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.

09/15/15

Hierarchy of Google Products

With all of the recent talk about Google’s updated logo, I thought I’d share an observation I had this week while using two Google products: image search and Google Scholar. Here’s a screenshot, taken today, of images.google.com:

Google Images screenshot

And here’s a screenshot, taken today, of scholar.google.com:

Google Scholar screenshot

As you can see, the Scholar landing page still displays the old logo. Does this signal a shift in Google’s commitment to their scholarly literature search product? I hope not! Scholar is one of my favorite Google projects and a regular part of my research process. Update the logo and show us that Google Scholar is still thriving!

 

09/4/15

New Position!

I figure that the first week of classes and the beginning of Labor Day weekend is a good a time as any to make a quick post about my new position. In July, I formally began work as a Postdoctoral Scholar in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. The primary project I am working on here is a collaborative effort between iSchool researchers (myself and Ricky Punzalan) and the staff in the Knowledge Services Division of the National Agricultural Library. We are working together to develop a digital curation program for scientific data at the library.

Currently, the Knowledge Services Division, or KSD as it is known internally, is working on a number of systems related to the management of scientific data on USDA projects and one of our goals is to develop some policies and plans to support this work in the long-term. I am currently working on our first paper which I hope to share on this blog soon! Stay tuned, there’s more to come…

05/13/15

In which something I co-authored appears on the internet

Last week, an article I co-authored with Ixchel Faniel and my dissertation advisor Beth Yakel was finally published in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST).  The article reports on the results of a survey we conducted of 1,480 academic authors who cited ICPSR data in peer-reviewed publications, and is part of the larger DIPIR project which I was a part of for more than two years as a research assistant while in graduate school.

In the paper, we present a literature-based model to represent the relationship between data quality and user satisfaction with data in a reuse context. We tested this model with our survey data, using multiple regression analysis. The results of our survey indicate that data completeness, data accessibility, data ease of operation, data credibility, and documentation quality all correspond significantly with data reuser satisfaction. These findings suggest that repository managers should look to these areas when creating or updating guidelines or policies for data deposit and evaluation.

The paper is live on the JASIST website here. It’s not open access 🙁 but I’m really proud of this work! Email me if you want to talk about it or any of my other work.

03/20/15

Dissertation: Defended

I am happy to report that yesterday I defended my dissertation! It was an incredible experience and I am relieved/proud/happy/tired/overwhelmed/excited all at the same time.

In the interest of posting something to this blog every month (which I try to do), and in order to give everyone a chance to get a bit of a window into my work, here is the title and abstract of the dissertation.

Dissertation Defense

The Changing Landscape of Digital Access: Public-Private Partnerships in US State and Territorial Archives

This dissertation examines the network of public archives and private sector organizations engaged in the work of digitizing historical records.  It focuses on the recent expansion of public-private partnerships involving US state and territorial archives and their effects on citizens’ access to digitized materials. It seeks to understand the ways in which government archives engage with the private sector around digitization of records documenting birth, death, land ownership, and other events central to life in a democratic society.

I employ a theoretical framework combining ideas from archival studies, government information, public finance, and economics. I argue that archival materials are public goods as understood by economists and public policy scholars, and assert that this designation merits a new perspective on government archives. The dissertation project employs a mixed-methods research design, combining a survey, interviews, and document analysis to follow the trajectory of these partnerships, from the motivations of each group of organizations through contract negotiation, records selection, digitization work, challenges, and the implications for access to digitized government records.

My results demonstrate widespread engagement between state and territorial archives and private sector organizations. More than 75% of survey respondents reported that their organization engaged in public-private partnerships. These partnerships largely focus on genealogical records which contain information about individuals. This makes sense from a business standpoint but threatens to undermine the public goods designation which protects government archives from market forces. I identify the negotiation period as a time when archivists have learned to leverage their unique holdings in order to advocate for their institutional interests. Through information sharing among government archives, they work to obtain the best contract terms on behalf of their holdings and users. I also highlight the impact of public records and freedom of information laws on the interactions between public archives and private firms.

This dissertation documents an information environment in transition. The number of partnerships has increased in recent years but research has not kept pace. This project is the first comprehensive study of public-private partnerships involving state and territorial archives in the US, and serves as a basis for future work.

01/8/15

ARCHIVES 2015 Call for Student Paper and Poster Presentations

Below is the call for Student Papers and Posters for the Graduate Student sessions at this year’s SAA Conference. I am a member of the Student Program Subcommittee this year, let me know if you have any questions!

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The 2015 Student Program Subcommittee is accepting proposals for two special sessions dedicated to student scholarship during ARCHIVES 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio, August 16-22, 2015. Work from both master’s and doctoral students will be considered.

Graduate Student Paper Session: The work of three current archives students will be selected for presentation during a traditional open session format.

Graduate Student Posters: Individual posters may describe applied or theoretical research that is completed or underway; discuss interesting collections with which students have worked; or report on archives and records projects in which students have participated (e.g., development of finding aids, public outreach, database construction, etc.). Submissions should focus on research or activity conducted within the previous academic year (Fall 2014-Summer 2015). Student Chapter posters may describe chapter activities, events, and/or other involvement with the archives and records professions. Poster dimensions: 32 inches by 40 inches (may read vertically or horizontally).

Further details regarding these sessions, including the proposal form, are available at http://www2.archivists.org/am2015/program/student-call.

Proposals are due on February 2, 2015.

12/3/14

Lunchtime Distraction: World War I History Lesson

I want to share a YouTube channel that has recently been my procrastination/lunchtime media of choice. It’s called “The Great War” and is a weekly series recounting the events of World War I as they occurred 100 years ago. In case you forgot, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on June 28, 1914 and the war began soon thereafter. Throughout this year, there have been a number of centennial events related to the war and more are sure to come as the US entry in the war did not take place until 1917. This channel is one of my favorites so far because it tries to present the events of the war as complicated and outcomes as uncertain. It also makes good use of historical photographs, newspapers, and films to illustrate the events of each week. These images really help people connect to the history and I only wish they were cited so I would know where to find them myself!

As the series continues, I would hope to see more regarding the utter futility of this war, its devastating effects on the people of Europe and European colonies who were conscripted and brought across the world to fight, and the ways in which it laid much of the global framework still in place today. While 100 years seems like a long time ago, in fact this war is still very present in the historical memory of many communities. This channel is far more nuanced than the average treatment of WWI but still relies essentially on telling the military and political history of the conflict, while doing less to problematize, pick apart and challenge some of the issues. I also love the production and set from which the host delivers the week’s update.

Is anyone else out there watching or reading anything about World War I? Is there something great I haven’t found? Let me know, for it appears I’ve unleashed the History student within.

11/12/14

Linux in the Wild

One of my first posts on this site was about Linux, and I always love seeing examples of how Open Source software powers so many computing devices which we interact with everyday. On a recent plane trip back from Seattle (where I attended ASIS&T. It was awesome!) I settled into my seat and prepared to watch a movie on the seatback screen when it suddenly went black. Confused, I looked up and noticed that the entire plane had lost their screens as well.  A few seconds later, much to my surprise, this appeared on screen as the software loaded:

Wild Linux

Can you see tux in the upper left corner? That’s right- Delta’s seatback screen are powered by Linux! After another period of intense scrolling text as the system rebooted, I was eventually greeted  by the clean welcome screen:

Delta Welcome

After this snafu, the system remained on for the rest of my flight, and I was able to watch Parks & Recreation while editing some files. I must have looked like a weirdo when I whipped out my phone to take pictures of the software loading on my seatback screen, but I always love witnessing moments like this. The experience of flying a commercial airline is designed to be sleek and streamlined, but remembering that much of this software runs on Linux was a refreshing reminder that the polished face of Delta runs on a complex infrastructure.

I’ve also been thinking about the recent dustup between Groupon and the GNOME project. Groupon used the trademarked name of the popular Open Source desktop environment as the name of their new point-of-sale system, filing trademarks that infringed upon those already in place for decades. I was surprised to see Groupon making this move when my assumption is that some portion of their developers and code is based on Linux. After some confusion, it looks like Groupon is pulling back and will change the name of their product. Score one for the OS lobby!

I wonder how many consumers know how important Linux is to so many aspects of our computational lives? How can we increase awareness of this software, and how would knowing more about Linux change conversations in society about the role and place of computing in everyday life?