By: Linda Sellars
A few of the topics discussed in Cleveland
SCRC staff attending the Society of American Archivists (SAA) annual meeting in Cleveland last week shared information about our work and had opportunities to learn about what’s going on in other repositories and the larger archives world.
Eleanor Brown, Head of Special Collections, told the Science, Technology and Healthcare Roundtable about “New Directions and Multi-Disciplinary Partnerships in Preserving the History of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at NCSU.” This presentation focused on our innovative approach to documenting and archiving existing and emerging scientific technologies through video oral histories, which will be available on the World Wide Web. Roundtable members heard from other presenters about a project in which members of an undergraduate English class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill used medical instruments from UNC’s Health Sciences Library to complete a material culture blog post assignment and an update on the Medical Heritage Library, a digital curation collaborative among some of the world’s leading medical libraries to promote free and open access to quality historical resources in medicine.
Digital Program Librarian Brian Dietz spoke about “Collecting Practices for, and Perceived Research Value of, Social Media Data’” at SAA’s Research Forum, a day devoted to reports on and discussions of research initiatives with relevance for archives. Later in the week, Brian also spoke in an education session on arrangement, description, and access challenges and solutions for digital archives. In that session, Brian joined with archivists describing efforts at the University of Delaware, Penn State, UCLA and Emory, to develop ways to make born digital material available to researchers.
University Archivist Todd Kosmerick participated in a session on “What’s In the Box? Caring for Unusual Materials in Collections.” Todd described our housing of electric guitars and anesthetic darts used by zoo veterinarians. Nine other archivists described experiences dealing with other unusual materials found in collections, including nitrate negatives, mercury, live radium, and human remains. Presenters discussed various aspects of caring for these materials, including preservation, disaster planning, and safety, legal, and ethical considerations.
Linda Sellars, Head of Technical Services for Special Collections, spoke to the Collection Management Tools Roundtable about Steady, a tool developed by Jason Ronallo in our Digital Library Initiatives department, which makes it possible for us to import pre-existing container lists into our collection management software with minimal editing and so then quickly publish a collection guide on the web. Presenters at this meeting shared “simple solutions” to common collection management tools problems, including “DAOs for Mass Digitization” (Andra Darlington, Getty Research Institute), “Excel and EAD” (Mark Custer, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University), and “Managing Collections (for now) through Open XML” (Gregory Wiedeman, M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University at Albany, SUNY).
Each of us could only participate in a small fraction of the meetings and events in Cleveland—the 70 education sessions; a day-long Research Forum; meetings of sections, roundtables, committees, task forces as well as other groups; and special events like a reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—but we each came back with new knowledge, new connections with other repositories, and new ideas and techniques to improve our work here.