The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Category: What Gets Saved
- The World Wildlife Fund launched a new campaign to raise awareness of endangered species by using the #LastSelfie and Snapchat's self-destruct count-down method of viewing photos as a metaphor for the diminishing numbers of certain endangered species. [via PetaPixel]
- The New York City Dept. of Records added 30,000 newly digitized historical photographs to its online gallery. [via Jennifer Wright, SIA]
- Uncertain fate - The Rosa Parks Archives remains in a warehouse waiting to be sold. [via San Jose Mercury News]
- On a high note - William Grant Still's composition, "Grief," has been performed incorrectly due to an error that was introduced after the song was published. His daughter, Judith Anne Still, with the help of the Library of Congress' Music Division, was able to correct the error to his composition by finding the original unpublished manuscript that Still had deposited with the Copyright Office on June 15, 1953. [via Library of Congress blog]
- The Tate Museum releases a new digital audio archive that features 245 hours of material with over 1,640 artist interviews. [via InfoDocket]
- Let the computers do the work - Movement towards automated processing of electronic records. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Setting the record straight - The National Museum of American History revised their exhibition label for a DNA model template to recognize the important work of scientist Rosalind Franklin which helped lead to the discovery of the structure of DNA. [via O Say Can You See?, NMAH]
- Moving to DC, the National Museum of Natural History welcomed the Nation's T-Rex this past week where it will find a home while it's on loan for the next 50 years for 50 years from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. [via Smithsonian Science]
- The Museum of London recently acquired a set of photographs by Christina Bloom, the United Kingdom's first female press photographer. [via PetaPixel]
- Just gotta use what works - The tale of Cooper-Hewitt downgrading their website to Wordpress. [via Cooper-Hewitt Labs]
- This past weekend, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of African Art paid tribute to poet Maya Angelou who celebrated her 86th birthday on April 4. [via face to face, NPG]
- Smithsonian Magazine announced their finalists for their 11th annual photo contest. [via Colossal]
- Available for download - 15 years worth of live Fugazi shows. [via The Verge]
- Added context - Famed classical singer Marian Anderson's outfit from her performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, was a bright orange and stands in contrast to the black-and-white images of her that day. [via The Torch, SI]
- This week saw the end of Microsoft's support for Windows XP. As one of the longest-living operating systems, one of its most recognizable elements was its "Bliss" wallpaper. Below is the story of that image captured by Charles O'Rear. [via PetaPixel]
A common inquiry I receive from Smithsonian staff is whether it is better to keep their files in electronic or paper format. The best answer to this question is "it depends." There are several factors to consider.
1) How long do the files need to be kept?
Paper files, especially when accumulated over a long period of time, require a lot of physical storage space, but if the space is cool and dry, little needs to be done to preserve and maintain them in the long-term. Electronic files generally require little space, but must be regularly reviewed to determine if they need to be migrated to new media or converted to a new file format to ensure they can be accessed in the future.
2) Does one format have more value than the other?
A common example of one format having more value is documents containing signatures. Signatures are often proof of an agreement or testimony. Traditionally, they have been handwritten on paper documents. These paper documents with original signatures are generally necessary for ensuring the authenticity of a signature and are therefore more valuable than a scanned version of the document. The technology surrounding digital signatures, however, allows for the electronic file to ensure authenticity and a printed copy is not as valuable.
3) Is one format easier to use?
In the 21st century, most documents are created electronically and some just don't translate well into a printed format. All sorts of reports and even the data tables can be printed from a database, but printouts just can't be used as efficiently and the database itself can. Another example is a website. A printout does not allow a user to click on links or even give any indication of where the link goes. Not to mention the audio and video elements of a website do not translate at all in a printout.
The opposite can also be true. It is not uncommon for many different electronic files to be printed and compiled into a single printed document, such as a publication. A user could identify all of the electronic files and then attempt to read them in the appropriate order, but it would be easier just to look at the paper version.
4) In what format are the majority of the records already?
There can be value in having all related records in the same format (paper or electronic), but scanning or printing on a large-scale is time-consuming and potentially expensive. It is often best to choose the format that will require the least amount of printing or scanning. A cost-benefit analysis should always be done prior to converting files to a new format. Leaving existing files as is and documenting which files are paper and which are electronic may be a reasonable alternative.
In some cases, there may be significant benefit to maintaining files in both formats. One should be designated as the official copy – the format that will be maintained and preserved – and the other as a reference copy. An electronic version of a document may be suitable to maintain locally for quick reference or electronic searching while a paper version designated as the official copy could be stored off-site and retrieved if needed. Electronic files designated as official copies may be printed to create a paper file that can be easily browsed.
The decision to maintain files in paper or electronically is not an easy one, but by thinking it through and asking the right questions, a solution can often be found that will meet everyone's needs.
- Managing Active Records, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- What Does an Electronic Records Archivist Do?, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Describing Digital Preservation: As Easy as a Walk in the Park, The Signal: Digital Preservation, Library of Congress
- Coming soon in July 2016 - The National Air and Space Museum will have a revised and updated Milestones of Flight gallery to welcome its visitors. [via AirSpace, NASM]
- Preservation at its best the Star-Spangled Banner at the National Museum of American History has experienced little to no physical degradation since moving into its new space in 2008. [via O Say Can You See?, NMAH]
- The basics of scanning from the Library of Congress. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- An honored April Fool's tradtion at the National Museum of American History is its annual Conference on Stuff, this year's topic was "salt." [via The Torch, SI]
- A spotlight on digital collections at museums and the people behind them who create and preserve them: Marla Misunas, Collections Information Manager for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- My that's a big bird sculpture - Check out the The Lost Bird Project presented by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries and Smithsonian Gardens on view March 27 to March 15, 2015. [via Unbound, SIL]
- Come join the fun! The DC Caucus of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archves Conference and the National Archives Assembly are having an archives fair on Thursday, April 3 at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. [via Prologue: Pieces of History, NARA]
- Interesting fact, that may or may not be surprising to some . . . A new study coming out finds that only 11% of new Twitter users in 2012 are still tweeting. [via InfoDocket]
- Hey, be careful of that first step. On April 2, the National Air and Space Museum will be adding to its permanent collections the capsule that carried Austrian parachutist Felic Baumgartner to 39,044 meters (128,100 feet) over Roswell, New Mexico and the pressure suit and parachute that he used from an earlier jump from 29,455 meters. [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- Seems like curatorship is everywhere these days, from peoples' Pintrest pages to curated collections at retail shops, magazines, and websites. Leslie Johnston delves into this emergent phenomena of "curation." [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Another quiz you just have to take - Which Royal Institution speaker or scientist are you? (James Smithson played a part in the history the Royal Institution, not to mention being the founding donor of the Smithsonian) [via The Royal Institution]
- A call to action . . . preserving audio for the future is a race against time. [via NPR]
- Another call, this time from the National Archives to all the citizen archivists out there to help caption videos on Amara. [via NARAtions, NARA]
- Announced this week - The Canadian Museum of Nature launches a new site with 710,000 records of plants, animals, fossils, and minerals that are part of the museum’s national collections. [via InfoDocket]
- Last week we shared the awesome animated gifs of Hungarian/German graphic designer David Szakaly, this week comes the more tactile, but equally incredible mosaic patterns done in wet clay by Mikhail Sadovnikov. [via Colossal]
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