Code4Lib and Archives

I’m just back from Code4Lib, a conference of people who work with technology in libraries and archives, held this year in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is the third time I’ve been to Code4Lib, and as before, I found it a conference that is both stimulating and exhausting; that takes a lot, but gives a lot in return.

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a trend towards the inclusion of more content relating specifically to archives, and I’ve also noticed an increase in people working in archives attending the conference. This year, there was a full-day workshop the day before the conference started in earnest devoted to discovery and use in an archival context. The workshop was very well attended (perhaps in part because the organizers of this session opened it up to include non-conference goers); over 70 people registered for it. I attended this workshop in the morning, and was really impressed by the range of knowledge and experience of the attendees.

During the conference, there were a number of sessions on technology specific to archives. XTF, the system we use for DIMES, came up in a number of contexts, perhaps the most compelling of which was an administrative interface that the Chicago Collections Consortium is building for the system. As you might expect there was a lot of discussion about ArchivesSpace, including a post-conference hackathon that I unfortunately missed. It seems like many institutions are in the process of implementing it, which bodes well for the future of the software and the vitality of the community supporting it. I was also really intrigued by the presentation Matt Miller (NYPL Labs) gave on an interface to discover archival material through network visualizations. While he is clearly in the beginning stages of his work, it is certainly a provocative idea that was, for me anyway, a helpful reconceptualization of discovery and archival description.

While it’s probably not wise to draw too many grand conclusions from this trend of increasing interest in archives from the Code4Lib community, I do think it’s a hopeful sign that so many technologically savvy and smart people are paying attention to the world of archives, and thinking about how they can participate in and contribute to it. The conversations that I had with many people at the conference lead me to believe that many individuals who have not traditionally been involved in archives are finding it as challenging, fruitful and exciting a place to engage as are those of us who are a part of the archival profession.

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