connect the clues! exploring a personal archiving workshop

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

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 ( to try to incorporate social media issues into the mix of photos, documents, and other digital files.  Continue reading


fellow update: personal digital archiving 2015

In April I attended the Personal Digital Archiving 2015 conference. The two day series of talks provided a mix of perspectives–documentary film makers, doctoral students, archivists, librarians, and contemporary artists. You can find slides from the event in the Internet Archive. Following are a few highlights from the event:

Personal Digital Archiving 2015 was hosted by NYU.

Washington Square. Personal Digital Archiving 2015 was hosted by NYU Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program, NYU Libraries and CNI.

Wendy Hagenmaier discussed the development of the Find the Person in the Personal Digital Archive activity and resources. The project was a joint effort by the Georgia Society of Archivists, ARMA Atlanta, and Georgia Library Association. I used these materials for my own personal digital archiving workshops recently, so it was great to learn more about how and why the content was developed. (Slides) Similarly, a panel of librarians from Bryn Mawr, Wheaton, Vasser, Amherst, and Brown discussed their individual efforts to host personal digital archiving workshops.

Julie Swierczek talked about the preservation of technological and social communication forms online. Focusing on the octothrope (#) and ‘ironic metadata’, she questioned how future historians will understand the irony and cynicism in posts, memes and hashtags. Her essential question – how can individuals and social media companies record context for our social digital activity? (slides)

The opening keynote, Don Perry, talked about the power of bringing communities together, digitizing photographs, and sharing stories about the family history each photo represents. Through the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion roadshows, Perry and his team are using digitized and born-digital photographs to recover collective pasts and build new communities. (website) (slides)

Lauren Algee discussed the development of the DC Punk Archive at the DC Public Library. Lauren noted that while the library’s basement isn’t good for much — it is good for punk shows. As part of the overall effort to reach the punk community and build the archive, the library has hosted a series of shows in the basement.

Jessica Bushey, a doctoral student at University of British Columbia, talked about her research on how individuals manage digital content and share or store them via online platforms. Of her 502 survey respondents, 20% believe content will be available for 4-6 years and 24.49% believe that content in social platforms will still be available in 20 or more years. I am shocked by that kind of trust–20 years! Especially given stories like: this and this and this and this and this. The good news — 91% also have a local copy of their content stored on a laptop or external hard drive.  (slides provide full data from her survey)

Tod Wemmer gave an inspiring talk about the value and importance of audio in preserving context for photographs. I’m currently digitizing some 35mm slides for my grandma, mom and aunts — and decided during this talk that I should have my grandma tell me about the photos and record it. (slides – and the audio clips)

Jason Korvari from Cornell University Library shared about his work to provide web archiving services that can support teaching. He talked about his collaboration with a faculty member who uses websites related to art and artists in her classes. By working with the Library to archive the websites (using Archive-It), the faculty member can fully document courses and ensure access to web content used in the courses. (slides)

Yvonne Ng talked about assessment of PDA resources. She works at WITNESS and they provide video archiving guidance for activists. Assessment is so important for understanding community needs and purposefully prioritizing effort and resources. (slides)

And last, but not least – ePADD a fantastic tool for email acquisition, processing, discovery and delivery! I cannot wait for the official ePADD release in June 2015.

Odds and Ends:

Much more was covered – check out the conference website for details.