Well, it’s been a long semester, and I didn’t get as many entries in this research journal as I originally planned. But the research journal process has been interesting. It helped me gather my thoughts and know what I had to do next in the process of the research project. I can see that this tool will be useful in the development of future projects. In the mean time, I have developed a research proposal for a case study at an archive. I want to see what it would take to digitize successfully the audio/visual contents of an archive and to study how it would work. Going forward I can use the experience writing this paper when looking for grants and other funding in my professional career.
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I’ve let time get away from me with the semester, but I’m getting back on track now and updating my research blog. There will be a main post in the next day or so. But back to research for now…
My research project for 705 will consist of developing a project for a small, publicly funded archive that has recently acquired a collection of films. The collection spans a wide range of time, and many of the films in question are of the silver nitrate variety. The archive in question has not collected films in the past, but the nature of the film collection meets the new mission of the archive. As such, they do not currently have the facility to store volatile films such as silver nitrate on site. Currently the collection is being housed at another institution too far from the archive to make regular access to the collection feasible. The archivist has been tasked with researching the best option for storage (whether on-site, or at a local off-site facility) and being work on writing for grants to fund the project of moving the collection and funding the housing for the collection. Additionally, the collection was acquired with the intention of digitizing the contents, so the archivist will method that will be used to digitize the collection, by researching the current options available.
I’m still struggling to come to terms with a specific topic for this research proposal, which is not good for me, because there are portions of this project that will be coming due soon. Nevertheless I carry on. I am now leaning more towards a project regarding the digitization of photographs, negatives and films. This coincides with another interest of mine currently, namely, how to preserve the images on all of my negatives (yes, I had a 110 camera when I was small and a 35 mm camera later before digital became widely available). Even frozen, negatives will eventually break down, and the actual photographs will fade and color change as well. While I start a personal project, looking for the most cost effective way to digitize these items, while capturing the best image possible, I could cross my personal research into this project, looking at digitization options and practices in archives with regards to film. I plan to research the literature on this in the next day or so, looking at articles, and will post again soon.
Whether a group that meets in person, or one that meets online, I always find group work difficult. Not because of other group members, but because I always have a hard time with group dynamics. I tend to be very uncomfortable in a group situation when I am not the leader. I think that this is more pronounced in an online situation because there is no good way to absolutely confirm that project sections have been turned in if I am not the one submitting the assignment. Even when group members send around an email that the project is complete or has been submitted, I wonder if the professor got the assignment. Ordinarily, I combat these nerves by volunteering to turn in the project, but due to a number of projects due at or around the same time during the semester, I felt it necessary to let someone else take responsibility this semester. We had a good group, so I felt confident as we completed project sections and assisted each other.
Group dynamics in groups where all team members live in the same area and can meet physically are different than the online experience. As an online group, alternative meeting options are needed. The use of Google Documents and chat programs was what my group chose to use and it worked well. We initially tried using the chat function in Blackboard, but several users struggled to keep a good connection when using the chat. When we determined that we would use Google for the chat service we decided to keep it simple and use Google for our other file sharing efforts as well. This consistency along with regular weekly meetings helped our group to work well together, despite our distance from each other physically.
Overall, I have found in this and other classes, that online group work can work as well as groups together if they choose a method of communication and create a schedule to communicate regularly. With regular communication and a consistent method of contacting other group members, much of the frustration felt during a group experience can be minimized, if not eliminated.
The creation of a group website was an interesting prospect. It required the group to determine the strengths of each member in order to best develop the site. We were able to determine the best areas for each of us to take the lead and then work towards the end result of the project. It required a great amount of trust on the part of the team members, to trust that someone that we had never met and possibly never interacted with, was not misrepresenting their abilities. I struggle with this any time I have a group project, but particularly when I have never worked with any of my team members previously. The lack of face-to-face interaction means that there is no body language, and since all of our communications were done via email or Google Chat, there was not verbal interaction which left few non-verbal cues to use building that trust. We had to rely solely on the written word of our group members and the results that they gave us. For the most part, we received good work from each of our team members in a timely manner. As a group, we were able to establish the needed trust and turn in our work completed well and in a timely manner.
Overall, this was a good group experience for me, especially because I let someone else take the lead. It let me experience the group dynamic and learn how to trust a group of people to finish their sections without being the one to ensure that everything was turned in. The project allowed me to learn to better participate in any group, as well as teaching me how to work well in a group that is separated by distance using different Internet options for communication.
The collection (or collected research) that I would love to see digitized, relates to an international study program I participated in during the Summer of 1999. I was able to travel to Israel, and work on an archaeological dig. The dig took place in Galilee, just outside of Nazareth at a tell called Khirbet Qana (or Khirbet Cana). Over the years since I participated in the dig, I have looked for digitized information on the research gathered at the dig, or online photos of some of the artifacts found during the dig, but there is currently no coordinated online digitization effort. It is disappointing, because I remember during the original dig that there was a regularly updated blog that included much of the information I was looking for, and I had hoped that the University of Puget Sound (who sponsored the dig) and Dr. Douglas Edwards (who led the dig) would continue the process of digitization and online records of the program. Unfortunately, it is my understanding that Dr. Edwards passed away a few years ago, which may have impacted the digitization program, or the program as a whole.
Digital image collections are a significant part of the future of any library or information science organization, and I have come to believe, archives in particular. This is part of the reason for taking a course on design and management of digital collections. Recently, in my Intro to Archives course, we watched a video of Rick Prelinger’s lecture, “Are the archives doomed?” In watching that lecture, Prelinger posits that the future of archives is in providing access to the information that they hold (Prelinger, 2006). One of the best ways that archives will be able to provide access is through digital collections. In addition, throughout SAA’s annual conference this year, there were sessions regarding the Archivist’s Toolkit and Encoded Archival Description, evidence that the profession is looking at the future of digitization. Economic struggles as with the current recession and travel difficulties often make traveling to distant archives untenable. Digitization will allow distance access for those users who cannot travel to the archive.
Digitization will also be an excellent method of preserving older documents for posterity. Although preservation techniques continue to advance, the nature of paper documents is such that eventually, despite all preservation efforts, documents will become unreadable, or even simply fall apart. Through digitization of collections, these documents can be preserved as they originally looked, long after they have crumbled to dust and been lost. Additionally, archives and special collections will continue to see ever increasing numbers of born digital records which must be preserved. These records, like their paper counterparts, need to be retained, some for a limited time for legal reasons, others as part of a long-term permanent collection. As the records were born digital, they will need to be maintained in digital form.
Unfortunately, archives, like all institutions developing digital collections will face problems. Funding issues will make purchasing the necessary equipment for digitization difficult. Compounding the problem of funding difficulties is the ever-changing nature of technology. At the outside, new hardware technology will be obsolete within only a few years, sometimes even a matter of months; meaning that archives will often have to rely on older technology to complete digitization projects. Software changes rapidly as well, and with no industry standard for file types and constantly evolving software, it is likely that file formats used today will not be compatible with software in the future. Storage space will be a continuing issue for archives, as digitizing high quality images can use large amounts of space, but digitizing at lower quality could compromise information, and make conversion to new file types more difficult.
Frustrating as these problems are, it is, and will continue to be, important for archives to digitize collections. The recession and financial concerns keep scholars from traveling long distances to access collections for research. The age of the Internet has set expectations for fast access to information, this expectation of fast access will continue to grow not diminish. Without online access to collections, archives will be left behind. But we have to ask important questions about digitization. With limited resources how do we decide which projects should be digitized? Do we digitize strictly based on popularity of specific collections or on which collections are in the poorest physical condition? How do we handle the problems of ever-changing technology? When collections are not yet in the public domain, how should digitization and access to digitized records be handled? How do we justify large expenditures for equipment that will need to be replaced in only a few years? As archivists and records keepers, these are questions which will have to be answered as we go forward with the process of digitization and which I hope to answer as I continue through this course.
Prelinger, R. “Are the Archives Doomed?”. University of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, PA. 26 Jan. 2006. Retrieved from http://mediasite.cidde.pitt.edu/mediasite/Viewer/?peid=effed7f4aecc4448b1eb10a90916f48b