The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
- Strike a pose - Portraits of vintage photography gear by photographer Julian Calverley. [via PetaPixel]
- Awesome sauce! The Getty Research Institute releases Art and Architecture Thesaurus as Linked Open Data. [via InfoDocket]
- In more Linked Open Data news, OCLC released 194 million bibliographic work descriptions. [via semanticweb.com]
- Rewritable CDs - Insights on how to transfer their data to a more stable format from WNYC's John Passmore. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Its going to be a banner year at the National Museum of American History as it celebrates its 50th Anniversary and the 200th anniversary of our national anthem. [via Smithsonian Magazine]
- These beautiful panoramas capture how Glacier National Park and Yellowstone changed from 80 years ago to today. [via PetaPixel]
- In honor of a colleague who just came back from visiting Vermont that included a trip to the Snowflake Bentley Museum, here is filmmaker Vyacheslav Ivanov's short of individual snowflakes forming. [via Colossal]
This weekend marks the U. S. Hockey's annual Hockey Weekend Across America, an event designed to help spread appreciation for the sport throughout the United States. It spans three days, February 28 – March 2, and each day has it's own theme including "Wear Your Jersey Day," "Try Hockey Day" and "Celebrate Local Hockey Heroes Day." In honor of the weekend, I'd like to share some items with you to help get you in the shinny mood.
First off, in order to play ice hockey, you need both ice and skates. In 1905, a photographer captured some candid shots of folks enjoying a nice winter's day on a frozen Rock Creek within the grounds of the National Zoological Park. The group in the center of the photo looks ready to play. They’ve got their sheet of ice, skates, the child to the left is even wearing a pair of heavy gloves that should protect him from an errant slash. But there’s something they’re missing that every good hockey player needs.
An image from 1944 in the Smithsonian Flickr Commons should be able to help our would-be hockey players. The image features U.S. troops who are attempting to sort through holiday mail. Some items being sent are a damaged box that clearly states "Glass with care," a spare tire, and a hockey stick. Now we’re ready to play!
There is one last, quick story I wanted to share. As I vaguely mentioned in a previous blog post, I often use bears as subjects when testing our collection searches. When I check finding aids, I often use the key word "Hockey." My favorite finding aid that get's returned is for Accession 09-066 - National Portrait Gallery, Dept. of Exhibitions and Collections Management, Exhibition Records, 1979-1983, 1988, 2008. The finding aid contains records of the exhibition Champions of American Sports. Box 7 contains records involving Bobby Hull (One of my all-time favorite Chicago Blackhawks and who's portrait is currently on view in the National Portrait Gallery's Champions exhibit.), Bobby Orr, and Gordon "Gordie" Howe.
It's Gordie Howe that is the subject of my favorite hockey story. Howe, who is best known for his 25 years with the Detroit Redwings, was in the twilight of his career and had moved on to the Hartford Whalers. One day, during warm-ups, he spied a young, 7-year-old boy poking his head over the glass (at that time the glass on top of the boards was much lower than it is now). Howe scooped up some of the snow that accumulates on the ice with his stick, skated over, and dumped it on the boy's head. Skating off, Howe looked back to the boy and gave him a wink.
The boy, Jeremy Roenick, would go on and become a legendary player in the NHL in his own right. When he announced his retirement from the NHL, Roenick recalled that memory. While Roenick was a player, he attempted to reach out to fans as much as he possibly could, and he cited his moment with Howe as a reason for that. "For those three seconds, it was me and Gordie Howe and no one else," Roenick said. "That moment stuck in me, for years, and years, and years, because I know what that made me feel like. It was little, it was small, it took nothing out of his power or his time, but it resonated my whole life."
- Accession 09-066 - National Portrait Gallery, Dept. of Exhibitions and Collections Management, Exhibition Records, 1979-1983, 1988, 2008, Smithsonian Institution Archives
When it comes to digital preservation the work is never truly finished. As we have written before, our best practices with digital curation and preservation involve keeping the original file in its original format as well as creating a file in a preservation format when possible.
For instance if we have an older Microsoft Word document, we will keep it and also create a PDF version of that file as its preservation master. If a researcher is interested in the file, they will get a PDF copy since it is a standard format and easy to access.
Benefits of retaining the original version:
- It is good to have it in case the preserved copy becomes corrupted.
- If the file cannot be accessed now, software and/or emulators may be developed eventually that can read it. Emulators are used quite often with old video games.
- Better software can be developed that can render a “better” file that is more complete, such as displaying metadata or displaying at original size.
Kodak Photo CD (PCD) files are one such example of original files that have benefitted from being revisited. Developed film was scanned onto CDs that contained up to 100 images and saved as the proprietary PCD format rather than the more familiar JPEG or TIFF. Kodak no longer supports the product.
Offices across the Smithsonian have these CDs and the Archives is no exception. We have a manageable number from our collections that total approximately 1,000. Some of them were converted previously into TIFF preservation files, but we were not capturing the “entire” file with the software we were using. The file size was set to a smaller one during conversion to a TIFF from its original size on the CD. Meanwhile, other software that could convert the PCD files discontinued the plug-in that was needed in software upgrades.
A few years later there are now more software conversion options available to handle these obsolete files. You can find some by searching “PCD conversion” online. Our latest conversion to TIFF files has resulted in full-size files with higher resolution and metadata about the film and scanner that was not present with the other software. All our collections with PCD files have been converted to these “better” versions.
If you have older files that are in obsolete formats, here are some things to consider:
- Convert a copy of the file to a more sustainable format. Example: old word-processing file to a PDF.
- View the original (if you can) to compare the migrated file to it. Does the look and feel match? Is that important for the document to you? Is metadata present?
- Consider retaining the original file in case you can get a “better” version of it later.
- Don’t forget to monitor the preserved/converted file itself for obsolescence.
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