Thursday, October 21, 2010

reflections on week 1

The first class met last Saturday, and it was really quite a day. It was great to meet my classmates and hear about their past experiences, and why they were so interested in working in digital archiving. We come from very diverse backgrounds, and I feel like that will help us come at any difficulties from a variety of approaches, which I always appreciate.

Getting started with the customized Dublin Core elements was...well, I felt that it was at times difficult and a bit frustrating. We began our work with it by examining items that had already been archived by Omeka software and subsequently presented in digital archives all over the internet. From the start, we could see how spotty a lot of coverage of certain types of information was, which I originally took to be an issue with those who had taken on the task of archiving the materials. However, immediately we stumbled over confusion in distinguishing the difference between "Contributor" and "Owner" of the content, which never ended up feeling fully resolved, although we spoke quite lengthily on the topic. Additionally, a lot of the materials we looked at seemed to be missing a lot of information, which always frustrates me, because I want everything.

However, as we began our own work, uploading some digital artifacts from September 11 victims (which was quite emotionally draining work, to be honest - I hadn't realized how taxing it might be), I found the same frustrations with the materials which my partner and I were charged with uploading and tagging. We had a difficult time determining, for instance, what Format and what Type to give resources (or what the exact difference we between the two lables); this became a class-wide discussion. We also had to skip some fields entirely, which as a perfectionist I hated to do, but it was impossible to tell, for instance, what year some of the pictures had been taken. We did the best we could, but I now have a much better understanding for why archive documentation coverage must be so spotty at times. You can't just make things up; you can work only with what you are given.

One other thing I had difficulty with was deciding which of the hundreds of photographs and other materials to select for upload to the site. Given the time and opportunity, I'd have wanted to post them all! Who is to know which photograph or souvenir is the one the family finds most important to the memory of their loved one? Who is to say there even should be one that is more important than the others?? All of the materials have deep meaning to those left behind, and of course you want to memorialize every last scrap for the benefit of those who have lost someone - and in respect for the memory of those they have lost.

All in all, from my first day's worth of experience with it, I can confidently say that archiving is a frustrating experience and precarious balancing act. However, I do feel it can also be rewarding, especially when we can help others honor the memories of those dear to them. This project, I feel, will be a combination of frustration and heartache tempered with enthusiasm and patience and perseverance, knowing the good that is ultimately being done. I feel that everyone in this class has a sincere respect for the ideal of archiving, and for the project which we are working on.

1 comment:

  1. I do like the idea of randomizing the “Featured exhibit” though I don’t want to call it that. There are plenty of more respectful terms to use. I also like the way the metadata is hidden on the NYPL site, so you can click to hide/display. I find the persistent display of the Metadata to be distracting and if the viewer has a personal connection to the subject it may feel impersonal. This is a memorial as well as an archive.

    On that note, we can only fill in the data we have and can reasonably assume. It would be dishonest to fill in where we are guessing. We had trouble because our subject’s fiancĂ© and sister looked similar and it was difficult to tell who was who. I can only hope that the family and friends will view the page and fill in the names and dates that we don’t have right now. The memories we preserve will have to be representative. Their stories will have to be told by the families and friends, themselves. The emotional component will be difficult for us right now, because we are working with the memories of people, living and grieving in our community, this is particularly tough. We can only show reminders for the community.