Re:Thinking

A blog featuring perspectives from a variety of contributors on topics relating to the emerging digital environment, research, and higher education.
Blog posts published after January 1, 2018, are available at https://www.clir.org/category/rethinking/

Posts

        The Montana Historical Society (MHS) is pleased to announce the launch of the Montana History Wiki Subject Guide on the life and work of Senator Lee Metcalf, which is the culmination of 1½ years of work and research for the Lee Metcalf Photograph and Film Collections CLIR Hidden Collections grant project by project archivist Matthew M. Peek. Peek used the information gained from interviews with former Metcalf employees and friends, Metcalf's papers, information from the photographs and films themselves,...

Morality in Information Ecosystems

As a newcomer to the world of libraries and information science with training in ecology and geography, I struggle with the metaphor of “information ecosystem” that is enthusiastically used to describe human-built information systems. I expressed this concern at the recent CLIR bootcamp for the 2014-16 fellows and was pleased to find that it started a lively discussion, but in the end no clear explanation of the metaphor was articulated. This blog explores my difficulties...

Digitizing Hidden Collections: What You've Told Us

Back in April, we announced that we were discontinuing Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives in its current form and that we were working to replace it with a program that could accommodate funding the digitization of rare and unique collections. The succeeding months have involved a great deal of deliberation and consultation with other funders, with leading practitioners in the field, and also with readers of Re:Thinking, who provided thoughtful and provocative responses to...

When Good Enough is Better than Perfect

When I was a PhD student I had a terrible habit of wanting something to be perfect before I’d let anyone see it. In hindsight, I started to refer to this as being stuck in a “perfection trap.” That’s one of many reasons it took me six years to do a four-year degree. Finally, my supervisor took me aside and said “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it has to be done.” I used that as a...
This past week, I have taken time to reflect on the four-plus years I have dedicated to the Digital Library Federation program and the community it serves. It has been an exciting, transformational time in which I have grown professionally, tested my skills and abilities, and—most rewardingly—deepened friendships and forged new relationships with an amazing group of dedicated professionals. It is a bittersweet moment, looking back, as I make a slight pivot turn toward a...

A Word Is Born: A Digital Exhibit for the Dictionary of Old English

In Old English poetry, the human body is a bone house (banhus) and the sea is a whale-road (hronrad). There is a single word for “the care and anxiety that come in the early morning"(uhtcearu) and for a flight of spears (garfaru) but over 30 words meaning warrior in the first half of the alphabet alone.  Old English is the earliest form of the English language, from 600 to 1150 AD. Its words are at...

Little Data

So much attention today is focused understandably on “big data.” Scientific disciplines such as astronomy, particle physics, meteorology, and genomics generate petabytes of data regularly, requiring new tools of analysis to discern patterns and trends, and to extrapolate new meaning from such astonishing volumes of information. The humanities also must confront the challenge of data at a scale that cannot be read or interpreted by traditional methods and tools. A recent article in the New...

Challenges and Cohorts

Last week, the newest cohort of CLIR/DLF Postdoctoral Fellows gathered at Bryn Mawr College for the annual 10-day "bootcamp" orientation seminar. I attended as a new fellow 8 years ago; this year, I attended the day devoted to orienting supervisors, as I will be helping to guide new fellows at UCLA. Supervisors' day, which included supervisors or their representatives and all the new fellows, started with facilitated discussions in the morning and a panel of...

Digital Preservation Meeting DP-2014

Last week, I attended the Digital Preservation 2014 meeting in Washington, DC. It is an amazing event that gathers researchers, practitioners, technologists, designers, artists, and many other professionals and curious individuals. The meeting opened with a keynote by Micah Altman, chair of the NDSA Coordinating Committee, who emphasized that there is a lot of "digital stuff" out there and that this stuff is different from non-digital. It can be accessed, replicated, and changed much faster...

A Kit for Hosting "Speaking in Code"

This is a belated follow-up post to last autumn’s “How We Learned to Start/Stop Speaking in Code,” in which I described the motivation for us, at the UVa Library Scholars’ Lab, to host a two-day summit on the scholarly and social implications of tacit knowledge exchange in digital humanities software development. But the timing is good!—because today, the Scholars’ Lab is releasing a web-based toolkit that any group can use to host a similar gathering....
The Yellowstone National Park Archives has begun blogging about it's Hidden Collections project, "Using a Team Approach to Expose Yellowstone's Hidden Collections." We've designed an innovative way to accomplish this task—we’re calling it a “processing blitz”. Read more at:  http://www.nps.gov/yell/blogs/Using-a-Team-Approach-to-Expose-Yellowstone-s-Hidden-Collections.htm  

Embracing Teamwork and the Limited-Term Initiative

In his 2012 article, “Embracing Hybridity: The Merged Organization, Alt/Ac and Higher Education,” CLIR Distinguished Presidential Fellow Elliott Shore urged library administrators and other leaders in higher education to invite “differently positioned and credentialed individuals into the world of libraries” and to work “together with computing organizations to create temporary structures within which to revise ideas and approaches to our work,” [1] thereby advocating both a rich, textured staff as a means of working across,...
The Rare Book and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries met for its annual conference June 24-27 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On June 24, RBMS hosted a daylong pedagogy workshop presented by the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS). As I conduct all instruction sessions for the Division of Special Collections at the University of Alabama, I attended alongside my supervisor, Associate Dean Mary Bess Paluzzi. I came away from the session...
The Romance of the Rose was the most popular vernacular work in the Middle Ages. It was also one of the longest at some 21,000 lines of verse, or around 250 manuscript leaves (500 pages). That’s about as far from a 140 character tweet as one could imagine. But medieval readers had lots of time. And what more appealing than a story of a young poet’s adventures in the Garden of Love searching for the ideal...

Opening Open Repositories

I recently returned from Helsinki, Finland, where I had the pleasure of attending the 9th annual International Conference on Open Repositories (OR2014). This year’s five-day conference, held June 9-13, attracted nearly 500 participants representing 38 countries—the largest attendance ever since the beginning of the Open Repositories conference series. OR conference participants represent a wide range of constituencies, including librarians, archivists, repository managers, data curators, software developers, researchers, IT professionals, and many others involved in some...

The Storied Context of Story Telling

On the first day of discussions at the recently concluded Leading Change Institute (LCI), participants were asked to identify challenges they believe are pervasive, that cross professional borders, and that would benefit from concerted exploration during the week of conversations and presentations. Among the challenges identified was story telling. How does one tell a persuasive story as a means to accomplish a desired goal? Telling stories is a profoundly important method of sharing ideas in...

A Good Time to be a Leader in Higher Ed

We just wrapped up the 2014 CLIR/EDUCAUSE Leading Change Institute. This institute brought together a talented group of higher education library and IT people for a week in Washington, DC. It was truly humbling to be among these folks and I’ve been reflecting on a few of the lessons I learned from them. Optimism - There has never been a better time to work in higher education, despite the messaging we might get from the...

Censored Books and Archival Adventures

As I enter into the final months of my CLIR fellowship, it is a treat to reflect on the diversity of archival experiences I’ve had in the past nine months. My dissertation, titled “Heterodox Healers: Censorship and Medical Scholarship in Late Renaissance Italy, 1559-1664,” has propelled me into the archives of Italy and the Vatican. So far this year I have visited 16 different libraries and archives on the Italian peninsula. I’ve navigated the high-tech...

Discommoded by the Archive

Our just-concluded stint as guest editors of Archive Journal’s new issue, entitled “Publishing the Archive,” has proven sobering and instructive, to say the least. Every piece in the issue calls attention to the daunting (and possibly insurmountable) challenges in the digital age of preserving archival materials in an ephemeral medium. Particularly enlightening in this regard is Jefferson Bailey’s “TAGOKOR: Biography of an Electronic Record,” which traces the protean life of a Korean War casualty file...

Net Neutrality: an Open Letter to the FCC

This is a brief post meant to direct your attention to an almost equally brief letter—and to an issue of likely interest to CLIR’s Re:Thinking readers, from across the spectrum of communities CLIR serves. On Tuesday night, a loose coalition of chairs, directors, presidents, editors, and founders of 27 well-established digital humanities and digital media professional associations, journals, and publishing platforms joined in an open letter, sent to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. These...