Geneva Historical Society

Introduction

The Geneva Historical Society is located in Geneva, New York. The Historical Society is committed to preserving Geneva history and using digital and analog materials to educate the community and sustain community interest in Geneva’s memory.  The Society is made up of a small group of employees who wear several hats. The Society’s greatest digital preservation concern comes from too many duplicates, a lack of a content management system, and no inventory of digitized items.

Digital Content

The Society’s digital content includes historical materials that are part of their archival collection, promotional and educational materials, and digital items generated through business-related actions. The historical collection includes materials available on the Society’s website, on NewYorkHeritage.org, and on the Rochester Regional Library Council’s NYS Historic Newspapers website. There are photographs, videos, and audio available for public access on the Society’s websites. The items available on NewYorkHeritage.org includes post cards, papers, and photographs. On NYSHistoricNewspapers.org are the Society’s microfilmed newspapers. The Society no longer has the original newspapers and now rely on this website for research, both internal and for the public. The Society also has StoryMaps, which are hosted by Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

The Director of Education and Public Information uses digital content for promotional and educational purposes. The Educator uses photographs and maps from the Society’s collection, public domain materials from websites such as Library of Congress and Wikimedia, and photographs taken at the Society’s events. The Educator uses Illustrator, Indesign, and Photoshop files for publicity and programming. The Curator uses Publisher files for exhibits.

The Society’s digital holdings also include image collections on the website media gallery through WordPress, a MailChimp media gallery, content on Google Photos and Dropbox, and other institution-based materials.

Content Management

Much of the Society’s current struggle with their digital content comes from the lack of management for these materials. The staff at the Society practice independent digitization. When a staff member needs something digitized, they do it themselves. Employees are unaware of what items others have already scanned. These digitized items are kept in folders on the employee’s computer, using their own filing system. This process has led to much duplication.

This duplication continues on the shared computer located in the Photo Archive. Using an Epson V300 scanner, staff scan items and store them on this computer. The materials saved on this computer are accessible to all of the staff through their own computers. This leads to duplication of the staff’s individual files.

The employees do not all have the same computer or operating system. They use Windows but not everyone has Windows 10. The digital formats used by the Society are generally jpg, tiff, and pdf. The digital copies have varying resolutions and file sizes and there is no standardized filing system, so finding objects that other employees have saved is difficult and time-consuming. If the Educator is looking for a certain image and knows it has already been digitized, she will ask the Archivist or Curator if they know the location. If the image isn’t digitized or easily accessible, the Educator will use the Epson V300 scanner and save the image to her desktop.

The staff agree that improving the state of their digital content is a priority. The staff believe that the digital content is too unorganized and that time is wasted looking for items and scanning materials already digitized. Getting their digital content under control is critical to the Society’s mission, as both staff and members of the public are negatively impacted by the disorganization. Organization is needed for more efficient access and use.

NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation

In terms of the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation, the Society is at Level 1 for the five areas. Although the Society has many copies, these duplicates are unintentional and uncontrolled and many have different factors (like resolution and size). The Society uses a Synology NAS storage system. Each employee’s desktop is backed up daily using Syncback Free to a Synology NAS over P2P network. The Society currently rests at Level 1 for the Storage section. When it comes to file fixity, there does not seem to be a process in place for checking fixity for digital objects. For the Information Security section, employees do not know what files other staff members are using as they digitize items independently, use different software, and have their own filing systems. There is no inventory for the Society’s digital content, so the Metadata section is also at Level 1. The Society does seem to use a limited set of formats with jpg, tiff, and pdf, but without an inventory of the digital objects, a complete list of the formats in use is unknown.

Further Collecting and Resources

There are more digital objects that the Society would like to collect. There are 50,000 photographs and business and family records that still need to be digitized. The archivist would actually like to digitize the entire archive but does not have the resources. To improve the state of the digital content, staff members could devote extra hours to digital preservation and the Society could accept community volunteers. The Society has previously worked with a yearly budget of $2000 for office equipment, including computers and software licenses.

Conclusion

The Society needs to get the content management of their digital materials under control, especially since they intend to add thousands of more objects into their holdings. Uncoordinated filing systems and a lack of an inventory contribute to their mass duplication and current struggle with inefficiency. Fortunately, the Society’s resources and staff commitment make the prospect of an improved digital preservation process likely.

One Reply to “Geneva Historical Society”

  1. Great survey! It is clear that you have received solid information about the state of their work and processes and I think you are well positioned with the essential information to be able to make recommendations to them for their next steps. This seems like a great case where establishing some standard operating procedures and processes for tracking, managing, and naming files could be hugely beneficial.

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