The Menokin Foundation Survey Report

So uh, the Menokin Foundation isn’t super responsive, and I wasn’t able to get their input on this in time, but here we are! I’m not sure if I’ll continue to work with them throughout this semester, and I’ll post my second survey report for WYPR after this one.

About The Menokin Foundation

The Menokin Foundation is dedicated to preserving the 18th century home of Francis Lightfoot Lee, one of the signers of the declaration of independence. The home is architecturally significant, and is the subject of a historic preservation project and numerous archeological studies.

Current Holdings

The Menokin Foundation does not accept donations of material, but does have a rich selection of materials documenting the architectural features of the house, archeological reports and studies, historic building reports, photographs of work done to the house, conservation logs, and documentation of individual stones and woodwork that made up the original structure of the house.

This information is stored in a number of ways. Information about the woodwork for the house is contained in an excel spreadsheet. Information regarding cataloged rubble and stone are contained in a discrete database stored on a specific laptop. Historic documents including archeological surveys and conservation logs are either image or word document files stored on the Foundation’s internal work server, as are other daily use administrative or work files. All digital content is being managed without adherence to specific standards for metadata or description, and all digital content is currently stored in disparate places throughout the foundation.

Staff Concerns

Foundation staff, Leslie Rennolds and Sam McKelvey, expressed a number of immediate concerns and goals for managing their digital content. At this point, the Menokin Foundation does not accept donations and is focusing specifically on management of the house and documentation of work on the house. As such, ingest of digital content is less of a pressing concern, and will not be addressed in resulting policy.

Of most pressing concern to both Rennolds and McKelvey was the state of a database for cataloged stones taken from the Menokin house, which was currently stored on an “ancient” laptop, and is currently inaccessible on other computers. Time and age may pose significant difficulties in accessing this database, and staff expressed a desire to extract this database from the laptop and have it available on all staff computers, or stored on the Foundation’s server.

Also of concern was the management of historic documents and archeological reports, which exist as image files (potentially scans?) and word document files, and are stored on the Foundation’s main server alongside other daily work files or administrative files.

Much of the information regarding woodwork, stones, or other architectural features of the house is stored in disparate places, and staff expressed a desire to have this information in one place, but also to have custodial history and information (such as those found in the archeological reports, historic building surveys, or conservation logs) accessible when looking for information about each cataloged object. There was a desire to track actions or treatments taken on objects, and to track custodial history of objects in Menokin’s collections (where did this stone come from and when it was put back.)

Additional Potential Concerns

While information about collections are stored in a variety of different media (laptop database and servers), this information is vulnerable to loss via obsolescence of hardware or overwriting or accidental deletion due to being stored with daily work files. This poses a significant security concern, as all staff have access to files on the server and there are no backups of files.

There are no additional copies of digital content files, and so there is increased risk of loss and loss of original information is all the more devastating. Further, there are no fixity checks being run or kept by the Menokin Foundation, and so the integrity of digital files is uncertain.

As previously mentioned, there are no concrete standards for metadata or description of digital objects, which may adversely affect findability of information. Within this, much of the historic reports held by the Menokin Foundation are image files, and are not transcribed as text. This may also limit findability and ease of use for these files. The formats of each digital object varies greatly, though at this time I am not aware fully of their extent.

Staff Resources and Abilities

Staff at the Menokin Foundation expressed a willingness to devote time and financial resources to the project, though they suggested that they would be able to make specific commitments following the provision of specific preservation suggestions from me.

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