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Cultural Heritage Archives:
Networks, Innovation & Collaboration

A Symposium at the Library of Congress

Sept. 26-27, 2013

Session Descriptions

Session I: Users of Cultural Heritage Archival Materials

The role of an archive is conceived most frequently as preserving documentation of activities and events, sometimes for contemporary uses but more often with an eye to the future. This session will focus on issues surrounding relationships between archives and communities of users in terms of interaction and outreach.

• Who are the users of archival collections?
• What presumptions do archivists make about these users (both present and future)? How do these presumptions shape the kinds of documentation archives acquire and the mechanisms by which they provide access to collections?
• Who are the users of academic, public, and private archives, respectively? Are they from the same demographic groups? If not, where are the overlaps?
• How are ethnographic archives working together with communities of origin?
• If archivists recognize under-utilized resources in their collections and recognize possible users of such material, how do they (or should they) bring the users and the materials together?

Session II: Preservation and Digital Stewardship

Cultural heritage documentation exists in complex states of being—be these states digital, physical, electronic, material, analog, acoustic, visual, aural, tactile, textual, or any combination thereof. A single method for preservation of our multifarious collections seems implausible, or even naïve. This session looks to the field of cultural heritage archives for broad or specific views on active preservation and/or digital stewardship programs.

• What are you doing to ensure the longevity of your collections?
• How do you balance analog and digital preservation of your materials?
• Which tools are you using?
• What tools are needed?
• Which models currently work, and which do not?

Session III: Archival Description

With the rise and increasing sophistication of search capabilities and information technologies in the digital age, as well as new user behaviors, archives are challenged to rethink older modes of collection description. This session will explore successful and not-so-successful case studies and solutions for providing access to cultural heritage materials.

• How are archivists changing the ways in which they describe archival collections? How are changes in access technologies driving these changes? How are changes in preservation technologies affecting these changes? What are other drivers?
• How has the use of controlled vocabularies facilitated or hindered access in this new environment?
• How can archivists maintain professional descriptive standards while facilitating participatory description through collaborative cataloging?
• How do archives loosen their control of archival description to allow communities of origin to maintain connections to their cultural materials?
• How does More Product / Less Process apply to cultural heritage and ethnographic materials, where the need to provide deep contextual background is ever-challenged by today's exponential growth of cultural documentation?

Session IV: Education and Training

Cultural heritage archivists are often asked to give guidance and offer training for preserving, safeguarding, and providing access to ethnographic materials. This effort involves mastering myriad and often complex areas of study. This session focuses on case studies of archival training models, collaborations, and examples that have worked or have not—to encourage the development of coordinated training for the archival treatment of cultural heritage materials.

• How can we help to provide the most efficient and effective training for individuals and groups seeking archival assistance—and what are the most beneficial ways to coordinate our efforts?
• In what ways can larger or regional archival institutions offer support that can effect lasting change in local or community archives?

Session V: Sharing Resources

Archives today do much to reach out to external audiences for support through crowd-sourcing, targeted participation, on-site volunteerism and internships, among other strategies. This session looks to the field for examples of ongoing collaborations between archives, both successful and unsuccessful.

•How do archives work with other archives to share resources, improve efficiency, find new audiences, or develop collaborative projects?
• How beneficial is resource sharing among archival institutions?
• To what extent is it feasible to serve as a back-up repository where the control of content remains in the hands of communities of origin?
• We see how participatory activities between archives and the public work, but how are they sustained, and how are the results of such participation integrated into long-term archival practice and preservation?

Session VI: Forging Archival Collaborations and Alliances

No matter what their size or location, archives face the same preservation and access issues. But smaller ones do not have the advantage of economies of scale. And archives are often located within larger academic or governmental institutions that may shape their policies (as well as budgets). As a result, similar materials housed in different archives may experience different levels or processes of preservation. They may also be afforded different types or levels of access.

• Are there examples of archival collaborations that respect institutional differences but still bridge those realities?
• Are there examples of alliances that help the archival community maximize preservation and access?


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