Thursday, October 6, 2011

Photoblog: Day in the life of a digital archivist

Mixed collection in processMy name is Anne Graham and I'm the Digital Collections Archivist in the Museums, Archives & Rare Books Dept. at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. My job consists of equal time between digital and analog collections, although even paper-based collections now have a digital component. As an example, I collected some records from Student Media, which includes student publications, new media sites, and a radio station. Tucked into the day-to-day records was a great collection of editorial cartoon drawings in pencil, which covered several campus controversies in the 1990s. To build goodwill and to set up a future donation from the creator, I offered to trade them for high-quality tiff scans. So in addition to the usual digital born materials, I often create digital surrogates as part of outreach and donor recruitment.

Although our department is growing, we're still a small shop. I'm the only full-time archivist, so I wear a lot of hats. Here are just a few that I happen to modeling today:

IT Consultant

I'm working with the campus Information Technology Services (ITS) Dept. to set up Heritrix, an automated crawler developed by the Internet Archive to harvest and preserve websites. I've been working with them for almost a year to get this into production, so we can start collecting campus websites. It's been an uphill battle because the idea of long-term preservation isn't even an afterthought.


I'm also working with our campus webmaster and ITS to customize the look of our online CMS, Archon. It's an open source solution, which means that ITS needs to spend more time in maintaining it than a vendor solution. I've spent the last month or so working with our ITS representative to get a test server set up so the webmaster can play with the CSS. Like the Heritrix project, this one has been in the works for about a year. But, the test server is now up, so the greatest roadblock has been cleared.

Obsolete Technology Expert

Box of zip drivesThis is a box with a couple of zip drives (Remember those?) donated by another department on campus. With the last collection from our Theatre Dept., I found a zip disk with files from the last accreditation review. So this was a welcome donation.

5 1/4-in. diskettesWe also have a large collection of oral history recordings (about 1,000 and growing) created by a prolific History professor, who's been with the university since 1968. These consist of audiocassettes, microcassettes, VHS and Umatic videotapes, and mini DV cassettes, as well as transcripts in Word and WordPerfect on 5 1/4" and 3 1/4" diskettes. I'm working with another person in ITS to read the 5 1/4" disks and transfer the content to a usable format. This has taken on some urgency, as one of our Dept. Chairs wants to release a new edition of his book, which is saved exclusively on 5 1/4" disks.

Social Media Coordinator

Social media sites are all digital, right? And I'm the Digital Archivist. So, it's only right that creating and maintaining these sites should fall under my responsibilities, right? The Archives maintains a presence on 5 sites: Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, Flickr, and Tumblr. I try to post some sort of new content each week or two weeks. We've just mounted a new exhibit in our gallery space and I have lots of behind-the-scenes photos to upload to Flickr.

Web Designer/Tech Support

I have a background in HTML and CSS, so I was tagged to redesign our site when we moved from HTML to Drupal. I also pushed to get us to Drupal and am the resident trainer and problem-solver for it. I attended Drupalcamp Atlanta last weekend, which helps with maintaining and installing new modules. I was also tagged to create a website for an upcoming conference, Integrating the Workplace, which we're co-sponsoring with the History Dept.

Digital Advocate

My office doorThis is a job I think we all share: advocating for good software that provides good access for our users. I've educated our Legal Dept. on Creatives Commons licensing and am proud that one of our collections is available via Flickr under a CC license. This was a case of making lemonade out of lemons. The Jarrell Plantation Historic Site is part of a collection of digital-born images that was donated to the Archives from a department on campus. We had no input into its creation, so it arrived with little to no metadata. Although the images aren't of the greatest quality, at least they can be used. A big part of my job is to educate people on the issues surrounding digital preservation and access.

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