The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Web/Tech
- The Smithsonian welcomes Dr. David Skorton as its 13th Secretary! [via The Torch, SI]
- This week the National Archives UK received their first born-digital records transfer from a government department which are now available in the online catalog, Discovery. Congrats! [via The National Archives UK News]
- Citizen Archivist Alex Smith is in the spotlight as he talks about his retirement project of helping the National Archives transcribe records in their collections. [via The National Archives Narrations blog]
- Now you know - Two news spaces are open at the National Museum of American History - Inventing in America (Exhibition includes patent models, prototypes, trademark examples and inventions to illustrate the ways that the United States has always depended on invention) and a new demonstration kitchen will host "Food Fridays" to connect food programming to the ideas of invention and innovation. [via SI Newsdesk]
- Snap away - First Lady Michelle Obama lifts the 40-year old ban on White House tour photos. [via The Verge]
- Discover the joy of vintage advertisements with The New York Times and their transcription project, Madison, which asks uses to tag and transcribe ads from the 1920s and 1960s. [via Core77]
- The Americans With Disabilities Act turns 25 this month. [via O Say Can You See?, NMAH]
- In the video below you see the exacting 10-month conservation of Charles Le Brun’s painting of Everhard Jabach and His Family. [via Colossal]
- Seven red pandas were born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute! [via Smithsonian Science News]
- You never now what you'll find - A photograph acquired from an estate sale may have Vincent van Gogh amongst the people in it. [via Colossal]
- With funding from a Foundations planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the seven women’s colleges once known as the “Seven Sisters” launch College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education which brings together online digitized letters, diaries, scrapbooks and photographs of women who attended the seven partner institutions. [via InfoDocket]
- Holding out till the end - The story of Confederate Brigadier General Chief Stand Watie and the final surrender of the Civil War. [via O Say Can You See? blog, NMAH]
- This is how we do it - A digital behind-the-scenes tour at how the Bentley Historical Library is working to ensure long-term access to their digital content. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Photographer Kenji Kawano has an exhibit of his photographs taken over the span of 40 years of time spent with the Navajo people at the Navajo Nation Museum. [via Lens, NYT]
- 15 California State Universities will colloaborate to digitize nearly 10,000 documents and more than 100 oral histories related to the confinement of Japanese Americans during World War II. [via InfoDocket]
- A wonderful resource will be available by the end of 2016 as 1.5 million slavery era documents will be digitized from The Freedman's Bureau through a collaborative project between the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. [via OpenCulture]
- Set to open on July1, 2015, the National Museum of American History's exhibition, American Enterprise, will have a portion dedicated to exploring the "economic dimensions of slavery and reflect on the institution's social and personal costs." [via O Say Can You See? blog, NMAH]
- New blog alert - National Book Festival blog from the Library of Congress. [via LOC blog]
- From 2010 to 2013 photographer Jimmy Nelson traveled around the world to capture the portraits of disappearing people groups and to preserve glimpses of their rites, customs, and traditions with the hopes that the images would preserve the cultures even if they didn't survive themselves. [via PetaPixel]
- New releases - Three new interactive ebooks from the Library of Congress covering women’s suffrage, Japanese American internment, and political cartoons and public debates and from the Smithsonian Science Education Center comes a new web series called Good Thinking! that aims to clear up scientific misconceptions through its cast of colorfully-animated characters. [via InfoDocket and Tubefilter]
- Plant biologists are making great progress towards building World Flora Online, an online database of the world's plant species. [via InfoDocket]
- This week marked the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, which put in place many key tenets of good government and for the first time established the principle that everyone – including the king – was subject to the rule of law. [via The National Archives UK blog]
- From Smithsonian Channel - Plants That Explode to Disperse Their Seeds! [via Colossal]
- This week marked the 50th anniversary of the first spacewalk. [via The Verge]
- On display at the National Postal Museum through November 2017 is the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, the world's rarest stamp. [via Pushing the Envelope blog, NPM]
- The Museum of Modern Art's website turns 20. [via Insdie/Out blog, MOMA]
- A monumental task - The first attempt to archive the .EU domain. [via Net Preserve Blog, IIPC]
- Announced this week - the National Museum of African American History and Culture will display objects from a slave shipwreck found near Cape Town, South Africa. [via Newsdesk, SI]
- 6 unexpected objects in the history of the internet at the National American History Museum. [O Say Can You See? blog, NMAH]
- Under development is the Library of Congress Demographic Group Terms (LCDGT) which will be used to describe the creators of, and contributors to, resources, and also the intended audience of resources. [via InfoDocket]
- Now available - the official 11-year timelapse of One World Trade Center being built. [via PetaPixel]
In just a handful of decades, our society has gone from hearing about the impending miracles of the digital age to daily lives permeated with digital culture. As a result, digital objects have become part of the Smithsonian’s historical record with its digital archives managed and preserved by the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA). Rarely do born digital holdings arrive carefully set to the side with documentation about what is on the storage media and with a backup or copy. At the Archives today, one out of three accessions will contain born digital material, most commonly found mixed in with the paper files.
Similarly other archives at the Institution have been steadily acquiring born digital holdings over the past several decades. Four years ago, the Smithsonian Institution Archives and archives within the National Museum of Natural History (National Anthropological Archives, Human Studies Film Archive), the National Air and Space Museum, the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History, the Archives of American Art, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, gathered to frame out a collaborative survey of their born digital holdings. Key goals of this effort were to uncover hidden holdings, establish physical and intellectual control of born digital material, and to perform a baseline preservation assessment, thereby strengthening the collections care provided. An integral part of the survey’s design is its shared methodology and metrics which can then serve as a foundation for future joint preservation initiatives and stewardship planning.
Receiving its first grant in 2012, the survey work focused initially on building an inventory of removable storage media present in each archive while completing questionnaires that evaluated the preparedness of the archives to manage these types of collections. A second grant was received in 2014 to complete the survey work, perform risk analysis at the individual file level and provide essential interventions to stabilize these fragile materials. Completed in April 2015, the resulting qualitative and quantitative insights are being incorporated into the collections stewardship planning of the participating archives and museums.
Leveraging familiar waters
Established eleven years ago, the Archives’ Electronic Records Program (ERP) conducted its first born digital holdings survey in 2004-2005. As a result, changes were made to the acquisition, processing and preservation workflows to achieve best practices for holdings that can vary dramatically in formats, age, and quantity. What started initially as documents, spreadsheets, and simple databases from the late 1990’s, has now grown to include images, audio, video, mobile apps, websites and social media, construction drawings, GIS data, email accounts, scientific data sets, and even custom built software programs with an estimated half a terabyte of new born digital holdings acquired each year.
The Electronic Records Archivist Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig and ERP volunteer Peter Finkel assisted regularly throughout the survey and continue, along with the shared workflows and software tools, to serve as mentors and a common resource to the survey’s participating archives.
In many ways, the survey implemented the principles laid out in Ricky Erway’s white paper, "You've Got to Walk Before You Can Run".
Determining levels of risk
Preservation risk for content on media that could be read was determined on the basis of format and age, creating a simple mechanism to rank individual files:
- Severe (1) indicated files older than 10 years and whose format the participating archive was unable to access.
- High (2) indicated files younger than 10 years and whose format the participating archive was unable to access.
- Medium (3) indicated files older than ten years yet were in formats that the participating archive was able to access.
- Low (4) indicated files younger than ten years in formats that the participating archive was able to access.
Taken as a whole, risk was distributed 14% Severe, 5% High, 43% Medium and 38% Low according to the image below:
Over 470 accessions were inspected, 6,613 pieces of removable media inventoried, and 651,629 born digital files assessed for preservation risks. Concurrently, the assessed files were stabilized. That is to say, they were scanned for viruses, their fixity values determined, backups made into secure storage environments, and metadata generated such that a minimum of bit-level preservation of well-defined holdings is now in effect. Combined with the portion of SIA holdings that had already been assessed and preserved prior to the survey, close to 1.5 million born digital holdings across six archives are now under proper archival control. Placed in the context of the recently published [POWRR framework], the progress made by this survey is striking.
State of born digital holdings preservation among survey participants of 2012:
State of born digital holdings preservation among survey participants at the survey conclusion:
We are excited at the enduring effect this survey will have on the born digital holdings within Smithsonian collections and their stakeholders, as well as the stewardship community and the born digital advocacy it empowers.
- Erway, Ricky. "You’ve Got to Walk Before You Can Run: First Steps For Managing Born Digital Content Received on Physical Media." OCLC, 2012
- Schumacher, Jaime et al. "From Theory to Action: Good Enough Digital Preservation for Under-Resourced Cultural Heritage Institutions." Northern Illinois University. Captured March 31, 2015
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