2008 SAA Annual Conference San Francisco — Nielsen Highlights

Following are the highlights and major “take-aways” for me from the SAA conference last week in San Francisco. I also have detailed notes from the sessions and meetings I attended. If you would like to see them, please contact me directly at elizabeth.nielsen@oregonstate.edu.

First, my thanks to Academic Affairs for providing monetary support from Professional Faculty Development Funds as a match for Libraries’ funding. This was an excellent opportunity to learn about new initiatives in the profession, projects and programs at other repositories, and connect (or re-connect) with archival colleagues from across the U.S. West Coast and Northwest repositories were well-represented. The attendance of 1719 was the 3rd largest ever and the largest for a west coast meeting.

There were 10 concurrent sessions offered during most of the conference — so it’s necessary to “pick and choose”. I focused my attention on sessions that addressed the areas for which I have major responsibility here in the OSU Archives: arrangement and description (i.e. processing and preparing finding aids for collections) and the curation of moving image materials (films and videotapes).

Common topics were the application of minimal-level processing; user studies (of everything); evolution of standards; incorporating social networking/web 2.0 technologies; mass digitization of archival materials, and electronic records. When I attended SAA in 2001, there was still a fair amount of skepticism about EAD both in presentations and in the hallway conversations. By this meeting in 2008, EAD is clearly widely accepted and adopted (as is DACS as the content standard); the application of minimal-level processing is widespread; user studies are all the rage; and mass digitization of archival materials is on the horizon.

Themes, highlights, and take-aways:

  • Archivists’ Toolkit has been broadly adopted (>1300 implementers) and is here to stay. AT is an open-source archival collection-management system with modules for accessioning, physical control, and description. I will be preparing a recommendation that we (OSU Archives) adopt it.
  • The OSU Archives is on par or ahead of other repositories in many areas (IR, adoption of MPLP, EAD/MARC, digital collections) — go Beavs! … and everyone is struggling with electronic records. I was disappointed that several presentations reported on projects/sites that are not (yet) publicly available.
  • As a profession, we are grappling with the importance of “contextual” information and hierarchical arrangement of materials in an environment in which our users report they want a specific document and we are increasingly delivering individual items as digital objects.
  • Mass digitization of archival materials is being tested in some repositories and will be necessary in order to provide the digital content that our users seek. Is this microfilming for the 21st century?
  • Atlas Systems (of ILLiad fame) has developed a patron request software application that allows users to request boxes from within an EAD finding aid. This may be something that will be useful to NWDA.
  • The next major archival standard will be Encoded Archival Context (EAC) — which will consist of EAC-CPF (for corporate bodies, persons, and families) and EAC-F (functions). This will allow for more robust authority records for archival collections creators. EAC-CPF will be out in the next 6-12 months.
  • We will also see more focus on resource discovery and access — building on the strong standards base of DACS, EAD, and EAC.
  • Providing moving images in short “clips” on-line (streaming) makes them more useful to K-12 teachers and also provides access for review to film producers (who are frequently on short deadlines).
  • And … the two major vendors of archival supplies (Metal Edge and Hollinger) have merged — [actually, Metal Edge bought Hollinger].

Many, many thanks to Archivist Karl for holding down the fort here while the rest of us traveled to SAA.

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