This past week I had the opportunity to attend the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) in Erie, Pennsylvania. Sibyl and I presented on some of the work we’ve done with our implementation of XTF, focusing on user testing and other forms of evaluation.
At this panel, which focused on single search, it was interesting to note the overlap in approach to discovery that RAC has with many other institutions. Although the two other panelists were from larger institutions and had different technical solutions, it seemed as though we were all trying to solve a common set of problems around discovery. Both of the other panelists were from Virginia and mentioned Virginia Heritage, which is a consortium-based discovery system that is built on XTF.
I went to a number of other sessions, and learned some interesting things about what other institutions are doing.
One of the first sessions I attended highlighted several projects that focused on mobile technologies. While many of these projects made use of older mobile technologies, it was interesting to note that almost all of them integrated existing third-party technologies like Google Maps or Flickr. The panelists made some useful and very insightful points. First, mobile devices necessitate paring down the amount of text we have on our websites, simply because long paragraphs of text aren’t readable on a phone or other mobile device. I wonder, though, if we can build a mobile website without a lot of text, why can’t we build a regular site without a lot of text either? Second, many of them pointed out that web projects of any kind are not just a one-time project, but require constant evaluation, reassessment and maintenance. I found this a realistic assertion, and one that is certainly confirmed by my experience developing DIMES.
A major theme at this year’s conference was advocacy and activism. There were two separate sessions on this topic. Many of these presentations touched on the tensions between advocacy and the idea of archivists as unbiased and neutral. It was also interesting to note that authenticity was a key concern to many of the panelists, and that access and use were both very important and highly problematic in many of the case studies presented.