The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Digitization
- 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]
Time-based media art: artwork containing audiovisual components that rely on playback mechanisms or systems for decoding, and that are typically engaged with other elements as an installed, interactive and/or performed experience
In September 2013 I arrived at the Archives to commence the inaugural 9-month National Digital Stewardship Residency designed by the Library of Congress and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Directed at the curatorial and conservation obstacles time-based media art imposes on museum workflows, I was tasked with developing strategies for handling the digital assets that make up these kinds of works, with particular focus on how they might best be placed in a trustworthy digital repository environment.
Jenny Holzer’s For SAAM (Smithsonian American Art Museum), and Siebren Versteeg’s Neither There nor There (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden) are just two examples of time-based media art that rely on digital assets to operate and that can be found in collections across the Smithsonian.
Through acquisition, installation, storage, and later re-installation, these works require technical evaluations and monitoring generally laid out in digital preservation strategies, which have not typically been cemented in museum procedures. At the same time, the variable, iterative, and subjective nature of these works necessitates the use of granular, yet scalable policies for describing, representing, and preserving their essential elements, behaviors, and variability. For these reasons, the standard assumptions surrounding documentation, authenticity, and custodial roles in the realm of digital preservation fall short of meeting the needs of time-based media art.
As part of my residency I am in conversation with curators, conservators, registrars, and gallery staff across the Smithsonian who have been participating in the Time-Based Media Art Working Group efforts. They have been looking internally and externally for resources and expertise in handling these types of works in order to fit the needs of their own collections. From these discussions I am developing higher-level procedures based upon preservation practices and current museum approaches.
It is important to note that the Smithsonian is particularly unique in this conversation, in that it represents a number of designated communities (units) with disparate collections, missions, and infrastructures.
With all of these things in mind, my ultimate goal is to produce baseline ingest, storage, and access policies for specific classes of time-based media artworks (web, video game, generative, etc.) with supplemental suggestions for the more granular, yet flexible guidelines based off variability and intended behaviors (installed, networked, performed, etc.). Through my deliverables I hope to add to the resources to be considered not only within the Smithsonian, but in other institutions collecting digital time-based media art as well.
Finally, since artists have and will continue to produce works using an assortment of both obsolete and emerging software, processes, and tools (whether intentional or not), it is necessary to remain flexible with regard to digital preservation approaches across museums. Priority should be placed on strategies that are adaptable, with the understanding that continued learning and collaboration will be essential in maintaining authenticity in the future re-creations of these works.
- Blank on Blank creatively animates selected the interviews from the Joe Smith Collection at the Library of Congress. [via Library of Congress blog]
- In case you missed it, this past Wednesday was Museum Selfie Day! [via The Guardian]
- Better watch out TIFF, the JPEG standard will now support 12-bit color depth and loseless compression. [via PetaPixel]
- Got some ancestors from New York City? Well you're in luck as Ancestry.com and the New York City Municipal Archives have partnered to make 10 million birth, marriage and death records available online. [via InfoDocket]
- Another great resource to tap into if you have audiovisual materials in your collections, the AV Artifact Atlas, a community-based project that identifies and documents the technical issues and anomalies that can affect audio and video signals. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Congratulations! The Biodiversity Heritage Library releases their first ibook, Every Week is Shark Week. [via Unbound, SIL]
- A video comparison of London in 1927 to London in 2013. [via Colossal]
Back in September, the Archives decided to begin its first rapid capture digitization pilot project. Since the point of rapid capture is to significantly increase throughput in digitization of material, having a group of material that is all relatively the same size is important. Robert Ridgeway’s bird head drawings, contained in Record Unit 7167, Series 3, were identified as a possible candidate for rapid capture based on the uniform size of all the drawings and digitization priorities within the Archives.
After the series was chosen, the next step in determining whether or not it was a good candidate for rapid capture was meeting with our conservation team to assess the condition of the drawings. When the collection was rehoused several years ago, the drawings were all placed in sink mats with flexible Mylar corners that have helped them remain in pretty good condition over time. Our conservators identified a handful of material that needed to be treated prior to being imaged, and once that work was completed, we were ready to begin the imaging process.
Since we were imaging non-bound materials using a copy stand setup, the workflow required two people to make it run smoothly; one to transfer each drawing to and from the copy stand, and one to take care of placing the image and taking the picture. Since the drawings would need to be taken out of their Mylar corners before being imaged, and then placed back within them once imaging was complete, we were initially worried that a third person might be needed in order to keep the process moving along at a rapid pace. However, after consulting with the conservation team, since the materials were housed in sink mats, we were able to place the drawings on top of the Mylar corners within the mats and then cover each mat with a sheet of tissue to avoid disrupting the images below when the mat above it was moved. This allowed us to prepare several boxes prior to each imaging session. The drawings were placed back in the Mylar corners after they were imaged, but since this step of the rehousing process only took a few seconds, it was completed as the next image was taken.
The number of images taken per box varied because, while all of the boxes contained the same number of sink mats, many of the drawings contained overlapping pieces of paper which required multiple photographs in order to capture all of the content. However, on average, it took about thirty minutes to complete each box, regardless of the number of images taken. During the rapid capture process, great care was taken to make sure that all of the drawings for a given box were captured in the same spot so that the raw files could be post-processed in bulk rather than having to crop each file individually.
All in all, rapid capture allowed us to produce over 1100 images from 29 boxes of drawings. The overlapping pieces of paper on many of the drawings would have made it difficult to digitize the drawings on a traditional flatbed scanner without causing harm to the material, but using the copy stand allowed us to significantly reduce the strain placed on the drawings. We hope to link the images produced during this pilot project to the collection’s finding aid sometime in the near future. The next set of material we plan on digitizing via rapid capture is Series 4 of Robert Ridgeway’s papers.
- Meet Robert Ridgway, Ornithologist and Artist, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 7167, Ridgway, Robert 1850-1929, Robert Ridgway Papers, circa 1850s-1919, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Recent discoveries of old photographs - 100 year old negatives found in Antarctica and long-lost photos of Mount St. Helens found in storage. [via PetaPixel]
- As befits the start of the new year, some lists about 2013: The top 14 digital preservatioin posts from The Signal: Digital Preservation and the 20 most popular searches on Europeana. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC and InfoDocket]
- Not to be left out, here are the top Smithsonian stories for 2013. [via The Torch, SI]
- The New York Botanical Garden has available 2 million out of 7.3 million specimens digitized and available in its digital database. [via InfoDocket]
- Now available from the Digital Scholarship Lab of the University of Richmond: Charles O. Paullin and John K. Wright's Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, first published in 1932. [via InfoDocket]
- Celebrate like it's 1932? Check out these films of New Year's Eve celebrations in the United States and Cuba. [via Media Matters, NARA]