Last week, while others were worrying about Sharknado, I was worrying about how we were going to preserve all the Sharknado tweets, memes, and news references.
Perhaps not that exactly. But in between homages to Anne of Green Gables, I was engaged in numerous discussions about how archivists should be preserving and making big data sets and software available and accessible at the Open Repositories conference held on Prince Edward Island.
The plenary speaker, Victoria Stodden, spoke about the increasing necessity for access to research data and the code used to manipulate the data in order to reproduce and verify results. Articles are useful references that advertise research, but the data sets and code are integral parts of the scientific process and necessary to preserve as well. However, how to require submission, where to deposit, and mechanisms for equitable open access are the tricky elements to making this vision a reality.
Closing plenary speaker, Jean-Claude Geudon, envisioned a potential future where publishers would provide free access to the articles but required payment for access to the data and code. Repositories should claim this territory as their own as part of their efforts to support quality of scientific research over competition of scientific publishing.
Open access publishing is something DCA supports. It is time to look at open access data as well.
Last week was the Society of American Archivist’s annual conference. This year it was held in sunny San Diego where the fish tacos are plentiful, the weather was not the promised balmy 75 degrees, and playing spot the archivist among the tourists in the Gaslamp quarter was far too easy. Several staff members were able to attend this year, along with all of our graduate student workers. Although the DCA contingent was smaller than in previous years, we still had two session presenters.
Veronica Martzahl, records archivist
Lightning talk: Favorite Collaborative Tools in Preservation
Erin Faulder, graduate student worker
Session paper: Archival Practice Through a Social Justice Lens
At DCA, we graduate students perform a range of tasks related to processing collections and answering reference questions. As Simmons students, we are still learning what it means to be archivists and to do archival work. Attending conferences provides us with perspectives of our work beyond the classroom setting and beyond DCA’s environment.
Molly Bruce attended a session about addressing issues of privacy and confidentiality while providing access to legal records. Since she’s been processing a lawyer’s collection, the opportunity to hear how other archivists deal with the complex demands of opening records for access while protecting the privacy rights of individuals named in case files was invaluable.
Sarah Gustafson went to a donor relations lightning talk – a topic not covered in coursework but an important aspect of the work we do. Sarah also attended a session on outreach to undergraduate students which included talks by archivists who educate with primary sources and hire students to help with processing projects – two ways that DCA engages with undergraduate students at Tufts.
Erin Faulder presented her research as part of a panel on In Pursuit of the Moral Imperative: Exploring Social Justice and Archives. Being able to articulate the value of collections to social justice efforts is sometimes easy, such as in DCA’s recently processed papers of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. Her paper examined two ways that social justice values are reflected in the hundreds of transactions documented by the records archivists work with every day.
Molly, Sarah, Erin
Attending and presenting at sessions is only one way graduate students learn about the profession. We also attend planning meetings that shape the direction of the profession. Molly attended the Encoded Archival Description revision meeting where things got heated when discussing how the revision will structure data associated with relationships among collections, and between collections and their creators. As part of her collaborative efforts to form an Archivists without Borders organization, Erin met with other archivists interested in social justice to discuss the proposal thus far and future steps. These are all opportunities to meet other archivists who are passionate about the work we do, to bring back new information to apply to our work, and to geek out about the exciting possibilities for future endeavors.
It was my privilege to attend SHEAR (Society for the Historians of the Early American Republic) last month in Philadelphia. I gave a short presentation on the New Nation Votes project in conjunction with two papers that have made good use of our data.
The first was from David Houpt, a graduate student at the Graduate Center at City University New York. His paper, “Critical Masses: Celebratory Politics and Political Mobilization in the Congressional Election of 1794” discussed the rather surprising win of a Republican candidate in, what until then, had been the Federalist stronghold of Philadelphia. His paper made use of these election results, with special detail on the ward level results.
The other paper was from Daniel Peart. Entitled “An ‘Era of No Feelings’? Rethinking the Periodization of Early U.S. Politics”, it made use of a variety of elections throughout the Era of Good Feelings (1815 – 1824), measuring voter turnout in all of the existing states and refuting the notion that voter turnout declined as the Republican party gained a stronghold and Federalist competition declined, instead showing that the areas with the highest turnout were the areas with the least amount of Federalist competition. Daniel recently completed his PhD at University College London and will start this month as a lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London. He was inspired to pursue this idea when he heard a presentation at the 14th Annual Conference of The Association of British American 19th Century Historians given by Phil and the previous coordinator, Krista Ferrante.
I added a bit of context about the site and showed off one particularly interesting election – the 1824 North Carolina Presidential Election which contravenes the long-held notion that Andrew Jackson was the clear winner of the 1824 election.
Overall, it was a great opportunity to connect with the scholars who are making use of this project and to get some valuable feedback as well. One result: a new feature on the home page that notes what the most recently updated data is.
This week we are taking a step back from highlighting our collections to highlight our local professional organization: New England Archivists (NEA). NEA is hosting their spring conference this weekend at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The program committee for this conference was chaired by none other than our own Eliot Wilczek, University Records Manager, and Jennifer Phillips, former Archivist for Digital Collections, served on the program committee before she left for Colorado last January. Other DCA staff will be taking part in the program as well: Director and University Archivist, Anne Sauer, will be taking part in a session on cloud computing, and Veronica Martzahl, Records Archivist, will be part of a session on coordinated disaster preparedness programs. Even our student assistants from Simmons College will be taking part. Derek Mosley and Stacie Williams are presenting a poster called “Foot in the Door: A guide to maximizing student internships” and Molly Bruce will be helping out with registration.
FYI: For anyone attending the conference and hoping to tweet about it, the hashtag is #nea11sp.