To be an archivist: Dallas A. Suttles

Our inaugural “What does it mean to be an archivist at your repository?” post comes courtesy of Dallas A. Suttles, who serves as the Computer Services Associate in the Archives and Special Collections department at Valdosta State University.


I am currently working on my Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) certification and work as a digital archivist, in all but name. For me, being an archivist has meant:
  • Digitization! – Scanning, organizing files, adding metadata, and making our materials accessible to the public.
  • Digital Preservation – Using command line tools like BagIt and Fitstool, I make AIPs for long-term preservation. We are using Google Drive for Business, with unlimited data, as an off-site backup.  I also scan the web for regional history to preserve. For example, I use IFTT to automatically index every local newspaper I can using RSS feeds.
  • Web Design – I run about a dozen websites and do a ton of web design with HTML and CSS.
  • Database Design – So many databases! Most were built from the ground up using PHP & MySQL. Our next database, an index of the 1860 Slave Census, will soon be underway.
  • Exhibit Design – All our exhibits need signs and labels. I use Photoshop to design these.
  • Social Media – Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc… This involves mining our materials nearly every day to post something relevant.
I like to think that through my work, I am serving the past, present, and future. When a patron finds an ancestor in one of our databases, we are reuniting the past and present in that moment. Thereby serving the living and the dead. And to generations yet born, this data will only become more invaluable, not just to the public but to the next generation of archivists that will build upon this work.

Postscript: 
Why Archives Matter?
Archives and archivists are part of the foundational structure of civilization itself. Like pillars, we hold up the past so it doesn’t fall away into darkness, forgotten. We stand on the front-lines in an epic, losing battle against the ravages of time. By preserving the past we venerate the dead, serve the present, and educate the future. Please excuse my hyperbole, but in the grand scheme of things, this is precisely why “archives matter”, in my opinion.
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Thank you to Dallas for sharing what it means to be an archivist at Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections!  Want to share what your own experience is like working as an archivist?  Submit your “What it means to be an archivist at my repository?” post to us at outreach [at] soga [dot] org.  

Upcoming DAS Workshop: Developing Specifications & RFPs for Recordkeeping Systems

Date:
June 1, 2015
Location:
Robert W. Woodruff Library
Emory University
Atlanta, GA

The development of a fully functional digital archives requires an integrated recordkeeping system that identifies, describes, schedules, and destroys or retains your organization’s born-digital records. Successful recordkeeping systems reflect business processes and applicable federal and state statutes while identifying records with permanent value to be archived. The ideal recordkeeping system interfaces with a digital repository used to curate electronic records and support a wide range of archival processes, including preservation and access. Before purchasing or building a recordkeeping system, you need a clear list of systems requirements specific to your organization. From these specifications, you can build a good Request for Proposal (RFP), select a system or vendor, and successfully implement your recordkeeping system.

This course if one of the Tactical and Strategic Courses in the Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) Curriculum and Certificate Program.

Upon completing this course you’ll be able to:

  • Identify and define systems requirements for an electronic recordkeeping system and/or digital repository;
  • Develop and distribute a Request for Information (RFI), RFP, or RFQ (Request for Quotation);
  • Evaluate and select a recordkeeping system; and 
  • Implement the system.

Who should attend?
Archivists, records managers, IT professionals and administrators who need to define systems requirements for an electronic recordkeeping system and/or digital repository and then develop a RFI, RFP, or RFQ.

The Early-Bird registration deadline is May 1, 2015.

Workshop Fees

  • SAA Members
    • Early-Bird: $199
    • Regular: $269
  • Employees of Member Institutions
    • Early-Bird: $229
    • Regular: $299
  • Nonmembers
    • Early-Bird: $259
    • Regular: $319

Register for the workshop here.
Attendance is limited to 35.

    Upcoming DAS Workshop: Appraisal of Electronic Records

    Date:
    Tuesday, June 25, 2013
    Location:
    Kennesaw State University Center
    3333 Busbee Dr. NW
    Kennesaw, GA 30144

    Increasingly, archival records are created in electronic formats. As a result, archives of all types need to be responsible for the preservation of electronic records. After a review of the fundamental principles of archival appraisal and appraisal policies, you’ll be introduced to the unique issues that need to be addressed when appraising electronic records. Case studies will highlight the practical aspects of appraisal when dealing with electronic records.

    Upon completing this course you’ll be able to:

    • Develop an appraisal policy for your archives.
    • Include electronic records on records retention and disposal schedules.
    • Address technical issues (such as metadata, software dependence, etc.) that arise when appraising electronic records.
    • Appraise electronic records for your archives.
    Who should attend? Archivist Practitioners, Records Managers. Anyone responsible for the archival appraisal of electronic records.

    What should you know already? Archival appraisal of records, as well as some basic knowledge about digital preservation and electronic records.

    Workshop Fees

    Registration Type Fees: Early-Bird / Regular
    Full Registration #1337
    SAA Member: $185 / $235
    Employees of Member Institutions: $210 / $260
    Nonmember: $235 / $285

    Register for the workshop here.
    Attendance limited to 35.