farewell, fellow.

Well, you probably surmised from the title of this post that my fellowship with MIT Libraries is coming to an end this month. I’m happy to announce that this fall I will begin working as the Assistant University Archivist for Records Management and Electronic Records at  UNC – Chapel Hill!


The Wilson Library at UNC

My time as a fellow has been full of opportunities to grow as a professional through a mix of mentorship, guided work, and independent exploration. It is bittersweet to leave the MIT community (and  Boston and my lovely Somerville neighborhood), but I’m so looking forward to taking the next step in my career and getting to know the folks at UNC Libraries.

This post marks the last fellowship post for Archive Hour! I may post here again from time to time, but for now I will take a break until 2017. In the meantime, check out the fun and informative UNC Archives blog – For the Record!

Thanks for reading and farewell!


records, wikipedia, & digital libraries

I’ve been fortunate to attend a workshop and two conferences this month — see below for some quick recaps of the events.

Records Management in the Round: Re-purposing your Archival Expertise to Start a Program

  • This was an New England Archivists workshop led by Sarah R. Demb, Senior Records Manager/Archivist, Harvard University Archives and, Sarah A. Polirer, CA, CRM, Manager Corporate Research, Cigna Corporation. The day long workshop provided a introduction to a variety of topics like: the role of records management, benefits of a RM program, identifying records, retention schedules, planning for RM program and records surveys, and more. I learned so much!

Mass History 2016 – Putting History on the Map Together

  • This was a one day meeting at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. The meeting is organized by Mass Humanities. My colleague Greta and I participated in a session on “digital tools” by talking a bit about the value of Wikipedia edit-a-thons for archives/libraries. You can view our poster here.

Joint Conference on Digital Libraries

  • This conference was a great opportunity to learn about the perspectives of researchers in using digital collections and evaluating/improving digital library systems. In particular, I enjoyed the web archive related presentations and the WADL (web archiving and digital libraries) workshop. There was also an interesting session on archiving “born-digital” (meaning web based) news. http://www.jcdl2016.org/program
  • Some odds and ends from this workshop include:
    • Mention of using Storify to summarize a web archive collection prompting a tweet to this slidedeck about the project.
    • Unshorten utility for expanding shortened urls
    • Stephen Bury talked about Frick’s new “digital lightbox” access system. I didn’t catch a link to the system or if it was open to the public — but here is some info on the tool.
    • Vinay Goel from the Internet Archive showed off the new and soon to be released keyword search for the Wayback Machine. The feature will search website homepages.
    • Laura Wrubel gave some updates on the development of Social Feed Manager. The project is developing functionality that will incorporating provenance information in the metadata output!


fellow update: archives roadshow II

Authors of this post are: Dana Hamlin, Greta Kuriger Suiter, Jessica Venlet , and Chris Tanguay.

In December 2015 a few of my colleagues put together a fun event for our fellow library colleagues called the Archives Roadshow. The goal was to share some information about the work we do and the collections we steward. The first “episode” walked through explaining finding aids and providing examples of what it’s like to process collections from neat and easy to messy and time consuming. This post recaps the second installment (episode two, if you will) of the Archives Roadshow that occurred April 28, 2016 for preservation week.

This was a fun event and I’m grateful to my colleagues for asking me to present. And, yes, the presentation definitely included the Antiques Roadshow theme song. Read on for a recap of our presentations!

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A very staged presentation photo of me. 🙂

Continue reading

reading notes: diversity, inclusion, social justice

I’m part of the newly established MIT Libraries’ Collections Directorate Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice task force*. The group was assembled by Greg Eow, MIT Libraries’ AD for Collections. The charge of the group is to: explore and identify specific projects, programs and initiatives that will provide opportunities for Collections Directorate staff to promote our values of diversity, inclusion, and social justice. I’m fortunate enough to be working with some fantastic folks – Ann Marie Willer (chair), Michelle Miller, Rhonda Kauffman, Dana Hamlin, Julia Lanigan, Czeslaw Jankowski, and Michelle Baildon. We have representation from each of the departments in the directorate.

The group is currently busy defining our scope and preparing to compile a report . I hope that we will be able to share more about the report and our recommendations this fall. To kick things off we have, of course, focused on a lot of information gathering and reading. The following list shows some of things I’ve been reading lately.

The Big Picture

  • From MIT Libraries’ director, Chris Bourg:
    • Beyond Measure: Valuing Libraries – post here
    • The Neoliberal Library: Resistance is not futile – post here
  • Professional Code of Ethics/Values
    • Zine Librarians – here
    • Society of American Archivists – here 
    • American Library Association – here

Focusing in on Collections Work – description, collection development, publishing/open access, etc.

  • Charlotte Roh’s article on “Library Publishing and Diversity Values..” – in the ACRL publication College and Research Libraries’ News, here.
  • Jarrett Drake’s conference talk, “RadTech Meets RadArch: Towards A New Principle for Archives and Archival Description” – available via On Archivy, here.
  • Mudd Manuscript Library at Princeton’s work with the Archiving Student Activism at Princeton (ASAP) initiative – blog post here and update on progress here.
  • 2015 LITA Forum keynote from Mx. A. Matienzo “To Hell With Good Intentions: Linked Data, Community and the Power to Name.” – find it here.
  • Kate Theimer, “Gaps in the Past and Gaps in the Future: Archival Silences and Social Media” – a presentation talk available on her website – here.


  • Stacie Williams on the “Implications of Archival Labor” – find it On Archivy.


  • Heidi Abbey Moyer explores green practices in libraries, archives and museums in “The Green Archivist” – jstore link.
  • Project ARCC (archivists responding to climate change) is a group of archivists (and librarians) interested in how the profession can affect climate change. The mission is to elevate, reduce, protect, and preserve. Check out the website for more and the Climate Change Syllabus for a wide range of readings and resources.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of readings related to DISJ topics in libraries and archives. The other MIT Libraries’ Collections Directorate DISJ members are busy reading other things we’ve identified and I’m sure there’s plenty more out there we haven’t even found yet.  I have a feeling that one output from our work might be a bibliography. Please feel free to suggest other readings for me or for the group!

*note, you may know that the MIT Libraries has a staff committee for the Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion (CPDI). The task force I’m part of is separate in that we are a temporary group, focused specifically on the collections directorate. CPDI has been around for several years and functions across directorates. CPDI has been a helpful sounding board for the DISJ task force so far.

fellowship update: NCPH 2016

Challenging the Exclusive Past. How can we recognize the traditional narratives of the historic contexts in which we work or study? How can we disrupt that narrative to introduce visitors, students, colleagues and researchers to new spaces of discussion and nuance? How do we earn trust in communities with a history of exclusion in order to elevate and preserve a more diverse historical record?

These questions and more underpinned the theme of this year’s National Council on Public History 2016 conference. I often attend academic library conferences or meetings related to digital preservation, so the focus on interpreting and sharing history was new. And fun. At just how many conferences could you attend a session on “The Secret Lives of Trees: How Landscapes Adapt and Change over Time”?

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Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Sea monster paddle boats!

What’s my big take-away from NCPH 2016? Well, it something that I already knew was important and the meeting only reinforced the value. My take-away is the importance of actively building diverse and inclusive archival collections. What’s preserved today is what enables future historians and future communities to learn about and share more interesting, more inclusive, more nuanced stories of our collective and individual identities and experiences. If we only have records for a certain type of “important” person, we simply continue the tradition of telling only a few selective narratives at historical sites, in books, and in museum exhibits.

Read on for a detailed recap of the sessions I attended. And by detailed, I mean it. I went a bit crazy recapping these sessions. You can also read the conference program here. Continue reading

reading notes: student organizations

As part of a project to re-energize efforts to collect records from student organizations, my colleague, Greta, and I decided a good first step was exploration of case studies and model programs.

The first step was reading the articles noted on this handy Zotero list. The project will also involve exploring our existing student related collections, understanding more about the various (like 500!) student orgs on campus, considering how websites can help us document student orgs and movements, trying different outreach methods, and more.

I’m really excited to be working on this and looking forward to learning more about what kind of digital archiving related advice students might want as well as workflows we might need on our end to work with them on transferring records. For now, I’ll share my reading notes for the three articles I’ve read so far. I hope to share more on the progress of this work over the next several months.

From Classroom to Commons…” by John Straw (1994). This article provides a look into the origins of the University of Illinois Archives of student life and culture. Straw also provides reasons for collecting student records and ideas of outreach. Variations on the reasons and outreach ideas can be found throughout the other articles I’ve read so far. In particular, Straw emphasizes the benefits of working with alums, alumni offices, and student life centers. One unique idea presented was to collect surveys from alumni as an alternative to more intensive oral history creation. This article also points to the internet as a means of identifying and appraising student organizations and other student subcultures. Straw writes:

“At the University of Illinois, the local Gopher system is a means of accessing information on student organizations and events, including the student newspaper index. We also are exploring options for monitoring a group “Chat Line” that is open to students…” (p. 23).

I wonder if they succeeded in capturing anything from their Gopher network!

  • Take-aways: Build relationships with the alumni office and the student life staff. Use the internet to your advantage in understanding student life.

College Student as Archives’ Consultant?…” by Ellen D. Swain (2005). If you’re looking for great ideas for outreach and learning about the landscape of current student organizations, then read this article. The info about student record keeping practices and perceptions of the archives is interesting though a limited sample. What interested me most was the idea of having a student advisory board for the archives. I really love this idea! This probably won’t be part of the first phase here at IASC, but maybe down the line this could be an option. I wonder if Swain and her colleagues still work with a student advisory group. Swain also points out that a two-pronged approach to outreach and collection development can be helpful. She suggests targeted and global approaches – meaning communicate directly with groups already represented in the archives (targeted) and for other groups start by capturing websites (global).

  • Take-aways: Building a program for student life documentation means getting to know students and being open to feedback from students!

Filling in the Gaps…” by Lea’l Hughes-Watkins (2014). This is a great case study for retroactively building or enhancing collections about student organizations and student life. In order to understand how to increase representation of the black campus movement at Kent State, the archivists’ began a layered process to develop the project and outreach efforts. This involved an assessment of current records to identify gaps and strengths. I’m sure this was a time consuming process, but seems worthwhile. Here at IASC, we’re using existing reference guides to help us understand existing student life collections. Next the archivists at Kent State, wrote a documentation plan and evaluated the language of their collection policy. The policy was changed to directly state a commitment to diversity:

“In order to more fully reflect the diversity of people and communities that make up Kent State University history, University Archives seeks to acquire collections that document historically underrepresented groups. …” (pg. 35)

A mission statement was also prepared to provide all potential donors and stakeholders with an understanding of the project’s goals. I think this is really important, especially when it comes to soliciting materials from alumni. The student newspaper was used a resource to identify individuals who might wish to participate and donate materials. With a list of names, the archivists worked with the alumni office to find contact information.

  • Take-aways: assessment of current collections for gaps is important in creating a documentation plan and purposeful outreach activities. Look at collection policy language and consider if a more direct statement could be made about including diverse perspectives and records.

If you know of other resource or programs at other archives, please comment or contact me. I’d appreciate any other suggestions.


Back in early November I attended a two day meeting on web archiving that was fantastic. To top it off the meeting took place at the University of Michigan, so I got to marvel at the changes to little downtown A2, catch up with friends, and visit my family.


You know you’re in A2 when…

The meeting provided introductions to web archive analysis methods and technology. I also left with new questions regarding the ways we document, describe and use web archives. The meeting had four keynote speakers and several concurrent panel sessions. I wish that this had been a single track meeting! So many good conversations happening simultaneously and lots of active Q/A time. Continue reading

fellowship update: viz for strategy

There are many workflow and policy decisions to be made in the acquisition, processing and preservation of digital archival content. When it comes to preservation, determining a strategy for file format preservation is very important. Here at IASC, we’ve recently implemented Archivematica and with this tool comes the need to make specific decisions about ingest and preservation actions for various file types in order to build our processing workflow.

This requires making sense of a large amount of existing digital archival content (a backlog, if you will). We want to easily see things about the collections like: file format types in all collections, file format type by collection, and mismatched extensions. By easily identifying file formats, we can begin to work with Nancy McGovern (in Libraries preservation unit) to determine workflow options for Archivematica and consider digital preservation strategy with an detailed understanding of formats already in our collections.

So, how’d we do it? Well, Kari initially ran a DROID report of one of our storage areas and wanted to visualize the data. Excel was used to create a pie chart of puids. When I saw this, I thought that Tableau Desktop (a visualization software I’m using for another project) could show the data in a more dynamic way. Using Open Refine, I cleaned up the DROID report a bit and parsed collection IDs from file paths into a separate column. From there, I used Tableau to create a several different views of the data. The visualizations are interactive and allow a user to filter and hover over data points for further detail. The images below provide two examples.


This shows formats within a specific collection.


A look at last modified dates by year for a variety of Microsoft office file types across all collections.

In addition to giving quick insight about our collections, the visualizations also raise a lot of questions regarding seemingly strange files or mismatched extension issues. One nice thing about Tableau is that the underlying data is always just a click away. We can go to the spreadsheet and take a closer look at specific files if needed.

Tableau has been pretty easy to learn so far. It’s all drag and drop based to arrange the underlying data into a variety of visualization options. Tableau even suggests the best visualizations based on dimensions and measures used. I still have a lot of learn about Tableau. My fellow Library Fellow, Christine, is organizing a MIT Libraries Tableau group. I hope the group and continued experimenting with Tableau will help IASC make the most of these visualizations. Next up might be some of our reference and reading room stats!

(Also – check out the U-M Bentley Historical Library post for more ideas, tools and techniques for identifying and characterizing sets of files. I’m hoping to try their methods out too.)

web (dot) mit (dot) edu

As I’ve spent time looking over portions of the http://www.mit.edu domain, I’ve noticed that some websites are located at web.mit.edu and some are mit.edu. Just based on looks, the web.mit.edu websites seemed to be older and as sites were updated the URL was also updated. But why was web.mit.edu ever in use? Well, a librarian colleague who has been part of the MIT community for many years helped solve this mystery for me!

The story goes that when the World Wide Web arrived on the scene in the 1990’s the MIT student group SIPB snagged www.mit.edu URL right away! SIPB, which is a volunteer student computing group (around since 1969), created a wonderful site that you can view via the Internet Archive (snapshot from 1997).

It’s hard to say if this IA playback of the site is completely accurate in design, but the information is fun to look through (like this timeline – web fever has hit!). Only later did the group give over the www.mit.edu domain to MIT… thus the mix of web.mit.edu and mit.edu URLs.  I don’t know the exact date when MIT started using http://www.mit.edu as the hompage URL (or at least redirecting http://www.mit.edu to web.mit.edu), but in the Wayback Machine the change seems to occurs around late 1999 – 2000.

Web history, it’s fun!

While perusing the archived webpages, I noticed that the MIT homepage used to featured some really fun and pretty designs and logos. Sometimes the homepage was designed by someone from the MIT community. This isn’t something the current website does. So glad IA captured the homepage over the years.