I recently completed my residency at Louisiana Public Broadcasting, as part of my role as a National Digital Stewardship Resident (NDSR) in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) cohort. I'm excited to be moving on to a position in the conservation department at the Denver Art Museum (where I interned in the summer of 2015), but I want to pause and indulge in some navel gazing regarding the whirlwind of a year I have had since graduating from NYU's Moving Image Archiving Program last May.
The NDSR program places recent MA graduates at hand-picked cultural heritage institutions to complete projects focusing on digital curation, and digital preservation (the difference is a bit more than semantic, but not really worth differentiating for the un-indoctrinated, it's stuff with computers, folks). My cohort (who are all awesome btw) were placed at public broadcasting stations across the country, as a part of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting initiative. The AAPB is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation to coordinate a national effort to preserve at-risk public media before its content is lost to posterity and provide a central web portal for access to the unique programming that public stations have aired over the past 60 years. To date, over 40,000 hours of television and radio programming contributed by more than 100 public media organizations and archives across the United States have been digitized for long-term preservation and access.
The AAPB NDSR program, like previous NDSR programs, is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Studies (IMLS). Unfortunately, the current president's proposed federal budget would eliminate funding for the IMLS (as of writing August 2017). I'm frustrated by the possibility that others might be denied the opportunity I had. If you would like to advocate for IMLS - it doesn't take long - and there's lots of good ideas on the National Humanities Alliance "Take Action" page.
Below, I'll summarize some of the professional experience that I gained as part of the AAPB NDSR program (it's a lot for only 8-months!), but first I wanted to discuss two high-level lessons that I particularly appreciated.
Lesson Number One
Turns out, I get all embarrassed about admitting I don't know something. This actually makes the problem way worse, because usually the quickest way to learn something you don't know is to:
ASK. FOR. HELP.
I had this whole "I can figure this out on my own" thing going on for awhile. I think I was mixing that up with being "self-driven" or other stuff you see on job announcements.
Candidate should have the inhuman ability to achieve greatness without any aid, while never failing at anything ever. Anyone who has ever had acne need not apply.
It was only through the - at times painful - process of publicly asking for help that I learned how beneficial, and easy it is to admit you're a dum-dum.
While NDSR hosts are certainly aware that they are getting a recent grad, there is a bit of a conflicting expectation that the resident will be an expert in digital preservation. I definitely felt an urge in my first few weeks on the job to demonstrate what I did know as opposed to aggressively admitting what I didn’t know. I think the first year out of grad school is a tough time in anyone's career, it certainly was in mine. But, asking for help from your peers, and from your mentors, can really help.
There’s a lot of different “places” and ways one could do this, I think it depends on your disposition and your professional network, but I have found twitter to be the place I feel most comfortable admitting I don’t know something. I get helpful responses from people from all kinds of different institutions, I’ve gotten to know people better and expanded my professional network, and I’m often validated in seeing people suggest things I was planning on doing, or sending me links to articles I’ve already read, so admitting you don’t know something can actually act as a confidence booster.
Just a quick caveat here. While I have become an advocate for admitting one's ignorance, it certainly doesn't mean I have somehow become immune to the weird ego stuff that goes on when someone tells you that you're doing it wrong. It is hard to admit that you don't know something, and then someone being all "whoa you don't know THAT?" doesn't make it easier. Imposter Syndrome is real. So real. Really really real. But also dumb. Who cares that you don't know something? People forget that sorta thing really quick, so you should too, and stop stressing (that sounds like advice but is actually just something I'm telling myself right now - hope it works for both of us).
Lesson Number Two
Document, document, document.
Regularly when I was struggling to figure something out during my residency I would think "I wonder how [xyz organization] does this?"
The burden of entering into an archival project, whether it's creating an inventory or embarking on a digital preservation initiative, is eased considerably by having a "road map." An example of a similar institution that has achieved the same process previously can be that road map for archives. Having three or four road maps to compare and contrast is even better! The only way we can reach that state though is for everyone to budget time and effort to share what they're doing and how they're doing it.
GitHub can be a great way to do that for code. Lots of archives put the scripts they write online through their GitHub pages. During my residency I would visit the CUNY TV media microservices page, the Irish Film Institute, and the Carnegie Hall Archives GitHub frequently (thanks y'all). I'll admit my GitHub page is pretty sparse, but when I would cobble together some scripts I would try to put them up there.
If you're not super code-y, you can still share all of the cool stuff you're doing at work, and others in the field will thank you. This can take the form of blog posts, "how-to" guides, or simply tweeting out your wiring diagrams. I'm very proud of the fact that my final deliverable for the residency, the LPB Digital Preservation Plan, is publicly available. I have already spoken with other archivists who have used this document as a model for drafting their own digital preservation policies.
I think the greatest achievement of my AAPB NDSR cohort was the extent to which we were able to share the material we referenced, researched, or produced ourselves, so that others might take advantage of our work. All of this material - resources we used to learn new skills, best practices we referenced, policy documents we created and webinars we taught, are all compiled on the American Archive of Public Broadcasting Wiki.
We are hoping other people in the audiovisual preservation field and those working to preserve public media can continue to contribute to the wiki and help it become even better.
LOOK AT ALL THE STUFF I DID!!!
Below you'll find a list of all of the blog posts, webinars, conference presentations, policy documents and other materials I was able to publicly share as part of my residency (in chronological order):
IASA Conference, "Building a Digital Preservation Community in Public Broadcasting" panel presentation (2016)
Panel presentation and discussion between the American Archive of Public Broadcasting NDSR cohort on the importance of collaboration and community in digital preservation.
Snapshot from the IASA Conference: Thoughts on the 2nd Day
Blog post for the AAPB NDSR website summarizing some of the talks from the 2nd day of International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archivists.
Home Movie Day
Film digitization and research on my grandfather's 8mm home movies, summarized in a blog post chock full of gifs made from early 1960s home movies.
AMIA Conference, "Planning for Preservation in Public Media: An AAPB NDSR Update" panel presentation (2016)
From developing workflows, to auditing metadata standards, to querying file-based collections, the AAPB NDSR cohort discussed a number of important areas and exciting projects in audiovisual stewardship from the perspective of nonprofit organizations
Just Ask For Help Already!
Blog post for the AAPB NDSR website on some of the insecurities I faced as a recent graduate, and how I overcame them with help from mentors in the media preservation field.
Louisiana Archives and Manuscripts Association (LAMA) Annual Meeting
I attended the LAMA annual meeting in Thibodaux, LA - my first regional archives conference, but not my last. Great to see the networking small institutions can do on the regional level.
Collections Emergency Preparedness and Response Workshop presented by LYRASIS
The Baton Rouge Lafayette chapter of ARMA organized a workshop for archivists to learn about disaster preparedness at the East Baton Rouge main library (which is awesome, btw)
Challenges of Removable Media in Digital Preservation
Webinar that I developed the curriculum for and presented to 80+ attendees. One of my first experiences as an instructor and one I found very rewarding. I was asked to present the class again for the students of the NYU MIAP program a few weeks later.
Advocating for Archives in a Production Environment
Blog post for the NDSR AAPB website summarizing recommendations I presented to LPB engineers, producers, IT professionals and the station's archivist.
Louisiana Public Broadcasting Digital Preservation Plan
The final deliverable for my residency, documentation of current digital preservation workflows and recommendations for future development. I'm proud to say that the station has adopted some of my recommendations since I left the station, and is now using ffv1/mkv video files as their preservation format.
NDSR Symposium, "Building a Digital Preservation Community in Public Broadcasting: A Case Study of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s National Digital Stewardship Residencies" panel presentation (2017)
Panel presentation at the NDSR Symposium, with the AAPB residents discussing the successes and challenges of the first geographically dispersed cohort in the residency program.
SAA Conference, "Planning for Preservation in Public Media" panel presentation (2017)
A panel presentation by the AAPB residents presenting their work developing archival infrastructures at public media stations around the country. They discuss their experience as an NDSR cohort and their strategies to integrate preservation best practices within a broadcasting environment, with a focus on shared tools and resources, professional networks, and collaboration.