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!

2016-04-28 15.28.47

A very staged presentation photo of me. 🙂

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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.)

reading notes: march reading group

This is a guest post from Greta Suiter, Collections Archivist, MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections and member of the informal Archives and Digital Curation Reading Group at MIT Libraries.

Collaboration in Access and Preservation of Digital Content

Collaboration in Access and Preservation of Digital Content


The primary readings for the month of March were both originally presentations turned into articles. The first was “Your Code Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum” by Becky Yoose, originally presented at Code4Lib held in Portland, OR in January 2015. The second reading was “We are what we keep; We keep what we are: archival appraisal past, present and future,” by Terry Cook. To accompany these texts we also looked at the SAA code of ethics, websites created with indigenous people’s needs in mind – such as the Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal, and community archives, in particular some RRCHNM created websites that serve as an “archive” for material, often related to a tragic event (Hurricanes, 9/11, Boston Marathon bombing).

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