Category Archives: Conference Reports

Trip report: “Local Treasures — Special Collections and Archives in the Portland Area”


Who doesn’t love a guest blogger? Monique Lloyd, who staffs our desk 2 days a week and is a prolific blogger in her own right, sent me this report on her journey to Portland last Friday to attend the “Local Treasures — Special Collections and Archives in the Portland Area” workshop. sadly, I couldn’t go — happily, Monique could and she’s written a wonderful post (yes, with pictures attached).

First off, always the archivist, I have to establish the historical context by answering the question “What was this event?”

Workshop Description: The Portland area is rich in primary documents and historical records. Learn about the wonderful resources available in local archives and special collections, and their availability to the public, in this training at Multnomah County Central Library. Archivists and librarians will be available to talk about their collections.

I had the pleasure of attending this workshop, sponsored by PORTALS (Portland Area Library Association for Continuing Education), and held at the Central Branch of the Multnomah County Library on December 4th. The three hour program was organized by Roberta Richards, and the discussion was moderated by Bob Kingston, who are both librarians at Portland Community College. Presenters from archives, museums, libraries, and special collections discussed their institutions and treasures.

The Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Shawn Gandy informed us that the Library was founded in 1899 and began as a way to collect stories related to Oregon and Oregon Country. She explained how OHS is involved in the Oregon History Project which is online and organized around subject searches and that 100% of their books and 95% of their serials are cataloged online.

The City of Portland Archives and Records Center

Diana Banning shared that the archives began in 1851 beginning with mayoral records and the collection now includes a quarter of a million photographs, many of which are contained in project records.

The Multnomah County Archives

Terry Baxter told us that records were first kept by the County Clerk, mainly on microfilm, and in the late 1970’s began using records management. Most records began in 1915 and there are some large gaps. They are considering using targeted digitization in the future.

Central Library’s John Wilson Special Collections

Jim Carmin described the Special Collections as having six primary collections: the history of the book from mid 13th century to the present; children’s literature, both contemporary and historical; Oregon history; natural history with a focus on ornithology and roses; English literature, and Native American literature. The collection began in 1964, has over 10,000 items and their primary goal is increasing access. They are also in the process of pulling books, as appropriate, from the library collection and putting them in the archives.

Oregon Jewish Museum

Anne Prahl explained that this museum is 20 years and started with volunteers showing exhibits in different locations. In the 1970’s they merged with the Jewish Historical Society. The museum collects art and artifacts that illustrates the story of the Jewish experience in Oregon. They have 350 oral history interviews of Jewish community members going back to 1880. Their focus is on exhibits and they work often with Portland schools. The collection includes photographs, correspondence, scrapbooks, ephemera, diaries, minute books, ledgers, and family papers as well as organizational records.

Oregon State Library

Dave Hegeman began with discussing the OSL in general, stating that it was founded in 1906, and that its mission is to preserve Oregon documents and serve state officials as well as citizens. Their Special Collections include historic Oregon documents and WPA federal worker’s projects including manuscripts, photographs, and local histories. They also house historic photographs, with more than 5,000 online, the Oregon Index which is card index to Portland and Salem newspapers from 1900-1986, as well as maps of Oregon and the Northwest from the 1850’s to the present.

Lewis and Clark College Special Collection

Robyn Ward (for Doug Erickson). Robyn is a Serials Technical Specialist at Lewis and Clark and a fellow Emporia Oregon-7 graduate who earned an Archives Studies Certificate as well as her MLS. She graciously offered to fill in for Doug at the very last minute. Lewis and Clark has a large collection on the Lewis and Clark expedition as well as collections of Pacific Northwest poetry and literature, and the William Stafford archives.


The workshop ended with a discussion about digitizing and the importance of developing a collection policy to determine what to accept and what not to accept. Following the workshop, Jim Carmin invited participants to tour the Central Library’s collection. Special treats included Beatrix Potter’s scarce first illustrated book, the exquisite A Happy Pair, held in only a dozen public collections worldwide, and The Birds of America by John James Audubon.

A wonderful resource page for the workshop is available on the Northwest Central webpage and can be found here.

Northwest History & Heritage Extravaganza

Breaking news for all those interested in the 2009 Northwest History & Heritage Extravaganza– the full preconference program has been released.
What’s worth seeing? In addition to hundreds of really great attendees, here what to look for:

  • Informative and inspiring presentations, including one by Pulitzer Prize winning author M. Scott Momaday
  • More than 40 panels and tours devoted to the important topics and challenges of Northwest history and heritage
  • Great interactive workshops
  • Unique interdisciplinary panels that challenge your understanding of historical information and heritage practices
  • Young scholars and veteran historians showing their recent discoveries
  • An exhibit hall and poster sessions full of information, ideas, and networking

See you there!

“Keeping the User in Mind: User Experience and the Modern Library” takeaways

Keep it simple, usable, useful, desirable, valuable, findable, credible, and accessible.

We can learn from the Google User Experience Team:

  • focus on people
  • every millisecond counts
  • simplicity matters
  • engage, beg, and attract experts
  • dare to innovate
  • design for the world
  • plan for today and tomorrow’s biz
  • delight eye without distracting mind
  • be worthy of people’s trust
  • add a human touch

For the virtual users, aim for simplicity and convenience. In our physical spaces, aim for comfortable and productive environments.

Users are more interested in shared experiences and less interested in material stuff/products (not sure I agree with this one!)

If you’d like to know more, included how to learn more, check here:

  • Sadeh, T (2008) “User Experience in the Library: a Case Study” New Library World 109 (1/2)
  • Usability Professionals Association
  • The Interaction Design Association
  • The User Experience Network
  • Bell & Shank (2007): Academic Librarianship by design: a blended librarian’s guide to the tools & techniques
  • Kunlavsky, M (2003). Observing the User Experience: a Practitioner’s Guide to User Research

Tiah’s SAA Report

Though we only got one day of fog, it was quite nice to be back in my old stomping ground. I met up with lots of people I had worked with and gone to grad school with; catching up is always a treat. I also walked, walked, walked up and down those famous SF hills– again, a great treat!


Wednesday night I met 4 of the members of my online study group for last year’s Certified Archivist exam– nice to put faces to names, lots of emails & chat sessions, and reams of notes. We were also asked to speak at the CA certification forum. It was quite interesting meeting those who designed the test!

Of course, the stand-out of Thursday was my own session… Finding Aids 2.0 was the general topic, with my own talk looking at how social software tools are likely to change the relationship between the archivist and user. You can view the text for it (Archives for the People and by the People: Exploring the Dynamic, Interactive, and Changing Nature of the Relationship Between Archivist and User in a Web 2.0 World) on the SAA conference site. Rumor has it there were over 500 people there!

RAO Section meeting: For the most part, this was a standard business meeting… But one thing that was quite interesting was hearing the results of the MPLP Basic Processing Satisfaction Survey. As expected, the respondents varied, collections varied, and satisfaction varied; however, there was more confirmation that the profession is moving towards this model of processing.

Manuscript Section meeting: 3 excellent presentations by Kate Theimer, Stephen Fletcher, and Paul Hedges.
Since they have a great synopsis of the session, please look at the SAA wiki.

Erika and I were honored to honor Monique at the Awards Ceremony where we clapped loudly when she received one of the two 2008 Howard T. Pinkett Minority Student Awards.

Another stand-out for me was the session I attended Saturday morning on the redesign of the Online Archive of California (OAC). Here is the Session Description from SAA Site. Tuesday of the following week I had a chance to meet with Rachel Hu, their user experience expert, and tour the California Digital Library in downtown Oakland.
Finally, Erika and I capped off the conference with a great lunch in ChinaTown and the session “A California Feast: Documenting the Wine and Food Revolution.” It was a wonderful capstone and a REALLY interesting session featuring Darryl Morrison, Victor Geraci, Cecilia Chiang, and Darrell Corti. For those who are interested, here is the Session Description from SAA Site.

And, as an aside, Ella got to revisit the place of her birth!

Thanks again to the library for supporting this trip and for Karl for holding down our fort!

Larry’s summary of the 2008 Society of American Archivists meeting

The 2008 Society of American Archivists meeting was held in San Francisco on August 27-31 at the Hilton San Francisco. Elizabeth Nielsen and I took an early morning flight from PDX to SFO, and arrived in downtown San Francisco mid morning. The concurrent sessions I attended focused on three areas — Native American archival collections (specifically the Native American Protocols developed by SAA and tribal archivists), digitization and digital collections, and electronic records.

I wanted to catch a Wednesday morning forum on SAA’s Protocols for Native American Archival Materials, which are guidelines pertaining to how archives and library special collections acquire, manage, use, make available and exhibit Native American related materials, particularly those that may be culturally sensitive. The forum was disappointing — more an update on where the discussion of the protocols was administratively than discussion on the substance of the protocols. Fortunately one of the regular meeting sessions was devoted to this (more later). After lunch at a great Thai restaurant with an old friend and colleague now at Northern Arizona University, I attended the Native American Archives roundtable. (SAA’s roundtables are semi-formal groups pertaining to specific areas of interest.) I then ventured to the San Remo, the hotel in the North Beach area where Elizabeth, Tiah, and I were staying. It is an easy 15 minute cable car ride from downtown.

Day two began early with a 7:30 breakfast and informal gathering of representatives of various EAD and digital collections consortia. Jodi Allison-Bunnell and I represented NWDA; also at the table were representatives from the Online Archive of California, the Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online (a new consortium based largely on the NWDA), North Carolina’s Expanding Cultural Heritage Online (ECHO), and a consortium of Philadelphia area special collections. Each group shared information about current activities, concerns, and future plans. Sustainability was a common theme for several of the consortia. This was one of the better informal group meetings that I attended. Unfortunately it ran well into the first round of concurrent sessions, and I only caught the Q&A portion of “YourSpace, MySpace, Dspace? Finding a Place for Institutional E-Records.” Fortunately Elizabeth Nielsen also attended this session; please see her section of this report.

After grabbing a quick (and overpriced) sandwich from the Starbucks in the hotel lobby, I attended a brown bag lunch session for State Historical Records Advisory Board members and staff (I am on Oregon’s SHRAB). The gist of the session were two appeals. The first was from the director of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (the National Archives’ grants division) with that agency’s annual appeal for lobbying for funding. The current administration has zeroed out the agency’s budget, and it relies on Congress to restore it each year. The director of the NHPRC asked me specifically for the name of someone who could lobby David Wu (Oregon 1st District U.S. Rep.), who is her neighbor in D.C. I suggested George Vogt, executive director of the Oregon Historical Society, since George is well connected and OHS is in Wu’s district. The second appeal came from both NHPRC and COSA, the Council of State Archivists; it was for lobbying congressional members (particularly Republicans in western states) to support the “Preserving the American Historical Record” Act. This act would provide a consistent, annual level of funding to each state to be re-granted to governments, archives and historical societies — similar to the LSTA funds distributed by IMLS. The act calls for an annual appropriation of $50 million; Oregon’s share would be $684,672, and the grants would likely be done through the SHRAB. The session was informative, but I was hoping to come away with some ideas on how Oregon’s SHRAB could be re-energized.

Thursday afternoon’s session was “Native American Archives Protocols — Different Perspectives.” This was the discussion that I had hoped for on Wednesday morning. Four speakers made presentations — all of them had been involved in drafting the protocols. Karen Underhill of Northern Arizona University spoke on implementing the protocols. Her basic premise was that the protocols help establish relationships of trust through consultations, joint projects and shared stewardship with tribes. Richard Pearce-Moses of the Arizona State Archives began by stating that recognizing culturally sensitive materials is not easy, and that the definition of cultural sensitivity varies from tribe to tribe. He presented several ideas for consideration —

  1. We should consider the subject of a photograph as a co-creator
  2. When Native American materials were acquired, were they acquired with informed consent?
  3. In working with Native American communities, we should take the approach of consult-ask-listen, and that consultation goes far in addressing the issues raised in the protocols
  4. Take culturally offensive language out of titles in catalog records

David George-Shongo’s (Seneca Nation) brief, but direct, presentation was a plea for conversation and respect when working with Native American archival materials. Sheree Bonaparte of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe made a very eloquent presentation that focused on two primary points — spirituality is a major consideration of Native American materials, and that consultation (a word she does not particularly care for) is really collaboration and negotiation.

The opening plenary session was late Thursday afternoon, and after the usual (and well deserved) kudos to the program and local arrangements committees, the SAA staff and the hotel staff, former Nixon administration general counsel John Dean provided the keynote address. Dean focused his remarks on his prodigious use of archives in the writing of his many books, including his most recent revisionist history of Warren G. Harding’s administration. He was generally very complimentary of the archives he has used and the archivists who have assisted him. The plenary session was followed by the opening of the exhibit hall. In wandering the hall, I was struck by two things — first, Metal Edge, our archival supplies vendor, had recently purchased the Hollinger Corporation, one of the pioneers in archival supplies development. I think this is a good match. The second was an online exhibit featured at the OCLC booth, which was a mashup done by Drake University of a digital collection pertaining to Des Moines, Iowa (in CONTENTdm) with an interactive map. This is very similar to what I would like to create to feature OSU’s historic buildings. Dinner Thursday evening was with a group of other attendees from the Northwest at a downtown Italian eatery. I concluded the day by visiting with some of my University of Texas colleagues and friends, including one of my mentors, David Gracy. Gracy, who is soon to retire from the UT Information School, mentioned that he is writing a history of the Texas State Library and Archives, and had found useful a paper that I wrote more than twenty years ago on the history of the Texas State Archives.

Friday was devoted primarily to section meetings. In the morning I attended the College and University Archives section meeting. The program portion was a presentation by several of the University of California system archivists on their implementation of guidelines pertaining to the collecting of faculty papers. This was an excellent presentation, and the guidelines are thorough and well thought out. The OSU Archives has guidelines, but they are not as well developed as those for the UC university archives. Heather Briston (UofO) and I are going to collaborate on developing similar guidelines for our institutions, and plan to invite Cris Paschild, PSU’s new archivist/head of special collections, to participate. (See the UC guidelines.) One question posed to the presenters was how digitally based collections are handled. The archivist for UC San Francisco indicated that she downloads content from faculty members’ computers onto DVD, but has yet to determine how to provide access. Although I have served on the C&U Archives Section steering team in the past, I volunteered to do so again.

Early Friday afternoon was the Visual Materials Section meeting. I have been a member of the section since my UT days. The presentation portion was a discussion of Flickr Commons, featuring George Oates, one of the developers of Flickr, and Helena Zinkham of LC’s Prints and Photographs Division. The purpose of the Commons is to provide a venue for showing images from the world’s photography archives and to allow for tagging and commenting in order to enrich these resources. Oates provided an overview of the Commons and briefly discussed each of the ten member institutions. She provided statistics on use of the resources in the Commons – the two collections of L.C. photos (4000 total) were viewed 9.3 million times in 8 months. According to Zinkham, some of the user added tags resulted in additional information being added to the catalog records for 500 images, particularly where additional people were identified in the images. This does require frequent monitoring of the site. Images in the Commons are clearly identified as being from a particular institution. Does the newer version of CONTENTdm allow for comments? The VM section will also be developing best practices for digital photographs (storage, access, preservation, etc.); I expressed interest in helping out with this.

Late Friday afternoon was another round of concurrent sessions. I attended one on mass digitization, “Digitizing Entire Collections: Project Planning, Cost, and Collaborations.” Three speakers from very different repositories discussed their mass digitization projects, all funded by the NHPRC. Mark Harvey of the Archives of Michigan spoke about a project to digitize and make available Civil War military records. Kaye Minchew discussed the Troup County (GA) superior court records digitization project. And the most compelling to me was David Null’s presentation on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s project to digitize the papers of wildlife conservationist Aldo Leopold. The Leopold Papers are very similar in content and datespan to our William L. Finley Papers. We should seriously consider a proposal to NHPRC for digitization of the Finley Papers, which are on the OSU Archives’ top ten list for digitization. I would take this one step further and make it a joint project with the Oregon Historical Society, which has a large collection of Finley’s photographs. All three speakers also addressed how finding aid metadata was used in the digitization process and how the finding aid and digital collection were linked.

By the end of the afternoon I was pretty worn out. I decided to skip the SAA presidential address but return for the awards ceremony (where Monique Lloyd received one of the Pinkett Minority Student Awards) and the reception at the SF Public Library. Unfortunately I missed the awards ceremony as the return trip to the conference hotel via cable car took much longer than expected, as the understreet cable stopped about halfway through the ride. I did make it to the reception – the SFPL is a beautiful and spacious facility, with a fabulous rare books and historical collections reading room. The reception food was equally fabulous.

Saturday, my final day in SF, began with a desperate search in the North Beach area for coffee and something to eat before catching the cable car to downtown. Very little was open that early on Saturday, so I reluctantly settled for Starbucks coffee and a pastry.

The first session on Saturday morning (8 am) I attended consisted of two presentations on a prototype system for managing electronic records, developed at the Bush I presidential library. The library contracted with Georgia Tech to develop the system, which is being adopted by other presidential libraries. Although quite complex, the system seems to work well. The downside to this session was that the system cannot be made available to other institutions outside of the federal government until the Army’s general counsel gives its OK – obviously an internal political power struggle. I left feeling that yes, the Feds are doing some good work with electronic records management, but if it cannot be shared, what was the point of the session?

The second Saturday morning session was better – one moderated by NWDA administrator Jodi Allison-Bunnell. “After the Revolution: Unleashing the Power of EAD” consisted of three presentations. The first, by Jeanne Kramer-Smyth of the U. of Maryland, was thought provoking. She discussed ways to leverage EAD, particularly through aggregated data from the finding aids in a system, in order to help archivists (and researchers) determine particularly rich areas in collections, as well as gaps. She also suggested splitting subject headings are removing “stop” words such as “history,” “sources,” etc. The prototype system at the University of Maryland is called ArchivesZ. Maryland will be developing ArchivesZ 2.0 with NEH funding. The second presenter was Max Evans, former director of the NHPRC and currently with the Historical Department of the Mormon Church. Evans called for easy to use tools for creating EAD. He presented several ideas on how finding aids could be made easier to use by our researchers, such as incorporating tag clouds for subjects, providing information on the distribution of a collection by date of the records in the series, incorporating balloon comments for every component that would include contextual information, and incorporating mechanisms for requesting digitization of portions of a collection. Elizabeth Yakel from the University of Michigan School of Information focused on the use of Web 2.0 technology to connect collections and communities in cyberspace. Finding aids connect communities to collections. In the Web 2.0 world this may also mean shared authority, distributed curation, and inserting the archivist in social interactions of the community — a new and different role for archivists.

Saturday lunch was a work meeting James Fox and the consultants who will be working with us on the LSTA funded statewide collection development policy project. Gabriele Carey with History Associates will provide overall management of the project. John Fleckner and Tim Ericson, two nationally respected and now retired members of the archival profession, will be working with the 4-5 focus groups around the state and will compile the final project report.

The last meeting session I attended, “A New Methodology for Surveying Photograph Collections,” was a let down. Photo preservation specialists from Harvard discussed their methodology for surveying the university’s 50 repositories holding photographs. I don’t know what was new about Harvard’s methodology, which focused on the environment, housing, treatment, storage and access, and education. These seem to be the same areas that I identified in the preservation surveys I conducted as part of my graduate coursework at UT Austin 20 years ago. I did find the vast array of collections at Harvard very interesting.

After this session a colleague and I took in a special farmers’ market at City Hall, part of the Slow Foods events happening in SF at the same time as SAA. It was then BART to the airport and the flight back to PDX.

All in all, it was a very good conference. The sessions were generally good, the roundtable meetings worthwhile, and the informal breakfast and lunch meetings productive.

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

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.

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.

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

TEM Report: Pacific Northwest Historians Conference: April 18, 2008

Where Collector Meets Scholar: The Research Value of the Gerald Williams Collection
Digital History and the Pacific Northwest
Teaching From Local Historical Archives in Spokane

Bringing the collector and the scholar together– how does the archivist fit? what is the archivist’s role? how can the scholar shape the collection through their interaction with the creator? Donna Sinclair asked “where does collector meet scholar?”

Uses for the Williams Collection:

  • Research classes: bring grad/undergrad history classes into the archives (i.e. research based class teaching students how to use these materials on this topic OR research class on how to do research with this as an example). It is our job to encourage and promote this collection within OSU, but also look at how we can share it with other educational institutions throughout the state and nation.
  • HOWEVER, look outside the history department: show other disciplines how this collection can be used in their research (i.e. how do you approach a bio-regional demarcated area as a researcher/student?) Again, promotion/access/use is the primary responsibility of the OSU Archives– now that we have it, we have to use it, we have to share it, we have to encourage others to delve in and swim around in it.

Bill Lang

  • The dynamic between different kinds of historical materials can be quite powerful; it is only when you put the different types together that you see the relationship that is inherent/within the collection/topic.
  • The relationship & connection between text and imagery allows you to think about your research topic in an integrated fashion at the beginning, can change how researchers “do” their work/ think about their project from the conceptual stage, can shape scholarship.

Charles Mutschler

  • It’s the wave of technology!
  • How are we grappling with new “digital age” issues within our professions?
  • What are users asking us to do, to know, to produce?
  • Students (as the next generation of users, creators) are visually oriented. Both because of this and to facilitate this, the world of education is changing radically– we all have to adjust how we think, teach, process, produce, etc.
  • Changes/advances in technology could actually democratize the academy!

Larry Cebula

  • Digital history projects are moving from public to private enterprises: more money, more resources, more studies, more partnerships?
  • We need a centralized resource page for “deep” digital archives, a central reference page, a place where everyone will go, a place where dead links will be updated… How can we use a wiki as a space for these “organic” subject guides? Built by the community of users, community of creators, community of archivists, community of teaching (K-20+)? Give people a space to create, comment, etc., and allow for a “web” of connections to form– it’s the “see also” or “related materials” or “you might also like” page.

Mary Paynton Schaff

  • Time magazine article: people want to upload their own information, the public is important to the new information society, they want (expect?)to be a part of the web/content.

Tamara Georgick

  • Digital project overload … What to consider before launching into a massive program.
  • In addition to hardware, software, money, staff resource questions, she also said that we need to evaluate rigorously. Is it worth putting out there? What is the value? ($, social, educational, historical, aesthetic) Is there an audience?
  • Here’s one that stood out: can you tell the professional resources from the amateur resources? Because yours need to stand out as legitimate primary resources. Really? What does this mean?

Lisa Hagen, Kieran Mahoney, Marcy James, Kelly Kiki

  • Primary Sources in the Classroom: teachers using local history archives in their classroom
  • Tie history to larger picture, see their lives in the context of history, develop curiosity, activate natural questions about history, social engagement.
  • Kinkos = make puzzles out of photos
  • Worksheet = I notice/wonder/infer or predict: observation/question/reflection.
  • Photo Story 3 for Windows = “Create slide shows using your digital photos. With a single click, you can touch-up, crop, or rotate pictures. Add stunning special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to your photo stories. Then, personalize them with titles and captions. Small file sizes make it easy to send your photo stories in an e-mail. Watch them on your TV, a computer, or a Windows Mobile–based portable device.”

Adventures at OLA/WLA: Hunting for history and sharing the search

It’s been a big week for outreach!

Thursday morning, student worker Christy Toliver and archivist Tiah Edmunson-Morton traveled to Vancouver, WA to share their poster depicting the “Adventures in the Archives: Hunting for History” scavenger hunt from summer 2007.

The hunt was an activity for Adventures in Learning, which “combines stimulating academic and social opportunities in a fun-filled 10-day experience” for “gifted, talented, and creative” 6th and 7th graders who are “interested in fast-paced, challenging opportunities.” Fast-paced and challenging? That’s us!

Last summer, we hosted 10-12 students for a 2-day scavenger hunt in the University Archives and throughout our fantastic campus! On the first day, students searched through historic yearbooks, catalogs, microfilm, and pictures looking for clues centered around the life of Wayne Bagley, an OSC student from the late 1920s. Those clues led them into their second day, an outdoor adventure designed to have them explore the campus, run out their sillies, and connect the past & present.

They’ll be back again this year– and now we’ll be ready with our fancy display!