Cultural Heritage Information Management Forum Next June!

The Department of Library and Information Science has just announced that it will host the Cultural Heritage Information Management Forum in Washington, DC on June 5, 2015. This forum, which will serve as an arena for CHIM practicum project presentations, addresses the growing body of research and scholarship in the digital cultural heritage discipline.

The Program Planning Committee invites poster proposals on topics related to the forum theme. They include but are not limited to

  • Infrastructure for collection sharing, research, and access
  • Creation of digital collections
  • Access to digital cultural heritage collections
  • Outreach and engagement of users
  • Stewardship of cultural heritage collections
  • Partnerships and collaboration
  • Sustainability and funding models

Submissions will be accepted between February 2, 2015-March 30, 2015 and are open to all researchers, practitioners, and students in the cultural heritage discipline.

Stay tuned for more information about this upcoming forum!




National Digital Stewardship Residency 2014 Symposium: April 8th

Recently added to the calendar of upcoming events, please be sure to look into the upcoming National Digital Stewardship Residency symposium to be held in April at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda. The goal of the NDSR — according to the symposium blog — is to…

[…] build a dedicated community of professionals who will advance our nation’s capabilities in managing, preserving, and making accessible  the digital record of human achievement.

Be sure to check out the symposium blog at NDSR 2014.

And did I mention that registration is free?

Question Bridge: An Evening with Willis Thomas

Last minute notification, I know, but bear with me:

The Corcoran Gallery is hosting artist Willis Thomas tonight at 7PM for a talk during which he will discuss his work Question Bridge, a transmedia project that seeks to address issues of what it means to be black and male in America. Speakers of a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, political persuasions, and generational divides present their unique perspectives on the experience of black men in this country. For more on the project, please watch the video here.

Like the Library of Congress Folklife Center and and the StoryCorps project, Question Bridge attempts to document something that is complicated, protean: the subjective experience of an individual. By documenting these individual accounts, Thomas creates a work that probes the subjective accounts of issues such as self-identification and social inclusion/exclusion/marginalization. The use of modern digital technologies allows this work to break new ground in terms of collaborative dialogue between remote individuals, shedding light on what it is that connects us and what invisible division might exist between traditionally associated groups and individuals. From a digital humanities perspective, Question Bridge is evidence of the touching individualism that can be captured in a seemingly out-of-touch tech-mediated world.

If you can make it, I would highly recommend attending. Information on the event can be found here.

Art in the Archives for the 21st Century

Last weekend, I got the opportunity to attend my first MARAC (Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference) event in Philadelphia. The theme was “Art and Advocacy along the Delaware,” and as such, many of the conference sessions dealt with preserving and advocating for art in the archives. Two of the most interesting sessions I attended dealt with the unique situation of artists’ records and complex digital artworks.

The first session, “Artists’ Records in the Archives,” dealt with the types of art- and artist-related material in archives that are not designated as artwork. The panelists included Janine St. Germaine, and independent archivist from New York City, Chritiana Dobrzynski Grippe, an archivist with MoMA, Beth Levitt from the National Archives in Philadelphia, and Susan K. Anderson, from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The list of what is considered artists’ archival material, it turns out, is quite large. It includes (but is not limited to):

  • Artists’ correspondences
  • Photographs
  • Documentation of artists’ careers
  • Artists’ and collectors’ business records
  • Supplies, tools, and other realia
  • Items used by artists for inspiration
  • Documentation for performance art (this one especially brings up an interesting debate about what is really archival material and what is really the artwork…)

The list is quite large, and growing, now that we can include digital files into the archive of today’s artists. However, one of the most thought-provoking questions raised during this session was, “How do you decide what is considered archival and what is considered a work of art?” This question really boiled down to the essence of the object, and where it would serve its function best: will it be used more for research or criticism? Does it need the special care that would be given to it if it were classified as a piece of art? This also points to increased collaboration between archivists and curators at institutions.


< boundry music > : Instructions for a performance art piece by Mieko Shiomi. Does this belong in the archives or with the curatorial staff?
© 2013 Mieko Shiomi, 1963. From the Museum of Modern Art. Statement of Use: This material is included under the fair use exemption and are restricted from further use.

The second interesting session I attended at MARAC was “Archiving, Preservation, and Access of Complex Artworks,” which included panelists from MoMA, AVPreserve, and Cornell University’s Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art. This session focused on how we as archivists can preserve very complex (usually digital) artwork for future generations, and how we can make these artworks interoperable over time. There has been a huge boom in digital artwork over the past few years, which makes archives and archivists rethink how they work with these very complex pieces. Integral to this process are the ideas of significant properties, and by default, emulation technology. The significant properties of any work can be defined as its identity: what makes a piece of art what it is. According to JISC, significant properties can entail “content, context (metadata), appearance (e.g. layout, colour), behaviour (e.g. interaction, functionality) and structure (e.g. pagination, sections).”

After these properties have been defined, the next step is emulation. An entire blog post could be written about emulation in and of itself, but here is the watered down version: emulation is when you can operate a machine’s (computer’s) operating system within a different (usually newer) machine. It’s like taking a game or program that can only operate on Windows 95, writing a program that completely emulates Windows 95, running that program on your Windows 8 platform, and playing that once thought lost computer game. It’s pretty cool when you think about it, but it’s also extremely difficult and expensive. Here are two giants in the world of emulation (both of which work in collaboration with MoMA):



It’s safe to say that I came away from MARAC 2013 with a newfound appreciation of art archives in the 21st century. Like in many other places: collaboration, technology, and cooperation will be the road map for the future of art in the archives.

Now, THAT’S Digital Humanities!

Using the British Library’s collection of maps, a student team from De Monfort University in Leicester, UK created a 3D video game environment of 17th Century London.

Look at it, in all its porcine goodness.

Look at it, in all its porcine goodness.

The group — aptly named Pudding Lane Productions — referenced numerous maps within the British Library’s collection and brought the city to life using Crytek’s CRYENGINE software to produce rich, vibrant landscapes that capture the twisting turns of the roads and alleys and the towering figure of the London Bridge. Go ahead and take a look:

This is a truly innovative approach to the use of archival materials. By promoting the collaborative engagement of historians and video game designers, the British Library has offered the world an entirely new set of eyes with which to see their collections. As librarians and archivists, we need to continually search for ways in which we too can foster innovative use of our holdings. Who knows what might be next?