Handling Digital Assets in Time-Based Media Art

Erica Titkemeyer, a fellow of the National Digital Stewardship Residency program, recently presented at UMD’s MITH on her initiative at the Smithsonian Institution: preservation topics related to digital assets in time-based media art. Given the complexity of digital files associated with time-based artworks, how are we as archivists, digital humanists, librarians, &c. to go about ensuring the ongoing accessibility and integrity (from both archival and artistic perspectives) of these works?

In her time at the Smithsonian, Erica has worked to develop a framework for digital preservation of  time-based media, a task which — if her MITH presentation is any indication — is crazy complicated. However, she has worked to develop a preservation methodology that is conscious of traditional archival concerns as well as specific concerns regarding software/technological specifications, complex relationships between constituent elements of a work, and features of the work’s instantiation (i.e. resolution, dimensions, display format/hardware, &c.). As emerging library and info science pros, topics like this loom large on the horizon of our discipline.

Be sure to check out her work at:

And be sure to follow her on Twitter!

And, of course, be sure to check out the other NDSR fellows and the awesome things they are doing in the field and in the area.

My Very First LIS Symposium

This post was started last week. But, what with due dates, work, papers, and snow storms, it kinda didn’t get done. So, here it is, for your enjoyment!

A few weeks ago, I gave a poster presentation at CUA’s 6th annual Bridging the Spectrum symposium. And while this wasn’t my first LIS conference/symposium/get-together, it was — in fact — my first time presenting at one. My topic? Identifying Thesauri Selections of Repositories of Digitized Medieval Manuscript Collections.

Symposium Poster (1)

Thrilling stuff. Really, it is! Click the image for a larger format. You can also access the image through the symposium website at http://lis.cua.edu/symposium/2014/posters.cfm

My poster session was a great success. Loads of interested symposium attendees stopped by, asked good questions, and seemed generally interested in the topic at hand (namely, just what sort of thesauri do digital collections of medieval manuscripts use and why do they use them?) Now, fair reader, I can sense your budding excitement as you read this. Wish you had been there to see the poster in action? Well, look no further! A fellow cohort member was kind enough to capture my spiel on camera.

And while I could prattle endlessly about my survey, the interesting findings, and the possibilities for future research (if anyone reading is in a position to offer grant money, I won’t say no), I’d rather focus the environment of the symposium itself.

As with any profession, the work that we do as graduate students, as librarians, as information pros can sometimes be overwhelming. And when the responsibilities start to build up, we can bury ourselves in our own little worlds, focusing on the mountains of work that require our attention. I think that this is precisely why symposiums are so important: they allow us an opportunity to step away from our work and to be around similarly-focused professionals who wish to share their accomplishment in a public forum. Thanks to the many panelists, poster presenters, and attendees, I had the opportunity to learn about a whole host of new and interesting studies that are going on as I type this. Everything from indigenous modes of recordkeeping among the Sioux people to new approaches to faculty engagement at research libraries was on display. Conversations simmered at every table and the Twitter conversation was at a continual boil for most of the day (for those interested, check out #cualis14. Some great comments and a link to the Michael Edson’s keynote presentation, video is now available at CUA LIS’s homepage). While I won’t use the word ‘impossible,’ it would have been pretty difficult to have walked away from this event without feeling revitalized, fascinated, and totally revved up for the future of the Library and Information Science discipline.

After having such a wonderful time learning about new research, studies, and initiatives, I began to wonder about what some of the other motivations for attending conferences, symposia, and other LIS events. I was somehow reminded of John Falk’s “The Museum Visitor Experience: Who Visits, Why and to What Effect?” In this essay, Falk identifies several classes of museum patrons, including Explorers, Facilitators, Professionals/Hobbyists, Experience Seekers, and Rechargers, all of whom have a variety of legitimate but unique reasons for attending museums. While the format, structure, location, attendees, and overall attitude of a conference is different from a conventional museum, can some parallels be drawn between museum attendance and conference attendance? Some attend to expose themselves to new innovations in their given field while others attend to develop their professional calling or individual passion. Others still attend to meet others and make professional connections, others yet use conferences as an opportunity to refresh their professional outlook and workshop ideas & projects. While the comparison may be tenuous on first pass, it may bare up with increased consideration.

But still: the conference as a cultural engagement is an interesting idea.

Regardless, the Bridging the Spectrum symposium was a great experience. In the future, I would highly recommend attending. Major thanks to CUA and the Department of Library and Information Science for their efforts to organize such an awesome event.

Archives: Bringing objects to life

Written by Justine Rothbart

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The lights are out. It is several hours before the museum opens. As I walk across the elevated walkway through the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, I see the silhouette of airplanes in the distance. I see the replica of the Wright Flyer. I see the Concorde. I see the Enola Gay. I look around and hear silence. I am not hearing the engines roar or the echo against the airplane hangar. I hear silence. Silence is not usually a word associated with aviation. The eerie sensation of knowing the historical importance paired with the earth shattering silence was very unsettling, yet profound. These objects seem as if they are lifeless, but their incredible stories are what bring them to life today. Those stories are found in the archives.

Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum - Stephen F. Udvar Hazy Center

Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum – Stephen F. Udvar Hazy Center

This summer I worked with the audiovisual collection in the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum (NASM) Archives at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. The NASM Archives is located in the back of the museum and I walked across that elevated walkway every morning to work. Passing the empty airplanes just reinforced to me the necessity of the archives. Working with the audiovisual collection, I would hear oral histories and see motion pictures. I watched interviews with the Enola Gay’s pilot which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I listened to Amelia Earhart’s voice describing her difficulties during her transatlantic flight. Now when I walk across the walkway, I see them. I no longer see just the cockpit, the fuselage, and the wings. I see the people. I hear their voices.

Working with the audiovisual collection in the NASM Archives, I processed reel to reel tape, cassette tapes, CDs, VHS tapes, and 16mm film. Even though I was not able to listen or watch every item I processed, I knew their importance. Everyone has a story to tell. The archives is just one aspect of the museum’s operations, but in my opinion, it is the one aspect that brings the entire story together. Visitors see museum objects without realizing how important the archival collection is to creating the exhibits. Archival institutions need to advocate for their collections. Since archival material is usually locked away in storage vaults, it was difficult, in the past, to raise awareness about items in the archival collection. Now with the technological advances and the digitization boom, it is easier to promote the archives as a segment just as important as the museum objects themselves.

The next time you see a museum object, I hope you think, “What is the story behind the object? What are the archival items associated with the object?” Whose voice do you hear?

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