Preservation Week 2015

All you cultural heritage information workers out there, it’s the end of preservation week!

For those not in a library, archive, museum, or other such organization, there are many resources online that can help you to find out more about preservation. Preserving family treasures, keepsakes, or just a few things in the attic? Here’s a few resources where you can find more information:

Ecomuseums 2014

Interested in the cultural, ecological, and knowledge potentials of museums? Interested in how museums can bring together and sustain communities? If so, you might be interested in the Ecomuseums conference. The call for papers for Ecomuseums 2014 is now open and will accept submissions until the end of February. Here’s how the conference organizers describe the conference’s focus and roots:

Ecomuseums 2014 – 2nd International Conference on Ecomuseums, Community Museums and Living Communities follows the path established by its first conference and (as the predecessor) aims at gathering scholars, academics and practitioners working in the areas of Ecomuseums and Community Museums all over the world in an event that may contribute to the global discussion and understanding of the ecomuseums and community museums phenomena.

The ecomuseum movement has its origins in late 1960’s France when the roles museums can play in linking people, their heritage expressions and places, as well as affecting social change, were examined. At this time, traditional museum activities, which centered on the collection of heritage to be interpreted by curators and other museum professionals within a museum building, were viewed as both limited and exclusive in approach.

 In more recent decades, ecomuseums have been established throughout the world and are guided by a variety of differing aims and objectives. For example, an ecomuseum may resemble a more conventional museum in appearance or, in other cases, an open–air community-controlled heritage project, depending on the place.

 It can be considered that this wide range of ecomuseological and community-based museological initiatives demonstrates an international interest in alternative heritage management approaches. For this reason, Ecomuseums 2012 seeks to bring together scholars, researchers, architects and heritage professionals to discuss the commonalities, differences and future of safeguarding practices that are holistic and community oriented in scope.

Conference presentations and panels are accepted from those in any stage of their career or research process, as long as they are somewhat along the following themes:

  1. Community-based museological approaches: challenges, opportunities, practices
  2. The evolution and geographical diaspora of ecomuseum practices
  3. Beyond ecomuseums: Sociomuseology, its theory and practice
  4. Place, communities and heritage: relationships and ecomuseological interventions
  5. Nature,culture and communities: making connections through ecomuseology
  6. The economuseum movement: conserving traditional crafts
  7. Tourism, environment and sustainability: ecomuseological approaches
  8. Working with ethnic minorities: community museology and indigenous curation
  9. Intangible cultural heritage: its significance to local communities and how museums/ecomuseums can assist in safeguarding
  10. Architecture and spatial planning: ecomuseological and inclusive approaches
  11. Urban ecomuseums: conceptual issues, challenges and opportunities
  12. Industrial communities: inclusive approaches to conservation and interpretation of industrial heritage

Individual abstracts are due 28 February 2014 and can be submitted online.

I love the word ecomuseological, don’t you?

Google Searches Just Don’t Cover Everything

That’s right, people who are skilled in finding, accessing, and sifting through information to find out what’s useful are still important. Often we call them librarians, sometimes archivists, keepers, guides, or just plain old smart people. Yesterday, the Weekend All Things Considered Host Arun Rath ended the Sunday edition with a salute to reference librarians NPR’s, through a tribute to NPR’s reference librarian, Kee Malesky (retiring at the end of the year). In the tribute, Arun describes how reference librarians, even in the age of Google, have proved helpful. In short, it’s about information retrieval in a sea of haphazardly organized digital information that we call the Web.

Librarians: The Original Search EngineIt is refreshing to hear this from a non-librarian, even if it is on NPR. Speaking as a journalist, Arun observes, “ever since Google became a verb, I don’t think people appreciate the power of a skilled librarian.” “Believe it or not,” he continues, “Google searches just don’t cover everything.” As an example, he describes the challenge of finding correct pronunciations of names and places, a frequent need for radio journalists, which he says Kee has been instrumental in finding and communicating. To hear the editorial, you have to cue up the player at the following link to about 8:13:

Audio from NPR Weekend All Things Considered from Sunday, December 29, 2013 (click to 8:13). The clip is not pulled out separately on the show page, but you can also listen to (and read) the final music segment here.

A recent post on Hack Library School characterized the librarian’s relationship with Google as “best frenemies forever.” Taking a somewhat different slant, the author there calls for “librarians” to “think long and hard about what it is that Google doesn’t provide. Rath’s editorial opens up a few more areas in which reference librarians, particularly those in the news and private sector, provide essential, and Google-complementary, services in the age of networked information.


In what might be a growing “grassroots” movement (in the sense that it may be individually rather than corporately organized), there seems to be some interest among academics in protesting the high costs of journal publishers through boycotting Elsevier. An early call came from Timothy Gowers. This was mentioned by Michael Nielsen, who gives some more context:

Elsevier is the world’s largest and most profitable scientific publisher, making a profit of 1.1 billion dollars on revenue of 3.2 billion dollars in 2009. Elsevier have also been involved in many dubious practices, including the publishing of fake medical journals sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, and the publication of what are most kindly described as extraordinarily shoddy journals. Until 2009, parent company Reed Elsevier helped facilitate the international arms trade.

Much earlier than this was Robert Darnton’s “The Library: Three Jeremiads,” which points out a “vicious circle” of the rising cost of academic journals:

the escalation in the price of periodicals forces libraries to cut back on their purchase of monographs; the drop in the demand for monographs makes university presses reduce their publication of them; and the difficulty in getting them published creates barriers to careers among graduate students.

The Elsevier boycott thread was recently picked up on Crooked Timber, as well as in a Chronicle piece by Gowers.

Here’s the most recent development at University of Michigan, where the library reports

A boycott launched on January 21st has (as of February 2nd) obtained a commitment by 11 members of the U-M community and 3044 people in total to refuse to publish, referee, or do editorial work for Elsevier journals “unless they radically change how they operate.” (Read more)

Go Blue!

Is There an Echo In Here?

Does the Internet, specifically services like Facebook and Google, narrow or broaden the scope of news and information that you encounter on the Internet? At issue are algorithms that sort and help to select information that you want from the googles of information out there. One of these, that used by Facebook, is called EdgeRank. Underlying all of this is a big question about online social networks, whether online or face-to-face: do your social circles amplify your own views if your friends share information that you are already in the mood to see—i.e., do they create an echo chamber&mdashor do they help you to see new things (and in new ways)?

A new study published by a team at Facebook, led Eytan Bakshy (a colleague and graduate of UMSI), says no. Summarizing the study in, Farhad Manjoo writes:

Although we’re more likely to share information from our close friends, we still share stuff from our weak ties—and the links from those weak ties are the most novel links on the network. Those links from our weak ties, that is, are most likely to point to information that you would not have shared if you hadn’t seen it on Facebook. The links from your close ties, meanwhile, more likely contain information you would have seen elsewhere if a friend hadn’t posted it. These weak ties “are indispensible” to your network, Bakshy says. “They have access to different websites that you’re not necessarily visiting.”

Open Access Scholarly Publishing

Just a few days ago in the NYTimes, an article covers the growing movement to expand open access to scholarly publishing. One quote in the article suggests that the matter of open access scholarly publishing has become a “matter of international justice.” The implication is that cutting edge research and writing should be available to educational institutions in underdeveloped countries.

Blogging Around

SAA 2011 Conference LogoLast week I attended the Society of American Archivists’ Annual Meeting—colloquially known as SAA. (Oh, and I also presented a poster based on my research in digital video preservation and public television news archiving, which deals with the American Black Journal Collection at MATRIX.) It was interesting despite the conference being held at the Chicago Hyatt, which is currently under a boycott from workers unions and made attending the conference rather awkward for those of us who are trying to build professional contacts but also conscious of workers’ rights.

The exciting part is that I was asked by Rose L. Chou to contribute to a roundup of reflections by graduate student attendees at SAA. Thanks to Rose for inspiring me to reinvigorate the blog, at least briefly! You can read the retrospective on SAA 2011 at the Hack Library School blog. Enjoy!