“Archives in Context and as Context” in Journal of Digital Humanities

I was very pleased to be asked to contribute a piece to the Journal of Digital Humanities. They wanted something that would expand on the discussion on this blog about the use of the phrase “archival silences,” which was itself a follow up on the discussion about the use of the word “archives.” In the course of writing it and responding to thoughtful feedback from wise friends, I decided to drop the archival silences angle and just tackle the use of the word “archives” head on. This certainly isn’t all that could be said about archives for a digital humanities audience, but it’s a start. The most important thing is for archivists to get actively involved in the digital humanities, particularly those people working in college and university settings. I’m a big believer in the potential work in the digital humanities has for bringing archival and special collections material to life. If you want to read something to get you inspired, look no further than “What Is Digital Humanities and What’s it Doing in the Library?” by Micah Vandegrift. I wish I had written something like that. But I took a different route. I wrote “Archives in Context and as Context.” I’m sure people will have opinions about it. I look forward to hearing them.

Applications for QR codes in archival settings?

This week I’ve been participating as a guest in Kim Anderson’s online course, “Archival Outreach: Programs and Services,” offered through the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The class has been using A Different Kind of Web as one of their core texts, so it’s great for me to see how the book works in the classroom. (Short answer: apparently very well.)

In the discussion board, Susan Garwood mentioned attending the AAM meeting recently and hearing a lot about the use of QR codes. So I asked her about how she thought they could be used in archival settings, and here’s her answer:

We’ve been exploring all ranges of archival outreach including exhibits so, although traditionally a museum function, QR codes can help augment archives outreach in an exhibition as well.  Another area could be on a take away piece.  A brochure or bookmark that might link to the archives on Facebook, a map to the institution, or the museum’s website or blog.  Or perhaps on the outside of the archives (below the hours sign that might link to a contact form).  Within an exhibit, as you know, you can’t put a full transcription of a document within the exhibit and a QR code could link to that.  Anywhere that visitors interact with a document or artifact. I suppose, however, it could be an internal management tool.  I’ve heard of some artifacts being barcoded and having a reader allows you to scan the object and see its documentation which might be helpful in collection retrieval and management within the storage space.

Some of those applications sound very promising. I’ve been skeptical about QR codes, so I thought I would throw it open to the readers. Have any of you used QR codes or know another repository that is using them? What has the response been?

UPDATE: It has been called to my attention that I neglected to cite an important resource in the discussion on QR codes in archives, so here, with my apologies for the omission is: “Put a QR code on it!” Thanks, Rebecca!

Finally, someone’s planning a PBS show on “Treasures of the Special Collections” and maybe you can be on it

Although why they went with “special collections” and not “archives,” given how popular the latter is and how no one cares about its technical definition, is beyond me. Note the April 20 deadline.

According to the Association of Research Libraries site:

Call for Story Ideas: Public TV Series to Highlight Special Collections

Penn State Public Broadcasting (WPSU) is developing a national public television series called Treasures of the Special Collections—that the producers see as a cross between History Detectives and Antiques Roadshow—to tell stories found in the special collections of research libraries. The producers are currently developing a funding proposal and are seeking help to identify story ideas to be cited in a written description of a hypothetical first season.

Stories could come from a number of angles. They could be researcher driven, e.g., a mysterious artifact’s purpose is revealed; perhaps an author uncovers a piece of information that sheds new light on a famous discovery; or a totally new line of discovery is initiated due to previously unused sources. A story could be curator driven—showing off myriad wonders in a single collection—with artifacts as old as medieval manuscripts or as contemporary and spontaneous as the “Africa Responds to Obama” collection of artifacts/memorabilia at Northwestern University that sprang up in the wake of the 2008 election. There could be a story about how a collection came into being—perhaps a profile of someone even now in the process of donating his or her life’s work or personal collection to a library.

The producers feel that this series holds great potential for increasing awareness and appreciation for special collections and research libraries and our mission—to preserve and protect primary sources and to make them accessible—fostering the notion that it is the use of special collections that makes them special. If you are interested in engaging this project, by April 20 please send brief descriptions of your story ideas (and links to related material) to WPSU producer Kristian Berg (kristian@psu.edu).

My Version of Trendswatch 2012: The Archives Edition

I just quickly looked over the inaugural issue of Trendswatch, a new annual report from the American Association of Museums’s Center for the Future of Museums.

The inaugural issue of TrendsWatch—TrendsWatch 2012: Museums and the Pulse of the Future—highlights seven trends that CFM’s staff and advisors believe are highly significant to museums and their communities, based on scanning and analysis over the past year:

  • Crowdsourcing
  • Threats to Nonprofit Status
  • Mobile, distributive experiences
  • New forms of funding
  • Creative Aging
  • Augmented reality
  • Shifts in Education

For each trend, the report provides a summary, examples of how the trend is playing out in the world, comments on the trend’s significance to society and to museums, dozens of links to relevant news and research and suggestions for ways that museums might respond.

Download a copy of the report here

Needless to say the report is worth reading. But naturally my mind jumped immediately to what kind of list an equivalent group would makes for archives. I think the results would be somewhat different, don’t you? Since I don’t have the resources to assemble such a panel of experts, I just came up with a list of my own:   Continue reading “My Version of Trendswatch 2012: The Archives Edition”

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.

Contest: Want to become a star on Google+ and hangout with Ted and Jamal from the Coke Archives?

This Thursday at 2:00 EST Ted Ryan and Jamal Booker from the famous Coca-Cola Archives will be hosting a live Google+ Hangout giving people a behind the scenes look at their fantastic collections and a chance to ask questions in real time. You can read more about it here and here.

While anyone will be able to attend the hangout and ask questions, there will also be eight people featured on the main screen below the main event and who will be part of the live conversation. Ted and Jamal would like some of those featured people to be representatives from the archival community and so they’ve asked me to help put out the call for volunteers. It’s a great opportunity, so if you’re free on Thursday afternoon and have a webcam and a microphone, here’s your chance to become a Google+ star.

All you need to do is leave a comment below stating why you want to participate or why you think you’d be a good choice to represent the archival perspective. Ted and Jamal will review the comments and select the winner(s). Remember that you’ll be part of the live conversation so you need to be prepared to participate and ask questions. Please leave your comment no later than 2 pm [EST] on Wednesday. Let me know if you have any questions and don’t be shy about entering. This is your chance at 4 x 15 minutes of fame!

Articles Discussing Changes for Facebook

Unless you’ve been unplugged for the past few days, you’ve probably already heard about the big changes that are coming soon at Facebook. Way more than those pesky little changes in your newsfeed. Your personal profile will become your Timeline aka “a scrapbook of your life.” Mashable has an excellent summary of the changes here. I haven’t even started to wrap my brain around the implications of this for collecting repositories.

But the smart people at Mashable have started to wrap their brains around the implications of the changes for “marketers.” And like it or not, most archives are now forced to try to be marketers on Facebook. Here’s their “What Facebook’s Changes Mean for Marketers.” In a nutshell, the “like” button will still be available, but there will be other options. From the article, in language that might be a tad exaggerated in terms of archives and the cultural heritage community (but maybe not?):

The change will require new thinking from marketers who had merely tried to accumulate as many fans and “Likes” as possible. Jenna Lebel,managing director of strategy at Likeable Media, says the “Like” is “a little less relevant now,” and that marketers will have to work harder to earn their place in news feeds. “Your content is going to need to be absolutely amazing,” she says.

And last, but by no means least, this article from the New York Times, with a headline that should come as a surprise to no one: “Cory Doctorow: Tech Companies Exploit the Way We Undervalue Privacy.” Still, it’s fascinating reading and a little scary after reading about how much Facebook wants users to share about their lives.


Archives and history on Kickstarter

I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. This is the first in (I hope) a regular series of posts highlighting projects on Kickstarter that relate to archives and history. Here’s a short list of what’s available for you to help fund today:

And if you’re skeptical that Kickstarter really works for organizations like archives, read about the successful proposal by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum to raise funds to preserve “key artifact from a defining moment in popular music . . . a historic sign from Max Yasgur’s farm, the site of the groundbreaking Woodstock festival.” The Museum raised over $12,000 on Kickstarter

If you know of any other relevant projects on Kickstarter, please let me know and I hope I’ll be able to make this a regular feature of the blog.

And although this post was inspired by looking for projects to take screen caps of for a presentation next week at SAA, it’s possible I was also given a bit of a nudge by Trevor Owens’ excellent post, The Digital Humanities Are Already on Kickstarter.

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”

Today IS AskArchivists Day on Twitter!

It seemed so far away, and yet it’s here–today is AskArchivists Day on Twitter! So remember, you can participate in two ways–you can ask questions or answer them. Or you can just follow along and watch the conversation. For information, go to the site page: http://askarchivists.wordpress.com/. And kudos to the people who put the project together and all those volunteering to participate. I’m really looking forward to seeing the results.