Developing Change: How a Tech Project Enabled Organizational Transition

Below is a talk that Bonnie, Patrick and Hannah gave at the 2018 NDSA Digital Preservation Conference in Las Vegas. It has been edited slightly for the blog format. Our slides are available online.

Introduction

I’m Bonnie Gordon, and with me are Hannah Sistrunk and Patrick Galligan. We’re all on the Digital Programs team in the Archives unit at the Rockefeller Archive Center. Our primary collecting area is philanthropic foundations, and many of our donors are current organizations of varying sizes. Our archives unit is made up of over 30 staff spread out over 5 teams: Reference, Processing, Collections Management, and the D-Team, which is the 3 of us plus the Head of Digital Programs. Our team was initially formed over 5 years ago to handle everything “digital,” but has evolved from working on operational digital preservation and digitization activities to overseeing projects that allow our organization to implement a sustainable digital preservation program, described in our mission statement as providing technical support and leadership to our colleagues.
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The Values of Open Communities

I (relatively) recently came back from Open Repositories and have had a myriad of jumbled thoughts bouncing around in my head about aligning communities, values, software, and expectations within libraries and archives. Hopefully, this blog post will serve as an outline for the thoughts that have been percolating for a few weeks, and really, a few years before that. I’ve met a significant number of professionals that I know share these opinions as well, but I think it’s helpful to spend some time reflecting on the ideas they’ve imparted and how we, as members of a community, can better align our actions with our values, and the difficulties that work presents. Continue reading

Modeling for Project Electron

In her most recent blog post, Hannah wrote about our approach to Project Electron’s proposed systems integration architecture. One of our goals with Project Electron is to support the flow of data about digital materials between our systems and getting valuable information to researchers in new ways. Supporting data in motion is integral to Project Electron’s success, and while Hannah and Hillel have been hammering away at creating a comprehensive overview of the microservices architecture, I’ve been working with the entire archive center to develop a draft data model for discovery and display of born digital and digitized materials. If, as we’ve been thinking, Project Electron is about creating infrastructure to support data, a data model will in turn act as a blueprint for that infrastructure. Data models are tools we can use to communicate and define how we want data to move between systems, and we think understanding how our data will move throughout our systems to our researchers is vital to the success of the entire project. Continue reading

Modeling Coworker Engagement with Data

As our work on the transfer application portion of Project Electron nears its completion, I’ve started to think more seriously about modeling our data that we are bringing into our systems. We’ve actually been prepping for this stage of the project for months, going all the way back to the Data Model Bibliography I put together in February 2017. Now that the D-Team was in the thick of data modeling, we thought it was time to bring the rest of the Archive Center on board as well. I’m just a single archivist, and even though I’ve done a lot of reading about data models, I’m no expert on the entirety of our collection or its materials. We knew that we’d need more eyes on our initial data model draft once we made it to make sure we weren’t forgetting an important component of our collections. Continue reading

Shades of Similarity at Open Repositories

I attended my first Open Repositories conference in Brisbane, Australia two weeks ago. And while the RAC is still fairly new to the repository world and ecosystem, I picked up on a few trends that I think span across systems, institutions, and disciplines. Most of the attendees at the conference were coming from university library settings, but those institutions seemed to struggle with the same things we, as archivists, do: managing and maintaining a large infrastructure made of many systems, eliminating silos of information, and how to adapt to changing researcher or user needs. Sound familiar? If you said the above concerns made you think about what we’re trying to solve here with Project Electron, kudos to you. The entire conference I kept thinking about how it felt like almost everyone was trying to deal with the same issues we were, and in largely the same manners. Continue reading

Web Archives – Where Do We Go From Here?

We’ve recently been thinking a lot about the potentials of web archives here at the RAC. Last week, I attended the appropriately titled web archives WARCshop hosted by Penn State University, and, while the organizers focused on getting its participants hands-on experience working with web archives research tools, the lesson that I took away from it is that libraries and archivists still have a long way to go in fully supporting researchers working with web archives. Penn State invited a great group of librarians and archivists to learn, as well as Jefferson Bailey and Lori Donovan from Archive-It, Nick Ruest from York University, and Ian Milligan from Waterloo to help lead the workshop. I was personally very excited for the meeting because I think Nick and Ian have been doing some of the most exciting research in web archives for the past few years, and I always love hearing them talk. Continue reading

Maintaining a Kick A** Tech Team and Organization

Below is a talk that Bonnie, Patrick and Hillel gave at the 2017 Code4Lib Conference in Los Angeles. Our slides are available online.

Intro

Hello! I’m Hillel Arnold, and with me are Bonnie Gordon, and Patrick Galligan. We’re the Digital Programs team from the Rockefeller Archive Center, an independent archive and research center located in Sleepy Hollow, NY (yes, it’s a real place). Our team’s role is to provide technical leadership and expertise to our organization across all function areas. That’s a link there to the text of this talk, which also includes links to a number of other things we’ll talk about that you can follow if you want. Continue reading

Replacing Refids for Automation and Standardization

A few months ago, I wrote about selected digitization readings and how we were going to use them to overhaul our digitization workflows. We’re now a couple of months into our new digitization workflow, and things are starting to run smoothly, but during the process, we noticed that we wanted a better way to match our digitized files to their description without using semantic filenames or separate metadata sheets. Continue reading

The Master Shelf List: Where We Go From Here

For many archives, the master shelf list has been a permanent staple since their inception. We have one. It’s an ever-growing Excel spreadsheet that lists the location of every single box in our collection down to the shelf number. It’s enormous, it’s unwieldy, and it takes a ton of work to keep updated month to month. For years we’ve been looking for a way to move away from it, and the release of ArchivesSpace version 1.5 has given us the rare opportunity to move entirely away from our spreadsheet into a more structured and interoperable. The Rockefeller Archive Center will no longer enter new information into our Master Shelf List. Continue reading