Tag Archives: archival scholarship

Thankful Archivist: 2011

So here we are, once again ready to do what has become a holiday tradition here at NewArchivist, the celebration of that which makes the cockles of my archivist heart glow warm and fuzzy (confession: I just wanted to write “cockles”).

Archival Grassroots I have written more than once on what an awesome group of archivists are on web 2.0, but man, there are a lot of awesome archivists on web 2.0 right now. A case in point: Kate Theimer suggested that archivists should band together and provide Spontaneous Scholarships for folks who needed some assistance attending the 2011 SAA conference. Well, we banded together and provided money to help 26 archivists engage in the profession, many of the donations coming from people on Facebook or Twitter. Getting an early start on next year, Alison Smith and Rebecca Goldman put together Closed Stacks, Open Shutters: An Archivist Photobook with all of the proceeds going to the scholarship fund.

Besides illustrating that archivist are willing to show some skin for a good cause, this grassroots effort also illustrates how archivists engaging each other on social media are beginning to band together to not only point out concerns with the profession, but to provide some real solutions. This is an exciting time to be involved with such a great group.

Deviled Eggs Remain Freakin' Awesome

Deviled Eggs courtesy of Flickr member Andrew Scrivani / CC-BY-NC-ND

Digital Preservation Doers The world of digital preservation is developing by leaps and bounds. There are currently countless projects focusing on the further development of policy, software, and best practice solutions to providing long-term access to important digital assets. Many of these projects are funded by large grants and are hosted at universities and government agencies. For archivists grappling with preserving digital content for the first time, there are some great opportunities to learn about these solutions. Conferences now abound with sessions dealing with digital preservation. The Library of Congress’s digital preservation collaborative NDIPP provides a lot of great resources, including its very active blog The Signal. There is also the Digital Preservation Management Workshop, which I had the pleasure of working on as part of my first professional position.

While I am thankful for all of these wonderful projects and training opportunities, I am REALLY appreciative for are the folks who do this kind of thing as part of their normal work then share either the knowledge or tools with others. One example of this is the Data Accessioner tool from Duke University Archives. Designed by archivist Seth Shaw, the program packages together several other tools for doing things like checksum and file format validation, among others. The Data Accessioner is free for download, and the source code has also been made available. We implemented it in our own workflow and are very happy with the results, even developing some of our own tools for using the XML generated from the Accessioner to get information into our institutional CMS.

A great example of someone sharing knowledge is Chris Prom from the University of Illinois who, among other things, is co-director of the Archon project and is currently a member of the technical team for ArchiveSpace. His blog Practical E-Records shares his knowledge of digital records management and archives. Even though I think of myself as being well-versed in the area of digital preservation, I consult Practical E-Records often for tool evaluations and general advice on implementation. Most importantly, Chris applies his recommendations to small shops and folks without a ton of technical knowledge or resources. In my book, the ability to outline a “rudimentary” OAIS compliant system based on a simple Windows directory structure and open-source tools is a thing of beauty.

Thanks to Seth, Chris, and the many others who are committed to helping create and share solutions for the entire archival community.

Grandma So, those of you who usually read my blog will know that I don’t usually talk about personal stuff. But this time I am going to indulge myself a bit, as I just can’t write about what I am thankful for in my life and not mention my grandma, Helen Fowler. Grandma passed away over Thanksgiving weekend at the age of 93. I learned a lot from her, including how those of us in a position to lend a helping hand should do so, whether that hand extends to family, friends, neighbors, or strangers. She also taught me the valuable lesson that a day that does not start with a nice cup of coffee, will not be much of a day.

Grandma’s love was unconditional and her support was unwavering. In thinking about her this past week, I could not help also thinking about how important the support of my family has been in my life and my profession. Grandma, my parents, brother, nephews, and especially my wife’s support was so vital in giving me the confidence and ability to go back to school and become an archivist. You and I are in a field where fame and fortune are hard to come by. I have had times (about the time student loans are payed, coincidentally) when I wonder why the hell I did not become some type of business-dude or programer, where the jobs pay better and are more stable. But, I have people to tell me that I am an archivist because I am following my passion, because I get to do something I love every day. I bet many of us have those kind of people in our lives, and I know you are as thankful for them as I am, even if some of them are no longer with us.

 

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I am Resolute [I think]

It is that time of year again, when we all shake off the effects of holiday cookies, champagne, and time with the family to take a sober look at the things we need to improve upon. Hence, the New Year’s Resolutions. Of course I have made the usual list of resolutions this year, such as actually using my gym membership, getting on top of my student loans, and stop challenging people to fist fights when they question my use of the Oxford comma. However, for the first time I have also made a list of professional resolutions. The following are things that I believe I can do to make myself a better archivist as I enter my second year in the profession (thanks to Emi for the idea and help with this post).

I hereby resolve to:

Contribute to Archival Literature I am currently finishing coauthoring an article with one of my recent professors. Working with a person who has experience in the peer-reviewed writing process has been very helpful. The question will be can I do it on my own. I think my writing is strong enough (I can actually write an entire piece without movie references, I just choose not to on this blog). The interest is there too. The challenge will come from budgeting my time wisely enough to sustain the writing and research required for an article. It is one thing to devote time to something through a partnership where you do not want to let the other person down, it is another to make yourself the sole taskmaster. I am already thinking of some topics, so lets hope I can devote the time and write, write, write (not to mention convince someone to publish it).

Keep Learnin’ I think I speak for most recent graduate students when I say that the last thing I want right now is more school. However, I do think professional educational and training opportunities are important. I have been toying with taking a programming, database, or other technical class to compliment my archival education. Some of the SAA courses also look interesting, although some are out of my range. I figure I will start out with short time commitments and inexpensive tuition so I do not conflict with my student loan debt and gym resolutions. No PhD for me yet…

Find Community Service Opportunities During my time in graduate school I participated in the student SAA group’s community service program, where we would go out and lend a hand at several local cultural heritage locations. At first, I expected this to be similar to the type of volunteering that usually happens at archives and libraries. While we did move some boxes and sort some papers, what was surprising to me was that the people who worked at these institutions really desired our archival expertise. Even though we were only grad students, they wanted us to give them advice on a variety of archival topics. One place wanted us to tell them the proper way to merge two large topical files. Another place wanted us to recommend what materials should be separated so she could go to the governing board with reassurances that it was OK to throw away some material. Another wanted help updating their acquisition policy. While I was in school I saw community service as a great way to get your hands dirty and complement all the theoretical learning, not to mention a great resume builder. Now, I see it as a way to help those small or in-need places that could benefit from just an afternoon of advice from a professional (albeit New) archivist. I especially want to look for opportunities in the historically rich city of Detroit. Maybe we can get a group of area charitable archivists together!

Lauren Lippert working hard during a visit to the Canton Historical Society in Canton, Michigan

Lauren Lippert working hard during a visit to the Canton Historical Society in Canton, Michigan

Thanks to David Zande for the Photo

Well, there you have it. I will try to keep you all posted on my progress throughout the year. Or, if they end up in the same place that I think the gym membership will, I will delete this post in March and never speak of these archival resolutions again…

Happy New Year!


Off Topic Mini-Rant: I wish SAA would offer more online educational and training opportunities. I can afford the class, but can’t afford the travel. I bet a lot of people are in the same boat and would be interested in such offerings. Just a thought.

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