I've compiled some of my best post posts on archival management. I love being a consultant who can help organizations fund, set up, or expand their archives programs. Interested in learning more about what I do? Check out my services.
The most vital aspect of managing a successful archival project is identifying the right problem to be solved. In the cultural heritage sector, too many excellent exciting projects exist, but limited resources hamper seeing them to fruition. Archivists should prioritize projects that add value to the organization.
Projects should reduce costs, expand services, or increase efficiency—and be linked to these objectives from start to finish. Archivists must change their mindset from simply completing a project to strategically implementing the project with business objectives in mind.
Although some archivists debate the necessity for item-level access, it is often more challenging to describe images in the aggregate. Collection-level description can be useful for images of the same subject, but problematic for collections with a variety of subjects, as it neither improves retrieval nor limits the handling of the originals. Group arrangement and description are necessary for large collections or when resources are limited.
Traditionally, archivists have dismissed arrangement at the item level as having little utility and being impractical for modern collections. However, archival surveys conducted over the years have found that a significant proportion of archivists have adhered to item-level description—even though it is contrary to the traditional archival practice of collection-level description. The same discrepancy between literature and practice appears to be true for visual collections.
In July 1945, Atlantic Monthly published “As We May Think,” by army scientist Vannevar Bush, an essay that had an immense influence on the history of computing. Bush was concerned about the explosion of information without a means to quickly retrieve data.
The article described a device called a Memex, an intuitive, associative retrieval system designed to supplement memory. He envisioned a desk with screens that would allow users to view documents, add notes, and create associations through a body of work.
The Memex was a conceptual ancestor to electronically linked materials and, ultimately, the Internet. Bush’s ideas were expanded by Theodor Nelson who, in 1961, coined hypertext and hypermedia to describe the environment where text, images, and video could be digitally interconnected.
Metadata is structured data about data, information that facilitates the management and use of other information. The function of metadata is to provide your users with a standardized means for access to digitized materials. However, it is not enough to use just any metadata standard.
Metadata is one of the significant costs of digitization. Although archival items can be digitized without cataloging, a digital collection cannot be created and delivered without metadata.
Providing sufficient metadata promptly for the abundance of digital resources can create a bottleneck in a workflow. Creating and maintaining metadata about objects—and in particular digital information objects—is time consuming and costly. Metadata creators must provide enough information to be useful but cannot afford to be exhaustive.
To kick off American Archives Month, Wednesday, October 3rd is Ask an Archivist Day. This day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to connect directly with archivists in your community—and around the country—to ask questions, get information, or just satisfy your curiosity.
Selection practice in most archives is aimed at meeting the current needs of user communities. Criteria developed by archives to select items for digitization are based on evidential and aesthetic values, as well as informational, intrinsic, and artifactual values.
Digital imaging captures all the information in photographic originals. Read on for some guidelines on making the best digitization choices, always with the ultimate usage of the images in mind.
Formal standards, such as Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS), Graphic Materials, and Rules for Archival Description (RAD), have been developed over time for the description of archival materials. While descriptive standards offer consistency, archival repositories employ descriptive systems suited to their holdings, not universal access, and description continues to be idiosyncratic.
The development of selection policies is a core component of digital projects, and many selection guidelines and criteria have been developed by institutions, national governments, and international organizations. Institutions need to validate their selection procedures for digitization concerning external criteria, especially with the increase of collaborations for digital projects.
Over the years, I have directed or have been a subject matter expert on a number of projects using born-digital and digitized cultural heritage materials. With each new experience, I have gathered a series of questions, an aide-mémoire, to be explored before commencing a digital initiative.
Digitization can be performed either in-house or outsourced. In-house implies that a department of the institution captures the images—supplying hardware and software, trained personnel, and overhead. Outsourcing requires entering into a contract with a vendor who will receive the images, convert them, and return the originals with the required digital files. Both in-house and outsourced alternatives should be considered when embarking on a digitization project.
As archivists, we take our responsibilities seriously as stewards of the collections entrusted to our care, ensuring that our assets remain safe and accessible to users. The demand for increased online access to collections, coupled with limited fiscal and staff resources, makes balancing the two a challenge.
Staffing needs for digital projects depend on the project’s size and complexity. Training existing staff members to work on digitization projects is a critical component of change management within the institution because digital projects require new skills. The digital age is moving memory institutions into new paradigms of delivering both services and content, and this alteration brings with it a need for training in managing information in a hybrid environment.
I was once the director of an archival collection related to historical buildings around the world. From Babylon to Bauhaus, the collection held just about every amazing world monument you could think of and documented state-of-the-art historic preservation techniques. Here was my challenge: the archives was institutional with no public access, and I was a “lone arranger” in charge of all aspects of archival management at the organization. How could I share these treasures?
Digital files exist simply as data until they are rendered by application software, operating systems, and hardware platforms—making them vulnerable to format obsolescence and media decay. Unlike physical materials, digital files cannot survive what we call “benign neglect”.
Instagram is a powerful tool to introduce your archival collections to the public through images. It also allows your constituents to see parts of collections that they might not usually see because of security or preservation reasons. Viewers can experience your storage areas, your conservation room, or rare items that are rarely displayed.
Over the years, I've directed or have been part of a number of digitization projects. With each new experience, I've gathered a series of questions, an aide-mémoire, to be explored before commencing a digitization initiative.
In the course of my professional life, I've read many books about archives, libraries, and information management issues to keep abreast of the field. I thought I'd share some of my favorite books and reviews with you. Just click on the book title that interests you, and you'll be able to download my review.
Archives and special collection development policies should state what the organization currently holds and the collecting areas, especially records of enduring value that represent the organizations' history. A policy will not only formalize the archives program, but it will allow you to focus on what you would like to acquire as well as to disregard materials that fall outside of the collection. Focusing on what you will not collect will also allow you to deaccession materials that should not be in the collection.
As an archives consultant, it is difficult to explain to people what I do for a living. Describing what an archivist does is hard enough, but adding the extra layer of consulting makes an elevator pitch nearly impossible!
I want to share with you a recent project I completed to illustrate the work that I do for my clients. To keep anonymity, I will refer to the players in this project as the Writer, the University, and the Broker.
To kick off American Archives Month, Wednesday, October 4th is Ask an Archivist Day. This day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to connect directly with archivists in your community—and around the country—to ask questions, get information, or just satisfy your curiosity.
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Some of us remember Carole Jackson’s classic book Color Me Beautiful, which everyone seemed to own in the 1980s. I remember browsing through my mother's copy when I was a child.
American Archives Month is a time to focus on the importance of records of enduring value and to enhance public recognition for the people and programs that are responsible for maintaining our communities’ vital historical records.
Since its invention more than 150 years ago, photography has revolutionized communication and has provided a technological method for the comprehensive documentation of social and physical landscapes.
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