.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


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

My Photo
Location: Champaign, Illinois, United States


Atom Feed Added

I added a link to the Atom feed for this blog. I'm looking forward to the winter break as there's lots of little maintanence things I'd like to do here. Namely get RSS feeds not supported by Blogger to work.


'Social' Networking using OAI

I've recently been conducting some research on "collections understanding" among humanities faculty. While a number of studies have been conducted on the information-seeking behavior of humanties scholars, many of these ignore the role that knowing about collections plays in their research activities.

At a meeting yesterday I learned that in the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metdata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) has the ability for repositories to indicate that they have "friends." From the OAI-PMH Implementation Guidelines, "friends" are "a recommended schema allowing a repository to list confederate repositories as a means to support automatic discovery of repositories by harvesters." Here at UIUC Tom Habing is mapping the connections specified in repositories that say they have "friends" (See the UIUC OAI Experimental Repository for graphs in various formats).

While the Implementation Guidelines suggest this is really about discovery of other repositories, I'm now wondering what it means for institutions and collections to have "friends." Does it mean they have some institutional/administrative connection? Can collections be friendly with other collections that have similar or related materials (e.g. I'm a archival manuscript collection who has a friend that has a museum collection of physical objects from my creator...).

We can and do build some of these relationships by searching or clustering metadata with similar descriptions. But I can search Friendster and find other people with similar interests as mine, it doesn't necessarily mean they are my friends. If someone is my friend, I can also indicate what kind of friend they are (family, social friends, work friends, "in a relationship" or my favorite "it's complicated" - and we all know about those kinds of collections!). The XSD for the friends schema has a place for "friends:type" but I don't see any suggested values for types. The friends tag is implemented by a data provider, I wonder how these institutions are deciding who their friends are (do they ask permisssion?, do people just point to repositories they think should be friends?)

I hadn't really considered this when I was conducting my research, but from what I've learned, establishing these kinds of relationships could actually enable some of the "citation chaining" behavior that scholars engage in. And being able to specify what type of friend a collection/repository is could be useful.

I'd be interested in hearing about any research going on about social networking of organizations or individuals that might offer some suggestions. I'll post any interesting examples of the use of "OAI" friends.


Museum Anthro in Mind

Seems like museum folks are starting to come out of the proverbial woodwork...or maybe recent discussions have people thinking. Anyway, here's today's latest museum blog:

Museum Anthro in Mind

What do museums offer?

"Knowledge is now well understood as the commodity that museums offer." (Hooper-Greenhill 1992:2). If museums offer knowledge, it is important to know how this knowledge is approached and conveyed through exhibits.

Anthropology finds itself in an interesting position in the museum world - it can be found in natural history, art, history, natural science, and other types of museums - it can be a hard subject to pinpoint.

This blog seeks to understand the mentality to approaching anthropology in museums, and more specifically, the purpose and structure of ethnographic exhibits.

Issues of the objects and how they are interpreted in museums are central to understanding how the public can best be reached. Forward-thinking is important also, as one considers how new media can be involved to make anthropological objects “come alive.”


Welcome to <libraryLand>

Thanks to Günter for posting about <libraryland> in hangingtogether, a blog run by staff at RLG

In his post he asks "why not museumland?" The answer is both simple and complex (and occasionally regetable..). <libraryland> was conceived as a record of my current stint as a student in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and as a way to get my feet wet with blogging.

At the Collaborative Digitization Program we often jokingly talked about the different communities we were trying to bring together as if they were different nation states. Things happened in libraryland, and museumland and archivesland. Each place had its own culture, values, languages, laws and governance. As a collaborative project I often felt like an emissary shuttling between these lands negotiating treaties for a cultural heritage “United Nations” of metadata, standards and best practices.

When I decided to pursue a Masters in Library Science after working in both the museum and archives communities it felt a little like applying for citizenship. But I’m still an émigré, bringing with me the culture and experiences from my previous life. <libraryland> is a bit like the letters and postcards my ancestors sent back to folks at home in the “old country.” I hope it will be filled with the wonders and sites I’m seeing as I tour through the insides of the library community. I also hope, in the end, this tale will be like those of previous generations. That will tell of both assimilation and of infusing the culture and values of museumland into a richer, more diverse digital community.

I’ll be posting more later about why decided to settle for a while in libraryland on the Museumpro blog Stay tuned!


MCN Young Professionals

At MCN I participated in a roundtable discussion for "young professionals" to discuss some of the challenges they face. One of the reasons I'm in a library program is that there are no formal programs where museum professionals can learn about the application of technology. Sure some Museum Studies programs have begun introducing technology-based courses, but they still only scratch the surface compared to the depth of study in library land.

At the roundtable we discussed both the day-to-day challenges of museum information professionals and some long term needs of better educating ourselves.

To keep the discussion going, the chair has established the Museum Professionals blog. Stay tuned as I'll be contributing to the conversation there.

It will be interesting to see where this goes. Many library programs are working to identify what's needed for digital library curriculm. When I've had the chance I've encouraged them to consider the needs of other cultural heritage professionals who are turning to LIS programs for education. We're already merging our collections in digital spaces, and a true convergence within digital library programs would be welcome. I still say that the cultural heritage community needs to come to this party with a clear articulation of our needs, traditions and values. If library programs are becoming more willing to embrace us, museum studies programs need to to likewise and offer more choices for teaching technology in museums.

Museum Computer Network Conference

Last week I attended the Museum Computer Network conference in Boston. The focus of this years meeting was Digits Fugit! Preserving Knowledge into the Future and featued many sessions on the topic of digital preservation. If you haven't been to MCN I strongly recommend it, as these conferences just get better every year. A call for panels for 2006 should be available soon on the MCN website.

Keeping to the theme our keynote speaker this year was Alexander Rose from the Long Now Foundation. I had learned about Long Now a few years ago after reading about the Rosetta Project.

Some might say their attempt to look ahead to the next 10,000 years is a bit silly. Rose spoke of both the Rosetta Project and the Long Clock project as icons for long-term thinking. Even though many of us are working on the challenges of digital preservations, they are at best a mid-term solution to the problems. As Rose commented, we are now in the digital dark ages. Only a small portion of what we create digitally will be available to future generations. In may cases it's already lost and with the contiued growth of digital appliances in everyday life (digital cameras, iPods, etc.) still more is at risk.

When I was doing digitization training one of the questions that inevitable came up is where to store the large quantity of data that you produced. For larger institutions we're already moving away from static storage like CDs and DVDs. Rose discussed the idea that this isn't "storage" but "movage." Live data will continue to move and migrate to new devices and that static media is just sustainable or safe choice.

One of the more intersting solutions that Rose spoke about was peer-to-peer archiving. Smaller organizations (say museums) do not always have the resources to host large data storage solutions. Using P2P technologies, Rose suggested using individual computers within a network as a distributed storage array. Some academic libraries are already using P2P in the form of the LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe) project. A collaborative model like LOCKSS would seem an ideal solution for museums if they were able to embrace the idea of distributing their information across the community through P2P. But like many things, the technical problems are far easier to solve than the social/political inertia of the community thatWe a probably would prevent this from ever happening.

A new project of Long Now is the File Format Exchange. The Exchange provides access to utilites that allow digital preservations to migrate files from one format to another. The Exchange will be supported by the community who contributes new files, and also judges which of the file converters might work best. It fills a very immediate need while also encouraging long-term thinking. If you try to convert between proprietary formats, the Exchange will also suggest utilites that convert to open-source or open-standard formats that have a lower risk for long term preservation.

So what does this mean for museums? Rose believes that this only strengthens our role as "memory organizations." With mountains of data, it will still be our responsibility to sort through the chaff in order to identify the things truly worth preserving to the fullest extent. Many LAM professionals have been reluctant to accept the presence of digital things as collection items. Recently we may have turned a corner as we all realize how much of this stuff will be gone in the future. We just don't know all we need to know in order to curate this in a professional manner. How we do this is still unclear, but it may be a task that we can't take on as individual institutions.