Category Archives: Events

MVAR Recap 2/21/2013

Yesterday was the most recent meeting of the Miami Valley Archives Roundtable (or, MVAR), an informal gathering of archivists in and around Dayton, Ohio. This time, we met at the Heritage Center of the Clark County (Ohio) Historical Society.

Heritage Center, 2 Oct 2011

The Clark County Historical Society’s Heritage Center on a much warmer, sunnier day (photo by me, 2 Oct. 2011)

Our hosts were curatorial assistant Natalie Fritz, curatorial technician Mel Glover, and director of collections Virginia Weygandt. There were 20 people in attendance.

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As MVAR Chair, I started off the meeting with a couple of announcements—really, follow-ups from our previous meeting (11/15/2012) and the subsequent survey I sent out afterwards asking for input about creating an MVAR web site and collection membership data.

The response to the idea of a web site was almost entirely positive, and as a result, I created a free WordPress site for MVAR in December. So, now we have an official web presence for the Miami Valley Archives Roundtable! The URL is: http://miamivalleyarchivesroundtable.wordpress.com/. The site currently consists of the upcoming meeting dates & locations, as well as a list of upcoming relevant conferences. (I suppose one could argue that these little updates I write might go on there instead of here, now, but I’d rather like to keep them as “unofficial” records of the meeting, so I’m not sure they belong on the group’s “official” site.)

The second announcement was actually more of a non-announcement: Basically, that I have not made any further effort to collect data for a membership list, so no, you didn’t miss that email/memo/form/etc. I haven’t had a chance to go any further with that just yet!

After the announcements, we did the institutional reports.

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The institutional reports consist of each person in attendance taking a turn, stating their name, position, and institution, and sharing a little bit about what they have been up to lately, archives-wise. (The label “institutional reports” may make it sound formal, but it’s really not!) Here are some snippets from the reports that I hope my peers won’t mind my sharing:

I, Lisa Rickey, MVAR chairwoman and an archivist at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives, shared several bits of news, most of which seem to pertain to the upcoming 1913 flood centennial–which, honestly, is not that surprising, considering how many flood projects I have swirling (ooh, bad pun) in my head (and on my desk) at the moment.

I am currently working with a couple of our public history grad students on two related 1913 flood projects: an archival resource list (it’s going to look different soon but here’s the link anyway for now) and a virtual gallery (using Flickr). We just sent invite letters out to area organizations about these today, so hopefully many repositories in the area will contribute to help make them successful. We have a few submissions already, but we’d love more!

I’m also working on a series of blog posts to be posted during the days of the actual flood centennial- letters and diary entries posted day-by-day from 4 different flood survivors whose manuscripts are now in our collections at WSU– so watch for that on the WSU Archives’ Out of the Box blog the last week in March. We’ve also created a special 1913 flood section of the WSU SC&A web site to aggregate all the various 1913 flood stuff listed in various places on our web site (manuscripts, exhibits, blog posts, etc.).

In other WSU-blog-related-but-not-1913-flood-related news: our Dayton Daily News Archive blog more than doubled its previous high (of about 500) on single-day site views on February 9th (with nearly 1,300 views!). That was the weekend of Winter Storm Nemo that pummeled New England, and I noticed the news and weather crews kept referring to “the Blizzard of ’78.” Well, I guess it got lots of people curious, because they were Googling “Blizzard of 1978” — and our DDN Archive blog post on the “Blizzard of 1978” is the first hit on Google for that search term (even above Wikipedia)! Over 1000 of those 1300 views on Feb 9th were for the Blizzard of ’78 entry.

In other non-blog news, our University Archivist Chris Wydman was interviewed by the WSU Newsroom for an article about the history of the WSU tunnel system. A day or two after that, Channel 2 (WDTN) brought a film crew in to ask him about it, but so far, we have yet to see that footage anywhere.

And finally— good Lord, I am long-winded this time!—in personal news (OK it’s still career stuff but specific to me, not WSU), I will be giving a session on “Promoting your Collections Online” at the Ohio Local History Alliance’s Region 7 Meeting in Wapakoneta on March 16th. And I am also writing an article for the spring issue of the Society of Ohio Archivists’ newsletter Ohio Archivist about the various 1913 Flood commemoration activities.

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Okay, enough about me…seriously. Here are some snippets from the other attendees’ institutional reports:

Jennifer Gerth of the Marianist Archives told us about a very interesting reference question she recently answered (aka a family mystery she helped solve!). She also told us there will be an upcoming exhibit for the flood centennial: Hope on the Hill: Marianists and the 1913 Dayton Flood.

Gillian Hill, Joan Donovan, and Robin Heise, all at the Greene County Records Center & Archives, told us some fascinating stories from the slave emancipation records they are working with. They have been transcribing them and hope to do a digitization project with them in the future.

Cindy Manz, former (retired) records manager at the Miami Conservancy District, told us about a family photo scanning project she has undertaken for a friend.

[That prompted me to also share about the home movie film indexing project I’ve been doing on my grandfather’s films, which we had digitized in December. Should be very helpful, and thankfully most of the 30+ films are only 2 minutes long!]

Roger Lucas, a representative with Indoll Dayton (filing, storage, and record conversion solutions), has been working with the WSU circulation desk renovation. He also mentioned that there may be several used high density mobile shelving units coming up available soon for a low price—at which statement many ears perked up!

Tina Ratcliff, records manager at the Montgomery County Records Center & Archives, told us that — surprisingly — few of the county records seem to even mention the 1913 Flood. (They’ve looked!) How strange!

Virginia Weygandt, Mel Glover, and Natalie Fritz, of the Clark County Historical Society (our hosts for the meeting), had lots of good news to report. They were recently able to repair a leak in the roof, and an office that had received some water damage was in the process of being repaired. (OK, so water problems are never good news—but getting them fixed certainly is!) They have just finished up an OHRAB-funded project to re-house probate court records; they’ve filled 200 banker boxes with over 8000 folders in the course of 2 years. They even won an OHRAB Achievement Award for the project in 2012 (see photo below)!

Natalie OHRAB

Natalie showing us the OHRAB Achievement Award they recently won for their probate court records project.

They also recently received a grant of $3000 from NEH for some new boxes. In exhibits news, they currently have an exhibit up called Newsweek 1983: Revisiting the American Dream, for the 30th anniversary of a 1983 Newsweek magazine article that put a spotlight on Springfield as representative of America in general. A dramatic performance “Spotlight on History” also accompanied the exhibit opening on Feb. 15. They will also be holding their annual “Night at the Museum” event on March 9th.

Betsy Wilson, who writes house histories and researches historic properties, told us about a really interesting home she’s currently researching, as well as an architecture research project she has in the works.

Galen Wilson, of NARA, is currently working on a team charged with rewriting federal records retention schedules. He also serves on the OHRAB and mentioned that there’s still time to apply for one of the 2013 OHRAB grants. Then he shared a great anecdote about “deaccessioning” some of his personal papers.

Bill McIntire is “the new Lisa (me)” as reference librarian/archivist at the Dayton Metro Library, where he started in January, after having been the DDN Archivist at WSU. He said he’s still learning the place.

Jen Haney is also getting used to her new job as “the new James [Zimmerlin]” at the Warren County Records Center & Archives, where she recently started as the records manager. (James accepted a position as records manager at CareSource, though he has been around to help Jen with the transition.) Jen said that, among other things, they are working on adding some search capabilities to the web site.

Gino Pasi, one of my fellow archivists at Wright State University, talked about the 1913 Flood traveling exhibit we recently started sharing with the public. The exhibit opening on January 24th was a great success. He also told us about an ongoing project with the Five Rivers MetroParks, who have enlisted volunteers to help them gather and organize their records, as well as select materials for their 50th anniversary celebration (this spring), before sending those materials to the WSU Special Collections & Archives. As collections manager, Gino has been working with them on the project.

Collette McDonough, archivist at the Kettering Foundation, told us about some really interesting photo processing projects she’s been working on recently. She also said that she is looking for a volunteer to help re-house photos, but there’s a possibility that the position might eventually become paid.

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After the institutional reports, we went over the list of relevant upcoming conferences, which you can find on the “Relevant Conferences” page of the new MVAR web site!

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Future MVAR Meeting Dates (you can also find these on the MVAR web site under “Upcoming Meetings”):
May 16, 2013: Jamestown Opera House (Jamestown, Ohio)
August 15, 2013
February 20, 2014

We still need hosts for all of the above meetings except the May meeting. If you want to volunteer to host a meeting, please contact me! Otherwise, take your chances, because if nobody volunteers, I will have to start cornering people individually with cold calls! 🙂

Also: I used to not put the locations on here, but according to the survey from November, people don’t seem to think it’s a problem to go ahead and post the locations publicly online. I guess nobody’s worried about crashers, or mass murderers with an axe to grind against all archivists everywhere and looking to take several out in one shot. (Some imagination, right?) Anyway.

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Next was the tour. I had been to the Clark County Historical Society’s Heritage Center museum and archives a few times before, but it had been a while. They showed us around some of their storage areas, including showing us examples of the probate court records– some of the re-housed ones, as well as some of the not-yet-re-housed ones (see photos below).

Mel showing a BEFORE probate record

Mel showing us a probate record that has yet to be re-housed

Mel AFTER probate record 2013-02-21

Mel showing us one of the re-housed probate records

Clark Co Archives reading room

The library and archives reading room at the Clark County Heritage Center

We also checked out the archives reading room (see photo above).

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After the tour, we had lovely box lunches from a local bistro. They were pretty tasty— especially the dessert!

And so another great MVAR meeting came to a close!

MVAR Recap 11/15/2012

Last Thursday (November 15) was the most recent meeting of the Miami Valley Archivists Roundtable (or, MVAR), an informal gathering of archivists in and around Dayton, Ohio. This time, we met at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives. Our hosts were Dawne Dewey, Head of the Special Collections & Archives, and Bill McIntire, Dayton Daily News archivist.

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This was my first meeting as Chair of the MVAR, and I had a few discussion points I wanted to bring up before we did our institutional reports:

1) I would like to re-instate the keeping of a (for lack of a better term) “membership list”. Since MVAR is very informal and there are no dues, the only real criterion for “membership” is that the person have some interest in “Miami Valley Archives” (as it is the Miami Valley Archives Roundtable). I had noticed from the MVAR Archives (which I didn’t even know existed – although it should have been obvious, seeing as it’s a group of archivists! – until Rachel brought it to me in August) that we used to have an actual member list of names and contact information. I think this would be a good record of growth and changes in the group, more than anything else.

2) I would also like to create a web presence for the MVAR. I had thought for a while that this might be a good idea, but the point really hit home when I saw that on the SAA’s list of archival organizations the entry for MVAR has a link to my blog as the web site. And it was like that even before I became chair or updated the chair’s contact info with them; they did it on their own, apparently because it was the only reference to MVAR that they could find on the web. I think it would be good if we changed that. It could be as simple as a list of the meetings and locations on a free WordPress site.

Both of these suggestions were met with generally positive comments. Someone expressed concern that if we had a web site (or a Facebook group) that the announcements on the email list might dwindle. I assured them that I wanted the web site to be in addition to, not instead of, what we do now.

After the meeting, I created a brief survey to gauge interest in a membership list and a web site from the whole of MVAR (since not everyone comes to every meeting) and sent out by email. As of this writing, 25 people have responded, and 100% of respondents agreed that a membership list is a good idea and 100% also agreed that a web presence is a good idea. I have not yet acted on either yet, though.

I made one other announcement that I thought would be of interest to MVAR members (although many are already aware, I’m sure): to remind them of the upcoming 1913 Flood centennial (in March) and to mention the official 1913 Flood Facebook page, Twitter feed (@1913flood), and web site (http://www.1913flood.com/ – forthcoming). Our next MVAR meeting is not until February, and that seemed too late to be spreading the word!

Oh – and one last thing – I subjected everyone to couple of photos. I promised I wouldn’t do this every time, but since it was my first MVAR… Someone also offered to take one of me, too (the third picture):

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After these announcements (and photos), we did our institutional reports.

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The institutional reports consist of each person in attendance taking a turn, stating their name, position, and institution, and sharing a little bit about what they have been up to lately, archives-wise. (The label “institutional reports” may make it sound formal, but it’s really not!) Here are some snippets from the reports that I hope my peers won’t mind my sharing:

Judy Deeter of the Troy Historical Society passed around a copy of the recently published Arcadia book Troy and the Great Flood of 1913 (on sale Dec. 3), which she helped write, as well as a copy of Scott Trostel’s new book And Through the Black Night of Terror (about the 1913 flood in the northern Miami Valley).

Dawne Dewey of the Wright State University Special Collections & Archives announced that the Public History Graduate Symposium will be held on March 22, 2013, with the Smithsonian’s Tom Crouch as plenary speaker. (This will be the second PH Symposium, and I am looking forward to it. I really enjoyed the 2012 WSU Public History Symposium!) Dawne also mentioned that one of her grad assistants is compiling a list of local resources on the 1913 Flood, so let her know if you have any 1913 Flood collections!

Toni Vanden Bos & Gino Pasi, both also of WSU SC&A, announced that the 1913 Flood traveling exhibit that they created will soon be available for institutions to borrow — so watch the SC&A web site for info!

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When it was my turn to report (as a new archivist at the Wright State University Special Collections & Archives), I simply stated that I am still in the “getting the lay of the land” phase of my position, since it was only my second week, so I did not have anything terribly exciting to report just yet!

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After the institutional reports, we went over the list of relevant upcoming conferences:

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Future MVAR Meeting Dates:

February 21, 2013 – Clark County Historical Society
May 16, 2013 (host still needed)
August 15, 2013 (host still needed)
November 21, 2013 (host still needed)

We still need hosts for all of the above meetings except the February meeting. If you want to volunteer to host a meeting, please contact me! Otherwise, take your chances, because if nobody volunteers, I will have to start cornering people individually with cold calls! 🙂

Historically, I have not liked to post the info about where an upcoming meeting is going to be held. What if we have pranksters? Or crashers? Or bombers? I brought this up when discussing the potential web site, and people didn’t seem too concerned about it. Actually, it sounded like “trying to find out where the next meeting is” was (in most cases) the primary purpose for Googling “Miami Valley Archives Roundtable” in the first place. So…I guess I won’t worry about it anymore!

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Next, we had a presentation and tour of the new Dayton Daily News Archive at WSU.

DDN Archivist Bill McIntire gave a great presentation about the DDN Archive Project and its many strengths and challenges:

2012-11-15_MVAR_4

2012-11-15_MVAR_4 : Bill giving presentation

And then we got a tour of the DDN Archive space, including a great selection of items that Bill had on display for us to look at:

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After the tour, several of us headed out to the lunch portion of the meeting, which was held at the Great American Grill in the new Hilton Garden Inn on Pentagon Boulevard.

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Another successful (and fun) MVAR meeting on the books!

MVAR Recap 8/16/2012

Today was the most recent meeting of the Miami Valley Archivists Roundtable (or, MVAR), an informal gathering of archivists in and around Dayton, Ohio. This time, we met at the Marianist Archives (archives for the religious order Society of Mary). Our hosts were Brother John Habjan, S.M., Jennifer Gerth, and Kim Neuenschwander, archivists.

The Marianist Archives is physically located in the Roesch Library at University of Dayton (Dayton, Ohio), which is a Marianist university, but the Marianist Archives itself is not actually a part of the university. (It’s kind of like how Vatican City is surrounded by Rome but has its own government.) They also like people to understand that they are also separate from the Marianist Library and the University of Dayton Archives (although I can understand how it might be confusing!).

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Rachel Bilokonsky, MVAR Chair, started off the meeting by announcing that this was her last meeting as MVAR Chair. She is passing on the proverbial torch to…me, actually. Effective now—or whenever I get the email list and the MVAR archives files from her, for sure!—I am the new chair of the Miami Valley Archives Roundtable.

After that announcement, we did the institutional reports.

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The institutional reports consist of each person in attendance taking a turn, stating their name, position, and institution, and sharing a little bit about what they have been up to lately, archives-wise. (The label “institutional reports” may make it sound formal, but it’s really not!) Here are some snippets from the reports that I hope my peers won’t mind my sharing:

Rachel Bilokonsky, the MVAR chairwoman and University of Dayton archivist, shared that the University Archives is still tweaking their recent implementation of the Archivists’ Toolkit. She also mentioned that they recently finished up re-housing the 500+ boxes of the papers of former Dayton area Congressman Charles W. Whalen, Jr. , using money from an OHRAB grant they recently received.

James Zimmerlin of the Records Center & Archives of Warren County passed around a (duplicated) copy of an 1861 newspaper they recently found in the archives. He also introduced his intern Tricia and a volunteer Ryan. Tricia discussed a Civil War exhibit she has been creating, as well as describing how her research into Warren Co. Civil War sailors kept evolving and leading into other interesting topics. (I know how that can be!)

Tina Ratcliff of the Montgomery County Records Center & Archives talked a little bit about how they have helped with some of the research for the Patterson Boulevard Canal Parkway Project, which will help connect the Oregon District with the riverfront. The Parkway will include pylons with historical information. (We – Dayton Metro Library Local History – helped with that research, too. I’m looking forward to seeing some of our historic photographs on those pylons soon! Not to mention how glad I will be when the construction on Patterson — which runs along the back side of the Main Library — is finished.)

Gillian Hill and Joan Donovan of the Greene County Archives & Records Center have been spending a lot of time lately updating their database with the new locations of items, since their move to a new facility (see MVAR 5/17/2012).

Galen Wilson of NARA’s Dayton branch said he has been working with creating records schedules for federal government social media records. He also mentioned that he recently attended Dayton History‘s “Old Case Files” murder mystery theater performance at the Old Court House and really enjoyed it. (I remember helping with some of the research for that, too; this year it was the 1876 murder trial of Harry Adams.)

Angeline Hellman of Clark State Community College Archives was pleased to report that she now knows the contents of all the boxes in their archives, which has been a great help in answering reference questions! 🙂

Jennifer Gerth and Kim Neuenschwander of the Marianist Archives shared an article from the Summer 2012 issue of University of Dayton Magazine (pg. 61 print, pg. 32 in the PDF) about the Bellinghausen glass plate negatives collection, which includes lots (about 1,200!) of cool 19th century images of Hawaii, where Bro. Bellinghausen was assigned at the time. Jennifer also shared about a recent history-themed vacation she took, which included stops at Kitty Hawk, NC (Wright Brothers’ flight); Raleigh, NC (lost colony of Roanoke); and Colonial Wiliamsburg.

Bro. John Habjan, S.M., of the Marianist Archives, shared about the progress he has made in weeding out multiple duplicates of publications and other items, which has helped create a little more space in the archives. He has also had some luck recently in identifying formerly unidentified group photos, by sending a photocopy of the image to someone he is able to recognize in the photo, and that person can often identify the event and (at least some of) the other people.

Natalie Fritz of the Clark County Historical Society has been processing the collection of a previous Springfield mayor. She also announced that the museum will be creating a companion exhibit to go with a theater production surrounding Newsweek’s 50th anniversary article “The American Dream” (1983), which featured Springfield. They are also still working on processing probate records through the funding from a recent OHRAB grant. Another one of the Historical Society’s employees, Mel Glover, talked about how they’ve been revamping their collection policy.

Shari Christie of Air Force Research Laboratory History Office (at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) said they have been receiving a lot of new records from the Aeronautical Systems Center, since it is being reorganized.

Sr. Noreen Jutte of the Sisters of the Precious Blood talked about the progress of their renovations.

Judy Deeter of the Troy Historical Society talked about working with the 1913 Flood Commemoration Committee. They are also producing an Arcadia book about Troy during the 1913 Flood, as well as working on another book for the Troy bicentennial, which is in 2014.

Jillian Slater of the Marianist Archives talked about working with their CONTENTdm digital collections, as well as mentioning that they’ve had lots of reference questions recently thanks to the International Marion Research Institute.

Colleen Mahoney, the archivist for the Catholic Special Collections at University of Dayton, recently attended the Oral History Institute held at Kenyon College and sponsored by the Ohio Humanities Council. She highly recommends it.

Noelle Rihm, a graduate student in the Wright State University Public History program, recently completed an internship at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, including working on an exhibit called “Semper Fly.”

Mary Milburn of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor talked about how they have been working to organize a lot of materials from their attic, as well as visiting sites that were formerly hospitals affiliated with their order.

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When it was my turn to report (as archivist at the Dayton Metro Library), I shared that I was glad that I could talk about something other than the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection in regards to my manuscript processing activities. I have processed several small collections since finishing the FPW (one of our largest) this spring.

I mentioned writing on the blog here, working on posting the Bio Sketches to the blog (as I’m sure you’ve seen if you’re reading this!), and how I’ve been answering “ex post facto” reference questions. I also noted that I’ve received several reference questions through people finding this blog. It seems like there have been a lot more in recent weeks, maybe because of all the Bio Sketches I’ve posted.

In response to Jennifer’s story about her history vacation (I spoke just after she did), I mentioned that I recently visited Greenfield Village for the first time, after taking the Certified Archivist exam in Detroit last week. I enjoyed Greenfield Village, especially seeing the Wright Family Home and the Wright interpreters (although I wish they had made the guy playing Orville wear a stick-on mustache, at least, if he wasn’t going to grow one (see photo) — that’s how most people tell them apart, if they can at all! lol).

And finally, perhaps the most exciting thing : Our IT staff upgraded our CONTENTdm from version 6.0 to version 6.1.3+ a couple of days ago, so our digital collections on Dayton Remembers now have added features. For instance, users can add comments or download images. (I intend to write a separate post about this, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet…)

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After the institutional reports, we went over the list of relevant upcoming conferences:

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Future MVAR Meeting Dates:

November 15, 2012
February 21, 2012
May 16, 2013
August 15, 2013

We still need hosts for all of the above meetings except the February meeting. If you want to volunteer to host a meeting, please contact me! Otherwise, take your chances, because if nobody volunteers, I will have to start cornering people individually with cold calls! 🙂

Also, this round it is not really a problem (since only one of those dates has been claimed), but I don’t like to announce publicly where the meetings are. What if we have crashers? Or like that thing where at least one person is always absent from the State of the Union Address, in case someone bombs it? (You never know, somebody might have it in for all the archivists of the Miami Valley. Hey, it come happen. We are rock stars!) But the point is: if you don’t know where the next meeting is, contact me, and I’ll be happy to tell you — as long as you seem, you know, legit.

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Next was the tour. I had never been to the Marianist Archives before, so I was really interested to see it.

The reading room was very nice:

Reading Room, Marianist Archives (Dayton, Ohio)

Reading Room, Marianist Archives (Dayton, Ohio)

And so were the stacks:

Part of the storage area, Marianist Archives (Dayton, Ohio)

Part of the storage area, Marianist Archives (Dayton, Ohio)

I particularly liked all the exhibits they had around the room. One featured a time capsule cornerstone from 1914. That was pretty cool.

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After the tour, several of us headed out to the lunch portion of the meeting, which was held at Jimmie’s Ladder 11, which is located in a renovated fire house on the corner of Brown and Wyoming streets. Jennifer arranged for the owner, Jimmie Brandell, and the builder/remodeler (one Mr. Mark Shannon, I think he said) to talk to us about the history of the building and the renovation. That part was super-cool; I really enjoyed it. I especially liked hearing about all the old things they were able to re-use from their building and other nearby homes and buildings. (You can read some of their “story” on their web site.)

The builder looked very familiar; I think I helped him once or twice at the library. (I probably sound like “Oh I helped everyone” in this post — but sometimes things just come together like that! And that is one of the joys of what we do – you get to say “I helped with Cool Project X” sometimes.)

I meant to take some pictures before I left, but in the bustle of knowing I needed to get back to work, I forgot. But there are some pictures on the Jimmie’s Ladder 11 web site, so you should check that out. Their menu is also on there. I had never been there before, but today I had the “Italiano” sandwich, and I can tell you that it was quite tasty. Everyone else’s food looked yummy, too.

Another successful (and fun) MVAR meeting on the books!

Society of Ohio Archivists Annual Meeting 2012

On Friday, May 18, 2012, I attended the Society of Ohio Archivists 2012 Annual Meeting at the Lakeside Room of the Conference Center at OCLC in Dublin, Ohio. (It seemed like I was just there… Oh right, I was [CDM-MUG 2012].) I’m a little embarrassed to admit that this was my first SOA Annual Meeting ever, and now I’m wondering, Why haven’t I been attending these all along? There were lots of great presentations and interesting projects.

Update 6/21/2012: Many of the speakers’ presentations/text are now available at the SOA 2012 conference web page.

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The plenary speaker was Jason Crabill, manager of Curatorial Services at the Ohio Historical Society. In his presentation, “Celebrations, Commemorations, and Collections: Delivering Immediate Impact and Creating Lasting Value,” he focused on recent activities surrounding the Civil War sesquicentennial and asked: What do we mean by “celebration” vs. “commemoration”? What was done last time (for the Civil War centennial)? How are things different today and why? What does this mean for archivists? He talked about how the centennial was more of a “celebration” (the whole “Big Man, Big Event, Big Philosophy” mindset). By contrast, the current activities are more of a “commemoration,” with a deliberate shift towards something a bit more solemn, with a bit more balance between Big Men/Events and reflections on the causes and bigger issues.

Jason Crabill delivering plenary session at SOA 2012

Jason Crabill delivering plenary session at SOA 2012

Jason asked us as archivists to really think about what we’re doing to commemorate the Civil War and always keep in mind why we’re doing it and the long-term effects of these efforts. With digital projects in particular, he advised us to make sure we plan for effective long-term access, citing several areas to keep in mind while attempting to ensure that long-term access. In my opinion, Jason gave us lots of interesting food for thought, both in regards to how we as a society think of history, as well as how we as archivists preserve and promote it.

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Concurrent Session #1 options included: “Help Us Help You: Using Focus Groups for Marketing Participants” presented by Stephanie Dawson, Emily Gainer, and Joe Salem, of the University of Akron, or “We Look at Giants: The University of Cincinnati Archival Grant Projects” presented by Kevin Grace, Doris Haag, Laura Laugle, Stephanie Bricking, of the University of Cincinnati.

I attended “We Look at Giants,” in which UC archivists discussed two large scale manuscript processing projects funded by grants. Kevin Grace and project archivist Laura Laugle discussed the NHPRC-funded Theodore Moody Berry Project, which has involved process the papers of Ted Berry, the first African American mayor of Cincinnati. Doris Haag and project archivist Stephanie Bricking discussed the NEH-funded project to process the archives of Albert B. Sabin, inventor of the oral, live-virus polio vaccine.

One of the points the presenters wished to convey was the following (quoted from conference program): “Important to the success of the grants is the concerted effort to develop outreach methods that effectively generate public support as the work progresses, and to clearly convey the national or international importance of the individuals whose papers were the subject of the grants.”

One of the ways that this was accomplished in both grants was through the use of blogs.  Laura Laugle wrote and posted to the Theodore M. Berry Papers Project Blog anything interesting that she found, which she said was “a great way to help others discover [the collection]” as she did. I found Laura’s advice about writing an archives blog noteworthy: “Do whatever you think is interesting. Don’t worry so much about rules; just be yourself and put it online, and you will have success.”

Laura Laugle discussing the Ted Berry Project

Laura Laugle discussing the Ted Berry Project

Stephanie Bricking writes blog posts about the Albert B. Sabin Archives on the UC Libraries blog. She, too, posts about interesting finds in the collection. She also had a couple of other really interesting ideas for archives bloggers. Not only does she write up posts about Sabin and put them “out there,” she actively seeks out interested organizations and stakeholders and directs them to the blog. (This can also help you get positive IDs on unidentified photographs, she added.) Furthermore, she has a Google Alert set up to notify her about anything new on the Web about Sabin. (I had never heard of Google Alerts, but I will definitely be checking that out!)

Other salient points from this presentation came from Doris Haag and Kevin Grace as well. Haag spoke mostly about how to handle potential legal issues, but she also said, “If [archival collections] are not accessible, they might as well not exist.” (A statement after my own heart.) Grace pointed out the advantage of releasing some of the research material onto the Internet via the blog before the entire collections are fully accessible; after all, providing access through arrangement and description is the purpose of the grant, so why not share some of those tasty nuggets as soon as you find them?

My goodness, I have written a lot about this session, but can you blame me? I’m an archivist blogger blogging about fellow archivist bloggers. (Try saying that five times fast.) I like to think that I try to do some of the same things that these archivists are doing with their blogs, for some of the same reasons: get the information out there! When I find or learn something really cool in our archives, I feel compelled to share it. (And getting stuff about our collections into the Google database doesn’t hurt either.)

And now…on to the rest of the day.

*****

Concurrent Session #2 options included: “Time has Come Today: Creating a Sustainable Library and Archives” presented by Andy Leach and Jennie Thomas of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or “Meet your Patrons Where They Are: Social Media in the Archives” presented by Beth Anderson (Wright State University), Janet Carleton (Ohio University), and Liz Tousey (Bowling Green State University).

I attended the presentations on social media.

First, Liz Tousey discussed ways to use the Flickr Commons, HistoryPin, and tumblr, and certain kinds of blogs to promote your collections. I say “certain kinds” of blogs because she specifically mentioned sites like Letters of Note and My Daguerreotype Boyfriend (love that one!), where materials from many sources can be reposted or linked. I had heard of HistoryPin — a super-cool site which overlays geo-tagged historic photos on top of current street views — and have even contemplated putting some of our (Dayton Metro Library’s) images on there, but it hasn’t happened yet. (Looking at the HistoryPin map of Dayton makes me want to do this even more, as there are very few pinned photos for the Dayton area.)

Liz Tousey showing the HistoryPin site

Liz Tousey showing the HistoryPin site

Beth Anderson of the Wright State University Student Technology Assistance Center (STAC) talked about creating promotional YouTube videos for the WSU libraries (love this video for the archives!). In emphasizing how easy it is, Beth said, “It’s just a couple old ladies running around [in the library] with Flip cameras,” then editing the video using iMovie 11 and posting on YouTube. She said each video only takes an hour or two to create. She handed out a list of tips called “The Sock Monkey approach to Promo YouTube videos,” the first rule of which is to “keep it short & simple (60 seconds.” She also advised making the videos fun, funny, and catchy, which (in addition to keeping it short) helps to keep students’ attention and can have the added bonus effect of making your video go viral among the student body. (I find this sort of like hiding medicine in something tastier; everybody wins.) Including student workers in the videos also helps, because they want to show all their friends when it’s finished – which obviously also helps spread the video throughout the student population.

Janet Carleton discussed social media activities revolving around Maggie Boyd, the first female graduate of Ohio University whose diary for the year 1873 (her senior year at OU) was digitized 10 years ago for Ohio Memory. Now, the OU archives is repurposing Maggie’s digitized diary in the form of the @MaggieBoyd1873 Twitter feed, as well as WordPress blog posts and Pinterest boards about various aspects of Maggie’s world. The social media items link back to high resolution images of the relevant original diary entries.

*****

Next up, we had a tasty lunch and then the SOA Business Meeting.

The 2012 SOA Merit Award winners were William C. Barrow, Special Collections Librarian at Cleveland State University, and Angela O’Neal, Director of Collections Services at the Ohio Historical Society.

The election was also held. Emily Gainer was re-elected to the position of treasurer. Newly-elected SOA Council members are Jacky Johnson, Western College Archivist/ Special Collections Cataloger at Miami University, and…yours truly [Lisa Rickey, Reference Librarian/Archivist at the Dayton Metro Library]. (I appreciate the vote of confidence, and I hope that I live up to everyone’s expectations!)

*****

The next time block of the conference consisted of an Employment Roundtable discussion and Poster Presentations.

The Employment Roundtable was facilitated by Rachel Bilokonsky (University of Dayton), Dawne Dewey (Wright State University), Noel Rihm (Wright State University, Public History student), and Lonna McKinley (National Museum of the United States Air Force). The point of this roundtable seemed to be to have a discussion about the state of the profession (and the job market) and get ideas about what, if anything, SOA can do to improve the situation. (If you have suggestions, please share them on the SOA listserv.)

As director of the Public History program at Wright State University, Dawne Dewey had several bits of advice for current students. She advises, “Do more than the minimum” and “diversify [your coursework].” She also emphasized the importance of internships and volunteer work and said that, in her observation, students who “go the extra mile” tend to do better in the job market after graduation.

Current Public History student Noel Rihm advised getting a mentor and not being afraid to go after “big” internships (such as the Marine Corps-affiliated internship she will be doing in Quantico this summer!). Lonna McKinley added, “You don’t know unless you try.” (And, as my high school guidance counselor Mr. Smith used to say—in reference to scholarships, but it works for internships too— “If you don’t try, you know you won’t get it.”)

Another bit of advice was: be prepared to move. I had heard this one; there are a lot of archivists in Dayton because of the WSU program (of which I am a grad). And not all are lucky like I was, finding a job in Dayton; some have to choose between a job in Dayton or a job in the field.

Another bit of advice: don’t be afraid of grant-funded positions; it doesn’t look like “job-hopping”.

Once the discussion was turned over to the audience, other viewpoints emerged. A couple of project archivists voiced valid complaints regarding the state of the profession, with so many positions coming only through grants (and thus being finite in term). For instance, it’s difficult to justify moving your family to take a temporary job. One archivist said her husband left his job to move with her and then was laid off at his new job (I assume because he was “low man” on the proverbial company totem pole). They said it is aggravating — and I agree — that so many positions have become this way and that we have become complacent to it.

On the other hand, the obvious question is: Yes, but what, if anything, can we do about it? And yes, it sucks, but I can also see the logic of, Aren’t grant jobs better than no jobs at all – both for the archivists and the materials that need our attention and would otherwise continue sitting in storage? Lots to think about, and the problem is pretty massive. But it’s certainly something we need to think about and do what we can to change.

In response to “going the extra mile” while in grad school and not rushing to graduate, someone pointed out that taking extra classes and extra time in grad school all costs extra money. It was even stated that those who can afford the luxury of extra time and courses have an “unfair advantage” in the job market.

An interesting way of looking at things. I certainly see the validity and value of these comments, as well as Dawne’s. I suppose in a way it comes down to weighing opportunity costs and (in a way) gambling. You basically have to guess at which you think will be more valuable to you later on: an extra course or internship (or two) that may give you that edge (both of which take time, if not money – after all, you could volunteer for free, but it still costs time which can equal money), or the money you would save on tuition or potentially earn if you graduate sooner and are (hopefully) able to get a job sooner.

Someone else pointed out the homogeneity of the workforce in archives, particularly in reference to race. He wondered if there might be a reason that there seem to be so few people of color in the archives field. Another interesting question; something to think about.

*****

Following the Employment Roundtable — which I think could have easily gone on for quite a bit longer than it did (which is why it was suggested that it be continued on the SOA listserv), a Poster Session was held.

Poster Session!

Poster Session!

Poster Session presenters included:

  • “Getting Things Done” by Karen Caputo, Grant Joslin, Amanda Nelson, Danielle Ross, and Maria Pease of the Ohio History Service Corps;
  • “Bridging the Divide: Integrating Privacy Sensitivity Audits into the Archival Appraisal Process” by Judith A. Wiener and Anne Gilliland of the Ohio State University Health Sciences Library;
  • “Aerial Photographs: Taking Off into the Digital Realm” by Shayna Muckerheide, MLIS-Archives intern at the Sandusky Library;
  • “Worn Chappals: Soul Imprints” by Jacqueline Ruiz of the Asian Indian Heritage Project;
  • “Mississippi Freedom Summer: The Digitization Process at the Archives” by Jacqueline Johnson and Elias Tzoc of Miami University;
  • “Capstone Project: Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton Records” by Jeremy Katz, Wright State University Public History student; and
  • “Oral History: A Dynamic Source for Community Development” by Elise Kelly, Wright State University Public History student.

*****

Concurrent Session #3 (the final time block) options included: “Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board Regrants Program” presented by Fred Previts (Ohio Historical Society), John Runion (Stark County Records Manager), Natalie Fritz (Clark County Historical Society), Meghan Hays (Shaker Heights Public Library), and Ron Luce (Athens County Historical Society), or  “Mind Mapping for Archival Processing: Using Personal Brain Software to Facilitate Arrangement of the Auguste Martin Collection” presented by Jillian Slater and Amy Rohmiller of University of Dayton.

I attended the session on OHRAB Re-Grants. How could I not? My dear friend, former classmate (and on that particular day, carpool-mate) Natalie was one of the presenters! The presentations discussed projects that had been made possible with funding from the OHRAB Re-Grants program.

Natalie Fritz and the Clark County Historical Society have been using their grant funding to re-house probate records. Natalie shared some of the trials and tribulations of the project, as well as some of the neat stories that have been uncovered. This current re-grant project is a continuation of a previous re-grant. Most of the work is being undertaken by volunteers, and Natalie mentioned how glad she was that the volunteers were happy to hear the project would continue. They have found many interesting items in the probate records, the only downside of which is the inclination to read everything (because it’s so interesting!), which makes the work go a little more slowly. (I should note that they haven’t had any trouble meeting their grant deadlines, though, so hey, if reading the cool stuff keeps everyone happy and the work still gets done on time, it sounds like a win-win situation to me!)

Natalie Fritz discussing the Clark County probate records project

Natalie Fritz discussing the Clark County probate records project

Meghan Hays talked about a project to digitize a really cool collection of Shaker Heights building information cards. The cards include information such as when the building was constructed, original value, the architect, sometimes even a reference to where the blueprints can be found. (Man, I wish we had these for Dayton! I am so jealous on that count!) The cards can be viewed online at shakerbuildings.com, which is handy since it enables volunteers to work on the indexing/transcription remotely.

Ron Luce of Athens County Historical Society also talked about a project to preserve county probate records. He said he was horrified by the state of the records at the courthouse. (A year or two ago, I had a similar experience at an Ohio county courthouse that shall remain nameless, so I can relate!) So Ron asked if the historical society could have them, to preserve them better. After much discussion, it was eventually decided that yes, the historical society could take them. Preservation activities have included new boxes and shelving for the probate records.

*****

And so, another SOA Annual Meeting came to a close, about 4:00 p.m. I found the conference very interesting, informative, and thought-provoking. In my humble opinion, I think it was a great success, although, as I admitted in paragraph 1, having never been to one of these before, I have no frame of reference for what the SOA Meeting is “suppose to” be like. I expect that this will be the first of many for me, however…or at least, I hope so!

I was also one of several people “live-Tweeting” the conference under the hash tag #ohioarchivists. You can see all my Tweets, including several more photos, at my Twitter feed @LisaRickey.

MVAR Recap 5/17/2012

Today was the most recent meeting of the Miami Valley Archivists Roundtable (or, MVAR), an informal gathering of archivists in and around Dayton, Ohio. This time, we met at the Greene County Records Center & Archives in Xenia, Ohio, with Gillian Marsham Hill, the records and information manager/ archivist, as our hostess.

Gillian and her assistant, Joan Donovan, were eager to tell us all the details of their recent move from their previous building on Main Street to their current location on Ledbetter Road (near several other county offices).

New location of Greene County Archives

New location of Greene County Archives

But first, the institutional reports!

*****

The institutional reports consist of each person in attendance taking a turn, stating their name, position, and institution, and sharing a little bit about what they have been up to lately, archives-wise. (The label “institutional reports” may make it sound formal, but it’s really not!) Here are some snippets from the reports that I hope my peers won’t mind my sharing:

Rachel Bilokonsky, the MVAR chairwoman and University of Dayton archivist, shared that the University Archives has recently implemented the Archivists’ Toolkit as well as a new records classification scheme (with help of intern and WSU PH grad student Maggie Zakri). She also told us about a University Archives open house coming up on June 9 (from 10-12 a.m.), in conjunction with a memorial tree dedication for former Dayton area Congressman Charles W. Whalen, Jr. Whalen was a UD grad (class of 1942), and the UD Archives has his congressional papers, which, incidentally, Rachel told us they recently received an OHRAB grant to rehouse — over 500 boxes. More information about the June 9th Whalen memorial activities can be found on the UD Events page for 6/9/2012. Rachel also asked if anyone else would like to take over as chair of MVAR in the near future, to let her know; she has been chairperson for a few years now.

James Zimmerlin of the Records Center & Archives of Warren County said he has his first archives volunteer starting next week, and he will also be hiring a summer intern soon ($8 per hour, 20 hours/week for 12 weeks).

Three archivists from Wright State University Special Collections & Archives were in attendance.

Lynda Kachurek is now the Digital Initiatives Coordinator at WSU SCA, which has increased her focus on metadata, web coding, digitization (such as with the Campus Online Repository or CORE), and social media elements of archives. Lynda was also pleased to announce that all of SCA’s 700+ collections now have at least minimal descriptions on th web site.

Chris Wydman, Wright State’s University Archivist, is working on a new electronic records policy for WSU, as well as an oral history project with university retirees, which will have video and audio available on CORE.

Gino Pasi recently acquired new duties at WSU SCA in the area of collections management. Also, he and fellow archivist Toni Vanden Bos recently applied for — and received — a grant to create a traveling exhibit about Dayton’s 1913 Flood, which they are now creating.

Lonna McKinley of the National Museum of the United States Air Force asked if there were any archives topics that people would be interested in hearing a presentation about, as the Midwest Archives Conference is trying to find speakers on various topics.

Natalie Fritz of the Clark County Historical Society announced that they received another OHRAB grant to continue processing probate records, have implemented a slightly different fee schedule for using their research room ($5 per day), and and are in the process of seeking AASLH accreditation. (Also, Natalie will be presenting tomorrow at the Society of Ohio Archivists annual meeting about the probate records they have already processed using a previous OHRAB grant.)

Another one of the Historical Society’s employees, Mel Glover, comically described his duties as often falling under the category of “other duties as assigned.” But he added that it’s a great museum at which to work, small enough that he gets to do neat things all the time, but big enough to have some really cool collections. (I tried to get his words down verbatim, but I’m afraid I failed, so the previous statement lives somewhere in the world between direct quote and paraphrase!) I just thought that was a nice way of looking at things at a smaller institution — not that you “have to” have a hand in everything, but you get to have a hand in everything!

Several Wright State University Public History grad students reported on their recent activities, including Noel Rihm, who has been working (along with 4 other students) on an exhibit about Wilbur Wright at Carillon Park (but produced by Wright State U.). The “Wilbur Wright: A Life of Consequence” exhibit will be open to park visitors on May 27.

May 30th, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of Wilbur Wright’s death from typhoid fever, so activities have been planned in Dayton this year to remember him. (Here’s an online list of some of the Wilbur Wright events in 2012.) As a matter of fact, we have a case exhibit about Wilbur Wright currently on display in the Local History Room at the Dayton Metro Library. So come on down to the basement of Main and see it, any time during normal open hours!

When it was my turn, the most significant thing I could think to share was that I had finally – finally – finished arranging and describing the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) at the Dayton Metro Library. (A much-abbreviated version of the Forrer-Peirce-Wood finding aid is available on the OhioLINK EAD Repository.) After 10 months, 40 legal size Hollinger document cases, and about 230 pages of finding aid….it’s finally done. Excuse me while I “WOOHOO!” Seriously, I had a blast learning about that family (some of which I shared here – at length – as you probably noticed), but I’m glad to move onto something else now. (FYI, that something else will be a collection of materials pertaining to Ebenezer Thresher and his daughters Mary and Laura.)

*****

After the institutional reports, we went over the list of relevant upcoming conferences:

*****

Next, Gillian Hill told us the back story of this past “year of turmoil” and the events that ultimately resulted in moving the GC Records Center & Archives from its previous location on Main Street to the current location on Ledbetter Road. To make a long story short, the previous building, which was built in the early 1800s and included a lot of sandstone, was deteriorating. Although the sandstone deterioration had probably been happening for a while, it did not became obvious until about last May — and at that time it became very obvious and pretty serious, very quickly.

The previous Greene County Archives building (Feb. 2012)

The previous Greene County Archives building (Feb. 2012)

For a brief period of time, archives staff were not allowed into a part of the building that contained records, because it was unsafe and needed to be stabilized. As archivists, we spend our lives preserving and protecting these records, and then to be told that the records have to stay in a certain place where you are prohibited to go because it’s not safe… But what about the records?! Yes, yes, we all get that human life is more important, but still. To have to stand powerlessly by while 200+ years of history (history that you are designated to protect) is in danger… The word for it is “horrifying.” I remember thinking it as Gillian described the situation, and then Gillian herself said it: “It was just horrifying.”

But that’s in the past now! And the records survived! (And so did the staff!) And the building was stabilized enough that they could be safely removed, without endangering the humanmovers. So steps were set in motion to move the shelving and the materials to the new location, which has now all been completed, and GC RC&A is back in business!

We got a tour of the new GC RC&A location. It looked like a nice space and a good size – 4,000 square feet.

Greene County Archives1

Greene County Archives

Greene County Archives2

Greene County Archives

Marriage records at the Greene County Archives

Marriage records at the Greene County Archives

After lunch, I got a demonstration of the archives’ relatively new ScanPro 1000 microfilm scanner…and, WOW. That thing is amazing.

Joan Donovan demonstrating the ScanPro 1000

Joan Donovan demonstrating the ScanPro 1000

Let’s just say I am used to microfilm reader/scanners that require quite a lot of fussing with the focus and the brightness to get even halfway usable images. But that ScanPro 1000 was just a dream. So clear and crisp and so many image adjustment options right there on the screen. Pretty awesome. Maybe someday…

All in all, another great MVAR meeting!

Be Nice to Archivists

Be Nice to Archivists

CONTENTdm Midwest Users Group Meeting 2012

On Friday, May 4, 2012, I attended the CONTENTdm Midwest Users Group Meeting 2012 at the Lakeside Room of the Conference Center at OCLC in Dublin, Ohio. (It seems like yesterday that I attended the 2011 Midwest User Group Meeting at Ball State University in October!)

CONTENTdm is OCLC’s digital content management software. User group meetings are held in various regions in order for CONTENTdm users “to network, share best practices, and hear about the latest CONTENTdm product updates.” (I attend these because work with the CONTENTdm collections at the Dayton Metro Library; you can check out our digital collections at: http://content.daytonmetrolibrary.org/.)

I had never been to the OCLC main campus before, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was not difficult to find or reach. Even the 75-minute commute from my house to Dublin (a suburb of Columbus) was quite tolerable that particular morning. (The afternoon was a different story, but that’s neither here nor there.) The conference center was quite far from the main entrance, and I think I might have gotten lost if someone had not put out a half dozen or more lovely signs pointing me in the right direction, practically all the way to the very doorstep of the building.

CONTENTdm MUG Directional Sign

CONTENTdm MUG Directional Sign

Once I visited the registration table and got settled in, I pulled out my cell phone. See, this is the first conference I have attended since joining the hip kids and getting a smart phone, so I decided I was going to do some “live tweets” of the activities. The agreed-upon Twitter hash tag for the event was #cdmmug2012. Planning committee member Janet Carleton (@jcarletonoh) and I (@LisaRickey) and a handful of others made good use of it. I think I managed to tweet once for every session I attended—for which my husband later declared me a “dork” (but, as a positive thing)—and most included a photo (some of which I will include here on the blog, but if you want to see them all, check my original Twitter feed).

(Please note: As I go through the day’s sessions, I will just be giving a brief description of what the presentation was about and mention anything I found particularly interesting. If you want to know more, you should check out the conference web site, where full versions of the presentations will be available soon, if they are not already.)

For the first session, Christian Sarason, a product manager for CONTENTdm/OCLC, gave us the latest on what’s in store for CONTENTdm. Among the features they are working on (for release hopefully in 2013) are enhancements to Favorites and performance; implementing full HTTPS; search engine optimizations (e.g., your stuff being found on Google); and implementing the ability to actually create groups of collections. In the more distant future, they have some updates in mind for the server side of the software. OCLC has begun using the scrum method of software development, and so the biggest “take-away” I got from Christian’s presentation was: Tell OCLC what you want to see in CONTENTdm because they are eager for your feedback to help with improving the software!

Many of the day’s time blocks consisted of breakout sessions, wherein participants could attend either a formal presentation or a “Birds of a Feather” discussion on a certain topic.

Breakout session #1 options included a Birds of a Feather discussion on Metadata or a presentation by Bonnie Chandler (Columbus Metropolitan Library), “Creating Community Engagement through Digital Content.”

I attended the presentation, which discussed two collaborative projects—Columbus Memory and Columbus Neighborhoods—embarked upon as part of the Columbus Bicentennial (2012) celebration. Columbus Memory was a grant-funded project, the purpose of which was to create a digital archive of Columbus history, help other historical societies and organizations digitize their collections, and provide local history resources for Columbus teachers and students. Columbus Neighborhoods was a collaborative project with WOSU whose purposes was to record and share stories and memories of various Columbus neighborhoods.

Bonnie Chandler's presentation

Bonnie Chandler’s presentation

I was most interested in the Columbus Memory project, because it involved the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s digital archive hosting not only their own images of Columbus history, but also images shared by other organizations and other individuals. In some cases, the original materials were actually donated and then included in the project; in other cases, the original materials were borrowed, digitized, and returned, but the digital representations still shared online. As relevant, Memoranda of Understanding or Deeds of Gift were signed by involved parties.

I was particularly interested in Columbus Memory (especially its nitty-gritty details) because we (in my department at work) have periodically brought up the idea of possibly conducting a similar project wherein patrons could share their historic photos through the library’s digital archive. So I was very interested to see how another Ohio public library handled a similar project.

Breakout session #2 included a Birds of a Feather discussion on Customizations or a panel discussion on “Collection Infrastructure: Defining, Expanding, and Reshaping the Organization of Collections within CONTENTdm.” I attended the panel discussion, whose participants included: Ann Olszewski (Cleveland PL), Karen Perone (Rodman PL in Alliance, Ohio), Kevin Drieger (Library of Michigan), Lily Birkhimer (Ohio Historical Society’s Ohio Memory), and Shannon Kupfer (State Library of Ohio).

I attended the panel discussion, in which the panel participants shared many interesting ideas about how to arrange (and re-arrange) your CONTENTdm collections.

One thing that resonated with me was how different institutions treated their “catch-all” collections. These catch-all collections might be used when you have a few things you want to digitize from a lot of different collections, but you don’t want to clutter everything up by creating a bunch of individual digital collections to correspond to each physical collection you are drawing items from. Instead, just put them all into one collection, but make sure to cite all the collection information somewhere in the metadata, so people know where the original item can be found. First of all, I was pleased to learn that I’m not the only one with a “catch-all” collection! However, they gave me ideas for coming up with a more creative name for the collection besides “Local History Miscellaneous.” For instance, Cleveland PL calls theirs “Collection Treasures,” and OHS uses “OHS Selections.”

Another neat idea I got from the Infrastructure panel was to create a standardized “Person” field with a controlled vocabulary, so that items pertaining to a certain person can be accessed across all collections. I suppose the same could be accomplished with regular subject headings, but I thought it was an interesting idea to break it down further.

Breakout session #3 options included a Birds of a Feather discussion on Hosted Users or a presentation by Jim Cunningham (Illinois State University), “Accidental Controlled Vocabulary Development: Metadata for Specialized Imagery Collections.”

I attended the discussion. Although Dayton Metro Library hosts our digital collections on our own servers, rather than being “hosted” by OCLC (which is what is meant by “hosted users”), I thought it would be interesting to hear what the hosted users had to say. It turned out that about 2/3 of the participants were hosted; the rest were just interested in the subject. One resounding theme coming from those who had chosen to go with the hosted option (even though it costs a little more) was that they went hosted to avoid the IT headaches from such things as doing their own software upgrades or trying to gain a coveted spot on the priority list of their institutions’ IT staffs. With the hosted option, CONTENTdm upgrades happen quickly and painlessly, although one trade-off is a loss of flexibility for doing customizations.

After this discussion, it was time for lunch. After eating my lunch, I took a little walk outside. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of ducks near the “Lakeside” Conference Center.

Lakeside Room, Conference Center, OCLC

Lakeside Conference Center, OCLC

I was, however, surprised to see a large swan, whose named apparently is George. He had made a nest for himself near one of the windows of the conference center, where he spent most of the day. There were a few times where he kept walking along the windows. I joked that maybe he wanted to learn about CONTENTdm, but okay, he was probably just looking at his own reflection.

George, the OCLC swan

George, the OCLC swan

After lunch, Breakout session #4 options included a Birds of a Feather discussion on Audiovisual or a presentation by David Gwynn (University of North Carolina at Greensboro), “Broadsheets on a Budget: Low-cost Approaches to Newspaper Digitization Projects.”

I attended the presentation, which discussed a major undertaking of digitizing two historic newspapers using limited staff and budget, by working with the Lyrasis Mass Digitization Collaborative. Among my favorite parts of this presentation were: a real numbers breakdown of data and costs; examples of how to use the concatenate function in Excel to automate some of your metadata (and save tons of time!); and sharing about some of the metadata headaches. The main headache was how to deal with volume and issue numbers that failed to follow a consistent pattern over the years. (Now, not to sound “glad” that UNCG had metadata nightmares, but I think we can all relate to that feeling of “oh good, it’s not just me,” knowing that other people also find—and have to deal with—weird stuff! I think deep down we all know we’re not alone when bad/weird things happen, but it’s nice to have it confirmed once in a while. Ha!) You can check out the digitized newspapers (and their other projects) at: http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/.

Breakout session #5 options included a Birds of a Feather discussion on Workflows or panel discussion on “Repurposing and Extending your CONTENTdm Content,” with Janet Carleton (Ohio University) and Sara Klein (Upper Arlington Public Library).

I attended the panel, which (and I’m going to quote this directly from the list of accepted sessions because I think they way they said it is just awesome) covered basically this: “Got your cool stuff in CONTENTdm? Check. Now it’s time to reach out to where your users are in social media spaces.”

First, Janet Carleton told us about a number of cool things they have been doing with the Maggie Boyd project. Maggie was the first female graduate of Ohio University, and her 1873 diary (her senior year at OU) was digitized 10 years ago for Ohio Memory. Now, they are repurposing Maggie’s digitized diary in the form of the @MaggieBoyd1873 Twitter feed, as well as WordPress blog posts and Pinterest boards about various aspects of Maggie’s world. The social media items link back to relevant images of Maggie’s original diary, which is served up through CONTENTdm.

Janet Carleton's presentation on Maggie Boyd

Janet Carleton’s presentation on Maggie Boyd

Janet pointed out that the interconnectedness of meshing – or is it mashing? 😉 – all these things together helps to reduce information silos. And isn’t finding and using our “stuff” and actually “putting it all together” the whole point of what we are all trying to do when we undertake these digitization projects?

Sara Klein discussed her experiences with repurposing the Upper Arlington PL’s CONTENTdm collections for use on Facebook and the Flickr Commons. She has had success in using these social media tools to identify unknowns in photographs, as well as inviting community participation through activities like trivia questions.

Breakout session #6 (the final session) options included attending one of two presentations: “The CONTENTdm Catcher: What’s it Good For?” by Phil Sager (OHS) or “The Niiyama Japanese Poetic Pottery: An Interactive Digital Presentation” by Patrice-Andre Prud’homme (Illinois State University).

Since I was in fact unsure about what the CONTENTdm Catcher is “good for,” I decided to attend Phil Sager’s presentation. I learned that the Catcher is a web service that can be used for batch processing of metadata. It sounded pretty cool, although unfortunately, it has no pre-packaged GUI, so you need to build an application or use a script to run it. But if you can actually figure out how to do that, it sounds like it is pretty awesome and powerful! I found Phil’s examples helpful in understanding why you might want to use the Catcher (and, by the way, his session title was perfect). One example he gave was, let’s say you have a bunch of Flash videos; you want to set the Format for all of the relevant files to reflect that they are Flash video; and your Source field does include the original file name with extension (*.flv). You could use Catcher to loop through all your CONTENTdm objects, find the ones where Source = *.flv, and in those instances set Format = “video/x-flv”. Pretty slick. You can’t really do that with Project Client (the CONTENTdm GUI interface for editing objects)—not in one fell swoop, for sure. Sounds like the Catcher is a dream for any CONTENTdm Techie who needs to make a specific change to a lot of objects and would like to do so all at once. But Phil warns: Make sure you do a trial run of the potential output before actually changing anything! (There are known bugs, plus there’s always the element of human error.) Look before you leap; that’s good advice for mass updates to any database.

The wrap-up at the end of the day consisted of a CONTENTdm Tech Q&A Session with Erik Mayer of OCLC. There weren’t as many questions as I would have expected. Then again, people had been asking questions to the many in-the-know OCLC folks who attended (there were at least 6) throughout the day, so maybe they just had run out of questions!

All in all, the CONTENTdm Midwest Users Group Meeting 2012 was a very interesting, informative, and enjoyable conference.

Wright State University Public History Graduate Symposium, Mar. 2, 2012

Yesterday, I attended “Wright in Your Own Backyard: Historical Heritage and Collective Memories,” a symposium of presentations by Wright State University Public History graduate students.

Wright in Your Own Backyard program cover

Wright in Your Own Backyard program cover

If I heard correctly, this was the first one they’ve ever had, and I hope that there will be many more, because it was really great. I really enjoyed all the presentations (don’t worry, I’ll give more details in a minute), which is saying something because let’s face it, who hasn’t been to a conference where some of the presentations were just…well, they had you watching the clock?

The symposium also had the right balance of professionalism and casualness — it was structured enough to be appropriately professional and give the students a good experience of being presenters, but it was also…well, fun. Or maybe it’s just that I feel more relaxed attending anything at Wright State — partly because it really is “wright” in my own backyard (low stress as far as travel! it’s 20 minutes away!), and partly because I spent 6 good years of my life there, so it’s familiar and feels like home.

But enough about that, you want to hear about the presentations…

Wright in Your Own Backyard program

Wright in Your Own Backyard program

Keynote Speaker – Amanda Wright Lane

Our keynote speaker was to be Amanda Wright Lane, who is a great grand-niece of the Wright Brothers and a spokesperson for the Wright Legacy. Unfortunately, she received a last minute invitation to an event honoring John Glenn in Cleveland for the same day and felt it was very important that she attend it. However! She was able to make time to come to Wright State the day before and give her talk to a small group of students, and the talk was videotaped. So we were able to enjoy Ms. Wright Lane’s address after all.

Amanda Wright Lane giving her talk to us via video

Amanda Wright Lane giving her talk to us via video

Ms. Wright Lane advised us to “make public history personal,” and asked the rhetorical question, “What gives you goosebumps?

Then she told us about two of her “goosebump moments” wherein she was able to really connect “Uncle Will and Uncle Orv,” the relatives she kept hearing about, to “the Wright Brothers,” the inventors of the airplane.

One example was when she was looking through a notebook of calculations and found her aunt Ivonette’s name scrawled on a page — a concrete connection between the inventors and the family.

Another was reading the entry in the Bishop Milton Wright’s diary from the day his son Wilbur Wright died in 1912. Reading the words of a grieving father, you could see Wilbur not as a famous inventor but as someone’s son.

She closed her address by saying, “If you look hard enough, you can find the pieces on the pages of history that are full of personal consequence.”

Indeed. Dawne Dewey, director of the Public History Program and Head of the WSU Special Collections & Archives, reiterated that, as public historians, we help to “bring it home” so people can really make those connections [between the history they’ve read in books and the real people it happened to].

Session I: “Local History: From Preservation to Activism”
Moderated by Lisa P. Rickey, archivist & local history reference librarian at Dayton Metro Library

Misti Spillman presented “The Restoration of Howell Cemetery,” in which she described her project of restoring a woebegone cemetery in Shelby County. She fixed and cleaned many gravestones, researched the “inhabitants”, and got a new sign erected. At one point she stated that a cemetery is a primary source that is accessible to the public, right outside, an sort of outdoor museum — and I thought that was pretty cool.

Robin Heise presented “Yellow Springs: A Historical Menagerie.” Her project had involved conducting deed research on 12 historic homes in Yellow Springs, but the presentation focused mainly on six of the interesting characters (previous owners of the homes) that she had encountered in her research. They were: William Mills, the Means family, Julius Cone, Col. Thomas Tchou, John W. Hamilton, and William Wallace Carr. You can learn more about her project at her blog http://ysheritage.org/.

Elise Kelly presented “Oral History: A Dynamic Source for Community Development,” in which she discussed her project conducting oral history interviews with 5 activists in Dayton’s Latino community — namely, Rosa Caskey, Tony Ortiz, Maria Goeser, Victor Garcia, and Sr. Maria Stacy. She played several audio clips during her presentation, which I thought was a really excellent touch, since after all, the project was about recording people’s experiences in their own words and voices. (If you would like to hear the interviews yourself, they will be deposited at the Wright State University Special Collections & Archives.)

As the moderator, I was delighted (and a little relieved) that there were lots of questions for the presenters — since if there weren’t, I would need to ask them some questions myself. Then again, their presentations were so interesting that I actually had no trouble coming up with a few questions myself anyway. Most of my questions were the same ones other people had, so they were covered by various audience members.

I did have one general question for all the presenters though, but I can’t really take credit for it. It stemmed directly from Ms. Wright Lane’s address:

What was one of your “goosebumpy moments” while you were doing your projects?

Misti told of discovering that an unmarked grave was actually that of a soldier (Revolutionary War, I believe she said). Robin mentioned learning that Col. Tchou, whom she had not heard of, actually had a very interesting, important life. And Elise said it was just hearing the stories in people’s own voices. (Truly, oral history is just filled with one “goosebumpy moment” right after another.)

Lunch

We had an hour an a half for lunch, but many of us just went around the corner to the Union Market. (Hey, I actually really like that place and was looking forward to eating there again. And okay, I also didn’t want to deal with the rain, parking, or Beavercreek restaurants at lunchtime.)

Actually, there ended up being quite a few of us there, so we all sat together at a long table. Here’s a picture that Dawne took with my camera:

Public History crew at lunch

Public History crew at lunch

Seriously, if you ever need a picture taken of something and don’t have a camera, come find me — if I’m there — because I am pretty much always packing a camera.

Lunch involved lots of lively conversation — who could expect anything less from this group? One of the public history students who wasn’t presenting that day told us in great detail about her research about a little-covered angle on the life of John Dillinger. I won’t give away the details, in case she wants to write a book about it — and I hope she does, because it was a fascinating topic!

Introduction to Wright State’s Public History Program

After we returned from lunch, Dawne Dewey gave us an overview of the public history program, including: its mission (to which Dawne suggested perhaps we should append “cause goosebumps”), curriculum, faculty, activities, etc. (You can read all about WSU’s Public History program at their web site.) While those unfamiliar with the program were probably more interested in the actual content, seasoned grads Natalie Fritz and I were actually more excited about seeing pictures of so many former classmates in the PowerPoint slides and trying to remember the activities depicted.

Public History at Wright State University

Public History at Wright State University

Session II: “The Challenges of Museum and Archival Collections”
Moderated by Virginia Weygandt, Director of Collections for the Clark County Historical Society

Maggie Zakri presented “Sharing the Table: Unique Challenges of Processing Collections outside of the Archives,” in which she discussed some of the pros and cons of helping someone preserve their personal collection, in this case the archival materials (aka memories) of a woman whose Jewish family had escaped from France during WWII. Maggie is properly housing and digitizing everything and also making a scrapbook (using the scans) so the woman’s family can still enjoy the content while keeping the originals safe. Really neat project! (And on a personal note: This gives me some good ideas about my grandparents’ collections, which I have so graciously been permitted by my other family members to curate…)

Nicole Williams presented “Adventures in Medical Collections,” wherein she described her activities (adventures, indeed!) with the medical collections of the Greene County Historical Society. She encountered many problems related to accessioning. She has also encountered many hazardous materials (mercury, lead, arsenic, opiates, flammable chemicals, etc.) and hit some roadblocks in determining how to safely and responsibly dispose of them. She also gave us a helpful list of do’s and don’ts when working with these types of collections.

Linda Collins presented “Selling Deaccessioned Objects: Decreasing Controversy with Communication.” Museums often find themselves in possession of many items that have come into their collections over the years but that do not directly relate to the museum’s mission and collecting policy. Due to constraints of funding and space, they sometimes choose to “deaccession” these items (remove them from the collection), and they may be auctioned off. Linda pointed out that if museums are honest with the public about why they are getting rid of these items and how the money will be used, it can help smooth over any objections the community may have. She gave us examples of museums that had done this well (the Clark County Historical Society and the Indianapolis Museum of Art) and one that did not do so well (Philadelphia History Museum).

During the Q&A portion of this session, someone commented about how the presentations had caused her to “run the gamut” of emotions, at which point someone else piped up, “Then we’ve done our job.” 🙂

Session III: “Ethnic and Community Identity in the Miami Valley”
Moderated by Dr. Barbara Green, WSU professor of African American History

Noel Rihm presented “Longtown: Cultural Diversity in Darke County, Ohio,” about her research (and the resulting long-term exhibit at the Garst Museum) concerning Longtown, a multiracial settlement of African Americans, Native Americans, and white people, that straddled the border of Darke County, Ohio, and Randolph County, Indiana, beginning in 1822. She said the primary message she wanted to convey with the exhibit was that Longtown was about equality, liberty, and community. She hopes that people will feel immersed and get something emotional out of it. She also pointed out that these smaller community stories help people to see the big picture of history, which I think is an excellent point and a huge piece of what public history is all about.

Jeri Kniess presented “When Malindy Sings: The Influence of Matilda Dunbar on Paul Laurence Dunbar.” Jeri gave us a good deal of biographical background about Matilda Dunbar, including lots of interesting images of primary sources, and discussed why she feels it is important to know Matilda in order to better understand her son Paul. Jeri mentioned possibly wanting to write a book about this, especially since she has run across several instances of where published information about Matilda has been incorrect. I hope she does write a book — and makes sure to let Dayton Metro Library know so we can buy a copy!

Casey Huegel presented “Rethinking the Dunbar House: Interpretation and Place in a Changing Landscape,” in which he questioned the relationship of the Dunbar House to the rest of the Dayton Aviation Heritage Park and the Aviation Trail. He also discussed West Dayton in general and had some really cool “before and after” photos of several buildings that have been restored since the early ’90s. When I asked where the “before” photos came from — people ask us for old photos of West Dayton (and many other spots) all the time at the library — it turned out that they were from a collection at the National Park Service.

In Closing…

After the closing remarks of the symposium, student Jeremy Katz held a poster session about his project involving the processing of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton records (MS-434 at WSU SCA).

Pfew! And that wrapped up the day! The symposium was really awesome — just great, interesting presentations. I never cease to be amazed at all the cool things that public historians can do and are doing. I was really honored to be asked to be a part of this program, and I’m so glad I was able to attend. I am really looking forward to seeing what the Public History Symposium will have in store next year.