Links that deserve their own posts, but not getting them

Right, so, all of these deserve their own long, thoughtful posts, but that’s not going to happen any time soon, so instead, here are some great stories to look at:

So, what’s going on here? (Independence Day edition)

That was the title of my very first post, and it seemed appropriate to reference it for this one. Hopefully some of you noticed that I’ve sort of fallen off the grid since I returned from the ACA meeting in Halifax in June and I think I owe you a bit of an explanation. Continue reading “So, what’s going on here? (Independence Day edition)”

Advice requested on digitization of loaned items

I’m posting this question on behalf on an archivist who is in need of advice.

I recently started a new position as the head of a digital projects unit in an academic library. Special collections has a policy of allowing patrons to loan materials for duplication and use on our website. Patrons sign a loan agreement form which gives us permission to publish the resulting images online, although not having seen the language I’m not sure how airtight that is. My main issues of concern are: disruption of digitization workflow (these requests can be time-consuming and take time away from digitizing in-house collections); perception of the end-user (even with a disclaimer, will users understand that physical items cannot be consulted?); and possible future arguments regarding copyright/permissions. I’m wondering how many institutions out there engage in duplication of loaned items and if so, what guidelines they have in place for that? Any opinions on the subject or references to literature/blog entries, etc. on the subject would be appreciated.

Please help if you can. Thanks.

Essential reading, available for free: Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitization for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums

I don’t often recommend books here, but I think this one will be absolutely essential reading for most archivists and related professionals. Here’s the abstract:

Digital communications technologies have led to fundamental changes in the ways that cultural institutions fulfil their public missions of access, preservation, research, and education. Institutions are developing publicly-accessible websites in which users can visit online exhibitions, search collection databases, access images of collection items, and in some cases create their own digital content. Digitization, however, also raises the possibility of copyright infringement. “Copyright and Digitization” aims to assist understanding and compliance with copyright law across libraries, archives, and museums. It discusses the exclusive rights of the copyright owner, the major exemptions used by cultural heritage institutions, and stresses the importance of “risk assessment” when conducting any digitization project. It also includes two cases studies, examining digitizing oral histories and student work.

Written by Peter Hirtle and two colleagues from the University of Melbourne’s Law School,
Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitization for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums
is available via a free download here or you can purchase a hardcopy for the very reasonable price of $39.95.

Personal archives and collections

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in over a week, but I’m sure you’ll understand when I explain (there is archival content at the end, I promise!). I have a major non-archives event coming up in October–I’m getting married, actually. Although this is not a very large or fancy event, it does involve the usual rush of logistics in the last few weeks. We also decided to host a brunch at our house, and you can understand that this stimulated a desire to fix up “a few things” which involves being available for the people we hired to do the fixing for us. We also decided to re-arrange the furniture in some of the rooms, including the room where I have my home office. Which meant that all my files came out of the filing cabinet before it was moved. Naturally enough, this kicked off some consideration of what material really needed to be kept or at least kept in the filing cabinet. I am not a good record keeper. I have an unfortunate tendency to keep things because they might be useful later. I have a lot of ideas and projects and many piles of paper relating to them. I think I need to take some time and do some re-appraisal of my personal archives. I also need to wrap up some work I need to do prior to the various October deadlines for SAA and MARAC. My usual habit of waiting until the last minute will simply not work this year. So, for all these reasons, my postings here will be less frequent until early November. My apologies, but I’m sure you’ll understand.

There are two articles I read in the past few days that interested me and I thought some people might not have seen. The first was in the New York Times, “Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? (Part One)” by Errol Morris. Morris is a documentary filmmaker who ends up making a trek to the Crimea to try to uncover the truth about a controversial sequence of historical photographs–but only after considering the evidence presented in documentary sources and the opinions of several historians of photography. I found it fascinating, and thought it might be useful as a case study of the hazards of trying to project motivations onto the creators of the items in our collections. I’m looking forward to Part 2.

More closely allied to my experience with my personal archives is a blog post from’s “Ask the Pilot” column. Normally Patrick Smith, an airline pilot, writes (as you would expect) about issues relating to the airline industry and the experiences we all face when we fly. In this post, he writes instead about his contribution to “Taking Things Seriously: 75 Objects With Unexpected Significance.” The items from his personal collection that he writes about in the book are “a pair of ceramic insulator pegs that I appropriated from the grounds of the former Birkenau concentration camp, in southern Poland, during a visit there in 1995.” His post discusses how he acquired them and their possible significance in his personal collection; he also discusses the item he had selected as his back-up submission for the book: a human jawbone. I won’t attempt to summarize how he ended up with that.

It’s articles like these that end up getting printed, and filed (or not filed) and which I must now attempt to get under some semblance of physical and intellectual control. Does anyone have any pointers about organizing your own personal papers? If not, just wish me luck!

My first foray into family archives

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but when I explain I think you’ll understand. Last Wednesday, July 4, was my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. We didn’t have a very fancy celebration, and unlike a lot of other families (I think), we didn’t put together a scrapbook or memory book ahead of time. However, a few days before the celebration, I opened up one the large drawers into which family photographs are tossed and started pulling things out. This rapidly turned into a project. I sat with my parents and went through stacks of photographs trying to identify people I didn’t recognize from the very old pictures. After the celebration, each of my siblings left with a bag of relevant photographs to take away, and I left with a car full of boxes. Most of what I took this time are not original photographs or documents, but piles and piles of genealogical information gathered by my mother about her family. She was quite obsessed with it, at one time, but has moved on to other projects. I did take the original materials related to my father’s family–it’s a smaller collection, and my father had no objections to my taking it away to scan the materials and organize them.

I don’t know if this is true of other archivists, but I have always stayed as far away as possible from genealogy and family history. However, it’s clear that I’m the family member who is going to pick up this responsibility, so I might as well get started on it. I’ve spent some time on (of course) and its sister site taking a look at the tools they have available for recording and sharing family history. And I looked around on the website of the historical society in the county my father’s family is from–and I was able to send my parents links to quite a few photographs of our family which have been made available online.

As you can imagine based on my interests, I’m looking for ways that people are documenting and sharing their family histories online, and in how companies (and archives) are making records available to meet the needs of family history researchers. If anyone has any favorite sources, please let me know.

For some time now I’ve also been trying to convince my mother to donate her family’s papers to an archives. I found the appropriate repository, confirmed that they would be interested in the donation, but was surprised when at first my mother was not interested. Well, I should say she was interested in providing the archives with copies of the materials, but not the originals. It has taken many conversations about the function and value of archives, but I think I have almost brought her around. And I think I might be able to identify some materials that that county historical society might be interested in from my father’s family too.

I realize that genealogy and family history aren’t exactly “next” topics for most archivists, but I can’t be the only one who now finds herself in the role of a potential donor of materials or user (rather than provider) of information. Perhaps we can get a session topic out of this–or at least a support group for those of us who now find ourselves being archivists as home as well as at work.

A short break

I’m sorry to be taking a break just when things are so interesting, but I’m not so sorry to be spending two weeks in Europe. Please feel free to keep posting comments on any of the older items, or on this one if something occurs to you.

I’ll be going (almost) straight to ALA when I get back, and I’m sure there will be some great material from that meeting.