The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Category: What Gets Saved
- Photshopping, Victorian-style. [via PetaPixel]
- A suitable home for an automotive archive; the General Motors historic carriage factory, Durant-Dort Factory One. [via Today's Motor Vehicles]
- New to the official Oxford Dictionary lexicon; manspreading, MacGyver, and Awesomesauce. [via InfoDocket]
- A massive treasure-trove of historic maps is now mobile! [via InfoDocket]
- 50 years of the National Mall from the Washingtonian Archive. [via Washingtonian]
- Imageine the possibilities: you can now 3D print with glass! [via Colassal]
- If you are looking for an exciting livestream, check out the University of Arizona, who's playing host to two baby hummingbirds. [via Wired]
- The world's oldest multicolored printed book has been opened and digitized for the first time. [via Colossal]
- The power of the user - Library users at the Los Altos main library in California rejected the new online catalog in favor of the old one. [via InfoDocket]
- For your viewing pleasure NASA is now on Tumblr. [via The Verge]
- The National Archives UK has redesigned the "Records" section of their website to help users find what they are looking for. [via The National Archives Blog]
- History in the making - The invention of digital photography at Kodak. [via Lens blog, NYT]
- Exactly how do you put on an Apollo spacesuit? The folks at the National Air and Space Museum explain. [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- One step closer to Mars - Astronauts taste lettuce grown on the International Space Station. [via The Verge]
- Scenes from the Scurlock Studio Collection at the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History. [via Smithsonian Collections Blog]
- Yeah! Another crowdfunding goal achieved - The University of Texas at Austin successfully funded a recording studio in the Fine Arts Library. [via InfoDocket]
- 70 years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, researchers are archiving the longest running study of A-bomb survivors. [via Motherboard]
- Opening this week is the National Postal Museum exhibition: PostSecret: The Power of a Postcard, which presents a contemporary look at mail and the postal service, highlighting the aesthetics of postcards and the juxtaposition between anonymity and shared experiences. [via Pushing the Envelope blog, NPM]
- Coming together - 100 year old images at Cambridge University's Museum of Archaeology and Antrhopology have been digitized and are being reunited with the communities they depict. [via Motherboard]
- Lonnie Bunch, Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture was on NPR last week talking about why he decided to start gathering items from the Ferguson protests and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement. [via NPR]
When I last wrote about email in 2011, there were rumblings that the electronic communication tool was dying. Claims about email being on its last leg still continue. Texting and social media tools are presenting additional options depending on the message content and who it is intended for. A business contract is not being sent via Facebook Messenger. Also consider that many online forms still require an email address from the person seeking a service, newsletter, etc.
Email helps (contacting multiple parties at once) and hinders (messages that get buried) us. It was 10 years ago that the Smithsonian Institution Archives and the Rockefeller Archive Center launched its Collaborative Electronic Records Project (CERP) that evolved into an email preservation project. At that the time, the largest email account we worked with was 1.5 GB or 28,000 messages. Today, our collections include individual email accounts that are nearly 30 GB or more than 250,000 messages and attachments. These email collections come from accounts that are no longer active at the Smithsonian, dating from the late 1990s through 2015.
Even if email is obsolete in five years, memory institutions will continue to receive email accounts from previous years that need to be accessible to researchers.
Other archives, libraries, museums, universities, and various organizations also are exploring email preservation challenges within their collections. These messages and attachments come from artists, authors, professors, and government officials, to name a few. Researchers, scholars, and journalists have always had an interest in the correspondence from the past. Previously this information was in the printed form of letters, memos, cards, etc.
In June the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration hosted the Archiving Email Symposium. There were about 150 attendees, which included archivists, librarians, technology specialists, curators, and others. The event included presentations by the Smithsonian Institution Archives, the Library of Virginia, Stanford University, and various federal agencies. Topics included toolsets, appraisal, legal and records management issues, and processing workflows. A workshop on the second day focused on challenges and next steps for the interested parties to address through additional collaboration.
More tools and approaches are being developed across the preservation community to provide access and to help preserve email collections. This is just a sampling of some projects:
- Library of Virginia's Kaine Email Project makes the emails from Governor Tim Kaine’s administration searchable online in full-text PDFs.
- Stanford University’s ePADD or email: Process, Accession, Discovery processes an email account and allows for searching, browsing, and restricting messages, as well as applying user-created lexicons to help in finding confidential information. Some visualization features also are available (Note: The Smithsonian Institution Archives assisted in testing the software and providing feedback).
- The University of Maryland is working with email collections from companies that have failed. The project is dealing with issues of PII (personal identifiable information) and researcher access.
- Harvard University developed a system that Harvard curatorial partners are using that takes in email content, deals with processing of the materials, and offers long-term preservation of the messages and attachments.
The Archives also has been busy improving its in-house tools for email preservation work. Since the Smithsonian email accounts have grown in size, our original preservation processing software was showing its limitations. We have been testing an in-house program called DArcMail (Digital Archive Mail System) written in Python that still gives us the XML preservation output we adopted during CERP, as well as a database for searching email messages and attachments within accounts. So far the results have been promising with faster output, multiple options for searching, and viewing related emails within a chain.
The various options that are being tested and implemented demonstrate that many institutions and organizations understand the importance of preserving email communications from the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
- The History of Email at the Smithsonian, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Emerging Collaborations for Accessing and Preserving Email, The Signal: Digital Preservation blog, Library of Congress
- Skeletons found at Jamestown have been identified as those of the colony leaders. [via Smithsonian Science News]
- The National Archives and Records Administrative published guidance this week to government agencies on managing electronic messages. [via InfoDocket]
- Just last week we announced that the National Air and Space Museum launched its first Kickstarter campaign to help conserve, digitize, and display Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit, and lo and behold, it has already surpassed its fundraising goal and is currently at over $570,000! Now that its funded, this is what's next for the spacesuit. [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- In conjunction with the exhibition: Artist Teacher Organizer: Yasuo Kuniyoshi in the Archives of American Art, fiber artist Aram Han Sifunetes hosted a workshop that that delved into explorations of American-ness. [via Archives of American Art Blog]
- Blast from the past - How press photos were transmitted in the 1970s. [via PetaPixel]
- What is that wonderful smell? Food Fridays is a new cooking demonstration series at the National Museum of American History's Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza. [via O Say Can You See? blog, NMAH]
- From VHS tape to your computer - Yale Library is digitizing and making available online thousands of mystery VHS tapes. [via WSHU Public Radio Group]
- For your viewing and educational pleasure: Video recording of the panel discussion at Wikimedia Foundation: “Copyright in the Era of Mass Digitization." [via InfoDocket]
- The video below gives you a glimpse of Iron Mountain where archival collections, photographs, motion picture films, data, and much more are stored. [via PetaPixel]
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