Sunday, December 14, 2014

Oakwood Cemetery, Troy, New York

18 October 2014
By the early 19th century, the small cemeteries and burial vaults that had been established within American cities during the colonial era were overcrowded -- some so much so that they offered only temporary storage for the dead -- and widely regarded as reservoirs of disease. The rural cemetery movement, which first arose in England and France and spread to the United States, was a response to this situation. In sharp contrast to the cramped, utilitarian, and typically sectarian burial plots that no longer met the needs of burgeoning urban populations, rural cemeteries were expansive, non-denominational, and attractively landscaped spaces that were meant to serve as permanent resting places. The were designed to give visitors a beautiful, tranquil space in which to mourn and to contemplate the fragility of human life. However, they quickly became de facto parks for city dwellers seeking a respite from crowding, pollution, and noise. Their design heavily influenced the design of New York's Central Park, Albany's Washington Park, and many other urban parks created in the second half of the 19th century.

18 October 2014
 The first rural cemetery was established in Boston in 1831, and other cities quickly moved to establish their own rural cemeteries. Albany, New York established its rural cemetery in 1844, and the nearby city of Troy established its rural cemetery, Oakwood Cemetery, in 1848. Oakwood is one of the largest cemeteries in the United States, and at present it contains approximately 60,000 graves.

As of late, I've been returning again and again to this vast, beautiful city of the dead.

13 December 2014
If you enter Oakwood via its main gate, you will quickly encounter the gorgeous Gardner Earl Chapel. Gardner Earl (1852-1887) was the only child of an extremely wealthy Troy couple and an ardent champion of cremation. There were no crematoria in the Troy area at the time of his death, and his parents transported his body to Buffalo in order to have it cremated. In the wake of this experience, the Earls hired noted Albany architect Albert Fuller and told him to spare no expense in designing a chapel and crematorium that would honor their son's memory. The Richardsonian Romanesque chapel's interior features, among other things, eight Tiffany stained glass windows, intricate marble mosaics, and hand-carved oak pews and exposed beams. The crematorium remains in operation today.

13 December 2014

If you walk onto the covered walkway that connects the chapel to its south tower, you'll have a commanding view of the Hudson River Valley. Oakwood is situated on an escarpment overlooking the valley, and as a result you can often see the valley and, in some places, the river itself as you explore the grounds.

18 October 2014
Oakwood, which appears wholly natural but was in fact carefully engineered, was designed by Philadelphia engineer John C. Sidney. He was assisted by Troy native Garnet Douglass Baltimore, the first African-American to graduate from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Oakwood was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

18 October 2014
Oakwood is the final resting place for many of Troy's most prominent citizens and families. Samuel Wilson (1766-1854), the meatpacker who supplied canned provisions to the U.S. government during the War of 1812 and in the process became the progenitor of a national symbol -- "Uncle Sam" -- is perhaps the most widely known of these individuals. Wilson's gravestone is actually quite small; the modern memorial depicted above was installed in 1931 by his granddaughter.

7 December 2014
Emma Willard (1787-1870), the pioneering educator who established the Troy Female Seminary (now the Emma Willard School) and insisted that girls could and should study mathematics, science, philosophy, and all of the other subjects then reserved for boys, is also buried here. Her son and daughter-in-law, who took over the school in 1838, are buried next to her.

18 October 2014
Nine Civil War generals are buried here. Joseph P. Carr (1828-1895) was born in Albany to Irish immigrants, began his military career as a colonel, and rose to the rank of major general. He distinguished himself at Gettysburg and Malvern Hill, played a key role in recruiting the Second New York Militia (also known as the Troy Regiment), and commanded a division of the U.S. Colored Troops. After the war, he was active in Republican politics and was thrice elected Secretary of State.

18 October 2014
Russell Sage (1816-1906) was a Whig politician, railroad company executive, and financier. After his death, his widow, Olivia Slocum Sage, established the Russell Sage Foundation, which supports social science research, and Russell Sage College, a women's college located in downtown Troy; the college's coeducational junior college and graduate programs are situated in Albany. She also supported other organizations that conducted social science research, safeguarded the public health, and advanced the education of women. Sage's mausoleum was purposely left unmarked.

18 October 2014
Troy was a booming industrial city at the time Oakwood was established, and its wealthiest inhabitants purchased family plots and purchased elaborate monuments. Some families of means favored memorials that featured exquisite sculpture. The mourner atop the gravestone of Ephraim and Sarah Waldron is a particularly beautiful example.

18 October 2014
Other wealthy families recognized that Oakwood served as both a place of mourning and commemoration and as a leisure destination for the area's inhabitants. The Schleicher family monument is one of several that feature benches encouraging visitors to sit down for a while and enjoy the surroundings.

13 December 2014
 Other affluent families built ornate mausoleums. Oakwood is home to twenty-four of them, most of which are Gothic Revival or neoclassical in style. The Tibbits Mausoleum, which houses the grave of Troy mayor and U.S. Representative George Tibbits (1763-1849) and other family members, is a superb example of the former.

18 October 2014
The Green family mausoleum, built in an Egyptian Revival style, is a fascinating exception. I can't tell whether it was built in the middle of the 19th century, when Egyptian-influenced design became popular in the United States for the first time, or sometime after the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb brought the style back into vogue. I'll need to do some research; fortunately, Oakwood's archives are largely intact.

11 November 2014
Oakwood is still an active cemetery, and its managers anticipate that it won't run out of room until some time in the 23rd century. For the most part, the headstones in the newer sections of the cemetery are smaller and simpler than many of the older markers. The striking modernist memorial marking the grave of Roy Whitwell is a noteworthy exception, and it has become one of my guideposts.

11 November 2014
Eight weeks ago, my mother and I had to select my father's final resting place. We chose Oakwood because of its beauty and because we both thought that Dad, history buff that he was, would find it an interesting place. Dad was also fascinated by the Hudson River, and I purposely chose a burial plot that features a view of the valley. I took the photograph above while standing at the head of his grave, which is about seventy-five feet to the west of the Whitwell memorial.

18 October 2014
Oakwood may be a city of the human dead, but it is teeming with life. Squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits abound, Canada geese have established themselves at the pond close to the cemetery's eastern entrance, and ducks swim in the cemetery's four other ponds. According to cemetery personnel, deer, woodchucks, foxes, muskrats, opossums, coyotes, skunks, porcupines, other mammals, and a wide array of birds also make their homes in Oakwood.

13 December 2014
 We experienced a Nor'easter earlier this week. Downtown Albany and the Troy neighborhood in which my mother lives got about six inches of snow, but the escarpment on which Oakwood sits got substantially more; my father's headstone is currently covered by a foot of snow. The heavy, wet snow brought down many tree branches and at least two whole trees. Oakwood's grounds crew is cleaning up the mess as quickly as it can.

As I walked and drove around yesterday afternoon and noted the storm damage, it struck me that the trees, many of which were planted long before any human currently alive was born, are also subject to the ravages of time. Every living thing is. And yet life itself continues (at least for now). New trees will gradually replace the old ones, the young squirrel I startled as I drove toward my father's grave will soon be followed by future generations of squirrels, and tiny new people keep being born.

This thought isn't particularly original, and it isn't new to me. The chaplain who led my father's memorial service devoted a substantial amount of time to it, and I couldn't help but notice that the hospital room in which my father received one horrible test result after another was a few floors directly above a birthing center. However, I suppose it helps to be reminded of it from time to time.

13 December 2014
 As I got closer to the downed limb, I was startled to discover that some of its branches were sitting atop one of my favorite monuments. Several generations of Ruoffs are buried in the surrounding family plot, and the family monument was obviously crafted by a skilled monumental mason and was deliberately left incomplete.

Death so often leaves all manner of unfinished work and loose ends in its wake. Oakwood is one of the few places in which this sad truth seems bearable.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

University at Albany, SUNY seeks a University Archivist

If you relish the thought of working with awesome people, doing a lot of hands-on electronic records work, and living in or around the capital of the Empire State, the University at Albany -- one of the four research universities within the State University of New York (SUNY) system -- you need to know that UAlbany is hiring a new University Archivist:
The University at Albany Libraries seek to hire a skilled, flexible, motivated and service-oriented librarian to develop an electronic records program, manage archival processing, and provide reference service in the Libraries’ University Archives. Working collaboratively with other members of the Department of Special Collections and Archives, and other campus faculty, staff, and students, the successful candidate will:  provide reference and research service for the University Archives to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the general public; supervise archival processing of the University Archives in paper and digital formats including arrangement, description, and preparation of EAD-encoded finding aids; plan, develop and implement an electronic records program for the University Archives; manage digital curation and preservation tasks including digital media inventorying, digital forensics, and applying metadata schema for access and preservation; develop ingest and web capture workflows for the acquisition of digital content; train and supervise student assistants and interns to assist in archival processing and digital projects; and contribute to efforts to expand access and use of special collections through exhibits, tours, and other forms of outreach. Tenure-track library faculty at the University at Albany, SUNY, are expected to engage in research, publication, and service to the Libraries, the University, and the profession, as required for promotion and continuing appointment.

Required qualifications
  • Master’s degree in librarianship from an ALA-accredited program or foreign equivalent, from a college or university accredited by a U.S. Department of Education or internationally recognized accrediting organization, with a concentration in archives administration or related coursework
  • Professional level experience in a special collections or archives environment
  • Experience processing, arranging and describing manuscript collections in both paper and digital formats following archival standards, including EAD, MARC and DACS
  • Experience providing reference and research service to students, faculty, staff, and the general public
  • Strong command of archival theory and best practices, especially as they relate to the particular issues posed by born digital content, computing operating systems, storage systems, and file formats
  • Knowledge of digital preservation principles, digital forensics techniques, and knowledge of digital standards such as PREMIS, OAIS, TDR, Dublin Core, METS, and MODS
  • Demonstrated ability to work collaboratively with colleagues and constituents in a diverse environment
  • Excellent organizational and time-management skills as well as excellent oral and written communication skills
  • All applicants must address in their cover letters their commitment to equal opportunity and affirmative action and their ability to work with a culturally diverse population.
Preferred qualifications
  • Master's degree in history or related field
  • Knowledge of the history of the University at Albany
  • Supervisory experience
The successful candidate will be hired as an Assistant Librarian or as a Senior Assistant Librarian; rank will be determined by the candidate's qualifications. Although the job posting doesn't contain any detailed salary information, SUNY faculty are covered by a collective bargaining agreement and the salary ranges for librarian positions are publicly accessible. As of 1 July 2014, the salary range for Assistant Librarians is $40,137-$74,709 and the salary range for Senior Assistant Librarians is $46,003-$91,926. There is at least some room for negotiation within these ranges. 

Summary information about benefits is also readily accessible (FYI, "UUP" refers to United University Professions, the union that represents SUNY faculty).

The closing date for applications is 5 January 2015, and the successful candidate should expect to begin working in April 2015. For more information and detailed application instructions, consult the position description.

Full disclosure: I worked as a student assistant in UAlbany's Department of Special Collections and Archives several lifetimes ago. If you take this job, you'll probably oversee students charged with revising or expanding some of my very bad early finding aids.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

SAA 2014: preserving and making accessible HIV/AIDS history

I'm back home and feeling a lot better than I did last week, but I'm still in the process of settling in at home, getting back up to speed at work, and tending to some family matters. As a result, I'm going to post about this year's joint meeting of the Council of State Archivists, the National Association of Government Archivists and Records Administrators, and the Society of American Archivists as my schedule permits. Archivy is a relay, not a sprint, and it's more important to pass the baton correctly than to hand it off quickly. (That having been said, I was really under the weather last week and my notes and recollections are a little jumbled. Apologies in advance for any omissions or inaccuracies.)

Last Friday morning, I was planning to attend session 410, "Beyond the Floppy Disk: Rescuing Electronic Records from Complex Systems," but the room was stuffed to capacity by the time I arrived. I could have slipped into session 401, "Digital Forensics," but I didn't think I had the presence of mind needed for particular topic. I instead ducked into session 407, "Documenting the Epidemic: Preserving and Making Accessible HIV/AIDS History." I've long had a personal and professional interest in this topic, the compelling (and unabashedly partial) How to Survive a Plague rekindled it, and I'm glad that I had the opportunity to sit in on this session.

Robin Chandler (University of California, Santa Cruz) capably led this session, which took the form of a panel discussion in which participants furnished overviews of their institutions' holdings, identified gaps in documentation, and broadly applicable lessons (e.g., the value of collaboration) they learned as they sought to document the history of HIV/AIDS.

Vicky Harden (retired, National Institutes of Health Office of History) discussed the oral history interviews she conducted with National Institutes of Health personnel who were involved in HIV/AIDS research and her involvement in the American Association for the History of Medicine's AIDS History Group. She noted that, owing to budget cuts and other factors, the U.S. Centers for Disease, which played a pivotal role in tracking the emergence and spread of HIV infection and AIDS in the United States, has not sought to gather archival materials or conduct oral history interviews documenting its HIV/AIDS work.

Polina Ilieva (University of California, San Francisco) discussed the development of the AIDS History Project, which from its outset in 1987 sought to document the crisis in all of its facets and from all perspectives. Its collections include materials created by community-based organizations, clinical and research units, and individual activists, clinicians, researchers, social scientists, science journalists, and people with AIDS. In addition, the project captures content found on relevant websites. Ilieva stressed that, owing to the speed with which community organizations are created, merge, alter course, and cease operations, archivists seeking to document HIV/AIDS must establish and sustain ongoing relationships with creators/donors; she hopes to close some of the gaps in her repository's holdings by tracking some of these shifts in the organizational landscape. In addition, she indicated that we need more oral history interviews with (presumably non-activist) people who are HIV positive or have AIDS.

Ginny Roth (National Library of Medicine, Prints and Photographs Collection) indicated that her repository's holdings, which span four decades, include posters and other ephemera relating to safe sex, myths about HIV transmission, human rights, and other matters. These materials target multiple audiences (e.g., gay men, intravenous drug users) and are in multiple languages. However, the collection does not include photographs documenting past or current activism.

Michael Oliviera (ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives) stated that his institution has a wide array of materials relating to HIV/AIDS, among them: periodicals, records documenting the first theatrical production relating to AIDS, the International Gay and Lesbian Archives' AIDS History Project collection (over 200 cu. ft.), and the organizational records of ACT UP Los Angeles and Treatment Action Group. ONE holds few oral histories and collections documenting the experiences of people of color.

Jason Baumann (New York Public Library, or NYPL) focused on his repository's recent exhibit, Why We Fight: Remembering AIDS Activism, which consisted almost exclusively of materials drawn from its extensive holdings of the organizational records of activist organizations and the personal papers of activists, artists, political leaders, and other individuals. The exhibit exposed significant tensions between those seeking to understand and interpret the history of HIV/AIDS and some of those focused on the suffering and death the disease still causes. ACT UP protested its opening on the grounds that it gave people the impression that HIV/AIDS was a thing of the past, and two young Canadian activists incorporated reproductions of two posters featured in the exhibit into a new poster entitled "Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me" -- much to the dismay of the creators of the original posters.

NYPL dealt with the uproar by, among other things, co-hosting a symposium that brought together the creators of the original posters and the creators of "Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me." Although he didn't explicitly identify this experience as a lesson learned, I can't help but think that it is. Archivists (myself included) tend to be introverted, mindful of their subordinate position within institutional power structures, and unnerved by the prospect of controversy. However, we sometimes need to treat controversy as an opportunity to engage, learn, and enable others to do the same. If we can't acknowledge the existence of difference or probe the status and power differentials that give rise to archival silences, we can't document society equitably and comprehensively.

Baumann did identify as a lesson learned something I found a bit surprising: NYPL's customary donors were not willing to fund the processing of collections relating to HIV/AIDS activism and the activist groups themselves were focused on treatment, human rights, and other pressing concerns, but NYPL found that corporations were quite willing to do so.

The panelists wrapped up the session by discussing the possibility of jointly developing and administering a survey that would identify all of the archival collections that in some way documented HIV/AIDS in the United States. They agreed that this would be a mammoth undertaking, but it seems that serious discussions are underway. I for one would like to see this project get off the ground.

Image: shadow cast by Alexander Calder's "Red Polygons" (c. 1950), Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, 16 August 2014.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

SAA 2014: integrating history

 One of the advantages of paying my own way to SAA is that I don't have any reservations about attending at least one session that interests me but doesn't have anything to do with my work responsibilities. Yesterday morning, I passed up two interesting-seeming electronic records sessions and sat in on session 309, "Integrating History: A Search-and-Recovery Effort in Alabama Archives." I'm glad I did: of all the sessions I attended this year, this one was my favorite. (N.B.: I was really ill on Friday, so what follows might be a bit hazy.)

Two of the archivists who participated in this session are employed by repositories that have traditionally reflected the experiences of white Alabamians, and two work at historically black universities. All of them spoke with passion and nuance about the challenges of comprehensively documenting their communities and institutions, and in the process discussed a host of things familiar to archivists working in a variety of settings:
  • The ugly way in which an ever-growing processing backlog reduces institutional visibility and makes it ever harder to obtain the resources needed to tackle the backlog.
  • How differences in power and perspective fuel tensions between small, resource-starved archives and large, well-funded collecting repositories.
  • The importance of and hard work involved in winning the trust of donors, particularly those whose experiences have in the past been under-documented.
  • How efforts to document previously under-represented groups may force one to confront the unsavory past of one's own community, one's own uneasy relationship with that past, and anger and fear in those who have a vested interest in maintaining certain archival and broader societal silences. 
  • The importance of intimately knowing one's own collections and working collaboratively with repositories that hold related materials. 
Rebekah Davis (Limestone County Archives) discussed the importance of collecting materials that not only documented the history of the county's black community (e.g., programs distributed at community members' funerals) but also what that community had to live with (e.g., color photographic prints of a Ku Klux Klan rally that took place in the 1970s). Quoting fellow presenter Susannah Leverman, she emphasized that even though she and her colleagues at times felt deeply uncomfortable about accessioning and furnishing access to some of the materials in the latter category, "to pretend things didn't happen is to take away the victory of those who overcame it." Davis also stressed the importance of making sure that older white volunteers who expressed distaste when they encountered collections documenting the county's African-Americans understood that they could privately believe whatever they wished but needed to understand that bigoted statements reflected poorly upon the archives and to keep their opinions to themselves while working there.

Susannah Leverman (Huntsville-Madison County Public Library) highlighted her institution's efforts to build relationships with her community's African-American inhabitants. Although the library has collected materials documenting African-American art and education, segregated city directories, church histories, portraits, information about black-owned businesses, and other aspects of African-American life, Leverman was convinced that the documentary record was incomplete. She began going to black churches and civic meetings, hosted a traveling exhibit relating to Lincoln, created a public history exhibit commemorating 50 years of school integration and a related sub-exhibit concerning the Ku Klux Klan, developed a phenomenally popular exhibit relating to African-American sports history, and tries to ensure that other exhibits accurately reflect the community's diversity. The library also hosts talks focusing on Huntsville's black business district and other topics and posts recordings of them to YouTube. She described her approach thusly: "we need to provoke people into thinking instead of forcing them to remember or memorize." It seems to have paid off: the library has recently acquired collections documenting civil rights activism and a substantial collection of African-American sheet music.

Veronica Henderson (Alabama A&M University), who is relatively new in her position, discussed her efforts to tackle a decades-long processing backlog, create finding aids, sharpen collecting efforts, and sort out some custodial issues. The Alabama state legislature established the State Black Archives and Research Center in 1989 and charged it with acquiring, preserving, and providing access to materials documenting the state's African-American history. Henderson determined that the collection included some materials that didn't relate specifically to the history of black Alabamians, and she has sought to refocus the collecting scope. She's also trying to smooth relations with alumni of a defunct black high school who are questioning why the university archives has some of their memorabilia; the university doesn't have a deed of gift, but it did have a longstanding and close relationship with the school's administrators. Fortunately, at least some of the alumni are satisfied with digital reproductions.

Dana R. Chandler (Tuskegee University) also discussed his university's efforts to tackle a large processing backlog and to identify and recover items that have gone missing. He also recounted his repository's efforts to right an old wrong: in 1943, the Library of Congress (LC) took possession, with the university's consent, of a body of materials that it called the Booker T. Washington Collection but which were actually the early organizational records of Tuskegee University. Chandler found that the agreement that enabled LC to take custody of these records specified that the university would receive a microfilm copy of them. However, LC filmed the records only after Chandler pushed it to do so and maintained afterward that it retained the copyright. and I've held them to this; LC had to spend approximately $69,000 to microfilm the records. LC tried to maintain that it held the copyright, but Chandler's position is that these "papers" are in fact the records of a public university.

Chandler then profiled two phenomenal collections that came to light when Tuskegee addressed its processing backlog:
  • Records of the Southern Courier, 1965-1968. The Southern Courier was a civil rights newspaper run by Harvard Crimson volunteers. It was unprocessed for years, and Chandler and his colleagues discovered that it contained detailed accounts of the dangers and difficulties that staff faced, including mad dogs, beatings, and death threats. They also found evidence of young black and white people working together toward a common goal -- a story not commonly associated with Alabama. 
  • George Washington Carver Notebooks. Scholarly biographies of Carver published to date conclude that he did not make any significant scientific discoveries. However, Tuskegee has six notebooks containing Carver's scientific notes, drawings, and observations, and Carver's work must be reassessed in light of these manuscripts. 
I was particularly heartened to learn that the longstanding informal collaboration between the presenters and other Alabama archivists seeking to ensure that the state's documentary record is equitable and balanced may give rise to a multi-institution Web portal centered on archival materials documenting the lives of black Alabamians. Alabama archivists have a long track record of working together and accomplishing amazing things with modest resources, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this proposed portal is a rousing success.

Image: anemone buds peek out from behind a bench on the grounds of Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC, 16 August 2014. Anemones symbolize, among other things, anticipation.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

SAA 2014: agency, ethics, and information

The joint annual meeting of the Council of State Archivists, the National Association of Government Archivists and Records Administrators, and the Society of American Archivists got underway this morning. Approximately 2,300 archivists, records managers, and allied professionals have swarmed the sprawling behemoth that is Washington, DC's Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, and the weather is unseasonably, gloriously cool.

Unfortunately, I'm a little under the weather at the moment. I spent part of the day in bed and wasn't particularly present at those events that I did attend. As a result, I'm a little hesitant about offering up the following sprawling recap of session 201, A Trickle Becomes a Flood: Agency, Ethics, and Information, which examined issues relating to secrecy, power, ethics, and regulation of communications systems in light of the recent disclosures of classified information by WikiLeaks, Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, and Edward Snowden, and the prosecution and suicide of activist Aaron Swartz. However, it was a thought-provoking session.

Hillel Arnold (Rockefeller Archive Center) opened by noting that we are surrounded by communications systems that are largely invisible and that the regulations surrounding those systems are even harder to discern. Archivists are generally pretty good at understanding the invisible: we know that organizational structures profoundly influence the creation and content of records, we realize that the historical record reflects the privileging of some people and the silencing or dismissal of others, and we're sensitive to the evidential as well as the informational value of records. In the digital era, however, regulation determines what's left for us to work with, and not understanding it means not being able to account for silences or furnish essential contextual information.

Regulation is premised upon the idea that the common good justifies some limits on liberty; however, some powerful actors may be able to use regulation to stifle competition, discipline labor, or otherwise act in ways that do not benefit society. It can take a variety of forms. External regulation may be engendered in legislation, policy, or technology (e.g., bandwidth throttling), and self-regulation may manifest itself in social norms or in user expectations. Arnold explored how characteristics of communication systems serve as markers of power. Archivists examining the role of these systems in shaping the archival record must be attuned to the following:
  • Flow. Analysis of flow involves assessment of direction (one-way, two-way, multi-direction), volume, and speed with which information travels through a system. Broadcast radio is an illustrative example of the role of regulation in shaping flow. Radio was from the outset seen as a powerful medium, and the Radio Act of 1927 controlled flow via licensing, wattage limitations, and establishment of the entity that subsequently became the Federal Communications Commission. 
  •  Structure. Analysis of structure involves examination of distribution mechanisms (hierarchical or geographically and/or technologically distributed) and standards (structure, content, and protocol). The United States Postal Service highlights the role of structure in shaping a communications system. Lower rate schedules for publications have long facilitated the wide distribution of newspapers and longstanding standards of privacy for personal correspondence have governed user expectations. At the same time, Postal Service regulations prohibit mailing firearms, explosives, and certain other materials, and the Comstock laws for decades barred mailing of materials deemed pornographic. 
  • Commodity. Analysis of commodity centers upon identifying the thing(s) of value. Archivists are used to focusing on information, but we need to understand that the network itself or the relationships between users of a communications system (e.g., Facebook friends) may also have value. The landline telephone system exemplifies the role of commodity in shaping a system: “Ma Bell” levied service fees and sought, with remarkable success, to create and maintain a natural monopoly. 
Elena Danielson (formerly with the Hoover Archives) focused on issues surrounding secrecy and transparency and opened with a stunning piece of information: according to the 2013 annual report of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration's Information Security Oversight Office, in fiscal year 2013 it cost the nation $11.6 billion to safeguard its classified information and to declassify information that no longer needed to be kept secret.

Danielson then articulated a point of view that, for what it's worth, I find eminently sensible: information wants to be free, but some secrets really need to be kept and the manner in which information is disclosed can lead to violence or even war. For example, in 1870 Otto von Bismarck successfully goaded the French into going to war by selectively editing and releasing an account of a conversation between King Wilhelm of Prussia and the French ambassador to Prussia. In 1917, the British released the Zimmerman telegram, in which the German government invited Mexico to enter into an alliance in the event that the American government entered the First World War on Britain's side, in an effort to draw the United States into the conflict.

In light of the the recent leaks of classified information by Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden, Danielson articulated a set of questions that may help archivists and others seeking to assess the origins and impact of such disclosures:
  • Was the information scrutinized before release? 
  • Was the information released with the public good in mind, or was it done for some sort of gain – money, ego gratification, fame, political advantage? 
  • Is the person who released the information willing to face the consequences? 

Noting that the digital era has placed us on an earthquake fault regarding secrecy, Danielson also detailed several other questions that we need to address:
  • If governments want to regulate the flow of information, what happens when the government leaks its own information? 
  • If information libertarians are committed to openness, why are they encrypting their own information? Why is secrecy okay for journalists and activists but not corporations or governments? 
  • Does the Nuremberg Principle – the belief that the public good trumps the law – still hold? 
Ed Summers (Library of Congress), whose presentation is available online, explored a recent controversy – the much-maligned 2012 mood manipulation study conducted by Facebook and Cornell University – and the manner in which it illuminates how power shapes the archival record.

Summers highlighted something that I didn't know: one of the Cornell scholars involved in the Facebook study was previously involved in a research project funded by U.S. Department of Defense's Minerva Initiative, which funds social science research “areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security policy.” One of his colleagues is currently receiving Minerva Initiative funding to examine social media posts and conversations around the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey and to identify individuals who were moved to act in response to these crises and when they took action.

Noting that the outrage that greeted disclosure of the Facebook mood manipulation study was propelled in part by broader concerns about the way that corporations and government entities such as the National Security Agency collect and use personal and behavioral data, Summers asserted that we need more regulations that limit the types of data that are collected and the length of its retention. In addition, corporations need to establish ethics boards that will openly discuss with users and scholars their data use and management practices. The negotiations that archivists have long had with donors are a good model for this sort of discussion. If, for example, a donor downloads a copy of his or her Facebook data and proposes giving it to an archives, the archivist and donor will work together to identify who can access it and when it can be accessed. The donor should be able to have a similar conversation with Facebook itself, and archivists are particularly well-suited to help facilitate these discussions.

Lots to think about here. However, I can't help but wonder whether we're fighting a losing battle. National security agencies and corporations have rarely paid attention to what archivists have to say about anything, and I suspect that things are going to get worse, not better. I could be wrong, and I hope I am; after all, events that took place forty years ago prompted dramatic changes in the laws governing the records of U.S. presidents. Even if I'm not, I don't think we should simply allow ourselves to be pushed aside quietly. It's better to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees.

Image: Hibiscus blossom, Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington, DC, 14 August 2014.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


If you know what the above means, feel free to skip this post. If you don't, here's an explanation:
This afternoon, I attended the first half of a two-part CoSA workshop focusing on the new portal, which was developed by the SERI Best Practices and Tools Subcommittee. I've been aware of its development -- I'm a member of the SERI Education Subcommitee, which has developed some content for it --but I haven't had the chance to check it out until today. It's still something of a beta build and will be expanded considerably in the coming months, but it already contains a wealth of information:
  • Information about CoSA's electronic records webinars, including a schedule of upcoming sessions and links to recordings and slides from past webinars. 
  • Handouts and slides prepared by instructors of the July 2013 SERI Introductory Electronic Records Institute: Mike Wash (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration), Doug Robinson (National Association of State Chief Information Officers), Pat Franks (San Jose State University), and Cal Lee (University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill).
  • How-to guides and short videos that explain how to complete various processes or use specific tools. Areas covered: file authentication and integrity processes, detection of duplicate files, file format conversions, identifying file properties, renaming files, and ingest/accessioning processes.
  • Links to electronic records training opportunities offered by other organizations.
  • Information about the State Electronic Records Program Framework, which is based upon the Digital Preservation Capability Maturity Model and enables state archives (and anyone else interested in doing so) to assess their preservation infrastructure and identify areas for improvement. If you're employed by a state archives and took the SERI self-assessment, you'll be particularly interested in the portal's discussion of the tangible steps needed to advance from Level 0 to Level 4 within each of the framework's 15 components and in its practical tips for completing the self-assessment the next time it's offered.
  • An ever-expanding and keyword searchable database of summary information about and links to resources relating to virtually every aspect of electronic records management and preservation. If you create a free PERTTS portal account, you'll be able to comment upon these resources; if you would prefer not to create an account, you'll still be able to access them. CoSA will also develop a simple form that will enable you to suggest resources that should be added to the portal.
  • An electronic records glossary that draws from a wide array of sources.
  • Brief case studies and examples of real-world implementations of metadata standards, security protocols, Archival Information Package construction, and other facets of electronic records work.
This is a great resource, and I think it's going to expand and evolve in some really interesting ways. Check it out.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

“He’s one of those people that never seems to have enough money"

Last month, Samuel Loring Morison, a part-time researcher employed by the Naval Historical Foundation, was charged with stealing and attempting to sell papers created by his grandfather, Samuel Eliot Morison, who was a rear admiral in the United States Navy and a distinguished historian. I've held off on posting about this in part because my life has been a bit chaotic as of late and in part because I've been hoping that the federal criminal complaint against Morison would be unsealed. However, the complaint has remained sealed, and I don't want this story to get lost in the shuffle.

The following ought to be of interest to any security-minded archivist:
  • This isn't Morison's first brush with the law: in the mid-1980s, he gave three classified spy satellite photographs to a British magazine and was subsequently convicted of violating the Espionage Act. He was pardoned by President Bill Clinton in 2001, but by that time his career was in tatters.
  • Relatives indicate that Samuel Loring Morison "revered his grandfather" but also has some longstanding shortcomings of character. One cousin told the Washington Post that "I just think he’s always had a slight bent toward doing things that are not quite on the level . . . . He’s one of those people that never seems to have enough money.”
In thinking about this sad episode, I can't help but reflect upon the importance of creating an appropriate operational environment. The Washington Post and other papers that covered Morison's arrest cited a 2011 Office of the Naval Inspector General audit of the Navy History and Heritage Command, which operates the archival facility that holds the papers of Samuel Eliot Morison. The audit report highlighted numerous deficiencies, among them insufficient environmental controls, woefully inadequate resources, and "the disenfranchisement of the professional historian, curator, archivist and librarian workforce due to their marginalization in decision processes and lack of advancement opportunity." The report also emphasized that the individual then serving as the command's security officer lacked the background and security clearances needed in order to perform the job properly, that the security officer had minimal interaction with archivists caring for classified records, and that additional security personnel were needed. The Navy History and Heritage Command says that it has recently upgraded its security protocols and hired additional staff, but Samuel Morison began doing research at the Navy Archives in January 2010 -- and apparently smuggled 34 boxes of material out of the facility.

I am by no means blaming front-line staff -- one of whom noticed that some Samuel Eliot Morison materials were missing and set in motion the investigation that ultimately led to the arrest of Samuel Loring Morrison -- for what happened. Morison, who has evidently signed a statement admitting his misdeeds, is responsible for his own actions.  However, the command-level officials who allowed the Navy Archives to fall into such a state made it easy for Morison to succumb to temptation. If you fail to staff a facility adequately, go out of your way to discourage and demoralize the few people you do have on your payroll, and treat your security program as an afterthought, you might as well hang a big "TAKE OUR STUFF!" sign over the front door.

As noted above, the criminal complaint against Samuel Loring Morison remains sealed as of this date. However, the document outlining the conditions of his pretrial release is publicly accessible, and you'll find it below. You'll be pleased to note that two of the conditions are: "no access to any library or archives without prior approval of [the U.S. Office of Probation and Pretrial Services]" and "no offer for sale or sale of any personal property, including papers."

Friday, June 6, 2014

The New York State Inebriate Asylum building

I have an abiding interest in the history of mental health care. In the mid-1990s, when I was a Ph.D. student in history, I took a short-term research consultancy at the New York State Archives, which was just starting a grant-funded documentation project focusing on mental health, the environmental movement, and the Latino communities of New York State. The State Archives needed someone who could quickly pull together a summary overview of the history mental health treatment and policy in New York State, and I needed a summer job.

The experience changed my life. Over the course of eleven weeks, I researched and wrote an eighty-page report and decided that I really didn't want to write a dissertation that examined the role of male activists in the British women's suffrage movement. I wanted instead to examine the working lives and work culture of the men and women who staffed the wards of the mammoth, custodially oriented institutions that dominated the provision of mental health care from the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries -- a topic that brought together the history of labor, medicine, gender relations, and public policy in all manner of interesting ways. At the same time, I also started thinking that, dissertation or not, I would be much happier working in an archives than in an academic institution.

For a variety of reasons, I left graduate school a few years after I became an archivist. However, my interest in the history of mental health care remains very much intact. Since my research focused specifically on New York State, my interest has an architectural dimension: five psychiatric facilities in the United States have been designated National Historic Landmarks, and four of them are located in the Empire State. Whenever I get the chance to visit one of these landmarks, I do so.

Yesterday, I was in the Binghamton, New York area to attend an Appraisal of Electronic Records workshop offered by the Society of American Archivists -- which I highly recommend. After the workshop ended, I headed to the eastern edge of the city of Binghamton to visit the campus of what is now the Greater Binghamton Health Center to photograph the structure that housed the New York State Inebriate Asylum, the first facility in the United States that treated alcoholism as a disease.

The asylum, which was built between 1857-1866, was designed by Issac G. Perry, who ultimately became the lead architect of the New York State Capitol. Even though the crennellated turrets that once graced its roof were removed in 1954 in a desperate attempt to stop persistent roof leaks, it remains a Gothic Revival masterpiece . . . .

N.Y. Binghamton State Hospital, 1890-1910?. Series A3045, New York State Education Department, Division of Visual Instruction, Instructional Lantern Slides, [ca. 1856-1939], bulk 1911-1939, NYSA_A3045-78_D47_BiH, New York State Archives, Albany, N.Y.

. . . but, oh, how one wishes that the turrets had survived.

The inebriate asylum's treatment methods were unsuccessful, and in 1879 Governor Lucious Robinson asserted that the state's approach to the treatment of alcoholism was a failure. The inebriate asylum became the Binghamton Asylum for the Chronic Insane -- a custodial facility meant to house people who did not respond to the therapeutically-oriented care offered at the state's facility in Utica. Given that Issac Perry, who oversaw the retrofitting of the facility, had based his original design for the inebriate asylum upon the "Kirkbride model" of insane asylum construction, which emphasized the role of formally symmetrical architecture in restoring order to disordered minds, I suspect that the transition from "inebriate asylum" to "insane asylum" was a rather easy one.

The Binghamton Asylum for the Chronic Insane became the Binghamton State Hospital in 1890 and the Binghamton Psychiatric Center in 1977. In the final third of the 20th century, the state constructed a modern facility immediately to the west of the old Inebriate Asylum building, and only a few administrative offices remained within the older building's central transept.

For much of its history, the Inebriate Asylum building was actually t-shaped. The main building survives, but the "service" wing that housed kitchens, laundries, and other essential facilities was torn down at some point in the late 20th century; a parking lot now occupies the space where this wing once stood. However, two small brick structures, one attached to each wing of the main building, have survived. I'm not certain what these structures were used for, but I suspect that they housed activity rooms. As you can see, the materials used to construct the rear facade of the main building were not as fine as those used on its front: monochromatic Syracuse limestone covers the front facade, which for decades was readily visible from downtown Binghamton, but locally quarried stone was used for the rear facade. (Note also the wholly enclosed fire escape.)

Even today, traces of the building's former grandeur remain. For example, a stained glass window still graces the chapel that formerly occupied the third floor of the central transept. A.D. Wheeler, who received permission to enter the structure and photograph its interior, discovered that some of its intricately detailed woodwork, light fixtures, and stained glass has survived.

Wheeler's work also documents the building's interior decay, but one need not go inside in order to see that this structure is in peril. In 1993, a section of the parapet above the front entrance to the south transept collapsed. The few remaining offices within the structure were hastily relocated, and the building has been completely vacant ever since. The state stabilized the facade with concrete and removed the south transept stairs for safekeeping, but it's plain that even the repairs are starting to crumble.

The Inebriate Asylum building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997, a fact that is reflected in signs that dot the Greater Binghamton Health Center campus. However, in the late 1990s the State of New York attempted to sell the property on which the building stands -- without making any reference to the fact that a landmarked building stood on it. In 1999, the National Trust for Historic Preservation responded to the state's move by placing the Inebriate Asylum building (and psychiatric facilities in Buffalo, Poughkeepsie, and Utica) on its annual list of the nation's most endangered historic sites.

The State of New York still owns this building and the land on which it stands. Binghamton has fallen on hard times, and there's no shortage of available property in the area. A couple of years ago, it even seemed that the building would be given new life: a determined area legislator and the president of the SUNY Upstate Medical University, which is based in Syracuse but was looking to expand in Binghamton, announced that the Inebriate Asylum building would be completely renovated and turned into a medical education center. Unfortunately, scandal led the president of SUNY Upstate to tender his resignation last November, and its seems that SUNY Upstate's plans for the Inebriate Asylum building have been put on hold. In the meantime, the building quietly continues decaying.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Perverting the historical record

Archives and museum security experts frequently emphasize that the motivations of thieves are varied. Some seek revenge against institutions that, in their view, have done them wrong. Some are convinced that they're rescuing records or artifacts from repositories that aren't providing proper care. Some have a covetous love of history. Some view theft as an easy way to make money. Some do it for the sheer thrill of it. And, of course, some are driven by multiple compulsions.

Case in point: John Mark Tillman, a Nova Scotian who devoted at least fifteen years of his life to stealing manuscripts, paintings, and objects from cultural heritage institutions and antique dealers in Atlantic Canada and, briefly, Russia. His criminal career came to a halt in July 2012, when a police officer who pulled over Tillman's car discovered that Tillman had a 1758 letter written by General James Wolfe and a check for $1500 in his possession. At roughly the same time the authorities determined that the letter had been stolen from Dalhousie University's Killam Library, Tillman's girlfriend accused him of assaulting her and holding her against her will and told the police that, by his own admission, his house was full of stolen materials. A search of Tillman's Halifax-area home yielded 7,000 items that had likely been purloined.

In September 2013, Tillman was sentenced to nine years in prison. He received leniency because he promised that he would help the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) return the items he stole to their rightful owners, and he has been talking. A lot. He's talked about his desire to be connected to historically significant people and events, about the thrill of thievery, about using his now-deceased mother and former girlfriends as knowing decoys, about his aversion to anything resembling a regular job, and about the luxurious lifestyle made possible by his thefts.

He's also told the RMCP officers assigned to his case about how he stole the Wolfe letter. Tillman befriended the former chief archivist of Dalhousie University (which tightened its security procedures in advance of Tillman's capture) and in 1998 surreptitiously obtained and then duplicated the key that secured the archives vault. Tillman and his then-girlfriend, a Russian woman known only as Katya, entered the library, hid out in a restroom until after the nighttime security guard left the building, and then accessed the vault. They found the Wolfe letter and a letter penned by George Washington, and, in Tillman's words, they "became so exuberant" that they, um, celebrated "right in the middle of all these papers and stuff strewn around."

Two thoughts:
  • Dalhousie University colleagues, you have my deepest sympathies. Discovering that a thief has raided one's collections is always painful, and discovering that the thief has violated all kinds of other boundaries must be horrifying and infuriating.
  • If you're ever tempted to make a special accommodation for a friendly and frequent researcher, leave your desk without taking your keys with you, or rush out without checking the restrooms and storage closets before locking up for the night, just remember that there are other John Mark Tillmans out there.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Greetings . . . and groans

In late February, I moved my parents from their condominium in northeastern Ohio to a retirement community in Troy, New York. The experience was intense, chaotic, and at times deeply surreal and hilarious, and it dragged on far longer than anyone thought possible. I made the common mistake of thinking that life would settle down relatively quickly after my parents arrived in Troy, and of course it didn't. My dad and I are still unpacking the last of the boxes, and we're still in the throes of trying to find new doctors, a new lawyer, and all kinds of other new things.

To make a long story short, between getting my parents settled in and getting back up to speed at work after taking repeated leaves of absence, I just haven't had time to deal with this blog or a lot of other things that are important to me. Fortunately, my parents are now feeling comfortable in their new homes and I'm feeling comfortable about stepping away a bit and getting my own life back into some semblance of order.

It's good to be back. For now, however, I'm going to pass on this horrifying tidbit and call it a day. By now, I'm sure most of you have heard of V. Stiviano, the young woman whose audio recording of the racist rantings of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling recently led to Sterling's lifetime National Basketball Association ban. The news media first reported that Stiviano was Sterling's mistress and some accounts now suggest that she may have been trying to extort him, but Stiviano -- whose educational achievements are apparently rather modest -- insists that she was recording him in her capacity as his "archivist." People, we clearly need to do a better job of letting the world know what archivists do or how one becomes an archivist.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

E-records job: Brigham Young University

If you have the theoretical knowledge and real-world experience needed to work with both paper and digital materials, possess a solid grasp of the history of Utah, the Mountain West, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, relish the challenge of pursuing tenure, are comfortable working in a faith-based environment that has unequivocal expectations regarding student and faculty conduct, and live or would like to live in the Utah Valley, Brigham Young University is seeking to hire a Curator of 21st Century Mormon and Western Manuscripts:
Brigham Young University (BYU), a privately owned and operated university of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located in Provo, Utah, invites application for the position of Curator of 21st Century Mormon and Western Manuscripts. This is a continuing faculty status track (BYU equivalent of tenure) position. BYU, an equal opportunity employer, requires all faculty to observe the university's honor code and dress and grooming standards. Preference is given to qualified candidates who are members in good standing of the affiliated church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Harold B. Lee Library, an ARL Library, serves nearly 33,000 students as well as 2,000 full- and part-time faculty. The library employs 66 faculty, 101 FTE staff and professionals, and approximately 200 FTE students. An average of 10,000 patrons per day use the library's services and collections of over nine million items.

Job Mission
The mission of this position is to identify, appraise, acquire, catalog, and preserve manuscript materials of enduring historical value related to Utah, the Western U.S., and Mormonism following accepted professional standards and practices.

This position is responsible for Mormon manuscripts from 2000 to the present, Trans-Mississippi West manuscripts from 2000 to the present, non-Mormon and non-literary manuscripts from 2000 to the present, local Utah County history from 2000 to the present, and Southeastern Idaho Mormon materials from 2000 to the present.

This position is also responsible for the professional papers program of Brigham Young University.

Major Accountabilities
University Citizenship
  • Exemplifies honor and integrity; adheres to the standards of personal behavior outlined in the BYU Code of Honor.
  • Supports the Library and University mission, goals, and objectives.
  • Observes Library and University policies.
  • Promotes collegiality and harmony.
  • Mentors, encourages, advises, and collaborates with colleagues.
  • Serves on Library, University, and consortia committees that go beyond assigned responsibilities.
  • Attends department, Library, and University meetings, including devotionals, forums, and convocations.
  • Serves the scholarly/professional community through activities such as:
    • Holding office or performing committee service in relevant associations;
    • Organizing professional meetings and/or panels; 
    • Serving as a referee of scholarship; 
    • Editing newsletters or journals; serving on editorial boards; 
    • Consulting; 
    • or Teaching in academic departments. 
Librarianship: Professional Assignment
Demonstrates effectiveness in specified professional responsibilities within:
  • Technology/Digital Projects
    • Develop and share expertise with the department in the management of born-digital records. 
    • Employ emerging technologies, in cooperation with the Library Information Technology division, as appropriate in the accomplishment of responsibilities attendant to the position.
    • Select appropriate materials from the 21st Century Mormon and Western Manuscripts collecting area for digitization or mounting on the Internet.
    • Select appropriate materials from the Brigham Young University professional papers program for digitization or mounting on the web.
  • Cataloging/Metadata
    • Gather data necessary to prepare finding aids, catalog records, and metadata for digital collections. 
    • Provide training on content standards for finding aids, catalog records, and metadata for digital collections.
  •  Collection Development/Collection Management
    • Represent the university in acquiring collections through accession, donation, or purchase.
    • Negotiate and sign contracts that require the investment of university resources.
    • Establish and maintain good relationships with past, present, and prospective donors.
    • Travel, as necessary, on department business.
    • Create and maintain collection development policies for the 21st Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts collecting area.
    • Create and maintain collection development policies for the Brigham Young University professional papers program.
    • Appraise collections to determine their relevance to the 19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts collecting area.
    • Maintain good working relationships with the donors.
    • Create and maintain donor files containing notes, acquisition records, preliminary inventories, correspondence, and contracts.
  • Conservation/Preservation 
    • Arrange collections, both physically and intellectually, according to accepted archival practice. Maintain collection case files containing research notes, inventories, cataloging data, and acquisition records.
    • Properly house and store collections to ensure their long-term preservation.
    • Identify and record physical locations of collections.
  • Faculty Liaison/Promotion
    • Work with faculty members to help them understand how to use the materials held in the 21st Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts collecting area and the Brigham Young University professional papers program as part of their teaching.
    • Promote the value of archival records of faculty, staff, and administrators.
  • Instruction/Information Literacy
    • Prepare and present class presentations on Special Collections as requested.
    • In collaboration with university faculty, develop and present physical and virtual exhibits drawn from collections in the 21st Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts collecting area. 
    • Work with the Faculty Center to present information to Brigham Young University employees on the professional papers program 
  • Reference/Research Support
    • Respond promptly and efficiently to information requests from the administration, faculty, staff, students, and other researchers.
    • Develop and maintain expertise in the archival collections related to the 21st Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts collecting area.
    • Develop and maintain expertise in the collections related to the Brigham Young University professional papers program.
    • Sets and accomplishes relevant goals within specified professional assignments.
    • Participates in committees that are a direct outgrowth of assigned professional responsibilities, including the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.
    • Achieves appropriate quantity and quality of work in assigned professional responsibilities.
    • Uses sound judgment in decision-making.
    • Manages personnel and resources effectively.
Librarianship: Professional Development
  • Stays abreast of issues and trends in archives and archival management, born digital archives, Brigham Young University history, Mormon history, and 21st century U. S. history.
  • Stays abreast of scholarship in archives and archival management, born-digital archives, Brigham Young University history, Mormon history, and 21st century U. S. history and other appropriate subject areas of expertise.
  • Takes courses to enhance professional assignment and/or career opportunities.
  • Studies professional literature.
  • Attends appropriate conferences and workshops.
  • Participates in appropriate professional associations. 
Librarianship: Scholarship/Creative Work
  • Collaborates with other faculty in appropriate research endeavours.
  • Presents research or innovative/unique information in the field(s) of archives and archival management, born-digital archives, Brigham Young University history, Mormon history, and 21st century U. S. History at conference, workshops, seminars, and/or other professional meetings.
  • Publishes significant and original contributions relevant to archives and archival management, born-digital archives, Brigham Young University history, Mormon history, and 21st century U. S. History.
  • Curates exhibits that highlight unique library materials with a unified theme and context, providing significant educational opportunities for the campus community.
  • Performs other approved scholarship/creative works. 
  • Master's degree in Library Science from an ALA-accredited institution with two years archival experience or equivalent Master's degree with archival training.
  • Master's or PhD degree in History, preferred.
  • Knowledge of strategies, such as digital forensics, and technology developed or adopted by the archival community for managing born-digital archival and manuscript material.
  • Society of American Archivists' Digital Archives Specialist certification, preferred.
  • Knowledge of legal and ethical issues affecting digital archival and special collections materials.
  • Demonstrated disposition to evaluate the application of emerging technologies to the management of born-digital archival and manuscript material.
  • Familiarity with archival collections management systems or databases.
  • A demonstrated knowledge in Western U.S., Utah, and Mormon History.
  • Demonstrated ability to appraise, arrange, and describe archival collections.
  • Demonstrated ability with archival and library descriptive standards including Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS).
  • Ability to supervise students, paraprofessionals, volunteers, and interns.
  • Strong skills in communication (writing, speaking, and document editing).
  • Skills in computer encoding with HTML and EAD.
  • Ability to contribute to the profession through participation in professional organizations and involvement in research.
  • Flexibility in adapting to changing departmental and organizational priorities and to ever-changing technological environments.
  • Active participation in the archival profession through presentations, articles, committee participation and conference participation.
  • Willingness to serve on departmental, library, and university committees.
Review of applications will commence on 21 January 2014, and the successful candidate will likely begin work in August.  Consult the position posting for additional information and detailed application instructions.

Long-time readers of this blog will no doubt realize that my views regarding the moral status and the legal rights of LGBT people -- even the "practicing" ones -- differ fundamentally from those articulated by the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They may also wonder whether posting this position might be construed as tacit acceptance of employment policies that I find discriminatory.  I've wrestled with this issue for a while, and I've decided to table my objections and allow readers to make their own decisions. At least one reader of this blog is well qualified for this job and might welcome the chance to work for a university that is affiliated with her church, and other readers may also be interested in this position.

Moreover, a lot of effort and care went into the crafting of this announcement, and I think that other archivists developing other job postings might find it extremely useful.  I love position descriptions that stress the importance of ongoing professional development, and it's plain that Brigham Young University expects its archivists to keep abreast of and contribute to the development of innovative practices and to remain actively involved in regional and national professional associations. In addition, I find the title of one subsection -- "Librarianship: Scholarship/Creative Work" -- nothing less than delightful. I've always thought of of exhibit development as an educational endeavor, not a creative one, but on second thought I realize that I enjoy developing exhibits because of all of the creative choices available to me. The possibility that the person who takes this job might get to work on "other approved . . . creative works" is also intriguing. Finally, it's barely 2014, but Brigham Young University has the foresight -- and the resources -- needed to hire someone who will specialize exclusively in twenty-first century materials. That's pretty impressive.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

E-records job: State Historical Society of Kansas (application deadline 24 January 2014)

Happy New Year, and apologies for the long silence 'round these parts. I've spent the past few weeks yo-yo'ing between Ohio, where I grew up and where my parents are still living, and upstate New York, where I now live and where my parents will very soon reside. Between trying (and all too often failing) to keep up with work and helping my dad downsize, pack, and plan this move, I've had to let a few things go, and this blog is one of many things that I've pushed aside.  I know that I've let more than a few job postings get past me (among them a Utah State Archives position that closed yesterday), and I'm sorry about that. Given that I'm going to be in Albany for a couple of weeks and that it's too darned cold to do anything except hunker down indoors, I should be able to devote some more time to this blog.

If you've got some solid data gathering and analysis and records management skills, would like to live in a smallish Midwestern city, and relish the prospect of working at a state archives that has been doing interesting things with electronic records, you might be the Kansas State Historical Society's new Policy & Program Analyst (Electronic Records Archivist):
The Kansas State Historical Society seeks to hire a Policy & Program Analyst (Electronic Records Archivist) to support the State Archives Division’s implementation of a trusted digital repository -- the Kansas Enterprise Electronic Preservation (KEEP) digital archives.

The Policy & Program Analyst will:
  • Promote use of the KEEP digital archives by Kansas government agencies.
  • Coordinate the transfer of permanent electronic records to KEEP.
  • Develop and update KEEP digital archives policies and procedures.
  • Identify long-term records impacted by new Kansas state government information technology projects subject to branch Chief Information Technology Officer (CITO) review and approval.
  • Ensure that CITO-reportable project plans include appropriate provisions for managing and preserving long-term records, including the transfer of permanent records to KEEP.
  • Provide records management consulting services to Kansas government agencies.
  • Prepare new and revised records retention and disposition schedules for Kansas State Records Board review.
  • Serve as a subject matter expert in the domains of electronic records management and digital preservation.
Minimum Qualifications
Four years of experience in collecting, evaluating, studying or reporting on statistical, economic, fiscal/budget, legislative or administrative data. Education may be substituted for experience as determined by the agency.  Preferred experience includes:  electronic records and information management; digital preservation; application of automated information management systems to records management, archives, or business environments.

Requires knowledge of:
  • records and information management methods and best practices;
  • standards and best practices related to trusted digital repositories including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Open Archival Information System (OAIS): ISO 14721:2012
    • Audit and Certification of Trustworthy Digital Repositories: ISO 16363:2012
    • Producer-Archive Interface - Methodology Abstract Standard (PAIMAS): ISO 20652:2006 
  • electronic information systems;
  • digital preservation methods and best practices;
  • archival methods and best practices;
  • business process analysis methods and best practices;
  • enterprise architecture methodologies;
  • project management methods and best practices;
  • metadata standards for archives, records management, and digital preservation including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Metadata Encoding Transmission Standard (METS)
    • Dublin Core
    • PREMIS (preservation metadata)
    • Encoded Archival Description (EAD)
  • American history with special emphasis on western and Kansas history;
  • archives and special collections reference techniques and best practices;
  • historical research methods.
Requires ability to:
  • manage projects;
  • negotiate and administer contracts;
  • work with a variety of people and in a team environment;
  • balance multiple projects;
  • meet deadlines;
  • express ideas clearly, orally and in writing, to groups with varying expertise in the relevant subject matter.
Preferred Qualifications
Master’s degree in public or business administration, library or information science with an archival administration concentration, or a related field.
The successful candidate will receive a salary equivalent to an hourly wage of $22.16, health insurance, and retirement benefits. The application deadline is 24 January 2014. Consult the job posting for more information and detailed application instructions.