Mid-Michigan Digital Practitioners Meeting – A Student Attendee Perspective

Last Thursday, I was able to attend the Mid-Michigan Digital Practitioners (MMDP) meeting held at Central Michigan University. This is a regional group for digital practitioners from all walks of life to come together and share ideas (read: commiserate) about issues that arise when working with digital materials, and when doing digital content management, curation, and/or preservation.

The group has a very welcoming feel: everyone is just there to share, to help each other, and to grow as professionals and a community.

I wanted to give my impressions and experience in going to the meeting as an MLIS student.

They meet about twice a year or so, and travel from location to location. This was the third meeting since the inception last year at Michigan State University.

The meetings are a day long. To get a sense of the topics that are covered, I will post this meeting’s schedule:

8:30AM-9:00 AM: Coffee and light breakfast; Networking

9:00AM- 9:30 AM: Welcome and Introductions (Ed Busch, MSU and Marian Matyn, CMU)

9:30AM-10:20 AM: Lightning Talks (5 minutes) (Auditorium)

  • Digitizing Workflow (Emily Parry or Ali Wilson, CMU)
  • ResourceSpace (Melinda Isler, Ferris State)
  • Reel-to-reel Preservation at the Bentley Historical Library (Rob Goldey, Bentley Historical Library)
  • Michigan Digital Newspaper Portal Social Media (Kai Niezgoda, CMU)
  • Modeling Relationships Between Objects in Fedora Commons using RDF (Graham Hukill, Wayne State University)
  • Digital Archives Workflow Grant Project- (Michael Shallcross, Bentley Historical Library)

10:20AM-10:30 AM: Break

10:30 AM-12:00 PM: Birds of a Feather sessions (3 rotations of 20 minutes + reporting) (Baber Room)

  • Web Archiving (Ed Busch)
  • Preservation Issues (Kevin Driedger)
  • Digital Assets & Research Data (Aaron Collie)
  • Digital Humanities (Thomas Padilla)
  • Rights Management (Melinda Isler)
  • Open Discussion (Need volunteer)

12:00 PM-1:00 PM: Lunch and Networking

1:00 PM-2:00PM: Presentations (Auditorium)

  • CMU manuscripts and Digital Repository workflow (CONDOR)-Marian Matyn, CMU
  • Preserving Michigan Newspapers- Brian Whitledge, CMU

2:00 PM-3:00PM: What’s Next (Auditorium) – MMDP Planning Committee

  • Feedback, suggestions, future topics (Ed Busch, Aaron Collie, Ranti Junus)
  • Spring 2015 – Ann Arbor (Michael Shallcross)
  • Summer/Fall 2015 – location

3:00 PM-3:10 PM: Break

3:10 PM-4:00 PM: Tool Demonstrations, Posters, Brain Sharing, Networking (Baber Room)

  • Omeka (Amy Barritt)
  • Preservica (Nancy Richard and Max Eckard)
  • Islandora (Aaron Collie)
  • Archivematica (Lisa Schmidt)
  • DSpace (Elise Reynolds)
  • ResourceSpace (Melinda Isler)
  • Archive-It, Web Archiving (Lori Donovan)
  • Concerns (Metadata, Storage, Access)
  • Posters

 

I won’t go into too much detail about each presentation I saw, or discussion group I went to, but I will give my general impressions.

Lightning Talks:

These were all very quick, but very fascinating. In particular, it was interesting to hear about the Reel-to-reel project going on at the Bentley Historical Library, since I know very little about that particular medium, and the work associated with it. Additionally, I always love to hear about what Graham, Cole and the rest of the team at WSU are doing with Fedora.

Birds of a Feather:

This is always my favorite part of the meeting, for two reasons. The first is that I can go to a table that is about something I know very little about (in this case, it was “Digital Assets & Research Data”) and hear discussion from professionals who are in the trenches. I find that this is a great, and quick, way to learn the issues about a subject, as well as how that particular topic relates to our field, or who is doing that activity. I was interested in sitting at the “Digital Assets & Research Data” table for one of the discussions because in my Digital Curation and Preservation class, our professor mentioned that this is becoming a huge issue right now; organizations and researchers are just becoming overwhelmed with the data they are now able to create and are in dire need of people to organize, categorize, and make that data useable. Other times, the data cannot even be used now because of computing restraints and they need someone to make it so that the data can be accessed in the future when computing realities change. I thought it was a great opportunity, then, to be able to hear how professionals in Michigan are experiencing and addressing this issue. There was a lot I didn’t understand, obviously, but it was great exposure.

The second reason I love this part of the meeting is because I actually feel like I can contribute to discussion. For example, I went to the “Preservation Issues” and “Web Archiving” tables as well. I am always nervous to begin participating since I am just a student, but it always surprises me that other participants really want to know what I have to say. Through my experiences doing research with NDSA, and from my part-time jobs, I was able to make some comments and further the discussion. Additionally, the professionals in this group seem genuinely interested in what we are learning as part of our program! In some cases, what we are learning is different from what they learned in school, and in many cases, it is current, updated information, or the methodology of how we are being taught is of interest. It is a great confidence boost to feel like I am not just an observer, or that even though I’m still a student, I can contribute to dialogue in the field that I would like to have my career.

Presentations:

These were two interesting presentations about projects going on through CMU. The first one was specific to solving a workflow issue that they had, but I felt it had larger lessons to teach about communication and good workflow development.

The second was interesting from the perspective that it talked about collaborating with organizations across the state in an effort to preserve newspapers through a program sponsored by the Library of Congress. It raised issues of data capacity, metadata creation, and logistical concerns when doing large and collaborative projects.

Both of these presentations should become available on the Michigan State Archives & Historical Collections websites soon, if they aren’t already. I will link to that below.

What’s Next:

One other aspect of this group that makes it feel very alive and welcoming is the extent to which the planning committee involves the individuals who attend the meetings. We all offered many suggestions and talked through them as a group for how the meetings should proceed, what should be included, or taken away, and even how more students might become involved.

Tool Demonstrations:

For this part of the meeting, I mainly helped my boss at our “Archivematica” table, so I didn’t get the opportunity to go around and see what other things were going on. Despite being late in the afternoon though, quite a few participants stayed for this portion, and it seemed like there were some very lively discussions going on.

 

The next meeting will be held in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. Attendance at the meetings is free, and food is provided, so if you have time, I would strongly recommend going! It is a great opportunity to learn and network! Also, as I mentioned, the attendees come from many walks of life: archivists and librarians, sure, but also retired professors, members of various local historical societies, students, and so on; anyone with an interest in digital materials and practices is encouraged to join in.

For more information about this meeting (including presentations), please visit the page about it here:

http://www.archives.msu.edu/about/pastmeetings.php?about_conferences_pastmeetings

For information on the upcoming meeting in Ann Arbor (March), please see this page:

http://www.archives.msu.edu/about/conferences.php?about_conferences

If you’d like to get in touch with me, my e-mail is courtney.whitmore@wayne.edu.

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