A full-day workshop on email archiving for art museums

As many of you know, I have been very concerned about the lack of email archiving in museums. I chaired a session a few years ago at MCN and found that I am not alone in my concern. Since then, things have not improved. In fact, one might say they have worsened as the volume of email continues to increase, as does its use for types of museum correspondence that are crucial for us to preserve.

The problem, simply stated, is that lack of robust archiving and retrieval for email correspondence in today’s art museums may limit the primary source materials available to future generations of students, scholars, and the public. This is an issue for directors, curators, educators, researchers, archivists, collection managers, and technology staff. While there are commercial products for email archiving, they are built to serve corporate data-retention policies, not future research and scholarship. Focused on maintaining emails for five, seven, or ten years, these products rarely are expected to retain emails indefinitely. They may have inherent limitations for our community due to their different intended contexts of use.

It is time for us to focus on this problem as a community: time that we look at what is being done to archive email in corporate settings, universities, and state and federal governments, and time we do something about a problem that has been developing in our museum community for more than 20 years.

So, I have asked Susan Chun ( http://mwconf.com/susan-chun ) and Dale Kronkright ( http://mwconf.com/GOKConservator ) to chair and organize a Museums and the Web full-day Deep Dive into this issue. We will explore previous and ongoing work in the GLAM community , examining the problem from both technology infrastructure and procedure and policy angles. We will review commercial and open source technology solutions. We will gather commercial vendors and see how their solutions match our needs. We will hear about the work being done in other spaces such as government and education. We will publish the results, and form a working group to move this issue forward, supported by the proceedings of this workshop.

I have posted an overview of the issues, as well as a link to the registration page, here ( http://mwconf.com/1ee4qIF ) . (note that this event is part of Museums and the Web 2014, but it is a separate registration; participants need not attend the whole MW 2014 conference).

Deep-Dive registration includes coffee breaks, lunch, and a special reception. You can register here ( http://mw2014.museumsandtheweb.com/registration/ ) .

We are now developing the detailed agenda and background reading list. I would love to hear your suggestions and comments to ensure we don’t miss anything important. We are also looking for participants for lightning talks on desired use cases or horror stories or top wishes for functionalities related to email archiving. To further the discussion we have created a Google Group ( http://mwconf.com/19k0Rhz ) for email archiving in museums.

Please forward this announcement to prospective attendees and post to lists as appropriate.

Looking forward to seeing you at this MW Deep Dive on April 1st, 2014.


Museums and the Web

Submit your proposals for the AAM Annual Conference! Teachers wanted!

Hi everyone:

Session proposals for the American Association of Museums’ Annual Conference in Seattle (May 18-21, 2014) are due August 26th. Get them in now!

Every year, the Media & Technology Professional Network looks for people to teach detailed, often hands-on workshops called Tech Tutorials. These beginner and intermediate workshops are designed to be accessible and intimate, a place where attendees can ask specific questions and get some hands on experience. We’re submitting proposed Tech Tutorials for the following topics and we’re looking for teachers for all of them. If you’re coming to AAM in Seattle (May 18-21, 2014), please consider becoming a mentor! Drop me, Susan, or Alex a line if you’re interested in teaching or facilitating (not all of the session descriptions are developed yet, which is why the list looks the way it does. The presenter[s] will have the opportunity to help craft the description):

1. Tech Tutorial: Getting Started with Social Media – Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Google+ (Beginning level)
Have you never used Twitter? Not sure what a hashtag is? Not know how to ‘Like’ or ‘+1” something? Never even heard of Tumbr? Then this tutorial is for you. Learn how these social media platforms work, why they exist, and how museums are using them. Y ou’ll come away with information to help you decide if using these platforms makes sense for your institution. The tutorial is limited to 20 people so participants can ask questions, and share their stories.  This is a beginner-level tutorial, designed for those with little to no social media experience.

2. Tech Tutorial: Deepening Engagement with Social Media (Advanced level)
Gain insight on how to build upon your existing social media presence. This tutorial will explore tactics for developing a comprehensive social media strategy that works in concert with your institution’s overall communications and engagement strategies. We’ll cover advanced features of various social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr; discuss which platforms work best for different types of projects; and explore ways to create connections to your blog. The tutorial is limited to 20 people so participants can ask questions, and share their stories.  This is an advanced-level tutorial. Participants should be familiar with managing and using social media platforms.

3. Tech Tutorial: Principles of Effective Video (Beginner level)
Understand the basic steps in creating video, including audio, cameras, and editing systems. You’ll come away with a list of the equipment you’ll need, and tips about basic approaches to creating successful video. This is a beginner-level tutorial, designed for those with little to no video production experience.

4. Tech Tutorial: Video Crit Room (Advanced)
Bring your video projects to this tutorial and get constructive feedback from your peers. This is an advanced-level tutorial, designed for those who understand the basics of video production.

5. Tech Tutorial: Podcasting – Is anyone still listening? (Beginner-Intermediate)
Podcasting may seem very 2005, but many museums and non-profits are producing successful podcast series. Audio production is less expensive and can require much fewer resources than video production. Learn the basics of podcasting, find out who is using podcasts in the field, and understand out if podcasting may be the right approach for your museum.

6. Tech Tutorial: Does my museum need a blog? (Beginner)
We’ll show you how to get started. Understand how to plan for and implement a blog using WordPress. Employ advanced techniques to build your blog into a valuable, sustainable communication tool to engage your online audience.

7. Tech Tutorial: Google Analytics (Beginner)
8. Tech Tutorial: User Testing on a Shoestring (Beginner)
9. Tech Tutorial: Digital Copyright and Privacy (Beginner)
10. Strategy: What’s the best tool for my message? Digital strategy for projects (Advanced)
11. Tech Tutorial: Basics of Mobile Websites (Advanced)
12. Strategy: Drupal or WordPress? Content Management Systems (Advanced)
13. Tech Tutorial: Organize and Manage Your Digital Assets (Beginner) – I (Perian) have volunteered to talk on this one. I’d like someone familiar with managing video and audio to co-present.

I know a lot of technologists don’t take the time to go to AAM, as it’s for a more general audience, and it’s a frequent complaint that we don’t get much out of AAM. But the registrars, curators, directors, and education staff really need people like us to help them make sense of their technology projects. It’s up to us to help bring the rest of the field forward, to ensure that we’re able to deploy technology projects effectively, and get support from other non-techy staff. Please consider lending your voice and expertise and come to AAM.

Thanks everyone,

Perian Sully
Program Chair, Media & Technology Professional Network

Susan Edwards & Alex Lawson
Tech Tutorial Co-Chairs, Media & Technology Professional Network

P.S. On another note, I’m noticing a lot of session proposals on the AAM website are missing their presenter bios in the proposal. That information is important for us on the National Program Committee to know about the diversity and qualifications of the presenters. When submitting your proposal, please make that information available to us. It makes it more likely your proposal will be approved. Thanks!

Flickr and Reflections on a Redesign

San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives on Flickr

Yahoo rolled out a radical new design for Flickr this week, gave all of its users 1TB of free storage, rewrote the terms of its account agreements, and launched a new, overhauled Android app. However, like almost every redesign of a popular product, there are howls of outrage about the changes. In this case, Yahoo failed to take into account Flickr’s rabid photographer community and made its redesign out of the blue, leaving long-time users feeling rebuffed (again) by Yahoo. Vocal griping about a redesign is common, but the response to the change has been at least 99% negative.* This week, Gizmodo ran a great article about Yahoo and Flickr’s troubled relationship in “Flashback: How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet.”

All Yahoo cared about was the database its users had built and tagged. It didn’t care about the community that had created it or (more importantly) continuing to grow that community by introducing new features.

I was and am excited by the changes. After all, Flickr has been greatly-neglected by Yahoo since its acquisition in 2005 and this sudden infusion of cash – including hiring a number of new people – can only mean that Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer meant it when she said that they were “going to make Flickr awesome again.”

Since so many museums use Flickr for collections access, I’m really interested in this process and what it means for us. But the rollout of the new design also serves as a cautionary tale about community adoption of a property and what happens when the titular owner decides to make changes.


  • New, modern design. Personally, I find the new design both beautiful and modern. It puts the photographs front and center of the user’s experience. Some of the criticism has been how this particular style is very similar to how Google +, Facebook, and Pinterest have recently redesigned their sites. It’s clear that this is the design du jour for social sites, and Yahoo wants Flickr to compete in the social networking world.

The comments are harder to find (you have to scroll down more) and the site is a bit slow and buggy right now, but that will be resolved. The maps seem to have disappeared, which is rather unfortunate. (*edited to add – the maps are still there, but they’re not obvious and you now need to make EXIF data public in order to make them visible) And many people who have slower internet connections will find that have a continuously-scrolling selection of images will cause bandwidth problems.

Flickr/Yahoo are listening to their users, though, at least somewhat. Yesterday, the background was black, a major complaint of many users. Today, they’ve switched it to white.

  • Accounts. Every Flickr user gets 1Tb of storage, for free. In exchange, though, Yahoo is going to display ads throughout the site. Previously, as a Pro user, it’s $25 per month for unlimited uploads and access to stats. For $50 per month, you can choose to be a paid subscriber and have ads removed and access to the Flickr stats. But if you’re a recurring Pro account holder, there’s this:

With these changes comes the news that we will no longer be offering Pro accounts on Flickr. All those with one-time Pro will retain their benefits until their subscription expires. Recurring Pro members currently have the opportunity to continue renewing their subscriptions. Until we communicate otherwise, your subscription will continue at the price you started with (and not higher).

I have a recurring pro account, and have for 8 years, so I’m grandfathered in. But if I didn’t have a recurring account, I wouldn’t bother to renew. Frankly, that’s what’s Adblock’s for.

But there’s been some speculation that Yahoo is intentionally trying to get rid of paid accounts. I think this is an apt observation. Certainly they are at the lower price point, but legions of users at a $25/year rate means fewer customers for ad-purchasers to market towards. I could take that to mean that my time on the site is worth about $50/year to a large tech company.

  • Rollout. Here’s where Yahoo and Flickr really screwed up. Yahoo has had an abysmal track record with communities and social media. They’ve consistently shown over the years that they simply don’t understand how communities work. Flickr, along with Delicious (which suffered an abysmal fate at the hands of Yahoo before being sold off in 2010), has an extremely vibrant and vocal fan base, and, I would argue, one that very much adopted Flickr as their own during the period of Yahoo’s neglect.

Since the rollout was so very sudden, there was a collective sense of whiplash by the community, who had no idea this was coming. There were no public beta tests or comment periods. There are also no options to stick with the original layout or modify the new one. Sure, spending a lot of time getting public feedback can be expensive and can threaten to derail a project. But, in this case, I think Yahoo absolutely should have engaged more with its users. Sudden change is hard, and it’s harder still on a group of devoted acolytes. Change absolutely needed to happen, but would it have been the kiss of death to draw it out for another 6-9 months?

My hunch is that Yahoo is going to eventually tightly integrate Flickr with Tumblr, using the casual social usage of Tumblr to support growth in Flickr. Yahoo has said that it’s going to leave Tumblr alone and let it do its thing, but I think some crossover may be inevitable. Yahoo wants a community of people who take snapshots and make memes and share with their friends. They want an Instagram. Flickr users are professional and amateur photographers, less-interested in sharing their everyday lives than in sharing their art. Wedding Flickr and Tumblr makes a great deal of sense, but the features that are important to the existing Flickr community were on the chopping block. This does a major disservice to the loyal fans who’ve supported Flickr in its 12-year history.

Right now, I’m just biding my time and watching to see what happens. I just hope that Flickr doesn’t dramatically change its API. Generally, I remain hopeful (although I’d very much like the Maps to come back, please), and that the Flickr community will simply evolve to incorporate more casual visitors. I anticipate that for as many people as leave Flickr now, if there is indeed a partnership between Flickr and Tumblr, those Tumblr users will more than make up the lack and give us cultural Flickr users a larger online audience.

*as of this writing, the replies to the rollout announcement have reached over 18,000 comments, and, after scrolling through the comments, I estimate that maybe only about 200 of them are positive. Most of the replies are single posts from users as well, and not just a small group of vocal opponents.

UPDATE: It looks like Stats is being phased out, though it will continue to be available for existing Pro users.

Here’s a link to a liveblog from the press event announcing the Flickr changes. there’s been much complaining about Mayer’s assertion that “there are no professional photographers”

Jim Blackaby Memorial Scholarship at MCN 2012

A wonderful friend and colleague. Gone but not forgotten.

It’s application time for scholarships to MCN 2012 in Seattle.

Check out the new Jim Blackaby Memorial Scholarship which includes conference registration, hotel, and stipend and, for those of you who don’t know, the scholarship is named for a pioneer in the museum technology field who left us way too young.

Miss you still Jim.

Here’s the link to more information.

The Paper Walls of Archive, Library, and Museum Data

I’m currently attending the Society of American Archivists annual meeting, here in sunny San Diego. It’s my first SAA meeting, and I feel like I could be at Museums and the Web or the Museum Computer Network conferences. Just take a look at some of the sessions:

Choose Your Own Arrangement: Using Large-scale Digitization Efforts to Process Image and Audiovisual Collections

Commemorating the Civil War: Transforming the Historical Record Through Digitization

To the Community and Beyond: Engaging Users to Interact with Participatory Archives

Crowdsourcing Our Collections: Three Case Studies of User Participation in Metadata Creation and Enhancement

Linking Data Across Libraries, Archives, and Museums (disclaimer: this is my own session)

80,000 Volunteers Can’t Be Wrong: The Case for Greater Collaboration with Wikipedia

Solving Our Problem with Authority and Sharing: Current Developments and Prospects


Really, this isn’t surprising. Once you get past processing and into raw data, the challenges and opportunities are almost the same. Makes me wonder if I’ve been doing an archivist’s job all along. And it enforces my perception that the walls separating the disciplines are becoming thinner and thinner.