Thursday, April 30, 2009

The “Margins of Archivy”: Archival Description of Visual Materials Part 7 of 7

This post is part of a series exploring archival description of visual materials. Please click below to read further:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Archival Description for Visual Materials

Archival description of images has sought to combine traditional library and archival practice with the more focused descriptive practices found in the museum and visual resources communities. Description of images remains challenging. Due to the nature of visual material, a standardized approach for description is ideal, but compromises must be made. All images cannot be indexed completely, nor can all resources be expended on indexing only a few collections. Approaches should be equitable, reasonable, and within the means of the institution. While there are challenges to be found when working with visual materials, these objects hold a wealth of information that justifies the additional effort needed to make them accessible. Archivists must draw visual materials from the “margins of archivy” and establish them in their rightful place as records of enduring value and primary sources of informational and evidential importance for future generations.

Works Cited

Alexander, A., & Meehleib, T. (2001). The thesaurus for graphic materials: Its history, use, and future. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 31, 189-212.

Armitage, L. H., & Enser, P. G. B. (1997). Analysis of user need in image archives. Journal of Information Science 23(4), 287-299.

Baxter, G. (2003). The historical photograph: Record, information source, object, resource. Art Libraries Journal 28(2), 4-12.

Burke, P. (2001). Eyewitnessing: The uses of images as historical evidence. Picturing history series. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Dooley, J. M. (1995). Processing and cataloging of archival photograph collections. Visual Resources 11(1), 85-101.

Finnegan, C. A. (2006). What is this a picture of?: Some thoughts on images and archives. Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9(1), 116-123.

Goodrum, A. A. (2005). I can’t tell you what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it: Terminological disconnects in digital image reference. Reference & User Services Quarterly 45(1), 46-53.

Green, M. A., & Meissner, D. (2005). More product, less process: Revamping traditional archives processing. American Archivist 68(2), 208-263.

Huyda, R. (1977). Photographs and archives in Canada. Archivaria (5), 5-16.

International Council on Archives. (2000). ISAD(G): General international standard archival description. Ottawa: ICA. Retrieved May 7, 2009, from the International Council on Archives Web site:

Kaplan, E., & Mifflin, J. (2000). “Mind and sight”: Visual literacy and the archivist. In R. C. Jimerson (Ed.) American archival studies: Readings in theory and practice. Chicago: Society of American Archivists.

Norris, T. D. (1985). Processing extremely large collections of historical photographs. The Midwestern Archivist 10(2), 129-134.

O’Toole, J. M., & Cox, R. J. (2006). Understanding archives & manuscripts. Archival fundamentals series. Chicago: Society of American Archivists.

Panofsky, E. (1939). Studies in iconology; Humanistic themes in the art of the Renaissance. New York: Oxford University Press.

Pearce-Moses, R. (2005). A glossary of archival and records terminology. Chicago: Society of American Archivists. Retrieved May 5, 2009, from the Society of American Archivists Web site:

Pugh, M. J. (2005). Providing reference services for archives & manuscripts. Archival fundamentals series. Chicago: Society of American Archivists.

Ritzenthaler, M., Munhoff, G., & Long, M. (1984). Archives and manuscripts: administration of photographic collections. Chicago: Society of American Archivists.

Ritzenthaler, M., & Vogt-O’Connor, D. (2006). Photographs: Archival care and management. Chicago: Society of American Archivists.

Schellenberg, T. R. (1965). The management of archives. New York: Columbia University Press.

Schmidle, R. (1996). The smile and promise of digital imaging: Preserving photographs in a digital world. Library Hi Tech News, (130), 14-16.

Schwartz, J. M. (2002). Coming to terms with photographs: Descriptive standards, linguistic ‘othering,’ and the margins of archivy. Archivaria 54, 142-171.

Teper, J. H. (2004). Newspaper photo morgues—a survey of institutional holdings and practices. Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services 28(1), 106-125.

Turner, J. M. (1993). Subject access to pictures: Considerations in the surrogation and indexing of visual documents for storage and retrieval. Visual Resources 9(3), 245-247.

Weinstein, R. A., & Booth, L. (1977). Collection, use and care of historical photographs. Nashville: American Association for State and Local History.

Zinkham, H. (2006). Description and cataloging. In M. L. Ritzenthaler & D. Vogt-O’Connor (Eds.) Photographs: Archival care and management. (pp. 164-206). Chicago: Society of American Archivists.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The “Margins of Archivy”: Archival Description of Visual Materials Part 6 of 7

This post is part of a series exploring archival description of visual materials. Please click below to read further:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 7

Image Description Examples

Teber (2004) discusses a survey that the Audio-Visual Archives (A-V Archives) at the University of Kentucky conducted of 24 institutions with newspaper photo morgues. Each institution reported different degrees of arrangement and description, with 18% reporting that the collections were unprocessed. Of the processed collections, both the interpretation of “full processing” and the resources expended differed by institution. Full processing can range from EADs, item-level description, and rehousing to brief, folder-level description. Although survey responders did not define their interpretation of fully processed, 25% have fully processed collections (with 11% of that total with EADs), 14% had collections that were over half-processed, and 43% had less than one half of the collection processed (p. 114).

Respondents noted that because the collections have high local interest and repetitive images (especially with the advent of roll film), description was often minimal. Ideally, each series of photographs should have the location, date, and subject, searchable by a finding aid or a database. This is especially important if the collection is maintained in the original order produced by the newspaper, which may not easily serve users’ purposes. Although newspaper photo morgues represent a specific type of image collection, with its own distinct attributes and challenges, the results of the survey provided real-world insight into the description of visual collections.

Alexander and Meehleib (2001) note that the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division (P&P) catalogers employ practices from libraries, museums, and archives. They evaluate the appropriate description treatment for a given group of materials: whether the images should be cataloged at the item, group, or collection level. P&P catalogers create catalog records and finding aids, frequently using a combination of description levels to facilitate access. This blended approach allows broad control over the holdings at the group level as well as specific control over individual images at the item level. This is especially important for high-demand images, images used in exhibits, or images with high intrinsic or market value. Although P&P represents a large image collection with vast resources, this example demonstrates that evaluative methods determine the level of description required.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Review of Social Implications of Data Mining and Information Privacy: Interdisciplinary Frameworks and Solutions

Social Implications of Data Mining and Information Privacy: Interdisciplinary Frameworks and Solutions

My review of Social Implications of Data Mining and Information Privacy: Interdisciplinary Frameworks and Solutions. Edited by Ephrem Eyob. (Hershey, PA: ICI Global, 2009).
Published in Online Information Review, 33(4), 2009.

In Social Implications of Data Mining and Information Privacy: Interdisciplinary Frameworks and Solutions, editor and Virginia State University engineering professor Ephrem Eyob selected fourteen peer-reviewed papers on current research in data mining, the discovery of actionable information patterns using statistical and artificial intelligence tools. The volume assists researchers, teachers, students, and practitioners to understand data mining’s “competing goals” of collecting data and preserving privacy (xiv). Topics include team building for business, agriculture production, location-based services, national security, and social networking in urban neighborhoods.

Philip Brey, University of Twente, explores principles of information ethics that are universally valid in “Is Information Ethics Culturally Relative?” The concept of privacy has broad historical roots in sociological and anthropological discussions about its attributes and preservation in various cultures. Brey argues that the values of privacy are distinctly Western and culturally relative. Globalization and the emergence of the Internet have created a worldwide community, which requires a moral system that has yet to be developed.

In “Legal Frameworks for Data Mining and Privacy,” Robert Sprague, University of Wyoming College of Business, notes the lack of legal frameworks to restrict data mining, transmission, and warehousing. As technology becomes enmeshed in the daily lives of individuals, information on their activities is being stored, accessed, and used. Society is developing new definitions of privacy in this information environment, but norms have changed enough that data collection has been accepted without much opposition or change to applicable laws governing such issues.

The increasing use of data mining tools in both the public and private sectors raises concerns regarding the potentially sensitive nature of the data being mined. “Business Collaboration by Privacy-Preserving Clustering” discusses a clustering method to protect the underlying attribute values of datasets with high accuracy and low cost. Authors Stanley R. M. Oliveira, Embrapa Informática Agropecuária, Brazil, and Osmar R. Zaïane, University of Alberta, note that privacy preserving data mining achieves the paradox of enabling data mining algorithms to use data without accessing it.

Social Implications of Data Mining and Information Privacy provides an interdisciplinary discussion of contemporary data mining, recommendations, and future trends. As the field matures, individuals, governments, and corporations will continue to find common ground, balancing the individual’s right to privacy and government’s and industry’s need to disseminate information necessary to best serve public interests. Data mining techniques of the future should be effective without dismissing the need to preserve privacy, a fundamental element of free societies.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The “Margins of Archivy”: Archival Description of Visual Materials Part 5 of 7

This post is part of a series exploring archival description of visual materials. Please click below to read further:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 6
Part 7

Challenges of Image Description Part 2

The lack of visual literacy by both archivists and researchers presents difficulties for archival description of image collections. Since the mid-to-late twentieth century and the rise of the history of social movements and under-represented segments of society, historians had neglected non-textual sources in their research (Kaplan & Mifflin, 2000). Burke (2001) writes of the training of historians:
The criticism of visual evidence remains undeveloped, although the testimony of images, like that of text, raises problems of context, function, rhetoric, recollection whether soon or long after the event, secondhand witnessing and so on (p. 15 as cited in O’Toole & Cox, 2006, p. 200 n. 54).
Similarly to historians, archivists have been under-schooled in visual literacy. Library science and archival programs devote little attention to visual materials in the curriculum, although professional development classes in photographs are offered by SAA (Kaplan & Mifflin, 2000).
Schwartz (2002) argues that current descriptive practices relegate images to the “margins of archivy” through the archival profession’s
ideas and standards, practices and actions, whether consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, overtly or systemically … By embracing a textual model of recorded information and by adopting a bibliographic model of image classification, [archivists] continue to fixate on the factual content rather than the functional origins of visual images (p. 142-3).
Schwartz notes that it is difficult to apply traditional hierarchical description to visual materials and to understand that hierarchical levels of description are intellectual constructs that may not have material equivalents. She writes:
Traditional item-level description of photographs, indexed by subject and credited to the photographer, but without adequate contextual information about their functional origins and provenance, or clear links to such contextual information, transforms photographic archives into stock photo libraries, reducing photographs to their visible elements, and conflating photographic content and photographic meaning (p. 157).
Schwartz’s criticisms demonstrate deficiencies in archival theory and practice, which remain unable to address the unique challenges of archival description of image collections