Friday, March 27, 2009

Blog #7

National Endowment for the Humanities:

"NEH is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities." It also promotes excellence in the humanities and conveys the lessons of history to all Americans by providing grants for high-quality humanities projects in four funding areas: preserving and providing access to cultural resources, education, research, and public programs.
The grants typically go to cultural institutions as well as individual scholars.

Mellon Foundation:

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation currently makes grants in six core program areas - Higher Education and Scholarship, Scholarly Communications, Research in Information Technology, Museums and Art Conservation, Performing Arts, Conservation and Environment.
The grants strive to "build, strengthen and sustain institutions and their core capacities, rather than be a source for narrowly defined projects."

On November 5, 2008 The Mellon foundation released the following statement:

"The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has certainly experienced some of the effects of the current financial environment. Nevertheless, we do not now foresee significant retrenchment or dislocations in our grantmaking. All existing commitments will be honored, and the Foundation will continue to be alert to the needs of grantees as circumstances develop."

One major trend I see across the board is that the grant committees want to fund programs that are sustainable. This is especially apropos in these hard financial times. The granting agencies are still awarding funding but they want to make sure their money will go towards something that will benefit the public many years to come as seen with the Mellon Foundation grants. Also grant agencies want to know there is something in it for them whether this be notoriety in being associated with a successful project or having the opportunity to have their own products testing out in the market.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Blog #6

There is one part of this article that stuck in my mind the most:
I can't tell you how many people have suggested to us, 'Oh, you just need to digitize all that stuff down in the basement and you'll be all right,' Ms. Wainwright said. 'They have no idea how much effort that requires.'
It often does feel that people outside of the library/information/digitization fields simply cannot wrap their minds around what a giant initiative digitization has become. They see it as an end answer as oppose to what it really is: the beginning of a whole new set of questions and problems. Even large institutions such as the National Archives are having a hard time digitizing their collections. This is disheartening to those tiny institutions with collections that are quickly being lost. The article mentioned how large companies like IBM and Google are helping to fund digitization initiatives but I feel as if this can be a slippery slope. Materials may appear to be becoming more accessible with little to no cost to an institution but we all know that nothing is free these days. The cost often comes from the company holding copyright over the digital versions of your copies or having their own bottom line at heart such as how IBM only takes on projects that will directly help IBM showcase their newest technologies.

I have chosen to look into the digitization strategies of Yale University and the British Library.

The British Library:

GOAL - All of the British Library’s digital collections will reside in a secure digital repository by the year 2016

MAIN STRATEGIES - normalization, migration on request, emulation, and desiccation.
Apply best practice from the print world where it is applicable for the preservation of digital materials. Multiple copies (3) in different physical locations and utilizing backups and integrity checking to ensure that no data is lost due to media decay, or catastrophe.
PREVENTATIVE MEASURES - work with the developers of application software to improve the longevity of proprietary file formats

LONG TERM STRATEGIES - Recording metadata about each digital object and allocating unique, persistent identifiers.

Many of the suggestions were very broad as in "Perform preservation activities with appropriate timeliness" and "use existing tools where they are fit for purpose". Yet at the same time it is important to officially state that you are indeed planning to follow obvious best practices. It serves as reminder to yourself of the basics that might be taken for granted or forgotten. It was interesting to me that plan on applying the best practices from the print world to the preservation of digital objects. It makes me wonder exactly what they mean by this statement.

Yale University:

GOAL - The digital resources are subject to the same criteria for selection and preservation as other resources in the Yale Libraries. Decisions are made by curators and experts on the content of the materials in addition to those dealing in preservation and information technology.
MAIN STRATEGIES - To recognize that preservation strategies and actions for materials vary depending on the content types, formats, and resources and to act accordingly. To thoroughly understand the digital life cycle of each object.
STORAGE: Purchase large quantities of digital storage and provide personnel to manage the space.

I liked that the content of the materials is also taken into account. Also, they stated that they understood that the storage management would take a considerable amount of time, energy, and money to maintain but they are willing to do this work. Metadata was discussed as being an integral part of the collection management as well.

Both institutions covered the main best practices of digital preservation but neither really put forth any new and innovative ideas on the subject. The British Library made some statements that led me to believe that they were thinking towards the future but did not expand on the matter. However, they were both realistic in understanding how much effort and money it would actually take to realize their efforts.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

This past Monday and Tuesday I attending a program called A Race Against Time: Preserving Our Audiovisual Media. The program was held at the HRC in conjunction with the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts. Many of the speakers gave an overview of what I already knew from my classwork. It appeared that the symposium was held for preservation administrators that were in charge of smaller AV collections that they had little knowledge of. I did gain some insight into the physical storage of electronic media. My favorite speaker was George Blood. He was very charismatic and knowledgeable on the subject of audio recordings. He had anticipated having some 'show and tell' objects for us to handle but unfortunately his baggage did not make it to Austin with him. This was a bit dissappointing as it is always fun to actually handle the meadia you are learning about. The second day was less exciting because it dealt with funding opportunites. I was able to meet with students from the school of information that also liked working with audio visual materials and I feel that this was of great benefit to me because I now know who to ask with questions on certain materials. I am glad I was able to attened this symposium because it helped me to gain a better understanding of the field that I am in.