Web Archives and History in the Digital World by Ève Bourbeau-Allard

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Ève Bourbeau-Allard is a first year MSI student specializing in Archives and Records Management. She holds an MA in history from the College of William & Mary.

In an excellent panel of the 2015 Web Archives Conference, Ed Summers, Lead Developer at the Maryland Institute for Technologies and Humanities, asked a provocative and thoughtful question that stayed with me for the remainder of the conference: Is the “Digital” in “Digital Humanities” necessary anymore? In other words, as digital tools and content become such a prominent part of inquiries in the humanities, should we still establish a divide between a traditional field and its digital counterpart?

Summers was discussing his archive of tweets about the events in Ferguson, which constitutes a case in point for the remarks Dr. Ian Milligan later made in his keynote speech. A Professor of History at the University of Waterloo, Dr. Milligan concluded the conference with an exposé on the value of web archives for the crafting of history. It would be “dishonest,” he argued, to write any history of the 1990s and beyond without consideration of the Internet as a central primary source base. To go back to Summers’ project, social media and the Internet played a significant role in the sharing of information and ideas about Ferguson and captured points of views that cannot be ignored.

A panel led by a team from the University of Toronto raised a myriad of issues relating to the archiving of political tweets, including copyright, consent, privacy, access, context, and appropriate metadata. These themes, intersecting with similar challenges archivists already face in their work with analog material, acquire new facets in the online world. Dr. Milligan suggested a re-envisioning and re-valuing of interdisciplinarity in the digital age. Abigail Grotke, from the Library of Congress, also highlighted that web archives do not fit neatly in traditional professional and scholarly divisions. In approaching the vastness of web data, elaborating standards and practices to preserve it, and finding both programmatic and intellectual methods to analyze its content, the combined expertise of librarians, archivists, web designers, computer scientists, historians, and humanists will be necessary. The digital world and the analog world are learning so much from one another that the concept of a digital/analog divide does not capture, for me, the future of the archives and humanities fields.  
In another of the conference’s thought-provoking keynote addresses, Abigail Grotke reflected back on the beginnings of the Library of Congress’ trailblazing web archiving program and admitted that her team didn’t really know what researchers would do with these newly archived sources. Her observation captures one of the aspects of archival work that most stimulates me: acting on the instinct that something is important, that something matters so much that we should preserve it and trust that users will surprise us with creative and meaningful applications. The work conducted by Dr. Milligan, Dr. Jimmy Lin, and Jeremy Wiebe in analyzing and modelling metadata from an archive of political parties’ and interest groups’ web pages to illustrate changing trends in the Canadian political landscape provides an additional example of the potential of web archives. I left the Web Archives Conference inspired by the foresight, creativity, and sense of social purpose inhabiting the speakers and attendees.


Peer Advising Session for Winter 2016

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We’ll be hosting a peer advising session Wednesday, Nov. 11th at Noon in North Quad 1282.

Bring your lunch and chat with some of our officers about next semester’s course offerings and future course planning.

Can’t make it? Email contactsaa@umich.edu or find one of our officers hanging around North Quad! We are more than happy to chat!

WOWSAA with Kelly Kietur

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Join us for our WOWSAA (Words of Wisdom SAA) event on Thursday, November 5 at 5:30pm in 1255 NQ.

The Vice-Chair for the Student and New Professionals (SNAP) Roundtable for the Society of American Archivists, Kelly Kietur will be coming to chat about the pros/cons of national SAA membership, transition from being a student to a new professionals, and how to get the most out of your time being a student.

In addition Kelly has served as an editor for Librarian Wardrobe and works at a private archive in the Detroit metro area. To learn more about SNAP check out their mission statement.

Food and refreshments will be provided.


Barbara Haws Brown Bag

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On October 9, 2015, UM-SAA hosted Barbara Haws, Archivist and Historian of the New York Philharmonic, for a brown bag lunch in collaboration with Professor Paul Conway and the UM School of Music. Haws has accompanied the New York Philharmonic orchestra to Ann Arbor for their performances here during the month of October. During her talk, she discussed the ambitious digitization project which she and he colleagues have undertaken. The project’s goal is to digitize all materials within the Philharmonic’s archives, the first stage of which is now complete and available for access and research on their website (http://archives.nyphil.org).


Haws explained the process leading up the digitization, including deciding which materials to start with, incorporating existing metadata and databases, and acquiring funding. She emphasized the importance of identifying your archive’s goals and audience before processing with such a project, as well as the necessity of preserving context and relationships that exists within the physical collection. The approach they have taken at the New York Philharmonic archives has been a comprehensive one. Instead of deciding which materials are most valuable to their patrons, they decided to digitize everything. So far, that has included 1.3 million pages in three years. The first phase of the project digitized materials from 1943 to approximately 1970, as their patrons emphasized this was the least represented period of New York Philharmonic history that was important to make available first. The next phase of the project will be to digitize pre-1943 materials in the collection. Haws mentioned additional considerations, such as copyright and institutional restrictions, that need to be made in the future regarding incorporation audiovisual and born-digital materials into the digital archive.

View our storify of the event here! https://storify.com/mich_archives/barbara-haws-brown-bag

Upcoming Event: Preserve Your Sanity-Archives Month Edition

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It’s that time again for our PYS Event! Come celebrate American Archives Month with us at Grizzly Peak Brewing Company!

What: Happy hour hosted by yours truly!
When: Thursday, October 15, 4-6pm
Where: Grizzly Peak, 120 W Washington St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104


As always come when you can, even after class!

Upcoming Event: Barbara Haws Brown Bag

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Please bring your lunch and join us for a SAA Brown Bag!

Speaker: Barbara Haws, the New York Philharmonic Archivist/Historian

When:  12:00 pm on Friday, October 9

Where:  2255 NQ

Light refreshments will be provided.

Barbara Haws, the New York Philharmonic’s Archivist/Historian since 1984, has lectured extensively about the Orchestra’s past and curated major exhibitions at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (1992), London Barbican (2000), and Cologne Philharmonie (1998). In the fall of 2003 she mounted the largest multimedia exhibition on the Philharmonic’s history, which opened at the UBS Art Gallery and relocated to the Grand Promenade and Tiers of Avery Fisher Hall. She led the effort to digitize 1.3 million pages of archival material, funded by the Leon Levy Foundation and available online at archives.nyphil.org


Upcoming Event: Sarkisian Archives Blitz!

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We invite you to join us in an Archives Blitz for the Leo Sarkisian Archive on Saturday, October 3rd.

You might be wondering just what an archives blitz is… we want to gather a group of SI students together for a few hours and complete projects using our archival abilities that will give back to the community.
The Situation: The Leo Sarkisian Archive is on loan to the University of Michigan from the Voice of America (VoA) in Washington, DC. The archive is largely an extensive audio record of 40 years of the VoA radio program, Music Time in Africa. Leo Sarkisian created the radio program and served as the program director from 1965 to 2007. When the Leo Sarkisian Archive was transferred to the University of Michigan in January 2015, the collection was contained in 188 archives boxes of approximately 1.25 cubic feet each. The total number of recordings exceeds 7,500 items. The finding aid will also serve as an important part of a new Leo Sarkisian Collection established in the MLibrary Special Collections Department. The Archives Blitz is an opportunity to do bulk-level arrangement and description of a very important audiovisual collection and lay the groundwork for appropriate access to the collection in the months and years ahead.

The Task: Students who participate in the Archive Blitz will work in teams under the general direction of Associate Professor Paul Conway and the specific direction of one MSI student who is already familiar with the nature of the materials. The Blitz will involve creating archival series from the boxes, inspecting the contents of each box to confirm that the box relates to the appropriate series, rearranging materials as appropriate, labeling the boxes, and creating the raw material that will go into the finding aid.

Participants must attend a Pre-Blitz information session on Wednesday, September 23 from 5:30pm to 6:30pm in 2255 NQ. During this session we will provide an overview of the task, the location of the event, and other information that you will need to hit the ground running on Saturday. If you can’t make it to this session, email us for alternatives. Pre-blitz meetings have been cancelled.
The Archive Blitz will take place on Saturday, October 3 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. All of the work will take place at a MLibrary owned warehouse off campus. The address will be given to those who sign-up at a later date. There is free parking at the warehouse. Carpooling is a possibility. Pizza and drinks will be provided for lunch. We will follow the UM home football game on the radio. All students who participate will be recognized on the demo website for the Leo Sarkisian Archive.
Due to the size of the archive we have capped participation to the first 25 people who register. A wait-list will be created for those willing to jump in if a spot opens up. RSVP here by Sunday, September 20th at 11:59pm. 
If you can’t make it to this blitz don’t fret! There will be more opportunities in the future!