Go with the Flow (Even if it’s hard for Archivists)

Written by Justine Rothbart


I downloaded the app. I mapped out my day. I planned my schedule. When the day finally came to attend the Society of American Archivists conference, I was prepared. What I wasn’t prepared for was the announcement I heard while waiting on the metro platform, “We are experiencing residual delays from an earlier train malfunction at Farragut West. We regret your inconvenience. We thank you for your patience.”

Doesn’t WMATA know that the Society of American Archivists conference is in town? Don’t they know that I need to go to a session on crowdsourcing?!

Unfortunately, those of us from Washington, D.C. are too familiar with this announcement. We sometimes schedule time for metro delays. But I didn’t schedule time for a two hour commute from my home in Reston, Virginia to the conference. Alas, I did not make it to the crowdsourcing session. When the sessions were too crowded to find a seat, I just decided to wait until the next session.

While meandering through the hallway of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, upset that my dreams have been dashed by, yet again, another metro delay (too dramatic?), an unexpected surprise happened. I ran into people I did not expect to see! I ran into my previous supervisor, co-workers, professors, and classmates. That’s when I realized, conferences, like the Society of American Archivists Conference, are not just about attending all the sessions and learning so much new information until your head explodes. It’s about the unexpected surprises. It’s about the serendipitous encounters. It’s about the connections.

Fellow Catholic University graduate students at the Society of American Archivists Conference

Catholic University graduate students at the Society of American Archivists Conference

I know as archivists, it’s difficult for us not to plan and for us not to organize. It’s our job to organize. But maybe we should plan for spontaneity. Maybe we should plan for those unexpected encounters. And who knows, you might even end up having more fun than you planned.

University of Mary Washington Alumni at the Library of Congress for the Society of American Archivists reception

University of Mary Washington Alumni at the Library of Congress for the Society of American Archivists reception


ARLIS/NA 2014 Conference



During the first week in May, the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) held their 42nd Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. over a span of five days.  This year’s Conference addressed the topic of “Art+Politics,” which identified creative intersections of three central themes: fostering creativity; preserving and protecting; and power and agency.  One of the special speakers, Susan Stamberg, special correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR), addressed the large crowd during Convocation at the Library of Congress (LOC) on the concept of “Art Will Save the World.”  In addition to keynote speakers and stimulating debate, the Conference incorporated useful workshops that included, but were not limited to, the following:  book arts, provenance research, timely presentations, publisher exhibitions, and museum tours to the LOC, Dumbarton Oaks, National Gallery of Art (NGA), and the National Archives (NA) among others, highlighting the city’s extensive historical resources.

On May 2nd, I attended a session entitled, “Capitol Projects: Three Washington Image Collections Go Digital.”  The panel included the speakers, Melissa Beck Lemke (Image Specialist for Italian Art, Department of Image Collection, NGA); Shalimar Fojas White (Manager, Image Collections and Field Archives, The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections); and Brett Carnell (Acting Head, Technical Services, Prints and Photographs Division, LOC).  The various discussions within the session presented thought provoking arguments that were of great significance to a variety of challenges currently surrounding certain aspects of digital content management.  Collectively, presenters gave their own perspectives on the notion of ‘going digital.’ However, the most unique and insightful discussion was given by Melissa Beck Lemke (NGA) and her presentation on the Samuel H. Kress Photographic Collection, which conveyed the pressing need for innovative research and demonstrated the potential losses to valuable content if the field fails to adapt to modern technologies as quickly as possible.   

Mrs. Lemke explained the challenges her group faced during the complete re-housing and digital preservation of over 5,000 historic negatives from the personal collection of Samuel Kress, a wealthy philanthropist with an extreme passion for specific schools of art.  His combination of negatives, developed photographs, lantern slides, and other pictorial related materials distinctively documented the history of each object.  Towards the end of his life, Kress donated his vast collection to several museums whose own photographers oversaw the various conservation efforts involving his Italian Renaissance paintings.  In 2008, the NGA received a grant from the Kress Foundation to preserve the deteriorating negatives as professionally as possible.  Presently, this rare image series is one of the most comprehensive collections of Italian Renaissance art in the entire world, thus enabling researchers from anywhere to access the holdings.

Personally, one of the best features of the conference was an opportunity to actually network with different vendors, scholars, and professionals in the exhibit hall.  As a first time attendee, an archivist with a Fine Arts background, I felt very much at home browsing through art related images surrounded by art librarians, visual resource professionals, and scholars.  The conference was definitely a worthwhile experience to my own development as aspiring information professional.  It illustrated the communal challenges, enriching experiences, and potential rewards that professionals face every day whether in an archive, museum, or library.

Mark Your Calendars!

Written by Justine Rothbart


It’s almost that time of year again! Back-to-School? Christmas? Nope. It’s almost time for the Library of Congress National Book Festival! This year the festival will be held on August 30th, 2014. It’s the first year to be held indoors at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. For more information on why you should go, check out my blog post from last year’s festival: Cupcakes are out. Archives are in. Last year I discovered new trends in archives (and maybe some fashion trends). Let’s see what we’ll discover this year!

What: Library of Congress National Book Festival

When: August 30, 2014

Where: Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington D.C.


For more information visit: http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/