Friday, April 25, 2014

Attending S10 Remotely


1. Go to https://archive.webex.com/archive/j.php?MTID=m8fda032f7acda77058ae15de91b297fa


2. If requested, enter your name and email address


3. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: Webharvest1


4. Click "Join".


5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen.


Thursday, March 06, 2014

My Introduction to the 2014 Archives Leadership Cohort

I'm Geof Huth, Director of Government Records Services at the New York State Archives, where I've worked (in six different positions) for the past 23 years. Random notes about myself:

I'm a native Californian, descendant of multiple '49ers (none athletes). I've lived in five states, nine countries, and four continents, and I don't have a favorite country.

I know too much about beer, so bring homebrew (which I don't make). I am serious half the time.

I climb fast. I live in the world of archives because I'm passionate about it, and I'm passionate about electronic records more than is seemly.

I am a poet, visual and otherwise, mostly working in forms of poetry you will not have heard of. My shortest poem is one punctuation mark long.

My work has been shown in Bergen, Norway. I was a small but active part of the 1980s zine revolution.

Cliff Hight is one of my favorite people, and ALI14 will be my first time seeing him outside of an SAA conference, even though we graduated from the same library school.

Natalie Baur is one of the few people I know who knows the South American card game Telefunken, though the version she plays is considerably different from my Bolivian version.

I've never played a musical instrument, but I can provide you with recordings of my playing. I sing constantly, even at work, as my secretary can tell you, but the only song I know all the words to is "Happy Birthday."

One of the most respected craft breweries in the country is in Decorah, and I know the way there. As Terry Baxter has, I lived a good deal of my childhood in the tropics.
My first professional job was as a labor archivist. I consider myself a records manager, and I see archives as part of records management.

I am known to tell jokes. Language is my medium and element.

I keep my home at 52 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter (511.67 degrees Rankine). I have a general interest in clothing and color.

In 2008, I attended the first instance of ALI in Madison, Wisconsin. I firmly believe you'll all have a great time at ALI, because I know the people who will be working with you, I've read about all of you, and because there is also something that happens at ALI to bring people together and inspire them.
I write too much. I talk too much.

All of this is true. Be well, and see you in 101 days!

archivity furthers

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Escape from New Orleans

firewater (at Pat O'Brien's) (17 August 2013)

My thought tonight is to begin to remember a little of New Orleans, specifically the Society of American Archivists' conference there last week, and to begin to stitch together a story. I begin with the night before leaving New Orleans because a story told in the proper order is not a story at all.

I found myself, at a point that night that was almost late, walking down Bourbon Street, a street known for rowdiness--and this was a Friday night. When I asked why we were walking down Bourbon Street, the answer was, "Because everyone wanted to," yet no-one expressed that want in such a way that I could hear it, which is understandable. The noise at Pat O'Brien's was huge and wavelike, surging at me, trapped as I was against a metal fence, pinned in by chairs to either side of me, the table--everything was metal--preventing my escape forward, if I'd wanted to escape.

Strangely, I'd found myself at Pat O'Brien's in much the same way. I had just started reviewing the beer selection* at Ralph & Kacoo's again with my friend Scott Goodine, the provincial archivist of Manitoba, when suddenly Rachel Vagts told me we were leaving. The "we" was not exactly clear at the time, but it ended up being much of the steering committee and both of the staff from the Archives Leadership Institute (@ Luther). I still ordered my beer and stood at the bar talking to Scott, but soon "we" were indeed leaving, so I had the bartender dump my remaining beer in a styrofoam cup and I hit the streets of New Orleans with my first open container of alcohol.†

Walking the Streets of New Orleans with a Styrofoam Cup of Beer (17 August 2013)

Pat O'Brien's was wild with the noise of talking and music and waterfirefountains, and we were there (I learned during the walk) for hurricanes, a common New Orleanian drink that consists of lots of sweet juice and some alcohol--the latter which appears to always be imperceptible through the sweetness. Once there, we sat at a round metal table and talked. About anything. Sometimes archives. Sometimes the fact that I never slept and never have had a hangover. Sometimes about where we were. Always about anything.

The reason I go to SAA each year‡ is to learn, and much of what I want to learn is about people I know or don't yet know. Archivists may be a strange and ruly-unruly breed, but there is something exhilarating about being together with 1650+ of one's closest colleagues and friends and talking in a language not many people know. I go to SAA to have a great time, to learn as much as I can, to help others learn whatever it is that I know, and to make jokes. (The last may be related to having a great time.)

And I go there to make sure SAA thrives. I've been a member continuously since October 1988, when I was in graduate school beginning my life as an archivist, and I do what I can to make SAA thrive so that I can help archivists thrive. And maybe it's because some of them are my friends, and because I am somehow free at SAA to feel the power of humanity, the power of friendship, but also that of the purpose and passion of archivist, of the drive to do good well.

In what seemed like almost no time at all, we were finished with our work at Pat O'Brien's, the massmind of my friends having decided (again, outside the range of my perception) that it was time to leave, and we left the facility from the other side of its majuscule L, foot-tall hurricane glasses in hand (courtesy of Rachel--and I had two, since I took the one Terry Baxter left behind). Suddenly, we were on Bourbon Street's riot of noise and light and flesh, watching people vomit as they walked, watching people take their three-year-old children by the hand through the throng, watching the sign blinking "LIVE LOVE ACTS."‡‡ In the accordioning mass of people, which we snaked through as well as we could, we occasionally broke into individual pearls of humanity, separate from our friends, but we would soon pull back into a line of limbs curving through the crowd.

Eventually, we exited Bourbon Street, where people barely made room for a police car, lights rolling, that was trying to inch its way through the humanity. So what did we do first? Look for food for the next morning's meeting, something happening on Sunday, my last session of the conference, even if post conference, the Archives Leadership Institute's Practices Workshop, another round of connection, another attempt to bring ourselves together, another venue for linking, our final chance at building more relationships between us as we try to unravel the mystery of making and keeping the light of archives burning at the start of the twenty-first century. (But that's another story, if maybe not the next.)

Later, back at the hotel, I packed my suitcase, and lay in bed watching the middle of a poor comedy, wanting to see how it ended even though it was clear what the ending would be. But I gave up, I relented, I poured myself into my weariness. And I dreamed of connections, of people, of how archives is always about people, about relationships, about the blurry boundaries between ideas, about how we are all one in our multiplicity of differences, about intertwingularity, about arrangement and description.

Only connect.

_____

* NB: Do not visit New Orleans for the beer. The beer in and near the state of New Orleans is never much good. But if you must go to New Orleans for the beer, go to the Avenue Pub on St Charles, which has an excellent selection of fine brews, because they almost entirely ignore nearby beers. I provide you this information as a beer aficionado.

† Hint #2: Do not carry a glass container of alcohol on the streets of New Orleans, not even an empty glass made of glass. The fine for that is $500, which explains all the broken glass on Bourbon Street.

‡ At what I too too often note is at grave personal expense (the pocketbook variety here, not physical). 

‡ As I explained to Terry, "love" means "sex" in this context, but I wasn't sure it was an accurate description of what might have awaited us.

archivity furthers

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Preparing for a Daylong Workshop in Cheyenne, Wyoming

Still Life at a Home in Cheyenne, Wyoming (6 October 2011)
SpringHill Suites, Room 109, Cheyenne, Wyoming

Today, I flew to Chicago and then I flew to Denver, and from Denver I drove to Cheyenne, Wyoming, under a sky that really did seem bigger than the same sky as seen from the eastern part of the country. The reason for this trip is to give a workshop on electronic records tomorrow to 136 people from Wyoming and Colorado. This will be my biggest in-person workshop ever, and by a long shot (I did have an audience of 1,000 once for a webinar, but this is people in one place).

I spent an enjoyable evening tonight with members of the board of the local ARMA chapter, and tomorrow will be my presentation in celebration of Archives Day in Wyoming. I'm hoping to have the energy tomorrow night to report on what happened, because I think it's interesting to see what happens when one of us archivists flies around the country to talk about what we do.

Members of the Cheyenne ARMA Chapter with Geof Huth
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Monday, January 31, 2011

MARA Colloquium: What My Career Has Taught Me

DATE: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
TIME: 5:30-6:30 (PST) – 8:30-9:30 (EST)
WHERE: Live from Schenectady, NY, via Elluminate

URL:
https://nexus.sjsu.edu:443/join_meeting.html?meetingId=1267553020900


PASSWORD: mara

Deciding to join the field of archives and records management is a strange one, a rare career choice, but one filled with many interesting challenges and fruitful rewards. Geof Huth will discuss his own career, how he chose to enter the field, and how he took advantage of opportunities to create a rewarding career but one not at all like the one he had imagined for himself. He will discuss what newcomers to the field need to think about and be prepared to do to find their own surprising careers.

With two decades’ experience in the field, Geof Huth is an authority on best practices in records management in government. He currently serves as the Director of the New York State Archives’ Government Records Services, ensuring the development and delivery of quality records management and archives services to local governments and state agencies across the state. These include direct advisory services, records center services, retention scheduling, and publication and workshop development. He speaks frequently around the country and the state about records management and archives.

Apart from his archives and records management interests and responsibilities, Geof is well known as a ‘visual poet.’ Check out his dbqp: visualizing poetics blog: http://dbqp.blogspot.com/

RSVP: Although virtual seating is unlimited, I’d appreciate an estimate of the number of participants. Please respond to Dr. Pat Franks at patricia.franks@sjsu.edu if you plan to join us.

ELLUMINATE: If you have not used Elluminate before, a student guide is available to help you prepare: http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/software/elluminate/students/


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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Five Questions for Geof Huth

I'll be giving a little talk next month at the fortieth anniversary conference of the Society of Georgia Archivists, and SGA asked a few of the speakers at the conference to answer a handful of questions about archives, for publication on their blog.

I've ignored this dear blog of my own for so long, since other responsibilities and interests have eaten away my time, that I thought I should repeat these questions here, in the hope that doing so might encourage me to do a little more thinking about archives in this space. Whether this tactic works or not to motivate me, I had a good time answering these questions:


How did you become an archivist?

At some point early in adulthood, I had a couple of degrees in English clutched in my fist and no interest in making the next step and earning a PhD in the field. I found myself in need of a career, so I faced a decision that thousands of people have had to make over the course of human history: Do I become an archivist or a lexicographer? My interest in lexicography, which continues to this day, grew out of my interest in language and the magical way in which discrete sets sounds or markings could carry so much meaning. My interest in archives grew out of my early work as a genealogist, where the only valuable research—I soon came to discover—came from using actual records. Of course, both fields have an abiding focus on detail and thoroughness, which helped make my decision more difficult.

But my life experiences made my ultimate decision simple. One day in a small town in rural France, I stumbled across a critical church book, a book I didn’t know existed in a town I had not planned to visit, and that changed me. The process of finding the book was happenstance. My father and I had stopped at a church to ask directions to the next town, and the priest there suggested we look through his books. The book itself was tossed in a cabinet filled with books and papers askew, and the ink was flaking off its pages, leading me to wonder how much longer the volume would last.

I became an archivist because I decided that this field held more opportunity than lexicography did, and that proved to be a correct conclusion. But I really became an archivist because I decided that people needed something better than happenstance to find a record, because I realized that records needed to be cared for if we wanted them to last and be used into the future, and because archives is a humanistic enterprise: We keep records not for the records themselves, but for the people who need them. Although central to our imagination, records are almost ancillary to our mission because those records have value only to the degree that people need them, to the extent that the records serve humanity, in big and small ways.

So I am an archivist because I’m passionate about the interplay between the record as a continuing embodiment of humanness and the humans whose lives and work and passions can be supported by those records.


What's changed the most since you became an archivist?

I am just old enough so that my training for my MLS included only cursory coverage of electronic records. In 1988, there were still a few people at school who did not have computers of their own, and people were a little unsure about what this electronic world was going to be and how it was going to affect our lives. So although there have been many changes to the profession since I became an archivist—a greater reliance on standards, a healthy broadening of the archival profession, and clear progress towards greater professionalism—the biggest change is that huge and often sleeping giant in our midst: electronic records and our crying need to manage them well. The question of “forever,” the question of permanence haunts us deeply with electronic records, and we still feel incapable of dealing with electronic records.

And that self-doubt shows. Most of us struggle to deal with electronic records. A few hope to avoid them altogether. Many probably believe that electronic records do not have the allure, the ineffable attraction of paper records or, better yet, records on parchment—yet these all are merely signs of human activity, each filled with the same blood and life that any other record of the same type holds. If anything will define our era of archives, if anything has the greatest potential to leave our tender throats exposed to the sharp blade of criticism, it is how we address this huge necessary change in our work. This is our greatest challenge, and one that we have to be up to. We cannot lose this battle. The signs everywhere demonstrate that we are experiencing a digital sea change at this very moment. Digital photography far outstrips traditional photography. A current blockbuster best seller is selling better on Amazon.com as an e-book than in paper. And most of the recorded information in the world is born digital and often dies without ever touching paper. If we don’t teach ourselves how to manage electronic records, we will be incapable of fulfilling our broad mission to document human activity. The recorded world, the world of unique and fleeting records, the world that we are responsible for preserving, will disappear.


What's stayed the same (for better or worse)?

Even in the face of enormous change over the last twenty years, I’m sure that much has remained unchanged, but what I think about most in this regard is us. As archivists, we are sometimes too cautious for our own good. Why? Because we know that we are each an essential link in a profound chain of responsibility, and because we know that our mistakes could very well have negative consequences that will last forever. Any record lost or destroyed on our watch is likely a record that will never be seen again, so caution is our byword. But caution can take us only so far. At some point we need to be fearless, we need to take calculated risks, we need to accept (for instance) that we might fail if we try to preserve electronic records. Yet if we do nothing, we know we will fail, and we cannot guarantee failure. What we, as archivists, have to learn, even if it goes against our general nature sometimes, is how to take risks and how to advocate for necessary change in our organizations.


How did you become interested in electronic records?

As computers arrived in our lives, I became interested in them for what they could do for us, for how they could change our lives, so I experimented early with computers to figure out how they might support a different kind of writing, provide greater control over page design, and allow for the creation of kinetic poems for the screen. And this last interest made me someone interested in the knotty problems of digital preservation back in 1986. Starting back then, before I was an archivist or thinking of becoming one, I developed a plan for preserving the first significant collection of early digital poems, the Canadian poet bpNichol’s “First Screening." To ensure the preservation of these poems, I preserved, as well as I could, the original 5.25-inch diskette that held them and a backup copy I had made, I printed out the computer code, and I created a videotape of the poems playing on a screen. What I failed to do was save the code electronically, but I saved enough for a dedicated group of people to reproduce the original experience of watching these poems move on screen. I was the only archivist in this endeavor.

My interest in electronic records, you see, grew out of a personal interest in preserving digital experiences of what it is to be human. What I didn’t want to lose was that sense of what we were as humans at any point in the digital past. For some people, the digital world is somehow inhuman and soulless, but I do not see it in that way. The digital is what makes us unique as animals. The digital is simply another way in which we express ourselves. I like to tell people that digital records are those records that best represent us because they, like us, require electrical impulses to be.


What advice do you have for new archivists or those interested in the profession?

My first bit of advice to new archivists is “Don’t limit yourself.” When I was in library school, my goal was to work eventually in literary manuscripts. And I have seen a literary manuscript or two in my career, but those opportunities to work in that particular field never materialized. Instead, work in government records did, and work with a broader records management focus but centered in an archival framework. What I have found is that this work is exciting, various, challenging, and that it has allowed me to work with hundreds, if not thousands, of people over my career. The flexibility I had, borne originally merely out of a desire to pay my bills, proved more than worth it in the end. My other bit of advice is to take pride in what we do as archivists, and by that I don’t mean that we should take pride in how we care for records (though we must do that as well). I mean that we must realize, accept, and prize that we are service workers, that we serve, every day, human beings. There is no higher calling.

archivity furthers

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Post-Blogging Post

Rob Jensen came to the blogging session afterwards to explain that he and others at the MARAC registration desk were reading the live blogging Arian Ravanbaksh, John LeGloahec, and I were doing at the session, even leaving a comment on one. That's live blogging.

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Blogging Blogging: Q&A

Crowne Plaza, Room 1104, Silver Spring, Maryland

Questions about the session focus primarily on how to manage their own blogging.

Kate notes that bloggers will have to keep preservation in mind, since the service provider does not.

There was a question about whether people are addressing the issue of reuse of blog comments by the institutions with the blog.

Another asks if researcers might be worried about the reference blog, since they might be proprietary about their research and not want others to use it. Jim notes that the researcher are not told about the blog but neither are their names or research projects named.

Question: Any problem with having a blog on a collection related to a living person. Elizabeth Hull notes that they have not had such problems, even from High Morton's family.

In answer to another question, Jim notes that they are working to convert their old reference files to the new system but that this is not a priority.

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Blogging Blogging: Gerencser

Crowne Plaza, Room 1104, Silver Spring, Maryland

One blogging problem in this session I just downladed a blogging app, which works reasonably well but doesn't save drafts, so I just lost an almost complete posting because I switched to another program on the iPhone for a second. Hence no posting on Elizabeth Hull's presentation.

Jim Gerencser is nose discussing thee Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections reference blog. He is talking about how to manage data related to remote reference requests better than over the prior paper process.

There new solution was for the results of the reference transaction to be posted on the blog. One advantage of this is that a user might find their way to Dickinson College while searching for the same information. As Jim says, "Google is God nowadays." Another advantage of this blog is to allow the results of the reference event to be easily searchable by staff re-searching for the same information.

(The two laptop bloggers have been shut down by lost battery power, but I go on thumbing against the iPhone, borne forward ceaselessly into the future.)

Jim shows us the blog postings, which retain the confidentiality of the researcher. They are always careful to include proper nouns for the valuable use with search engines. Blog postings include links to finding aids and other resources and they use tags to allow a user to find all the postings on the same topic. Commenting is allowed, but they have never received a comment and don't expect much use of commenting. Interestingly, users who could not find the finding aid have found the blog. These blog entries are quite simple and to the point, reducing the language primarily to searchable essentials.

The system also tracks the specific fees charged and researcher name (although these are not posted to the blog), allowing the to run statistics, such as those identifying the general topic (genealogy, local history, etc.) of the requests. They use Drupal to manage this blog.

Refeence stories are cuatomizable, findable, searchable, linkable, taggable, and obtainable. They hope in the future to have scanned images of retrieved records included in the system, just as they currently have detailed information on location of the material.

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Blogging Blogging: Theimer

At MARAC blogging on an iPhone about a session where Kate Theimer is mentioning me. Kate talks about types of archival blogging: processing blog, institutional news blog, and personal opinion blog. She discusses the simple technology for the blogger and the features and functionality you can choose for a blog. Her opening discusses some basics about bringing traffic to a blog: announcements elsewhere, getting on a thematic aggregator (like ArchivesBlogs), and linking to other blogs. Kate notes that she gets comments even from Europe and that she has a book deal even because of the blog. She notes that blogging is publishing, a very public venue, which a blogger need to keep in mind. She notes that some bloggers include much personal information, but that is a personal choice. Her point appears to be to advise the beginning or potential blogger about archives.

She ends by "pretending" to like the three of us (LeGloahec, Ravanbaksh, and me) because we are livebligging the session.

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