>> From the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. >> Betsy Peterson: I’m Betsy Peterson. I’m the director of the American Folklife Center and I want to say welcome. We’re really thrilled that you all are here.
This is Collections, Collaborations and Connections. I guess every academics sort of gathering must have a literation somewhere in some title, with a colon. So we’re doing our best.
But this is an event looking at the American Folklife Center at 40. And we’re really thrilled to be having this opportunity to celebrate all of the good work of the American Folklife Center over the course of the whole year. This is the third of three symposiums that we’ve hosted over the last couple of years examining various issues related to cultural heritage documentation and archival practice in this new century. And while we wanted to celebrate the work of the American Folklife Center and celebrate the collections of the American Folklife Center, we also wanted to do much more than that over the next two days. And in developing the agenda, the AFC staff working on the symposium, Nancy Groce, Guha Shankar, Nikki Saylor and myself, we decided to highlight a handful of our collections with an emphasis on work developed since the AFC’s founding in 1976, though that’s by no mean– no means exclusively.
As you can see from the large wax cylinder collections documenting Native American song from the turn of the 20th century all the way to our latest efforts to develop a digital folklore web archiving project. We also selected these collections with an eye towards inviting discussions about contemporary problems in archival practice and cultural heritage documentation. And for us, some of these problems focus on revisiting analog collections, wax cylinders, making them accessible in a new era. Some involve the thorny issues of working with born digital material and capturing emergent vernacular culture.
Others involve very thorny issues of collaboration authority inviting multiple voices into the archives and inviting multiple uses of our archives as we go forward. All of them require us to think about scalability and the scope of our work. I imagine these are problems all of us encounter every day in our work in some fashion.
So we’re looking forward to some very lively challenging discussion. We hope you will think out loud with us. We do not see this as a symposium where we tell you about all the great work we do. Although we’ll probably do a little bit of that.
But we want to identify issues. We want to brainstorm with you. We’re looking forward to learning from all of you.
And hoping that maybe, just maybe, over the next couple of days, we might identify a few ideas that will shape the work that we do in the next 40 years. So we are looking forward. We want to thank the library services here at the Library and the acting librarian, David Mao.
Our new librarian will be arriving tomorrow and will be sworn in. So we’re very excited about having Carla Hayden as the new Librarian of Congress. And then I also wanted to take a moment to thank all of the staff. I mentioned Nancy, who’s done fabulous work, Guha, Nikki, Thea Austen, Ervin Winick, Stephanie Hall, Jon Gold, and our fabulous sound man, John Regan and all of the volunteers and I actually should say, to embarrass one of our newest, our very new staff member, Kelly Revak who just joined us a couple of weeks ago as a new processing technician. So, welcome Kelly.
And now I’ll turn this over to Nancy, who I know wants to make a few remarks about just issues. Logistics. Logistics. >> Nancy Groce: Yes.
This shouldn’t be issues, but just a couple of logistics. The program it says I’m Ervin Winick. I’m actually not Ervin Winick, but he is running a little late. So, just– we will be in this room for the next two days.
We hope you’ll be able to join us for both days. We’re right near the usual restrooms, just outside the door to the left and right across from the cafeteria, which might be the best choice for lunch, which we’ll be on a relatively short lunch break. We’re going to try to run the sense on time as possible. We know these always go a little bit longer and we expect that it will be a very interesting and productive day.
We– As Betsy said, we want to encourage dialogue, both while people are up here and also during the breaks and at the reception. We hope you’ll stay for the receptions evening. Also if you haven’t had enough, there are going to be some dinner parties going out to various places that’s unfortunately, you’ll have to buy your own dinner. But if you’d like to join one of four discussion groups that will continue on to dinner, there are signup sheets outside on the table as you come in and please join me or my colleagues are all going to different area restaurants to continue discussion and just to have a less formal chat. I’ll be back, or probably Ervin will be back during the day as masters of ceremonies to update you on various [inaudible] things.
But for right now, I just like to thank you again for coming, welcome you to the American Folklife Center and the Library of Congress and to reintroduce Betsy. So, Betsy, if you come up and I’ll– again, thank you. [ Applause ] >> Betsy Peterson: OK. Hello again. Oh, OK. All right.
Hello again. I confess I actually didn’t fully follow the task that was said before me to prepare remarks about the challenges of the archives of the future. Or actually, what I started doing was preparing remarks about the goal of providing the shifting context or backdrop of our work now and in the past 40 years.
And then secondly, to talk a little bit about the shifts in our archival practice and goals. So, with that, I think you’ll seeWe’re going to look at the trajectory of AFC’s work in the past 40 years. But I think also challenges and opportunities will be identified and I think clearly evident. And as an illustration in preparing these remarks, I went back and looked at some of the great material that’s been written, particularly about the first 20 years of the center.
And I went back and read some essays that the founding AFC director, Alan Jabbour, had written on the occasion of the 20th anniversary in 1996 and there are marvelous essays that are on our website. Ervin Winick has also written about this period as has Nancy Groce. But I also wanted to take a moment to introduce Alan Jabbour, the founding AFC director, who’s sitting in our midst. [ Applause ] What– this is– so this is a paragraph. It was called– it’s from a piece called Building an Archives for the Future.
Folklife Center celebrates its 20th anniversary. And he also sort of sets the context for that event. The 1970s was a period of increased attention to roots. Those aspects of heritage that lie between the individual and the nation and the connect individuals to communities while defining the nation as a whole.
This attention led to the passage of the American Folklife Preservation Act, Public Law 94-201, that passed both houses of Congress at the end of 1975 and was signed into law by President Ford on January 2nd, 1976. The definition of folklife in the American Folklife Preservation Act anchored the center firmly in the expressive culture of the family, ethnic, religious, occupational and regional groups that make up America. I tried to think with what that paragraph would be like in 2016 and it would be very different.
And I think the shifts are striking and I think the shifts will speak to some of these dramatic changes, and some of the things that shape our work now going forward. And certainly, I think we see very dramatic shifts in attitude and a tempered belief in the national enterprise and democratic experiment that is the United States. I think there are shifts in expectations about government and civil society, citizen rights, and responsibilities.
I think there is a stronger push towards the limit of government and fiscal constraint. And these shifts have affected and continued to affect how we do our work, how we conduct our field research, how we develop our collections and they affect our access to resources. And I think know, Alan began to experience those constraints towards the end of his 20-year period here at the Library.
There’s also been a shift from analog to digital and the rise of the internet and social media of course are critical. And the technology for documenting our lives and culture is much cheaper. There’s more of it.
It’s available and accessible to all. And we can document most anything anywhere anytime. And these shifts make it possible for anyone to do professional quality documentation and approximate archival standards. And it puts into play all sorts of questions about professional knowledge, authoritative expertise, and it also allows us to begin thinking about access on a scale never before possible. And ironically, as it calls into question professional expertise, it also requires a whole new set of skills and expertise to deal with this work in the backend of things.
Closer to our disciplinary foundations, there are shifts and ideas about community and individual. And in the 1970s, as you could see from that statement in the definition of Folklife and the way it was portrayed, there was more emphasis on describing cultural or social groups in monolithic or static terms. And in the intervening years, there is a greater– there’s been a greater acknowledgment in anthropology, sociology, folklore, most any place you look in the agency of the individual, and the evolving processes of forging individual identity. The shift from group to individuals almost moved from individual towards group.
These shifts affect how we think about folk culture . They affect how we think about cultural communities and individual creativity. And it affects the type of collections we develop. World history collections have always been a part of the archive, but are increasing in number and significance as a part of the archive, and the Veterans History Project, and the Civil Rights History project, both are congressionally mandated projects are recent examples.
And I can’t believe I’m talking as much I am. I’ve just gotten my morning. From the AFC’s beginnings, Alan with Carl Fleischhauer, who was also in our midst and was the first staff member hired here at the center, I know both of them saw a direct linkage to the archive of folk song, which was founded by the Library in 1928. And in fact, the AFC was placed at the Library in part because the archive of folk song existed here. The archive eventually merged with AFC beginning in 1978 and it is still the heart of AFC, I think.
But the archive had a legacy of initiating field research, sending government workers out, solo or as part of larger federal projects such as the WPA. And in the first 10 years of the center, this was a large part of the work that the center did. And while they were continuing in a tradition, they were also adding to it.
And they were developing team-based approaches to field research and the material was much broader in scope, while I think the earlier material was much more sort of item oriented, focusing on getting those songs, getting those stories, this field work was much more focused on documenting a broad range of cultural tradition in everyday life. And visual documentation became very central to the process and has only continued to grow and be at present as much as or audio material. In the late ’80s, federal budget shrunk, field surveys decreased in size and number.
And programming started becoming more critical and, I’m almost done. I promise. Alan has remarked that in that period, there began to be a shift towards working with the collections that existed. And I think the Federal Cylinder Project and the work that is continuing to be done to bring that work into the 21st century is one great example, and a very successful example of that.
When Peggy Bulger came to the archive in the Folklife Center in 1998, she shifted– began to shift some of the collecting, or collections development for the Folklife Center. And again, I think fiscal constraint and limited government begins to come into play into that equation and began to acquire collections either through donation or through purchase from individuals such as Alan Lomax, John Cohen, Bruce Jackson, Margaret Mills. And she also began to develop long-term agreements with nonprofit organizations such as StoryCorps, the International Storytelling Center, the National Council for the Traditional Arts and more recently, the Center for Traditional Music and Dance. And as Ervin Winick has commented in a blog, this led to an explosion in the quantity of documentation in the archive without a sacrifice in quality. And since 1976, the archive has grown from approximately 450,000 items to a current figure of about six million.
And that does not include the Veterans History Project as part of that. So, where do we find ourselves ? Yeah, I think you’re going to hear about some of the work that we’re doing. We see ourselves, very much, as a part of a great lineage stretching back to 1928 building on the work of Alan and Carl, Peter Bartis, Mary Hufford and many others. And we also find ourselves in a time of fiscal constraint, technological change.
The nature of the staff is changing. The nature of our work continues to evolve. We will continue to grow our collections, primarily through donations and occasional purchases. But that’s going to allow us to bring in a whole bunch of voices that have never been heard, a whole bunch of different perspectives that may not be amidst the staff. And I think will provide a fuller picture for what we do.
I think Veterans History Project, Civil Rights History Project have allowed us and allowed the federal government to maintain some sort of presence and I hope validation in vernacular culture. But going forward, that will be a larger, I think, kind of picture. And I’m excited about that.
I also think the technological change, while sort of being disruptive as people like to say in many ways, it is also going to open up incredible opportunities for us to think about scale. Not only scale in terms of what we can share online, but scale in collaboration in a way that we’ve never been able to tackle before. And that’s very exciting to me and, I think, to the rest of the staff here. And with that, I will stop.
But thank you again and thank you for coming. We’re very excited and I’ll turn it back over to Nancy. [ Applause ] >> Nicole Saylor: Hey, hi. I’m Nikki Saylor.
I’m head of the archive at the American Folklife Center. Thank you all for making time to come out to talk with us . — is happening. And so, we are trying to figure out how to be responsive to that. What it means to create a research collection that will be meaningful for years to come.
So, we’ve invited two archivist librarians and two folklorists, who do research online, to talk a little bit about what they do and then put them in discussion about the issues. So I would encourage you to look at their full bios online. But I would just mention the order. Here, we’ve got Abbie Grotke. She is the head of the web archiving team at the Library of Congress.
She has enabled us to start a modest and problematic apparently, collection which we’ll hear more about documenting expressive cultures, which was actually a partnership Trevor Owens, who’s no longer at the Library. But he took a lead on that for us so shout out to Trevor. And then next, you’ll be hearing from Andrea Kitta at East– >> Andrea Kitta: Kitta. >> Nicole Saylor: What? >> Andrea Kitta: Kitta. >> Nicole Saylor: Kitta. Kitta– from East Carolina University and she’s associate professor there. And she has a PhD in folklore from Memorial University and she does all kinds of research on medical folklore and what have you.
So then, we will hear from Bergis Jules and he is at University of California Riverside. He also happens to be the PI on a grant called Documenting the Now, which is looking at sort of technologies and ethics around social media archiving. OK. >> Abbie Grotke: OK. >> Nicole Saylor: And then we have Montana Miller and she is associate professor at Bowling Green State. And she has a PhD in folklore from UCLA and does all manner of research online and is also involved in IRB issues related to internet research.
So, I’ll hand it over to Abbie. >> Abbie Grotke: OK. I’m waiting for my slides to come up. Should I stand up there? >> Nicole Saylor: You can do whatever you want. This is a free-form.
You sit if you like. If you– >> Abbie Grotke: No dancing. Sorry. >> Nicole Saylor: Now, there, you can sit. >> Abbie Grotke: Hi, everybody. Welcome.
I’m going to talk a little– a tiny bit. We don’t have much time but I’ll talk a little bit about our web archiving program and how we got– or some of the challenges we’re facing with our web cultures, web archive. So, the library has been archiving web content since 2000 and we started, like most national libraries do, with US elections. We’re still archiving US elections which, you know, is very draining sometimes. But– So, I’m excited to talk about something that’s not government and election content.
So, we kicked off archiving with sort of pilot programs and then quickly became a production outfit when we started documenting the events of 9/11. So that’s been on our minds the last few days. And that’s one of our earliest web archives where we are trying to document the expressions and output of citizens and organizations and just the reaction of the community that was unfolding on the web at that time.
So, our– We have a minimal amount of our collections available through the Library’s website. We– That’s one of our challenges that I’ll talk about in getting collections online. We currently have about 25 active ongoing collections that we’re working on.
There’s about 90 that we’ve done. We take a thematic and event-based approach to archiving so we don’t have the legal authority to archive all of the US web. We can’t even define what the US web is.
So, unlike some of our national library colleagues who can archive all of the Icelandic domain or the French domain, we don’t have that luxury. So we do select the content and my team is responsible for managing the sort of the overall project and activity on the workflow. The selecting of the websites and the development of the collections come to experts like Nikki. And when Trevor was here, he helped us out as well.
So that’s sort of the quick overview of what we’re doing. Here’s the description of how the web archive– the web cultures web archive was proposed to us and we have a little proposal form that people have to fill out to sort of think about the types of content that they might select for the archive. How that actually plays out when they come to select the content, it can depend on a number of factors. I won’t spend time reading that but basically, the idea is to capture vernacular sites that aren’t official channels. So they were some of these– I will explain some examples that will help.
So, we began crawling this content in April of 2014. Forty nine sites or URLs were nominated for archiving. We have crawled 33 of them. We’re crawling most of it still. There are few that have gone away since then.
Sixteen of those have not been crawled for permissions reasons. We have to ask explicit permission of the site owners to archive their content. I could spend the whole hour to talking about our extensive permissions policies here but I won’t.
But we– 13 of those did not respond to their permission request. So, if they do not respond, we cannot archive which is– can be unfortunate. Two sites denied permission to crawl so we were not able to collect those sites and then a few others we did not archive for other reasons.
So, some of the biggest challenges, again, are the permissions responses. There are a number that we attempt to contact site owners three times and if they– If we don’t hear from them after a year, we give up, unless we find another contact email to try. But not hearing back means we don’t preserve that content.
So that content is lost and potentially creates skewed collections or just confusing. You know, “Why wasn’t that site archived and instead of that site?” Getting access to researchers has been sort of a painful process for all of our web archives. We have– If you’re familiar with the Internet Archive and how they collect and explain websites through the Wayback Machine. Is everybody generally familiar with that? Hopefully.
So, websites are crawled over time, so multiple captures over time and then you have to use a viewer to click around the website and view the dates of capture. We have that sort of simple access. Other types of access too for researchers, including cataloging of the records, has not happened for this particular collection. We don’t have bulk data sets that are available for download for researchers which is the way that a lot of people are interacting with web archives these days.
Other challenges are around crawling the sites and I’ll explain some examples. But these are– Some of these are very large sites where content is not really deleted very often so it just builds up and builds up. Crawling them has been a lot more complicated than we had anticipated. They’re– We had been used to crawling relatively small sites that were pretty easy to collect and these have created other challenges. So– And some of those challenges have been resolved by some new techniques for crawling.
We are doing some deeper, longer crawls of some of these sites so we can get more of the deep buried content that’s hard if you’re just going back once a week or once a month. We’re also crawling RSS feeds if we can find them. So that’s– We’re doing that twice a day for some of these sites so we’re able to get frequent changes to the site that’s being published out in an RSS feed in addition to the deep quarterly crawls. So that’s helped us improve results.
We’ve been a little bit shortstaffed. We’ve recently hired a few more people who were hoping to spend some time analyzing the results of these. So just in examples from the archive, Emojipedia is one of them. Let’s see.
Nikki is our expert in why some of these sites are selected so I won’t go into the reasons why. But this one decodes the meanings and definitions of the emoji characters, providing insight on the vernacular meaning of the characters. So a lot of these sites, another challenges that you’d– Interacting with the live site is very different from the archived site. Some of these have search functions that aren’t replicated in the archive. So unless there’s– This one has a nice browse by category that will replicate in the archive.
But if you actually wanted to search the original website, you can’t do that the way that we’re currently capturing this content. So browsing is very important. Oop, I’m out of time. I didn’t get my two-minute warning? Oh, I missed that.
I’m sorry. I’ll just– Can I go one more minute? OK. So we have LOLCat Bible. I won’t read the descriptions of these. I’ll just explain you some examples.
MetaFilter is another example where it’s a very deep heavily changing site so we’re using that new crawling strategy for that. Mudcat.org, I believe is in music– >> Nicole Saylor: Mudcat Café. >> Abbie Grotke: Mudcat Café. That’s another one where we’ve had to crawl in multiple different ways and we’re trying to piece together the results of that to see how successful it is. Fark is very difficult because a lot of it is related outbound links. So there are– If you’re familiar with Fark at all, it’s a comment– a lot of comments about external links.
We are not getting those external links as a part of the archive because of our permissions policies and other restrictions. You’re the Man Now Dog created lots of problems in our archive. Every page on this site is a separate subdomain.
So crawling that was terribly intense and we had to figure out how to crawl it in a slightly different way. You can also see there’s some formatting problems with some of the not-in-archive content with this one. And that’s it. Where’s my emojis?
Thanks. OK. Andy, go. I think you’re next. >> Andrea Kitta: Yes. OK. Thanks. OK. Wait for my presentation to come up. So, I’ll start with just by saying one of things I really kind of love this quote.
Lynne McNeill, in her TEDx Talk, actually referred the– to the internet as the world’s largest unintentional folklore archive. And I think that’s a great quote for that especially the unintentional part. I don’t think when people put things on the internet, they necessarily intend for those things to be kept forever. We think of it as a very volatile media. For example, right up here I have my Twitter handle and the hashtag Folklore and FolkloreThursday.
I didn’t actually know if we had a hashtag for this conference. >> Nicole Saylor: We should. >> Andrea Kitta: We should have a hashtag. We could make one up right now if you like. >> Nicole Saylor: I’m looking at Jessie now. FC40? >> Andrea Kitta: Yeah, that’s– actually I was going to suggest FC40. >> Nicole Saylor: Yeah, hashtag FC40. >> Andrea Kitta: So, there you go.
So if anybody is live tweeting, there you go. >> Nicole Saylor: Go with that. >> Andrea Kitta: So, all of these things are– we don’t necessarily think of them as being necessarily permanent, but we are starting to archive these things and maybe that’s not what people’s original intensions were. I’m one of those people that studies urban legends. So I look a lot at those kind of things and what’s happening. And one of the interesting things with urban legends is no matter what, they always– everything old is new again with these. So, that didn’t work out so well.
So, a lot of these legends are very old and we’re now seeing these sort of versions of them with pictures, with the text underneath. That’s easier to share on Twitter, of course, where you have only 140 characters. So, people are creating these things online. So, we have on the left– sorry on my left.
Yeah, that’s your left as well. We have a fairly classic urban legend, especially with the children’s handprints. And then we also have the vanishing hitchhiker, but we have an old version of it. We have one from World War II here, which of course is even older than that.
But this one is starting to make the rounds when I did a quick Google search on urban legends which is, you know, more common than contemporary legends for a lot of people, which probably upsets some folklorists. I saw that right away we have this version from World War II that I’ve not heard in years, but there it is on the left, all over the place and it comes up rather quickly. So, it’s pretty interesting. This is one of the versions where the vanishing hitchhiker actually tells them when the war will end. And I have not heard that version in years or my students from an oral tradition anywhere.
But here it is on the internet. So, that’s interesting that that’s one of the ones that has kind of come up. One thing I do hear a lot about from my students are Creepypasta.
So, for those of you who have– oh, sorry. I also forgot to mention the technology legends are changing overtime too. So, those we who grew up with the whole notions that you are going to get cancer from your microwave or from sitting too close to the TV, it’s now your cellphone.
So, we have a mobile radiation penetrating your brain. I also don’t ever recommend Googling the terms creepy baby monitor, unless you don’t ever want to sleep again. So, this is a very common one that has come up more recently where we have a lot of people because there was at one point where people were hacking in the baby monitors and creeping people out. But now, there all these ghost stories about people seeing things like this terrifying picture on their baby monitors. So, this is older tech– this is new legends about technology, the newer technology but they’re the same as the old legends that we’ve had in the past.
They’re just about something different now. They’re about cellphones instead of microwaves. So, it’s kind of– everything is kind of keep changing.
Now, these Creepypastas, for those of you who are not aware, this is a very widely used website, especially among people who write fan fiction. So we have a whole host of terrifying characters including one of my favorite slender man up there on the upper right. I read quite a bit about slender man and some of you might be aware of him because of the slender man stabbings that happened in 2014. So, my students are coming in and they want to know, what are the precedents for slender man?
What are the precedents for the rake? What are the precedents for these other characters? Now, of course in the bottom corner there, we have the clown, which those of you who are not aware, there is an outbreak, an epidemic dare we say of clowns in North Carolina right now, of them just explaining up and standing there creepily and a lot of issues are coming up about this.
It’s becoming a safety issue as well. So, this is getting to be pretty interesting to see how these change. Now, clowns stories have been around since at least ’81 with people having creepy clown stories. So, this is not anything new by any means.
In some ways, this has really made our jobs easier. We can sit at home and look at the stuff in the internet in your pajamas and you don’t have to go anywhere or do anything. Of course, there are some problems with doing it this way and one of the big problems that I face because I work a lot with medical information, I work a lot with the vaccination, anti-vaccination and pro-vaccination movements and how people share that information online, it’s medical information, right.
So the internet has been wonderful for people with disabilities, especially those who are not able to easily access places. They can use the internet, they can share with online communities, especially if they have a chronic condition. It’s wonderful for those reasons.
Wait, I’ll get you– you don’t have to have that staring at you anymore. I started realizing people kind of kept shifting over. So, all of this information that’s out there in the internet is wonderful to have, but we don’t necessarily know all the context.
So, people will share things on the internet, but we don’t know why they’re sharing them. Or what they mean to them if they don’t put any of that context down. So, when we don’t get the full context, are we doing proper fieldwork? I’d say we’re not.
And this is especially true with medical information, especially when you start to look at how people are sharing medical information. So, when they’re sharing this stuff, I don’t think they always know exactly to what extent they’re doing. So, I thought I’d just explain you very quickly. If I type in Google, anti-vaccine and Facebook, which is something I frequently do, the first thing I get is the vactruth.com Facebook page, which I clicked on.
This is it. I decided, well, let’s just see, just for fun, what if I click on to see who liked the first article. These are all the names of the people who liked that first article.
I’ve blocked them out so you can’t see them.
So then I can just click on the first person. There’s her name, there’s a picture of her child, there is a picture of her dog. There is a– her picture, there is all of her friends.
I can send her a message. Her school and career. She’s a nurse by the way.
Very interesting from my research as someone who’s interested in the anti-vaccination movement and there’s also her husband’s name. Scrolling– That’s on just the beginning part to that page. Wonderful information, wonderful context, can I ethically use it?
I say no. I’d– even though it is public information, she has publicly posted all of these things, I don’t feel it’s ethical for me personally to use this. Scrolling down slightly, I also know her child’s name, I know her dog’s name. I know everything about that.
I could probably figure out her passwords if I really wanted to based on that information. Since people tend to use children’s name, dog’s names, those kind of things as passwords. This I don’t think is ethical at all in a lot of different ways but, you know, how do we figure these things out.
How do we decide what we use in our research and what we don’t use. That gets very, very complicated and what we can use and what’s ethical for us to use. Especially in the case of we are talking about vaccinations.
So, this is her child’s health information. Not hers. And what happens in 20 years when her child goes to school, goes to university, and they find out they’re unvaccinated because they looked at his mom’s website. So nowWe’re talking about medical information.
So, I just wanted to kind of end with saying that, you know, privacy and consent is very important in all these situations. Just because we can’t find it, maybe we shouldn’t find it. But the internet really provides us with some great opportunities to find this information online and gives us access for people who don’t normally have access. But we have to think about how we do this ethically and morally. What is our role of folklorists?
What are– How do we define that for ourselves? It’s conversations we need to have and I think this is a great place to have them. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Bergis Jules: I don’t have any slides. >> Andrea Kitta: OK. >> Bergis Jules: I don’t have slides but– >> Nicole Saylor: OK. >> Bergis Jules: Alright, so I’ll– since in the interest of time, I’ll talk briefly about a project, a specific project I’m involved with. And why we did it and some concerns we have as we’re getting the work done.
So, I’m one of the principal investigators on a project called Documenting the Now and we’re building a social media archiving tool that were calling DocNow. This is a partnership project with Washington, University of Saint Louis and also the Maryland Institute for Technology and the Humanities. My other two PIs are at summers, who is the lead software developer at MITH in Maryland and Chris Freeland at Washington University.
This work started a couple of years ago with Ed Summers and I. This project was really inspired by the events following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri in August 2014. And, you know, the millions of images that we saw being shared on Twitter and other social media spaces, millions of articles, personal stories about that event and what it led to. So we saw these millions of expressions of– sort of publicly accessible expressions of grief, of anger, of criticism, of support and, you know, Ferguson is what really led to what we now know as– what gave life to what we know as the Black Lives Matter movement right now, right, which is a movement that sort of bring us more attention to mass incarceration, police violence in poor communities, among other things. And so, you know, we were at the Young Society of American Archivist conference during the week that Michael Brown was killed and it was basically a bunch of archivists sort of sitting around reading these events sort of fall in social media and thinking about ways that we could help, you know, our peers collect this information, build documentation, builds collections around this type of very rich content that was being shared. And so, we decided to start doing several projects around collecting different hashtags, around killings that were happening that happened over the past two years, we had Walter Scott, we had the Charleston shooting, we had Sandra Bland.
All of these different types of events had their own life online and they were really sort of playing out on social media, which is the first place that people will go to find out about what was happening. And we had people really close to the ground, really close to the event, really close to the people or family members, getting online and telling their stories in sort of these unmediated ways, right. So, we wanted to think about ways to get archivists and researchers sort of plugged into that content and think about ways to do that easily for them.
So, DocNow is basically a project to build tools that archivists could use to easily and easily is really important here because there are a lot of tools available right now to do this work that don’t– that require sort of this high level of technical skill to really get into and really use sort of capture the data and make any sense of it. So, what we’re doing is we’re building something that folks, you know, without any technical skills, could just sort of tap into and start making some sense out of this sort of vast amount of data, right, millions of tweets in some cases. So, building tools to capture that data, to export metadata, to export visual content like articles and live streams and images.
And we’re also building tools for researchers. Researchers are our second main audience for this project and we’re interested in building tools that can help researchers make sense out of this vast amount of data and also to share that data back and forth because there are a lot of restrictions from the platforms themselves about how you can share the data with other people, right, that they create because sort of data reselling is also a business model for a lot of these platforms. We do have some concerns as we’ve been doing this project. We’re a very transparent project.
We do a lot of our sort of development very open. We have a Slack website with almost 200 people in it that anyone here can join and sort of jump in the conversation around social media archiving, social media research. We have our Twitter account where we share information and have back and forths. We have a blog. So we really believe in sort of being transparent about this type of work and I think we’re really one of the first projects to do that type of development, software development around this particular issue in this way and it’s been really beneficial to us because we’re getting all this feedback from so many people and we actually take this feedback and put it back into the work that we’re doing.
And a lot of the concerns that are consistently being brought up are around ethics, right. And why or how we should be doing this type of work. And so, one of the main concerns is around ownership of content, right.
Who actually owns the content that’s being shared via social media. So, Twitter for example says that you own your content but because you’re using their platform, you’re giving them sort of this exclusive right to reuse your content, right. They say that you own it.
They have rules around how other people can use it. And so, you know, one of the questions we have is how should archivists sort of operate in this space, right. How do you seek consent for example or should you seek consent if you’re building an archive of tweets where you’re using a hashtag or where you’re using a keyword and you’re not necessarily focused on a particular person. So, how do you navigate those really murky waters around ownership of content– two minutes, OK.
And consent, right? As far as consent goes, you know, most content creators don’t know that we’re building these archives of social media data, right. And so, you know, when you post something online, you may post it in one context.
An archive may take it and keep it in our repository for 15, 20 years and someone else may reuse that content in a completely different context. So do we owe it to content creators o really respect sort of the original intent of their material that they posted online. So this is just some of the issues that we’re trying to grapple with and thinking about ways to sort of build functionality within the tool that may be able to address some of those issues. There’s also the issue of surveillance, right. So law enforcement at every level in the US is using tools to monitor social media activity.
This happens at the local police level, the FBI, the CIA. I mean, the CIA has a funding arm, In-Q-Tel that, you know, one of the things they invest in is companies that do social media mining specifically. And so, how do we build collections that don’t sort of support this kind of activity, right. So, let’s just say, you know, companies like In-Q-Tel or funding arms like In-Q-Tel don’t exist, the companies they fund don’t exist and, you know, the CIA is like, well, Library of Congress has all the tweets that were ever collected, let’s tap into that, right? So how do we sort of think about how to protect people that are represented in those data sets from this type of activity?
And a more general concern I have is really the lack of diversity in the web archiving in social media space. I mean, it’s– frankly it’s a very wide space, the people who build tools around social media archiving, web archiving. And we have to think about what that means for the type of content that will be saved for the future.
All right. >> Nicole Saylor: Great thank you. [ Applause ] >> Montana Miller: OK. Hi I’m Montana Miller. Can you all hear me OK?
So it seems like there’s an interesting mix here of archivists and researchers and archivists, who work with researchers and vice versa. I’m a folklorist and a researcher, but I’ve also– since the beginning of my academic career, I’ve been very interested in IRB issues, which is human subject research protections. And since I began working at Bowling Green State University, I’ve also been serving on the HSRB or the IRB there. And I’ve also had the opportunity to be involved in PRIM&R which is the national organization that teaches all of the members how to review proposals and especially in the role of kind of bringing them into the internet age and kind of educating them about the specific dilemmas and boundaries and issues that come up with internet research. So I wanted to kind of outline some of those issues and read you a small passage from my chapter in Trevor Blank’s book.
This is “Folk Culture in the Digital Age”. I wrote the last chapter to this book, which is about doing fieldwork on Facebook as a folklorist and the issues that come up with that. This came out in 2012. So it’s not completely outdated yet.
That’s the problem with publishing on anything internet related, of course, it’s immediately outdated. So I consider a major rule for me, one of my purposes as folklorist is to kind of bridge that gap between IRB members and folklorists because there’s a lot of misunderstanding and fear on both sides. And it’s also complicated because not every folklore program is bothered by IRBs, like when I went to UCLA that IRB didn’t want anything to do with the folklore department. We didn’t have to worry about it.
However, at many universities now, folklorists are part of the larger social science contingent that does have to go through IRB review. So the idea that now we are kind of mining and harvesting huge amounts of folklore material that’s available to us on the web, it’s so tempting and yet, it does present a lot of issues which I think every other panelist has very sensitively addressed. And so I just want to go over some of them. The whole concept of privacy has changed so much and is continuing to change. And I think that maybe some of you have heard of Dana Boyd.
She’s a well-known researcher, who studies teenagers and their attitudes for privacy and their social media behaviors. She talks about how teenagers don’t worry anymore about whether what they’re posting is private or not because they kind of know that privacy doesn’t even exist anymore. It’s not really even possible to have privacy. Anything that you post could be seen by anyone.
So instead of worrying about the content and keeping that private, she has found that instead they have developed coded systems of communicating. So that, yeah, anyone might be able to see what I posted, but they won’t know what it means. So an example of that that she writes about is subtweeting. Has anybody heard of subtweeting?
A couple of people. OK. So I’ll just go to the Urban Dictionary definition of a subtweet. >> Nicole Saylor: We’re archiving that too. >> Montana Miller: The top definition of a subtweet is a tweet– you all know what a tweet is, right? A message posted on Twitter, that mentions a Twitter member without using their actual username, usually employed for negative or insulting tweets. The person you are mentioning won’t see the subtweet in their Twitter timeline as it doesn’t contain the @ symbol that every Twitter username has.
But even more than that, maybe you’ve heard the term vaguebooking. It’s when somebody post a status update like, “Oh, I just can’t believe that asshole did that. And that’s all they write. And, you know, you want to know desperately what they’re talking about, but if you are not in the inside of circle, you’re not going to know. And how much use would that kind of material be to a folklorist who’s gathering material, there’s no context as you we’re talking about. So in a way, the protection for the new generation that knows that privacy no longer exist is to use subtweets and vaguebooking and to make the context so indecipherable that it’s really useless information to anyone that they don’t want to understand what they’re communicating.
OK. So coded communication we could call that, including subtweets. Of course, what is public space and what is private space is so much a matter of perception these days. And one thing that I really cover in my chapter in “Folk Culture in the Digital Age” is that before you even do your fieldwork and especially before you present your proposal to the IRB and try to get them to pass it, you have to really know your population and know what their perceptions of private and public are.
Often, the IRB is concerned that you might be invading these people’s privacy but in fact, you know that they completely are aware that people could be looking at their stuff. And they’re OK with it. So you need to be able to explain that and to know it yourself. So I always advocate to all of my students and other researchers in folklore that before you just dive into our project, spend some time there.
Get to know the patterns and get to recognize the clues that people certainly give out as to whether they realize that their stuff is being readed. For example, I observed a chat room for several years and which was regularly mentioned that there were probably journalists and researchers observing the whole thing. Well, if that’s regularly mentioned in that community, you can’t really be a member of that community for very long without getting the message that, you know, journalists go there to get ideas for stories and researchers are probably writing, you know, on newspapers on this.
And everybody who was sort of an integral member of the site seem to know that. Passivity and consent, you mentioned this Abbie, if you didn’t hear back with permission to crawl then you weren’t able to crawl. I wasn’t familiar with the term crawl but that’s great. It’s got that same imagery as like harvesting and we just need to be really careful about that.
So the perception of private and public, generally we’ve relied on, you know, what does a reasonable person expect? Does a reasonable person reasonably expect to be able to behave without being recorded and regarded? These distinctions are definitely changing, especially in when we consider these big data environments.
And I encourage you to look ay Michael Zimmer who writes lot about these issues, especially when it comes to big data like OKCupid and study they come out with Twitter, Facebook. I’ve worked with him at PRIM&R and served on many panels with him and he’s not a folklorist, but he is very savvy about these computer issues. So that is Michael Zimmer, knowing your field before the harvest, I’ve mentioned that before, getting to know your population and what their perceptions are. This interesting dilemma of whether something is oral expression or textual archive because IRB is considered as something that’s already published.
You have to write to use it. However, something that is emerging constantly like Twitter or Facebook, where people are actually spouting it out as though it’s an oral phenomenon and then instantly becomes archived published material, what do we consider that? IRBs are extremely confused about that issue. And if I may just read this passage will get to, this idea about shoulder to shoulder.
So, “When researchers first began flocking to the internet to observe chat room discussions, blogs, and the like, it was somewhat easier to distinguish between public and private spaces online. Debates sprang up about communities where public access seemed ambiguous such as LISTSERV and topics that were especially sensitive such as vulnerable or stigmatized groups. But it was easier to determine what a subject’s reasonable expectation of privacy would be and then weigh the risks of using that data, the risks to the individual and the risks to the community being studied. Folklorists must now consider the risks and ethically navigate the new internet terrain for our fieldwork because there are so much important cultural behavior occurring in the space. Jumping through the bureaucratic groups of Institutional Review Boards is certainly infuriating as it seems like there are folklorists all over Facebook and other social networks, and discussion boards throwing questions out there and reaping abundant harvests.
At this writing, increasing numbers of us are Facebook users ourselves, sharing our research and our lives as academics and humans. More than ever before, both online and offline with the boundaries dissolving all around us, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the folk whose traditions and meanings we explore and interpret. So that phrase “shoulder to shoulder with the folk” it’s something that I heard folklorist John McDowell say in his 2008 Archer Taylor Memorial lecture at the Western States Folklorist Society Meeting. And I’ve always thought that was a great encapsulation of our ethics as folklorists, is that we don’t hold ourselves above our subjects.
But we are right in there with them advocating for them authentically representing them and we need to find a way to apply that to the internet world as well. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Nicole Saylor: Right. There is a lot there. Thank you all so much. We can open the floor to some questions.
Surely there are some. I don’t know who has the– you can get the mic, OK. >> Test, OK. Hi. I really appreciate the different mentions of ethics and fieldwork by the panelists.
And I wondered if anyone want to talk a little more about the aspects of– for example we do web archiving here at the Library of Congress, the aspect of embedding your own personal or the institutional orientation towards those issues into the data that has been collected. Because one thing I’ve noticed with the way we do web archives here is that all those decisions are made outside of the web archive and not– excuse me, directly included, not meaning to criticize the library overly, but in general, I think one of the great benefits that folklore brings to scholarship is its attention to these details. >> Andrea Kitta: Who wants to take that? >> Bergis Jules: Well, I mean, I have something to say. I don’t know if it’ll answer your question. Couple of weeks ago, so we have a pretty stellar advisory board for our Documenting the Now project. We have scholars, archivists, librarians, journalists, I think about 22 people on the advisory board.
And so we had our first meeting in Saint Louis, which was live streamed and actually, the recording should be up either or tomorrow. But we had six different panels on the day. But, you know, to me, the most impactful panel was a panel of activists from Ferguson, right, who were– who joined us to sort of tell us about their experience, you know, being in those early protests, you know, minutes after– hours after Michael Brown was killed. And I think one of the most important things, you know, they said was they each– the chair of the panel asked each of them what they were doing right before, you know, they sort of became activated, right, before they became activists.
And their stories were so totally different. I mean, a couple of them were working at fast food places. One young activist talked about, you know, how she had planned to commit suicide either that day or just, you know, in the hours right before she– you know, someone texted her to say that, you know, sent her a picture or she saw it on Twitter, the picture of Michael Brown in the street and, you know, to this day, she says, Michael Brown saved her life.
But, you know, they told us some really powerful stories and I think, you know, as people thinking about documenting this type of content, collecting this type of content, I think interaction with content creators and content owners, right, these are the people sort of, you know, putting these things out there that we want to take really to tell stories in the future I think interaction with those folks, I think respecting their views about how they want to be remembered is really important. And, you know, we’ve done this– we sort of built protocols around this for other types of materials that we’ve collected and we’ve– we have these rules and these policies for a lot of sort of the physical materials that we collect. But we’ve seem to sort of– you knowWe’re throwing all these out the window in a lot ways when it comes to web archives or social media archives because I think the vast net– vastness of it all sort of really pushes a lot of people away to say– a way to say well, you know, there’s so much stuff here for us to get too personal. And I think that’s wrong. There are ways that we could sort of dig in and get to know some of the people building the content, creating the content around, some of the subjects you want to capture.
So, I think that’s really important. >> Andrea Kitta: I think– sorry, if you don’t mind. >> Nicole Saylor: Go ahead. >> Andrea Kitta: I think one of the ways, at least on Twitter and other media we were allowed to hashtag things, as much as we make fun of hashtags, they’re a great way for the people involved to not only kind of give consent in some way to saying that I want this to be a part of the discussion. But there are also a way to find that information because those kind of do become or more organic from the people who decide what the hashtag. I mean, we just sat here and decided our own hashtag.
And that’s what happens when people start talking about these things online, they make the hashtag. And then when they choose to use that, that kind of gives us, you know, I don’t want to say permission, but they know that they’re part of a conversation then at least. >> Nicole Saylor: Right. >> Andrea Kitta: So, yeah. >> Nicole Saylor: Great. OK. >> You’ve partly addressed my question there. But what I’m curious about is for the people who are doing research online and among groups that are aware that researchers are– maybe they are– do you see any formal request from researchers for permission or announcements that I’m doing research.
Or does this all have to– what is the mechanism for securing permission? Is it going to individuals whose words and image as you’d like to– eventually like to use? Or do you approach the group? It sort of like the collective.
Where is the agency of the collective located? >> Abbie Grotke: Well, yeah. In our web archives, it’s the person– it’s the site owner. So, we– there’s no way we could possibly notify all the people that are contributing to those sites.
So, they have to act on behalf of their community basically. >> Montana Miller: And you can post an informed consent documents somewhere on the site. But there’s no way to guarantee everyone is going to see it. So– >> Bergis Jules: Yeah.
Yeah, I mean it’s really difficult. SoWe’re thinking about the sort of technical ways to deal with this with the DocNow project. And also more sort of socially responsible ways, right. So, one of the technical things we’re talking about is, OK so, let’s say you’re collecting a hashtag. Generally when people are using a hashtag to communicate online, they’re generally sort of reading it happen as well, right.
They’re reading the conversations so they can respond. What if as part of the tool, you could automatically send out information that actually uses the hashtag twice or three times per hour, right. Saying this hashtag is being archived.
Here is a link about the project. It’s being archived by this university. So, the idea is you’re sort of putting information out there.
And, you know, as part of that, you know, that message, it could also be an opt out message, right. This hashtag is being archived. Click on this if you don’t want to be included in the collection, right. Now, how this will all work?
I’ll leave that to Ed and people like Dan should now have to figure out. But that’s one of the things we’re talking about. The other thing we’re talking about is really, you know, thinking about how do we communicate our values, right.
SoWe’re thinking about this idea of social media data labels for example. So, after you build a collection of social media data, can we come up with some labels that sort of specify a few actions that you should take while you’re using this data or how you should treat this data? So, for example, you can have a data label that says, you know, that this collection will only be around for one month from this day to that day and it will be destroyed after that or this collection has a lot of images of minors so you can only use it on site and it can’t be shared.
So, how do we sort of communicate our values about what we want to the tool to be used for? How we want the tool to be used? And how we want the data to be used?
Sort of in the absence of all the sort of technical ways that we could address that, can we– the least we could do is kind of sort of communicate our values to people about how we think the data should be used. So, there are lots of ways to think about it. But it’s really complicated. >> Montana Miller: If the key concepts of human subject protections involve confidentiality, consent, and protecting from harm, we can’t always inform consent everybody, we can’t always keep everything confidential. However, there are often things that we can do to mitigate the harm by taking out some of the identifiable data. By once you have collected the stuff just protecting those who have posted it from having it be specifically identifiable to them. >> Nicole Saylor: Other questions?
Joe? >> Joe: Maybe for all of you but Bergis perhaps especially for you, of course, archiving social media is still pretty new and moving forward in a new way. I’m wondering though if there are any instances yet of behaviors that have been influenced by the knowledge of archiving activities. In other words, you know, do people who participate on Twitter suddenly develop a filter in any way once they’re aware of the fact that, you know, there may be research activity involved with what they’re doing that’s going to be kept in perpetuity in some way?
Do you have any examples of anything like that where it’s affected the spontaneity, the quality of what’s happening? >> Bergis Jules: Yeah. So, a couple of years ago when we started this project, I was thinking about just doing something really local at UCR. And I asked one of our professors, Nalo Hopkinson, who is a science fiction– really well-known science fiction writer. You know, if– you know, we had a meeting about this.
And we chat and I was like, OK, so, I want to build, I want to collect all your tweets and I want to put it in our archive and all this. And the first thing she said was, “Well, if I knew you were collecting them, I would tweet in a different way. And so, yeah, I think, you know, knowing that, you know, your stuff will be sort of preserved for a very long time in a space and other people may be able to use it to do their work, I think that definitely, you know, will change people’s actions as far as how they interact with the platform. And that’s– I think, that’s where we also have to be careful too as people building these tools because, you know, I don’t think Twitter of Facebook or Instagram or any of these places want, you know, whether it’s social media archiving tools or whatever to be built. They don’t want any of these sort outside things to influence how their users use the platform, right. So, we have to also be really careful about, for example, if we’re going to send out these sort of messages using the hashtag that Twitter will latch on to that and say, “Hey, you know, these people are really messing with our thing here. And so, I think that’s a big concern.
It’s about how people will change their interactions. But we see now that people are– you know, as these platforms become really well-established, Twitter has been around for 10 years, people are thinking about how they use the platform anyway. SoWe’re seeing a lot of tweets being deleted, right. I mean, so you can collect a hashtag and then a week later sort of run a test on it to see how many of the tweets have been deleted and you see that number goes up the longer the data set has been around. So, people are already changing their actions on the platforms even without knowing that they’re being monitored. >> Abbie Grotke: Yeah, we have– it wasn’t from this archive, but years ago we had– we sent out an email and sometimes the site owners publish that email to their website.
And say, “Oh, the Library of Congress is collecting, isn’t that great?” And we did have one– I think it was a blog where we had a ton of posts where people were saying hello to their grandchildren. And, you know, waving to the future kind of thing. But we haven’t seen, you know, major changes. I think they forgot about it. >> Andrea Kitta: Yeah.
We– I saw that a lot of times with online communities, you’ll see an entire online community fell apart as soon as they realize that there’s a lurker. Or there’s somebody that maybe isn’t really a part of that community that starts commenting. This happens a lot on anti-vaccination websites. If they find a debunker comes in and starts posting, there’s a very violent reaction to that person. But sometimes reaction is that the whole community just falls apart and they go some place else or they just– they disband entirely.
So, it really makes– you know, things can really change as soon as somebody finds out that somebody else is listening in. >> Montana Miller: I’ve also observed that sometimes they change just temporarily and then they go right back to normal. >> Andrea Kitta: Yeah. Some of them do. >> Montana Miller: Did anybody see that news story about the woman– the model that posted a picture of a naked old lady at LA fitness? >> Bergis Jules: Yeah. That was terrible. >> Montana Miller: What I think it’s so interesting about most of the coverage of that is that it’s been excoriating this model for body shaming, the woman with very little discussion about the complete breach of privacy, the really illegal breach of privacy. But it’s all about the body shaming.
So, I just think it goes to explain how thoughtless people are about privacy right now. Instead it’s about other issues. People kind of given up on privacy. I also wanted to suggest a more sexy hashtag for this conference. >> Nicole Saylor: OK. >> Montana Miller: Since we’re at the Library of Congress and because, you know, Hamilton is really big in– all over the place. How about something like not your founding fathers internet? [ Laughter ] >> Nicole Saylor: That’s good. >> One thing I’ve often had to deal with over many years of doing researches embargoed material, is there a way to embargo information? >> Abbie Grotke: We embargo one year.
We’ve actually embargoed a lot longer because of other reasons just to take us a long time to get things online. But we’re collecting about 15 to 20 terabytes a month now. So– in all of our collection. So it’s just a lot of data to deal with.
But yeah, the lawyers have suggested a one-year embargo, which we follow. So, we only have– you can actually get to some of these sites through our way back. Talk to me after if you want. I’ll give you tips on how to do that. But you can only get through about a year ago.
SoWe’re collecting currently but that’s not available. >> Nicole Saylor: OK. >> Hi. Good morning. There’s very– a lot of really interesting perspectives. I guess I’d like to ask since there’s an interesting combination of people on the stage, kind of from folklore and archives, which speak but not always together. And I’m wondering, two of you are participating in IRB activities at your institutions.
That’s another relationship that I think has often been a little bit fraught with folklorists in particular, and speaking as an ethnomusicologist, I know that it’s also been a relationship that people aren’t always comfortable with because practices are developed somewhat outside of our disciplinary practices. So, I’m wondering sort of what perspectives you’re bringing to the IRB and of what your experiences there have been? And I guess, some of the things that I’m hearing the archivists say, I’m sorry, this is sort of a two-part question here. But so I’m kind of wondering what folklore brings to IRB. And for the archivists, I guess I’m thinking here more of people coming from information science.
But, you know, in online culture people are talking about participatory surveillance and things like that. Something is changing. All of you have said something is changing about privacy too.
And I wonder if we’re seeing something different with digital culture here. And so, I guess I’d like to hear your perspectives on that. >> Montana Miller: IRBs tend to be populated by older out of touch people that do not spend a lot of time online. IRBs really need people to join them and bring them into the future. More folklorists need to get on IRBs. I have done a lot of work trying to educate IRB members around the country on qualitative research.
Just getting the means to things like the idea that you can’t always give the IRB your exact list of questions because there’s going to be followup questions that you don’t know what they’re going to be yet. That interviews in folklore are never completely structured. They’re always somewhat semistructured and informal to some extent. The more folklorists get in there and become a part of that board, the better they can make life for other qualitative researchers at their institutions.
IRBs are so different at every university. My university has a wonderful IRB with lots of qualitative people on it and very flexible open minded people. That’s not the case at every university. And it’s really not fair because the folklorist has a great project that would be highly encouraged at Bowling Green State University might run into a wall at another place just because the IRB is stuck in a different mindset. So, that’s why it’s so important for more of us to not be so afraid of the IRB but, you know, you can’t beat them, so join them and change them.
And with the digital culture, in the same way, bring them into the present because many IRB members have no interest in learning about it. Let alone, making their right decisions about researchers who are doing their research there. >> Andrea Kitta: Yeah. I’ve had similar experiences where I– I’m not going to say anything bad about our IRB board but things have gotten caught up for very silly to– at least to a folklorist reasons.
Ours tend to be highly medical and as someone who does medical research, I get tagged a lot for not knowing exactly how many participants I’ll have, which is something I can’t know until I start actually doing the research. But they– I’ve gotten held up for months at a time, you know, and had issues based on things that are very minor compared to the major, you know, ethical issues I’m seeing, they’re more worried about, you know, number of people, number of questions, those kinds of things. So, it is very true. A lot of these boards either tend towards, you know, looking at people who maybe are a little more out of touch, with what current researches is kind of happening or they tend to be highly medical and are looking more at, you know, are you drawing blood.
Are you– and I don’t quite understand, you know– in some cases too, I’ve had people say, oh we are just asking people for stories that can’t possibly harm anybody. And I’m like, well, no, it could. >> Montana Miller: It could, yeah. >> Andrea Kitta: Yeah, absolutely could. So it is– it’s very– very much depends like especially on the organization, the institution. >> Montana Miller: But something encouraging is that if there’s a board that hardly has anyone on it that gets these issues and then you’d get somebody from the Folklore Department or you yourself get on the IRB, like what happens to me is that our compliance officer directs most of those protocols to me, so I have a real chance to help, you know, qualitative researchers and to be the one that actually does get what they’re doing and to make the path easier for them. >> Bergis Jules: So, you know, I think the surveillance thing is going to become real challenge for archives. People have been doing traditional archiving pretty soon. So, when Ed Summers and I were collecting social media on Ferguson, and he posted about his, I think it was almost 14 million tweets that he had collected on Ferguson.
He wrote a blog post about it and posted it online. You know, one of the first people to reach out to Ed was a security firm, right, who had also been collecting on Ferguson, but they had missed that window that we had the data for. So they wanted Ed to share that data with them, right. And so, people are out there reading, right.
Law enforcement is reading and we know that, you know, when these tools, that law enforcement bill gets put into place, they disproportionately target poor people and people of color. That’s just what happens. I think no matter what the sort of reasoning is, what’s about terrorism or whatever, whatever is sort of the justification is at first to sort of justify the use of the stuff, it always ends up being sort of marginalized groups or disproportionately affected by these types of tools. And so, I think, you know, archivists, you know, we’ve been sort of operating and, you know, in the sort of closed spaces, right, with paper records for a very long time. We sort of own that space.
We sort of decide what happens in that space, who gets access. But as we move into this sort of digital space where really we’re dealing with data, right, and we call it archives and all this stuff, but we’re dealing with data and metadata and other people can tap into that, right? We no longer have control of these types of archives that we’re building. So I think we really need to think about as we’re building these collections of data, how we’re going to protect people that represented in there and we’re not even close to thinking about that yet. >> Nicole Saylor: All right.
We have a couple minutes and then we will break. Does anyone have a final question or two? >> This has been a great panel. I’m wondering how each of you can anticipate the future of technological development.
We talked a little bit about Twitter and Facebook but, you know, we don’t know what’s around the corner in terms of social media. Is that something that you’re able to tackle or think about in your current work? >> Montana Miller: This reminds me the– this past weekend, I was doing an interview. I’m working on a book right now where I’m doing interviews with– that are long in depth in-person interviews and I don’t record them because I don’t have time to transcribe.
So I just write it all down as we go because I type fast. So I told my interviewee that I wasn’t recording and he said, well– he immediately pointed out to me, in the room we were in, all the different things that might have recording devices in them and he said, just because you’re not recording doesn’t mean like somebody– if they’d wanted to couldn’t be tapping into the microphone on my phone, on your phone, on that computer, on that computer and there and there. And I’d– I said well, why would they want to and he said, “Well, you never know.
Maybe not but, you know, in a few years, we could have a government that does one and like read everything we do and they could be collecting all of it. And I just kind of went, whoa, like I didn’t even want to imagine a world like that. I can’t worry about that. But some people are very highly attuned to the possibility that we are moving into a world where we’re completely under surveillance for nefarious purposes all the time. >> Yeah. >> Bergis Jules: I think there’s a question. >> I had a question about how different online spaces like Twitter or like Reddit affect privacy concern, like, so for example, Twitter feels very much like a public forum, I think, similar to Reddit that you have these threads in which you– you’re not immediately identifiable. You have a username and you can post within that conversation. I’m wondering if within those spaces, some of the privacy concerns you have around being able to identify people, or people’s own posts and their thoughts as to what is private and what isn’t, how do you sort of negotiate that given the different online spaces? >> Montana Miller: It depends on the sensitivity of the material and also how hard people are trying to conceal their identities because some Twitter handles you can’t figure it out who it is quite easily and others you can. >> Andrea Kitta: I think a lot of people, especially who are more used to social media too either divide their lives up into sections.
So they have an official Twitter or official whatever. And then they have their sort of private line where they have name changes, they have, you know, more privacy protection on it. So I think people are dividing their lives up into little segments in different ways. And that’s kind of interesting too. That we’ve had started to know that we have a public persona even if we’re not a public person.
You don’t necessarily need to be a politician or a professor or anything like that to have a sort of public persona anymore. Everyone needs one now. >> Montana Miller: There’s a great new book called “Modern Love” by Aziz Ansari, who worked with sociologists and psychologist to collect information about how people date and use texting and the internet in romantic life now, and one of the methods they used was they created a sub-Reddit, where they invited people to give a huge amount of material from their online dating lives, and I thought that because not only a great informative book but really innovative in its use of social media platform like Reddit to collect data in a very voluntary way. And people always are much more willing to give us information than we fear that they will be. So we don’t always have to worry about like harvesting and spying on them when there’s so much that people are willing to give forth. >> Nicole Saylor: OK, final thoughts. All right, thank you very much. [ Applause ] >> Stephen Winick: Welcome back.
My name is Ervin Winick. I’m the editor here at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. And I’m here to welcome you back to introduce the next panel, which is going to be about the American Folklife Center field projects, which is something that we’re really excited about. These are projects that went on from the 1970s through the 1990s, in which staff from the American Folklife Center along with other fieldworkers went out and documented a wide range of communities across the country. And we came back with a huge archive of documentation, which is now being digitized and placed online.
And that’s what the part that we’re the most excited about right now is getting this stuff out there for people to see. So, the first person that I’m going to introduce and then after her, the rest of the panel will come up is Ann Hoog. Ann is a member of the American Folklife Center staff. And I’m very happy to say that I’m the first person who has the privilege of introducing her as our coordinator of processing, which is a job to which she has recently promoted. So we’re all very happy to have Ann in this position where she’ll be having a great impact on the way all of our materials are processed from now on.
But she’s also been working very diligently on these field projects and making sure that they’re getting up online. And so, Ann is going to come up and talk about the background of these projects and what she’s been doing. So please welcome Ann Hoog. [ Applause ] >> Ann Hoog: Good morning. Some of this presentation will be explaining a sampling of the photos from various field projects and a few slides just have some descriptive material explaining an overview of what the field projects are, and why they’re a topic of the panel at this symposium.
With the American Folklife Center celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, it is appropriate that we have a panel celebrating this field project surveys. These projects came to define the work of the American Folklife Center in its early days. And now the opportunity to digitize these materials and put them online makes them more widely available and promises to continue this work in a new way.
This is one picture being tomato season. I thought appropriate to explain the ripening tomatoes in the windows, so the Lowell Folklife Project picture. So this is a timeline of the field projects and the order of when they first started in 1977, shortly after the center was founded up to about 1999, when the last of these field projects concluded. These projects moved around from place to place and each had its own focus and approach from documenting ethnic arts or industrial heritage in a single city to exploring the complex cultural relationships of land and people across regions. There are differences between these projects.
Most of them share certain characteristics that help define nature of the field projects. They all used teams of fieldworkers working together in the community, usually 3 to 10 or so depending on the scope of the project. They all had an emphasis on professional documentation, creating high quality sound recordings and photography along with detailed logs and field notes. Attention was paid to a broad span of expressive culture, including the full range of everyday life, not just music and crafts, but celebrations, food ways, games, vernacular architecture, occupations, environmental issues and more.
Most of the projects included some level of cooperation with other local, state or federal agencies such as the National Park Service, or state and local arts councils. And these projects all resulted in the creation of a large body of ethnographic archival collections as a product of the fieldwork. What is in this large body of ethnographic archival materials? The field projects have materials arranged into similar categories. Many of them arranged by administrative documentation and publications and ephemera.
The administrative category includes information about how and why these projects came to be, who was involved with the planning, contracts with the fieldworkers and release forms, et cetera. The documentation category for each project are the materials that were created by the fieldworkers and photographers. In total, all field projects added together, the formats included approximately 140,000 black and white negatives, 95,000 color slides and negatives, 3,500 hours of audio recordings, 45,000 pages of photo and audio logs, 6,000 pages of written reports. These are just estimates, totalling nearly 300,000 items. The third category, publications and ephemera, includes primarily maps, brochures and local publications gathered in the areas where field work was being conducted.
It’s the second category, the documentation category that includes the items that had been recently digitized. So use those formats listed again with a total digital memory needed, 21 terabytes. And if you’re keeping score at home, that’s 21 million megabytes. Digitization is now complete with these collections and so now we’re in the process of preparing items for online presentation.
One project has gone up in its entirety already of the documentation category, the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project and soon the Montana Folklife Cultural Survey will be going up, it’s in test right now. We’re hoping to have it by now, but it’s almost there. We’re getting there. [Inaudible] to start with the series of pictures to help define visually the nature of field projects. I mentioned the teams of fieldworkers with these projects.
Often fieldworkers work in tandem, with fieldworkers, photographers and recorders. This is Carl Fleischhauer with the cameras taking a photo of Etta Anderson of Ocilla, Georgia, taken August 20, 1977. And looking at the cameras he had which would have been somewhat typical of the field project photographer, likely one camera had 35 mm black and white film, one had 35 mm color slide film and perhaps another had 120 film either black and white or color. Now usually the fieldworker and photographer were matched up together while on the community and often both the fieldworker and photographer had cameras. This picture was taken by the late folklorist, Beverly Robinson.
And here’s the picture that Carl was taking. And you can see off to the left, there’s a bag, sort of in the corner of that picture, that’s actually Beverly Robinson standing there taking that picture of Carl. You can also note in this picture, there’s a microphone attached to Mrs. Anderson’s collar indicating there is an accompanying sound recording that goes with these photos as well. And so one thing that makes these photos so representative of the field projects is in addition to documenting a community’s traditions, what is also captured is the documentation process itself.
The documenter becoming the documentee. So frequently, you have teams of fieldworkers and photographers documenting each other. Photos of photos being taken, photos of sound recording being made, and though inadvertent to times, sound recordings of the photos being taken as you can frequently hear the shutter going off in the background. That’s capturing the moment of documentation. The lens not focus on the informant, so in field only but also on the fieldworkers and the part they played in the creation process.
One important job that the photographer had to do was also typing up notes. And this is very hard to see but I just wanted to put one piece of paper up there, it’s a sample of the materials that are in the collections and being digitized. And there is– this is a log of– this is a log that Beverly Robinson typed up of what she was taking pictures of in picture 6-6A there, so it’s Carl Fleischhauer taking picture.
Sadly peach season is almost over in this region. But I love this photo taken by Lyntha Eiler. It’s representative of the many wonderful food and food ways photos in these collections. So I sorted through these thousands of scans of field project photos, something struck me about them. They don’t just capture the objects of the food, and of the vernacular architecture, but also the transmission of knowledge.
And what defines these projects as much as the objects in the transmission of knowledge among the communities is the relationships, and transmission of knowledge between the fieldworkers and the communities. There really isn’t any way to conduct good fieldwork and to create such rich documentary materials without a good trusting relationship with those you’re working with in the communities. And so here’s with these collections explain the commitment to doing it right and how close these two worlds were to each other during these projects, to sharing and enjoying a story on the front porch, to playing fiddle tune together on the front porch. A deep interest in care and how things are made, and the source of knowledge and tradition represented in each tool that was used, in this case, the Planters peanut can.
Sometimes you have to climb high on a government car to capture the cultural landscape. And sometimes you have to crawl into the weeds to find the more hidden things. And a part of each of these fieldworker’s notes, here we are taking notes in the field with a piece of paper you have in the field and then returning at night to the office of apartment or hotel wherever the fieldworkers are staying and typing it up.
And this is the creation of the log and fieldwork in action, like you’re creating the logs and field notes that are in the collection itself. So these are the materials that make up the field [inaudible], what is in them and a bit about how they were created. And as the discipline of folklife is, what we have here is not just the documentation of the cultural things, but the process of the creation, plus the process of the creation of the documentation. Here on this panel are some of the creators of these materials. So this ends my part of the talk and I’ll turn it over to Betsy Peterson, who’s going to introduce the panel and begin our discussion in more detail.
And by the way, there’ll be a slide explain going on during the panel that’s illustrating some of the photos that some of these photographers and fieldworkers took. [ Applause ] >> Betsy Peterson: Thank you, Ann. I’m actually going to make very brief remarks because I do want to turn the discussion over to the people on the panel. I was in graduate schools, just starting graduate school when these projects were going on.
And to me, at that time, I knew– certainly knew of them, certainly knew of their impact and always kind of looked at them and the people who worked on them in awe. Over the years, I think these field surveys have sort of receded from people’s minds, memories, et cetera. And I’d realized a new generation that is coming up is really not that aware of a lot of these projects and so part of what the digitization is all about is to really bring these back to the– really resurface them and begin to look at the work. And also, we hope range of publications will come out of it over the coming years. It is a gargantuan task as we’re realizing in and not an easy one, and it’s certainly going to take more time than we thought it was going to take.
But couple of things that I loved about these projects that we’ll talk about more in detail in just a second is the teamwork and the teams that were assembled for all of these projects. They included photographers, and photography I think becomes a really significant part of this project and certainly in terms of what is left behind for us to work with. It’s really critical. These projects also hired professional photographers, which wasn’t necessarily that common at that time. And also the– just the issue of client or sponsor, a lot of these projects were the result of collaboration between multiple federal agencies, usually federal agencies or state government.
But I wanted– we want to explore those issues as well, what those partnerships were like and how they came together. So with that said, I’ll just bring up our panelists and we are having Carl Fleischhauer, who as I mentioned earlier, was the first employee hired by Alan Jabbour at the American Folklife Center. And he was very instrumental with Alan in shaping what these field surveys became. We have Terry Eiler and Lyntha Eiler, two of the photographers that worked on a handful of these field surveys and developed close relationships with some of the folklorists and I think have– [ Inaudible Remark ] OK. Yeah.
Please come up. Mary Hufford, a former staff member with the American Folklife Center and now in Virginia, at Virginia Tech, yes. And David Taylor, also former American Folklife Center staff, but current library employee working in library services administration. And we will just get started now. What I wanted to do is ask Carl, since Carl was the there at the beginning, to just talk a little bit about what the thinking was, how did these come about, why did they come about.
And then we’ll move on from there. >> Carl Fleischhauer: OK. Thank you, Betsy. And I start by a big gesture on Alan Jabbour’s direction in a wave, and to some degree, I’ll be channeling I think what he taught me and his thoughts at this early moment.
And so, a tip of the hat, and if I get it wrong, you can pipe up in a little bit. When the center was launched in 1976, Alan more than anyone was really aware of the past presidents here at the library. They’ve been mentioned already a little bit, many years for example on which John and Alan Lomax did field, collecting themselves and that was marked among other things by a sort of a surveyness to it. They went all around the country and sent people around the country and they were really keen on using modern equipment, which in that day was a instantaneous disc recorder.
Alan himself, when he was the head of the archive, which happened in the 1960s and run into the early 1970s, did a certain amount of fieldwork himself and that was a period in which the two of us got acquainted. We found ourselves visiting a family named Hammonds in West Virginia and worked on a documentary project over there. And I think to some degree, the way in which we collaborated suggested things about team fieldwork. I was an employee of West Virginia University in Morgantown at the time.
We had a little micro team, you might say. We did a little bit of everything, each of us, but Alan tilted towards musicology to be sure and I tilted towards photography and family history. When the center got started and here I really am channeling what I think I learned from Alan, is there were several important roles that the field projects played at the folklife center. For the library, it was a signal that we were still building collections that like Lomax, this was about doing things that would bring collections back and you’ve just heard the statistics about how significant that was.
In the field of folklore and folklife studies, we were exploring methodology. I think as Lomax had with the disc recorders. We dragged those bulky [inaudible] around and you got a glimpse of one in the picture of Beverly Robinson in Georgia.
And the one real failure which Mary Hufford and I have wrung our hands about was, it was a day before GPS. We drove ourselves crazy trying to map phenomena in New Jersey, but that technology wasn’t ready yet. , that would be an easy thing to map phenomena. And it’s worth saying that this methodological development still continues at the Folklife Center in its current work.
I really admire what John Bishop, who’s here and Guha Shankar doing with this oral history project, which is using the very latest kinds of approaches for article recording and also builds the collections. For students in university programs at that time, and I guess that was Betsy, these field projects offered some paying gigs for a few months and also let folklore graduates students or recent graduates have exposure to what we were up to and help us develop some of the methods and approaches that we were using. And for the center, one of the roles was to establish and nurture relationships with agencies. Ann mentioned a little bit the park service. We had several connections to the park service, but there were also connections to the Smithsonian and directly and indirectly to the arts endowment through the state folk arts coordinators and other programs.
So all of that sort of was the rationale I think in the history there. As has been remarked, the team dynamics are important. And we have plenty up here to help testify to that in a little bit. The one element was there were academic specialists who were part of the team. They tended to have certain specialties that were tailored to the project.
Chicago was about ethnic groups, the Blue Ridge included, for example, someone who is really good with quilts and fabrics. There were occupational topics that David oversaw and Paterson and Lowell where you get into both ethnicity and occupational. And in Nevada, we found ourselves as we did in many places deeply into vernacular architecture. Rusty Marshall was the director for a couple of those projects and he’s a real specialist in that. We also have the Smithsonian specialists in saddles.
The second element which Tery and Lyntha represent where the media specialists, specially still photography. There were team members like Tom Rankin, who’s also here and Blanton Owen, who alas has passed away, who were very good at wearing both hats, academic specialist as well as photographer. But the photographers to some degree help broaden the coverage I think by being more than the folklorist sometimes focused on everyday life.
And in addition to which, they would contribute by taking scenes that explained people doing X whereas in a separate interview, the folklorist would talk to the person about how they did X and you sort of have the documentation of doing as well as the discussion of doing that comes in. There’s also the general visual context I guess I would say, you know, the cultural landscape perhaps for lack of a better word, the photographers tended to have a natural gravitation towards and so on. And so, it builds a context in the documentation of place, and a sense of place, and you saw that, and you’re seeing it now with some of these scenes. The team dynamic involved kind of cross training I guess is what I would say where each of these folks with their own specialties tended to teach the others in back and forth. The folklorists often took photographs as well.
You saw the picture of Beverly Robinson took of me. So, you know, sort of work back and forth that way where it’s possible that I help Beverly with the photography more likely that she helped me understand African-American culture in that context. And there was also things like the judgment of relative importance. In Chicago, what was sort of interesting, Elena Bradunas, who is Lithuanian American really helped us focus on these little wooden shrines that were being made by people in that community.
And so, that directed the photographer, also Lithuanian, to move in that direction. It’s worth saying as you’ve seen that there was extensive use of still photography and fairly limited article on motion picture film. That didn’t even turn up in Ann’s tally.
But in fact, there were some article and some motion picture film. And I think our feeling at the time was that it made a lot more sense in a survey project to cover things with still photographs, which then could be selectively used. I have come to wonder in a website environment where little short clips have a place.
Little short clips then didn’t have a place exactly.
And so, we might do more, but then it was still photographs I think that made that work. And Ann has already touched on the aspect of building the archive and the field with the picture of Dave Stanley or whoever it was at the typewriter and when we started, there were not portable computers. So typewriters were what we had by the time Mary and I got to trying to work in New Jersey.
We drag out cape rose for the first time and used five inch floppy disc. That was the first. We’re saying that the contract with all of the workers required that their output be dedicated to the public.
The idea was to thrust this material into the public domain just the way the farm security administration photos is government work for hire got thrust into the public domain. That goes against a little bit what is taught in photo schools and Terry and Lyntha are both, you know, prominent in the photo school at Ohio University, where protection of your right is sort of an important feature for most photographers. And we deviated from that and I hope, it’s worked out well to people satisfaction. Finally, there was a social dimension.
We had shared living quarters for the most part, even though some people came and went serially and it meant that you have like a college dormitory. A lot of exchange over breakfast, you’re sitting in the lounge or coffee at the mid afternoon or whatever. And that was a rich form of social communication, a social dimension there.
So I guess I’ll shut up and turn to Terry, Lyntha, and Mary and the team dynamic and how those things went. >> Terry Eiler: Well, it was an interesting sleeping arrangement, definitely. [ Laughter ] The team dynamics is very important I thought to us from the first project, Blue Ridge Project that we worked on and that we found ourselves visual narrative specials. Lyntha and I, yeah, and we knew how to tell a story about the people and the situations, the object, the event, but we had not gained the kind of acute focus and the specialists were suddenly bringing to us saying, you’ve got to pay attention to this. And it really helped us to broaden our coverage, but understand where the narrative would develop so that there was a dynamic. I want to talk about the contract though, that’s fun. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: Well, I think the first for the Blue Ridge was interesting because we had a four-month-old child when we started the project.
And so, the contract address that, that we would have child care. And so, we went to Galax, Virginia and found child care. Unbeknownst to us that the woman that ended up doing the child care had a grandson who was a big time professional regional wrestler. So our son went to a lot of wrestling events.
It was before a little tiny heads, so it may have damaged his hearing somehow. But it was interesting. It was a wonderful group. They were all, you know– we had child care during the day.
On the weekends, we had a four-month-old baby. And this was a two-month project. But the baby was wonderful. We would go to a church service and come in with this four-month-old baby who doesn’t discriminate, who is holding them and the child would be passed around and we got a lot of goodwill and cooperation following that baby– >> Terry Eiler: Well, access.
It was like having an access card in diapers. It’s just fantastic. But it also meant that the ocean, Andrew ended up on Children of the Heavenly King recording right in the middle of it, letting lose some sort of a cry. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: Yeah. [ Inaudible Remark ] [ Laughter ] >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: Yes. >> Terry Eiler: Mary, how did you find working with photographers? >> Mary Hufford: I was just saying about how I found working with toddlers.
I mean, it is because doing the New River Project, we had toddlers and so we were out there and it gave us that– I mean, we ended up– we knew every single playground really well by the time we left there. But it also provided a certain kind of access. I mean, we ended up interviewing and documenting kids jumping rope and doing, you know, in African American community on New River, where there aren’t very many of those and– no, but the child’s ticket is pretty good. The diapers aren’t but, you know, anyway.
OK, the teamwork, I found it really– I mean, it was– it’s formative. >> Terry Eiler: Well, you can be honest. >> Mary Hufford: No, it was formative. I– we– what can I say. To work with photographers, first of all, to have– if you’re doing documentation and you’re trying to do the photography and the recording and manage the social interaction of the interview, it’s pretty– it’s very, very difficult and to have photographers working with you, they’re not as, you know, an extension of you but as in dialogue with you about the material and about everything that you’re doing and in constant conversation. I mean, to be in the car, mulling over what we’ve seen and thought about. All of the insights that go in there.
And as a folklorist, I came at this probably much more with an ear for language and an ear for stories and things like that. And I learned a lot about visualization and framing pictures and things like that from Terry and Lyntha. And I would ask Lyntha, “Lyntha, could you please take a picture of the [inaudible] horizons, just to explain us how deep the tops and the A horizon is here and everything. And she’d like, “Well, it’s not going to make a very good picture. So we’d have to negotiate those kinds of things sometimes. But we did get the [inaudible] horizon pictures and they were very, very– yeah. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: I did use [inaudible], I did. >> Mary Hufford: Yeah, I know you did. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: But I’ll break in and say, one time, we were interviewing a coal miner union boss and we’re in his home and the evening and it was when I really realize that, you know, we– Mary was really thinking about what questions you’re going to ask, what order, how she was going to frame this and I’m scanning the room looking, where am I going to set up my lights, oh my gosh, there’s a gun sitting on the couch. So, I didn’t say– well, you know, we can’t say anything.
We go outside after the event. And I’ll say, “Mary, what did you think about the gun?” And Mary is going, “What gun? I don’t have any gun. But it was just– you know, I’m looking at visuals, you know, and she was really focused on this interview and because we could divide and conquer, I– you know, I’m sure she would have seen the gun if she had been out looking for photographs but it was like, “Oh my gosh, OK. >> Mary Hufford: Well, the other thing that was really amazing about this, if you have people with you who are dedicated documenters, you know, photographers then they’re going to worry about, you know, like when we went into that barber shop at Soak Creek, yeah. And Lyntha just when I came in with this big umbrella and she just set the whole thing up and totally took it over. The barber shop was half the size of this stage.
And she managed to do this and it was barber shop– music being made in the barber shop and it– that was incredible. But– >> Terry Eiler: But the barber shop was lit by fluorescent, which we all know is a tool of the devil. In real film, you had no option for clear filtration of fluorescence.
So, you had to overpower it in order to bring around. , yeah, you throw it over to automatic white balance and the problem goes away. >> Mary Hufford: But the thing is that in graduate school as folklorists, we learned to become very deferential to the informant and you don’t take– you tread– it’s like you take off your shoes to approach this burning bush and here are these photographers who just come right in and I remember Carl was with me in a New Jersey Pinelands Project and I introduced him to Robley Champion and he said– he says, “Glad to meet you, Mr. Champion. We’re going to get every bit of this on tape and film. I mean, it was just like that and people liked it.
They were like, yeah, you’re not wasting my time. This is going into the Library of Congress. And that was really interesting. >> Terry Eiler: Two things I need to point out. OneWe’re getting to see some of these images for the first time since we photographed them, which is just really a treat. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: Well, [inaudible]. >> Terry Eiler: But secondly, yeah.
Secondly, when we worked for National Geographic, we did not work in the field with a partner and I think many people feel that you do. The writer at least in the early days would be in the field second, sometimes they come first, but usually they were coming into the field second. So there wasn’t a collaboration of the sorts that we saw in the Blue Ridge or down in the Coal River or the Blue River. So, there was this wonderful idea of sharing the narrative as outsiders trying to become knowledgeable of the narrative we were building. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: And one of the events Mary and I were spending the night at Cybil’s– >> Mary Hufford: Cybil’s bed and barn, that’s where we stayed. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: The middle of the night, Mary is going, “We’ve got to get up,” because the miners that were also staying at Cybil’s were out in the common area playing card games and reading Christmas TV explains, movies and this was about, what time? >> Mary Hufford: They were– that was probably about two in the morning and they were laughing laboriously and they were playing a poker game called pass the trash. And soWe’re like, “OK, we have to document this. We got up and we can document it and record, audio recorded and that it was pretty. >> Betsy Peterson: I’m curious Terry, Lyntha and Mary have worked over a period of years together on two or three, four projects but primarily in West Virginia and I’m curious how your relationship or the interactions between you and with the subjects changed or matured or evolved over time? >> Terry Eiler: To get on an iChat or a phone conversation, it’s like listening to two sisters.
I just kind of sit back. But that was one way to change. They were sharing tales and stories. >> Mary Hufford: Hi, brother-in-law. >> Terry Eiler: Right. But I think the big change was that in terms of the people we were working with in West Virginia, suddenly we had the shared contacts who would touch base with one or the other of us.
We’d end up sharing that connection and when a graduate student wanted to do a piece on mountain top removal, I could send that graduate student to Mary. Mary and I could– and Lyntha could send them down to someone in [inaudible] or wherever we were working and they had a built-in shared base from where we had started. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: But I also think, it’s Terry and I do a lot of projects together and we’ll stand the same spot and photograph different things. And I pretty much know what he’s photographing and he pretty much knows what I’m missing. You know, and so then, we’ll try to, “Oh, he’s not doing that, oh my gosh.
Well, I’ve got to do it. But the same thing with Mary, after working over years. >> Mary Hufford: Yeah. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: I pretty much have an idea what she’s– what she really will need. And, you know, so it was a nice give and take. I’m sure she would say, “Oh, Lyntha is going to need this. I need to maybe set up over here. Or I would say, “No, no, no. I’ve got to put strobes over there.
You need to, you know, do your interview here. >> Mary Hufford: And we went on to do some work following– after I left the library, we collaborated on a project in Southwest– Southeastern Ohio. It was a body-burden monitoring project but we’ve– it was the same kind of thing. We really documented a lot of cultural landscape connected with as a way of explaining what was under. Was that risk for the community when its water supply had been contaminated by DuPont, a full range of cultural sorts of amenities and everything.
Yeah. >> Carl Fleischhauer: Let me interrupt here, just enough to turn in David Taylor’s direction and ask, I mean in a funny way, we’ve been hearing rural and I think of you was urban with the project in Paterson, New Jersey and Lowell, Massachusetts and perhaps elsewhere. Did it seem the same that is it– as these stories? >> David Taylor: In terms of field work? >> Carl Fleischhauer: Well, or team, yeah. >> David Taylor: Well, one of the great privileges of working on this type of project for me was the team dimension, the opportunity to get to know colleagues, to work with them intensively over long periods of time and to learn their perspectives. Particularly from team members who were trained in other disciplines. Our work, for example, with the John Alexander Williams, a fine historian, regional specialist of occupational studies of the United States.
We’re still close friends and it’s been 30 years I guess we’ve been acquainted. But to learn his way of looking at things and he was delighted too to learn from us. Well, how does a folklorist look at these things, which is his own turf in a certain way.
And he was so enthralled with our perspective on documentary photography that he insisted that I teach him to be an ethnographic photographer, to look at things through the camera in a way that I would look at things. And then he would come and explain me his pictures and say, “What do you think of that, David?” And he did a nice job. But that’s the type of enthusiasm that we shared. And when you are in a, let’s say second rate motel sharing it with four, five other people for a month or so, you get to know these people because you’re interacting at all the moments of the work and the leisure time.
And you’re talking about what’s going on? What are the standards? This isn’t what I expected at all or this is. This is great, the stuff that I saw , which I didn’t personally see because I was running around in another part of the landscape doing something else.
And it was just so fulfilling to work with others. And Tom is here, we worked together on the Lowell project, for example. Are we forgetting other people in the audience that worked on the field project? >> Mary Hufford: Rita Moonsammy. >> David Taylor: Oh Rita, of course yeah, here. Anyone else? Yeah. [ Inaudible Remark ] >> Carl Fleischhauer: Yeah.
That’s Frank Roshan [assumed spelling], who has helped us out from time to time. Actually, and there’s another– I’ll ask David again because he shepherded a project called Italian Americans in the West, which had people in California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Washington. That must have been less of a team sort of a thing.
It is, I mean that was like– >> David Taylor: It was one main team that I directed in several of these locations, but there are a couple of other ancillary teams we might say who were under my remote direction working in places where I didn’t personally go. There were, I counted them this morning, 20 field workers in addition to the AFC staff who worked on that project over a, let’s see, three-year period. So that may be the longest one or certainly one of the longest ones that we’ve undertaken with lots of people involved including graduate students of [inaudible] out in the West. And people from other disciplines as well as as folklore. >> Betsy Peterson: I’m curious, I mean a question for all of you. When you were working on a particular project, were you able to look at contact sheets or to go, be hearing stuff as you’re moving along, so you could review and either correct course or how– were you having regular team meetings to talk about the direction or how did all of that work? >> David Tayloy: Well, part of this was for all of us to work out what our roles were as team leaders or project leaders.
And I learned tremendously from Carl and Mary and Alan, who would been evolved in these projects before me. But I think all of us individually developed our own particular styles of doing this. I took it as my responsibility as the project leader to make life as easy as possible for my fieldworkers to make sure that the logistics were taken care of, that the hotel or motel arrangement was done by me through them, that they had a rental car, their flights were paid for.
They wouldn’t be out of pocket for anything. They had first class equipment. They had a manual for how we wanted to identify the things that we are creating, the numbering for the field tapes and photographs and all of that.
Plus, I would be there and sometimes with an archivist as well to answer their questions. And in some cases, we would have a preliminary training for the people on the team. One thing that I learned somewhat to my surprise that all folklores and anthropologists are not created equal when it comes to fieldwork experience and training.
So there became a greater need than I expected to train people in the standards that had been developed for the Library of Congress, the American Folklife Center, which led over time to the initiation of the Field School for Cultural Documentation that AFC has been sponsoring now for some years. >> Carl Fleischhauer: Betsy, I would chime in echoing some of what David said and remind everybody including myself perhaps that the client relationship varied tremendously. And in some cases in fact, you really could figure out what kinds of documentation was needed in order to meet the requirements in the sense of the client relationship. So in Chicago, for ethnic arts, it’s fairly easy, you know. There were 12 or 15 different ethnic communities and you wanted to be sure you got something from all of them that represented the arts. What was happening in some of the parks service project was that the resource that was developed was intended to inform the interpretive programs, a park interpretation of regional culture.
In the Blue Ridge, it had one character but, you know, in Paterson and Lowell, there were some of that that had a rather different character. But I guess I would ask Mary where we had another park service relationship in the Pinelands Project, what is it that they wanted to learn and how did we muster the forces to answer it? And it gets back to your team meeting question because the more you’ve got a goals orientation, the more you could say, well, at the beginning let’s meet and list all of the things we want to be sure to cover, then let’s meet once or twice in the middle and check them off and see how well we’ve done and what we’re missing. So in the final period, we can be sure to, you know, pitchfork people to get out and get the missing ingredients.
But what is it that they wanted to know in the Pinelands? And– >> Mary Hufford: Well, this is very interesting. OK, did you want to ask more? >> Carl Fleischhauer: No, no. Go on. >> Mary Hufford: I’m ready with what you, OK. Well, I think that– sorry.
OK, I think that the real watershed event demarcating the difference between the earliest field projects and the later ones was the cultural conservation report. I mean, that was an– in retrospect, that was an amazing thing to come in over [inaudible] some, you know, the Congress to ask the American Folklife Center for a report on the government’s history in approaching and stewarding intangible resources– intangible cultural resources. So that the Pinelands Project itself became a kind of a laboratory in which we could test the principles of the cultural conservation report. Now the cultural conservation report came out in 1983.
Four years ahead of the Brundtland report, which was commissioned by the United Nations and was published in 1987. And in which the acclaimed triple bottom line approach to stewardship was established for sustainability. You need social, ecological, and economic.
That’s the three-legged stool but I actually think– and these people now are proposing that there should be a fourth leg called the culture. But I think culture is actually the seat holding the three legs together, but I digress. But anyway, so with the Pinelands Project, what was very interesting is that this was still in an arrow when everything was so siloed, culture, environment, you know, social stuff.
It was all very siloed and we were beginning to see the kind of crumbling of the silos but, you know, they’re still not– they’re still haven’t been dismantled, but we’re still working on it. So, the Pinelands commission anticipated in its report or in its plan, management plan working with the American Folklife Center. That was actually written in there. But culture was the caboose. It came along at the every end of everything and we were expected to kind of like overlay our– the– tell the Pinelands commission what to do with cultural resources in relation to a plan that had already created.
So that was part of what was going on. >> Terry Eiler: I want to go back to your question, which team meeting and make sure everybody realizes that if you were taking photographs using kodachrome or archival film. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: Black and white. >> Terry Eiler: Or black and white, getting it processed, you couldn’t get together and look at ‘s tape. It was seven days, 10 days later before the chrome came back, the black and white if we got it up to [inaudible] and then proved we might get it back in five to six days. So, those team meetings tended to be discussions over the notes that the photographers had taken, captured notes and information. And you weren’t dealing with look at what I gathered in terms of photographs.
You were really used to working shoot and ship blind and keep on moving. You had to trust the tools that you were using in the field, know that you had the bracketing capability, the lighting capability and could walk away and keep on moving. >> Betsy Peterson: Well I’m curious though. For a couple of these projects, I know say with Chicago and maybe with the Pinelands, you were supposed to come up with a series of recommendations of how to do programs or why you need the– or the justification for creating a state folklore’s position or whatever.
I mean, there’s this very instrumental concrete goal that you were supposed to inform. Was that the case with all of these projects? >> David Taylor: Well, it seems to me not so much. >> Carl Fleischhauer: You know, to continue Mary’s story. Perhaps the point there was that it was a broad understanding of the cultural aspect of the Pinelands as an area, you know, that needed description. And we always think of one’s space many place is really a terrific model for that. In the Blue Ridge, the interpretive programs in a way were providing raw materials for scripts that the park rangers or interpreters would use, you know, as well as perhaps identifying things that ought to be followed up on or, you know, made more of.
So again, those were sort of agenda driven. In other cases like the work we did in Nevada, in that small town in Nevada, it was more I guess seed of the pants, you know, in terms of it. I mean, you worked on park service in with Lowell, how clear was the agenda? >> David Taylor: Well, Lowell, the Maine Acadian Project from 1991 and the Paterson Project were all cosponsored by the National Park Service various regional offices. And it was built into the– our agreement with them, cooperative agreements that recommendations from the American Folklife Center would be forthcoming, particularly recommendations to the National Park Service about programmatic initiatives that we recommend that they would undertake to better interpret to the public the cultural resources of the region of the National Park– in. >> Betsy Peterson: And were they– were those recommendations taken? >> David Taylor: In some cases, yes.
Some cases no. It’s became out of our hands and we moved on to other things. But I think we discharged our responsibility– >> Carl Fleischhauer: The advisory function. I mean, I think you’re doing your best as an adviser. I’ve– They seem useful.
You know, before we go too far, let’s look in Alan’s direction. You’ve been the recipient of all of this verbiage. Do you want to actually pipe up and say something? [ Inaudible Remark ] >> Alan: Thank you. I don’t want to talk too loud. Is that all right? >> Mary Hufford: Yeah. >> Carl Fleischhauer: Good. >> Alan: OK.
It struck me at an early point maybe even as early as the Blue Ridge Project that an important thing that teams did is deal with community events that are large multihuman events, you know, like a church service or a community festival. And teams are really– there’s almost no other way to do it except with the team because these events are such elaborate complex human activities that one person is just inevitably can get just one person’s perspective but a team can really catch a lot of stuff and at least represent the whole of that thing. And so I think one important thing that we discovered along the way about having teams documenting local culture is that the teams could actually document cultural events that were larger human events than one person could do, just a thought. >> Carl Fleischhauer: That’s right. >> Betsy Peterson: Well, what about before we turn it open for questions, how– what are we encountering now and I know Ann can probably jump in here with– so here we have all this stuff and how are you we getting it up online? What are the issues and problems we’re running into?
And how do we want to see this material out there? I mean, the materials so varied and it’s an incredible kind of snapshot of the 1970s and ’80s in America. >> Mary Hufford: I wanted to just say– could I say one more thing about the client? >> Betsy Peterson: Yeah. >> Mary Hufford: This is– the Coal River Folklife Project as far as I know was the only project in which the partner was not another government agency. It was the Lucy Brown Association for the Mixed Mesophytic Forest, a real civil society organization. And it was funded by the Fund for Folk Culture.
And I think– yes. And– But the thing is that that we really got into the kinds of conversations that emerged from that, that really affected the project, that it was not– this was not a project conducted in order to make recommendations to another federal agency. So, this was a project that over the years as I’ve thought back on it, I’ve often thought of that question or that statement often made about the American Folklife Preservation Act and the American Folklife Center when it was in the– when Archie Green was lobbying for it, that it would amplify voices in a democratic polity.
And often asking, how does that actually work? Where does that happen? Where does the rubber meet the road there?
And with the Coal River Folklife Project, I thought back on how this– the images that Terry and Lyntha were creating were used to engage in conversation across the silos with ecologists who are working on forest decline issues and we were documenting the community values of the forest. We presented the slides of people using forest resources in the Southern West Virginia coal fields. At the end of that, the state forester approached me and he said, Hi I’m William Maxey.
You know, that was really interesting. And then he paused and he said, “You made those people look so dignified. And these were lived in Terry’s images. And of course, you know, I was talking about customary uses of the land in a place where those are not highly regarded and valued and given much credence in public policy and so forth. I’m not going to say more than that right now. However, so several years later, William Maxey who up until that point had stoutly denied that anything was wrong with the forest, resigned his position as state forester. And what he wrote when he resigned was very telling because this meeting was in 1996.
And he said, “I resigned as a matter of principle, for I did not want to share in the blame nor the guilt for the loss of West Virginia’s heritage through the loss of our forested mountains. And he– somewhere else in his explanation he explained that it was 1996 when he began to realize what was going on. And he started to put together the heritage of forest was the same as the heritage of culture. And to me, that’s where this amplifying of voices in a democratic polity that one small moment when that kind of thing can happen. >> Betsy Peterson: Did those– I mean, just actually that brings up being a government agency and working only with– well, or primarily with other government agencies in doing the field research.
How does that affect what you’re getting? How you’re shaping the material? I mean, did you have a greater freedom to do certain things, or no? >> Mary Hufford: I don’t know that I– >> Betsy Peterson: Certainly. >> Mary Hufford: — that I will describe it in terms of freedom.
And it had to do with the kind of conversation you would have with the client. >> Carl Fleischhauer Yeah, I get– I mean — >> Mary Hufford: That was it, you know. >> Carl Fleischhauer: — to chime in, I think what was nice about the field project and when they had client relationships was the level of independence, you know. The Folklife Center may have an advisory group, but it wasn’t just a hired hand. >> Mary Hufford: No. >> Carl Fleischhauer: And the other thing you can say is that in a way, it’s the glory of the archive, you know, that then you have these raw materials which are valuable and can be reused by others in other ways, now 40 years later. And I’m reminded with all respect about the Farm Security Administration photos in Roy Stryker, you know, if anybody thought that those were about the work of a particular part of the Department of Agriculture that had a job of helping farmers in a certain circumstance, and that the pictures were limited to that, you know, you’d be badly mistaken. You know, once you open the archive, all of pictures suddenly you’ve got this kind of panoply of things, it’s much broader than that. And we now have that vividly before us as the things go online and I would say, as you know, for those who don’t, I retired in April, and quickly came back to the Folklife Center as a volunteer a couple of days a week.
And one of the things I discovered was the consequence of mass digitization is a massive material that’s somewhat undifferentiated or inadequately differentiated. And so I’m devoting a portion of my volunteer time to improving the metadata as best I can, you know, to make it more digestible. I think at the moment it’s semi-digestible and we’re trying to get to higher level of digestibility. But the other thing you run into and this goes back to the FSA was before the photos went online here, there was 20 or 30 years worth of books published about it and highlights from it.
So you had an interpretive stream that coexisted with the archival resource. And we’ve had some of that here. Mary Hufford is again a model for us.
But David and I both have also worked on websites that are to some degree interpretive that now coexist or will soon coexist with these massive raw material sets. And I think the usability or digestibility of these big archival collections certainly strengthen or improved by the coexistence with interpretive materials. And we got more of it for some of them and less of it for others, Terry. >> Terry Eiler: Well, apart from the fact you failed retirement like I didWe’re going to see color much like we did with the Farm Security Administration 30 years after the fact. We discover color, which was always part of the project from the beginning but certainly not something easily shared. So it’s a very exciting twist. >> Carl Fleischhauer: Yeah, well it’s nice, yeah.
And we did and this is– you know, you were joking about how you can shoot digital photos under fluorescent lights and not worry about it. You don’t need to use both color in black and white film. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: That’s right. >> Carl Fleischhauer: Well , in the digital environment, it’s all color. Yyou can take the color out, make black and white if you want. But we– the reason I look like a hardware store with all those cameras on me is because I was juggling black and white and color. >> Terry Eiler: Absolutely. >> Carl Fleischhauer: But I do think the great treasure will be getting this resource online, but it will be as I say, not as digestible as we would wish.
So there will be some years now of trying to improve that both through metadata remediation and also through adding a few interpretive layers here and there, which might be a book. >> Betsy Peterson: Yeah. >> Carl Fleischhauer: You know. >> Terry Eiler: But with good metadata because I’m always surprised when I find my pictures with bad information on them online, bad resource connection, interpretation and I tend to send notes to people saying, not nice things. >> Mary Hufford: Do you foresee the– maybe shifting into that what now. >> Betsy Peterson: OK. >> Mary Hufford: But do you foresee the use of– the creation by independent agencies or whatever of toolkits and interfaces with all these data. >> Carl Fleischhauer: Well, the education resource people who are part of the Library of Congress actually do a bang up job with all kinds of materials the Library has online making teacher kits and stuff. So there’ll be some of that right here at LC. >> Mary Hufford: But I’m thinking beyond us. >> Carl Fleischhauer: Well, I hope so. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: Yeah. >> Betsy Peterson: Yeah. I think that would be the hope. I mean I would– we would like to get this material up and out. We certainly have ideas of wanting to create different products or whether that’s books or manuals or whatever.
But we also do want to encourage other people to use it. And I mean, now 40, 50 years later, I would love to see how people would engage with the material, what they would think of it, how they would shape it and put it out. But with that said, I do want to open it up to the audience now. I know we’ve got I think about 15 minutes left or so before we break for lunch. But I didn’t know if there are any questions for our esteemed panelists.
Oh, OK. Yes Rita. >> Rita Potter: This isn’t so much a question and it doesn’t– >> Carl Fleischhauer: You should introduce yourself as a veteran of our project. >> Mary Hufford: Absolutely. >> Rita Potter: Veteran, yeah. I was the field coordinator for the New River Project and also was working for the State Arts Council in New Jersey during the Pinelands Project. And in both of those roles then I was participating in and observing the kinds of collaborations that were necessary to execute these projects beyond the federal government. And the consequences of them on both the product and the response to are the use of what was requested of the center.
And I will say particularly, in New River, we were asked supposedly, the point was to develop recommendations for a cultural heritage center. And we did produce a report like that, but the dynamics of the local and the state partners that we had resulted in something completely different. In New Jersey, we had a set of state partners using the materials including the photographs for something that the Folklife Center hadn’t planned, but which then went on to be very useful and impactful for a state and local audiences.
At the bottom of this, that was my strong impression of the way that those partnerships are in the local state level could be fraught. And I just wanted to know if Mary wanted to describe some of the kinds of fences that we had to jump over or couldn’t get around. >> Mary Hufford: In New Jersey or you mean on New River. >> Rita Potter: New River or New Jersey. >> Mary Hufford: Well, the New River is very interesting because– >> Rita Potter: New River was much more complicated that way. >> Mary Hufford: It’s very complicated and Alan said it was an example of Oedipus complex. Now the problem is it that the Denver Service Center came to the Folklife Center and asked if we could help them do the documentation required to establish the foundation or the rationale rise on death for the– a cultural heritage center at Grandview.
But there was a lot of ambivalence about actually building something from the Denver Service Center point of view. There’s also the state and local– well, the– it was more a state federal kind of a problem too. Because the state also wanted to build what eventually became Tamarack, which did what Superintendent Joe Kennedy at the time said he wanted to do for the park. He wanted to bring men off the interstate and shear them like a damn sheep is what he said in the meeting.
And the states swooped in and did it. So– But the thing is that what we were recommending wouldn’t have required anything more than a trailer. And that’s not what they had in mind.
We had an interpretive program that we– that was really fueled by insights from lots and lots of conversations with communities along New River. We wanted to work with communities to establish their own kinds of buffer zones really, areas where they could meet the public so they can have their own exhibits and we would do that. That’s what we really– we– and plus using lots of things that were already in place, the local radio station, the local TV station, the churches, the firehalls, you know. >> Rita Potter: And it would have really served the various cultural entities and practices of the people there, where what was eventually reconstructed was serving the turnpike, the purpose of– >> Mary Hufford: Well, Tamarack, Tamarack the local name for it is the “Crown of Thorns. It’s got this– it’s got all these spikes coming out the side that are supposed to be in an architectural interpretation of a quilt.
But they call it the “Crown of Thorns”, which has its own ironies. >> Betsy Peterson: Are there any other questions? Yeah, Chris. >> Chris: Hi, how are you. My name is Chris.
I work at the Brooklyn Arts Council. So I’m a folklorist in Brooklyn. And I’m lucky enough to work in New York State where there are several folklorists throughout the state.
And when we do get the opportunity, which is very rare to work together, we do– it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other. And so building on that, something you had mentioned about teams and how it’s an opportunity to see the different training styles, the different approaches or different– could you talk a bit more about some things that maybe that when you worked on teams that you learned from each other and exchanged ideas. >> Terry Eiler: Couple of things come to mind. One, as you’ve heard I work at Ohio University and I have taught documentary photography there for several decades. And the end result has been that an awful lot of my students go on to get PhDs in visual sociology, anthropology, and folklore understanding that they have a media obligation, but they don’t want to be part of journalism, they want to be in another area.
So what I think we learned was the idea that an ethnographic look at something is very different then a journalistic look at something. And that there needs to be a shared value teaching Mary journalism was as much fun as her teaching us about physical architecture, Rusty Marshall was fantastic at getting us to look at the physicality of what we were photographing. >> Betsy Peterson: What would have been the journalistic approach. I mean, you– >> Terry Eiler: I’m trying to get people to turn up the currency, the news– >> Betsy Peterson: OK. >> Terry Eiler: What journalists would call news value, but what is in the current vernacular that’s important. It’s ginseng season, yesWe’re going to go out and photograph ginseng, but let’s go talk about the economics of it, let’s talk about the– >> Betsy Peterson: Oh OK. >> Mary Hufford: Do you see a distinction between ethnographic and journalistic– >> Terry Eiler: Not the way I used to. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: But it’s– this summer, we teach a workshop in Scotland and we had students and trying to push some on a project and make it more culturally based. So, you know, they go in and they do this picture of somebody like this, you know, and I’m going, “No, no.
I want to see what’s behind them. >> Terry Eiler: Put them in an environment. >> Lyntha Scott Eiler: I want to see their stuff, you know, and how they place it in the room. And you could still make an environmental part of them where they’re big but that you would still see this whole event behind them. >> Terry Eisler: And relationships. >> Carl Fleischhauer: I guess, I would– I’m sort of reflecting on my own experience. I’ve learned a lot from the folklorist with whom I have worked. So part of your answer is, you know, maybe it’s just specific to me like Terry. My familiarity with vernacular architecture was fairly low and thanks to working with Rusty and Blanton and others over time, I think I’ve sharpened my sense of, you know, at least rural buildings, perhaps more that urban buildings one way or another.
In Chicago, the revelation was interesting in a different way having worked with Alan in West Virginia and sort of being involved in documenting the Hammonds family, which was the sort of Cecil Sharp would have felt right at home, you know, coming into their house. We got the Chicago and you have this much, much higher level of self-consciousness on the part of ethnic communities. And how they costume and present themselves. And it was quite interesting and in a funny way having come from the Hammonds as it seemed false to me in this odd sense. And by the end of the project partly because of getting an earful from Elena Bradunas as we went along, you know, the idea of people’s self-expression as their self-expression, you know?
Your job is to document it, not to quibble with it or something, you know? So that was quite a helpful revelation. In the– [ Laughter ] In Nevada, here again it’s sort of like the Rusty Marshall angle.
It was quite interesting working with Dick Ahlborn from the Smithsonian to get into some of the nuances of saddlery I didn’t know about the degrees to which you have a California-derived Spanish tradition for a certain kind of saddle that has a single cinch and the marker of it is how– well first of all, it’s whether you call it a [inaudible] or Riata. Obviously, they’re coming from the same Spanish word. But in Nevada, it’s a riata. And you don’t tie it hard and fast to the saddle horn, you wrap it around or dally as they say on the saddle, which goes back to having a single cinch.
It’s either two cinches and so on. So, this whole business about methodology for cattle handling as it relates to the tools, well, from a photographic point of view, that suddenly gives you an ingredients list, you know, stuff to be sure to cover. But the other dimension in Nevada, which I don’t know, I’m not sure when it hit me.
But there was also way back to the self-consciousness of presentation, the main rancher we documented was– I think it carefully thought through what he felt being a buckaroo meant and what it came to when he would actually stage these events. When we first arrived, he threw what he called a buckaroo breakfast where they had this antique chuck wagon and an open fire and so on. And what you began to sense slowly but surely was that his view of the work and the life had somehow been amplified, if you will, or reinforced by looking at Charlie Russell paintings which he had done, probably Hollywood movies, you know, John Ford. I mean, you know, all of those things begin to reinforce themselves and you get this echo in there.
But I’ll credit myself with that small inside rather than learning it from somebody else with the saddlery I got. >> David Taylor: Your question reminds me of the critical importance of the composition of the field team at the earliest stage. How do you decide who you need? In one case of the Paterson, New Jersey Project, I was very fortunate in being able to hire a very highly qualified folklorist who is a native of Paterson, Tom Carell. And the benefit to me was he could take me deep into the community based on his own experience there and give me that kind of background. So, it was a tremendous, rare, and valuable, deep dive into the cultural heritage of that place.
Because we were smart enough to hire someone like that. The case of the Maine Acadian Project on the northernmost border of the state of Maine, responding to the National Park Service request to document Acadian cultures that existed in that region, we decided– I think it was Alan and I decided that a great person to bring into that project as the on the ground team leader was a person not with great familiarity with Maine culture, but who was in fact a Acadian from Louisiana, who had that natural interest in this whole other branch of Acadians in the far northeastern corner of the United States, Ray Brasser [assumed spelling], who was perfect and a French speaker as well. But you need to think hard about that. Everyone can contribute.
What are the contributions do you need? >> Betsy Peterson: Frank and then Alan– oh, sorry. >> Frank: I just wanted to ask about the absence of article and particularly from the standpoint of the Library folks, is that something that you regret to your grave or is that something that you thank God, you don’t have to deal with the legacy formats? >> Terry Eiler: Black and white color in article, we tried article in the Blue Ridge. It was an interesting– experiment is the best we can call it. With ‘s tools, it will be a piece of cake in comparison. >> Carl Fleischhauer: Yes. I agree.
It’s a little like the GPS stuff. It would be doable in a way it was, and then the article equipment that we had, which Terry is referring to is a single-tube article recorder that had a lot of sneering in the picture afterwards. So the quality of the documentation is not so hot. But again, I would say these were largely survey project, not entirely and I think there is something that makes a good synergy between still photography, which are these many isolated instances and the survey of things.
What you don’t get, you know, and of course your own experience is terrific with this is, you know, visual documentation of music and dance or some of those forms of expressive culture and in the Blue Ridge, we were trying to get some dance and so on. We did shoot some movie film in Nevada, but I don’t regret it. I think, again, having 140,000 photos or whatever that total number is online is going to be a really valuable resource for people in a way that the article wouldn’t. So I have no regrets myself. >> David Taylor: But part of the documentation too particularly for the latter of the field projects was to accept the donation of homemade VHS articletapes of family reunions and other kinds of things that happened at the community level. And people often ask us, “Well, I’ve got this, don’t you want it?
How come you don’t have article cameras?” Well, and I would said something like what Carl said. [ Laughter ] >> Betsy Petereson: Talk to him. [ Inaudible Remarks ] >> Alan: But Carl use the great advantage less stewards home articles in Paradise Valley in Nevada, you know, which added I think immeasurably to that project. >> Carl Fleischhauer: Right, right and with [inaudible] helpWe’re redigitizing them at higher resolution. >> Alan: Really. [ Inaudible Discussion ] >> Alan: I just have one trivial point. You introduced Carl as the first employee of the American Folklife Center. Maybe my memory serves me wrong. I’m getting old, I grant you. But I think actually the first employee was Paula Johnson and Paula is now a curator at the Smithsonian, but also Carl’s wife. >> Carl Fleischhauer: Well, she is indeed.
We also should remember Carol Armbruster, who pitched in at the beginning as well. So, I was the first one you reached way outside and dragged in, maybe that’s a better way to say it. >> Terry Eiler: Smart hiring practice, though. >> Mary Hufford: We got articletape, just to return to that thread. We were articletaped on Coal River by people who were articletaping or interviewing and documenting, you know. They were just people from the community who did that. They have the article cameras and we didn’t. >> Carl Fleischhauer: Who has got a point? >> So I wanted to ask– direct this question towards David.
I mean, the panel has been fantastic in terms of talking about the cultural legacy of the field surveys, but that stopped at a certain point in the 20th century, 1997 I think was the last one. How did the center then take those methodological practices in particular, which I’m really interested in forward in terms of informing the field, a wider audience perhaps about the wonders of doing ethnographic in a team-based fieldwork? Can you talk a little bit about that? I’m speaking particularly about the field schools I guess I would say. >> David Taylor: Well, there are multiple ways.
The Field School for Cultural Documentations is one way that our practices in the field projects was codified through the teaching that we did. And the amalgamation of the ethnographic perspective or the archival perspective was made part of that as well in a package for instruction of two to three weeks program that we sponsored in collaboration with colleges, various colleges and universities around the United States. A good deal of that I believe is represented on the website or certainly sharable to anyone who’s interested.
Things having to do with archival numbering systems which is something that I began to learn from Carl. How do we share that information and I think I still have a photocopy of the methodology that you’ve developed, and then the evolution of the technologies. I remember working with Doug Donatelli [assumed spelling] who has great head for archival practice in combination with new forms of media, the computer, for example.
And he modified Carl’s document to take that into account, I remember as well. So how much that is made available outside of the field school, you can tell me better than I can tell you. >> Betsy Peterson: Yeah. [ Inaudible Remarks ] >> Alan: Yes, I did. I would start the history of diffusing our experiences beyond our own circle with the equipment loan program– >> David Taylor: Right. >> Alan: — which started very early, we had all these [inaudible] and, you know, and professionals in our field didn’t have them and so they wanted to borrow them and we just made them available and Carl was the locus of the– made them available. But Carl in a way was part of the bargain because you got him as a kind of instructor and guide helping you not only with how to work the machine but, you know, how to do good fieldwork or at least other ideas, our ideas about how one might go about doing fieldwork.
And then Carl moved on from that to kind of a moving workshop on fieldwork– field documentation and the equipment and how to use them, and so– and then it moved on to the later things that David is talking about. But I’m through. >> Betsy Peterson: OK. I’m sorry. There’s a woman in the back there who has a question.
You, or in the middle. >> Oh, thank you. Yeah, I’m not a card-carrying folklorist like all of you, although I am a consumer of what you do. And I’ve been sitting here all morning thinking there is this strong [inaudible] quality to everything I’m hearing you said. Oh sorry, and so my question is, is this project over? Is it completely done?
I mean, this is kind of following up on the last question. >> Betsy Peterson: Well, I mean, I– when we talk about the project or the projects, these were a series of discrete projects that were done over a period of years and on some level I would imagine some of them were a little opportunistic in the sense that, you know, Alan or whomever saw potential for a project. There was a sponsor, someone who wanted to work in collaboration with the Folklife Center to do something. I think most of the projects developed or merged in those ways.
So, maybe a little bit serendipitously I know the Nevada project is a little bit different and some of the Coal River Project might have been a little bit different in that regard, in the sense that AFC pursued those more intentionally and it emerged out of other work. But are they over? I don’t know. I mean, field survey projects may be done again. It would depend on resources, partnerships.
It would definitely require– you need local, state, regional partners to make these things, you know, work, as well as money. But– [ Inaudible Remarks ] >> — actually continue to request your help? >> Betsy Peterson: Well, that’s an interesting– >> Alan: Is Park Service still on board? >> Betsy Peterson: Well, yes and no– I mean, yes, the Park Service has generally been on– the American Folklife Center has a board of trustees. And we have one trustee here. But the appointments to the board are made through various channels.
The president is– appoints an– or appoints for individuals from federal agencies with like minded or relevant interest and the Park Service is usually I think appointed through that– I mean, we’ve always had an appointment from the Park Service. Sometimes it’s the head of the Park Service. Sometimes it’s senior official in the Park Service who is appointed by the director. At the moment, we do not have anyone from the Park Service.
Yeah. >> I guess maybe I can jump in here and say that– >> Betsy Peterson: It’s a longer, I think, conversation but– >> The days when we were collaborating with the Park Service and Alan and others can certainly correct me if I’m wrong, my memory doesn’t go back as far as theirs does. We were there as sort of experts brought in to do this kind of methodological piece. If you look at the Park Service now, they have their own ethnographic and cultural documentation teams that are on board. They actually have a division of the Park Service.
So whatever Park Service sort of initiatives are being undertaken or done under their own hospices and not necessarily external agencies like ours. And that might be interesting to think about what happens in the field surveys of the state by state level. Lots of states do their own in the field surveys.
Now they don’t necessarily rely upon us although we are all in the family, kissing cousins, however we want to phrase it. So, I think that was sort of– to the heart of my question to David was how does our methodological practice go beyond just the projects that we undertook and how do they inform the rest of the field in some ways and I think Roby Cogswell and other people up in Tennessee might be a prime examples of people who came up and viewed with the methodologies that we taught and apply them at their own sort of context without necessarily a direct linkage to the Folklife Center. >> And I’d say one more thing is that there are other models of doing ethnographic projects and of receiving the documentation that comes out on those projects that we’ve explored more since then and we have– there are certain things that the government thinks that federal agencies are particularly good at or particularly appropriate for and for that reason, we have the Veterans History Project now. We have the Civil Rights History Project, which are two different models for doing ethnographic interviews of various kinds.
And we also have things like the Occupational Folklife Project where we help fund projects of folklorists out in the world who want to do these kinds of projects. And so we’re continuing to be involved in the process of, you know, advising and designing these kinds of projects. They just don’t look exactly like the ones that we did from the 1970s to the 1990s.
But these kinds of projects where we’re still getting large scale at ethnographic documentation are still going on. >> Betsy Peterson: Excellent. Yeah. Alan gets the last word. >> Alan: Well, this is a nice moment to celebrate the sort of person that the administrative level in the Park Service in this case, who is totally unsung otherwise and that was my chance to sing his praises. I think a huge factor in the Park Service thread that we spun was not just that we have the Park Service on the board, but there was a representative at a high level from the Park Service named Ross Holland.
And Ross Holland was very sympathetic, very engaged and friendly. One of his specialty, you know, I think life houses were– was his specialty, you know, but he was a good guy and a friendly administrator who supported all these things who knew who to talk to in the Park Service to dislodge or get something going. And so, now I’ve had a chance to sing his praises. >> Betsy Peterson: Good.
Thank you. Thank you, and thanks to everyone else and I misspoke earlier. We actually do have a short session coming up here, right now, talking shop dialogue with Doug Boyd and Nikki Saylor. So thank you. >> Nicole Saylor: So at the Folklife Center, we embarked on a three-year planning project for the archives and we’re on the third year of that.
And we declared sort of six strategic directions that we wanted to focus on, and one of them was providing access at digital scale. And so what you see with the Folk or with the field projects is an example of us trying to scale up our access to materials. We’re doing that metadata.
We’re bulk uploading, you know, tens of thousands of records for the [inaudible] collection. And so anyway this– Thinking about how to make oral histories and various spoken word materials accessible online is of a piece, right. So this is really something we’re thinking a lot about right now. What we do is a bit old school.
We will put up a PDF or a text piece that goes along with the AV material. Of course, we want to get into the world of time stamping and synchronizing our metadata. And so to talk about that, thought immediately of our friend, Doug Boyd. Doug Boy directs the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky.
He’s also the coordinator of a wonderful tool called OHMS. And he’ll talk about that. But he’ll also talk about his experimentation with voice to text and other methods of trying scale up this kind of work, and sort of the ethical implications that come with sort of blowing it all out there.
And how to sort of strike a balance between giving the access that people in the 21st century want against out responsibility as stewards of this material. So, I’ll go ahead and turn it over to Doug. >> Doug Boyd: In the interest of being quick, efficient for lunch, I opted for no slides. So that I could also then vaguebook, or subtweet my entire presentation, hashtag oral history wants to be heard and readed, hashtag archives should enhance access for impact, but remember hashtag sustainability, hashtag ethics, @taylorswift13. The Nunn Center started in 1973 collecting oral history. When I took over in 2008, we had a collection of 6,000 interviews, mostly were– mostly analog, mostly untranscribed, almost no metadata.
We had no public interface. I was the single staff member, even though they called me a director. And despite this, we still brag that we had 500 researchers using our oral history collections every year. So, one of my great obsessions I think over the past many years has been that there’s these great oral history collections all over the world.
But especially here in the US, especially in Kentucky, I think we have 43 different repositories that have oral history interviews within them.
But the majority of those oral histories are continuing to be sitting there on the shelves and unused. Even if they’ve been digitized, they’re very, relatively speaking, unused and still rather obscure. And that’s not why we went into this business. We went into this business to document not for obscurity but for impact, right. To put these individual stories to document these cultures.
So that said, AV archives, all of AV archives has the problem of discovery and usability, right. It’s time-based media. It takes time to use. We have a complete reliance on texts in this model. Text enables discovery really.
There was a point in oral history’s history where it was actually seen as the only outcome.
You know, Columbia University actually erased their tapes after it was transcribed which, you know, they greatly– they reject that now and regret it. But the model, even if you didn’t erase your tape, the expectation was we’re going to transcribe this, and these are going to go on a shelf and people are going to use them. And then they got digitized and people are going to search them.
The majority of reference request that would come in to my shop would be for transcripts. Just send me the transcript. We don’t have a transcript for that. Oh, and there’s this awkward silence. So, we’ve got this powerful dependency on transcript, very few of us can actually afford transcription at the scale of even a small archive without a grant.
And so, without grant, if we factor out grants, if we were a startup, you know, this would be a situation that potential investors would actually call a really bad business model. We’re collecting on a scale like never before. Our discovery interfaces are really designed for photographs. And so, the usability factor falls pretty short when you use systems like CONTENTdm or, you know, other popular systems not to call out just them, to use audio visual type of materials. So, in 2008, 2009, I started drawing on napkins and working with programmers and created a system called OHMS.
So Oral History Metadata Synchronizer. It was built for in-house only. It was really built to– originally to connect users to the moments in the audio or the article.
So, you search on the word bourbon, it takes you to the moment when the [inaudible] talks about making bourbon. Originally, it was designed just for transcription, connect you to just the moment. Very simple. And we actually had the financial crisis in 2009 and as the person who was paying the bills realize they couldn’t afford transcription.
And therefore couldn’t afford to use my own system. So, we put a little investment into creating an indexing feature, where it was a lot like the old school tape logs that you’ve been seeing on the screen, where could we create a way where we could take indexing, abstracting, logging and make it interact with the players. And so, we did just that. We launched the indexing feature in 2009– or 2011.
And since then have really been primarily indexing our oral histories. We can index just to describe what that means. From my perspective, you basically listen to an interview, you hear something important often correlating with the question prompt. And you tag that moment and with each index section, you can have a title, a partial transcript. A description of what’s being talked about.
You could use keywords and subjects. You can upload to [inaudible] to actually drive the keywords and subjects. You can put in GPS coordinate so that the user can then actually hear someone talking about some place and see that place on a Google map simultaneously. You can also hyperlink out to photographs. So, that’s actually the part that really people have really started to get excited about.
Or the– just the little GPS and the hyperlink thing. We kind of just tossed in there. But the idea was to create a system that wasn’t a new content management system. I sit on a lot of these grant panels that drives me crazy when people propose a brand new content management system.
Let’s just make the ones we have better and rally around together. And so, OHMS actually was designed to work with any content management system. So whether you’re a WordPress or MECA or CONTENTdm or the Digital Library of Georgia It works the exact same way. So, I’m not going to get too far in the weeds in terms of how it acts or how it is implemented. But the values that I think drove the entire conversation here where we want to model, I want to model that’s effective, affordable, flexible, interoperable, empowering, and sustainable.
So, you know, the grant business, you know, is fantastic. With a grant– with a great– even a small grant and a programmer, you can actually achieve magical innovation. But what happens is inevitably, the grant will run out at some point.
At which point, magical innovation tends to fall away and we fall back into unsustainable archival workflows. And soWe’re trying to actually come up with a model that reverses the trend. And can we actually create a baseline expectation of Archival processing for oral history collections or access models for oral history collections that have magical innovation built in but don’t require a grant in order to implement. And we’ve done that.
So, in addition to the Nunn Center, I think there’s over 250 OHMS accounts now in 18 different countries which is cool. All because it’s effective, affordable, flexible, interoperable, empowering and ultimately a sustainable solution. We have continued to innovate after the grant ran out.
I’m pretty excited. Last month or two months ago, we launched the capability to do bilingual. So you can actually index in two languages and the user gets to search or toggle between the two languages. You can actually upload a transcript and a translation and it does the same thing, which is pretty cool, all without a grant which is cool.
So the Nunn Center has really rallied around this model. For us, it works amazingly well. We have a discovery system that’s pretty basic.
But because of the use of this system, what’s happening is pretty transformative. Again, remind you, we used to brag about 500 people using our collections in a year. And now, it’s averaging 10 to 12,000 a month all over the world. I think it was January.
There was like 17,000, which is not perfectly meaningful but is pretty incredible in comparison to where– from where we’ve come. So cool models are starting to happen where, you know, my center is indexing on a large scale. That means I’ve got five graduate students indexing all the time. But we’re also having more professors from around campus start to get excited about this. I started to experiment myself using OHMS indexing as a classroom activity for my classes because I was developing the tool.
But now, professors are starting to actually latch on to this and realize that indexing is really a deep engagement for students with this oral history material. It extends beyond the sort of consumer model of student go listen to this oral history and learn. They are actually participating in a creation or creative act.
And the archive gets free labor. So we have student– classes at institutions around the country now that are actually indexing our collections for us and it’s pretty fantastic. So there’s a pedagogical aspect. But, you know– And really I think the Nunn Center is about 2500 interviews out there right now in the OHMS system. We’re about to hit 10,000 total interviews.
So, that’s about a third of our collection is now accessible via this interface, which is pretty exciting. Let’s see. We do think a lot about some of these other systems out there.
So OHMS really is something that we built selfishly for ourselves. We got the grant to make it open source and free through IMLS.
But really, you know, I’m most worried about, you know, what system represents the archive that I’m running. And so, we’ve scaled up in a big way and learned some lessons.
Not everything– I knew this but I’ve just been really reminded almost monthly, not everything needs to be online right now. And so, fighting this impulse, aggressively fighting the impulse of archival obscurity, you know, to the other extreme of suddenly, we’ve got all of the stuff online, you wouldn’t believe the takedown requests that we’re getting now. It’s really astonishing. I’m so jazzed about discovery.
I’m so excited that more and more people are using our materials. But it is interesting. I love the calls, “Hey, I can– I found my grandfather, great grandfather. I’ve never heard his voice.
This is great. But also getting calls like, “What the hell? You know, I had no idea my life story was going to be, you know, bullet pointed to the great degree of detail and be the number two search hit if you Google, when you search my name. I’m applying for jobs.
What’s going on?” I had a call just a couple of months ago from a woman, totally, totally innocuous interview. I mean, it’s a great interview.
There’s nothing in there that anybody would really possibly think would be problematic. And the reality– I called her. I– We– I said, “Do you mind if I ask you some questions why you want this taken down?” Because all that she gave me was this vague, “I’m reevaluating my privacy, my online privacy. And so I called her and talked to her. She’s dating. And she said two men actually quote back to her from her oral history interview in first dates.
And she said that’s not supposed to happen in a first date. And I said, “I agree. I’ll take it down. And I think that’s a great example. I have all kinds of examples of so many, you know, from one our projects who is HIV positive.
And now, he’s on the job market, he doesn’t want people to know that. And at the time he did this interview, he really wanted to talk about it. But now, he doesn’t want it out there and have it be the number two search hit when you’re searching Google. So we’ve had to really step back I think pretty profoundly and think not just about informed consent because we really need to a better job of this. Because no matter what we’re saying to our people right now, it’s not enough that people that we’re recording.
And I know, we can’t truly capture the breadth of all that can happen to your interview, but we need to do a better job and strive to do a better job with informed consent. We need to do a better job with informed accessioning too. Our archives need to know what we have in these things. And so, one of the reasons we’ve really put a lot of emphasis on indexing is we’re able to identify those things because indexing requires deep engagement in thinking about the content, not just mechanically transcribing something or even automatically transcribing something. I’m the same as everybody.
I would love to have automatic speech recognition be the greatest thing. Right now, it is challenging for oral history for a variety of reasons, which we can talk about. But it also disconnects the human element from the process and there’s nothing more personal than this oral history thing, I think. It’s not historic photographs from the ’30s. This is somebody’s life story and when you take a good oral history interview that says, where were you born?
Let’s talk about your parents. Where did you go to school? You get their email address. You just reset their bank password.
We need to think about this thing that we’re collecting and the implications of it down the road. I think we’ve solved a lot of the problems here on the backend. Now, we need to think about the implications of our solutions. >> Nicole Saylor: Great. >> Doug Boyd: That was just good. >> Nicole Saylor: Yeah. Come on over. >> Doug Boyd: I’ll just sit here. >> Nicole Saylor: Sure. >> Doug Boyd: All right. Do we sit this close and talk? >> Nicole Saylor: Sure. >> Doug Boyd: OK. >> Nicole Saylor: I can move over if it’s weird.
OK. So the American Folklife Center sent out some spoken word materials to participate in a project that the New York Public Library is doing with the Pop Up Archive and Moth, right? So they are sending a lot of spoken word materials to Pop Up Archive, which then turns it in to text and brings it back to you. So we participated in an experiment with our materials and it actually turned out decent.
I mean, it’s not bad. But– so for people who are managing large oral history collections, what kind of advice do you have for looking at that, looking at OHMS and sort of carving a path? >> Doug Boyd: Well, I think there’s a lot of systems out there that do a lot of different things. And, you know, one of the things I like about OHMS is that I don’t have a dog in the fight.
I don’t really care actually if anybody uses it. I mean, other institutions, you know. It’s something that we gave away, but we love using it in-house.
And I’m excited to see it empowering other archives. But what it’s done for us is pretty transformative. I think just from the perspective of indexing, we indexed last year 900 hours of interview in a single year for my student budget.
No grant, no special initiative. My student budget was about $16,000. Now, we don’t pay very well in Kentucky of our students. But for $16,000, we accomplished what would’ve cost us probably $180,000 in a transcript model.
That’s pretty revolutionary for us. And so, we are now putting most of our emphasis on that. And I think a lot of people are doing it sort of thinking about this is an index now, maybe transcribe later or maybe we clean up the automatic speech recognition that really still even when it’s pretty good requires a lot of attention and care and feeding I think in order to bring it up to standards with regard to having it be a verbatim transcripts.
But I really start to rethink my views on that. >> Nicole Saylor: Yeah. >> Doug Boyd: I’m staring to think about transcripts less and less as the thing and more and more as just the descriptive metadata. And when we make that paradigm shift, it removes the burden of perfection completely. So we’re going to start experimenting with the idea of taking some of the ugly, automatically generated speech to text material and kind of make it searchable but not readable. Make it part of the search things because some of it can be really bad. >> Nicole Saylor: But hide it, right, on the interface. >> Doug Boyd: But hide it.
Make it searchable, hidden, but make it something that then can maybe connect to a corresponding index point. So we’re thinking a great deal about that and starting to experiment more and more with speech recognition. I love the idea of it.
The idea of automating the whole system, you know, is something that I think makes me somewhat uncomfortable from a usability or from an ethical standpoint of not knowing what we’re putting out on the internet when we do it. >> Nicole Saylor: Right. I mean, I think, you’ve touched on it briefly, but yeah, how do you navigate than tension between scaling access to these materials and also being responsible stewards and it would seem like indexing does give you a certain amount of check, right? >> Doug Boyd: We’ve created a system, you know, I called it informed accessioning and it’s basically six questions that I have– used to have all my interviewers ask that basically all boil down to, is there anything I need to know about this in here and if this were your story, would you mind it going online next week? And– >> Nicole Saylor: So you asked that during the interview, right? >> Doug Boyd: The interviewers are asking themselves– >> Nicole Saylor: Oh I see. >> Doug Boyd: — this question when they write out our forms. >> Nicole Saylor: When they’re working on an interview, got it. >> Doug Boyd: Yeah.
And there’s turning in paperwork for our interview and kind of telling us, hey, you need to look at this. But I started having the indexers do it because we started realizing that we have all this legacy content that’s not being collected yesterday or tomorrow, that we have very little amount of data for and again repeatedly finding really profound examples of people talking about very personal things that just have no, no business being online or actually having– you know, being quite problematic if they were to go online. So building in the workflows where all the indexers, you know, are closely considering these questions I think has really done a good job. We’re teetering of the brink of potentially being, you know, overwhelmed of suddenly we had an influx of new projects and we brought in 600 some interviews last year, which is about five or 600 is now our average.
And much more than that would push us to the point where I would need far more staffing to be able to have that closely curated hands on, really conscientious approach, which I think is worth retaining for sure. >> Nicole Saylor: Well so that leads me to a question about your, the future plans for OHMS and how you’re going to keep it sustainable and make is sustainable? >> Doug Boyd: Well, I mean, that’s really popular, so I’m really excited about that, but, you know, but that’s the key, it needs to be more about– not about us, and soWe’re creating kind of a Jedi council, I don’t know what to call it yet, so I’m calling it that, of institutions who have bought into it big, Yale, University of Georgia has really into it big time, Brooklyn Historical is into it. But really basically creating a group of, a consortial group that’s going to decide and drive development. You know, we went ahead and made it bilingual. I think there’s a– I’m taking ideas right now, because I’m reaching the point where it’s time to apply for another grant.
And I think– and I’m doing– I’m kicking around the idea of actually having it– having, you know, and I think this comes from my visit with Kevin and talking about– Kevin Bradley, you’re going to talk here from this afternoon. We’re really having a desktop presence, you know, that’s local, that’s not– doesn’t require media to be streaming so that people can index restricted material and feel safe about it. But also have the interviewers, and this is me always thinking about workflow and efficiency. If I can have interviewers who are indexing material offline before it even comes to the archive and I’m accessioning material. It has this level of structured metadata, that’s a dream. >> Nicole Saylor: Yeah. >> Doug Boyd: So, that’s kind of where I’m leaning right now. >> Nicole Saylor: Cool.
All right. We have time for just a couple of questions. [ Inaudible Remarks ] >> Alan: No, I can talk softly. Could you just talk through exactly like if I give you a tape, what would you do? What you– Is there a– Do you use Dragon Speak or something to recognize the words? >> Doug Boyd: Right.
So we’re not actively formally using speech recognition. First, we digitize the tape, in accordance with best practices and we’d accession that tape. But at that point, let’s say you just had a name written on that tape and we didn’t know anything about it.
Maybe we knew it was part of a civil rights project, that’s it.
That’s all we know. So, at that point, we’d– you know, if it fell into the queue of things that we were going to put online, it would go there and we would index that interview. So somebody would listen to that interview, and while they’re listening to that interview, they would be typing and they would be tagging those moments. This is a major subject transition tag and start typing, and then rather than transcribe, because we really don’t know what’s in there and I can’t afford to transcribe everything we bring in.
And so at that point, we get a good sense for what’s in that interview, then we’d make the– then we’d actually write the description of the interview because now we know what it’s about. And then we’d actually make that decision, do we press the button and make it go live to the internet or not at that point. It’s a good question. >> Let me ask about a parallel activity and have you talk a little bit about what synergies there may or may not be. In broadcasting as you may know, there is now partly due to the Federal Communications Commission rule making, a push towards what’s called time text. >> Doug Boyd: Yeah. >> And as people put their broadcast online.
Time text is essentially text with markup language and that, you know, tells you what the timing is. It’s a standard that came from the W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium and then it was further standardized by [inaudible] in the United States and EBU in Europe. So, it’s a way that will now come in to the way broadcasts are synchronized. Is there anything about that that is helpful to you or vice versa or– >> Doug Boyd: Absolutely. I mean, one of my– >> Talk about that a little bit.
That would be great. >> Doug Boyd: First I want to say you’re only just a slightly– you’re only slightly less intimidating now that you’re retired. So, so so. >> [inaudible] but he’s still intimidating. >> Doug Boyd: Right. I think when we first started on the OHMS journey, it really bugged me that there wasn’t a good reference point for that. And now that we’re pretty far into it, one of my obsessions is how can we connect it to a greater standard with regard to time and text. And so that’s definitely something over the first year, that’s one of the first mandates really of the Jedi council, you know, the people who we’ve put together.
I shouldn’t keep– I shouldn’t have said that publicly, sorry. But basically, the group, that’s one of the top priorities, is how can we take this now and fit it better into standards that are starting to emerge and that’s the one that everybody is talking about really. >> Thank you. >> Doug Boyd: At least in my circle that we’re all talking about. >> Well [inaudible] is great because each of those would reinforce each other and so on and you’d get a broader adoption and so on. I mean, it’s what we dream of when we talk of standards. Too often, it doesn’t work. But sometimes it does. >> Doug Boyd: Right.
Hashtag motion jpeg 2000. We’ve got to get that one too. But I think if we can really– and I really am not a fan of reinventing the wheel.
You know, and that’s one of my frustrations with digital humanities is this impulse to create something nifty and cool but again, not sustainable, not something that has necessarily broad appeal. And so, we really have to I think work together and rather than reinvent the wheel, really start to connect. So, that’s right in line with where we’re going with that. >> I wanted to ask you. This may be a little tangential, but a lot of cultural heritage archives are using crowd sourcing in order to do transcriptions, and I see that with natural history, I see that with cultural materials, see that with sociological stuff but what is your experience or do you think there’s a future for crowd sourcing in audio recorded interviews or oral histories? >> Doug Boyd: I think particular early history is where I have an opinion. And that– a strong opinion, and that’s really a lot of our material, if it’s going to be transcribed, we don’t know what’s in it.
And I have an– a real discomfort necessarily turning what I don’t know is in there out to a crowd. Also, I have a discomfort opening up the way my collection is going to be described to people who actually are commenting on news stories about the presidential election this year. You know, I mean anybody, just opening it up and saying, you know, another certain ways we can actually vet that automatically, but there are certain ways we can’t.
And so, I’m a little nervous about just opening the doors to that. And so, I’d rather have sort of a curated form of that. Also, you need the crowd and transcription is not a fun act. No matter how you article game the experience, I think, you either need to make it so partial that it’s not a big deal and so it’s like the CAPTCHAs with the home addresses. You know, or you need a crowd that’s just so massive.
And so, I don’t have that crowd. I can get– I can walk into a room and get people excited about indexing. Because it’s actually fun. It’s actually engaging and that’s why we’re getting all these students doing it in classroomsWe’re starting to experiment with volunteer groups who are stakeholders in a particular project, who are going to actually play a role on how this project gets represented publicly. But to just sort of open the doors wide, it’s not really what I’m leaning towards right now because the nature of our oral and history collection and because it’s sort of the trust arrangement we have with the people who were interviewed originally.
Or a trust relationship that the interviewer had but then gave the collection to an archive that doesn’t have that trust relationship. So we’re trying to be good stewards of this process on my end. Someone’s going to take OHMS and do that. They’re just going to open up the doors and turn it again into a true sort of crowd sourcing platform and I think that will work pretty cool.
But, you know, I like what NYPL has done with their transcription tool for sure. I think if you haven’t messed with it, it’s super cool. And we’re over time– >> Nicole Saylor; We are. >> Doug Boyd: — for Early lunch. >> Nicole Saylor: We are. So we’ll leave it there. Thank you very much. [ Applause ] >> This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress.
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