The Archivist’s Nook: Digital Collections and Copyright – A Tough Boat to Swallow

Fair use? You decide.
Fair use? You decide.

Let’s do a quick exercise. Think back to your last Google image search. Can you remember what you were searching for? Can you remember the reason you were looking?  Can you remember what you found, and how you used it? I’ll go first. According to my search history, around 2 weeks ago I conducted a hunt for images of Monstro the Whale from Disney’s 1940 animated adaptation of Pinocchio. I’ll keep the reasons to myself, but you can see one of the results for yourself in this blog post. Final question – did you happen to investigate the copyright status of whatever you found? I’m betting not, and you’re far from alone. I certainly didn’t, and I know that you can filter results by usage rights. What’s my excuse?

Although copyright law as a subject cannot possibly be covered in a single blog post, we can go over some basic history. According to the US Constitution, the original purpose of copyright in the United States was to “promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” While the laws governing copyright have evolved over time (sometimes at the lobbying behest of our old friend The Walt Disney Company), that core principal, in theory, has not changed. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Digital Collections and Copyright – A Tough Boat to Swallow”

The Archivist’s Nook: Provoking the Canon – Moog, Meyers, and Experimental Music

Emerson Meyers
Emerson Meyers

In honor of Moogfest, next week’s fantastic electronic music/art festival in North Carolina (that I wish I was going to), this month I wanted to highlight some CUA connections to not only early electronic music, but also to Bob Moog himself, the inventor of the legendary synthesizer, and the person after whom Moogfest is named.

Would you believe that CUA was once a pioneering institution for experimental music? Founded in 1961 by Professor Emerson Meyers, the university’s Electronic Music Laboratory housed the most state-of-the-art recording equipment of the time, including one Moog synthesizer. This particular unit was one of the first manufactured; indeed, the School of Music was so eager to procure one that official manuals were not available at the time of purchase. How, then, did they figure out how to operate what was then a completely new kind of instrument? They wrote directly to Moog, who replied with pages and pages of technical instructions and hand-drawn diagrams that we still have here at the Archives. Faculty then used these documents to create in-house manuals for the equipment in the studio. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Provoking the Canon – Moog, Meyers, and Experimental Music”

The Archivist’s Nook: Get Paranoid – Data Collection in Libraries

…with your user data?
…with your user data?

The issue of patron and student privacy has raged across library school classrooms and the profession in general since time immemorial. Indeed, my own MLIS final exam hinged upon presenting a cohesive (ha!) data collection plan for a mid-sized university that balanced the rights of students, the needs of institutions, and various legal requirements. Some librarians, energized by, for example, the Snowden revelations of 2013 or the fact that the Google education ecosystem tracks student activity with no opt-out clause, have kick-started initiatives to not only increase awareness of privacy issues but also help libraries take concrete steps to combat what could be interpreted as infringements on intellectual freedom. Whether setting up public Tor nodes (a core component of the Library Freedom Project) or using Riseup.net email addresses actually improves privacy or not is debatable, but one thing is clear – this is a conversation worth having. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Get Paranoid – Data Collection in Libraries”

The Archivist’s Nook: DELETED – Email Archiving, or Offices in the Age of Spam

“Nonessential correspondence? DELETED.”)
  Nonessential correspondence?

It’s been awhile! This week, we’re going to talk about what has traditionally been an elephant in the digital archives room. That’s right – I’m talking about email.

First of all, consider offices of the past. Maybe you have filing cabinets and hanging folders; perhaps you have interoffice mail and external correspondence. I know I’m stating the obvious, but the common element here is paper, and as I mentioned in a previous blog, we’re pretty good at dealing with that. But let’s be frank. Do you have a work email account? Do you use it for official business? Do you see where I’m going with this? In the past, would that business have been conducted via paper correspondence? If so, what are you currently doing with those emails? Printing them? Nothing at all? What should we be doing? This stuff is important – you’d think we’d be doing something­. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: DELETED – Email Archiving, or Offices in the Age of Spam”

The Archivist’s Nook: Giving Brookland the Edit-a-thon It Deserves – Community Building Through Wikipedia

Come edit with us!

Join us at Mullen Library on September 16th for CUA’s first Wikipedia Edit-a-thon! In conjunction with the Know Your Campus guided tour taking place later that evening (which you should totally hang around for), the library will be opening its doors to students and the wider community to usher in the Fall semester, eat some free food (thanks, AGLISS!), get to know one another, and get to know our neighborhood. The subject matter – Brookland, the experts – you!

So what exactly is an edit-a-thon? In short, it’s an event where a group of people get together with the goal of editing Wikipedia content for a specific topic in a short space of time. Subjects can have significant cultural importance (like Asian-Pacific American Artists, or closing the Wikipedia editor gender gap by expanding content related to art and feminism), but we’re starting a little smaller. We want to improve content related to the Brookland neighborhood right here in Washington, DC, and will be adding articles about landmarks and famous residents, copyediting existing pages, inserting links to other Wikipedia pages, and adding and checking citations to ensure that information is reliably sourced. The point is, though, that we all have something unique to contribute. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Giving Brookland the Edit-a-thon It Deserves – Community Building Through Wikipedia”

The Archivist’s Nook: Audio Capture – NOW That’s What I Call Music

“Our old friend Ludwig Van, and the dreaded Ninth Symphony.”
Our old friend Ludwig Van, and the dreaded Ninth Symphony.

The Archives has several different media types in its holdings, and some of these, such as magnetic tape, are much more susceptible to degradation than paper. Audio cassettes and open reel tape can, over time, become sticky and difficult to play without causing irreparable damage, if stored in less than perfect conditions. They can also suffer data loss when exposed to magnetic fields (this can happen just by storing cassettes close to high-powered speakers), and digital media can suffer data rot. CUA Archives decided to get ahead of the game here; since our audio materials are still in good condition, why not duplicate them for preservation and access while we still can?

Remember that technology graveyard I mentioned in my digital curation blog? Well, it contains more than just computer equipment. Think cassette decks, reel to reel players, turntables, and, yes, even minidisc and DAT players. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Audio Capture – NOW That’s What I Call Music”

The Archivist’s Nook: Digital Curation – Sent from the Future to Write-Protect You

In the last two weeks we’ve covered paper and web pages. My job here is done, right? Wrong! Sometimes, we receive collections containing not just paper, but floppy discs, flash drives, and even entire computers. The list goes on. How do we go about processing this stuff?

To begin, it’s essential to have not only data carriers, but also players. Ever seen one of those elephant graveyards? We have something similar in our facility, but with old technology instead of, um, bones. Of course, older hardware was never designed to work on modern computers. We get around this by sticking to external USB drives whenever possible, and using an external control board for 5.25 floppies (FC5025, oh my!) that effectively duct tape an old IDE interface onto, you guessed it, USB.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgment Day
“I swear I will not kill any floppy.”

Did you know that you can alter a computer file simply by opening it? Don’t believe me? Just right-click your desktop and arrange the icons by “last modified”. The very act of saving that last click is an archival deadly sin. Sometimes a piece of media will let you prevent alteration by flicking a switch on the item itself (3.5 floppy discs) or by covering a hole with a piece of tape (5.25 floppy discs). With other carriers, though, you can be fresh out of luck. What can we do about this? In short, by borrowing techniques from law enforcement. Software like Forensic Toolkit (FTK) in conjunction with write-blocking hardware has been used to gather evidence of computer crime for years. Why not apply that technology to archives work? In spring 2015, CUA Archives set up its own digital curation workstation for this very purpose. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Digital Curation – Sent from the Future to Write-Protect You”

The Archivist’s Nook: Archiving the Internet – Do Web Crawlers Dream of Electric Sheep?

Still from "The X Files"
That’s a whole lot of files!

My previous blog entry covered the digitization of physical things. Well, paper at least. We’re pretty on top of that! You take a page, scan it, and kablammo – it’s online, so to speak. But how do we deal with records that are already digital, like, say, web pages? Do we print them? Stick them in folders? What would that even look like? 136 billion pages, apparently. Granted, CUA’s site is tiny compared to the internet as a whole, but you get the general idea.

As it turns out, though, non-profit organization The Internet Archive has been doing more all these years than hosting bootlegs of old Smashing Pumpkins gigs. In fact, since 1996 they’ve also been saving snapshots of websites (47 billion and counting), all of which are accessible through the Wayback Machine. If you know the URL, chances are you can score some older version of the page. I dare you to find my Dead Journal from 2001. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Archiving the Internet – Do Web Crawlers Dream of Electric Sheep?”

The Archivist’s Nook: Digitization – The Revenge

Archives staff using the Zeutschel  scanner.
Angela, scanning like a pro.

As John Shepherd wrote in last week’s blog, the first few years of the 2000s saw Catholic University getting its digital feet wet in collaboration with other members of the Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC). The products of that collaboration (since christened “Boutique Digital Collections”) are still amongst our most utilized online resources. The success of that project inspired the Archives to expand into a more fully realized digitization program, but it was not until 2014 that the will and resources coalesced to allow us to move forward.

In spring of last year, Catholic received delivery of a Zeutschel scanner from WRLC. Built for high speed scanning, shared between all member institutions, and circulated based on need, this scanner allowed us to pilot in-house digitization on a mass scale. Over a three month period, the Archives completed digitization of the Young Catholic Messenger, Iturbide-Kearney Family, and O’Donovan Rossa collections, as well as partial scanning of the NCWC Bulletin/Catholic Action periodical. By the time the Zeutschel left us, we had not only created 37,000 digital objects and associated metadata records, but also proven that we had the expertise and desire to incorporate manuscript digitization into our everyday workflow. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Digitization – The Revenge”