Caffè Lena History Project’s Searchable Database

Caffè Lena opened in Saratoga Springs, NY in May of 1960. Since then, the coffee house has kept its doors open featuring predominately performances by folk musicians. Often the performers were at the start of their careers. The café has featured now familiar songwriters including Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Ani DiFranco, and Kate and Anna McGarrigle – to name just a few. After the death of the founder, Lena Spencer, in 1989 Caffè Lena was converted to a non-profit institution. 

The Caffè Lena History Project has launched an online searchable database for the complete Caffè Lena collection. The processing of this collection was made possible with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives Project. The digitization of the material was made possible through generous funding from the EMC Corporation.

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Posted on 13th May 2014
Under: access, audio, context, controlled vocabularies, digitization, interface design, metadata | No Comments » | Print This Post Print This Post

The CODATA Mission: Preserving Scientific Data for the Future

The North Jetty near the Mouth of the Columbia River 05/1973This session was part of The Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation conference and aimed to describe the initiatives of the Data at Risk Task Group (DARTG), part of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), a body of the International Council for Science.

The goal is to preserve scientific data that is in danger of loss because they are not in modern electronic formats, or have particularly short shelf-life. DARTG is seeking out sources of such data worldwide, knowing that many are irreplaceable for research into the long-term trends that occur in the natural world.

Organizing Data Rescue

The first speaker was Elizabeth Griffin from Canada’s Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. She spoke of two forms of knowledge that we are concerned with here: the memory of the world and the forgettery of the world. (PDF of session slides)

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Posted on 18th February 2013
Under: access, born digital records, digitization, future-proofing, GIS, preservation, software | 1 Comment » | Print This Post Print This Post

Election Eve: Fighting for the Right to Vote

In less than six hours, the polls in Maryland will open for the 2012 general election. Here on ‘election eve’ in the United States of America, I wanted to share some records of those who fought to gain the right to vote for all throughout the USA. Some of these you may have seen before – but I did my best to find images, audio, and video that may not have crossed your path. Why do we have these? In most cases it is because an archive kept them.

Of course I couldn’t do this post without including some of the great images out there of suffragists, but I bet you didn’t know that they had Suffrage Straw Rides.

Or perhaps Suffrage Dancers?

Here we see a group from the Suffrage Hike to Albany, NY in 1914.

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Posted on 6th November 2012
Under: historical research, oral history, photography | No Comments » | Print This Post Print This Post

Harnessing The Power of We: Transcription, Acquisition and Tagging

In honor of the Blog Action Day for 2012 and their theme of ‘The Power of We’, I would like to highlight a number of successful crowdsourced projects focused on transcribing, acquisition and tagging of archival materials. Nothing I can think of embodies ‘the power of we’ more clearly than the work being done by many hands from across the Internet.


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Posted on 15th October 2012
Under: archival community, Blog Action Day, digitization, transcription, virtual collaboration | 2 Comments » | Print This Post Print This Post

UNESCO/UBC Vancouver Declaration

In honor of the 2012 Day of Digtal Archives, I am posting a link to the UNESCO/UBC Vancouver Declaration. This is the product of the recent Memory of the World in the Digital Age conference and they are looking for feedback on this declaration by October 19th, 2012 (see link on the conference page for sending in feedback).

To give you a better sense of the aim of this conference, here are the ‘conference goals’ from the programme:

The safeguard of digital documents is a fundamental issue that touches everyone, yet most people are unaware of the risk of loss or the magnitude of resources needed for long-term protection. This Conference will provide a platform to showcase major initiatives in the area while scaling up awareness of issues in order to find solutions at a global level. Ensuring digital continuity of content requires a range of legal, technological, social, financial, political and other obstacles to be overcome.

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Posted on 12th October 2012
Under: at risk records, born digital records, electronic records, preservation | No Comments » | Print This Post Print This Post

CURATEcamp Processing 2012

CURATEcamp Processing 2012 was held the day after the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) and the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) sponsored Digital Preservation annual meeting.

The unconference was framed by this idea:

Processing means different things to an archivist and a software developer. To the former, processing is about taking custody of collections, preserving context, and providing arrangement, description, and accessibility. To the latter, processing is about computer processing and has to do with how one automates a range of tasks through computation.

The first hour or so was dedicated to mingling and suggesting sessions.  Anyone with an idea for a session wrote down a title and short description on a paper and taped it to the wall. These were then reviewed, rearranged on the schedule and combined where appropriate until we had our full final schedule. More than half the sessions on the schedule have links through to notes from the session. There were four session slots, plus a noon lunch slot of lightening talks.

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Posted on 5th August 2012
Under: at risk records, born digital records, electronic records, future-proofing | 2 Comments » | Print This Post Print This Post

Grateful Dead Archive Online: First Impressions

The Grateful Dead Archive Online threw open its virtual doors in late June, 2012. This project has gotten a lot of attention from both the archives community and the Grateful Dead community. I got a message from my husband shortly after it went online directing me to the envelope shown above from the fan art section of the site. This was the envelope I helped decorate for our mail order ticket request sent back in January of 1992. The theory was that if you made your envelope beautiful, it was more likely to get pulled out of the pile of orders vying for a limited number of tickets. It worked for us this time – we plan to upload images of the tickets we received from that order (yes, we still have them!).

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Posted on 9th July 2012
Under: access, digitization, interface design, metadata, virtual collaboration | 3 Comments » | Print This Post Print This Post

MARAC Spring 2012: Preservation of Digital Materials (Session S1)


The official title for this session is “Preservation and Conservation of Captured and Born Digital Materials” and it was divided into three presentations with introduction and question moderation by Jordon Steele, University Archivist at Johns Hopkins University.

Digital Curation, Understanding the lifecycle of born digital items

Isaiah Beard, Digital Data Curator from Rutgers, started out with the question ‘What Is Digital Curation?’. He showed a great Dilbert cartoon on digital media curation and the set of six photos showing all different perspectives on what digital curation really is (a la the ‘what I really do’ meme – here is one for librarians).

“The curation, preservation, maintenance, collection and archiving of digital assets.” — Digital Curation Center.

What does a Digital Curator do?

Aquire digital assets:

  • digitized analog sources
  • assets that were born digital, no physical analog exists

Certify content integrity:

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Posted on 3rd May 2012
Under: born digital records, MARAC, preservation | No Comments » | Print This Post Print This Post

Digitization Quality vs Quantity: An Exercise in Fortune Telling

The quality vs quantity dilemma is high in the minds of those planning major digitization projects. Do you spend your time and energy creating the highest quality images of your archival records? Or do you focus on digitizing the largest quantity you can manage? Choosing one over the other has felt a bit like an exercise in fortune telling to me over the past few months, so I thought I would work through at least a few of the moving parts of this issue here.

The two ends of the spectrum are traditionally described as follows:

  • digitize at very high quality to ensure that you need not re-digitize later, create a high quality master copy from which all possible derivatives can be created later
  • digitize at the minimum quality required for your current needs, the theory being that this will increase the quantity of digitized records you can digitize
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Posted on 31st March 2012
Under: access, digitization | 5 Comments » | Print This Post Print This Post

Digitization Program Site Visit: Archives of American Art

The image of Alexander Calder above shows him in his studio, circa 1950. It is from a folder titled Photographs: Calder at Work, 1927-1956, undated, part of Alexander Calder’s Papers held by the Smithsonian Archives of American Art and available online through the efforts of their digitization project. I love that this image capture him in his creative space – you get to see the happy chaos from which Calder drew his often sleek and sparse sculptures.

Back in October, I had the opportunity to visit with staff of the digitization program for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art along with a group of my colleagues from the World Bank. This is a report on that site visit. It is my hope that these details can help others planning digitization projects – much as it is informing our own internal planning.

Date of Visit: October 18, 2011

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Posted on 3rd February 2012
Under: access, digitization, learning technology | 1 Comment » | Print This Post Print This Post

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