By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons
Okay guys, who’s up for a day-trip to the Library of Congress in DC to listen to Ian MacKaye talk about personal archiving, Fugazi, and everything in between?

Jump to LoC event details

I had the opportunity to hear him speak at last year’s Webwise 2012 Conference and his views on collecting, preserving, and providing open access were sincere and seriously inspirational.

Let’s go!

SAA 2012

The Whaling Wall- by Wyland. Shared from Loco Steve's Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Are you planning on attending the SAA Conference this year in sunny California? Alas, I will not be in attendance, but that shouldn’t stop you from going!

Although the agenda will be packed with exciting, awe-inspiring, and thought-provoking workshops and lectures, you might just find yourself with some time to spare. Fear not! The Local Arrangements Committee has prepared a handy (and lovely) WordPress blog for your extracurricular enjoyment!

Have fun, take lots of photos, and fill me in on all the coolness! 

Let your Geek Archivist flag fly!

Recently, the source code for the popular, nay INLFUENTIAL video game Prince of Persia was ‘found’ by its creator Jordan Mechner and posted on GitHub, now available for public access and use. But why is this so important? We can still play the game, remakes have been created, and very few of us would even recognize the code if we fell over it. According to Mechner, who is a programmer-not an Archivist, providing access to the original is the key to an object’s sustainability in this world of technological evolution:

[on needing an original musical score] You don’t, if all you want is to listen and enjoy the music. But to a pianist performing the piece, or a composer who wants to study it or arrange it for different instruments, the original score is valuable.

It’s possible, up to a point, to reverse-engineer new source code from a published video game, much as a capable musician can transcribe a musical score from listening to a performance. But in both cases, there’s no substitute for the original document as a direct line to the creator’s intentions and work process. As such, it has both practical and historical value, to the small subset of the game-playing/music-listening community that cares.

Just as the Archival community gradually embraces and incorporates linked data, online finding aids, and digital exhibits into their everyday workflow, they understand that maintaining the life of the original item-that very origin of idea-is essential to the longevity of any other surrogate.

Archivist Occupations

The weather is clearer, regrouping has occured, and now the Occupy Wall Street protesters are reappearing in parks all around the city. The Librarians of OWS have done an amazing job keeping the members of the movement well-read and well-informed by providing research and leisure materials in all of their incarnations.

But what about the memory of the events themselves?

Area Archivists from as far as Queens College and as close as NYU have realized the importance of these events and the necessities to preserve them. These professionals see an opportunity to seize the moment, as it were, by approaching the protesters as they protest, spreading the word of proper preservation and narration when it comes to blogs, videos, signage, and any other ephemeral materials.

Jeffrey Young, in today’s edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, writes:

Mr. [Howard] Besser, who spoke at the conference wearing an Occupy Wall Street T-shirt that he had made by hand at the event, said he led a group of volunteer archivists to create the postcard, which will soon be given out at rallies. The card is titled “Why Archive,” and stresses that the efforts could help future “mobilizations” understand what happened today. The bottom of the card says in bold lettering: “Record and Collect what’s happening around you. Preserve the record.”

But are their archival sensibilities taking the organic nature of history astray? Young mentions how tensions are rising due the inclusion of archivists in the ‘protest circle’:

Even Occupy protesters who become convinced of the value of such archiving have rejected traditional relationships with the archivists, however. NYU’s library is working to collect and store materials from the protests, but groups such as Occupy Wall Street have refused to sign “donor agreements” that are common and grant the library permission to use the materials. That felt too much like a trapping of the traditional hierarchical organizations the group is protesting, says Mr. Besser.

Fellow professionals understand that these Archivists are simply attempting to seek out history at its source. With the knowledge they have from years of collecting, processing, and describing unknown materials, they can’t help but see an opportunity to acquire materials void of gaping information holes and misnomers. But are they proceeding the right way?

At the [Coalition for Networked Information] conference on Monday, David Millman, the NYU library’s director of digital technology services, said that his staff has also given protesters recording equipment and asked them to tape their meetings, which are famously run with a “human microphone” where members repeat speeches line by line even without a sound system.

One challenge has been getting protesters to note key details that will help future historians organize the vast trove of digital materials. That information, called metadata, includes things like the date and time that recordings were made, said Mr. Millman. “We asked them to follow naming conventions” for their audio and video files, he said, “but they didn’t follow that.”

I personally feel that you can’t force history to preserve itself. Ideally, yes, collecting that information at its source at the time of creation is ideal. With a series of events such as these, however, taking time out to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s prevents the actual history from unfolding.

I don’t want to be misunderstood. The work of the Archivist volunteers in this movement have been an excellent influence on the profession and those involved in protesting and advocating for their cause. This is however, a fine line of power v. force. We need to teach those involved the importance of preserving- and how it does no one any good as professionals to become upset when the momentum of history gets in the way of that. Think of all that we’ve learned from historical events that were without proper metadata recording devices and University funding.

In addition, the OWS Librarians evolved to fill a need. They were activists who took a professional eye to a situation, created order, and used that order to teach and inform. Is it so wrong to think that there are no Archivists in the movement that would do the same, with the unbiased, additional *guidance* from Archivists in the Metro area?


Image courtesy of the Kingston Whig Standard. Michael Lea The Whig-Standard Archivists Heather Home, left, and Jeremy Heil haul out an old Macintosh computer on which useful information is still stored at the Queen's University archives.

E-archivists are nothing short of miracle workers. They use their information retrieval/detective skills to not only understand past, present, and (possibly) future technologies, but the plausible migrations between them AND how to better train future generations on how to maintain sufficient preservation logistics onward. In order for any of this to succeed, frustrations need to be turned into problems that can be solved.

This interesting article by Wayne Grady from the Kingston Whig Standard highlights some heroes at the Queens University Archives and their thoughts and practices as they attempt to move away from a preservation stalemate into a system that creates open access despite the lack of print documentation. Although the topics discussed within are not altogether new to the movement, it’s important to understand that each repository’s experience is unique, and that no matter how small the collection, we can all learn from each other’s struggles (and successes)!


  • Librarians, how are YOU dealing with your e-collections?
  • Non-Librarians, do you find yourself saving more, or changing the way you maintain your own collections of digital music, documents, or photos?

anxiety, thy name is Tuesday!

I have an internship interview on Tuesday. I’ll be presenting myself to possibly either one or a small panel of professionals, attempting to win them over with not only my knowledge and experience, but also my inexperience.

The position I’m attempting to win is involved with Archiving, but this time preserving and arranging a form of media that I am not familiar with. The request for interns mentioned that this would be a hands-on learning internship, where the volunteers would work with the Archivists and staff members in a learning environment. The internship facility is known for their knowledgeable staff, updated facilities, not to mention amazing existing collections.!

This field is so varied. Knowledge of preserving and organizing audio, visual, as well as data files is a vital step into the future of Librarianship, Archival practice, and researching. With this experience, my confidence as an Archivist can only soar higher, and in turn provide future employers with a staff member that gets even more excited about providing Archival services to their patrons.

Wish me luck!