We are excited to announce the release of the Rockefeller Archive Center Documentation Website, a central platform for storing and sharing our institutional policies, workflows, guides, and other forms of documentation! We also want our site to generate more critical thought about how and why we write documentation, especially in terms of how we manage revisions to content, what formatting decisions we make in order to provide meaningful structure, and how we can use our documentation to contribute to the larger archives community. As a well-resourced institution, we feel a professional responsibility to be transparent about the tools and procedures we develop that may benefit our fellow archivists.
Walk the vaults!
Lastly, one major step this year was the opportunity to re-establish the summer fellowship program between the RAC and the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation in Rochester, NY. This educational program—along with NYU’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation (MIAP) program – can help repositories by providing excellent “future” archivists eager to assist in a “real world” setting.
I am not alone in the belief that access is an intrinsic part of preservation. In the past, the RAC — like many institutions — relied upon the creation of optical media discs (DVD or CD) for on-site researcher access. Beyond the person-hours required to create these discs, there were other issues such as retrieval time; the cumbersome process of loading discs into a player; and monitoring discs for on-going damage and wear and tear. My topmost concern, however, remained the long-term stability of these discs and the increasingly difficult-to-find drives necessary for playback. In short, we needed a new solution to the issue of audiovisual access.
A current trend in the archival field is “Accessioning as Processing,” based upon Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner’s article, “More Product, Less Process.” Dubbed “MPLP” for short, this topic remains prickly in the a/v world — and I am going to steer far away from discussing whether this trend has consequences for audiovisual collections (!).
I feel fortunate that the RAC has always gathered and/or maintained some form of documentation for their roughly 13,000 films, video, and audio elements. However, as with any archival institution, this information has been collected by several different individuals, who have sometimes employed different approaches over the course of many “eras” of RAC’s history. Applying consistency to audiovisual description became one of the first goals undertaken.
John Dewey once stated: “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”
So, as I have just finished my first year as the Audiovisual Archivist at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I thought now might be a good time to reflect upon what has been accomplished in these last twelve months.
Somewhat surprisingly, one of my favorite panels of Archives 2015 had very little to do with the actual work that I do day to day. Session 702, Controversial Crawling: Documenting University Scandal in Real Time, dealt with the practical issues of trying to capture internal and public discussions of university controversies on the web.
I often feel like archives shy away from documenting and seeking out controversial source materials, in many ways because of institutional pressure from invested parties that do not want those controversies kept in perpetuity. However, this panel offered a refreshing take on scandal, by explaining exactly how to three different web archivists selected and collected materials pertaining to institutional scandals, sometimes even against the wishes of those higher up in the organization. Continue reading
This past week I had the honor of attending the 2013 Archival Leadership Institute program. It was hands down one of the best experiences I’ve had in my archival career. Below is my attempt to capture the some of the magic that happened over the week.