Time for pastures old, anew

(There’s this thing called #Glamblogclub, and it has a theme each month. I tried to resist…)

This time last year, I was getting ready for a year of academic freedom – time to think, to read, to nurture new professionals.  I’d taken secondment from the State Records Office of WA, after four years of having a split personality, to take up a lecturing contract at Curtin.

I went to ResBazPerth and learnt a little about github and python, and realised I needed a research project or similar to make that learning stick. June saw me doing #blogJune, and act as a general data mentor for #GovHack, an experience that proved useful when it came time to work on the Curtin #Makathon, using cultural heritage data (it also got me thinking about the coding I’d learnt in February, again).

I thought about archives and digital scholarship, and access. I learnt that I like being a mentor and teaching face to face, but worry about the loneliness and neediness of the distance/online student.  I like working with archives and answering queries.  During the ASA conference in Parramatta, I learnt about community and connected archives, and did some connecting of my own, with old and new friends.

And Curtin has given me some great connections too, who supported me through some pretty tough times  – with humour and cake and some fantastic projects. But it’s time to move on or back, and learn some new things. I’m not sure what 2017 has in store for me yet, but I’m guessing there will be archives and access and queries and cake, not to mention planning for the 2018 ASA conference in Perth.


Educating archivists

In a few weeks time, my colleagues and I will be meeting with the accreditation panel for our courses, drawn from ALIA, RIMPA and ASA. We’ve been elbow deep answering the questions posed, and looking at how our courses meet the very broad conceptual focus of the process.  We’re also preparing for Boards of Education to ratify the marking and, in the background, we have the University’s own student survey, Evaluate. With this all going on, you’d think that I was pretty over questions about academic qualifications for archivists.

Today, I found out about this survey from the Society of American Archivists.

I’d really like to hear what people think about the courses that we have here in Australia – use the SAA survey as a guide?  As I say to my students, be frank and open, but also respectful of other’s feelings.





Serendipity or design? #dha2016

Over in Tasmania, at the Digital Humanities conference today, there was a panel discussion on GLAM and humanities research and access to collections. @mikejonesmelb and others tweeted some of the content, and I’d love to see some of the papers and presentations.

The focus was, of course, the relationship between GLAM bodies and academia, with some suggestions for collaboration, such as the McCoy Project between University of Melbourne and Victoria Collections, and having LIS students help with digital humanities projects.  It was identified that libraries and archives are not generally identified as research institutions (although with the changes to ARC funding a few years ago, I think the larger institutions can now partner with academics?), and that generally, funding is not that available for research within collections as part of the institutions’ roles.

Digitisation was also discussed with mixed feelings. It’s one way of providing data, but as Janet Carding, one of the panellists said, “the role for GLAM institutions isn’t to shut themselves in a room with a flatbed scanner for the next 20 years …”.  It was also suggested that APIs for collections need to be made more open and accessible for users. I think there may be some more general discussion that needs to occur vis a vis collections data and the ‘ordinary punter’ as one of the panellists put it. The discussion appeared to range over the ways in which libraries and archives make information available about their collections (which is their raison d’etre) while galleries and museums have been much slower to enable access to collection databases. There are also the dichotomies between science and cultural heritage collections to be considered.

Mike Jones then spoke about context and connections, suggesting a web of knowledge lies within archival descriptions, and considering ways in which meaning can be layered over time. Deb Verhoeven followed up with a discussion of HuNI and serendipity, to which she later provided a three minute summary link. Aimed at academic researchers it still leaves lots to think about with regards to the ways in which we make connections across collections for all researchers.

Mild vicarious boasting

Yesterday, I mentioned my PhD. Today, I found out that a book by Julian Bolleter, Take me to the river, has won the Margaret Medcalf Award. Julian used a lot of my research and material from the thesis , so it was sort of like being published, without doing the work myself. Apparently, Julian was very complementary in his acceptance speech. And now I get to bask in the reflected glory.

And, no, it’s not in the Mander Jones judging…   🙂

Do you think this can be counted towards my academic research metrics?

Editing Bessie #blogjune #fundTrove

Today, I made some minor changes to the wikipedia entry for Bessie Rischbieth. I’m a very intermittent editor, and I rely very much on my friends in the wikipedia community to help me out.

The reason for the update? The National Library of Australia is now looking for funding to help digitise her papers. I was fortunate enough to read them when I was researching my PhD, and I still cherish the remembrance of one of her letters, in which she confesses to leaving her umbrella behind, lest she hit a politician with it.

I think she would be wielding it with vigour, given the lack of funding for the Library and for other cultural institutions.

Frustrations with technology

Recently, I’ve been looking at some fun technology, that might be useful in helping me teach archives and other concepts to my students, many of whom are online via Open University Australia. A recent study, by Mike Kent, of Curtin University, has demonstrated that a significant proportion of this cohort of students identify has having learning difficulties, mental health issues and other challenges. One of the challenges is to allow students the freedom to study at their own pace, within a 13 week window, while at the same time providing for a sense of community. Another is to find ways of providing teaching resources that can be looked at any time, that are not all about reading something.

One of the ways of addressing some of the learning challlenges is by looking at ways of teaching visual learners.  I can’t draw, and I struggle with work flow diagrams and so on, so I am at a bit of a disadvantage. My colleague, Karen Miller, has been having some fun with bitmoji and bitstrips, so I thought I would give it a go.

First of all, it’s an app. For a phone or tablet device. I have a little Android phone, that only gets used for emergencies, and my iPad belongs to my other work and is lock down there while I am on secondment. It’s also quite old. Fortunately, Bitmoji is also an extension to Google Chrome, so I downloaded it there, and started to play. I can create an avatar, for use with gmail, but that’s about it.

Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 12.03.34 PMTo do more, I needed to find a way to make the app work on my computer. So I’ve downloaded a program called Bluestacks, and I’ll give it a go.


EGAD, I found it

Or, why a 17th century exclamation may be the new way of sharing and encoding archival data.

A few days ago, I linked to a blog about ways of matching archival description with the museum community’s conceptual ontology CIDOC CRM.  I knew, as I was researching it, that there had been some mention of a similar ontology for the archival community, but I did not know much more.  When I searched for EAD and CIDOC, one of the references was to the EGAD project at ICA, so off I went to see what more I could find.

Sadly, for a recordkeeping organisation, there was surprisingly little. Yes, there is a web page, and yes, there are resources, mostly dating from 2012, when the group was set up, but minutes, reports, working notes, and so on appear to be lacking. I knew there must be more so I kept tracking.

EGAD, which stands for Experts Group on Archival Description, was set up by the ICA to look at ways of integrating the four ICA standards, ISAD(G), ISAAR – CPF, ISDIAH and ISDF. It is also looking at ways of modeling this data in line with current conceptual models and linked data protocols. It was established in 2012, and has a four year term, so there should be something to discuss more generally by the end of 2016.  The most recent document on the EGAD page is to a 2013 report.

However, there have been some EGAD presentations at various conferences and at the CIDOC meeting in 2015Daniel Pitti et al’s 2014 report in Girona identifies that the model will have at least four entities – agency (archival authority), records (including the concept of records set to accommodate fonds, record group or series), function, mandate. I think that relationships are being discussed as either an entity or process.  A discussion of how records and record sets might work is found in this powerpoint from Pitti and Rubenstein in 2015.

There’s an article about it in a Korean journal, so I’m looking forward to finding out more from the ICA conference in Seoul in Daniel Pitti’s panel (and I’m also hoping that the ICA page might be updated before then so I can stop hunting the interwebs 🙂 ).