November 2018 meeting recap

Topic: So you’re in charge of the archives. What next? First of all, thanks so much to Rose Austin for being our moderator for this meeting and keeping the conversation flowing! Great job, Rose! We had a variety of questions and suggestions, below is an amalgam of the notes various people took throughout the meeting and the chat transcript (thanks so much to Kevin, Chris, and Anjuli who shared their notes and other information). I (Arlene) have anonymized much of the below but if you’re willing to follow up with anybody on any of these topics and share your contact information and more details and such, you can do that in the comments below. Also feel free to keep the discussion, questions, hints and tips going in the comments too!

There was pretty much universal agreement that this can be difficult/draining/frustrating/etc.

What to do on your first day/early on?
Find what accessioning/gift paperwork you can, see if you can figure out what matches with what.
Gather any records you can about the collection.
Ask around for institutional memory: is there anybody who might have been involved with the stuff in past?
Prioritize materials for handling–sometimes this might be based on what you’re already getting requests for!
Think about/ask what the goals for the archives are: are you going to have internal users? External users? Is there an expectation of access/digitization/just some sense of order?

What do you do with your “legacy” data: the types of information you have? Instead of wandering around looking for things that match that outdated inventory, maybe it would be better to do an inventory of your own and then compare it to the list.

When doing an inventory: put labels on things, note their locations, get a sense of any order or source.

This led to Chris from the State Archives sharing a story about packing up the Matanuska Maid dairy records after the dairy was closed. Because there were a lot of records and limited time in the building, the state archives folks tried to note which materials came from which offices in hopes that later on they could figure out who those people were, what their roles were, and that would help establish some context for the materials. They had guidance in the form of state retention schedules to help them determine what to keep and what to dispose of. For appraisal where there aren’t retention schedules, sometimes it varies with the collection, the creator. You may choose not to keep extensive financial records from an individual person but for a business, you might.

What do you do in a museum setting when there’s an established item level numbering system but you get photographs in that were numbered: how do you make these match up? See if you can work the creator-supplied numbers with your system somehow but beware of duplication of numbers! Maybe keep a cross-walk document or spreadsheet that has the original and yours in it? Or put the original somewhere in a note in your catalog listing?

What do you do when you’re at a place that has a records retention schedule but you have things that aren’t covered? In this case, the question came from a city employee and they can get additional assistance with questions like these from the folks at the Alaska State Archives. Contact information was provided.

What do you do with describing or appraising stuff–like A/V–that isn’t readable without equipment and you may not have that equipment? Glean what you can from labels. Talk to the person who created it, if possible. Context can be very useful here: do you know where it came from and the types of things they were doing? That make the content slightly more predictable. When you’re creating access copies but have limited funding, think about prioritization in terms of what might get highest use (or what might get grant funding?) keeping in mind that some media types degrade faster than others, so you might need to prioritize based on preservation needs, too.

Request for the website: does anybody have any financial numbers they’d be willing to share in terms of funding and doing a digitization project? Use the contact link in the menu above and we’ll see what we can do to get it loaded up on the site.

Watch out for problem materials that might need intervention, like video that doesn’t have a long life span, nitrate film, moldy stuff. Note: Arlene just got her certification for hazmat shipping and after she gets the stuff at UAA handled (i.e. out for digitization or destruction), she can probably help others.

Other items:
Anjuli Grantham mentioned: the Alaska State Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums will be hosting a 9-session webinar on the digital stewardship lifecycle called the Alaska Digital Stewardship Intensive. We are using the curriculum of the Sustainable Heritage Network. SHN has developed an impressive array of training resources and advice, including on migrating different a/v materials: http://sustainableheritagenetwork.org/digital-stewardship-curriculum-page. I’m also looking for someone to lead a one-hour webinar presentation on digital preservation. If anyone is at all interested, please let me know: anjuli.grantham @ alaska.gov; 907- 465- 4806. The Alaska Digital Stewardship Intensive will begin on Jan 8. It’s free! Registration is available here: http://lam.alaska.gov/professional_library_development/digitization_training.

Chris Hieb mentioned that they were using a vendor to do some digitization of audio materials. Here’s the contact information he supplied:
Preservation Technologies, L.P.
111 Thomson Park Drive
Cranberry Township, PA 16066
(800) 416-2665

And last but not least: our December meeting will be on dealing with digital. Important note: we’re going to save digitization (getting stuff into digital form) projects and processes for another meeting. This one will be focusing on what to do with the stuff as it is coming in, what do you need to do with it from there on in? More details on that as we get closer. Also please respond to the Doodle poll for scheduling the December meeting by Friday November 23.

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