Making the most of limited resources
I would be interested in beginning a conversation about concrete strategies for electronically-forward-thinking archivists working with less-than-ideal technological support.
Some archives are blessed with dedicated staff for implementing and managing digital projects, but for many of us working in smaller institutions, digital projects often become an “extra” function that we juggle with enough other duties to fill a full-time job. Even if our institutions have the manpower to tackle larger digital projects, we may struggle with communicating archival needs to IT professionals accustomed to serving other types of internal clients. These real-life conditions necessarily places limits on what we can do, perhaps even what we responsibly should attempt to do.
Rather than just ranting, though, I’d like to identify principles and technologies that can help us make the most of sub-optimal technological circumstances.
For example, in my current position, I have inherited a large volume of non-standard metadata stored in a proprietary, closed database. I am not in a position to migrate the data out of that database, but as its custodian, I have developed practices that — I hope — make that data more useful and will make it easier for my successors to migrate it forward.
I can also share success we’ve had at my institution using Greenstone, an open-source digital library software, to provide online access to the Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Project, a collection of over 400 interviews.
Finally, I also have recent experience with doing in-house (not outsourced) digitization of open-reel (aka “reel to reel”) and cassette audio tapes for preservation and access, which I am always happy to share.
Date: August 6, 2009