I had a great time attending yesterday's Research Forum and presenting my poster, "Digitally Uniting Historical Nutrition Guidance." All of the Forum presenters were very insightful, but here are some personal highlights, based just on my own interests:
- Eliot Wilczek of Tufts University discussed his efforts putting linked data into archival metadata. This promises to put more universal, controlled language to online archival resources. I can't say I understand all the technical details of linked open data, but Wilczek kept some big-picture perspective in his presentation. With the rise of digital humanities, he says, there will be more researcher demand for this type of data to mine. And among digital humanists, "no academic gets tenure credit for cleaning up data."
- Rusty Staples of the Smithsonian Institution also touched upon linked open data. Staples is tasked with managing the research records of SI's researchers (both scientific and humanist). To me, the interesting part of his SIDora repository was not just its important role at SI but also its efforts at adding linked open data during the records management and retention process.
- Ellen Doon and Susan Pyzynski of Yale and Harvard Universities, respectively, discussed their efforts encoding personal relationships among the correspondents in Samuel Johnson's letters. Although Doon and Pyzynski didn't discuss anticipated researcher use, I see this technique, if further refined, as a potential windfall for historians and digital humanists. It also reminds me of some of the data I helped capture as a staff member of the Center for Population Economics' Union Army Sample. Staff researchers Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn made excellent use of personal relationship data, and if that type of data could be joined with other collections, as Doon and Pyzynski hope to explore, the utility could be even greater.
- Tibaut Houzanme of the Indiana Commission on Public Records talked about a way to chart the number of times that electronic records preservation techniques have been cited and discover best practices. Although this isn't my field, it seemed like a novel approach and it was great to hear someone discussing local government records.
- Alongside me at the poster session, I was thrilled to see some archivists from the FDR Library talk about their new digital collections. I spent many weeks in front of the FDR Library's photocopier to help produce the print series, Documentary History of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration. Now the Library has a fantastic digital repository, Franklin. And while I hear that the staff still has a soft spot for the "blue books," that's progress!
- If you're reading this, you probably agree that archives are very important. But how important? Marika Cifor and Heather Soyka of the AERI Grand Challenges Working Group discussed their work identifying "grand societal challenges," from environmental protection to social justice, that archives address. Some of this might seem obvious or self-explanatory, but I appreciate the Working Group's expansive and clinical approach.
- According to Josh Ranger of AVPreserve, the era of magnetic tape is ending. Not today, not tomorrow, but definitely in the next fourteen years. Want to know how much you are costing yourself by not acting now? There's no app for that, but there is a Cost of Inaction Calculator.
Again, those are just a few of my own highlights; if you'd like to know more about the other Forum sessions, check out the Agenda (slides and posters will be added here in coming weeks).