The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Digitization
- The World Wildlife Fund launched a new campaign to raise awareness of endangered species by using the #LastSelfie and Snapchat's self-destruct count-down method of viewing photos as a metaphor for the diminishing numbers of certain endangered species. [via PetaPixel]
- The New York City Dept. of Records added 30,000 newly digitized historical photographs to its online gallery. [via Jennifer Wright, SIA]
- Uncertain fate - The Rosa Parks Archives remains in a warehouse waiting to be sold. [via San Jose Mercury News]
- On a high note - William Grant Still's composition, "Grief," has been performed incorrectly due to an error that was introduced after the song was published. His daughter, Judith Anne Still, with the help of the Library of Congress' Music Division, was able to correct the error to his composition by finding the original unpublished manuscript that Still had deposited with the Copyright Office on June 15, 1953. [via Library of Congress blog]
- The Tate Museum releases a new digital audio archive that features 245 hours of material with over 1,640 artist interviews. [via InfoDocket]
- Let the computers do the work - Movement towards automated processing of electronic records. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Setting the record straight - The National Museum of American History revised their exhibition label for a DNA model template to recognize the important work of scientist Rosalind Franklin which helped lead to the discovery of the structure of DNA. [via O Say Can You See?, NMAH]
- Moving to DC, the National Museum of Natural History welcomed the Nation's T-Rex this past week where it will find a home while it's on loan for the next 50 years for 50 years from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. [via Smithsonian Science]
A common inquiry I receive from Smithsonian staff is whether it is better to keep their files in electronic or paper format. The best answer to this question is "it depends." There are several factors to consider.
1) How long do the files need to be kept?
Paper files, especially when accumulated over a long period of time, require a lot of physical storage space, but if the space is cool and dry, little needs to be done to preserve and maintain them in the long-term. Electronic files generally require little space, but must be regularly reviewed to determine if they need to be migrated to new media or converted to a new file format to ensure they can be accessed in the future.
2) Does one format have more value than the other?
A common example of one format having more value is documents containing signatures. Signatures are often proof of an agreement or testimony. Traditionally, they have been handwritten on paper documents. These paper documents with original signatures are generally necessary for ensuring the authenticity of a signature and are therefore more valuable than a scanned version of the document. The technology surrounding digital signatures, however, allows for the electronic file to ensure authenticity and a printed copy is not as valuable.
3) Is one format easier to use?
In the 21st century, most documents are created electronically and some just don't translate well into a printed format. All sorts of reports and even the data tables can be printed from a database, but printouts just can't be used as efficiently and the database itself can. Another example is a website. A printout does not allow a user to click on links or even give any indication of where the link goes. Not to mention the audio and video elements of a website do not translate at all in a printout.
The opposite can also be true. It is not uncommon for many different electronic files to be printed and compiled into a single printed document, such as a publication. A user could identify all of the electronic files and then attempt to read them in the appropriate order, but it would be easier just to look at the paper version.
4) In what format are the majority of the records already?
There can be value in having all related records in the same format (paper or electronic), but scanning or printing on a large-scale is time-consuming and potentially expensive. It is often best to choose the format that will require the least amount of printing or scanning. A cost-benefit analysis should always be done prior to converting files to a new format. Leaving existing files as is and documenting which files are paper and which are electronic may be a reasonable alternative.
In some cases, there may be significant benefit to maintaining files in both formats. One should be designated as the official copy – the format that will be maintained and preserved – and the other as a reference copy. An electronic version of a document may be suitable to maintain locally for quick reference or electronic searching while a paper version designated as the official copy could be stored off-site and retrieved if needed. Electronic files designated as official copies may be printed to create a paper file that can be easily browsed.
The decision to maintain files in paper or electronically is not an easy one, but by thinking it through and asking the right questions, a solution can often be found that will meet everyone's needs.
- Managing Active Records, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- What Does an Electronic Records Archivist Do?, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Describing Digital Preservation: As Easy as a Walk in the Park, The Signal: Digital Preservation, Library of Congress
- Coming soon in July 2016 - The National Air and Space Museum will have a revised and updated Milestones of Flight gallery to welcome its visitors. [via AirSpace, NASM]
- Preservation at its best the Star-Spangled Banner at the National Museum of American History has experienced little to no physical degradation since moving into its new space in 2008. [via O Say Can You See?, NMAH]
- The basics of scanning from the Library of Congress. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- An honored April Fool's tradtion at the National Museum of American History is its annual Conference on Stuff, this year's topic was "salt." [via The Torch, SI]
- A spotlight on digital collections at museums and the people behind them who create and preserve them: Marla Misunas, Collections Information Manager for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- My that's a big bird sculpture - Check out the The Lost Bird Project presented by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries and Smithsonian Gardens on view March 27 to March 15, 2015. [via Unbound, SIL]
Just recently have I come to deeper appreciate of the importance of Women's History Month. As an information technology archivist and digital services manager, my work centers around preserving historic born digital records, using digitization techniques to help preserve analog holdings, and taking advantage of the Internet to connect researchers and the public to our unique collections. For the past year that's included working with people all over the world over the Internet through crowd-sourcing transcriptions and Wikipedia articles.
My responsibilities didn't expose me to how turn of the 20th century attitudes toward women in the sciences continues to affect us today. Agnes J. Quirk was my wake up call.
In 2012, I participated in the Archives' first Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, aptly themed "She Blinded Me With Science" (join us for our second Women in Science edit-a-thon March 18th.) To be honest, I selected Agnes because of her last name and the fact that I knew nothing about her work. In 1901, Agnes J. Quirk worked in the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Laboratory of Plant Pathology as lab assistant to pathologist-in-charge Erwin Frink Smith. By 1928, she was heading the laboratory and continued to do so for two more decades. She became known for her work on crown gall disease. Fifty years after starting at the USDA, she applied for and was granted US Patent No. 2609322 Production of Penicillin Mold and Jelly.
Thankfully, with the guidance of more experienced Wikipedians at that Edit-a-thon and later on, I'm pleased to say that Agnes now has a Wikipedia article. People starting their research with this online resource can find something about her work as a botanist and find other resources if they want to delve further.
That's my Quirk. But the Chase?
Mary Agnes Chase (1869-1963) is another botanist whose personal papers are part of the Archives' collections. She came to my attention through the Archives' and the National Museum of Natural History joint Field Book Project. Chase was a bit more controversial for her time because she was also an active suffragette. While working as a botanist for the USDA, she was jailed for participating in one of the Washington, DC protests. This was deemed unseemly behavior for a federal employee and almost resulted in her dismissal. At another point, she was excluded from an expedition to Panama purportedly because she would be a distraction to the male scientists. All this, despite her field work in many parts of North and Central America.
The Field Book Project brought my attention to Chase. The goal of the Project was to make thousands of previously uncataloged scientific field books and journals discoverable online. Finding useful primary sources on the resulting the Field Book Registry quickly prompted scientists and other scholars to contact us with the very natural question of "Can I see them - online? I'm doing research and can't travel to Washington, DC." The answer is increasingly yes as we continue to digitize these field books.
Most of these field books are handwritten, making it difficult to bring digital analysis and data mining techniques to bear on these materials. So we've turned to the "crowd" on the Internet to help us transcribe these materials to remove this obstacle to e-science research. We've been surprised by the response from people all over the world to this "call to arms" on the Smithsonian Transcription Center. Launched just eight months ago, over 3,000 people from 50 different countries around the world are transcribing the materials we've placed there. 23 of 33 projects from the Archives have been completely transcribed and reviewed by these digital volunteers.
Mary Agnes Chase's photography of her field studies were among the first field books digitized and posted to the Smithsonian Transcription Center. Last week, we launched another Chase album project. At the current rate, perhaps with your help, this album might be fully transcribed before March is over.
- The Field Book Project, NMNH and SIA
- Smithsonian Transcription Center
- Agnes J. Quirk, Wikipedia
- Mary Agnes Chase, Wikipedia
- Women in Science Edit-a-Thon, Part II, March 18, 2014
- Accession 90-105 - Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 7271 - Rolla Kent Beattie Papers, circa 1928-1947, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- For all you birders out there - Bowerbirds and their elaborate nests. [via Core77]
- Making collections accessible - The Collections Program Technicians at the National Museum of Natural History. (via Unearthed, NMNH]
- The term "Archive" in a digital context - Different meanings to different people. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- And the Award goes to . . . University of Southern California Digital Repository, who will manage and preserve a 320-terabyte collection of audiovisual materials created by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over the last 50 years. [via InfoDocket]
- Whale graveyard mystery solved, it was the algae! [via Ocean Portal, NMNH]
- Digital movies and the difficulties in their preservation versus their film counterparts. [via Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig, SIA]
- With hints of spring coming, it is not early to start thinking about what to plant in your garden this year. The Smithsonian's own Janet Draper offers some advice on what you could do for a 10 x 10 foot bit of land. [via Marcel LaFollette, SIA]
- Go behind the scenes at the Smithsonian-Gale Project. [via Unbound, SIL]
- As the cost of 3D printers continues to go down, their use will most definitely become more commonplace. Premiering at South by Southwest is Print the Legend, the first full length documentary about 3D printing. [via Core77]
- 1 of 32
- next ›