The global response to COVID-19 has included mass closures, urging the public to stay at home and “shelter in place.” These conditions are not exactly conducive to visiting collections of art, books, or historical documents. Unfortunately, that means the majority of research, study, and reference has come to a stuttering halt. Unless, of course, the collection, museum, library, or entity has a robust internet presence that allows for faceted search, guided tours, and, most importantly, remote access.
For an organization like the St. Louis Art Museum, online access to the arts was already a major part of their mission. When the museum temporarily closed due to COVID-19, expanding access on that existing framework was a natural next step appreciated by those prevented from visiting in person.
Social Media Integration
Regardless of their social media presence prior to the mass temporary closures, museums now use these channels to reach new and dedicated audiences. The St. Louis Art Museum, for example, shares a piece of art every day on their website and social media.
Many museums already utilized Twitter, but recently they’ve ramped up their presence. Themed hashtags add a little fun by offering beautiful samplings of art or something a bit creepier. Even something as simple as a security guard learning the ropes of Twitter to showcase the National Cowboy Museum has made the news. All draw eyes, virtual visitors, and donation dollars.
No matter if they post every day or only once a week, these organizations bring a little bit of brightness to the digital landscape.
Participate at Home
Students and bored creatives stuck at home have been thrilled by interactive challenges and activities facilitated by museums. The Getty Museum challenge, where participants try to recreate a classic work of art with household objects, has generated some incredible depictions of time spent at home due to COVID-19.
Blanton Museum of Art, out of The University of Texas at Austin, has a wealth of #MuseumFromHome material including informational coloring pages, the perfect addition to an at-home art class or zen coloring for a quiet evening.
Is your museum or collection left in the dark because of limited in-person access? Contact Anderson Archival to explore your options!
Beyond having materials available and searchable online, many museums offer virtual tours. These videos or guided web pages move beyond a collection of viewable documents to include video, commentary, and themes.
For a fee, the Winchester Mystery House can be experienced from the comfort of your home. The Immersive 360 Tour brings visitors through the bizarre building with narration and historical details.
With or without the optional Virtual Reality experience, the Pitt Rivers Museum’s online walk through is breathtaking. No need to worry about crowds or the price of getting to Oxford, UK; this resource provides the means to spend time looking at every exhibit at your own pace, enjoying the nuances of a museum with artifacts grouped by theme rather than time or place.
The natural world isn’t beyond a virtual visit, either. The Nevada board of tourism offers “Roam from Home,” with Google Earth explorations of ghost towns, landmarks, and even a forest of cars.
Collections of documents and printed matter make for stunning virtual visits in different ways from many of these examples, and a guide through themed virtual exhibits invites digital guests to sit down and explore the material in a new way.
Combining a few of these strategies and learning opportunities is the Library of Congress. Turning 220 years old this year is cause for celebration. Social media posts with #LOC220 will involve everyone! LOC also has an extensive series of webinars, videos, and interactive events that showcase their collections and ways individuals and families can learn from home.
The extra features and enhanced access that COVID-19 has unlocked don’t have to disappear when life returns to normal. One silver lining to this global pandemic is that it has invited everyone to rethink the ways people experience the world. Why not continue an interactive program with your collection? And even when physical visits are available once again, consider just how much a searchable online library accessible anywhere improves upon a single room with a finding aid.
Have you been inspired by the ways online access has been highlighted and cherished lately? Anderson Archival can help take your collection into the digital world. Give us a call at 314-259-1900 or an email at email@example.com today!
Co-founder of Anderson Archival Mark Anderson recently interviewed with Karen Dybis of Corp! Magazine.
All organizations, whether they are families, nonprofit groups, or businesses, have documents that are important in telling their story. These historically valuable papers should be preserved—but what are the best ways to do it?…
“Every business has a story to tell,” Anderson says.
Corp! Magazine provides “excellence in reporting important economic, growth, trend information, and resources” to businesses. Dybis’ interview with Anderson delves into the reasons why an organization or business should preserve their history by preserving their documents.
Do you have a historical document collection that you’d like to make more accessible, relevant, and impactful? Anderson Archival uses proprietary methods to digitize collections so they are easily searchable, ultimately accessible, and even more meaningful to a wide audience. Let us help you today! Give us a call at 314.259.1900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are Quotables? This is a category in our posts to highlight any professional publications that benefit from our expert archivist experience and quote us in articles for their readers.
A St. Louis museum was compromised by a fire this week, but thankfully most of the collection had been digitized!
Late Tuesday night, March 26, 2019, a four-alarm fire broke out in the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in South St. Louis. As a St. Louis-based company dedicated to digitally archiving historic documents, this almost-tragedy hit close to home, and we waited for news of how much of this unique collection was left.
The 107-year-old Greek Revival building, originally the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, housed a portion of David Karpeles’ manuscript collection, the largest private manuscript collection in the world, as well as an exhibit by the St. Louis Media Foundation. Some of the items on display included France’s approval of the Louisiana Purchase, Columbus’ handwritten letter describing the coasts of America, documents about revolutionary Che Guevara, and a number of historic St. Louis-related documents. The loss of any one of these items would be a devastating blow to both world and local history.
Yet, thanks to the hard work of nearly eighty firefighters, none of the documents were lost to the fire. The exhibits were set up on the first floor, and the fire began in the back of the second and higher floors. This not only allowed firefighters to try to contain the blaze away from the collection, but gave them time to remove as much as they could from the path of destruction.
While some items did receive water damage from putting out the fire, it’s amazing that nothing was lost in the two-hour blaze. If the worst had occurred, though, not all would have been lost. Part of the collection had already been digitized, so even if the original document was destroyed in the fire, its contents and the meaning behind it would have been preserved through digital archiving. These backups were appropriately stored offsite, so were completely safe from the hazard.
Here at Anderson Archival, we’re happy that both the physical and digital copies of these documents are still here, but this serves to remind us of the importance of digitizing historical collections for both their short- and long-term preservation. We hope that Karpeles decides to reopen the library in St. Louis, and continue to share this amazing manuscript collection in our hometown.
Anderson Archival is pleased to have presented at Digital Preservation 2018 (#digipres18) in Las Vegas in October! The conference, with a theme on the future of digital preservation was hosted by the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) and the Digital Library Foundation (DLF).
At the conference we highlighted what archivists should consider when creating or updating a digital collection, when not to choose economy over quality, and the various ways in which a digital collection can fail to be a useful research tool as a result of substandard work.
We embraced attendance at Digital Preservation 2018 as an opportunity to take part in the national discussion of preservation quality and access, and we would like to share with you what we presented at the conference.
Anderson Archival shared a short one-minute presentation on the hidden cost of incorrect data.
Our Minute Madness presentation, “Search Results: 0 – The Unseen Cost of Inaccurate Data and Sub-Par Solutions” illustrated our experience in providing preservation solutions for a client who had previously invested in what they ultimately realized were poor solutions that offered only inaccurate, incomplete data.
For a collection that is used for scholarly research within their organization, this was a problem.
This group considered their collection preserved, but after a careful audit of their digital materials, we discovered that not only were chunks of original information missing entirely, the scans that were complete provided such messy OCR that search results woefully underrepresented the actual contents of the collection.
What was the true cost of using this cheaper digitization solution for ten years? It’s impossible to calculate! Imagine the hours lost to inefficient search, and the research and publications that are now known to have drawn from fragmented data.
For instance, see what happens if OCR software reads this famous quote from Winston Churchill:
If the OCR mistakes the g and h and it goes unchecked, we end up with this in the collection:
If you searched for the famous portion of this Churchill quote “go to hell,” this document would never show up in your search results. Now imagine this hundreds of times over throughout your collection – many collections being tens of thousands of pages, or larger.
Inaccurate OCR data provides limited search results, and the lack of good search technology will give you an infinite number of useless results. These are both complicated by poor metadata tagging.
So what happens when a digital collection is preserved with inaccurate data and sub-par solutions? The voices of history don’t resonate when users access a poor software solution with inaccurate search results, and your collection won’t be used to its greatest potential.
The methodology you employ can mitigate these problems.
For the most accurate data, establishing a multi-step system for scanning, image cleanup, OCR and quality assurance is critical.
You also need detailed tagging to support your data architecture and the right search technology tuned to your data set.
The Executive Director for the project mentioned above was horrified to learn that nearly a decade of their research was not complete.
How do you feel about your collection? Is quality important to you?
With a digitization provider like Anderson Archival, every step of the archival process is performed and checked by members of our expert team.