Thursday, October 6, 2011

Written by Steven Szegedi, Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, Dominican University

This post was originally published on the Dominican University Library Blog.

This year's Society of American Archivists' 75th anniversary annual gathering, held in our very own city of Chicago, was positioned as a reflection upon the development of the both society as well as of the profession as a whole. Naturally this included a fair number of historically minded sessions reflecting on accomplishments and challenges met. Ultimately, however, a very welcome focus on digital archives emerged over the three days of sessions as archivists, historians, programmers, and records managers addressed collective present and future challenges facing our institutions.

The panels and sessions were incredibly energizing, proving time and again that archivists of all stripes are willing and able to shoulder the responsibility for our digital cultural heritage. Archivists of old could content themselves with managing documents already consigned to history (excepting of course those working within the registratur system…there's always an exception); no so with today's archivists who are active in content creation, and with managing digital collections from the point of creation onward.

The quality of the open source tools that are emerging for all kinds of repositories is awe-inspiring: ArchivesSpace (which will merge the Archivists' Toolkit and Archon), Archivematica, Denver University's Records Authority, and Tuft's Taper project, to name only a few. The only dispiriting refrain common to all of these software systems is their proposed launch dates of 2013 and beyond…promises of a brighter future unavailable today.

As a lone arranger, for me what was most useful was hearing real-life reports about the practicality of existing tools for harvesting and managing digital content for our repositories: HTTrack, TreeSize Pro, Heretrix, Firefly SSN finder, TeraCopy… Hopefully by next year I will be able to report on our successes and learning curves with some of these tools at Dominican University.

Personally, I had to create a new tab on my Netvibes dashboard for all of the presenter's blogs that are now my required daily readings. Apart from my hard-won Deranger ribbon, I am left with an abiding joy from meeting so many inspiring and engaging archivists unafraid of the luminous glow enveloping our digital horizon.

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