by Ben Wrubel and Annelise Dowd
On February 12th, students and faculty gathered at the School of Information Studies for the Association of Canadian Archivists’ McGill Student Chapter’s 9th Annual Winter Colloquium. The audience heard from a host of local archivists and librarians contending with the preservation of textual records, rare books, digital records, graphic materials, and sound recordings,and learned about the unique challenges that different formats and institutional settings bring to the field.
The first speaker was Shannon Hodge, Director of Archives at the Jewish Public Library Archives. Her presentation discussed the challenges of storing archival collections in a mixed use building. Stemming from her experiences of facing issues of mold and flooding at the JPL, she stressed the importance of communicating preservation concerns with facilities management and forming a comprehensive disaster plan before any of these “worst case scenarios” develop.
Ann Marie Holland, History of Printing Collections and Canadiana Collections/Liaison Librarian at McGill’s Rare Books and Special Collections, provided an overview of rare books preservation issues. Examples ranged from outsourcing material conservation to donor outreach for funding conservation projects. She left the audience with several websites to visit for more information regarding rare books conservation: http://www.nedcc.org, http://www.cool.conservation-us.org, http://www.cci-icc.gc.ca, http://www.rbms.info, and http://www.ifla.org/preservation-and-conservation.
Tim Walsh, Archivist in the Digital Archives at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, detailed the legal, cultural, and technological challenges of born-digital bit preservation. Walsh spoke of how the CCA’s digital archival holdings often consist of proprietary 3-D modeling file formats, making software preservation, emulation, and user access major concerns.
Greg Houston, Digitization and New Media Administrator at McGill Library Digital Initiatives, walked the audience through the criteria for digitization and outlined the process of facilitating user access to digitized items via McGill Library’s catalog, the Internet Archive, and HathiTrust. Greg also shared a link to a Google Maps photosphere view of Digital Initiatives, which can be viewed here: https://goo.gl/maps/VcAs2UdFcxr.
Offering a user’s perspective, Catherine Nygren, Research Assistant at the Burney Centre at McGill University, discussed the value of accurate and comprehensive metadata for facilitating researchers’ access to archives. In particular, she emphasized the financial and time limitations that many researchers face, and thus the high importance of digitized resources to be made accessible online.
The final speaker was Melissa Pipe, Documentation Technician at the Audiovisual Archives at McGill’s Marvin Duchow Music Library. Her presentation addressed the collaborative efforts of her department and McGill’s Sound Recording Program to preserve a collection of 78 rpm jazz records. From physical preservation and storage, to digitization and metadata creation, Melissa described the numerous informed decisions required of archivists for the preservation of sound recordings.
The students who were among those in the full School of Information Studies ballroom were privileged to hear the illuminating and diverse experiences of professionals in the archival field. The 2016 Winter Colloquium could not have been such a success without the professionals who took the time to present and the McGill ACA chapter’s tireless work organizing the event. Until next year!