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.
Several years ago RAC faced a dilemma familiar to many in our profession – a daunting processing backlog that was growing exponentially and depriving scholar’s and staff of access to many of the records held in our collections. Our collections are great resources of knowledge, but only if those resources are available to our users!
To find a solution, we actively sought processing practices that reflect our values as an operating foundation, specifically the values of collaborating and sharing knowledge, disseminating information, promoting discovery in all its forms, and facilitating open and equitable access to all our archival holdings. Over the last year and a half, we shifted our strategy to processing by accession and implemented a standards-based approach which has been a resounding success thus far and has resulted in the processing and opening for research of over 4,500 cubic feet of records. This discussion will be the first in a series of posts about our processes and collaborations. I hope our experiences may be valuable and helpful to others. Continue reading →
This week I had the opportunity to attend the Born Digital Archiving eXchange hosted by Stanford University. It was a really great unconference that brought together digital archivists, curators, and others working to preserve and provide access to born-digital archives.
You might remember that earlier this year I wrote a post about Metadata Cleanup and Ford Foundation Grants that gave a very basic overview of how I went about reconciling thousands of subject terms against the Library of Congress. This reconciliation was essential in helping us gain control over data that we did not create, but that we also identified as possibly extremely valuable to researchers. This post will give an in-depth and updated account of how I hobbled together a (mostly) automatic way to check large amounts of topical terms against the Library of Congress. It still requires some hands-on work and quality checking is a must, but it cut a hundreds of hours job down exponentially.
We prepared a series of screencasts for a recent donor meeting. These screencasts give a really nice, visual, overview of how we use three different systems: Archivematica, ArchivesSpace, and DIMES, and how they connect to each other.
The first screencast reviews our Archivematica ingest process, and covers how we link to metadata in the Archivists’ Toolkit. We’ll be implementing this functionality using the ArchivesSpace API in the near future.