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!
A very staged presentation photo of me. 🙂
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”?
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
In April I organized a personal digital archiving workshop for the MIT Libraries IAPril period and Preservation Week. The events were open to the MIT community and visitors. A mix of participants from across the community and visitors from Simmons GSLIS attended. The basis of the workshop comes from the Find the Person in the Personal Digital Archive murder mystery activity from the Society of Georgia Archivists, ARMA Atlanta and Georgia Library Association (hereafter the SGA workshop). Kari learned about the SGA workshop through a post on The Signal and we’ve been looking for an chance to try it out. The workshop is great because it provides an opportunity to share personal digital archiving guidance and a chance to discuss the role of digital archives at MIT Libraries to the broader community.
Screenshot of the workshop handout that provided a few high level strategies for getting started with personal archiving
The SGA workshop is a murder mystery activity that provides participants with a USB drive containing files put together by the workshop organizers. The scenario is that the USB was found at the scene of a crime and the participants must explore it to learn about the crime and the person who lost the USB drive. The file set contains password protected content, obsolete formats, and is totally unorganized with file names and dates that don’t make sense. The SGA materials include the set of files, activity handouts and a presentation on personal digital archiving. All materials are available on the SGA website.
I love this activity – but we decided to remix the materials and create a genealogy example instead of the murder mystery (see workshop details below). This involved writing a new scenario, editing some of the activity prompts and reworking some of the discussion questions. We used the file set from SGA, but I renamed it “Jean old computer” and added a link to a defunct blogging platform (posterous.com) to try to incorporate social media issues into the mix of photos, documents, and other digital files. Continue reading
from the archives to wikipedia edit-a-thon
A while back I promised a review of the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon that Greta and I hosted for MIT IAP in January. Better late than never, right?
- Event Title: From the Archives to Wikipedia
- Info: There are many interesting women associated with MIT who have sparse Wikipedia entries or no presence at all. You can help fix this! Come to this Wikipedia Edit-a-thon to create or edit articles about MIT women using collections from the MIT Institute Archives as well as secondary sources. The Institute Archives collects materials from MIT alumni, faculty and departments. One of the collections we’ll be using for this Edit-a-thon is the Howe, Manning, Almy papers. Lois Lilley Howe, Eleanor Manning and Mary Almy are believed to be the first women to open an architecture firm in Boston.
- Time: One time, two hour event during MIT’s IAP session in January
- Place: The IASC Reading Room
- Meet-up Page
The event went well overall. Many edit-a-thons have themes. As you know from the info above, our theme was improving the representation of women associated with MIT on Wikipedia. Some, but not all, of the women we focused on in our event have materials in our archival collections. Greta spent time sorting through the collections we selected for this event to identify secondary resource material that would make for acceptable Wikipedia resources (no original research allowed on Wikipedia). The small group of participants – archives staff and a few people from the wider MIT community – improved 8 articles and created 1 new article. You can see the listing of articles worked on via our meet-up page in section 5.2. The archival material we made available was used by a couple attendees and a plethora of other published books and historical newspaper databases were also used. As far as marketing the event goes – that was all taken care of by the IAP website and our library marketing team. We also hung a few extra posters around campus the week of the event.
The biggest issue with the event was that we made it far too short! Two hours is not enough time for an edit-a-thon and it’s especially not enough for an event that includes archival material. We accomplished a decent amount of editing in two hours, but we rushed through introductions to the archives as well as the norms and general how-tos of Wikipedia. We needed at least an hour for introductions followed up by two hours of editing. I would recommend doing edit-a-thons that last at least half a day. We also ran into an access issue by hosting the event in a space without several public computers. We have one public computer and (of course!) it had issues connecting to the internet that day, so one of our attendees left because she didn’t realize she needed to bring a laptop. It was also extremely quiet during the open editing time — next time we’ll be sure to have some music playing.
This month, Greta and I attended a workshop at Northeastern University Library about using special collections for Wikipedia editing that was really informative and fun. I hope that we can host another edit-a-thon next year and apply all that we’ve learned.
Resources we found particularly helpful: