Notes from the DC-2014 Pre-conference workshop “Fonds & Bonds: Archival Metadata, Tools, and Identity Management”

fondsbondsEarlier this month I had the good fortune to attend the “Fonds & Bonds” one-day workshop, just ahead of the DC-2014 meeting in Austin, TX. The workshop was held at the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas, Austin, which was just the right venue. Eric Childress from OCLC Research and Ryan Hildebrand from the Harry Ransom Center did much of the logistical work, while my OCLC Research colleague Jen Schaffner worked with Daniel Pitti of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, University of Virginia and Julianna Barrera-Gomez of the University of Texas at San Antonio to organize the workshop agenda and presentations.

Here are some brief notes on a few of the presentations that made a particular impression on me.

The introduction by Gavan McCarthy (Director of the eScholarship Research Centre (eSRC), University of Melbourne) and Daniel Pitti to the Expert Group on Archival Description (EGAD) included a brief tour of standards development, how this led to the formation of EGAD, and noted EGAD’s efforts to develop the conceptual model for Records in Context (RIC). Daniel very ably set this work within its standards-development context, which was a great way to help focus the discussion on the specific goals of EGAD.

Valentine Charles (of Europeana) and Kerstin Arnold (from the ArchivesPortal Europe APEx project) provided a very good tandem presentation on “Archival Hierarchy and the Europeana Data Model”, with Kerstin highlighting the work of Archives Portal Europe and the APEx project. It was both reaffirming and challenging to hear that it’s difficult to get developers to understand an unexpected data model, when they confront it through a SPARQL endpoint or through APIs. We’ve experienced that in our work as well, and continue to spend considerable efforts in attempting to meet the challenge.

Tim Thompson (Princeton University Library) and Mairelys Lemus-Rojas (University of Miama Libraries) gave an overview of the Remixing Archival Metadata Project (RAMP) project, which was also presented in an OCLC webinar earlier this year. RAMP is “a lightweight web-based editing tool that is intended to let users do two things: (1) generate enhanced authority records for creators of archival collections and (2) publish the content of those records as Wikipedia pages.” RAMP utilizes both VIAF and OCLC Research’s WorldCat Identities as it reconciles and enhances names for people and organizations.

Ethan Gruber (American Numismatic Society) gave an overview of the xEAC project (Ethan pronounces xEAC as “zeek”), which he also presented in the OCLC webinar noted previously in which Tim presented RAMP. xEAC is an open-source XForms-based application for creating and managing EAC-CPF collections. Ethan is terrific at delving deeply into the possibilities of the technology at hand, and making the complex appear straight-forward.

Gavan McCarthy gave a quite moving presentation on the Find & Connect project, where we were able to see some of the previously-discussed descriptive standards and technologies resulting in something with real impact on real lives. Find & Connect is a resource for Forgotten Australians, former child migrants and others interested in the history of child welfare in Australia.

And Daniel Pitti gave a detailed presentation on the SNAC project. OCLC Research has supported this project from its early stages, providing access to NACO and VIAF authority data, and supplying the project with over 2M WorldCat records representing items and collections held by archival institutions … essentially the same data that supports most of OCLC Research’s ArchiveGrid project. The aspirations for the SNAC project are changing, moving from an experimental first phase where data from various sources was ingested, converted, and enriched to produce EAC-CPF records (with a prototype discovery layer on top of those), to the planning for a Cooperative Program which would transform that infrastructure into a sustainable international cooperative hosted by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. This is an ambitious and important effort that everyone in the community should be following.

The workshop was very well attended and richly informative. It provided a great way to quickly catch up on key developments and trends in the field. And the opportunity to easily network with colleagues in a congenial setting, including an hour to see a variety of systems demonstrated live, was also clearly appreciated.