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The Colorado Historical Records Advisory Board (CHRAB) processes several applications for continuing education scholarhips in archival studies. With funding from National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), three scholarships of $1,000 are awarded to applicants interested in attending in or out of state courses given by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) or professional conferences such as SAA’s annual meeting. Below are summaries written by past awardees detailing their experience and future application of their discovered knowledge.
The SAA Conference in Austin, Texas was an amazing learning opportunity! I learned very practical information that is relevant to my digital archive project. I am currently working on digitizing information about the families that are buried in the Lone Tree Cemetery, in Telluride, Colorado, that make up the history of Telluride. This includes oral histories, newspaper articles, photographs, and genealogical information.
At the conference, I not only learned how to make my project more accessible to patrons, but also what exactly to digitize, how to preserve this information, how to recruit and retain volunteers, how to find digitization help, and how to promote my project. Specifically, I learned about how to make this project more accessible to patrons. I learned that the Oral History Archive Interest group is currently working on an element priority sheet that will help me to identify what metadata is important to include in Islandora records, to help family members to discover information on their loved ones. I learned about wikidata and that strong subject headings in records increase the likelihood of patrons discovering my work. In addition, I learned to digitize popular items that are interesting and appealing to the public. This is how I will define the scope of my project. To ensure that nothing is lost, I learned to make three copies—one copy is in the digital repository, one copy is on an external hard drive, and another copy can be placed on an external server. To recruit and retain volunteers, I need to contact people that have personal, family ties to the cemetery. I have already been in touch with a man whose family I’m currently working on. He has provided family photographs and newspaper articles. This information would have taken me a long time to dig up, but was easily attainable by this gentleman. I also learned how important it is to develop and maintain professional relationships with volunteers so that they are likely to continue to help. Not only did I learn about volunteer recruitment, but also about many professional organizations that would be interested in my project and provide me with help. For example, the State Archives is an excellent place to ask for digitization help. And the State Genealogical Society will want to know of all of the genealogical information that I have recorded. Finally, project promotion is very important to gain community support not only to recruit volunteers, but also to develop strong community ties. Community members will have an emotional interest in this project, since their loved ones are buried in this cemetery. By doing a library program and utilizing social media, I can help get the word out there about my work. This also helps to promote the library, since the project will provoke interest in community members that have lived in Telluride for a long time.
With the CHRAB grant, I attended the American Association for State and Local History annual conference in Philadelphia, PA. The speakers, sessions, and exhibitors were all exceptional. Two sessions, however, really stood out in helping me achieve my current goal of bringing together archival material for the City of Loveland. The City has no formal archive, with material mainly spread out across the museum and library. In two sessions, “Working Collaboratively: Digitizing the Records of Philadelphia’s Historic Congregations” and “Exploring Digital Solutions to Preserve and Share Our Heritage,” two organizations showcased how they were able to team-up with like-minded organizations to combine content with a streamlined online search. In the first session, the presenters shared their project called “Philadelphia Congregations Early Records” that was funded through a CLIR grant. Through this grant, they have been able to digitize historic records physically located throughout the city and bring them together in an online database. The Center for Knit and Crochet, who put on the second session, had a similarly interesting model that I am exploring. They have created a digital repository that both cultural institutions and individuals can upload to and use. For example, a search might yield you results of a knitted cap in a museum and the pattern that was used to create that cap in another institution’s archives. Using this idea of a digital repository could work well for the City of Loveland to digitally bring together their physically separated collections. The ability to crowdsource is also an exciting idea once we identify gaps in our collection. This conference was wonderful to attend, sparking ideas on how we might be able to handle our records and discover information on the grants that are out there to help us achieve our goals.
With old media stashed away here and there in the American Alpine Club Library storage, I felt a sense of urgency to find out what is on the old floppy discs, cds, and other old media that I have little experience using. The SAA DAS course, Digital Forensics for Archivists, seemed like the perfect learning opportunity to deal with this old media. The course is designed for archivists and librarians without a technical background, though I found it to be a bit advanced for my average technology experience and knowledge. Another sticking point is that I work with all Apple/Mac computers and brought along a MacBook laptop to the class. This provided me with a different experience from other attendees that had the good fortune of using PC laptops. There were certain activities that I just could not partake in with a Mac. Despite these challenges, I did learn several methods of how to find digital data on many different formats of media. It was also helpful to talk to the other attendees and hear about the media their institutions possess. The most interesting thing I learned is how to recover deleted or damaged file information. This course was helpful in learning all about files and bitstreams. With this knowledge, I plan to retrieve information from obsolete storage media.