RLG Forum, day two, part one

Today, we are only going to update you on the first half of the second day – otherwise this post would get too long, and besides, we want to go on the tour of the Folger, which got rave reviews yesterday!

While yesterday’s presentations looked at a range of institutional projects, the presentations this morning had a slightly broader character. Dennis Meissner (Minnsota Historical Society) gave a summary of the Greene-Meissner report [PDF]. Their findings highlighted paradoxes in archival literature and practice. While archival theory encourages concentration of effort at the higher levels, we find ourselves straying into item level work, mostly for preservation purposes. “We are at odds with ourselves,” Dennis said, and he reflected that it’s difficult to resist the temptation to fiddle “while we’re at it,” which of course drives up processing time and costs. The report makes many recommendations, which we will not detail here. Highlights included the point that we need to “embrace flexibility” in our descriptive approaches, which is a concept that scales across communities.

Tom Hyry followed up with a Yale perspective, part of which was pre- Greene-Meissner, and part of which was the impact of Greene-Meissner. Tom underscored many of Dennis’ points, and quipped that in many ways implementing these practices seems like the “processing equivalent of speed dating.” A more positive way to think about what has been termed as “minimal processing” is “extensible processing” (as suggested to Tom by Max Evans, NHPRC). Tom also stressed the importance of loving our researchers (and embracing their needs) as much as we love our stuff – again, a concept that scales across communities of practice.

While Dennis and Tom focused on back-office practices in archives to better serve the researcher, our next speakers Ken Hamma (Getty Trust) and Erin Coburn (Getty Museum) presented on their vision for sharing digitized content. Ken opened his talk by reminding the audience that ALA had just published Cataloging Cultural Objects (CCO), and pitching it as a vehicle for describing cultural materials across the library, archives and museum spectrum. Erin gave an in-depth introduction to the cluster of standards the Getty had created / adopted / adapted to streamline the process of offering and delivering museum content to aggregators (CDWA Lite XML / CCO / OAI). This strategy makes a simple discovery record available for harvesting, while leading the researcher back to the Getty website for a more granular record sitting in an environment of contextualizing materials. Ken wrapped up the tag-team presentation by underscoring the importance of bringing museum content to the “shared network space” (an idea he attributed to our new colleague Lorcan Dempsey). This network contains as many aggregators as it needs, and each one of them may harvest the content and provide value-added access to their particular user base. From our perspective, the ideas and methods put forth by Ken and Erin have already had a profound impact on the museum community, as witnessed by the 10 museums who participate in a monthly RLG Programs conference call to support each other in following the Getty’s lead.

Signed by your trusted bloggers Merrilee and Günter, who cobbled together this report while our colleague Karen Smith-Yoshimura went out to get us some lunch. Thanks, Karen!

Here’s a photo of Tom Hyry and Dennis Meissner during the Q&A following their session.

Mark and Tom

P.S.: Our recording system seems to be working just fine, so expect to see MP3 files posted as soon as we can figure out how to edit and compress the files… This is a new endeavor for us, so stay tuned.