Category Archives: Archives

Taking Access to the User Online

Yesterday morning I participated in the Library 2.012 Virtual, Worldwide Conference. It was my first conference presentation experience, and even though it was totally virtual and I did not have to stare into the eyes of my attendees I still got those nerves right before I started. However, everything went smoothly and I got some very nice questions at the end of my presentation so I gauge it a success!

I would highly suggest this conference for any student wanting to have presentation experience. There is NO COST attached to the presentation (well besides your time & effort). I gave my presentation from my home computer with my cat sitting next to me as moral support. Also the presentation software is very easy to use especially if you are an online student use to online collaboration.

I have decided to share my slides with you all here as well. I’ll add some annotations to explain some of the pictures. If you would like to listen/watch the actual session it was recorded and can be found on the Library 2.012 website.

In case some of you haven’t seen a picture of me before!

A South Asian American is another with a heritage of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka.

An entity on SAADA was a contributor, author, or subject. I created entries for a few South Asian women who came to America for medical degrees in the early 20th century.

It is hard to see, but the “code” looks like this:
* [www.saadigitalarchive.org The South Asian American Digital Archive]
The phrase after the url is what is displayed as a hyperlink on the Wikipedia page.

After my first day working on these Wikipedia links, we had a user come in from one page I edited and he looked at 4 pages on the website and stayed for 14 minutes! Almost instant results on my work.

If you like the Gandhi/Tolstoy connection, please check out the archive! Indian revolutionaries interacted with other revolutionaries around the globe including the Irish!

The graph is the nifty metrics one gets as a Facebook admin for a page. The high point on the graph is for the week of 9/17-9/23 when SAADA reached 4,916 people. That week 5 posts were published. Of which one was a picture, two were educational posts and two were updates about the archive.

Our Achilles heel of user engagement. The effort of interacting with users on Twitter is almost nonexistent and our numbers reflect our lack of effort

You get what you put into social networks is the lesson here.

During the Q& A I also suggested looking into Flickr and Pinterest (which is the subject of an upcoming post). Both of these platforms could be a big boost. Pinterest is a very interesting service to look into. Archives, libraries, and museum that have interesting visual collections could be a big hit on the site. There is even a history category that these materials fall into and that can be easily browsed allowing browsing users to discover your materials. However, there are myriad copyright issues when considering this route so I’d closely read the terms of agreement before adding material or even putting much thought & energy into it.

I hope more library students take advantage of this conference in the future! Please if you have any questions about my presentation or about presenting at Library 2.012 in general leave a comment.

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Filed under Archives, Conference, Digital Archives, Library School

The Summer of Two Internships

Today  my student ALA chapter posted a blog entry I wrote about my experience this summer interning with the Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library and the South Asian American Digital Archive.

Also please check out all the other posts written by other UW iSchool students and their experiences in many different types of intern positions! The variety is pretty awesome.

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Filed under Digital Archives, Library School

The Similarities of 1912 and 2012

Today my blog entry about my first month interning with the Theodore Roosevelt Center was published. I discuss the similarities I found between the discourse used in the election of 1912 (when Theodore Roosevelt ran as a third party candidate) and the election of 2012.

100 years has passed, but we are still fighting some of the same battles. Frank Harper, Roosevelt’s secretary, would recognize many of our country’s problems today and I think he’d respond in the same way. Yes we have made some great strides forward in areas that the Progressive Party stood for, but others are right back where they use to be. Though it makes me sad to see history repeating itself, these common problems also help to create a bond between us and those people who lived, worked, played, and suffered a century ago.

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Filed under Digital Archives, Public History

Creating History

As my time as a history undergraduate I rarely adventured into the area of truly original research. There were times where I explored overlooked or untold portions of a well known story or I even attempted to reinterpret a very well known aspect of history. However, I never ran into the barrier that I have recently found in one of my archival internships this summer. I believe I have found an historical narrative that has not yet been told or given its due consideration. As a very recent student of history, I should find this exciting. This is a scholar’s dream. However, as a new information professional I am equal parts excited, horrified, guilty, and bewildered.

What exactly have I stumbled upon? The mostly untold story of South Asians in the Seattle area especially during the early 20th century. I saw mostly because some historical institutions like the Wing Luke Asian Museum are beginning to correct this oversight. However, every time I try to learn more about the Asian population in Seattle or dig into local repositories I’m hit with an abundance of information on Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, and the more recent Vietnamese immigrants, but the information on South Asians is minuscule. I feel like I am chasing a ghost. I know they were here and I know they took jobs similar to most Asian immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century, but their memory has not been as fervently preserved as others.

The exercise of trying to dig up historical documents about these men has really driven home how much of a responsibility we as archivists, librarians, and historians have in creating the historical record. Take for example Doug Chin’s book Seattle’s International District: The Making of a Pan-Asian American Community. Chin mentions the anti-Asian riots that took place in Vancouver, British Columbia in the fall of 1907 which were mostly carried out against Chinese and Japanese immigrants. However, Chin does not mention the 1907 Bellingham, Washington riot that expelled the town’s South Asian population. With this small exclusion Chin has solidified the former incident more firmly in the historical narrative of the Pacific Northwest, but has further washed the latter from our memory(67-68).

As the summer progresses I hope to chase down my research ghost and help to build the historical narrative of the experience of South Asians in western Washington at the beginning of the 20th century. This research project will also stick with me as a cautionary reminder of just how powerful not mentioning an aspect of history is as including it.

 

Update: Before publishing this post I’ve received many responses to my research inquires from local repositories. These responses only back up my initial findings that really no historical narrative exists for these immigrants. My hypothesis is that these men did not form lasting communities so there were no impulses to save or create a lasting community memory. These men either voluntarily left or were pushed out due to anti-Asiatic sentiments. Does this hypothesis seem sound? Could an historian still create a narrative for this group even with so little archival evidence?

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Filed under Digital Archives, Local History

The Great Internship Debate

The SAA SNAP listserv has been on fire the past two days. All do to with The Atlantic article Work is Work: Why Free Internships Are Immoral. This little article has touched a deep nerve in students and young professionals alike.

Stories were swapped between members on how different masters programs handled internships. Some programs required an internship experience. Several students spoke up asking if any other programs only allowed non-paid internships for credit. Many students confirmed their program did, but the stipulation was easily waved. Other programs have no such rule and these students searched hard and long for a paid position (yes they do exist).

Many responses pointed out that the author of the article was focusing on business internships in marketing, finance, etc. which is a very different beast when compared to archival and library internships. With budgets cuts endangering programs and jobs, but not lowering user expectations, I find institutions looking for interns (both paid and non-paid) are extremely grateful to have another pair of hands and a quick mind to help with collections, projects, and exhibits. So we are gaining valuable experience for our time which must be seen as a form of compensation since these experiences are now necessary to land that first job after grad school. It shows dedication to the field as well as experience and skill. (Also that one bad patron isn’t going to scare you away.)

From where I sit at the University if Washington iSchool, I really feel as if I have my pick of intern opportunities. Allowing me to tailor my intern experiences to my career objectives. This puts me squarely in the driver’s seat of my internship experience. I am not going to be stuck working somewhere that does not add to my desired skill set. Daily emails on the student jobs listserv advertise opportunities in UW special collections, programming, user experience, social media, metadata creation, academic librarianship and on and on.

These opportunities are on top of the long list of partners the school has made for the Directed Field Work class offered as an elective (yes that’s right not required). Taking advantage of this opportunity is highly recommended, but so is any experience in the field including part time jobs, internships, and volunteering. Take for example my summer plan. I have two part time internships lined up. One is paid and one is not. In both jobs I will be doing similar work (metadata creation and research) and both asked if I would be using the experience for credit. I have chosen not to apply for credit since the tuition would eat up almost all my earnings from the paid position. When I told my academic adviser my reasoning she understood and explained that was the reason why DFWs had continued to be optional in the program. Some students would rather use their tuition money on classes and not on internships they could work for free.

Now I have nothing against my program’s DFW class. It offers a great template for experience including learning objectives, checkpoints, and reflection. The experience is always firmly focused on your education. Personally, I know left to my devices I will concentrate more on being a good employee and putting my best effort into my work than evaluating what I want to learn or get out of the experience. So I still plan to complete a DFW during the school year if only for this different perspective.

Now does this answer the question: Are unpaid internships ethical? Well no because there is so much more to it then just that. The question is deceptively simple. We must also ask is it ethical to require students to work for free then pay tuition for that work in order to graduate? Is it only unethical to interns when we are treated as gophers and gain no marketable skills (Is it ethical when we gain skills and experience as our sole compensation)? Is it ethical to demand 2 years experience for entry level positions in the field? Would demanding all internship be paid strip smaller, budget strapped institutions from offering opportunities? (Is that ethical?)

Many professions have already answered these questions. Look at education programs. College students are expected to work in the classroom for free while earning their degree. In many programs the last semester is spent totally in the classroom, the student is expected to hold no other job (and isn’t paid for teaching), and she still pays tuition. Is this ethical? It has been the norm for decades.

What do I believe? Well the summer before I graduated with my bachelors I had one paid job in retail and two unpaid internships in the archival field. I found those two experiences priceless. It confirmed my career objectives and imbued me with the confidence of finding my calling. Unpaid internships should not disappear. They open too many doors. However, I find being required to work an unpaid internship to graduate unfair. An alternative should be consider such as capstone projects that showcase experience, management, and leadership or stipends for students that can’t shoulder the financial burden.

What is your take on the subject? How has an internship (unpaid or paid) affected your career?

Also if you are interested on reading more on the unpaid internship debate, I tracked down a interview clip from The Colbert Report on February 28, 2012  with Robert Eisenbrey, vice president of Economic Policy Institute, about his views that every intern (including college athletes) should be paid for their work.

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Filed under Archives, Library School, Professional Ethics, Professional musings

Archival Ethics: Or How I Realized I Am on My Own

Cox, R.J. (2008). Archival Ethics: The Truth of the Matter. Journal of the American Society for Information Ethics, 59(7), 1128-1133.

I’ll be upfront with everyone. I read the above article for an assignment in one of my graduate classes. I chose the article because the unassuming article title promised to me a nice overview of archival ethics which I thought would be very informative since I plan on entering the archival/ records management field after graduation. What this article delivered instead was a rude awakening to the state of ethics in the profession especially when it comes to archivists and records mangers in the corporate world.

Now I’m sure some readers may have read this article back in 2008 and in the back of your mind little controversy bells are going off and you may sigh and think “Not this again”. Please bear with me. This article actually can be viewed in a whole new light four years later. For those of you that have not read it the article, Cox argues that the archival profession has been focusing too much on writing codes of ethics then actually exploring ethical practices in the profession. He focuses the article especially on corporate archivists and goes as far as to ask “Is the mission of corporate archives only to make their organizations look good or to serve a public relations purpose?” (1131).

The question of the ethics and the mission or purpose of corporate archives is even more important in the current employment atmosphere. Not every archivist can work in a government archive and not every government job is secure. A painful fact that is right now being played out in Canada. However, archival and library students are acutely aware that publicly funded archives whether on a national, state, county, or community level are just not hiring (How many times have you heard the phrase “hiring freeze” lately?). What does this leave for new additions (or accessions) to the field? Corporate archives. Corporations are hiring. They need records managers and archivists to wrangle their huge out pouring of paper and digital records. We the bright eyed, idealistic, and naive are being thrown, according to Cox, to the ethical wolves.

Now comes the “I am on my own” part. Cox points out that as a records manager, I would be the first to come across illegal or unethical records that hint that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. What do I do? What happens as a corporate archivist when I am charged to create an exhibit to make the company “look good” when the records tell a different story? Do I put a “spin” on the documents or just leave them out?

I will be honest, the answer I would give on the discussion board in my ethics class is much easier to arrive at and proclaim vehemently as “right” than the answer I would ponder while in the “real” world. My job, my livelihood, my  future could be riding on the answer, and SAA gives no concrete direction. There is no code or articles I can attach to an email to my boss or piece of paper to place on his desk to say “Look I can not do this. It is against my professional code.” I do not have a stable piece of ground to stand on.

Now with the passage of rulings such as Citizens United which has highlighted a corporation’s right to free speech, do archivists have even less ethical ground to stand on? In this new era of thinking where “Corporations are people, my friend.”, do I dare be a “whistle blower” and destroy any chance of ever working in the private sector ever again? These are issues that archival and library schools need to be facing head on.  As Cox says “These are dangerous, interesting, and exciting times to be an archivist or records manager” (1132). So please archival and library schools, outfit new archivists with the ethical armor to combat the dangers of the corporate world, new ideas to be interesting to our bosses, and the passion to make it all exciting.

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Filed under Archives, Library School, Professional Ethics, Professional musings

Personal Digital Preservation: Part 2 Theory into Practice

I tried to give myself the best chance of success or the best chance to get a quick sense of accomplishment and chose a smaller collection of digital photographs to begin my project. According to the Library of Congress’s information on personal archiving, there are four suggested steps to take when working to preserve your digital photos.

1.) Identify where you have digital photos

2.) Decide which photos are most important

3.) Organize your selected photos

4.) Make copies and store them in different places

Identify where you have digital photos

This part was quite easy since I am targeting a certain folder of photos that have already been moved off of my camera’s SD card and saved onto my laptop. However, once I have worked through my backlog of photos I will need to once again look on my camera for photos that still only exist on my SD card as well as my cellphone that has probably hundreds of photos on its internal memory that I have not bothers to transfer to my laptop.

Decide which photos are the most important 

Time to get rid of all those duplicate, fuzzy, and um pointless photos. Going through this portion of the process reminded me of David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous. He rightly states that “since our cameras apply names like ‘DSC00165.jpg’ to our photos it’s easier to keep bad photos than to throw them out”. When I first read that passage I could only chuckle and nod. I am guilty of keeping more photos than I should just because comparing and then committing to deleting one of the photos is a heavy responsibility.

However, I did delete many photos from my vacation photos. I got rid of all those duplicates (with and without flash, with different white balances set, just a bit more focused or centered). I also deleted many pointless photos (if I can’t remember why I took the photo less than a year later then I really do not need to commit to keeping it forever).

Organize your selected photos

The meat of the project! As long as you do not need to pick out the best photo of a flower out of 20 possible choices, this step will most likely be the most time consuming. This step might also become somewhat repetitive. I would suggest listening to music, watching a movie, or watching a television show while you add metadata to your photos.

Time to get rid of those horrible camera created names and actually give your photos descriptive names. Now this can be accomplished in a variety of fashions depending on your personal information management style and how you personally like to name files. You can incorporate location, date, subject, or just describe what is in the photo. I went the last route since my photos will remain in a file that identifies the photos within as vacation photos from Cannon Beach, OR. My file names might not be scientific or up to library or archive standards, but I will know what the photo is and so would most anyone else.

Next it is time to add your metadata! I did not use any fancy programs. I opened my folder of photos and then went photo by photo and right clicked then selected the properties menu. Under the details tab, I could add title, subject, keywords, and comments. For my more visual learners, here is a screen shot of the metadata I added for one photo:

Properties Menu for photo

I had keywords for the place, significant objects or people in the photo, and more generic terms like “beach”. When it comes to keywords you can use as many or as few as you like. I always try to strive for a middle ground and only add keywords for the important aspects of the photo (for example if there is a food stand in the background of a photo, but obviously you and your friends are standing around a statue of some historic persona I would not add “food truck” as a keyword). In the comment section I added a more narrative  description of the photo sometimes placing the photo in context of a sequence of events that the title, subject, and keywords won’t convey otherwise.

Make copies and store them in different places

After completing all of that metadata, first give yourself a pat on the back then get all those pictures saved on different types of media pronto! What this means is to save your photos on different types of storage devices such as SD cards, flash drives, CDs, DVDs, external hard drives, in the cloud, or on a social media site such as Facebook, Flickr, or Instagram. If your photos are new you can incorporate your metadata creation into your “sharing” habits by processing your photos during the same chunk of time you would have devoted to uploading to these sites. I know my comment section reflects my captions from Facebook.

The Library of Congress also suggests keeping your copies in different locations. Maybe store a flash drive at a relative’s house or in a safety deposit box or a fire proof safe. LOC also goes as far as suggesting you keep a physical manifest of your photos with other important documents (this may help in remembering which photos are saved in what formats and where physically you have them).

Final Thoughts

Also remember every few years you need to check on your photos! You need to make sure you can still access them and that your storage devices are still working. You may also need to migrate your photos to new media. CDs as a storage media might not be around for much longer so photos saved on this media might need to be transferred to it a new media. Also make sure that your photos are saved in an open format (.jpg or .tiff). Also make sure your metadata shows up on other computers (plug your flashdrive with the folder of photos into someone else’s computer and see what shows up). In the future you may need to learn how to change the format of your photos to keep them current with file format changes.

I know this all seems like a big investment of time and energy (and in many cases money), but it will be well worth it some day when you can share these photos instead of bemoaning the hard drive crash of 2015.

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Filed under Digital Archives, Digital Perservation, Project