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?

 

10/30/14

Upcoming Conference- ASIS&T Annual Meeting

Next week I will be at the 77th Annual ASIS&T Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA. I am participating in the Doctoral Seminar and am excited to attend this conference where I presented a paper last year (Kriesberg et al. 2013). This year’s program is here, it looks like a great set of sessions.

If you are going to be in Seattle, leave a comment or drop me a line- see you there!

ASIS&T Annual Meeting 2014

10/7/14

Archival Articles on Wikipedia

My regular readers will know that I edit Wikipedia from time to time, and that I am a doctoral student in an iSchool who studies archives. I was therefore overjoyed to attend this session at the Society of American Archivists annual meeting this August. The session chairs, Dominic McDevitt-Parks and Sara Snyder, successfully signed up new editors for Wikipedia accounts and introduced them to the basics of editing. As a group, we even made some progress on a few articles relevant to archives. A wiki page documenting the session is located here.

I fully agree with the goals of this session: to increase the quality of Wikipedia articles which relate to archival concepts, archival institutions, and archivists. Since August, I have been looking for opportunities to edit archival articles. Now, this term I am working as a Graduate Student Instructor (also known as a TA at universities not named Michigan) in a course on archival access systems. During a recent lecture, my lead instructor provided an overview of many of the archival software platforms that exist today. Following along, I happened to google Archon and ended up on its Wikipedia page: Archon (software). I was dismayed to see that the article was not up to date and listed the tool as in active development when in fact it has merged with ArchivesSpace and is no longer maintained. I made a mental note to follow up and edit this page to reflect the most current information.

A few days later, when I returned to complete my edits, I noticed that someone else had come in and begun my work for me! A sentence indicating the inactive status of the project was tacked on to the end of the article. I still made some edits, cleaned up the page, and made sure that things were up-to-date. However, during this time I discovered that ArchivesSpace itself does not have an article yet. That’ll be a task for a later date.

You may be asking yourself- what is the point of this story? Well, if you see an article related to something having to do with archives that needs work, edit it! I did a bit of writing on a small article and discovered a much larger task that I will tackle in the upcoming weeks.

What wiki-event is happening at SAA next year?? I’m there!

09/30/14

Dissertating

Seeing as it is the last day of September, I feel I am overdue for an update on here about what I’ve been up to. This summer was very busy! I attended three conferences, collected a majority of the data for my dissertation, and wrote as much as I could. I am very nearly done with my data collection and am currently working on analysis while also making progress on other areas of the dissertation.

The fall semester is in full swing here in Ann Arbor and I am currently serving as the Graduate Student Instructor in SI629: Access Systems for Archival Materials. Here is a course decription. Other than this, I am writing as much as possible! The picture below should give you a good sense of where I’m at as I write this post.

Seated portrait of a man with a beard writing a document.

This is not a photograph of me. But look at that chair. And that beard.

With accommodations as luxurious as this, it’s no wonder I’ve been a writing fool…and now before I make any more nonsense jokes about anonymous historical figures posing for pictures composing text at small desks, I will mercifully end this post and return to my dissertation.

08/10/14

Upcoming Conference- Society of American Archivists

This week I will be attending and presenting at the joint annual meeting of the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), the National Association of Government Archivists and Records Administrators (NAGARA), and the Society of American Archivists (SAA). My presentation is on Saturday; the full conference schedule can be found here.

I am excited for this conference as I hope to have the opportunity to meet some of the state archivists from whom I have collected data over the past few months for my dissertation project. It should be a swelteringly good time in our nation’s capital!

07/11/14

Conference Next Week- Archival Education and Research Institute

Next week I’ll be heading to Pittsburgh for the Archival Education and Research Institute, hosted by the University of Pittsburgh. This will be my fourth year attending and I’m excited to share my research and see  what others have been up to. I will be presenting preliminary results from my dissertation study.

The conference website is here and the schedule can be found here. I’m presenting on Monday afternoon so if you’re going to be at AERI come check out my session!

06/16/14

Upcoming Conference- International Conference on Digital Government Research

Just a quick note that I’ll be heading to Aguascalientes, Mexico for the 15th Annual Conference on Digital Government Research this week. I am participating in the doctoral colloquium and presenting a poster at the poster session on Thursday (6/19).

The conference website and full schedule and is here. If you’re at the conference stop by and say hi!