Share in our discoveries across three projects as we work to provide the first intellectual access to our hidden treasures relating to work and labor in early 20th Century New England, the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair and its period, and Boston local TV news.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Work Life final report wrapped and sent

Fifty new finding aids for moving image collections documenting work life between 1916 and 1960 have been published as EAD-encoded finding aids, with 1,081 reel descriptions using the PBCore metadata structure. The finding aids are here.

We hope this work will be helpful for both scholars encountering these records and for our peers seeking to solve their own hidden collections issues. Audiovisual texts are essential records for humanities research. This opportunity has been an important step. As Mark J. Williams, Dartmouth Film & Media Studies, says, “This project succeeds in relation to both stalwart commitment to preservation, and a progressive commitment to establish new modes of access and study, by working to realize standards that conjoin both analog and digital sets of tools for access, annotation, and the futures of moving image scholarship.”

There were delays with our database system due to the complexity of the original coding. We await a last deliverable, the CollectiveAccess OAI-PMH utility, to support the upload of records to WorldCat. This capability is promised by the developer for August.

ASSESSMENT EXCERPTS, full reports on request

1. Comments on Hidden Collections of Work Life databases
Martin Johnson, NYU Cinema Studies doctoral student

What you are doing is rare. Most moving image archives don’t offer stills. Need to answer the researchers’ question, “What do I have to do to see this material?” For close reading they will want to know, “How can I get to this (are there digital moving images?)”

Next steps
What about more organic gathering of collections, creating virtual collections, for example a Web-only aggregation of “Movie Queen” material. Or summer camps. Or Jewish summer camps. Also, a layer of community-created pages.

2. Intellectual Access to Moving Images of Work Life, 1916-1960, Assessment of Project Outcomes
David Rowntree, archival media consultant, Special Media Collections Archivist at Washington University, St. Louis (2001-2009)

….the experience gained from the Work Life project and successful integration of different metadata standards put NHF in a position to take a leading role in sharing strategies with other similar institutions. It would be a coveted position to be thought of as a leader in the profession, as IPI [Image Permanence Institute] is thought of for storage and preservation.
Establishing mechanisms to transfer generated knowledge and increase scholarly/informational output in the form of white papers, panel presentations, and articles in professional journals can enhance the reputation of NHF in the profession – both as a place that is generating scholarship from study and use of its collections, and as a place that is a leader in moving image archiving. This can include applying for grants to conduct research and create recommendations and best practice guidelines.

Next steps
There are two main paths the NHF should follow as it goes forward from the Work Life Project. The first focuses on the activities around the dissemination of the newly created resource and encouragement of scholarly access. The second path is derived from the lessons learned and experience of the project to position the institution as a center of excellence and leader in the profession.

3. Northeast Historic Film’s Work Life Collection: Its Uses and Benefits in Digital Education
Jim Wells, Maine Learning Technology Initiative, Dept. of Education

The ability to sort through the database by different criteria, such as place, industry, decade etc. as given on the Work Life homepage enables the student to find information faster, with more accuracy and with confidence.
Far from being an anonymous collection of clips, from which students must extract meaning and understanding, they are provided with detailed notes on contributors, dates, places and notes found with the films. In terms of citing the source this is invaluable, contributing to a deeper academic level earlier in the grades system.

Next steps
Georeference-based projects and video publications by students.

4. Assessment of the Project Intellectual Access to Moving Images of Work Life
Mark J. Williams, Department of Film and Media Studies, Dartmouth College

All of these critical questions and emphases are newly elaborated by the importance of the digital aspects of the Work Life project. Let me conclude by referencing several key factors in this aspect of the assessment. The format and design of the site is clean and recognizable, despite (or rather, clearly because of) its conceptual innovations. The stills selected to represent each film are distinctive and noteworthy, attracting attention and interest. Each is paired with a brief video excerpt that further elaborates the regional, period, and indexical value of each film. (Indeed, this paired format seems to echo the very spectacle of early film screenings, as still images that might seem of interest at one level, spring into motion and take on a “life” both unexpected and familiar.) The descriptive work for each entry is well-researched, copiously detailed, insightful, and elegant. A map feature for each entry is especially notable, literally “placing” the film in its local context, and therefore re-locating the text in a manner that accents and highlights both its historicized site of production and its relation to the mission of the archive.

Next steps
One could for example posit a set of research potentials between this project and other online archival projects, such as the Library of Congress site titled America at Work, America at Leisure. It is not difficult to imagine capacities for crowd/cloud annotations in relation to this project and the cluster of projects to which it will exist in relation. Various additional and related mappings and historical geospatial overlays are clearly within reach, as new scholars and audiences (or newly digitized older scholarship) are brought into interface with these materials. Indeed, this collection and project beg us to imagine the future and alternative functionality of research, and even entirely new areas of research that online access and networked capacities may generate.