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Travels into Several Remote Digital Realms of the World
PART I: A Voyage to Libraryland

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Location: Champaign, Illinois, United States


Inherent Vice

It's Independence Day here in the States and I'm taking this opportunity to declare my independence from Blogger with a new blog: Inherent Vice. Hop on over to find out what will be happening there.

This will the last post to libraryLand, except for the occasional reminder that I've moved. Thanks to all of you who have been following this for the last year, I hope you continue to participate in the conversation in its new location.

If you're reading this via RSS, you can find the new feed here.


So a Righteous Man is Known By His Works

It has been a busy few weeks as I've been retooling for the summer here in Champaign. I won't be taking any classes, but will be working various positions forty hours a week.

We had another great Metadata Roundtable today, where we continued the discussion of my paper for Topics in Knowledge Representation on Folio Metaphysics. Essentially I decided afterwards that the paper itself is merde (pardon my French), but that's all good. There are several papers buried in the mess and tonight I set off and running exploring where I might go with it. I will be submitting a proposal for next year's VRA conference about the whole-part relationships of "works" as they are represented in VRACore and related things.

I'm now hip-deep into OWL and Protege having completed a few tutorials. OWL seemed a little scary before, but the ah-ha moment came when I realized its exactly what we've been talking about all semester, including many of the formalisms I was trying to write about. At least I feel like I've got Tib by her tail and am feeling motivated to see where this takes me.

Now, back to Ontology Development 101....

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Master Master

This weekend I earned my second Master's degree, this one in Library and Information Science. I came across Beautiful Ground today and it made me think about what a long strange trip it's been to get here. I didn't get to stand up and do my Academy Award speech, so here it goes.

Thanks to Ms. Tate, my 5th Grade teacher, for encouraging me to attend computer camp where I learned BASIC on a TRS-80.

Thanks to my parents, I could fill several blogs with the support they've given, but I've definitely earned back every cent they spent on my very own TRS-80.

Thanks to to Pat Stewart who taught me lots about the Apple ][ when I started working at my public library at the tender age of 15, making me the youngest digital librarian on the block at the time (OK, so I was just a lowly page then...)

Thanks to all my instructors and professors over the years. You, big guy. I can't remember your name, but I've finally found a use for all the symbolic logic you taught me. Jackson Speilvogel gave me my first shot at teaching and at looking at problems in new and interesting ways. Carl Mitchum introduced me to the idea that technology was socially shaped (and shapable). Thanks to Lee Stout for teaching me about archives and spending all that time finding juicy bits for my thesis. Thanks to J. Ritchie Garrison for giving me the opportunity to start building online museum exhibits (P.S. I think Ritchie and Roy Tennant were separated at birth... ).

To Suji Gupta, who made me the SILS tech guinea pig, thanks! And thanks to Lou Rossignol for giving me a long leash to play with dBase III.

Thanks to Barbara Benson for letting me play a critical role in the development of interactive kiosks for Distinctively Delaware. All those late nights scanning really paid off.

The folks at HSP turned me into a one man tech support department which has proven extremely useful in getting myself out of jams and rescuing fellow panelists.

A special thanks to Liz Bishoff and Nancy Allen at CDP. Thanks for your stories of baby librarians, your leadership and teaching me how to pull this all together. Unfortunately you overdid the whole "you need a library degree" thing, now I'm sticking around for a PhD in the stuff.

Thanks to the whole MCN crew. I am always humbled by being part of such a great organization with such a long history of leadership in museum technology.

Thanks for the encouragement of all the faculty here at GSLIS. I want to know what you put in the water. Really. I'd say more, but it's policy here to not comment on ongoing investigations.

Whew...the music is coming up and I haven't even gotten to friends, drinking partners, acquaintances, or strangers in the night yet. Thanks to all of you!


w00t! RBMS Preconference

I've been awarded a scholarship to attend the ALA Rare Books and Manuscript Preconference, August 20-23 in Austin, TX.

Congratulations to all the other scholarship winners! Looking forward to meeting all y'all in Austin.

If you're coming to Austin or are an Austin-ite, give me a shout. I'm looking for recommendations for sites to see and music to hear.


End of Semester Update

With the launch of Musematic I can get back to writing about my ongoing adventures as an LIS student. There's only a few more days left in the semester and I'm busy wrapping up final projects.

This morning I finished our group report that analyzed metadata workflows at our local public broadcasting station, WILL. The PBCore working group just released a draft schema that seems like it will be well suited to both WILL's capabilities and the need to record information specific to the audio-visual content they create. But like other standards based on Dublin Core, it's only part of the picture. I'm actually finding WILL's metadata environment not all that different than some of the museums I've worked with - distributed metadata creation by curators/producers largely driven by their own needs, systems designed to do one thing well being leveraged to do something totally different. They have a good foundation to start with, and with a little guidance and planning can make significant improvements in their current workflows.

I've created a second prototype for a virtual gallery in Second Life based on Roman collections at the Spurlock Museum's and with the help of David MacCaullay's City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction. I decided to pass on some of the more complex scripting required to create a more interactive gallery for the moment. Just like building a real exhibit, building in a virtual world also takes careful planning and development of a good script. It was outside the scope of the assignment to go that far, but I did find a good example in the Pot Healer Adventure. PHA is a Myst-like puzzle game built inside of SL that could be a model for a museum artifact based adventure. I haven't been able to find out too much about its development, but it uses some fairly complex scripting that would require a good programmer (or more time than I had to become a good Lindenscripter) to pull it off. But it demonstrates that it is possible to do in SL. I also started a "Museums in Second Life" group, if you're a SL citizen you can look it up under Find->Groups.

Stay tuned for the update on my Knowledge Representation paper that explores part-whole relationships in museum artifact descriptions.



At the November Museum Computer Network conference, several of us were discussing how few museum related blogs we were able to find. At the board meeting we resolved to help correct this dirth of museum blogging by creating one focused on museum technology issues. This proved to be a great opportunity to collaborate with the American Association of Museums Media and Technology Committee. Over the past few months a group from both organizations has been working to get the blog off the ground.

Now, without further adieu, MCN and AAM M&T are pleased to announce the birth of (drumroll please!):


At Museumatic you will find rants and raves on the latest trends in the world of museum informatics and technology. An intrepid cast of experts from the Museum Computer Network and AAM's Media & Technology Committee share their insights, observations and tricks of the trade.



IMLS Status of Technology and Digitization Report

IMLS Status of Technology and Digitization in the Nation's Museums and Libraries

IMLS has released the results of its 2004 survey that followed-up on an earlier report in 2001. The new report shows that museums and libraries continue to increase their use of computing technologies to achieve their missions. Just as in 2001, libraries continue to lead the way in adopting technologies to achieve their goals.

I miss the side-by-side comparison charts of key finds from the 2001 survey. IMLS may have good reasons for this, but I'm of the opinion that a graph is worth a thousand words. I'd also be interested in taking the data and slicing it in different ways, e.g. an across-the-board comparison of small museums and public libraries, since they are often serving the same communities.

One of the most surprising - yet not so surprising - key findings is that many of the institutions who are engaging in digitization have no policies in place to guide their work. Nor do many of these institutions conduct evaluations of the work that they do. This is un/surprising because a) staff time for digitization remains one of the biggest challenges b) a lack of staff time to do digitization suggests a lack of time to do planning c) a lack of planning means making ad-hoc decisions or decisions that are not strategic and do not reinforce each other, leading to a lack of staff time for digitization..planning...and the cycle starts all over again.

The lack of policies, best practices and quality guidelines will impact us when we reach the digital preservation hurdle. It will be interesting to see how much of a hindrance this becomes in the next decade. In some ways we've already seen it from the creation of automated museum catalogs - the difficulties and expense of migrating to new systems, the difficulty in preparing records for public access via the Internet, etc. can be traced back to a similar needs (lack of time, lack of staff, lack of money, lack of policies) over the last 10-15 years. The disconnect between goals and activities seems pretty striking. The primary goal listed among museums (survey says...48%) was to "preserve materials of importance or value," yet this goal appears to be undermined by the lack of policies governing digitization standards, quality control, plans for migration, etc.

As a former historian, I'm still intrigued about how we've arrived at these results. What are the choices we've made along the way that produce the numbers we see. Is there anything we can learn from those choices that will influence our future direction?