Empire Archives Discovery Collaborative

A MARAC Newark 2017 session;

Chair: Déirdre Joyce, Central NY Library Resources Council
Jen Palmentiero, Southeastern New York Library Resources Council
Laura Streett, Vassar College
Greg Wiedeman, University at Albany, SUNY

Blogpost Author: Barbara Gombach, student, LIU-Palmer Archives & Records Management Certificate Program, bgombach@gmail.com

Discover. Connect. Engage. That’s the three-part mission of the Empire State Library Network (ESLN). One of its signature projects, the Empire ADC (Archives Discovery Collaborative), has created a centralized online finding aid repository and index enabling the discovery of New York State’s vast and varied archival holdings through a single portal. Already nearly 1,000 finding aids strong, portal contents are now poised to grow significantly, putting Empire ADC on track to realize its developers’ ambition to join states such as Texas (Portal to Texas History), California (Online Archive of California), Colorado (History Colorado), and Virginia (Virginia Memory).


Giving the background and timeline of the Empire ADC project to date, Déirdre Joyce got the presentation started. Next, Jen Palmentiero described how the team adopted and adapted a form-fill tool called EADitor that team member Ethan Gruber had developed at the American Numismatic Society. With EADitor, less technically-inclined users can create EAD-compliant finding aids without deep understanding of the standard. An IMLS SPARKS grant allowed the team further to develop EADitor for use in small cultural heritage organizations. The grant had three objectives: 1) create collection-level records with “help tips” and optionally upload box-level descriptions from existing finding aids, 2) create a super-administrative database, and 3) develop a training program and related materials piloted through workshops around the State.

The team also developed a harvester in order to ingest, index and store, and create access for the finding aids. Using GitHub, the team has validated and ingested finding aids from the University at Albany, SUNY as well as from the American Numismatic Society via OAI-PMH.

Following Jen Palmentiero’s demonstration of EADitor – including its linked data features and multiple facets – Déirdre Joyce led a panel discussion of topics that brought the development of this important project to life, including team members’ personal motivations for getting involved, how the training workshops and materials have evolved (Laura Streett), the challenges for contributors at the harvester level (Greg Wiedeman), prospects for long-term sustainability (Jen Palmentiero), and what has surprised team members most about the project so far.

Solutions to the vexed challenge of putting aggregate-level access on par with item-level access in digital collections are on the far horizon due to recent work done by DPLA and others…. but that’s another story. Thanks to the talented and dedicated Empire ADC team and ESLN, it won’t be too long now before New York State’s archival collections will truly be discoverable worldwide.

Dating 19th Century Portrait Photographs

A MARAC Newark 2017 Half-Day Workshop, Instructor: Gary Saretzky, Monmouth County Archives

Blogger: Barbara Gombach, student, Palmer School, LIU, Archives & Records Management Certificate Program, bgombach@gmail.com

Perhaps you’ve seen them in an archival collection or museum, or seen modern reproductions at a Civil War reenactment. Or even for sale on eBay. Wherever you may have encountered them, know that archivists in the MARAC region could not have a better guide to the fascinating world of 19th century portrait photographs than Gary Saretzky, archivist in the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office in Manalapan, New Jersey. Daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, cartes-de-visites (now commonly called cdvs), and cabinet cards. Changing photo production processes, the history of photo studios and prominent photographers in Newark and elsewhere; Gary Saretzky knows it all.

Daguerreotype    Photo Courtesy of Gary Saretzky

A photographer who taught the subject and practiced the craft for many years after becoming an archivist, at MARAC-Newark, Gary held a pre-conference workshop on” Identifying 19th Century Portrait Photographs.” Using his extraordinary slide collection, he illustrated chronologically the development of these remarkable photo types, training the eyes of workshop participants to attend not only to clothing and hair styles but also to studio props, datable objects included in a photo, backgrounds, decorative motifs, housing design and materials, style of mounting, thickness of card stock, hallmarks on metal plates, and more—all clues to dating these enduring historical and artistic treasures.

Mary Todd Lincoln Tintype   Photo Courtesy of Gary Saretzky

In addition to the sheer aesthetic pleasure of closely viewing each type of portrait photograph and beginning to learn how to date them, participants learned something of their historical context. For example, during the Civil War in 1864, Congress instituted a tax on various goods in order to defray the government’s war debts. The goods ranged from perfumes and cosmetics to cigar lights, wax tapers, playing cards and photographs, namely ambrotypes, cdvs, tintypes, and daguerreotypes. Photographers were required to affix these “tax stamps” – which for photos could have added a hefty 10% tax or more to the retail cost of photos priced up to 25 cents –  to the back of commercial photos and also to hand-cancel them. The practice lasted for almost two years from 1864 to 1866, so the presence of a stamp helps greatly in dating photos from that time period.

As was fitting for MARAC’s Newark location, participants saw many photos from studios that had operated in Newark itself, as well as photos from nearby locations such as the Jersey Shore.

Gary provided a bibliography of relevant publications and websites. Participants could also handle and personally examine samples of these small treasures, making this fascinating and informative workshop truly hands-on.

Two great loves on one tour: Archives and Jazz

I consider myself a pretty equal opportunity archives lover: I eat it all up. Experiencing first-hand the documents that form the history and underpinning of a person, institution, place, or event; hearing the back story of how crucial and rare – or seemingly minor but actually the real deal – materials have been carefully kept and treasured, or arbitrarily lost and serendipitously found, or lost and found and tragically lost again and then finally treasured and kept. It’s all a thrill to me.

But the opportunity to mesh a great love with getting a professional’s inside view of its current life, past history, and varied stewardship? Priceless, as they say.

MARAC Newark’s Thursday April 20 tour to both the Institute of Jazz Studies (IJS) at Rutgers University-Newark’s Dana Library and public radio station WBGO was such a chance for this deeply amateur jazz lover. Talk about being a kid in a [n archival] candy store!

Institute of Jazz Studies exhibition venue

As someone who learned everything I know about jazz from WBGO, it was a special thrill to see the collections that document the rich history of this truly American art format housed at the world renowned IJS. And then to follow that by seeing – and hearing – where the music and DJs I listen to and learn from every day have enlightened and delighted jazz lovers worldwide for decades.

AT IJS, archivist Tad Hershorn shared with us his passion for and dedication to the depth and breadth of the collection, started by Dan Morgenstern and Marshall Stern at a time when jazz and its African and African American roots were little studied. The collection includes materials of every type: discographies that form the catalogue raisonee of jazz performance, scores, printed books, ephemera, recordings on vinyl and tape, photographs, clippings, instruments, and audio equipment. The Institute’s collections encompass the history of this uniquely American musical form, and make this rich and varied documentary evidence available to researchers, scholars, and students.

The Institute of Jazz Studies archivist Tad Hershorn

This year marks the Institute’s 50th anniversary. To celebrate, it has opened at Rutgers-Newark’s impressive new Express Newark location the expansive exhibition “Records at Play”. Its title riffs on the method by which jazz was long promulgated, and the plethora of historical materials: yes, they are both records. Designed especially for visitors who may not be familiar with jazz, including the many Rutgers students who frequent the print shop, studios, and coffee house also located in this new extra-campus “third space,” the exhibition includes iconic objects, photographs, costumes, and audio recordings from the Institute’s deep holdings to tell a chronological story of the art form’s history.

What a thrill to conclude this jazz archives morning with a visit to WBGO’s studios, located steps away from the conference hotel on Newark’s beautiful Military Park. Station co-founder Dorthaan Kirk introduced us to the studio’s current exhibition in its hallway gallery: works of visual art by painters and sculptors who are also musicians, including a portrait of Duke Ellington painted by Tony Bennett.

VP of Operations and Engineering David Tallacksen took us through the station’s studio level including both public and broadcasting spaces. Their large all-purpose room might house a staff meeting today, a live concert by a 10-piece band tomorrow, and after that: the volunteer-staffed on-air drives to raise the funds that keep the station functioning. Peeking into the station’s audio library, we could see just a part of the enormous LP and CD collection that the station’s DJs select from to program its 24 hour jazz broadcasts. On the speakers in the hallway, we could hear MidDay Jazz host Rhonda Hamilton – a familiar voice to me – and there she was in person, broadcasting from her compact studio location.

Rhonda Hamilton in her studio

It was an amazing and impressive day, full of the history of a truly American art form: thank you to the stewards of its history, as well as the promulgators of its present and future, at these two Newark institutions for a thrilling and enjoyable pair of tours.

Celia Hartmann
Senior Associate for Archival Processing, Museum Archives, The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Announcement – ‘Intersections: Technology and Public Services in Special Collections Symposium’

Every intersection tells a story, what’s yours?

Please join us August 6 – August 8, 2017 for an interactive and engaging symposium “Intersections: Technology and Public Services in Special Collections Symposium” at the Penn State University campus in University Park, PA. Engage at the intersection of your institution’s awareness of need and responsive action!

Public services are the most visible part of any archives or special collections library, but also depend upon the efficient functioning of other essential operations.

The 2017 Intersections symposium builds on its predecessors (the Aeon Symposium at Yale in 2015 and at the University of Michigan in 2016). However, this iteration expands on what it means to provide access to collections in the archives and special collections environment. Though Aeon, remains a key tool, partner, and product of focus, Intersections also includes other workflows, tools, partners, and products that are present in our daily work.This symposium also aligns and incorporates many of the key components of the RBMS and SAA’s Metrics and Assessment Task Force report to broach broader topics with regard to assessing impact via meaningful metrics. Please join us for this exploration of how technology, assessment, and public service intersect to support discovery and access of cultural heritage collections. Public service special collections professionals truly work at the intersection of where technology meets end-users’ needs. Colleagues with an interest in public services in the special collections world are invited to attend, regardless of the tools locally used.

Registration is free; participants are responsible for travel, meal and accommodation costs. Symposiums are meant to be inclusive and to incorporate perspective and dialogue from many different sources. We hope you will submit a proposal to be a part of this crucial discussion.

For registration information and to submit a proposal, please visit https://sites.psu.edu/xpsusymposium/.

Deadline extended, collaboration space created for MARAC Spring 2018 program proposals for Hershey conference

The Program Committee for next year’s Hershey Conference has received several requests to help potential speakers find one another and share ideas. To this end, we have shamelessly stolen the format used by our colleagues at SAA to provide a collaboration space for our MARAC members.

If you are looking for the perfect presentation to fill out your panel, please go here to find potential co-presenters:

Please note that this is an unofficial, un-moderated collaboration space and that all program proposals still need to be submitted through the Google Form for consideration which can be found here: https://goo.gl/forms/wxsHFY3elqoIC0FX2

The call for proposals may be accessed here: https://themaracblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/call-for-proposals-for-marac-spring-2018-conference-in-hershey-pa/

So that everyone has the time they need to collaborate, the Program Committee has extended the deadline for proposals to Monday, June 12, 2017 at midnight.

Final report of the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion

MARAC’s Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion have released their final report, available for on the Task force webpage: http://www.marac.info/diversity-and-inclusion. We would like to hear from the membership – your comments, general feedback, areas for improvement, and related resources that you would like to share. Please submit feedback using this anonymous form: https://goo.gl/forms/f62Cw8Gc2Krof1CV2

We’re also looking for a new group of members to continue this work – if you are interested in participating in any capacity, please indicate this below. You can also send feedback or other questions directly to the Task Force chair, Lindsey Loeper, at lindseyloeper@umbc.edu.

This report contains updated versions of the diversity definition, the position statement, and the code of conduct, incorporating suggested revisions by members of the Steering committee and the Task Force. The bulk of the report contains recommended initiatives to support the goals outlined in the position statement. These recommendations are arranged by related committee area: Steering, Communications, Meetings and Education, and Membership. Our intention is that this work will be supported by a Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator and Committee in partnership with the existing committees.

In addition to the specific initiatives outlined, we recommend that all MARAC committees and serving members consider how their work promotes, supports, and/or unintentionally hinders our shared goal of working within a diverse and inclusive member organization and profession. The Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator and Committee can assist all committees, not only those targeted in this report, with reviewing their mission and suggesting potential assessment methods to evaluate work in this area.

The Task Force has acknowledged throughout the process that these are complicated issues that will not be remedied by our recommendations alone. The continued commitment shown by our Chair and Chair-Elect, Brian Keough and Vin Novara, the guidance and support provided by the members of the Steering Committee, and the hard work and dedication of our membership will be required in order for MARAC to make a real contribution in moving our profession forward. We acknowledge that this work won’t be easy and that MARAC can’t do it alone, and that we might even fail a few times on the way, but we’re looking forward to getting started.

Kirsten Strigel Carter
Ken Cleary, Member-At-Large
E. Evan Echols
Christine George, Member-At-Large
Josue Hurtado
Lindsey Loeper, Member-At-Large, Chair
Megan Miller

Telling Untold Histories Unconference

It’s conference season, and choosing which event to attend can be daunting. Sometimes it can feel like all those sessions go by in a blur, as you furiously scribble notes across handouts, network in the short spurts between the professional development skill-builder and the discussion roundtable, and make a quick stop for any caffeine possible to combat the effects of sitting still for hours.

If you find yourself nodding your head in furtive identification with those challenges, the Telling Untold Histories Unconference, offered at Rutgers University – Newark, might be for you! Registration is now open for this third-annual public history event that puts the power back into the hands of the participants. The day is run on the fuel of your curiosity, professional or personal!

What is an unconference, you ask? It’s a conference with a theme, but no set speakers, panels, or prepared talks. You, the people, propose our topics and choose our sessions, whether they are discussion-based, problems to be solved, or sharing and discovering a niche tool in your field. What’s the catch, then? Sessions are given the final go-ahead by voting, so we welcome your most passionate reasoning on behalf of your favorite topic, and your fellow attendees will, too!

This conference is open to anyone. Public history professionals, librarians, lay historians, K-12 students, and others have all attended. The diversity of participation makes the day so much richer! A lively dialogue permeates the atmosphere, in person and on the digital mediums of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. In the past, many attendees have left feeling refreshed, connected, inspired, and rejuvenated by the fusion of thinking, networking, and discovering they have done during this day-long unconference. And sitting still? Only if you have the willpower to resist the excited energy flowing between the rooms!

And that all sounds ideal, of course, but what exactly is “Telling Untold Histories”? What it says – uncovering and disseminating alternative historical narratives, sharing new voices from the past, and using untold histories to generate positive change in neighborhoods, cities and the country. This goal is far from abstract. Now more than ever, as issues of immigration, employment, economic opportunity, inequality, and health are being debated in the public and private spheres, it is critical that we make space to look at which narratives shape our national rhetoric and which go unheard. It is crucial that we examine the historical precedent for these discussions in a way that fosters contemporary activism. The Telling Untold Histories Steering Committee seeks to provide this space in an accessible, tangible way by tapping into the most powerful resource – the attendees themselves!

Additionally, there will be a few pre-planned workshops to ensure you get skill-building opportunities throughout the day. Radical archiving with Heather Hart, co-founder of the Black Lunch Table (BLT); institutional inclusivity with Museum Hue’s DEI consultant, Monica O. Montgomery; a peek into the digital music-mapping of Newark’s jazz history with musicologist Mia Tootill; engaging communities and making your museum (or archive, or collection, or historic site!) relevant; exploring OMEKA; and information literacy in our present public climate – all of these are up for your perusal during the day. You’ll walk away armed with plenty of ideas to bring back to your institution and your work.

Registration is $20, plus a small service fee. Register now on Eventbrite! And contact us with any questions or comments.

The Telling Untold Histories Unconference is generously sponsored by Ms. Dinean Robinson and the following organizations: NJ Historical Commission, NJ Council for the Humanities, Middlesex County Culture & Heritage Commission, LibraryLinkNJ, , Queer Newark Oral History Project, Rutgers University – Newark College of Arts & Sciences, Rutgers University – Newark Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities.