The Work of Archives

Suzanne Fischer has [an important reminder][rem] for researchers plumbing the spans and depths of archives: thank the archivist, or librarian. Having combed through a variety of record warehouses over the years, I know how easy it is to feel that you are all alone, that you discovered something all by yourself, that you alone know its value, understand its context, see its possibilities. Fischer’s reminder: you didn’t unearth it, you found it right where it was supposed to be, where it was put so you could find it.

[rem]: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/12/06/nota-bene-if-you-discover-something-in-an-archive-its-not-a-discovery/258538/

Digital Scholarship

Digital Scholarship has released the [Digital Curation Bibliography: Preservation and Stewardship of Scholarly Works](http://digital-scholarship.org/dcpb/dcb.htm). Their blurb reads:

> In a rapidly changing technological environment, the difficult task of ensuring long-term access to digital information is increasingly important. This selective bibliography presents over 650 English-language articles, books, and technical reports that are useful in understanding digital curation and preservation. It covers digital curation and preservation copyright issues, digital formats (e.g., data, media, and e-journals), metadata, models and policies, national and international efforts, projects and institutional implementations, research studies, services, strategies, and digital repository concerns.

> Most sources have been published from 2000 through 2011; however, a limited number of key sources published prior to 2000 are also included. The bibliography includes links to freely available versions of included works, such as e-prints and open access articles.

> The bibliography is available as a paperback and an open access PDF file. All versions of the bibliography are available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Alan Burdette Is Coming to Louisiana

Dr. Alan Burdette, Director of the EVIA Digital Archive and Associate Director for Digital Humanities Infrastructure will be in Louisiana the week of May 17-21. He is traveling to the the Association for Recorded Sound Collections annual meeting in New Orleans, but he has agreed to come in early and meet with faculty interested in the projects that he and others have initiated in the digital humanities. He also said he was happy to meet with an executive team and share openly what Indiana University has learned in its efforts to build a cyberinfrastructure that can both support faculty research and communications as well as the university’s efforts to position itself in the new digital learning landscape. In particular, his work on the EVIA Digital Archive, which was a cooperative effort between Indiana University and the University of Michigan funded by the Mellon Foundation, has given him a lot of insight into the current state of digital archives and the infrastructures, like an institutional repository, that play a role in such projects.

Open Museums

In the most recent issue of [Make][make] magazine, Cory Doctorow finds himself face to face with the central contradiction of many contemporary museums: charged with spreading/sharing art and knowledge, most museums simultaneously prohibit unauthorized replications of the works in their collections. In the case of fragile artifacts, this makes sense, Doctorow notes, but in this particular instance he finds himself in a science museum. What sense then? A flash of light will do brass and stainless steel no harm.

The answer comes from a curator: the museum makes money on sales of postcards and books. Doctorow asserts that this is no answer, no respectable answer for such institutions. Two readers [take him to task][task], pointing out that the world is a bit more complex than the scene he describes. First, intellectual property is a mine field to navigate — with more mines being added every day. (If only it were more “minds.”) The second reader points out that the financial underpinnings of most museums are not so sure and the sale of such baubles and books are a necessary part of any institution’s revenue. In short, keep those post cards coming because they keep the doors open.

I think both readers make a good point, but they miss the larger point, and perhaps the bit of irony with which Doctorow writes: that’s not the way things should be. Instead, wouldn’t it be more interesting to imagine an *open museum*. I’m not entirely sure what it would look like, or even that it would succeed, and I’m pretty sure that many of the denizens of today’s museums probably won’t like what my vision looks like, but let me try it on for size.

Funnily enough, I’m going to start with an actual museum and with an actual event that happened this past weekend. UL-Lafayette, thanks to some generous local patrons, now has a state of the art [museum][muse], which has three gallery spaces, two on the first floor and one on the second. In addition to these galleries, there is a capacious, if also somewhat broken up, lobby and a second floor bookshop space which has additional display space as well as a terrific view of the [older museum][old] building designed by noted local architect, A. Hays Town.

The older museum is everything the newer one is not: it is a plantation structure with small galleries. The newer facility is spacious, for the most part. Tragically, Gallery 2 is a cave. It is cramped and because of its cramped nature it always feels like all the light being poured out of its many fixtures is simply trying to overcome a darkness that constantly threatens the visitor from every corner. It is also the gallery which they chose to house the annual senior art show, packing in both fine and graphical art exhibits of over a dozen young artists into a space that measures on a good day something like 20 by 40 feet.

This past Saturday was the opening for the show, and it was, not to be too redundant, *packed*. Despite the highly efficient HVAC unit of a modern museum and an overcast day that kept Louisiana’s subtropical sun at bay, visitors to Gallery 2 on Saturday afternoon had to move quickly through the exhibits both because the press of people was so great and because it was one way to keep air moving. Why were all those people in there? For purely parochial reasons, of course. Most of us there, I would bet, were there to see the work of either our students or our children.

[make]: http://makezine.com/
[task]” http://www.makezine.com/05/doctorow/
[muse]: http://www.thehilliard.org/
[old]: http://foundation.louisiana.edu/news/museum.html

Louisiana Folk Masters

Below is the prospectus I originally wrote for Louisiana Folk Masters in 2003. It’s an interesting historical document, and I am surprised that in a few short years I had actually done two out of the three things listed here:

### Prospectus

Housed in the Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, the **Louisiana Folk Masters** series spotlights individuals from around the state who represent the very best of what Louisiana’s diverse folk cultures have to offer. While initially focused on the CD series, the project’s larger goal is a portfolio of offerings that will give a wide-range of audiences access to quality, humanities content through the rubric of getting to know particular practitioners of various traditions.

* The *Louisiana Folk Masters CD Series* draws from the extensive collections of the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore, which houses thousands of recordings, representing the collecting and preservation activities of several generations of folklorists, ethnomusicologists, linguists and other cultural resource management professionals. The oldest recordings contained in the collection are on wax cylinders and the newest were collected with the latest in high-quality digital recording techniques. Recordings are as intimate as a living room in Mamou to the stage of the American Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.
* The *Louisiana Folk Masters in Profile Series* is a planned cooperative effort with the local press, the Daily Advertiser being the first, to feature individuals drawn from the community who are practitioners of folkways of either already established interest or deserving interest. Reporters will work with Research Associates from the Center who will act not only as field guides but appear as experts within the piece. (We would eventually like to extend this model to other media, such as television.)
* The *Louisiana Folk Masters Publication Series* encourages writers to extend the treatment individuals receive in the profile series. The medium for doing so are a series of books, each of which will be a compilation of individuals based either on region, tradition, or group. Such a publication series can, on a smaller level, be produced through the Center itself; larger projects will be handled by a press.

The Louisiana Folk Masters project reflects the Center’s vision that all of us necessarily create the future out of the past here in the present and that our best resource in guiding us to our creation of the future is each other. We encourage all inquiries.

Archiving Literature

In a conversation with Debbie Clifton, she recommended the following texts, which she has on her shelves in her office at the Natural History Museum:

  • Cataloguing Cultural Objects
  • The Classification of Pictures and Slides (at the LSU library)
  • Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (highly recommended)
  • The Revised Nomenclature for Museum Cataloging

Software used at NHM: PastPerfect (appeared to be running on a Windows 98 machine, so I don’t know if it’s cross-platform or still in development).

At some point in the near future, we need to determine if and how we are going to inventory the diverse collections of the Center. I would love to see a single (obviously flexible) database that would allow a user to search the entire contents of our collections. Currently we have Filemaker as our backbone (if we can get it running for everybody), but at some point, if we grow, I would love to see us have something with more transparency for us as designers — something like MySQL, which would allow us to have a web interface, and even serve to the www, without the steep price tag that FM wants for that function. (Oh for the time to learn PHP, etc.)