The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Digitization
In just over a year, the Smithsonian Transcription Center has grown in size, scope, and participation. Every day, members of the volunteer community visit the Transcription Center to split projects into tasks and share their discoveries with us.
We have 956 active contributors on the site and we’ve completed over 13,412 pages, from 18,494 available pages. Over 450 volunteers have worked on the 46 different Archives projects; there are over 75 other projects in the Transcription Center. Volunteers made connections between Smithsonian collections, to other cultural heritage institutions, and opened doors to discovery while transcribing. Through daily work and targeted campaigns, our volunteers have moved from individuals to a community of “volunpeers” – taking pride in the ways they’re learning with us in this pan-Smithsonian project.
As we opened to the public last summer, we knew volunpeers would have to “work together,” yet we didn’t know what that would look like. What we've discovered are the ways that they use the features of the site and other tools to interact - indirectly and directly.
So, how do volunteers get integrated into the community? Typically by transcribing! From the homepage, there are 3 ways to jump into projects: from the main carousel "Featured Projects," from the dropdown "Projects menu," and in the "Latest Updates" section. Some volunpeers tell us that they check the "Latest Updates" section to see what others are working on - then they'll join a project that looks like it needs help (or looks interesting). Volunpeers also explain how they return to projects using the browse by Museums & Archives feature to check on their progress.
Many volunteers use the Notes feature we implemented on all projects in the Transcription Center this spring. This box under the transcription field allows them to communicate with the Smithsonian staff sharing the project and also share or discuss information with other volunpeers. For example, in the recently posted Lepidoptera notes project:
Here’s some insight into collaboration on a project: There are 34 completed Archives projects in the Transcription Center, with an average size of 83 pages and 25 contributing volunpeers each. When you enter a project page, you can see the status of each page and, by hovering over the thumbnails, how many people have worked on each page.
Let’s look at a completed project: Botanist Ellsworth Paine Killip’s field notes from Colombia (1944). This Archives (and Field Book Project) project is 59 pages and was completely transcribed and reviewed by 12 volunpeers. We can see collaboration on a microscale by looking at the number of members and contributions it took to finish a page. For Killip’s field notes, that was an average of 4 volunpeers and 12 contributions per page. That suggests that peer review is a process that can inform reliable results in the Transcription Center.
The excitement of releasing a new project continues as volunpeers start reporting discoveries via tweets, Facebook wall posts, and feedback e-mails. Using Twitter and Facebook, volunpeers will ask other #volunpeers for help and share what they’ve discovered. They also invite other interested parties to join the transcribing adventure.
We find that allowing people to communicate using tools they already use facilitates better collaboration. We are able to respond to questions and discoveries via social media; or highlight complicated pages, or share praise for completed projects, allowing us to communicate more widely with our community. If you transcribe with us, we'd love to know whether you find this helpful and how we can do it better (get in touch!).
The adventure continues! As new projects are added almost every week, you can join other volunpeers while you choose-your-own-adventure. Tell us more about your experiences with transcribing – follow and tweet @SmithsonianArch and @TranscribeSI on Twitter or drop us a note.
- In partnership between Gale, part of Cengage Learning, and the Smithsonian, there are two new products available based on Smithsonian collections: Trade Literature & the Merchandizing of Industry and World’s Fairs and Expositions: Visions of Tomorrow. Watch the video above to hear SIL Director, Nancy E. Gwinn, and Head of Special Collections, Lilla Vekerdy, discuss the collections, their relevance in research and the significance of digitizing them. [via Unbound blog, SIL]
- “Behind the Badge,” an interactive exhibition, recently opened at the National Postal Museum. It showcases the work of one of the nation’s oldest federal law-enforcement agencies. [via Pushing the Envelope blog, NPM]
- A look at the Smithsonian Transcription Center from the perspective of one of its volunteers. [via The Past Burns Bright]
- New from AVPreserve is The Cost of Inaction Calculator, a free online tool that helps organizations analyze the implications of varying levels of preservation actions when dealing legacy audiovisual collections. [via AVPreserve blog]
- President Obama proclaimed June 2014 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month and the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History holds over 68 cubic feet of LGBT-related collections including the DC Cowboys Dance Company Records, an all-male, gay, non-profit dance company based in Washington, D.C. that was active from 1994-2012. [via Smithsonian Collections Blog]
- Recommended reading: The Allure of the Archives, by Arlette Farge; translated by Thomas Scott-Railton; talks about the joys and experience of doing research in an archives. [via AOTUS blog, NARA]
- In the 19th-century, color dictionaries provided a common language for scientists to describe different hues found in nature. One such dictionary was Color Standards and Color Nomenclature, but the Smithsonian's first curator of birds, Robert Ridgway. [via Smithsonian Magazine]
- A boon to anyone standing in line at a grocery store or managing books or archival boxes, last week saw the 40th anniversary of the barcode. [via Core77]
- Last chance - The National Zoological Park announced that they would be closing its Invertebrate Exhibit on Sunday, June 22. [via Charismatic Minifauna blog, Wired]
- Skills required - Taking a look at the job requirements for digital archivists. [via hangingtogether.org, OCLC Research]
- Can't get there yourself? No problem, Google Street Art allows you to explore street art from around the world. [via Colossal]
- Still chugging away - An 80 year old film printer still contributes to preservation. [via Media Matters blog, NARA]
- Archival explorations at the New York Public Library - Lydia Maria Child, author, abolitionist, and advocate for human rights. [via NYPL blog]
- Discussions on preserving digital and software-based artworks from the National Digital Stewardship Alliance. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- A first - President Obama's scanned 3D portrait. [via The Torch, SI]
- Never too early to start - 5th graders archiving websites. [via The Archive-It blog]
- Recently we received a collection of Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory records from the Harvard Depository in Southborough, Massachusetts, home to some 10 million books. Here's a look at the facility. [via InfoDocket]
“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.” – Max DePree
Many organizations are affiliated with the Smithsonian. The Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) in Oklahoma City has a mission to "collect, preserve, and share the history and the culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people." As the digital archivist of this Smithsonian Affiliates organization, I was able to participate in a two-week Visiting Professional Program at the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA). During the information-packed two weeks, I gained a plethora of experience and knowledge about innovative digital processes that are valuable to the Oklahoma Historical Society Research Division's present and future collections.
Currently, the OHS houses more than 3 million digital pages of newspaper with 1 million digital pages online free to the public. The photographic archives contain more than 10 million images. More than 150,000 are digital files. In addition to print media, the OHS houses audio and visual materials that contain sound recordings on a variety of formats. The digitization of these in-house collections has become more prevalent and the imminent step, today, is to continue this mission by creating effective digital content management practices. My residency with the Digital Services Division was an initial step toward this goal as OHS' digital archivist.
Riccardo Ferrante, Director of Digital Services & IT Archivist, supervised a well-orchestrated schedule of events, workshops, lectures and internal collaborations, to direct my residency toward fulfilling the goals to improve the digital content management practices of the OHS. During my residency I learned about the Digital Services Division's mission and their current and future projects. Time was spent exploring conservation processes, and multiple practices and methodologies.
Of particular interest to me, I learned about the Collaborative Survey of Born Digital Collection Holdings. "Born Digital," describes all items that were created in electronic or digital form. A two-phased survey, this project focuses on born-digital holdings across the Smithsonian's archival units, by addressing the challenges faced by the inflow of digital materials. Participants include the Archives of American Art, the National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives at the National Museum of Natural History, the National Air and Space Museum Archives, the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History Archives, and the Smithsonian Institution Archives. The survey goal is to conduct a multi-archive inventory of born digital holdings and identify the level of risk these historic digital files face in terms of current and future accessibility, and current and future requisites of care. Based on the survey findings, the best practices of the Archives' Electronic Records Program can be refined and implemented at the other archival units.
The survey directly relates to OHS goals by identifying endangered or obsolescent materials and preventing future deterioration through specific measures, which has been developed through collaborative efforts among the Smithsonian units. These efforts combine multiple-processes concerning reformatting and migration of data, database creation, and the importance of well-developed workflow management. The Archives provided plan initiatives and its changes to initial methods as a learning model to serve as a guide for implementation within OHS' current processes and, specifically, how the survey model can be applied to various digital projects. As technology changes and adapts to newer ideas, establishing a firm platform to build upon can be the most imperative step through the starting line into the progress.
With well-orchestrated scheduling, the Archives guided my experience in a practical and valuable manner. By learning about the processes, templates, workflows, and techniques used at the Archives, it is without doubt that the OHS will be better positioned to fulfill its mission.
- A unique collection indeed - North Carolina State University is developing a digital library of dyes. [via InfoDocket]
- Announced this week: Melissa Chiu, currently the museum director and senior vice president for Global Arts and Cultural Programs for the Asia Society in New York City, was named the director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
- Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive launched a new digital online exhibit of World War II propaganda films. [via Kira Sobers, SIA]
- Members Only - A look at the characters who made up the membership of the Royal Institution. [via Royal Institution Blog]
- Who knew? - Roy Lichtenstein's, Modern Head, outside of the Smithsonian American Art Museum gets cleaned with dishwashing liquid. [via Eye Level, SAAM]
- The Biodiversity Heritage Library adds the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as its 16th member. [via InfoDocket]
- Another use for Legos - Cable management! [via Core77]
- Talk about a passion - Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor and computer graphics specialist, quest to determine the painting techniques of Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer. [via Colossal]
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