Northwest Archivists Annual Conference 2007

Northwest Archivists Annual Conference
Moscow, Idaho
18-19 May 2007

As always, it’s a pleasure to attend this small conference (about 75-100 attendees) and connect in person with regional colleagues. In 2008, the NWA will hold its first annual conference in Anchorage! Here’s a summary of the sessions I attended.
Friday Plenary Session: NARA (National Archives) Strategic Planning

Thomas Mills provided an overview of the National Archives collections and programs and the recent strategic planning process. Key challenges and strategies that have emerged are:

  • embed records management in business processes of federal agencies to deal more effectively with electronic records; are working on “plug in” modules that can be added to IT systems to facilitate records management
  • gain control over huge backlog of unprocessed holdings
  • de-classification and re-classification
  • preservation and security
  • electronic records archives
  • re-envisioning the nature of research services and environment; fewer researchers are doing genealogical research in NARA research rooms because many of the most frequently used records have been digitized by vendors and are now available through commercial (or non-profit) sites
  • developing public/private partnerships; affiliated archives program plus more
  • civic literacy – bringing people into the archives that are not researchers

Panel: Building a National Archival Network: Roles of National and Regional Projects and Organizations

Panel members were: Ann Lally (UW); Leigh Grinstead (CDP@BCR); Max Evans (NHPRC); and Steve McCann (Digital Projects Librarian at UMontana). The panel chair/facilitator was our own Jodi Allison-Bunnell.

Most of this discussion focused on how to move regional projects and organizations to sustainable programs. Some of the ideas from panelists:

  • strong partners that are able to “institutionalize” a project as part of daily operations
  • finding a “sugar daddy” that is not a federal agency
  • affiliating with a university or other cultural heritage organization
  • make the member organizations your customers and provide the services they need
  • partner with “for profit” organizations

Session: Regional Film Preservation Projects

This was a more traditional session with presentations about several regional projects:

Alex Merrill (WSU) described a film preservation project recently undertaken at WSU for the J. Elroy McCaw Memorial Film Collection. A subset of the Collection (55 films) was transferred to digital format and described with detailed metadata. The digital files currently reside in an “unpublished” ContentDM collection – planning to provide streaming files.

Nicolette Bromberg (UW) described the Washington Film Preservation Project, lead by UW, which preserved films from 9 institutions in Washington; offered preservation clinics; and transferred a subset of films (92 reels) to digital masters. UW and OCLC have applied for a $0.5 million grant from IMLS for a 2-year project in Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

Anne Frantilla (Seattle Municipal Archives) described her repository’s successful participation in the Washington Film Preservation Project. As a result of the project they had about 11,000 feet of film preserved (cleaned, cored, and canned) and 3-5 films transferred to digital master. Through the project they gained experience working with films; learned more about their film holdings; and are able to provide better access to films.

Session: Using Expressive Metadata Formats to Support Preservation in Digital Repositories

Presenters were Al Cornish, Greg Matthews, and Jon Scott — all from WSU Libraries. This session was way over my head. But what I did learn was the distinction between metadata used for resource “discovery” and metadata for resource “harvesting”. The presenters talked about metadata schemes that are more robust that OAI-PMH – such as mpeg21 didl and mets as well as the Object Reuse and Exchange (ORE) protocol, which supports harvesting so that an an object can be re-used, re-purposed, etc.

Saturday Plenary Session: The White Glove Treatment: Using Special Collections in the Literature Classroom

Augusta Rohrbach, a WSU English faculty member, eagerly described her use of special collections materials for a history of American literature class. She has taught a similar course at Oberlin, Brown, and WSU – and has learned that repositories at all of these places have primary source materials that are appropriate for this course which focuses on the material context for literary history. She emphasized the “situational and regional” approach to learning literature and the importance of students learning from period publications and published artifacts. For the most recent offering of the class (spring semester 2007), there were 8 students in a 300-level class; project was to prepare a display using primary materials for the special collections reading room. Their project report included not only what they chose to include (and why) but what they left out … or what they couldn’t find.

This was an excellent presentation and a great example of the way that primary sources can be incorporated into undergraduate instruction.

Session: Archivists in Web 2.0 World: How Can We Make Social Software Tools Work for Us?

This was an excellent session with two OSU presenters (Anne-Marie and Tiah). Anne-Marie introduced Web 2.0 by focusing on four main points:

  • web as platform
  • user focus (users interact with each other)
  • micro-content (songs vs albums as new unit of measure for music; individual images or film clips … not photographic collections or full films). This has significance for archives; we emphasize context as essential in describing materials and we have typically described materials at the collection or sub-collection level – only rarely at the individual “item”-level. Current trends are toward even less granular description. Ummm… we are working in interesting times …
  • radical openness

See Ann-Marie’s blog for links. Tiah described various Web 2.0 applications that are being used by archivists:

  • blogs and wikis
  • flickr
  • rss feeds
  • second life (the digital archivist)

She encouraged all to explore/experiment in order to become aware/familiar with the tools our researchers (and future donors of materials) are using.

Ann Lally (UW) described the project at UW to add links in Wikipedia articles to UW digital collections; also created Wikipedia articles where there was no appropriate article Strongly suggested becoming a “registered user”.

Here is a link to her May 2007 D-Lib magazine article about the project.

Elizabeth Nielsen

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