After missing the last couple of years of SAA meetings, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the buzz around the conference this year. It seems that archivists have embraced the idea of digital archives and are taking a hands-on, head-on, and often innovative approach to digital archives.
I know that every conference is actually a series of smaller conferences, with shifting groups of interests and players, but it seems to me that the ideas that are permeating the conversations are all about using technology to connect, process, manage, and preserve our cultural heritage. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’ve been somewhat isolated out West for the past few years, but it seems to me that there is energy here I have not seen in years, and it is good to be a part of it.
Beyond renewing some old friendships, my goal here has been to try to capture the tenor of the times so to speak. So, for what it is worth, and in no particular order, here is what I have heard so far that resonated with me, and I plan on working on when I get back (hurricane force winds notwithstanding).
- Linked open data (LOD) may at last be coming of age, and we should prepare our metadata to play in the Semantic Web
- “Rapid Capture” or “Mass digitization” is the future of digital archives reformatting, but ONLY if we can produce “mass metadata.” And I think we can.
- Participatory archives is the future of artisanal metadata creation. The only way to really get good information about our collections is to tap the people who know about them.
- Automated analysis of textual documents will allow us to provide good access points for mass digitized text documents.
- Generic digital repositories will ultimately underlie all archival collections, and collections access will finally be separated from collections management.
- Handwriting to text conversion of historical documents may be possible using new tablet handwriting recognition tools.
- Items are the bread and butter of researchers and projecting our items out to the world is what we should do.
- Preservation activities are becoming part of every digital archives workflow.
Like I said, I don’t know how much of this is me or the profession, but it seems like we are heading for some exciting and interesting times.