Saturday, February 28, 2009

I feel that while in school or at a very wealthy institution it is easy to assume and expect that all institutions follow the same guidelines or best practices when it comes to how materials are so different than they use to be and are received in higher quantities. The statistical information in the Greene/Meissner article is quite telling. It appears that many libraries or archives are doing just what they can to get by but much of the current library literature expresses that the only practices are best practices. Very rarely to we see a gradient scale of what should be the bare minimum in way of conservation, acquisition policies, description, and user access. As the article points out, the sheer number of materials coming into these collections is staggering and archives are forced to either keep with a basic level of service for all the materials (both those already in the collection and those coming in) or carefully position the current materials within the confines of the collection and let the incoming materials wait sometimes in a perpetual limbo. This waiting is disastrous for many time sensitive materials such as those from audio/visual collections. The research within the article sometimes caused me to feel a bit hopeless about the situation. This is probably the same feeling that many students have once they start work at their first institution.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Disaster Preparedness  

-Look through the websites of preservation and conservation units in museums
and find out if they have a disaster preparedness plan in place. Choose two,
identify their main characteristics and compare them.

I chose to look at the disaster preparedness of the conservation department at the National Archives and Cornell University.

Both institutions are first and foremost concerned with the safety of the employees before any of the collection materials although the National Archives had step by step actions to take in cases of:

Severe Storms
Hurricane Warning
Tornado Warning
Winter Storm
Utility Failure
Hazardous Material Accident
Civil Disorder and Demonstrations
Bomb Threat and Checklist
Major Transportation Accident
The Cornell site simply stated to seek other sources from administrators for such instructions. The National Archives disaster preparedness plan was also very thorough in explaining how certain disasters such as water and fire can affect the different types of materials within the archive, what to do before trying to salvage items and what to do within the weeks follow salvage to prevent further repercussions of the disaster from occurring. There isn't any mention of exactly what to do first in the event of a disaster other than to save personnel then begin disaster treatment of material. There are several mentions of disaster preparedness drills for both the staff evacuations as well as scenarios involving materials. The Cornell plan is not as involved but it allows for each head of each library, museum or collection to tailor the plan to their own needs. For example, the disaster preparedness plan states:

Each department, unit or library should identify those parts of library
collections which must be protected or salvaged first after an emergency. On the
attached form, list, in order of priority, those library materials, records and collections which should be salvaged first. Along with this priority list, attach a floor plan indicated locations of fire extinguishers, alarms, etc. It is best to list in detail what the collection priorities are in an appendix. Establishing priorities within collections is equally important (e.g. call numbers of specific items within collections). Consider the following points in establishing priorities What is the monetary and intrinsic value of the collection as a whole or its individual items? How fragile is the material? (e.g. brittle, unbound issues of serial, etc.) How vulnerable is the material to damage from a disaster? (e.g. location, under pipes, near water Is the material replaceable? Can the majority of items be replaced in the same or a different format, such as microfilm? What are the economics of replacing items? Which materials can be replaced more economically than they can be salvaged? The estimated average replacement of a monograph is currently $75.00. What are the costs of de-accessioning materials? What materials can be discarded instead of salvaged? What are the legal requirements, if any, for retention of documents/material? Why is preservation of this material critical? The relative importance of collections, to university programs. In addition to the collections, what other items are valuable (e.g. catalog, shelflist, computer terminals.)
( word doc.)

I like the idea of obtaining input from those who know most about particular collections. This way a little bit of everything can be saved first. The plan seems to have enough structure in it to guide the staff but enough flexibility to be helpful to everyone.

Overall I would say that the National Archives disaster preparedness relies on hands on drills of procedures while Cornell has a more traditional preparedness manuals. Both realize that human life is more important than material objects. The National Archives appears to deal with materials that are in more need of rescue or are in more immediate danger while Cornell relies on curators/conservators to list what is most important and irreplaceable.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Initial Impressions of the First On-Site Visit

  • The collection is located in a storage room at the Blanton along with other pieces of art and any soon to be exhibited collections. This space was a little on the warm side. The space only accessible through the use of an access card locked door. A staff member was stationed outside the door at all times for extra security.
  • ALL copies (originals and exhibit copies) of each digital art work were kept in the same metal cabinet space.
  • What was being kept in the cabinet were the only copies. There are no digital files located on any computer or server space.
  • The DVDs and tapes are arranged in a plastic tray that is labeled with each artists name.
  • There is little to no metadata associated with each piece. Much of the metadata present is what was given to the Blanton by the artists. Metadata included: run time, b&w or color, name of work, artist name
  • One portion of the collection resides within a wooden box that the artist made for his art work.
  • Some of the artists are very particular about what happens with their works.
  • Some files were stored on a external drive that is meant to hook up to a projector.
  • My contact had a number of questions about the collection including:
  1. the use of gold DVDs
  2. how to preserve the information on the external drive
  3. metadata issues
  4. how to physically label each DVD
  5. how to store the DVDs
Currently the collection appears to be in good physical condition. The main issues lie with making sure the digital files make it through technological changes in hardware, software, and file formats. Hopefully I will be able to take a look at the actual digital files during my next visit.

Letter of Compromise

Sue Ellen Jeffers, Registrar
Blanton Museum of Art
The University of Texas at Austin
1 University Station D1303
Austin, TX 78712
(512) 471-9203

Dear Ms. Jeffers,

I, Cassandra Gallegos, intend to conduct a preservation assessment of the digital art collection at the Blanton Museum of Art. The main objective of my assessment will be to aid in the long term preservation of this collection through a series of preservation recommendations delivered to you in the form of a written report at the end of the Spring 2009 school semester. The recommendations will include but will not be limited to:
  • Storage media recommendations
  • Environmental recommendations
  • The long term risks associated with each format within the collection with special attention paid to the dangers of changing technology and migration issues upon digital files.
  • Recommendations on how to best handle these long term risks
  • Metadata recommendations
  • File format recommendations
  • Estimated cost of preservation recommendations
Any additional recommendations will aim to not only preserve the life of the materials (both analog and digital formats) but also to preserve the artistic authenticity intended by each artist.

Activities performed during this assessment may include:
  • Accessing the collection both physically and through appropriate technological avenues.
  • Accessing the collection throughout the semester via monitored appointments.
I look forward to working with you and I hope that my preservation report will make a difference in the life of the collection!

Cassandra Gallegos