SGA Hosts First-Ever Virtual Annual Meeting

The Society of Georgia Archivists held its 51st Annual Meeting November 11-13, 2020–its first-ever all-virtual conference–with the theme “Building Partnerships and Dismantling Barriers.” Our keynote speaker was Dorothy Berry, Digital Collections Program Manager at Harvard’s Houghton Library, whose talk was titled, “My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Remembering Black History in the Archives.”

In spite of all the changes and challenges presented by this year, the conference was the best-attended of any meeting in the Society’s history, boasting 206 registrants, 200 attendees, 58 presenters, 26 presentations, and seven vendors. SGA was proud to be able to offer free registration to members and presenters, and $35 registration to non-members. 

Our two pre-conference workshops were similarly well-attended, hitting capacity in both virtual events. On November 5, 2020, Magda Pecsenye, creator of the Tilmor Process, presented “Manage Your Team to Greater Efficiency and Engagement with the Tilmor Process,” and on November 6, Shaundra Walker, Interim Director of the University Library, Georgia College, presented the workshop, “Critical Race Theory and the Archive.”

All meetings were held via Zoom, and the conference planning committees opted to have two day-long tracks to minimize the number of links attendees would need to manage. We chose not to employ a managed content platform, choosing instead to provide the links to registered attendees via the annual meeting program and daily email blasts. This decision allowed overhead costs for running the meeting to be kept to a minimum.

The planning committees additionally kept a Slack workspace with multiple channels open for the duration of the conference. This space was used not only to troubleshoot technology issues, but also to provide an informal chat environment for attendees to connect with one another and with vendors. The SGA Executive Board also maintained a channel to address questions about our duties, share opportunities for committee work, and to encourage members to run for office.

Our vendors, too, had an important role to play in the conference. Depending upon their chosen level of sponsorship, vendors were able to give presentations during conference breaks, and were thanked by facilitators at the start of each session. Some sponsors contributed either virtual or physical giveaways for our attendee swag bags and raffle prizes. 

In all, we are pleased with the conference’s success and happy to answer questions from other state and regional organizations planning a similar shift to an online conference. Feel free to contact us anytime. 

Written and contributed by Angela Stanley, 2020 SGA President.

Call for session/poster proposals for SFA/SGA Joint Meeting this October


The 2016 Society of Georgia Archivists/Society of Florida Archivists Programming Committee proudly announces the theme for the 2016 Joint Conference:
Defining Archives: Ingenuity, Innovation, and New Perspectives
The Committee invites you to submit your workshop, session, and poster ideas to help make this year’s conference a great success!  Defining Archives calls for archives professionals to explore the inventive and enterprising use of archival concepts, functions, and methods through time and across disciplines. Conference program proposals are sought that highlight innovative research, applied projects, and collective insights that improve our understanding of the following key topics:
  • The archival environment, including issues, successes, and key operational differences experienced while working in corporate archives, special collections, academic repositories, and public libraries; 
  • The roles of archivists as educators, reference sources, spokespeople, liaisons, and gatekeepers; changing jobs and titles and how these varied responsibilities are handled in daily work;
  • The vision of archives and next steps for the profession, including novel approaches to archival education, recruiting new generations of archivists, and creatively engaging with researchers and the community;
  • The creative practice of archives and the ways in which archivists create innovative responses to challenges such as rapidly changing formats, digital preservation, web archiving, unconventional projects, building exhibits and the management of exponentially larger volumes of data.

The theme announcement and session proposal guidelines can be found online at http://bit.ly/1WOOZjW.  The deadline for session/poster proposals is July 15, 2016. 

We are looking forward to our Joint Conference in Savannah, Georgia, October 13-14, 2016!  For more information about the joint meeting, please see http://www.soga.org/annualmeeting

2014 SGA Annual Meeting Breakout Sessions Recap: Let’s talk about digital preservation!

In an effort to engage the rich discussions that were had as part of the “Everyday Digital Archives” breakout sessions at the 2014 SGA Annual Meeting, here is the final post, highlighting topics that arose during the fourth breakout session, in which the always exciting topic of digital preservation was discussed!  Hopefully this post (and the previous three!) will be thought provoking to the SGA membership and will help to contribute to the ongoing conversation about the many issues that come part and parcel with managing digital archives.
Breakout Session 4: Preservation of Digital Records
This breakout session explored the current state of digital preservation among SGA members, discussed first steps toward establishing digital preservation policy and practice, identified significant challenges among member institutions and developed suggestions for ways in which SGA could better support digital preservation for archival professionals in Georgia.  Here are some highlights of topics that were discussed:
Challenges
  • Insufficient resources (both financial and staffing)
  • Problems with sustainability because it can be difficult to get necessary commitments for ongoing support of digital preservation
  • Slow implementation at some organizations because of the “tyranny of perfection”; administration and/or upper management waiting for perfect solutions instead of simply getting started
  • Difficulty of selling the idea that something is better than nothing (again moving out from under the tyranny of perfection)
  • Steep learning curve (for example some institutions/professionals paralyzed when faced with engaging with digital preservation elements like the OAIS reference model)
Observations
  • Archives professionals need to be able to plan and implement digital preservation solutions that are realistic and feasible without getting burdened with the need for perfect solutions
  • Even with institutional support, we need to develop feasible, realistic digital preservation plans that can be implemented with success
  • There is a need for advocacy, both externally and internally, as part of digital preservation planning (demand from users, support from within institutions)
  • Getting technical systems and policy in place is hard but “cultural policy” is hard too
  • When developing digital preservation policy, remember to refer to existing relevant documentation like preservation policy for physical collection or collection management policy; don’t reinvent the wheel.
  • Exploring the role (and practice) of appraisal with digital preservation and policy development
What can SGA do to help? (Ideas)
  • Program in digital preservation (create committee to organize this, set objectives, decide issues and report from across state/region)
  • Create a list or index of policy statements on digital preservation and/or digital collection management
    • Must have variety, peer-to-peer institutions
      • Small institutions, large institutions
      • From institutions with “established” digital programs and “emerging” digital programs
    • Maybe closed to SGA members only, not open on web, to encourage sharing
    • Not just digital preservation policies need to be shared, but also the goals for creating a policy, and how much of that goal institutions are accomplishing
  • Create model similar to SAA best practices and processes by which institutions come to digital preservation strategies
  • Dedicate issue of Provenance to digital preservation
  • Digital preservation “Match.com” for mentoring
  • List of SGA Annual Meeting attendees for networking

Hopefully the ideas/issues/thoughts shared here have been useful.  Feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment!  

2014 SGA Annual Meeting Breakout Sessions Recap: Let’s talk about processing digital records!

In an effort to engage the rich discussions that were had as part of the “Everyday Digital Archives” breakout sessions at the 2014 SGA Annual Meeting, here is the third of four posts highlighting topics that arose during the third breakout session discussing the processing of digital records. Hopefully these posts will be thought provoking to the SGA membership and will help to contribute to the ongoing conversation about the many issues that come part and parcel with managing digital archives.
Breakout Session 3: Processing Digital Records
In beginning to think about processing digital records, it may be helpful to keep in mind this quote from Richard Pearce-Moses from his article “The Perfect and the Possible: Becoming a Digital Archivist”: ““…what we do remains the same; it’s only how we do it that will change.”  Many interesting articles and case studies about processing digital records can be found in the archival literature.  One of the most cited articles is Carroll, et al.’s, “A Comprehensive Approach to Born-Digital Archives,” about processing and providing access to Salman Rushdie’s digital files at Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.  There are way too many articles to mention in this post, but two other thought provoking ones worthy of mention are Jefferson Bailey’s “Disrespect des Fonds: Rethinking Arrangement and Description in Born-Digital Archives” and Jane Zhang’s “Original Order in Digital Archives”. 
The importance of reading articles and case studies about processing digital records was one of the many topics discussed during the breakout session.  Various challenges, observations, tools and resources were discussed and many, many questions were asked.  Here is a sampling of what was talked about:
Challenges
·        Dealing with all sorts of different formats, including proprietary formats
·        Security and integrity
·        Keeping the files associated with the description
·        Hybrid collections
·        Metadata
·        Getting a grasp of what you have – the way digital files are organized can be more chaotic – can’t guarantee that people are good custodians of their digital files
Observations / Thoughts
·       Having flexibility within your processing approach is important
o   need to determine how the repository wants to provide access, and from there create policies for processing; figure out steps to make it happen; set a goal
·       Hands-on experience a must – but also a daunting thought – does the fear of making a mistake keep us from making the needed initial effort?
·       Processing of digital records needs to start with administration – getting everyone on board
·       Map already known archival knowledge to what is coming with digital archives (i.e. “…what we do remains the same; it’s only how we do it that will change”)
·       Know what is critical
o   Look at the low-hanging fruit: if you’re given a body of electronic records, look at the ones that you could easily provide access to (PDFs, etc.) — > establish your processing workflow that way – this could help with tackling the harder modes
What do we need?
·       More cross-training of staff is needed – everyone needs to know how to handle digital
·       Need to have established policies and procedures for processing
·       Examples of successes and failures, in different sized shops (case studies!)
·       Best practices with a place to start, basic steps, and resources to support implementing them
·       Advocacy for the importance of digital archives jobs – either getting new positions or training for current staff
·       Technical skills to do archival processes on digital records
Tools?
It was indicated in a couple of the breakout groups that several repositories have only gotten to the stage of collecting and inventorying digital records, thus not many tools have been put in practice.  Another issue that was raised is that we as archivists hear the names of many tools that would prove helpful in working with digital records, but we don’t know what or when to use the tools (i.e. what tools will help in acquisition, processing, digital preservation?).  Further compounding the issue, archivists may be afraid to ask about digital archiving tools because they feel like they should already know (the “I don’t want to be the person to admit I don’t know about this” syndrome.).  Some tools that were mentioned include:
·       Archive-It (for web archiving)
·       Archivematica (https://www.archivematica.org/en/)
·       BitCurator (http://www.bitcurator.net/)
·       Managing digital content in CMSs (ArchivesSpace, Archon, QuadraStar, Archivists’ Toolkit, etc.)
Questions asked
·       Where do we start?
o   Survey what we have and where it is stored
o   Look for ways to collaborate with other staff
o   What formats are we receiving records in?
o   What equipment do I need to process, preserve, and provide access for particular digital formats?
·       Can processing digital records model analog processing?
·       Where to start in processing hybrid collections?
·       How can we find out about tools that can be used?
·        What is realistic, when you have a small staff?
·        What infrastructure is feasible in a small archives or with a small budget?
Resources mentioned
·       Chris Prom’s Practical E-records blog – http://e-records.chrisprom.com/
·       Q&A Digital Preservation – http://qanda.digipres.org/; www.digipres.org
        Case studies
        Atlanta Historical Computing Society – http://atlhcs.org/
Hopefully the ideas/issues/thoughts shared here have been useful.  Feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment!  Coming up next is a post on Breakout Session 4: Preservation of Digital Records.

2014 SGA Annual Meeting Breakout Sessions Recap: Let’s talk about access to digital records!

In an effort to engage the rich discussions that were had as part of the “Everyday Digital Archives” breakout sessions at the 2014 SGA Annual Meeting, here is the second of four posts highlighting topics that arose during the second breakout session discussing the issue of creating and managing access to digital records. Hopefully these posts will be thought provoking to the SGA membership and will help to contribute to the ongoing conversation about the many issues that come part and parcel with managing digital archives.
Breakout Session 2: Access to Digital Records
The Access to Electronic Records Working Group, part of SAA’s Reference, Access, and Outreach Section, observes that: “Much scrutiny has been placed on accessioning, processing and preserving electronic materials, while very little attention is given to how we provide access to these materials.”[1]  The goal of this breakout session was to bring attention to this very important topic.  Accessioning, processing, and preserving digital records are important (there’s no debate there!), but accessioning, processing, and preservation of digital records means nothing if the records are not being used.  And the only way digital records will be able to be used is if effective access mechanisms are created.  During the breakout session, several challenges to providing access to digital records were identified, including:
  • Copyright, Intellectual Property
  • Access to materials is often not covered in donor agreements
  • The need to implement access systems
  • Training for staff
  • Need for administration and constituent education (support, funding, understanding patron needs)
  • Security and control concerns
    • How do we ensure digital records cannot be altered, deleted, changed?
    • What tactics can we use to keep them available and safe?
      • Provide access to copy, prevent access to the digital original
      • Read only versions
  • Lack of IT infrastructure and support
  • Time and effort necessary to research and vet software and tools
In addition to the challenges outlined above, participants in the breakout session made several observations about issues that need to be addressed when tackling the task of providing access to digital records:
  • The issue of having the necessary skills:
  • The issue of intellectual and physical control over what is in our collections:
    • Only after getting intellectual and physical control of our records is access possible
  • The issue of obsolescence:
    • Tools change so rapidly that once a tool is implemented it is already obsolete
  • The issue of leadership:
    • No leaders in the state taking charge
  • The issue of access versus preservation:
    • Need access AND preservation platforms
A very fruitful conversation to come out of the “Access to Digital Records” breakout session was the discussion had by participants about what SGA can do to help.  Several suggestions were made, including:
  • Identify local leaders in the field willing to serve as a resource
  • Creation of a consulting committee to assist repositories in laying the groundwork for providing access to electronic records
  • Maintaining policies, guides, links to resources (under SGA’s “Resources” tab)
  • Host an online forum for practitioners to ask questions and discuss issues
  • Advocate for greater funding for USG-wide systems
  • Hands-on training sessions for tools such as DSpace and ArchivesSpace
Hopefully the ideas/issues/thoughts shared here have been useful.  Feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment!  Coming up next is a post on Breakout Session 3: Processing Digital Records.



[1]Reference, Access, and Outreach Section, “Access to Electronic Records Working Group,” Accessed August 2, 2015, http://www2.archivists.org/groups/reference-access-and-outreach-section/access-to-electronic-records-working-group

2014 SGA Annual Meeting Breakout Sessions Recap: Let’s talk about acquisition and appraisal of digital records!

In an effort to engage the rich discussions that were had as part of the “Everyday Digital Archives” breakout sessions at the 2014 SGA Annual Meeting, here is the first of four posts highlighting topics that arose during the first breakout session discussing the acquisition of digital records. Hopefully these posts will be thought provoking to the SGA membership and will help to contribute to the ongoing conversation about the many issues that come part and parcel with managing digital archives.
Breakout Session 1: Acquisition of Digital Records
Several challenges/issues to consider were discussed, including proper storage, the importance of establishing policies, and how to educate donors about digital records.  The conversation about donor relations was especially interesting, highlighting the importance of educating donors ahead of time about what digital records they have and where they may be (i.e. not just on your computer, but Internet presence via blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).  Simson Garfinkel and David Cox’s “Finding and Archiving the Internet Footprint” speaks to the issue of identifying a donor’s online record presence.  The book I, Digital: Personal Collections in the Digital Era, edited by Cal Lee, also explores how archivists can manage born-digital materials generated and kept by individuals.  Another important point discussed was working with donors in providing information about their records, i.e., what exactly do they have in their digital files?  The donor being able to provide an inventory of their digital records – through a file tree text document or some other survey of their records – can help archivists to know which records should be accessioned.  Also, BitCurator’s bulk_extractor report tool could be used as a pre-emptive measure to help archivists determine what digital content is available and what of that content they would want to accession (this was talked about at the BitCurator Users Forum on January 9, 2015).
Many ideas regarding continuing education opportunities were considered, including:
·        Distributing the knowledge that can be found in ARMA & SAA courses by using the network of University System of Georgia schools (e.g. holding workshops at USG institutions around the state that archivists living near those institutions could more easily attend)
·        Short courses on how to use tools helpful in accessioning digital records (e.g. BagIt, Duke Data Accessioner, etc.)
·        Educate executives/administrators on what is a digital record that needs keeping through ARMA’s “RM 101” seminars
·        Reading case studies – a good way to find out what other institutions are doing
Many questions were asked during the breakout session, including:
·        What are we talking about when we say “digital archives”? (purely born-digital documents, digitized documents, email, etc.)
·        Where to get started in acquiring digital records?
·        Can your institution even manage digital records – should you accept them?
·        Are our ideas about born-digital records fear driven?
An interesting concern for the near future that was raised dealt with digital data from scientific research – the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense all require data and publications to be archived and shared.  The question becomes, how are we going to ensure this scientific data remains accessible?
Hopefully the ideas/issues/thoughts shared here have been useful.  Feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment!  Coming up next is a post on Breakout Session 2: Providing Access to Digital Records.

Scholarship Opportunities Available! Apply by August 7th

SGA scholarship opportunities available!
All scholarship applications are due on August 7, 2015

The Anthony R. Dees Scholarship – each year SGA awards a scholarship to attend the SGA-sponsored pre-conference workshop. The purpose of the pre-conference workshop and this scholarship is to enhance archival education. This year’s pre-conference workshop date is October 21st. The workshop is entitled “Digital Preservation Tools: A Sampler” and will be taught by Seth Shaw, Assistant Professor of Archival Studies at Clayton State University. For more information on the Anthony Dees scholarship visit http://soga.org/scholarships/dees.

The Larry Gulley Scholarship – is a wonderful opportunity to expand your professional development by attending the SGA annual meeting on October 22 – 23, 2015. The scholarship will cover the following year’s membership dues, the meeting registration fee, and a maximum of $100 for other expenses incurred in attending the annual meeting. The registration fee for the successful scholarship applicant will be waived by the Society of Georgia Archivists, while other expenses will be reimbursed upon submission of a statement of expenses, with accompanying receipts, by December 1 of the calendar year in which the meeting takes place. After the SGA meeting, the recipient will submit a brief article on the experience for use in the SGA Newsletter. For more information on the Larry Gulley Scholarship please visit http://soga.org/scholarships/gulley.

The Taronda Spencer Award – honors Ms. Spencer’s work in encouraging students at HBCUs and students of color to consider careers in the archival profession. The Society of Georgia Archivists established the Taronda Spencer Award in 2014 to support student attendance at the SGA Annual Meeting. The award includes complimentary registration to the SGA annual meeting, hotel registration, and $300 for travel expenses. For more information on the Taronda Spencer Award please visit http://soga.org/scholarships/spencer.

Registration is open for workshop, Digital Preservation Tools: A Sampler

Instructor: Seth Shaw
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Columbus Marriott
Empire Mills Room
800 Front Avenue
Columbus, GA
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Digital preservation is a complex topic with many challenges. Identifying and selecting the right tools to help solve those problems can be confusing. This one-day workshop will introduce a selection of tools supporting digital preservation and how those tools might be incorporated into a workflow. Participants will see demonstrations of several tools and will practice with a few using their own laptop computer.

Digital preservation tasks addressed will include data acquisition (for example, TeraCopy, FTKImager, and HTTrack), fixity checking and monitoring (LOC’s Bagger and AVPreserve’s Fixity), scanning for content or threats (e.g. bulk_extractor and Identify Finder), format identification (e.g. Jhove and Droid), format migration, environment emulation or virtualization, and projects designed to package many of these tools together (BitCurator and Archivematica).

To get the most from this workshop, participants should be familiar with basic digital preservation concepts such as fixity, checksums, migration, and emulation. They should have good computer skills — word processing, browsing the Web, email, copying and renaming files, and creating folders. They do not need more advanced knowledge, such as programming or database design, although familiarity with command-line interfaces and XML is useful. (Individuals with experience in digital archives or advanced skills are welcome to come and contribute to the conversation!)

Attendees must bring their own laptops.

Registration is $80 per person; this workshop is limited to 15 attendees. The registration deadline is October 7, 2015.

Refreshments will be served during the morning and afternoon breaks. Lunch will be the responsibility of the attendees.

For more information on the course or to register, click here.

Report from FOGAH Advocacy Training

As you may know, the Friends of Georgia Archives and History (FOGAH) has hired Joe Tanner & Associates, a governmental affairs firm, to advise the group on their interactions with legislators and executive officials as FOGAH continues to push for a restoration of the budget and staff of the Georgia Archives.

At the Society of Georgia Archivists (SGA) annual meeting, held November 7-9 on St. Simon’s Island, Joe Tanner & Associates held a FOGAH sponsored advocacy training. Approximately 60 SGA members and FOGAH supporters attended the training.

The purpose of the session was twofold:

  1. Communicate to attendees the language and focus of FOGAH’s current message;
  2. Teach attendees how to approach their legislators to spread the message

A major priority for FOGAH and Tanner was to create simple, clear message that will be effective. What is known right now is that the Georgia Archives will move to the University System of Georgia. This will likely require a budget item in main budget (aka, the proposed budget for 2013-2014) for the State of Georgia.

The message developed by FOGAH can be boiled down to three basic points:

  1. We support the Governor’s recommendation to move the administration of the Georgia Archives to the University System;
  2. The Secretary of State has shown his support for this recommendation;
  3. The University System and the Governor will determine the needed level of funding to restore the Georgia Archives and offer a recommendation for the State budget. We would like a minimum of 1.15 million in new money in the budget. Even though there is a minimum wanted by FOGAH, we want State legislators to support the true assessment of need from the University System.

Attendees were asked to stick to this message when approaching their legislators.

Another major initiative for FOGAH is to find supporters in each House and Senate district who are willing to speak directly to their legislators. Joe Tanner stressed that these officials (who are elected every 2 years) are most likely to be responsive to their own constituents, and that they should hear a repeating, unified message about the issue.

Tanner’s advice included:

  1. Arrange a face to face meeting with your Senator and Representative;
  2. If they will not meet, try to get them on a short call;
  3. If possible, take 1-2 other constituents with you to meet them;
  4. Tell them up front that you are their constituent contacting them about a statewide issue;
  5. Tell them that you are interested in the issue because you are a member of a specific group;
  6. Leave behind the handout created by the SGA President (these were made available to attendees, and can be sent to interested parties by contacting outreach@soga.org);
  7. If you can’t answer a question they have, tell them you will get back with them, contact FOGAH or SGA for and answer, then follow up;
  8. Follow up your call or meeting with a thank you/reminder.

Tanner & Associates encouraged members to look at letters and/or emails as a path of last resort. These are much less reliable avenues of contact when you are trying to communicate a specific message. If you must resort to one of these, make sure to personalize your letter of email. Any kind of form message should be avoided.

These contacts should start in January, after the holidays, and while the new legislative session is still slow and officials have more time to meet with constituents.

FOGAH still needs volunteers to meet their goal of one per Senate and House district. Further training sessions, including web based sessions, will be given in the future.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact the SGA Outreach Co-Managers at outreach@soga.org.

Be an annual meeting correspondent!

Are you attending the annual meeting this week? We’d like to hear from you!

The SGA Newsletter would like to get the widest possible coverage of this year’s annual meeting. To that end, we’re soliciting volunteers to act as correspondents for the meeting.

Your report of a session or event should be between 1-2 paragraphs. Ideally, no more than 3 people should cover the same session or event, although multiple points of view will add interest.

Please use the session sign-up sheet to volunteer and to select a session or event. You may select more than one. You can view the annual meeting schedule (PDF) for session descriptions and participants. View the response summary in advance to determine which sessions and events are already covered.

If you use Google Drive, you can access a shared folder to create and save your report. Or, you can email them to anne (dot) m (dot) graham (at) gmail (dot) com. Also email if you have any questions or need additional information.

Thanks and I look forward to seeing you this week!