preservation is very expensive [because]
2. File formats become obsolete very rapidly [which means that]
3. Interventions must occur frequently, ensuring that continuing costs remain high.
4. Digital preservation repositories should have very long timescale aspirations,
5. ‘Internet-age’ expectations are such that the preserved object must be easily and instantly accessible in the format de jour, and
6. the preserved object must be faithful to the original in all respects.

There should be plenty of room for discussion there. Do you agree or disagree with Rusbridge’s arguments?

Also from Twitter, the bright shiny people who are working on bringing the Smithsonian into the modern age have published the “Smithsonian Institution’s Web and New Media Strategy (Version 1.0) on a wiki so that it is open to both staff and the public for discussion. This is an excellent model not only in terms of content but also process. There are people at the Smithsonian who clearly understand what that organization needs and are trying to bring that change about. One of the things that I find most valuable about this process is that they are being open about what they are doing and are trying to engage interested audiences in the conversation. If only we could see this kind of willingness to be open, change, and collaborate with stakeholders from our colleagues at the National Archives. I am optimistic that under the leadership of new Archivist David Ferriero we may see NARA evolve into an organization where initiatives of this kind are possible.