Conference Report: Society of Southwest Archivists

By Mary Heady 

Beautiful weather highlighted the 2017 conference of the Society of Southwest Archivists in Fayetteville, Arkansas, located in the scenic Ozark mountain range. The conference was held from May 24 to 27, 2017 in the recently remodeled Chancellor Hotel in downtown Fayetteville.

The Ozarks. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

The plenary address by Stacy Leeds, Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law, discussed the importance of archives in establishing and maintaining the rule of law for the Cherokee tribe. Leeds is the only American Indian woman to serve as dean of a law school in the United States. 

The first session I attended was titled “Reaching Out to the Community: I Did it, So Can You.” The speakers gave lightning talks highlighting ten different projects promoting outreach on a specific aspect of their holdings. One speaker discussed leveraging a relationship with a local stamp collecting group, encouraging the group to hold meetings in the archives meeting room so that the members could look through the archives’ collection of covers.

The second session was “We Need to Talk: Creating and Implementing Digital Preservation Workflows in Small and Medium Sized Institutions.” One of the most significant takeaways from this presentation was the 3-2-1 rule: preserving electronic records by having 3 copies, 2 formats, and 1 offsite.

The third event for the day was repository tours.  I attended the tour of Special Collections at the University of Arkansas. The Arkansas Collection is comprised of over 68,000 Arkansas-related print titles, rare books, photographs, and manuscript collections. The tour was led by Geoffrey Stark and other special collections staff.  The special collections staff donated their time throughout the conference, manning the registration desk, assisting with the repository tours, and managing the overall arrangements. 

Friday began with a session on “Film Identification and Preservation” by Alexis Peregoy of the Center for Creative Photography.  The session covered identifying cellulose nitrate, cellulose acetate and polyester based materials. The best conditions for film preservation are cold and dry. If possible, refrigeration is a good option. Items in cold storage must have time to acclimate to warmer temperatures. Deteriorating film should be isolated from other film. 

The second session I attended was “Teaching with Archival Documents.”  Engaged learning was the theme of this session. One speaker demonstrated engaging students by asking questions about photographs and newspaper advertisements. For example, why was this image created? What surprises you about it? The materials were copied from archival originals. Another hands-on approach got students involved through researching the history of their home county or their favorite county in Arkansas. 

The third session was titled, “Digital Archiving DIY.”  This session described homegrown ways to create finding aids efficiently. The day ended with a magnificent reception in the beautiful Walton Room at the University of Arkansas Mullins Library

Saturday began with a business meeting and the raffle SLOTTO.  The final session I attended was titled “The James D. Bales Papers:  A Case Study of MPLP Applied to a Grant-funded Project.” The opportunity to network with my colleagues in the Society of Southwest Archivists was invaluable and the University of Arkansas Fayetteville Libraries provided a warm welcome and a beautiful site to have the conference.

Mary Heady is the Special Collections and Reference Librarian at the University of Arkansas at Monticello Taylor Library.  She is a Certified Archivist and holds the M. L. S. from the University of Missouri at Columbia.

BitCurator Users Forum 2017 – Digital Forensics: The Academic Library and Beyond

By Benn Joseph

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to attend the annual BitCurator Users Forum, held on the campus of Northwestern University. This was the first time BUF was held outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I was happy to only have to walk one building over to attend this event, which drew archivists from all over the country, although as a UNC alum I would have preferred another excuse to travel to Chapel Hill.                         

At this point most College & University Archives section members are probably familiar with BitCurator and the various digital forensics methods used to capture and preserve born-digital archival materials. One might imagine you’d need to be expert in this knowledge in order to be able to contribute anything meaningful to such a conference as the BitCurator Users Forum, but that is not the case. This two-day conference provided ample opportunities for both experts and beginners, and was structured in such a way as to provide both training for neophytes, as well as a forum for more advanced users to theorize on ways in which BitCurator might be made to evolve in the future.

Day one allowed attendees to self-select as beginners or experts, with the beginners attending a day-long workshop on “Testing the BitCurator Waters.” This track began with an introduction to digital forensics and how it relates to the work performed in libraries and archives, and touched on the foundational concepts of forensic analysis, tying them to archival practice. The rest of the day focused on the BitCurator environment, and how to run the core set of forensics tools on sample disk images. The expert track, “Diving Deep with BitCurator,” focused on developing out different aspects of BitCurator and digital forensics workflows. Attendees here discussed repetitive tasks that could benefit from automation yet currently require human intervention, workflow breakdowns and bottlenecks common to multiple users, and functionality that does not currently exist but would benefit multiple users. Day two brought all attendees together, and featured speakers, lightning talks, and birds of a feather discussions, all guided by the forum conveners, but driven by the attendees.

There were a number of interesting developments in the world of digital forensics shared by attendees, as one might assume, with each of them easily meriting its own blog post. Worth mentioning in this brief write-up, though, would be The Archivist’s Guide to KryoFlux, just announced by the eponymous working group, and presented at BUF 2017 by Jennifer Allen, Shira Peltzman, and Dorothy Waugh. The KryoFlux is a floppy disk controller card developed by the Software Preservation Society that can read a wide variety of legacy floppy disks and create bit-for-bit disk images of their contents.

Image illustrating the features of the Kryoflux. Image courtesy Kryoflux Products and Services.

The Kryoflux is something that is being used with increasing frequency by academic archivists to read information on floppy disks in collections. Unfortunately, the Kryoflux itself ships with only minimal written guidance for the end user, and the official documentation is rather arcane for those of us not well-versed in the manufacture of artisanal floppy disk controllers. The Archivist’s Guide to KryoFlux working group saw the need for a guide written specifically by and for archivists, and the result is an outstanding document that will allow any archivist to use the Kryoflux to recover archival collection materials stored on floppies. It is now open for comment and review.

Benn Joseph is the Head of Archival Processing at Northwestern University Libraries, and a current member of the Steering Committee of the College & University Archives Section of SAA.

Conference Report: Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA)

By Jessica Breiman

National Archives Staff Cleaning Motion Picture Film, National Archives and Records Administration, 12168506

From November 9th – 12th, 2016, over 600 archivists gathered in Pittsburgh for the annual Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) conference. This was my second time in attendance at the conference; AV archivists are still unusual at most institutions and the conference provides an invaluable opportunity to learn from colleagues and gain knowledge of best practices in the field.

The conference was framed by discussions of diversity in the profession, the association, and the annual conference. The opening plenary gathered together panelists from other organizations, such as ARL, SAA, and ALA, to discuss ways in which their organizations have prioritized diversity and inclusion. The Diversity Committee put forth a statement on diversity and then moved to disband their committee in favor of integrating diversity discussions and initiatives into all AMIA activities; what remains to be accomplished is a strategy for taking action based on this statement.

Of particular interest to me were sessions on copyright and small institutions working to provide access to a wide variety of material; audiovisual archives often get bogged down in multilayered copyright concerns. One audio recording may have several different copyrights, including that of the music performer, the music composer, the music arranger, the recording’s producer, etc.

In “Overcoming Rights Paralysis: Practical Approaches to Providing Access,” two speakers from prominent institutions spoke about how their organizations approached the balance of respecting copyright and providing access to their materials. Greg Cram, copyright librarian at New York Public Library, noted “a digital library that ends in 1923 is insufficient.” With a team of 2 people, NYPL has been able to make great strides in determining copyright of items; over the course of the past several years, they have been able to make 187,000 items available for free download on the NYPL website; however, of 504,000 other items, 33% still have undetermined copyright holders.

NYPL has currently only been working with photographs and documents; Cram briefly discussed the complexities of AV objects which NYPL has not yet dealt with. Their approach is also to be determined, and indicating all the layers of copyright within an object will be difficult to accomplish in public-facing object metadata.

Jay Fialkov, general counsel for WGBH, spoke about the WGBH Public Broadcasting Archives. This archives primarily publishes audio and video objects from their archives and that of partner public broadcasting stations. WGBH’s approach includes separating items into different types (documentaries, oral histories, etc.) and analyzing items at this general level for publication. Watching every audiovisual item to analyze for copyright was impossible, given time and staffing constraints. WGBH views their publication of these items as falling under the Fair Use exemption of copyright law, akin to the recent ruling on the Google Books project. WGBH’s Open Vault project requires viewers to agree to the terms and conditions of using the site, which provides an additional layer of protection for WGBH.

It was also fascinating to learn how other organizations work with archives. In one of the final sessions of the conference, panelists from Kartemquin Films (producer of documentaries such as Hoop Dreams and Hard Earned) and archivists from MediaBurn (an independent film archives) discussed their partnership to preserve and make accessible all the film and audio elements that go into Kartemquin productions, including A and B roll, rough cuts, oral histories, and other footage. Most small and documentary film production companies don’t have a built-in archivist or archival plan; they operate on grant funding and small budgets that don’t allot for this kind of staff. MediaBurn provides both digitizing services and the access point for over 3000 hours of camera original footage. MediaBurn also provides enhanced metadata services, identifying themes and subjects of interest in massive quantities of footage and organizing footage to as such.

With professional audiovisual archivists still scarce in the Mountain West region, the AMIA conference continually offers professional education that cannot be obtained in other venues. Additionally, every AMIA conference brings more conversation and action regarding diversity in the profession. Though slower than other archival organizations to adopt initiatives in this regard, I am hopeful that AMIA will ramp up efforts to create opportunities for diversity in national and international participants.

Most conference sessions were organized into different “streams”: AV Content and Digital Preservation stream; Do It Yourself and Community Archiving stream; Environmental Issues and Archives stream; and Framing the Horizon: What’s Next in Moving Image Archival Education stream. For further information, see content and a Storify of tweets available on the conference website.

Jessica Breiman is the Assistant Moving Image and Sound Archivist at the University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library. She joined the Audio Visual Archive within the library’s Special Collections Division in 2012 and now oversees digital collections and digital initiatives within the AV division. She obtained her master’s degree in Library Science from Emporia State University in 2013.

C&U Annual Meeting Recap

We hope you’ll agree we had a productive section meeting earlier this month in Atlanta. Thanks to all of you who were able to join us. If you weren’t able to join us, here’s a brief recap of the meeting’s events:

News Reports

  • From Section Leadership
    • Election results are as follows:
      • Vice-Chair / Chair-Elect: Rebecca Goldman
      • Steering Committee: Greg Bailey and Christina Zamon
    • A major effort this year has been to establish The Academic Archivist blog. If you have content you would like to see included or would like to submit a piece, please contact the blog editor.
  • From SAA
    • There is a new information brief on Archives and the Environment, which highlights the intersections between archival work and the environment.
    • Council has approved a Member Affinity Group Proposal, eliminating distinctions between sections and roundtables, allowing members to join as many groups as they choose and non-members to join up to three discussion lists, establishing consistent timetables and guidelines across the board, and outlining a process whereby new groups may be formed and struggling groups may choose to sunset.
  • From OCLC Research (Jackie Dooley)
    • A number of C&U-relevant reports are expected to be out this fall, including ones related to
      • web archiving and metadata
      • building a culture of collaboration (digital archivists and IT professionals)
      • removing barriers for use and reuse of finding aids
      • archival MARC (a study of element use over 30 years of practice)
      • laying the foundation for research data management
  • Jackie Esposito from Penn State is currently conducting a survey on the institutional placement of records management programs (the survey closed on August 15). In the future she will be sharing research data and conclusions about where records management fits within the organization.
  • Amy Schindler, co-chair of the SAA-ACRL/RBMS Joint Task Force on the Development of Standardized Statistical Measures for Public Services in Archival Repositories and Special Collections Libraries reported that their first draft is open for comment (through August 22).


Peter Carini, College Archivist at Dartmouth, spoke about the Librarians Active Learning Institute (LALI) and the new Archives and Special Collections program (LALI-ASC). He modeled an active learning exercise featuring a reproduction of a 1799 letter from Ebenezer Hazeltine to his brother Nathaniel; in the letter Hazeltine described inoculation against disease as well as plans for selling his old mare. The exercise was met with enthusiasm and encouraged section members to utilize new approaches in the classroom.

Join us in Atlanta!

Please join us tomorrow, Friday, August 5th, at 1 pm in Salon C for an exciting and informative College & University Section meeting!  In addition to our usual section business items, we’ll have updates from several initiatives and projects of interest to C&U members, and an official unveiling of our section’s new blog, The Academic Archivist. This year we will also have a guest speaker on the timely topics of Teaching, Instruction, and Active Learning. Given that so many C&U section members participate in some level of library instruction and curriculum support in their day-to-day work, and often are evaluated on instructional activities for promotion and tenure, we hope this topic will be of wide interest and utility to all!

Our presenter is Peter Carini, College Archivist at Dartmouth, speaking on the Librarians Active Learning Institute (LALI) and the new Archives and Special Collections (LALI-ASC) program and developing archivists as teachers utilizing new approaches and ideas to promote active learning. Peter will also demonstrate active learning through a hands-on activity and then we’ll open the floor to discussion and Q&A. In addition to Peter’s work with LALI-ASC, he is an archivist/instructor and wrote “Archivists as Educators: Integrating Primary Sources into the Curriculum” in the Journal of Archival Organization, 2009.

Please prepare by thinking on your own experiences with developing courses and supporting curriculum and be prepared with questions, observations, and/or comments for a larger group discussion. And if you have time, check out a recent (July 20, 2016) opinion piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education – “Why a College Should Teach Its Own History” by Corey Ryan Earle.

We look forward to seeing many C&U members on Friday, August 5th, at 1 pm in Salon C!