Beginning Preservation

Hi, all. I’m in my last semester in the MLS program, unofficially focusing on Digital Curation and Special Collections. My interest in this course is due to studying art in undergrad and professionally creating visual effects for several years before I decided to study Library Science. I recently assisted in the creation of a digitization program at the library in which I work. The greatest challenge to that project was to explain the importance of following the current best practices, such as creating multiple file backups and fixity information. However, the program also needed to be manageable by individuals that are not very technology literate. The program was implemented with only minimal adherence to current preservation standards.

Throughout school, many of the articles that I’ve read about digital preservation start from the idea that the reader is already experienced with digital archiving practices and procedures and are only interested in what other institutions are doing or if the best practices have changed. Few are ever written with the aim of aiding an organization or individual begin their first digital project. Therefore, the reading that most interested me was the one that dealt with the NDSA Levels Chart, as it was most relevant to my current work.

In contrast, the Fino-Radin article only mentions the very technical steps that were followed and how they followed ‘the accepted best practices’, or why they went beyond those standard preservation practices. It also appeared that they were experienced managing similar data, so there was little research on how to achieve the goals of the project, which would have had value for someone with less experience archiving digital materials.

The NDSA article suggests that the different levels are things for the preservation efforts to strive for, instead of boxes that need to be checked off. The article also suggests that it is acceptable if the institution is only able to achieve the Level 1 standards, as not every institution is able to understand and meet the Level 4 standards, especially if they are starting their first digitization/preservation program or have little experience with digital media, in general.

It is refreshing to see that not every digital preservation effort needs to perfect right from the beginning, but that it can grow and expand over time to include the standards and practices that it was lacking.

Collaboration through reinterpretation

Hi all! I’m Eric, and I’m in my second and (knock on wood) final year in the MLS program, focusing primarily on archives and special collections. Like many of you, my background is not in libraries; I got my undergrad in English and then worked for several years in international education and development. I’m currently working on a metadata-focused project in the University Archives at UMBC, and a digitization project at UMD’s Special Collections in Performing Arts. My interests in this field are broad but I ideally hope to work with arts-related materials (in particular music or film), and am interested in the digital humanities in general, so I was excited to hear about this course.

Continue reading “Collaboration through reinterpretation”

Art & the Ephemeral

Hello! I’m Sarah Mackowski; I’m a part-time student, working on the Curation of Digital Assets track in the MLS program. I work full-time at a research library in DC, where I assist with both acquisitions and inter-library loan. When I’m not doing that, I’m often doing work in the theatre — my undergraduate degrees were in art history and theatre technology, and for the first six or so years after graduating, I made my way primarily in the theatre industry, with library work as a part-time job. I have some stage management experience, but the work I enjoy the most has always been lighting work.

I was very excited to take this course because, as Brittany said, it’s the only arts-specific course, and I’d really like to find a way to bring my theatre work and my library/archives work together. Of all the parts of theatre, lighting is one of the ones most closely tied with digital (also sound, projections, and automation), and one of the least studied in archival terms, as far as I have been able to determine. It’s very subjective, and relies heavily on proprietary technology that is not metadata-export-friendly, but does occasionally have some lovely emulators. And, of course, aside from the archiving questions, there are the restaging questions — restaging in a completely different theatre, with different equipment (possibly, if enough time has passed, different brands of different quality and different interfaces).

I was glad to see several references throughout Rinehart and Ippolito’s book to theatre, and the similarity of the issues involved, even if they painted theatre with a slightly wider brush. Much of what they were saying was extremely familiar to me, even with non-theatre examples. I was delighted when at one point my brain went straight to Dan Flavin, and not two pages later, there was a section focused on his work. I found it particularly ironic (and I’m sure the writers did too) that Flavin’s luminous colors were reprinted in a dark greyscale. There is really nothing like seeing a Flavin in person.

I was surprised, however, that for all their talk of copyright, they never directly addressed the concept of remixing as tranformative works, a case that is a specifically allowed exception to copyright law, and most definitely covers works such as The Grey Album. I volunteer with the Organization for Transformative Works, who puts out the journal Transformative Works and Cultures that we will be reading from later in the semester. I was very surprised to see the transformative aspect of remixing and sampling not addressed directly.

I can’t wait to really dig into this course. Everything about it seems to be right up my alley, and I’ve already been able to connect with a lot of what’s going on in it a lot better than some of the more theoretical courses I’ve been taking.

“Hello!” and Some Thoughts on Preserving Creative Context

Hello everyone! I’m Pedro, a MLS student in my last semester on the Curation of Digital Assets track. I currently work at UMD Special Collections in Performing Arts as a project archivist. Before entering the iSchool I received a MA in musicology from UMD, studying music and the moving image (primarily in film and video games), and technology in popular music. My interest in this class stems primarily from my desire to learn how to manage the new types of artistic works created by digital media (an obvious answer, I suppose!) and my interest in the confluence of technology and creativity. Digital works fascinate me because each piece can be a unique challenge to an archivist in regards to understanding how it should be “framed.”

Of course, these types of boutique preservation jobs start to look just a tad indulgent when the backlog gets growing, and even the most dedicated custom jobs can’t always get things perfect. Fino-Radin had to make sacrifices when using open-source tools to preserve Legendary Account, such as the use of PNG screenshots since the tool created unstable PDF/As. These “good enough” solutions can get under the skin of folks in this field, so thankfully there are some other strategies out there to help. I like Paul Messier’s idea of preservation systems that provide general guidelines to (hopefully) deal with most of the preservation issues, allowing you more time to spend on the things that don’t fit the mold; however, I have no experience working with these systems so I can’t vouch for their usefulness. All my preservation work thus far has been the relatively straightforward process of transferring analog audio materials to digital formats.

Embedded curators can also help make a difference by working with individual artists and creative communities, showing them how best to preserve their works while simultaneously gaining a deeper appreciation of the works and their cultural context. I believe wholeheartedly in the notion of “archivist as community facilitator” and find these preemptive preservation strategies very appealing. Last semester I got a bit of experience with this in LBSC731 Special Collections when I created a collection development policy for a (imaginary) chiptunes repository. An issue with my policy was that I placed too much attention on the realization of a chiptune work (aka the actual sound) and not the programming. This meant that I ignored the technocratic aspects of early chiptune culture, the workmanship and one-upmanship that went into coding. Thankfully a member of that community looked over my first draft and corrected my glaring oversight! This was my crash course on preserving a realization (the thing presented to the viewer) vs. preserving the instructions for realization (the code, types of software used, etc.).