Thursday, April 7, 2011

Saving Social Media

One of the Friday morning, April 1 sessions at the Society of NC Archivists/SC Archives Association conference was "Collaboration and (in) Records Management." My riding partner/roommate and I agreed to attend different sessions to compare notes on the way home.

This session doesn't directly apply to me but it still deserves a post because of the cool stuff the State of NC Archives is doing. Kelly Eubank, head of electronic records at the Archives, talked about social media use and archiving those records - can you even imagine?

What might be obvious to some people already, she stated that when an institution creates a Facebook page, Twitter account, etc., it is the institution's page meaning no privacy and follow the rules if you use the accounts.

But what got me to log out of my personal social media page :) was the next part. Kelly said that the State Archives is collecting and archiving posts from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc. It is called geospatial data archiving.

There are many issues with archiving electronic data but the main one is that printing it out does not preserve all the data. For example, in Microsoft Word, there is a properties tab which shows when it was created, changed and who created it. That is lost or not available if it is printed. The same goes with e-mail messages - you can't see which servers it went through which could be helpful, especially in state government.

Before information services was less enthusiastic about working with the Archives, she said to at least create a PDF of the information - don't leave it in Word or as an e-mail message. After years of building (and it is a daily struggle) a relationship with information services and other departments, Archives does get most electronic information in a good format to archive. Like this institution there are many privacy issues and that could potentially be another post entirely.

Lastly and I have saved the best for the last. When Governor Hunt was serving as the head of the state, the Archives received 6 GB of electronic material. After Governor Easley left office, Archives received 290 GB of electronic files.

So this archiving of electronic data is only going to get bigger and archivists continue to learn and persevere.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Statewide Digitization

One of the obvious themes of the Society of NC Archivists and SC Archives Association joint conference March 31 is digitization while the not so obvious is flexibility! Representatives from SC and NC shared statewide digital projects.

So far, there are 80,000 items scanned in the South Carolina Digital Library and those materials encompass 90 collections. The Library is funded by the SC Department of Archives and History, a partnership among academic institutions and the SC State Library. Four institutions have a scan center and a CONTENT dM server - University of SC, College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina University and Clemson University.

Some of the site is interactive, such as an old map against a current map to compare. The site also has lesson plans and topics for K-12 teachers. Institutions who want to contribute have to provide the material and the only requirement is a title of the collection, making it easy for institutions who not have the expertise, staff or equipment to digitize materials - flexibility!

North Carolina is flexible too!

The NC Digital Heritage Center was born in 2009 - after the laborious but fruitful NC Exploring Cultural Heritages Online project. NC ECHO was a grant funded project in which representatives surveyed all cultural and historical institutions in the state of North Carolina (they came in early 2001 to DCMA). NC ECHO also manages digitization grants for all types of institutions (such as Digital Forsyth). The part that really helped birth the NC Digital Heritage Center was the final "directory" of the institutions. The digital library uses CONTENT dM, like SC, but unlike SC, there is one server housed at UNC Chapel Hill in the Wilson Special Collections Library.

Again like SC, NC has many small and "hidden" institutions which need help to scan and digitize materials; hence, flexibility. The only metadata required is a title. Institutions may add additional information if they want to in both statewide libraries.

Both states hope these Libraries last a long time - they are prepared to promote, maintain and continue building relationships with their respective cultural institutions.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Digitize times three

Society of NC Archivists/South Carolina Archives Association conference continued on Thursday afternoon, March 31 with three institutions sharing their experiences with "Digital Initiatives."

Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture of the College of Charleston, SC basically turned a physical museum into an virtual museum when they digitized 500 linear feet of manuscripts (paper-based), 80 linear feet of artifacts and 80 oral histories. One of the staff members taught herself by actually reading the manual of how to shoot photographs of paintings, slave badges and other artifacts. She also sought the advice from a faculty member specializing in photography. The lesson is here is that a digital exhibit can be created with limited funds; some creativity and tons of time!

UNC Charlotte has transitioned from just online digital exhibits to a full-blown digital program by hiring a digital projects coordinator. Like many institutions, the new coordinator is trying to collaborate and train technical and circulation services staffs as well as being creative and dynamic to interest the entire Library staff. For example, the circulation staff is fully describing, i.e. creating metadata, of 10,000 images previously scanned and just waiting for access. Most of the circulation staff has been in the Charlotte area for a long time so they know the photos!

Moving way east, East Carolina University is advocating EAC-CPF (love those library acronyms) or Encoded Archival Context - Corporate Bodies Families. And some background, there is no "one" way to describe archival collections, like the MARC record. And since all archival collections are unique, the archives community has come up with Encoded Archival Context, which basically can be an extended/detailed/descriptive inventory of each collection or something as basic as a title and location. East Carolina's approach (EAC-CPF), which they have just started doing in the last couple of weeks, will help better locate collections AND give them context, i.e. pull them all into one location.

Now, all that makes sense but here is where I became confused (or really tired since it was late afternoon).
ECU is somehow using the social networking site of SNAP to describe and organize the collections. The pre-cursor to this idea was developed in the Google Refine open source software as the North Carolina Biographical Historical Information Online, funded by a grant in the early 2000s. (I think the website was taken down).

So basically lots of neat digital initiatives news in both Carolinas.

Monday, April 4, 2011

SNCA Plenary

I attended the Society of NC Archivists conference in Morehead City, NC on Thursday, March 31 through Friday, April 1, 2011. It was very nice to pick up company and fellow archivist, Gwen Gosney Erickson from Guilford College, for the long drive there. Excellent mileage though, about 38.1 miles per gallon!

The opening plenary was "Recovering History in the Atlantic: Queen Anne's Revenge and the H.L. Hunley." Nautical Archaeology Curator of the North Carolina Maritime Museum David Moore gave a brief history of pirates, specifically Blackbeard. The most reliable source for pirate historians is the General History of Pyrates 1724 by Captain Charles Johnson. While the book has been reprinted several times, experts still turn to that source for the daily life and activities of pirates from Blackbeard's generation.

Moore explained the many challenges of recovering items from the sunken Queen Anne's Revenge, found not too far from where we were sitting at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City, NC. One of the challenges is lack of visibility - the waters are too murky - so it is a lot of touch and feel or "blind archaeology" as he called it.

Although difficult, approximately 50 percent of the site has been recovered including a uterine syringe made of pewter, nested weights, and part of the toilet that Blackbeard probably used. A lot of these items will go on display at the NC Maritime Museum this June, which we learned about at the Thursday evening private reception at the museum.

Meanwhile, not too far south, and since this was the first joint meeting with archivists from South Carolina, Ralph Wilbanks shared the history of the Civil War Submarine H.L. Hunley.

Wilbanks is an underwater advisor for the National Underwater and Marine Agency. The Hunley was built in Mobile, Alabama and shipped to Charleston, SC. It was the first submarine to sink a warship, the Housatonic in February 1864.

Self-made millionaire and adventurer Clive Cussler was convinced the Hunley was beneath the waters off the coast of South Carolina. After looking in the 1980s, he found nothing but he didn't give up and found the tip of it on May 3, 1995. Five years later after many political battles and the construction of a custom conservation facility, recovery of the submarine began in May 2000. Recovery of the entire submarine and its contents was completed on August 5, 2000. A celebration off the coast of Charleston took place with 300 boats in the water and media everywhere.

The Hunley, still pretty intact, was taken back to the facility where the hard work began. Everything that went in the Hunley was still there, including a shoe with 26 bones in it. In fact, all 18 shoes (for the nine men in the boat) each had 26 bones in them. Other items found were a canteen, wallet and Union dog tag (Civil War was the first time they were used and this one was probably a souvenir).

Wilbanks estimates that approximately $20 million was spent on the recovery of the Hunley, a lot donated by wealthy individuals, including mystery writer Patricia Cornwell.

And since this is all about ships, here I am at the Sanitary Fish Market in Morehead City (too full of seafood to actually steer a ship):