Monthly Archives: June 2008

Northwest Archivists 2008 Annual Conference: New Frontiers in Archives and Records Management

Session 10: Breaking the Ice: Protocols for Native American Archival Materials and Archivists in the Northwest.

(submitted by OSU Staff Archivist Karl McCreary)

A provocative examination of proposed protocols for Native American archival materials from three different perspectives formed the focus of this session. The protocols emerged from a 2006 meeting of 15 Native American and aboriginal information professionals and four non-native archivists. They were developed in large part to encourage dialog between Native American and non-Native American archivists regarding the best practices for the culturally responsive care and use of Native American archival material held by non-tribal organizations. The Northwest Archivists board has committed to revisiting these protocols at every annual meeting for at least five years, a process that began in 2007.

The session began with a presentation by Linda Wynne, records manager for the Sealaska Corporation, who illustrated through stories from her native Tlingit nation the importance of the repatriation of Native American artifacts to tribal cultures and identities. Telling the story of artifacts from her tribe sold to private collectors that were later returned (after years of lawsuits) to form the core of a tribal cultural heritage center, Linda emphasized that Native Americans view their historical material culture as having real value in contemporary society, and “don’t want to see our artifacts as something of the past” by being inaccessible in a distant museum.

Monique Lloyd, the second presenter in this session and a member of the Ojibwe nation and MLIS candidate in the Emporia State University program, gave a basic overview and history of the protocols that included some personal thoughts regarding what she’s learned “working in two worlds” as an archivist/librarian. Monique voiced the hope that the protocols can lead to a greater understanding of the different traditions of information access between the Native and non-native cultures, and that these differences can be respected over time. Emphasizing further communication as the key element in this process, Monique described how a tribal member might answer a question with a story rather than a linear “yes” or “no.” This presentation seemed to re-iterate the importance of historical materials to Native American culture, which was summed up by Monique’s comment: “We belong to the property; the property doesn’t belong to us.”

John Bolcer from the University of Washington offered a very different perspective on the protocols in the third and final presentation in this session. Looking at the protocols from the position of a non-tribal archives, John expressed concern that the protocols as currently written challenge the autonomy of archivists working in Non-Native American repositories and museums. According to Bolcer, one of the major problems is that the protocols define key concepts like “culturally sensitive” materials so vaguely that non-tribal institutions are forced to regard anything affiliated with Native American history or culture as culturally sensitive. Bolcer coupled this concern over the lack of guidelines for non-tribal archivists to follow with opposition to the protocols’ central assertion that Native American communities have primary rights to all materials referencing their culture, rather than just those directly generated by them. In Bolcer’s view, this basic tenet seeks to “control what is studied and written about Native American communities” and threatens “the practice of free and open inquiry upon my own institution depends.”

Despite voicing serious reservations about the protocols, John ended with several suggestions for their revision. One of the suggestions centered upon defining the concepts of “culturally affiliated” and “culturally sensitive” in much more detailed and “nuanced” way and recognition of the fact that being respectful of Native American perspectives and knowledge systems does not necessarily mean adaption of them.

The common theme throughout all three presentations seemed to be that further communication and understanding between Native American communities and non-tribal heritage professionals needs to continue and be encouraged. All the presenters agreed that the Protocols have definitely helped in starting and stimulating the discussion about tribal artifacts and archival materials.

More Sound Recordings in Best of the Archives!

We have added newly digitized versions of 20 sound recordings (all original 78 rpm disks) to the Best of the Archives. Many thanks to Nathan Georgitis at the University of Oregon for his work in the sound lab to digitize these recordings and to OSU’s Linda Kathman for loading them to Best of the Archives.

  • KOAC Records (RG 015)
    Foresters in Action, 1939: Alouette, Cruiser’s Song, George W. The Dean
  • Music Department Records (RG 148)
    Oregon State Marching Song (undated) & the Oregon State College Band’s OSC Medley, A Tribute to Beard (circa 1947)
  • Alumni Relations Records (RG 035)
    Songs of Oregon State College, circa 1950 (including Oregon State Creed, Hail to Old OSC, and Alma Mater) & Songs of Oregon State College: Within a Vale of Western Mountains, circa 1953 (including Alma Mater, Mighty Beavers, Storm King, Toast to the Team, and more)

Happy listening!

Northwest Archivists 2008 in Anchorage

Northwest Archivists 2008 Annual Conference
New Frontiers in Archives and Records Management
Anchorage, Alaska

Following are summaries for two of the sessions that I attended:

Session 1: The Integrated Digital Special Collections (INDI)
This session introduced the Integrated Digital Special Collections (INDI), an open-source archival management application developed at Brigham Young University. INDI is a web-based system designed with an emphasis on archival workflow and distributed processing activities. The session included an introduction to the project and demonstrations of the functional application modules and the INDI sandbox, and discussion of future directions for INDI development. Presenters were Brad Westwood, Cory Nimer, and Gordon Daines.

This application has some of the same goals as other open-source archival management applications, such as Archon and the Archivist’s Toolkit — but with a stronger emphasis on workflow and project management. The application currently has no public interface and is intended for staff use (BYU special collections has a permanent staff of ~15+ and employs about 40 student assistants).

Modules that were described or demonstrated:

  • Contact management system is used to to track donors and creators; using a single tool for both creator management (authority control) and donor/contact management has been problematic.
  • Help feature has been useful to staff; includes both “application assistance” (how to do something) and “data entry assistance” (what information and in what format is appropriate for a given field). Usability testing showed that staff use latter more than former.
  • Desktop search tool; have been retrospectively entering accessioning data, so this can serve as “one stop searching” tool.
  • Project management (with e-mail feature that allows e-mail discussions that are preserved within the system, linked to the project/collection); this is one of the most robust areas of the application.
  • Appraisal; breaks down appraisal of potential purchases/donations into detailed tasks. Probably most useful for a repository with an active acquisitions program in many areas.
  • Accessioning; this has been useful because many of the accessioning steps are actually done by student assistants.

The project team has experienced issues because several different programmers have worked on the project which have had different approaches to documentation and varying programming styles. The BYU Library is currently evaluating how to proceed with the project — whether to continue to invest in programming or to migrate to another system. They are especially interested in a system being developed by/for the ICA (International Council on Archives).

Session 7: New Modes of Access: Challenges and Opportunities for Archival Collections
This session focused on the development/implementation of WorldCat Local at University of Washington Libraries. Presenters were Nicole Bouche (UW Special Collections); Jennifer Ward (Head of Web Services for UW Libraries) and Mela Kircher (OCLC).

The session especially focused on the impact of WorldCat Local on archives/special collections. Several issues that were raised are:

  • “duplicate” titles — “split” collections at different repositories that the WorldCat Local algorithm considers as different editions …
  • duplicate records for a record in WorldCat submitted by a repository and a record for the same collection submitted by NUCMC (which were previously only in RLIN … but are being migrated to WorldCat).
  • WorldCat local does not serve as a collection-management system … does work well as a “discovery” tool
  • very limited notes displayed

Future enhancements to WorldCat Local will be:

  • more articles metadata
  • branch scoping (driven off 4-character location codes)
  • simple language facets
  • additional fields displayed (this is especially important for notes fields in archival MARC records)
  • federated search (may be able to search NWDA finding aids database)
  • reviews
  • FRBR/editions display improvements
  • improved WorldCat account authentication
  • tagging
  • improved reports

Elizabeth Nielsen
OSU Archives