The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Web/Tech
- 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
A little under a year ago, we rolled out a new search for our site which is powered by the Google Search Appliance. The goal of implementing this new search was to make our content and collections more accessible, to make discovery easier, and to generally improve the user experience.
Work towards that goal didn't end a year ago.
Over the summer of 2014, work by our staff began on making PDFs of the Smithsonian staff newsletter, The Torch, text-searchable. Because these PDFs can be read by our Google Search Appliance's bots, their content can be indexed. This means that our site search will return any Torch issue that matches your search string.
Let's say you're doing some research on Smokey the Bear. So you head over to our website, and search for "Smokey." You'll be presented with a familiar search results screen (one of which is actually a link to a Torch PDF). But let's say you didn't want to see finding aids or collection items, just the PDFs. Don't worry, you can do that too.
You may have noticed there's a new link at the top of the content type filters, labeled "PDFs." In the above example, the site would return only PDFs that match the search string "Smokey," such as an article about if Smokey should be retired and the original Smoke's obituary.
- You Asked, We Listened: Introducing the Archives New Site Search, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Smithsonian Institution Archives Moves to Drupal 7, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- And now you see it - The oldest microscope at the National Museum of American History. [via O Say Can You See? blog, NMAH]
- A previously misfiled fossil leads to the revelation that the prehistoric reptile, known as a mosasaur, gave birth in the open ocean rather then lay eggs. [via Smithsonian Science News]
- From the Archives of American Art - A look at how the life and work of artist Miné Okubo was affected by being detained in the Topaz internment camp in Utah during World War II. [via Archives of American Art Blog]
- It's official - It was announced this week that President Barack Obama's Presidential Library will be located in Chicago. [via InfoDocket]
- Happy 50th Anniversary to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center! This Saturday, May 16, they are hosting an open house at their location in Edgewater, Maryland. [via SERC]
- There's an app for that - Yale University released an app that builds on the Map of Life’s integrated global database of everything from bumblebees to trees, which tells users which species are likely to be found in their vicinity. [via Yale News]
- Congratulations to the University of Pennsylvania who recently acquired a copy of Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg’s Petit Code de la raison humaine, a book printed in France by Benjamin Franklin in 1782. One of only four known surviving copies, its acquisition by Penn adds to its collection of more than 330 works printed by Franklin. [via InfoDocket]
- New from the National Museum of African Art - Its first graphic novel, The Song of Lionogo, which is based on a Swahili mythological figure from East Africa and was inspired by the cultural connections between the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian Ocean. [via NMAfA]