IMLS Project Update: Lessons Learned (Cataloging and Metadata)

Contributed by: Tess Amram, IMLS Project Archivist

The cataloging and metadata assignation portion of this project was the facet most relevant to my immediate career goals – I’m aiming for a career in cataloging, and I applied for this job in large part because it would expose me to cataloging standards I hadn’t yet had a chance to work with (i.e. standards for materials other than books). I hadn’t had much cause to use the Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus before now, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to expose myself to controlled vocabulary outside of the Library of Congress Subject Headings (although I wish I had dived into Getty a bit earlier in the process – it would have saved me a lot of nitpicking at the end!).

One of the downsides of cataloging when you love it, I’ve found, is that it’s often difficult to know when to stop. There are a handful of photographs that I was unable to identify, both of gallery installations and of individual works, and it was very, very easy to slip into a Detective Mode Spiral and devote altogether more time than was wise trying to figure it out. Given the fact that most of the artwork depicted in the photographs is of ‘lost art’, it’s entirely possible that I wouldn’t have been able to identify a particular piece no matter what, but for a completionist like me, admitting defeat is quite frustrating.

IMLS Project Update: Lessons Learned (Digitization)

Contributed by: Tess Amram, IMLS Project Archivist

So many lessons learned from this project about digitization! I came into it a complete novice to the practice, and over 3500 images later, I think I’ve got a handle on the basics, at least. I’d only ever used a scanner for text-based documents and the occasional photograph, but I’d never had to scan to archival standards before, so the training I got at the beginning of the project was vital. Understanding the choice of color profiles and dpi to scan with, and Hoang’s explanations of debates among archivists on the topic, definitely helped me get a grasp on what the end result should look like, and what it would be used for.

If I could go back and start it all over again, I would definitely, definitely make sure the scanner was as calibrated as it could be before I got started. The main issue I ran into while digitizing was that of color – although the bulk of the images are black and white, the photographs are very old and most have gone yellow or red with age, whereas the scanner was producing images with a distinct green tinge. This was relatively easy to correct, by adjusting histograms before scanning, or doing a bit of a touch-up in Photoshop afterwards if necessary, but color correction took up a lot of valuable scanning time.

Annual Archivist Conference: ALIKE/DIFFERENT

Contributed by: Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) Annual Conference in Portland, OR this year. The conference provided valuable professional development and networking opportunities that all archivists should take advantage of (if you have the opportunity).

Events such as the Teaching With Primary Sources: “Unconference” was particularly interesting. The all-day event generously hosted by the Portland Art Museum had the theme of “Aligning with Allies.” It was an informative and fun day, featuring a variety of workshops in the morning and an afternoon full of attendee-driven conversations (over 100 professionals attended!) covering all aspects of teaching with primary sources. I definitely learned a lot and I hope to implement some fresh ideas and new knowledge to benefit PAFA’s archives program.

I also had the chance to network with fellow (museum) archivists who shared new ideas and discussed their ongoing projects. One symposium included presentations by MoMa (digital portal for all exhibitions), Detroit Institute of Arts Museum (relocating their archives and restablishing a proper archival program), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (archiving email), and the Wisconsin Veterans Museum (digital oral histories).