Posts Tagged ‘archaeology’

Library classification and collocation could be so much more exciting

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In her article “Eternal Bits,” Mackenzie Smith discusses the ephemeral nature of digital formats, explaining,

“In an era when the ability to read a document, watch a video, or run a simulation could depend on having a particular version of a program installed on a specific computer platform, the usable life span of a piece of digital content can be less than 10 years.”

So considering the rapid progression of format obsoletism, how do we follow NISO’s guidelines for good digital collections, specifically Collections Principle 7: A good collection is interoperable, and Collections Principle 9: A good collection is sustainable over time?  I think Collections Principle 3, active curation, is part of the solution, if that curation can include periodically migrating data to new, sustainable and widely accessible formats.

In her article, Smith offers the project DSpace as a means of tackling the preservation issue.  DSpace is an open source digital repository that “not only accepts digital materials and makes them available on the Web but also puts them into a data-management regime that helps to preserve them for generations to come.”  This data curation is the key to assuring preservation and accessibility.

Another interesting point Smith mentions is that there are certain legal obligations that require assurance that “certain records haven’t been altered by human hands or computer malfunction.”  Yet, in the case of scanning documents with optical character recognition software, I’ve seen words get garbled–letters L and I misread as 1 or !–and these digital documents practically require some manual editing for the sake of legibility.  I wonder how the law copes with these instances?

And now, a seque to an interesting story that popped up on Yahoo! today, about a Russian archaeologist who believes he has found Itil, the lost capital of the Khazars, a nation that disappeared over 1,000 years ago.  As of yet, archaeologists have found no Khazar writings or Jewish artifacts, so some still question whether this find is really Itil.  Stalin apparently had all mention of the Khazars removed from Russia’s history books as they did not fit with his concept of Russian history.  While there are Jewish, Armenian and Islamic writings about the people of Itil, from the Khazars themselves very few writings have been found.  I wonder what happened to the Khazars’ writings about Itil?  Did Stalin destroy them all?  Did the paper burn when the Russians sacked the city, or did it simply crumble over the centuries? 

Can our bold digital collections survive the test of time?

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I’ve been thinking about what kind of digital collection I can develop for my class this semester.  At first I thought I might try to develop a collection of story-time podcasts like the Denver Public Library–perhaps choose a theme and make recordings of myself reading several children’s stories within that theme.  But the Denver Library had to request permission from the publisher of each book they read and recorded to avoid copyright infringement.  So unless I only record stories that are in the public domain, I would have to do the same.  Who knows how long it would take to get permission for this project, so now I’m exploring other ideas.

Following a lead posted by a classmate, I’ve been looking over some guidelines from the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) in an effort to conceptualize this project.  I found these collections principles helpful.  Principle #3, continued curation, is an item the Peseus collection and the Internet Classics Archive need to work on.  Here’s an interesting diagram of the Digital Curation Centre’s Curation Lifecycle Model.

An interesting point from the NISO source is that while digital collections require some form of collections development policy to be well organized and useful, some collections, such as “institutional repositories that encourage users to deposit their own intellectual property” may require more flexibility in such policy.  Librarians and archivists sometimes face pressure to engage in mass digitization without careful attention to associating resources with their metadata in the process.  Yet in order to make digital collections useful, it is very important to ensure users can access a resource’s metadata regarding details of provenance, subject matter, medium, copyright information, etc.

The Cuneiform Digital Library is a facinating collection that includes metadata relating to provenance, among other details.  Although it is a collection based largely on format, the curators have organized the records so that researchers can search by provenance, language/region of origin, subject matter, etc.  I only wish the collection included some translations of the texts.

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Considering my appreciation for comics, cartoons and all things animated, of course I would be drawn to a blog about the world’s oldest animation.

Maybe the pictures came to life when the pot was spun on a pottery wheel?


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One of the articles I read last week (can’t remember which) made me wonder what will be left of today’s culture 1,000 years from now.  Will archaeologists dig for fragments of our history in ancient PC hard-drives?  As GUIs and applications evolve ever more quickly, how much personal data will be left behind in defunct, inaccessible formats, like home videos recorded on Beta tapes?  How long will webpages remain in existence after their creators have died?  Will someone find my first web-comic a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, like graffiti on a wall in Pompeii?  Or will bit-rot bury it forever?  Given a significant electromagnetic pulse to wipe out flash drives and hard-drives, how much of culture will be lost?  Anything not backed up on CD or DVD, I guess…

I was somewhat dissatisfied with my original headliner (The Spoken Word Fades, the Written Word Abides) from the beginning, since librarians work with so many media other than print media.  Of course, you could say music is “written” to a CD, software is “written” to a CD-ROM, etc.  Yet webpages are written, so to speak, but an accurately placed magnetic field will wipe out those written words and code, unless, again, everything is written to CD- or DVD-ROM.  Of course, paper books and the wax tablets of Alexandria cannot withstand fire any better than our hard-drives can withstand an EMP.  I guess what is written in some format or another stands a better chance of lasting longer, but no form of human expression is indestructable.  Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

In other news, reading about the variety of metadata schema available for encoding surrogate records is not my favorite thing ever.  AACR2, MARC, XML DTDs, EAD, MODS, METS, TEI, CQL…  It’s like trying to divine meaning in a bowl of alphabet soup.  I suspect this means I would not make an enthusiastic cataloger.  Nonetheless, after using all ten trial sessions available, I finally got 100% on my second quiz!  Wooo!

And now for something completely different, I really want this T-shirt:


I got these for Christmas from my cousins–now I just have to find a librarian’s bar to hang out in.  Do we have any of those in Tulsa?  Maybe we should found one…  Perhaps:

“Literary Libations”

“Dewey’s Dive”

“The Bar(code)” or “The Barchives”

Hmm…maybe we could set up next to the Dusty Bookworm…  How ’bout “The Tipsy Bookworm”?

We could serve half-price Cata-Lager during happy hour…

Maybe “Reference Renegades” for the LGBTQ Librarians…

Man, these are terrible…

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