NDSR Capstone Event

The NDSR Capstone Event was held at the Library of Congress on June 1st, 2016- marking the end of the residency year. The following is the resident reflection I gave-

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Hi everyone, and thanks for coming and supporting our cohort today. Thank you to IMLS and the Library of Congress for this residency opportunity.

My name is Jaime Mears and I’m just one of the 5 amazingly talented and employable residents worked with a DC host institution this year on a digital preservation project. I’ve been asked to give a brief resident reflection to give you some insight as to what this year has been like from our side.

7,720 miles.This is how far we traveled collectively to DC for this opportunity. (I only contributed about 2 miles to this number. Pretty sure Valerie coming from Eagle River, Alaska made a lot of this possible). It’s a little over the distance from here to Nairobi, and I think it’s important to remember that in these miles we left family, friends, partners, even job offers. Why?

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Perhaps we wanted to solve a problem for a prestigious institution, or create a body of work to call our own. I know Nicole has mentioned she wanted the luxury of time to do a digital preservation project without the competing priorities of multiple jobs or coursework.

I can say with confidence that we all wanted to DO. Not study, not listen to a lecture, but to physically tackle this mysterious, amorphous, slightly intimidating thing called digital preservation.

So the question I had as I thought about this residency reflection is- were we successful at doing? What does that look like?

To answer this question, I found the slides from our panel presentation at the Mid Atlantic Regional Archive Conference this spring. In one part of the presentation, we each had listed the educational and professional skills and experience we had brought with us to NDSR, and what we’ve learned this year. I compiled our lists pre and post NDSR into a word cloud generator to see what’s changed after a year of DOING, or at least- how we talk about it.

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Here we have what we listed as Before NDSR – experience or education in different types of management, customer service, instruction, research, theory, preservation, data.

Now let’s look at what we gained during NDSR.

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Management is still the biggest reported skill gained. But surprisingly,  ‘Preservation’ as a term is actually missing from our residency word cloud, as are metadata, copyright, repository, or any of those buzzwords from Library school curriculum that appears before NDSR. We dealt with them this year, for sure, heck, we audited, implemented, or educated people about all of these terms- but they’ve been rendered invisible by the processes and tools it takes to deal with them.

I think what you’re seeing here is that DOING preservation has been translated into a succession of actions- planning, design, outreach, testing, budgeting, requests, blogging, workflows, software, systems, programs, etc.

Lastly I see an awareness of our context as working professionals- we’re using words like national, glam, public, and Washington’s favorite adjective ‘federal’- to describe the scope of ourselves, our peers, our audience.

So how did this play out daily? Well, no shocker here, I’ll use my own project as an example to illustrate some of these terms. I worked with the DC Public Library system to educate staff and DC community members about personal archiving – be it physical or digital- and created free resources, replicate classes, and a public facing transfer lab that is now called the Memory Lab. Another important aspect of my project was to serve as a national model for other public library systems facing this issue.

DESIGN. Design really began with the zine, which was a collaboration with a special collections librarian who had illustrated one the year before. How do you design something to make it fun? Accessible? Sustainable? User-friendly? This zine was an attempt at an answer.

 

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For one, you have to appeal to the nostalgia of another time to get people interested. So we chose an 80s theme, a decade rife with magnetic media and DIVO.

You can’t use the word metadata, and you also can’t be too specific in your recommendations because it might not exist next year.

This is the Memory Lab website I built using the library’s libguides platform. This was not a part of the originally scope of the project, but it soon became apparent we need a public facing site to centralize lab directions, preservation best practices and resources, and information on how to build a transfer station was necessary for the project’s success.  I dedicated more hours to this guide than installing the lab equipment. Way more. I learned that design is limited by what you have to use and takes an unbelievable amount of time.

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But good design can take something scary- such as wiring an a/v rack – and turn it into something inviting, something playful. The framing is essential to provoke its use.

OUTREACH. I learned that outreach is really difficult if your audience is ‘the public’. I needed to pinpoint specific audiences, and hold fun, accessible events with partners who could help me reach new community members. For example, I partnered with the National Museum of African American History and Culture and playbackthetape to do a Home Movie Day to reach cinephiles and SW community members with film.

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I partnered with the Hamiltonian Gallery on U street and fellow resident Nicole Contaxis to connect artists with local preservationists.

I also had to reach DCPL librarians, so I worked within an established incentive within the DC government system- yearly professional development smart goals- to teach staff about personal archiving so that they could in turn begin programming at their own branches.

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TESTING. Testing things- equipment, software, workflows- then watching users in the space was by far the most satisfying and frustrating aspect of this new type of doing. We started with this- a glass cubicle in the back corner of our digital commons lab.

Resident Reflection (5)

I could see this as a graduate school exercise- you’ve got this footprint in the main branch of a public library. What would you design to help people with personal archiving? Write a report. Go!

But what happens when you actually have to do it looks more like this – 12 feet of table space lined with the obsolete equipment, micro failure after micro failure, scavenging list servs, calling friends for help, having your co-workers donate their home movies and mix tapes to you.

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Then the space opens, and things come to light with people in the space that you could never have imagined. Like the fact that some people find it easier to follow paper instructions, that the air canister for cleaning slides runs out really quickly, that people want everything to go FASTER. Great things happen too.

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This is Alex. He and his siblings are digitizing negatives and photos of a father they can’t remember who traveled around the world.  There was also the former New Yorkian with the Yiddish pirate radio broadcast, or a father who has amazing hip hop videos his daughter did in the 90s. 

I want to end this reflection on another word that appeared only during this experience- COHORT. Because you don’t do digital preservation alone. You need peers to teach you and challenge you, to get pizza or other things when the going gets rough. So I just want to say THANK YOU to Nicole, John, Jessica, and Valerie.  And to the national NDSR cohort for cross-promoting our work, answering our questions, and to Morgan and Julia, who both came to our symposium.

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And just as the word ‘preservation’ was rendered invisible by its ubiquitous,there’s another seemingly invisible yet critical component to our group’s success- our mentors.

Thank you all for your guidance and support, your trust in our ability, and for continuing to be a part of our professional networks as we enter this new phase of our careers.

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NDSR DC 2016 Symposium

We held a symposium called “Digital Frenemies: Closing the Gap in Born-Digital and Made-Digital Curation” on May 5th, 2016. For full audio recordings, you can visit our website. For the storify, visit https://storify.com/ncontaxis/ndsr-symposium-2016

8:30 – 9:30 Registration

9:30 – 10:00 Welcome & Opening Remarks, George Coulbourne, Library of Congress and Betsy L. Humphreys, National Library of Medicine

George Coulbourne is Chief, Internships and Fellowships, in the office of National and International Outreach, at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C.  Mr. Coulbourne was a co-founder of the pilot NDSR program in Washington, DC and currently leads the third iteration of the Library of Congress/IMLS National Digital Stewardship Residency Program and serves as a NDSR advisory board member for the American Association of Public Broadcasting and the newly awarded NDSR Philadelphia Museum of Art and ARLIS North America NDSR programs. He was co-founder of the Library’s nationwide Digital Preservation Education and Outreach initiative and serves as the agency lead for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities Internship Program.

As deputy director of NLM, Betsy L. Humphreys shares responsibility with the director for overall program development, program evaluation, policy formulation, direction, and coordination of all Library activities. Ms. Humphreys also coordinates the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) project, which produces knowledge sources to support advanced retrieval and integration of information from disparate electronic information sources, and NLM’s activities related to health data standards. She contributes to the development of NIH and HHS policy on a range of matters, including health information technology, public access to research results, clinical trial registration and results reporting.

10:00-10:50 “The Walking Dead,” Jason Scott, Internet Archive/Archive Team

Click to download and open slides from Jason Scott’s “The Walking Dead”

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Currently, Jason Scott is the curator of the Software collection at the Internet Archive. In 2009, Jason Scott formed the Archive Team, now coined as a “loose collective of rogue archivists, programmers, writers and loudmouths dedicated to saving our digital heritage.”  Leading the Archive Team, Scott provides technical expertise as the creator of emulation software JSMESS. Scott is also a filmmaker, historian, and a celebrated force of unyielding digital archiving outreach and advocacy

10:50-11:15 Break

11:15-12:00  National Digital Stewardship Resident Lightning Rounds: Jessica Tieman (GPO), Nicole Contaxis (NLM), John Caldwell (U.S. Senate Historical Office) Valerie Collins (American Institute of Architects), Jaime Mears (DC Public Library)

Click to download and open slides from the NDSR Resident Cohort Presentations

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Jessica Tieman, U.S. Government Publishing Office

Jessica conducted an internal audit to prepare GPO for external ISO 16363 certification of GPO’s Federal Digital System as a Trustworthy Digital Repository.

Nicole Contaxis, National Library of Medicine

Nicole created a pilot workflow for the curation, preservation, and presentation of a historically valuable software product, developed by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), which is deemed to be historically noteworthy due to its usage by a user community and/or its distinctive technical properties that are at risk of being lost due to obsolescence.

John Caldwell, U.S. Senate Historical Office

John studied and assessed current Senate workflows in appraisal, management, ingest, description and transfer of Senate committee digital assets into the Congressional Records Instance of the National Archives’ Electronic Records Archive, and Senators’ digital assets into academic and institutional repositories, benchmarking current policies against best practices.

Valerie Collins, American Institute of Architects

Valerie co-led testing and implementation of an institutional digital repository system at the American Institute of Architects to preserve the AIA’s born-digital records that represent its intellectual capital and/or have permanent value for the history of the architectural profession.

Jaime Mears, District of Columbia Public Library

Jamie created a sustainable, public-focused lab, tools, and instruction for building public knowledge and skills around the complex and paralyzing problems of personal digital recordkeeping.

12:00-1:15 Lunch on Own

1:15-2:05 “The Rise of Data Publishing in the Digital World  (and how Dataverse and DataTags help)”, Mercè Crosas, Chief Data Science and Technology Officer, IQSS at Harvard University

Click to download and open slides from Dr. Mercè Crosas’ “The Rise of Data Publishing in the Digital World  (and how Dataverse and DataTags help)”

Dr. Mercè Crosas is the Chief Data Science and Technology Officer at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS) at Harvard University. She has more than 10 years of experience leading the Dataverse project, an open-source repository framework for sharing and archiving research data, and more than 15 years of experience building data management and analysis systems in industry and academia. She is part of numerous committees and collaborations focus on research data management, as well as on data standards and research best practices. More recently, together with Dr. Sweeney, she leads the DataTags project for sharing sensitive data. Crosas holds a Ph.D. in Astrophysics and a B.S. in Physics. More at http://mercecrosas.com.

2:10-3:00 “Breaking Down Barriers: Creating a Mobile Digitization Service,” Caroline Catchpole, Culture in Transit

Click to download and open slides from Caroline Catchpole’s “Breaking Down Barriers: Creating a Mobile Digitization Service”

Caroline Catchpole is the METRO Mobile Digitization Specialist for Culture in Transit, a project funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The project aims to bring mobile scanning equipment to smaller libraries, archives, museums, and the communities they serve. The outreach-centered digitization model aims to democratize and diversify NYC’s historical record. Before joining METRO, she served as Archivist in a major project at the Natural History Museum in London, to digitize the correspondence and assorted manuscripts of nineteenth century naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace and place the digitized content online. Caroline has worked in the archives and library sector for 10 years with a special focus on the digitization of cultural heritage material and increasing access to archives since 2009.

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3:00-3:20 Break

3:20-4:00 Panel: All Presenters, Moderator: Julia Kim, ’15 NY NDSR & Folklife Specialist (Digital Assets Management) at Library of Congress

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4:15 Adjourn

 

Week 40: My NDSR Enrichment Session on Education and Advocacy

The following is a post I wrote for the Library of Congress’s The Signal blog.

 

Digital Curation and the Public: Strategies for Education and Advocacy

This is a guest post by Jaime Mears.

Photo of computers in the memory lab.

On March 4th, 2016, the Washington DC Public Library hostedDigital Curation and the Public: Strategies for Education and Advocacy at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library. It was what the National Digital Stewardship Residents program calls an “enrichment session” and the audience was composed of NDSR colleagues and mentors.

Over breakfast I gave informal tours of the Memory Lab, a public-facing digitization lab I created as a part of my residency work. It felt like the project’s capstone, debuting the space to our group and receiving comments and questions from those that have supported me throughout its development.

Yvonne Ng, senior archivist at WITNESS and a member ofXFR Collective, led a workshop exploring methods of promoting digital curation to the public. The presentation began with a powerful case study of Kianga Mwamba, a Baltimore resident arrested in March 2014 for using her phone to video record an instance of police brutality. When she was released on bail the next day her phone was returned but the video was no longer on it. Luckily for Mwamba, it had automatically backed up to her Google account. It was introduced as evidence in a civil suit with the Baltimore Police Department.

WITNESS reaches their activist audience by creating targeted promotional and educational material about digital preservation. Case studies like Mwamba’s are incredibly effective, though they can be difficult to find, especially when the absence of a digital record proves why it should have been preserved. Other methods WITNESS employs include involving local “influencers” in train-the-trainer programs as a way of disseminating information to their communities, and creating engaging educational resources in multiple languages. One of these resources, the Activist’s Guide to Archiving Video, received the Society of American Archivist’s Preservation Publication Award in 2014.

Photo of room with computers.

Ng said that sometimes no matter what you do, it’s effectiveness is a matter of timing. WITNESS tries to avoid reaching people before they’ve amassed enough material to care about preservation. And WITNESS folds preservation education into larger training sessions that address other video activists’ needs, such as video-as-evidence training and post-production work.

After the lecture, Ng asked residents and mentors to identify four or five communities we wanted to support, and to identify the challenges and strategies to working with that community. Although my NDSR project is the most obviously public-facing, the exercise revealed that all NDS residents have had to advocate and educate within their host institutions to successfully meet their goals.

From Senate staff to scientists at the National Institute of Health, digital content creators have to be appealed to. It is a necessary part of effective life-cycle management. Ng reminded us that, besides ensuring that valuable material is preserved in each of our institutions, there are other benefits to such advocacy, including raising awareness about the long-term value of content and educating creators about what archivists actually do.

After the discussion activity, I escorted the group upstairs to our Washingtoniana Room where DCPL Special Collections librarian Jerry McCoy discussed the history of the library’s community archive and the significance of ourMies Van Der Rohe building, slated for a large scale renovation project later this year.

We ended our session with a tour of our Studio and Fabrication Labs. Labs manager MaryAnn James-Daley, connecting back to WITNESS’s strategy of using “influencers,”  discussed how essential a teen volunteer has been in a recent campaign to get more teens into these spaces.

Gettin’ Rowdy with Howard Besser

Yesterday, the NDSR cohort and mentors met for their first enrichment session with guest facilitator Howard Besser, Professor of Cinema Studies and Associate Director of New York University’s Moving Image Archiving & Preservation Program (MIAP) and all around archivist badass.

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Photo from The Signal blog post on 10-10-2014

During the Occupy Movement, Howard worked with Activist Archivists to get Occupy members in NYC to archive their photographs and footage of the event. The lessons he shared with us from that experience are applicable to anyone who’s doing a community archiving project or wants to archive a contemporary event effectively.

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Howard took this pic at Occupy Wall Street, Liberty Square, Oct 11, 2012

Howard’s Badass Lessons about Effective Community Archiving:

    1. Speak their language. For the umpteenth time, no one cares about metadata, and no one really thinks their things are worth archiving. The way to convince people is to understand what matters to them and how archiving can address their needs. See this Activist Archivist’s flyer as an example.
    2. Build in redundancies. Archivists know that recording an accurate time, date and location on a piece of footage is incredibly important, so they gave Occupy members instructions to set their cameras accordingly before filming. Not everyone did, so they built in a redundancy- read a script on camera before filming. Not everyone did, so they built in a third redundancy- name the file using this same information! When it comes to following directions, three time’s a charm.
    3. Weed intelligently. They wound up with a staggering 169,000 videos, so they had to figure out how they were going to reduce them to a manageable size. They grouped videos into categories, and then asked members of Occupy Wall Street Working Groups to vote on their top 5 videos in each category. They also included a random sampling of video in the final collection to avoid contemporary bias.
    4. YouTube blows. Even though the videos they eventually uploaded had Creative Commons licensing, YouTube would not allow the videos to be downloaded. Besser even showed us an example of a public domain film from 1918 that you can’t download. So- make sure you do some test ingests first – watch your back – and watch your metadata. Better options are Internet Archive or Vimeo.
    5. Find the right tool. The app ObscuraCam, developed by Witness.org and the Guardian Project, uses facial recognition to hide people’s faces in video and photos, and can also remove identifying information like GPS and phone model information.

For more information on this project, read Howard’s paper.

Week 11: Converted

My equipment came in really fast, so I’ve been testing everything out this week. I made a new board in Trello to track my progress, using the colored labels to represent the different pieces of equipment.

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Click the image for a bigger view!

The orange label stands for the Honestech VHS to DVD 7.0 Delux A-D converter I purchased in Week 8, and as you can see from the screen shot, it’s had a lot of problems.

Background

I wanted to try using a consumer-level A-D converter for the lab because they’re affordable (I could buy one for every deck and there would be no need to plug or unplug wires) and the software is very user friendly. I figured that a solid professional VHS player and TBC would help mitigate loss of quality in the converter (so wrong!). So, I looked at compatibility, time on the market, and reviews, and it came down to either the Elgato or Honestech. In the end, I chose Honestech because it can also burn video to Blu-ray, and had a simpler interface than the Elgato’s Cyberlink software.

“2015 Best VHS to DVD Converters Review” Top Ten Reviews

Suckage

Honestech

This nascent archivist gives Honestech a thumbs down.

I’m using two different laptops for testing- an Alienware laptop running Windows 8 with a fantastic graphics card, and a regular government-issued Dell running Windows 7- and two Honestech converter kits. Although Honestech is compatible with 7 and 8, the viewing screen for capture dropped out to black after about an hour on the Alienware computer. It’s still capturing video, but a user would have no idea what they were playing. To troubleshoot, I uninstalled the software and reinstalled the second kit, but the problem persisted. Then, I read online that consumers who had similar problems just downloaded a newer driver patch from the Honestech website. I did that, upgrading from 4.0 to 4.1, but it didn’t fix anything. By day 3 of testing, frequent freezing and a disturbing clicking sound have also developed on both computers.

Another problem is the length of time it takes to encode the files. Consistently on both, the ratio is about 10 minutes for every 1 minute of video – a formidable obstacle for a workstation that has reservation time limits.

The biggest clincher is that somehow I failed to notice the highest quality video this thing can capture is MPEG-2, and it can only capture audio as a Windows Media Audio File. Building this lab is a constant negotiation of archival quality and usability for the public, and I don’t expect users will be saving hours of uncompressed video files – but the MPEG-2 is just too lossy to be worth the conversion in the first place. As an example, here’s what a VHS-C played on a Panasonic 1980P looks like when captured and encoded as MPEG-2 with Honestech.

Is this even access-worthy? Even with plenty of light, it’s difficult to make out facial details that I can see clearly when played on a television set.

A Little Help From my Friends

Feeling discouraged and facing a tight deadline to get in orders for the current fiscal year, I sought help from Walter Forsberg, Media Archivist for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture. He said I needed to get a converter that at least could encode up to an H.264 file format, and recommended I get the Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Express (and if you remember back to my site visit to the University of Maryland’s lab, Eric also recommended Blackmagic software). It’s an expensive piece of equipment and is only Mac compliant, but when I found out we could afford it and it would allow our Special Collections staff to do one-off in-house digitization, it seemed like a sound investment.

For those of you who can’t afford the price tag, the other consumer-level converter I was looking at, the Elgato, encodes in H.264 and goes for around $80. Live and learn.

NDSR Field Trip: Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens

On July 24th, the NDSR cohort visited “where fabulous lives” at Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens. NDSR alumn Jaime McCurry, Hillwood’s digital assets librarian, and Marge Huang, Hillwood’s archivist, gave us a behind the scenes tour of  the grounds, archive, and library.

Jaime, Juan, Jessica, John, Nicole, Valerie, and Alda

It’s difficult to believe a place this gorgeous is in DC. I took a lot of pictures for the blog, but they got deleted somehow. Sorry readers! The ones shown here I was able to recover from texts I’d sent that day. Again, sharing is a great method of preservation!

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Walking up to the estate. Members of the public can picnic on grounds for free.

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Hillwood has the largest collection of Russian imperial art outside of Russia.

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The dining room. Marjorie was quite the host, and would never serve the same thing twice to a guest.

Even more impressive than the lush decor is what Jaime and Marge are doing to grow and control Hillwood’s digital assets. Here are some of the things they’re currently working on:

  • Recommending a digital repository
  • Developing a records management plan
  • Moving to ArchiveSpace
  • Migrating to a new content management system (Piction)
Jaime shows some of her favorite pieces of Post's jewelry on Piction.

Jaime shows some of her favorite pieces of Post’s jewelry on Piction.

Jaime and Marge want to bring the archives to the public by embedding them more fully into Hillwood’s exhibits and creating more opportunities for access online. So far 1,000 images are available on Artstor, they have 22k followers on Artsy, and 5 of Post’s home movies  are available on You Tube.

The coolest thing in the works is Hillwood’s partnership with Google, who visited the estate to shoot a Makovsky painting as a gigapixel image for their Art Project web portal. That image is now available, and the company plans to shoot 20 more. These paintings can now be studied at a granular level that’s never before been available, and Hillwood retains full rights to the images. So impressive!!!

Thanks again to everyone at Hillwood and the Library of Congress for coordinating this trip. Stay fabulous!