Archives in the media – Blue moon edition – 8/31/2012

  • In an article in central Utah’s daily newspaper, The Daily Herald, featuring a book about the history of filmmaking in Utah, author and Brigham Young University Film Archivist James V. D’Arc remembers his early days in the profession: “There wasn’t a film archive at the time…I suggested to the department chair who hired me…that the university branch out into that area.” Sounds like sound advice for graduates too, especially if you have an upcoming interview. Identify what’s missing and inform your prospective employer how you will fill said gap.
  • My favorite passage from a Wall Street Journal article we (OCLC Research staff) shared this week about corporate archivists: “Other times, archivists have to get down into the trenches of eBay and fight for memorabilia. That is the case for Ruth Porter, who typically begins her days by sitting down at her computer, popping a peppermint candy and cruising the online auction site.” I should start doing that, it might do wonders for my concentration. Porter is the L.L. Bean archivist.
  • You don’t have to be from a place in order to get charged with preserving its history. A 28-year-old from Wisconsin is the first archivist for the Indiana Room at the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library in New Albany, Ind., and he is excited to expand and improve services. A county historian in an article in the six-day News and Tribune says, “They have numerous original documents and having a professional there looking over them is a good move on their part…I think the Indiana Room is one of the best places around for research. I really appreciate the library’s administration seeing the importance of that room and hiring an archivist.”
  • A roof over the Henry County Archive and Genealogy Library in Paris, Tenn., leaks because it’s flat and eight years past its life expectancy. The archive room housing the county’s historical documents is located in the lowest part of the building, exposing it to other roof leaks that will run there. Repairs will cost $250,000 and work on a new home for the archives promised in 2008 has not yet started. Good for The Paris Post-Intelligencer for reporting everything that’s wrong with this situation. Maybe in the meantime, archivists can use the new scanner the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Chattanooga purchased, and digitize documents before the tarps covering them right now can’t prevent further rain damage.
  • Hallways in the New York statehouse once bare now display artifacts from the state’s collections. Associated Press’s article about it that re-ran in local media reminded me of when I raided my own attic and found childhood mementos to display as art, like a porcelain cat figurine collection. Not the same, but definitely a practical way to blend beauty, history, function, and pleasure.

Archives in media, 8/22/2012

Archives in Media, 8/20/2012

  • University of North Texas will house around 400 boxes of materials chronicling the last 60 years of gay social movements in Dallas-Fort Worth, according to a blog post for The Dallas Morning News online. The materials come from the archives at Resource Center Dallas, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and HIV/AIDS service organization for North Texas.
  • A 700-year-old letter that a French King send to the Vatican that mentions William Wallace, leader in the Wars of Scottish Independence, is on display at the Scottish Parliament. The display was promoted Aug. 10 in an online magazine, The Scotsman.
  • A story about a group of volunteers helping process an 800,000-image photograph collection in Deadwood, S.D., ran July 28 in the local Black Hills Pioneer newspaper.
  • Cause of Action, a Washington, D.C., transparency watchdog group, sued the National Archives and Records Administration for putting a five-year restriction on the release of Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission documents about the 2008 financial collapse, according to the non-profit news group Mother Jones.
  • Almost a year after wildfires in Bastrop County, Texas, residents are collecting and preserving pictures, posters, government documents, and other accounts of the largest and most destructive fires in Texas history, according to the story in Austin’s major daily, The Austin American-Statesman, about the new archive.
  • The Herald-Sun, the daily newspaper in Durham, N.C., ran an article about Duke University’s move of rare materials in preparation for renovation of the Rubenstein Rare Books and Manuscripts Library.

Preview the new ArchiveGrid Interface

Over the past few months we’ve been working on an update to the ArchiveGrid interface.

Along with some bug fixes and cosmetic changes, the new interface has two major new features:  A “result overview” display that summarizes important access points in a search result, and an “adaptive” (sometimes also called “responsive”) layout to improve how the system works on tablets and smartphones.

You can try a preview version of the new interface now.  We’re testing and updating it still, but expect to replace the current interface with the new one in the next month or two.

The Result Overview

Here’s an example of the Result Overview for a search.  The search began by looking for collections that match golden gate bridge photographs.  With 377 matching collections it would take a while to scroll through each brief record, but the Result Overview helps identify some key access points at a glance:

And as access points are selected, the search result is narrowed.  This can be a quick and effective way to reduce a large result to something that can be more easily checked for a deeper dive into the collection descriptions.  The Result List and Overview are different views of the same result: selecting their tabs makes it easy to switch from one to the other.

The Adaptive Display

Though we aren’t yet seeing very much ArchiveGrid use by people with smartphones and tablet devices, we want to ensure that all users have an experience in ArchiveGrid that is best suited to the capabilities of their browser.  While still a work in progress, the new interface adapts its layout and features based on the device that has connected.  We’ve been testing this on a range of computers: an iPhone, a Nexus 7 tablet, a “One Laptop per Child” computer, a variety of notebook and desktop computers, and a large flat screen display connected to a Chromebox.

As with everything else about ArchiveGrid, we’d love to hear your comments and suggested improvements to this new version of the user interface.

Archives in the news, 8/6/2012

  • Palace of the Governors Photo Archives at the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe, N.M., acquired the largest known pinhole photography collection in the world, beating major competitors for it. The Santa Fe New Mexican, the oldest daily newspaper west of the Mississippi River, reported on the acquisition.
  • “People are beginning to realize that a city without a past is a city without a future. They want to know why, when and where the roots were planted and nurtured.” – Ainslie Helmcken, the City of Victoria’s first archivist, who also said that the archives made it possible to trace almost any historic development. The Times Colonist, a major daily newspaper out of Vancouver, B.C., Canada, featured the office he created 45 years ago.
  • WEAU13, a local NBC affiliate for Eau Claire, Wisc., ran a story about the University of Wisconsin – Eau-Claire’s acquisition of one of the largest jazz collections in the world from a band leader in Texas.
  • Volunteers are digitizing an Ohio county’s public records for, a genealogical database, and the work was featured in The Tribune Chronicle, a daily newspaper for the area.
  • Vermont’s first state archivist retired Aug. 1 and The Times-Argus, an independent daily newspaper in central Vermont, featured him.
  • “The failure of Jamaicans to preserve the records of their lives to pass on to the younger generation” was a quote by a University of the West Indies professor in The Jamaica Observer, urging the nation to preserve its heritage.
  • KMXT FM, a public radio station in Kodiak, A.K., ran segments about the discovery in a nearby Russian Orthodox seminary archives of a book with handwritten Gospel passages in a Native Alaskan script.
  • Five questions for the South Dakota state archivist and her answers ran in the state’s largest daily newspaper, The Argus Leader.
  • How primary sources now publicly available at the new Grateful Dead Archive at the University of California, Santa Cruz, can debunk negative myths about the band: NPR’s All Things Considered aired an interview with the archive’s director.

Intensive primary source research led to debut of database of dropped bombs

A record of every bomb the United States military has dropped is now in a database and maintained by its creator, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jenns Robertson. THOR, Theater History of Operations Reports, was previewed last month at the Air Force Research Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala, after .

A quote by Robertson in a Boston Globe article about THOR asks: “What if you had the detailed data on when and where every bomb was dropped from an airplane in combat? What would you know?”

What would we know? The truth. Robertson spent six years extracting it from archives and databases. Now it will get put to good use by the military, governments, and other organizations. But could the public handle the truth?

Here is a more pertinent question: If the archival materials Robertson used to build the database are available to the public, shouldn’t the database itself allow public access?

I scoured the Internet for a URL, only to conclude that it has not released to the public. For the sake of detonating an angry backlash tsunami, I can see why. A few mouse clicks and keystrokes into the database would “shock and awe” me into a state of disturbia similar to the one I have for our early settlers’ role in the plight of the prairie buffalo.

For researchers interested in this topic and others, however, our “browse topics” list on the ArchiveGrid homepage is a good place to start. “War and military” and “Activism” both retrieve relevant findings aids to read.

Index update makes ArchiveGrid ready for SAA

Along with seven new contributors, 6,192 more EAD finding aids, and data that will improve our homepage map, ArchiveGrid heads to San Diego next week with a fresh index update, which we completed today.

Our new contributors, four of which are also new additions to the Northwest Digital Archives, are:

The rise in number of EAD finding aids mentioned above, to 102,436, is the most of this type of finding aid format we have included in ArchiveGrid since we started keeping track in February of last year.

ArchiveGrid now includes nearly 1.8 million archival collection descriptions in its index. More than 1.5 million of these are bibliographic records extracted from WorldCat, with the rest representing finding aids provided to ArchiveGrid in a mix of EAD XML, HTML, and PDF.

And only because I am too excited to keep a secret: Stay tuned for coverage on this blog from SAA, where we will reveal to exhibit booth visitors design improvements underway for ArchiveGrid.