The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Wikipedia
- As born digital media continues to make up more of what archives collect, the National Digital Stewardship Alliance Innovation Working Group at the Library of Congress, has awarded its inaugural set of awards to recognize innovative work in digital preservation. Here is an interview with one of its awardees, Bradley Daigle, Director of Digital Curation Services and Digital Strategist for Special Collections at the University of Virginia. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- The future of data storage? DNA? [via ExtremeTech and Carl Schaefer, SIA]
- Congratulations to the Field Book Project for reaching 6000 catalogued field books! [via Field Book Project Blog]
- Also from the Field Book Project, SIA's own Tammy Peters discusses the developing archival standard, EAC-CPF, which primarily addresses the description of individuals, families and corporate bodies that create and/or are associated with records in a variety of ways. [via Field Book Project Blog]
- Sometimes we can lose our purpose among the rules we set up. Case in point, the difficulties author Philip Roth ran into when trying to update a Wikipedia article about one of the books he wrote. [via InfoDocket]
- More often than not, when processing the personal papers of an individual, archivists come to a better understanding of that person than what is more widely known by the public. Such was the case for an intern at the New York Public Library while processing the papers of Timothy Leary. [via NYPL]
- Open Data - Europeana announces the release of its cultural dataset of some 20 million cultural objects under the CC0 public domain license. [via InfoDocket]
- An exciting oral history project coming out of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division at the New York Public Library, the Speaking of Dancing Project is composed of a series of interviews with prominent figures in the field that explores the role of interpretation in dancing. [via NYPL]
Just two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists. Sporting the theme “Beyond Borders,” I was impressed by the recent transformation in how archives and archivists “do business”—how the technological and digital border has for the most part disappeared.
Five years ago, the handful of conference sessions talking about digital records focused on how to capture and preserve born-digital records. This year, most sessions touched on digitization and digital records not as a novelty topic, but as one of today’s facts of life. History and access to it is happening in the digital realm, and archivists around the globe have embraced the Internet’s potential to enhance and expand the ways their organizations deliver services on a daily basis.
Then and now on my phone. Today, people are searching archival collections with their smartphones, accessing primary sources through “wired” devices they carry with them almost everywhere. In many cases, visitors are using the web browsers on their phones to visit an archives website or review the RSS feed from its blog. Mobile apps are starting to roll out. Photos from the Smithsonian Institution Archives collections can be accessed through the Historypin app (you can also see our photos on the Historypin website). You can plot the images on a map, use an embedded Google Street View to superimpose the historic photograph on the location in real time, and contribute your own stories about that particular place.
Going where the people go. More and more, archives, museums and libraries are establishing a presence at popular online social media sites. In places like Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter, they proactively call attention to the rich body of primary source materials in their permanent collections. Some have begun to engage with Wikipedians enhance and expand content related to their collection. Several Wikipedia editing events have been held at the Smithsonian, including our own recent edit-a-thon “She Blinded Me With Science: Smithsonian Women in Science." We are planning another event with the Archives of American Art and other Smithsonian groups for mid-October in honor of the “Wikipedia Loves Libraries” initiative.
Relevant connections. Has someone ever told you about something they’ve just discovered? The connections other researchers have made with a particular set of historical records can stir up new ideas and point to new areas to focus on. Some of the best archival blogs do just that, sharing the stories of people making connections with rich research material relevant to their field of study. In our own case, Archives’ research associate Marcel LaFollette ran across previously unpublished photos from the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, and she and our staff blogged about these finds here on The Bigger Picture. The trial photo set we shared on Flickr have been viewed over a 107,000 times, and people who were actually at the trial have contacted us to share their personal experience of the event.
Conversations enrich collections. Something archives have known for a long time is changing the way we learn more about our special collections. That secret: we are not the only experts. “Crowdsourcing” is another way archives and libraries are inviting others to contribute their own expertise or even simply their interest to enrich parts of their collections. Maybe you took part in New York Public Library’s “What’s On the Menu?” transcription project? It’s still going on with over one million dishes on over 15,000 menus transcribed so far!
These are just some of the huge and valuable changes occurring in Archives worldwide. Are there any issues we’ve missed or innovative archives projects you’d like to share? Please let us know in the comments below.
- Ahhhh . . . c'est très romantique! BibliOdyssey presents hand-coloured 19th century etchings of Paris streets.
- The United States Geological Survey now has a treasure trove of digitized maps at your fingertips [via Effie Kapsalis, SIA].
- Exciting news for your next Smithsonian visit: Google is mapping the Smithsonian's seventeen museums for visitors.
- Spellbound blog covers the opening of the Grateful Dead Archive Online (45,000 digitized items!), which threw open its virtual doors in late June, 2012. Users are invited to submit their own stories and items to the archive.
- The Smithsonian Institution Archives, in partnership with the National Museum of Natural History, has mounted an exhibit: When Time and Duty Permit: Collecting During World War II.
- Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, recently spoke at Wikimania, DC—where 1,400 people from 87 countries came together to talk, hack, and share their expertise and experiences during the week-long event about Wikipedia:
We just co-hosted our second Wikipedia edit-a-thon focusing on articles related to the history of the Smithsonian (our first edit-a-thon in honor of Women’s History Month focused on women employees at the Smithsonian who were in the sciences) with our Wikipedian-in-Residence, Sarah Stierch, who has been with us since March. I’ve enjoyed seeing in-person how Wikipedians work. They are tireless list-makers, they cite[i] everything (even in email!), and they do everything, from correcting simple typos to transcribing lengthy articles.
I was impressed with what a group of sixteen individuals (three of whom joined us online) were able to accomplish in a mere four hours which even included a tour of the Archives. Some of the highlights are:
- One transcription of the draft of James Smithson’s will.
- Five new Wikipedia articles, including an article about the Smithsonian’s first African American employee, Solomon G. Brown.
- Six updated Wikipedia articles, including the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center which now has information on the acquisition of the Space Shuttle Discovery.
- Several images and documents uploaded to Wikimedia Commons including correspondence between the Wright Brothers and Smithsonian staff.
If you would like to become an online volunteer with the Archives to help make our collections and resources more accessible, there are still several articles to be written and updated. You can see the full to-do list here which has citations to relevant online resources. Consider working on one of the people listed below who either worked for or were affiliated with the Smithsonian. As a group, they illustrate how diverse the people and activities of the Smithsonian have been over the years.
- Wilbur Olin Atwater — Honorary Curator of food at the United States National Museum (now the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History), 1884 to 1892.
- Dr. Asa Fitch — Founder of economic entomology in America. We have 5 of his notebooks in the Archives.
- Charles R. Knight — Wildlife artist whose work is displayed at several U.S. Natural History Museums. We have 3 of his sketchbooks in the Archives.
- Charles Doolittle Walcott — Paleontologist and 4th Secretary (similar to CEO) of the Smithsonian who brought his family along on collecting trips.
[i] “Citation Definition,” Wikipedia, accessed June 5, 2012, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citation.
- From archiving video footage of the fall of the Berlin Wall and preserving emails from China during Tiananmen Square protests, to crowdsourcing photo ids on the Smithsonian Flickr Commons: a wonderful profile of our director, Anne Van Camp, on the Library of Congress’ Digital Preservation blog.
- So exciting! Our Wikipedian-in-Residence, Sarah Steirch, talks about her mission to increase the presence of women on Wikipedia on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s culture show Q with Jian Ghomeshi. Listen
abovehere (the embedded mp3 was autoplaying, so click through to listen instead).
- A collection of food and other product packaging from the Hagley Library imparts important lessons and information about how our packaging effects the environment, and the jobs of conservationists [via Marcel Chotowski LaFollette, SIA].
- A familiar problem for parents and high schools? A conservator writes for Archives Outside about how to remove chewing gum stuck on paper.
- Fires, floods, scary animals, and dashing bravery . . . An Indiana Jones movie marathon? No silly, exciting accounts from our field notes collections at our sister blog The Field Book Project.
- Speaking of scary movies, here’s a bit on the restoration of the original JAWS negatives [via Marguerite Roby, SIA].
- The Space Shuttle Discovery arrived at the Smithsonian this week! It was mounted atop a modified 747 jet, and made several passes over the National Mall in Washington, DC before landing at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Check out the video below:
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