01/26/17

One Librarian, One Reference

Happy New Year! I still get to say that through the month of January. It’s been a while but I’m back to let you, my loyal reader, know that I am going to participate in an exciting event next week, Tuesday 1/31, at McKeldin Library on the UMD campus. We are hosting a Wikipedia Library #1lib1ref event, a mini edit-a-thon of sorts where librarians come together around the world to add references and citations to Wikipedia. This initiative is sponsored by the Wikipedia Library, with the goal of improving Wikipedia through connecting editors with librarians and reference resources.

An owl standing on a book

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I am a big proponent of Wikipedia, having edited and participated in public events in the past. I am very excited to meet fellow Wikipedians at UMD and perhaps convince some folks from the libraries and iSchool to get more involved with editing!

09/12/16

Fall Update: Teaching and Conferencing this Week

Greetings, dear readers. It’s been a while but I have been doing a lot of different things this summer! Now that the semester has started I can share the syllabus for the course I am teaching. It is my first time being 100% in charge of my own class and so far (two weeks in) I am really enjoying it. The course is INST643: Curation in Cultural Institutions. Here is a link to the syllabus. I put in a lot of work designing this course- let me know what you think in the comments!

In unrelated news, I will be travelling to Denver, CO this week for the 8th Plenary Meeting of the Research Data Alliance. This will be my first RDA meeting, and comes after I was awarded an RDA/US Data Share Fellowship this summer. For this fellowship, I am studying the use of controlled vocabularies in agricultural information access systems. I am super excited to see old colleagues and make new ones at this conference. Look for me in the poster hall Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

07/4/16

Web Archiving #Brexit

Like many of us around the world, I’ve been following the news out of the United Kingdom after the country voted to leave the EU late last month. In the aftermath of the vote, many Britons were shocked to discover that some of the “Leave” campaign’s promises related to the money paid to the E.U. by the United Kingdom were not going to come to fruition. These are documented across the web, but this succinct Boing Boing post highlights the attempts by these politicians to erase their old campaign website from the internet. Thanks to the Internet Archive, it continues its life as a cached copy, documenting the change to the website which removed content relating to increasing funding for the National Health Service, among other social programs. I was struck by the power of web archiving to document political movements as they are represented online, and how they make it more difficult for politicians to eliminate potentially embarrassing content from the internet.

This article reminded me of another excellent example of the power of web archiving, from the New Yorker article “The Cobweb” by Jill Leopore. She explained that the internet archive also preserved a copy of a website maintained by Ukrainian separatists which appears to show that this group was responsible for downing the Malaysia Airlines flight which went down over Ukraine on July 17, 2014. Why was this particular site was crawled by Internet Archive bots? Well, because:

Anatol Shmelev, the curator of the Russia and Eurasia collection at the Hoover Institution, at Stanford, had submitted to the Internet Archive, a nonprofit library in California, a list of Ukrainian and Russian Web sites and blogs that ought to be recorded as part of the archive’s Ukraine Conflict collection.

I recognize that these two events are not particularly related, other than the fact that web archiving figures in our attempts to understand current events and monitor how people represent themselves and their politics online. As more of our collective lives as humans are lived out in digital spaces, resources like the Internet Archive will only become more valuable as a way of piecing the past together. If you haven’t explored the Wayback Machine, give it a shot! I guarantee you’ll find some really interesting/fun/terrible/amazing old websites on there, just punch in a few domains and have fun…

(P.S. Jill Lepore is the best. Her first book, The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity was a major inspiration for my senior honors thesis in History. Read it! Or, at least read more of her articles in the New Yorker, they are awesome.)

03/3/16

Amsterdam and IDCC

Last week, I traveled to Amsterdam to attend and present at the International Digital Curation Conference. I wrote a post about the conference here on the Archives Lab site but I wanted to add a more personal touch here. Amsterdam was a beautiful city which I was happy to explore in between conference events.

Being me, I had to find an archive or library to slip into. I ended up popping in at the Staadsarchief, Amsterdam’s City Archives. It was a beautiful building which houses a few exhibition spaces as well as information about the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the area, including the entire city canal ring. The lower exhibition includes some of the city’s founding documents including the charter. It was a real treat!

Staadsarchief, Amsterdam, NL

Staadsarchief, Amsterdam, NL

As always, I was inspired by the conference and excited to attend IDCC again in the future. Thanks to everyone who stopped by my poster. Here’s a picture of it, via Twitter, and a link to it via the conference website.

02/21/16

Upcoming Conference: IDCC 16

I will be presenting a poster entitled “Agricultural Data Curation: Examples from a National Library” at the International Digital Curation Conference this week. This is the first time I will be publicly sharing the work I’ve been doing as part of my Post-doc, and I’m very excited! As you might be able to guess from the title, this poster presents initial results from my work with the Knowledge Services Division at the National Agricultural Library. We highlight the role collaboration plays in the four primary projects currently ongoing at the division.

Are you going to be in Amsterdam for IDCC? Let me know! I look forward to seeing old colleagues and meeting new ones.

01/26/16

Blizzard Movie Night Yields Unexpected Archivist

I am close to digging out from the historic blizzard which has blanketed the Washington DC region with 2 feet (maybe?) of snow. Since Thursday evening, I have spent a lot of time in my apartment and, on a whim, decided to watch the Enough Said starring James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.  The movie interested me because it was Gandolfini’s last; little did I know the surprise in store as the plot unfolded.

Gandolfini plays Albert, a recent divorcee and DIGITAL ARCHIVIST who works at a place called the “American Library of Cultural History” which houses a significant collection of television films. I’ll avoid spoilers that do not involve archives– Albert oversees digitization and created metadata for archival episodes of television. What’s more, there is a scene in the closed stacks of the library, complete with a stolen kiss amongst the Hollinger boxes! The rest of the movie was great as well and is recommended for archivists, librarians, curators, and everyone else too :-). It was very well-acted and definitely worth a watch.

While doing some post-film googling, I discovered this post from an excellent site called reel-librarians about Enough Said as well. Add it to the blogroll!

12/2/15

Rosa Parks, Historical Memory and Public Space

Yesterday, as I boarded a bus in front of the University of Maryland Student Stamp Student Union (itself named after an influential figure in on campus who served as the “Dean of Women” and increased the presence of women in College Park), I noticed something on the front seat of the bus. At first I thought it was a large check, similar to those ceremonially given to winners of Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. As I focused on it, I realized what it actually was: a sign acknowledging the actions of Rosa Parks on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama 60 years ago on December 1. She famously refused to give up her seat to a white, male rider of the bus and was arrested. This led to the Montgomery But Boycott, which lasted for more than a year before city buses were desegregated.

Commemorate Rosa Parks Day | December 1

Commemorate Rosa Parks Day | December 1

The sign had a quote, images, and a reminder of the anniversary of Rosa’s action. I loved the simplicity of the action and straightforward way in which the sign forces bus riders to confront a historically significant event. Through the temporary occupation of public space, this sign inserts itself into daily life and brings Rosa Parks into the present day, asking modern commuters like myself to consider the situation in which Rosa found herself in 1955. What would I do if I moved through a world in which a racist status-quo was designed into every aspect of the built environment? As I sat down at an empty seat, I considered the impact of Rosa’s actions and the current state of our country around race relations and justice.

Initially, I did not know who placed the sign but have since figured out that it was the UMD Dept of Transportation Services. Thanks Facebook. The DOTS logo is very small and unobtrusive and the sign is free of other university branding. This aspect of the event also stood out to me. The focus of this sign is on remembering Rosa Parks, not promoting diversity and cultural awareness of the university administration.

Kudos, University of Maryland DOTS. You put signs on the front seat of the university’s bus fleet and got at least one person (myself) thinking about the memory and legacy of the civil right movement. I even went online and read more about Rosa Parks and her longstanding involvement with civil rights organizing and activism in Montgomery leading up to her refusal to move to the back of the bus. If you are interested, here’s a blog post providing more context about the culture of violence and racism in Montomgery before Rosa took action, and here’s a podcast about Claudette Colvin, a teenager who was also arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus.

Any DOTS bus riders out there in internet-land? Did anyone else see temporary Rosa Parks memorials? I’ll be looking for something similar next year!

11/17/15

Literature on Digital Repository Policy Development

This week, I have been looking into the collections policies and other policy documents of digital repositories, specifically data repositories. The other day, I came across this First Monday (open access!) article, “A balancing act: The ideal and the realistic in developing Dryad’s preservation policy” which I thought was worth summarizing here.

The authors report on their process for developing the preservation policy for Dryad, a general purpose scientific data repository. A Preservation Working Group consulted peer repositories and selected four which directly informed their process. The working group identified work already taking place and considered what a Preservation Policy should contain in developing their final document. In the article, the authors highlight important lessons learned such as the need to maintain realistic expectations and consider the constraints of the technology currently in place at the repository.

I have found few articles reporting on policy development in this way and thought this was a good example to share. Often in digital curation contexts, policy development is an afterthought or individual process, rather than a collaborative effort with diverse inputs. While it can seem trite to go through the process of creating policy rather than “doing the work,” it is vitally important for the vitality of organizations to have meaningful and well-thought-out policies which can inform future practice and help introduce new members into ongoing work. Here’s to publishing articles like this in the future!

10/23/15

In which I travel across the ocean and explore Brittania

I recently returned from a week-plus trip to England, where I visited the cities of Oxford and London. It was my first time in on the island of Great Britain, in the United Kingdom, and to a country I’ve long wanted to explore. I was certainly not disappointed, as I got to see some of the great sights of one of the world’s most important universities and cities. Here are some highlights of my trip, focusing on museums, libraries, schools, and other culturally relevant sites. This type of stuff makes this post blog-worthy 😉

Upon our arrival at Heathrow, my girlfriend and I took a bus to stay with a friend living and working in Oxford. Before the bus ride was over I immediately knew I loved this college town. I say college town but really should note that Oxford feels like ancestor of all college towns that have sprung up in the past seven centuries or so. Every building in town explodes with history, and the urban landscape is a mix of town and college buildings. Most of the college quads do not allow visitors or charge a fee, but we did enter Wadham College and walk its grounds. The main college building was built in the 1610s and is a beatuiful sight to behold. It is made for learning, study, writing, and thought. I didn’t want to leave.

Wadham College, Oxford, UK

Wadham College, Oxford

No trip to Oxford, much less England, would be complete without visiting some of the country’s pubs. One that I particularly enjoyed was the Turf Tavern, located next to a portion of the 13th century city wall. The tavern was founded outside the medieval city as it was frequented by gamblers and other questionable characters. According to tavern legend, it was at the Turf that Bill Clinton “did not inhale” while he was a Rhodes Scholar. Today, the crowd is mostly students but no less questionable; most of them appeared to be smoking tobacco.

Bill Clinton: It is alleged that it was here at the Turf Tavern, that Bill Clinton, while here at Oxford University, during the sixties, 'did not inhale' whilst smoking illegal substances...what he does with cigars in his own time is his business.

Sign from Turf Tavern, Oxford, UK

Oxford is home to some amazing museums. We visited three: the Ashmolean, the Natural History Museum, and the History of Science Museum. The Ashmolean houses archaology and ancient artifact collections as well as more recent art. A favorite object from this museum was a copy of Mryon’s Diskobolos. I liked it so much I took a rare selfie in front of it!

The author in front of Diskobolos scultpure, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Ashmolean selfie

The Natural History Museum was my favorite museum in Oxford (perhaps my favorite of the trip). Its collections are vast and incredible; the main hall houses one of the only preserved Dodos on display in the world in addition to dinosaurs, modern animals, and geological specimens. The museum also contains the Pitt Rivers collection, which is a lesson in museum studies come to life. Established by 19th century British general Pitt Rivers, the collection is really a series of collections, covering the entire world and spanning the full range of human activities from music making to war, religion, cooking, transportation, and clothing. Entering the Pitt Rivers is like stepping back in time to the late 19th century, when museums were more like cabinets of curiosities and objects from different contexts were displayed next to each other. It is a visually striking and overwhelming room, with two balconies. I spent time walking around the entire collection but know that I could return ten times and still discover new things. This museum was used as an example in museum studies classes I took as an undergrad, and visiting it was definitely a highlight of my trip.

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, UK

Pitt Rivers Museum

The final museum we saw in Oxford was the History of Science Museum. Located in the oldest purpose-built museum building in the world, the collections consist mostly of scientific instruments from around the world. While small, this museum was also full of interesting objects, but my favorite was a blackboard that Albert Einstein used during a lecture he gave at Oxford in the 1931 (??). Containing just seven lines of mathematical proofs, it nevertheless allows the visitor a tangible connection to one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century.

Albert Einstein blackboard, Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, UK

Albert Einstein blackboard

After a lovely weekend in Oxford we headed by bus to the capital. London. On a grey Monday it rose up before us on the horizon, visible from the top deck of the bus. Our base of operations was an airbnb in Clapton Pond, a neighborhood in the Borough of Hackney. It was an excellent place from which to explore the city and experience a range of London beyond the downtown, touristy areas.

We visited lots of sights, markets, and pubs from Chelsea to Shoreditch, Kilburn to Camden, and Westminster to Trafalgar Square. One of my favorite places we went to was the Tower of London. Once the riverside castle from which English kings and queens projected power, today the complex continues to serve as a home for the crown jewels, military units, and some government officials. It was an amazing place to see.

Tower of London

Tower of London

I also particularly enjoyed the Victoria & Albert Museum. This museum, established during the reign of (you guessed it) Victoria and Albert. The musuem houses an incredible art collection, specializing in design and practical objects. Gallery after gallery of furniture, pottery, and clothing greeted us as we navigated the sometimes confusing passages of the museum. We ended our visit in the sculpture gallery where plaster reproductions of art, buildings, and church interiors were originally displayed for the benefit of students and citizens who could not study photographs of these pieces.

Cast Courts, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Cast Courts, Victoria & Albert Museum

Near the V&A, we popped in to the British Library. I considered trying to get a reader’s card and peruse some ancient manuscripts but thought better of it when I considered that my traveling companions would probably be at dinner on the other side of town when I finished at the library! Instead, I checked out the library’s permanent exhibit of some of its most incredible treasures, including a Shakespeare folio, early maps of British explorers, and Paul McCartney’s annotated lyric sheets. Add this one to the list of places to spend more time on my next visit.

Lobby of the British Library, London

Lobby of the British Library

The final London spot I will highlight is the British Museum, which we visited on our final weekend in town. This is another place I could spend all day but with so much to do, we only had a few hours in this huge museum. I did manage to see most of the prominent objects, including the Rosetta Stone and Parthenon Marbles. Even through the throng of people crowding around these objects, it was incredible to be in their presence. I almost forgot that these things were taken from the countries in which they were found and brought to London for display in the capital of the largeset naval empire in the history of the world. But the stuff was really cool!

Rosetta Stone, British Museum, London

Obligatory Rosetta Stone Picture

OK, I’ll stop now before I post every picture I took in London. It was truly an amazing place and I can’t wait until I have the opportunity to go back. Until next time, cheerio!

09/30/15

I was on the Radio!

About two weeks ago I was asked to be a guest on a very cool radio program: Lost in the Stacks, the Research Library Rock n Roll Radio Show created by librarians at Georgia Tech. The episode focused on Carl Malamud’s legal fight with the state of Georgia over his publication, through public.resource.org, of the Official Code of Georgia, Annotated, a LexusNexis product for accessing the laws of the state. I spoke about my own dissertation research and the changing relationship between the public and private sector when it comes to providing access to public information.

I had a great time participating and wanted to share the relevant links with you, my devoted readers! Here is a link to the episode itself, and here is a link to the show notes and playlist for songs featured.

Do yourself a favor and subscribe to Lost in the Stacks! These guys are awesome and they are producing high quality, original audio content for the library and information science set.