Oceans and Archives San Diego

While I always enjoy a good conference and take every opportunity to engage with fellow professionals, this year SAA offered more than a few amazing encounters!  Brevity is the order of the day and so here are the highlights…

Annual Meeting Task Force: I was happy to finally meet my subcommittee colleagues in person after several months of conference calls and also to participate in the open forum where SAA members shared their thoughts, expectations and ideas for future meetings.  Our group is tasked with developing suggestions for future meeting venues, cities and content delivery.  Please visit our page and comment!

Oral History Project The project was passed to myself and another archivist who will be coordinating the project this year.

Roomies: Conversations with my roomies ranged from diversity in the archives, to cultural preservation, to living in rural areas, to amazing (and not so amazing) presentations, consultant projects and pricing, and to the benefits, experience and limitations of the ACA test.  Would love to hear any feedback from you all on the purpose, benefits, limitations, etc. on ACA and certification!

Much of my non-session time was spent with fellow KRs, SIRLS alumni and some of the most incredibly involved activist colleagues enjoying the San Diego weather bay side while we caught up on projects, the future of archives and the need for increasing our diverse voices in the archives. If you don’t mind a little name dropping – they have some great projects going on that you simply MUST see!….in no particular order (how do you arrange awesome??)

Nancy Godoy, Curator, Chicano Research Collections, ASU
Susan Gehr, Consultant
Martha Cotera, Activist and Author
Maria Cotera, Activist and Author
Xaviera Flores, Project Archivist, ASU
Adrienne Harling, Consultant

Not a whole lot of ocean time, but definitely got my fill of archives!

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Day OMG Where Has the Time Gone?

Day 5 was all about letting go as I sold the last of my few belongings to lighten my load for a trip back to San Diego on my way back to Tucson.  And then I looked up and the time had flown by.  Before I knew it the trunk of my car was filled with books, clothing and a redwood door (see day 5).   I swept out the studio, said goodbye to the awesome neighbor that I sadly never got to hang out with, and showed up on my friend’s front door step to stay for one last weekend.

So maybe I hadn’t quite let go.

My last weekend in Arcata as I prepared for SAA: coffee at my fave spot, samosas from my fave deli, beer at my fave bar, a long walk through the neighborhood to take mental pics of my fave spots, picked flowers from the local front-step flower shop, organized my friend’s collection of herbs, rocks and thumb drives (I am an archivist after all) and a lovely time just breathing.

The rest of the weekend: reading, researching, reading, and reading some more to catch up on SAA happenings, oral history trends and planning the road trip.  Monday morning: panic.  Where has all my time gone!!  I have to leave Humboldt County.  Fortunately, I was heading to a conference and rooming with two people from Humboldt, meeting with the SAA task force and catching up on the oral history project.

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Day 5. Letting Go.

“There’s a trick to the ‘graceful exit.’ It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over — and let it go” – Ellen Goodman

There is more to the quote than that, but I particularly liked this portion.  This past weekend was about letting go in more ways than one.

I have been scurrying around packing, donating clothing, selling the few pieces of furniture I had here, shipping books home, donating dishes and kitchen utensils, and it got to the point where I just sort of wanted to give it all away.  Except that I would then have nothing to wear and nothing to drink.  I decided to keep clothing and coffee (and laptop and camera).

When I started the a/v project I accepted that I could not complete it before my time here was over.  So, although I am intrigued, consumed and exhausted by this project I worked to get it to a manageable point for the next archivist.  I labeled, arranged, inventoried, took copious working notes and developed an a/v management plan.  I’ll spend the last few days cleaning up loose ends and finalizing the ‘to do’ list.  I trust that the collection will survive without me.  I let go.

As for California, this is home. Someday Cal and I will settle down and retire together.  But, for now I am so excited to be playing working with collections that, as I’ve said before, I will go where the collections (and job) take me.  It’s not easy, but I’ll let go.

It is hard to let go of stuff sometimes.  I had a few yard sales before I left AZ, but was unable to let go of my books.  I bond with my books.  As I pack to leave here, I find myself unable to let go of a coat rack I made from a redwood gate.  I haven’t quite bonded with it, but it represents my time here, my crafty work and recycled living.  Is it too much to keep a memento?

The job, the life stage and the California relationship are over.  The dishes, the clothes, the food and the appliances sold and donated; I let go.  The archive will be here long after I’m gone; I let go.  I’ve made good friends here, those I will not let go.

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Day 7 and 6. The Truth is Out There.

I took a trip to Oregon this weekend for a little play date while I am in the neighborhood, not knowing when I’ll be back here. My ‘living without a goal’ goals for the weekend: enjoy the moments as they occurred, playing without too much planning, limiting my plugged-in time and letting go.

A friend suggested the Oregon Caves and Cave Junction. We thought camping would be a good idea. But, I poked around and found a lovely chateau right at the cave site. Perfect. I have a fear of bears and mountain lions, but I love a good chateau.

The day started with an early morning Red Eye at my fave coffee spot followed by a stop at the local auto store where I proceeded to be instructed on the care and maintenance of my little Jetta the Jedi. I was actually quite thankful for that delay. If you haven’t spent the day with a mechanic, do so soon. I learned more in that one hour than in my entire car-owning life. We stopped for scenic detour through Howland Hill Road and the Mill Creek area of Redwood Park. This is a must see area when you visit.  The roads are curvy and narrow, but the landscape is incredible.

Then we hit the road: 101 to 199 North with a Pearl Jam/Hank Williams soundtrack heading for the caves and the Oregon forest.

101 to 199 North. Heading for Oregon and the caves.

The caves, a cool 44 degrees, were a welcome relief from the 88-degree summer sun, which was baking me after months of a pretty constant 40-60. The half-mile hike through Douglas and Grand fir tree down to dinner and the Troon’s Druid Fluid Red Blend Wine were a perfect end to the day. The room windows opened to nice little water fall and pond. Lying in bed, listening the waterfall under the window, there was not a thought of archives, moving or coming back.

The next morning I was up with the sun mostly from the work habit, but partly in anticipation of another great Oregon day. I started with Sun Salutation and scribbled my dreams in my notebook. This is a habit I kept for years, but eventually lost it in busy work. I was happy to have it back. Without worries about the schedule for the day, I was thinking of my dreams and my breath.

Morning at the Chateau, cedar-bark siding.

A quick coffee and we were off on the Big Tree Trail to see what I called “the other Big Tree” because just a few days ago we visited the one right here in Redwood. The 3-mile uphill hike was worth it. The tree is pretty darn big and the view, well, words just don’t do it justice. After the downhill, seeking out the variety of mushrooms and plants, getting our hands sticky on Pacific madrones, we finished the morning with picnic lunch.  It was mid afternoon and at least 85 degrees. So what else do you do on a day like this? We found a swimming hole in the Illinois, a tributary of the Rogue River.

Confession: I am not only afraid of bears and lions, I am afraid of water. Not, aquaphobia level, but just not quite comfortable. Strange for an ocean girl, right? Oceans don’t scare me. Lakes, rivers and swimming pools do. I don’t even think about it anymore, I just naturally steer clear of the activities that involve being immersed in these things. But heat is a great motivator and a long weekend in a strange land with a fairly new friend can do weird things to you. Good things.  Like helping you let go of fear and jumping into a 68-degree river full of fish.

After caves, hiking, wine, and swimming it was time to head home. Time flew by as we recapped our days and sang along to Steve Miller, El Chicano and the White Stripes (it was a road trip after all). Then silence. Beautiful, unexpected, sunshine and wind silence. There was no need to talk, it was by this time a matter of soaking in the days and letting go of time.

We drove south as the sun set and the Redwood trees emerged to engulf the car in the fog hanging in their branches. We closed the sun roof, thanked Jedi for a good trip, and took the scenic route through the Newton B. Drury Parkway. Our trip was almost over, my time here almost done, so I was glad to take it slow through Prairie Creek State Park and past the lagoons. And just when I thought the trip had come to its adventurous end, I was treated to a view of what has been dubbed the ‘alien tree’.

Here are a few shots of the weekend.  I didn’t take many photos, I just wanted to enjoy the experiences fully in the moment.  To breathe.  To let go. The truth is out there.

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Day 8. Moving forward.

Today was my last day as a volunteer with the Clarke Historical Museum. I’ve been scanning photos at the Clarke and uploading them to the PastPerfect catalog over the last few weeks. The photos have included loggers, settlers, farmers, ‘steam donkeys’, trains, and ships. Well, you get the idea; it’s a representation of the industrial boom up here. Before I started processing the a/v and oral history collection at the Park, I worked primarily with documents related to the development of the Park and the many battles with the timber industry and local residents.

There is controversy surrounding the colonial settlement of this area.  The area was settled by colonists who took part in the gold rush, mining other minerals, farming and eventually a whole lot of logging, followed by the development of State and Federal Parks. If you are not familiar with the area, there are also a number of Native American tribes in the area; some are federally recognized, others are not. Early in California history, many were displaced forcibly, physically and mortally by homesteaders and by the US government. Others lived side by side with those who were more accepting (for lack of a better description of that relationship).

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of attending a demonstration of a Tolowa renewal dance near the Smith River. The women, men and children that performed were from several of the rancherias and tribes. The regalia and the traditional body paint were indescribably beautiful and we were told the story of the dance before each segment. Audience members were invited to participate in the closing of the performance as it was recognized as a world renewal for all. It was an incredible afternoon of learning more about the Northern California communities.

I’ve also been reading Grave Matters by Tony Platt and other historical narratives over the last few months on my own time intermingled with processing archives at the Park and the artifacts at the Museum. Many of the oral histories and some of the other audio-visual materials I have processed have included the stories of local Native American families as well.  It has been wonderful to follow both stories, that of the Native Americans and that of the homesteaders and loggers, as parallels.

Sadly, these stories are told as separate experiences instead of as a holistic human experience. And often, the story is biased toward ‘conquering the West’ and ‘discovering land’ ignoring the great numbers of diverse groups already in the area. Even Kroeber, although known for his advocacy, was not unbiased. This is not an issue that is unique to this area or even to our country. Nor am I criticizing the institutions here. Many of the collections and artifacts were collected long before the current staff, the scope of collections developed before they arrived, and change is slow to come to many institutions. But, change is happening.  Both places have developed collaborative relationships with the local tribes and work together to preserve tribal collections and to develop inclusive exhibits.

Still, it is sometimes painful to read or listen to the stories of the local history.  The experiences of the homesteaders that didn’t survive, the trees that perished under the ruthless saws of timber industry giants, and especially the stories of those whose families, languages and traditions were lost sometimes to ignorance and sometimes to just plain-old ‘mean’.  I was fortunate to have attended the Tolowa demonstration. The world renewal is intended as a renewal for all.  The Yurok tribe will also perform renewal known as the Jump Dance this week, after a long absence of this part of their culture. This too is a renewal prayer for humankind.

Change is slow to come. But, it is coming.  As more people become knowledgeable about the histories of the many faces of our country.  As information professionals, librarians, museum staff and archivists, become more knowledgeable about representing the many diverse cultures in their collections.  More so as the information industry moves towards representing the many faces of our country by including Latinos, Native American, African Americans and the many other diverse groups as professionals.  I am glad to be part of that change.

Next week I’ll be at SAA to continue moving the profession towards inclusiveness and diversity with colleagues from programs like KR and Circle of Learning

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Day 9. I’m pretty sure anyway.

I’m standing at the counter having a dinner of popcorn, a sandwich and a frosty beverage.  Exhausted from a whole lot of white noise, editing, and writing today but trying to get a head start on packing.  Spent the day converting audio and applying noise reduction.  Ouch.  Tough on the ears.  Then, edited the inventory and catalog list and edited a few of the transcriptions.  My co-worker said my eyes looked like they were going to pop out of my head.  (I was in a daze when he walked by!) Forgot to eat lunch until about 3pm when I realized I’d stopped breathing.

Still, after all that, I had a hard time leaving my desk at the end of the day.  Not just because I am an admitted work-addict, but also because I have only a handful of days here.  I’ll truly miss the work, the daily discoveries in the collection, my coworkers (most of them, let’s be honest here) and the great times.  I spent much of the day reflecting on collections while I waited for downloads (hence the daze).  Then I thought about all the nifty artifacts and projects I’ve had the fortune to play with in the museums and archives.  And by ‘play’, of course I mean professional conservation and preservation work.

So, a little photo album of fun projects I’ve been involved with here and elsewhere…you are welcome to  leave a comment or ask about any of these.  If you have questions on saving your family photos and videos, feel free to contact me.

That’s it for Day 9.   I’m really too exhausted to stand here, but I just sold my futon.  Well, at least I still have a microwave. Popcorn for dinner…. and back to packing.

Enjoy the show!


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Day 10. a brief peek at the mechanics of an a/v project…

For the past month or so I have been working on audio/visual materials in the archives.  Audio terminology and technology is not completely new to me.  I worked for an audio engineering company during the dotcom age where I was fortunate to have some great guys share the joy of audio technology with me.  No, I was no engineering understudy, nor did I aspire to be.  But, I did have fun being the blind-test subject for analog versus digital sound recognition and speaker correction.  These guys were designing cutting edge digital audio technology back then! I was watching them do it. For me, the choice was always analog.

Fast-forward >> to the archives. I am working with a small collection of about 100 pieces of various audio-visual materials: cassette tapes, VHS, etc.  No vinyl, but I’m sure we have some in the archives!  This week I am focusing on the cassettes.  The MP3/m4a generations will never truly experience that definitive ‘click’ of the Stop and Play buttons on a Sony ‘Walkman’ style tape player.  Yes, it’s true.  I work with two of them actually, a Sony TCM-59VCassette-Corder ca. 1995 and the more recent Sony TCM-200DV that, as the manual proudly declares, “includes hand strap”. 

Pause || How many ipods can claim a hand strap accessory?? And when you drop yours, don’t you wish you had a strap??

Record o The audio guys worked so diligently to correct white noise, flicker noise, flutter and ambient sounds and to increase the extent of the sound wave conversion from analog to digital. Today, you can adjust flicker, clutter, pink/grey/white noises right from home.  You can even add the hiss and crackle of analog to your digital files for a throw-back sound.  I use Audacity for noise reduction or other fun like sound masking, manipulation and mashups, but you can find other options out there.

Stop [] I pop in a one-time interview with an elder that shares the joys and the trials of growing up in a rapidly changing world of machines and technology. I convert it to digital.  I hit play.  It’s corrupted.  The tape was dragging.  Tape drag can be caused by many things; in this case, the tape is wound too tight.

I pull out another tape.  A 60 minute SoundTape C-60 Compact Cassette Brand (claims a lifetime guarantee).  The tape contains an interview with another local elder.  The pressure pad is gone.  Fortunately for me: it falls out of the box and into my lap!

The day calls for a little tape surgery. 
Enter….the anatomy of a tape:

Anatomy of the Cassette Tape

If you’ve never had the chance to play with one of these, head down to your local thrift and pick up a handful.  You can transplant tapes from one case to another.  You can adjust the tape guides, the capstans, and replace the pressure pad. And, if the tape should happen to break, no prob! (Well, sometimes it’s a prob). Just crack open the case and repair it.

Rewind << Digital what? Sure, I love my itunes and MP3s like I used to love my MTV before reality-tv hit the market. None of the hiss, all of the sound, thanks to the high definition guys and the speaker correction guys.  And Audacity is loads of fun.  But, nothing beats the hiss, crackle and ambient sounds of analog.  And quite frankly, I know that all the digital-audiophiles out there can be trusted to supply me with a digital copy if I’m truly at a loss. 

Play > Back to the archives, cassettes and tape decks…

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Day 11. Time for a Revolution: Internships, Jobs and Volunteers

Being new to the field of museums and archives (a mere two-year fledgling), but not new to a working career (over 15 years in non-profit and corporate management) I look at a variety of employment forums. At different times in my career I have been the hiring manager, the supervisor responsible for HR hires that I had no say in, and the hired hand. So, I tend to look at the job postings from these perspectives and try my best to read between the lines. What seems to be a common thread amongst the various postings is one that others have posted about recently on the SNAP listserv and archives-professional blogs (including this one and the related one that I particularly liked). The common thread is the abuse of the internship model.  I just want to take this moment to add to the conversation by sharing a recent experience with a job posting and a great response I got from a colleague.

Before I share that however, I need to point out that I am aware that internships, volunteer assignments and special projects are all ‘at will’. No one has to accept these positions; mostly we accept them because we see them as an opportunity to learn, to build our resumes or to build our network in the profession. This is true in most professions. It is not unique to ours. And, I am very aware that many institutions simply do not have the funding for full positions. As a long time non-profit manager, I also know and respect the value of volunteers. It is incredible what can be accomplished when you have skilled and knowledgeable volunteers. However, as my colleague points out – where is the professional in the profession when we are expected to perform a fully skilled and responsible management job at the rate of a volunteer?

Here is the job description. I’ve *highlighted* a few phrases that I believe cross the line from internship/learning experience to abuse of the spirit of the internship model:

Work on a cutting-edge digitization project as we scan, catalog and prepare our collections of vintage photographs, maps, oral histories and historic documents for Internet access using our Past Perfect state-of-the-art archiving software that is deployed by thousands of libraries, museums and archives worldwide. Interns will gain actual experience *building a live archival and current events database and web site*. [Institute] *seeks practicing or unemployed* librarians/information professionals for *mid-career internships* that will provide the valuable on-the-job experience required for anyone interested in expanding their career opportunities.

A list of duties follows this introduction. The projects sound exciting and innovative and it is true that this is a great place to build skills and add to your resume. My concern is in targeting the unemployed or mid-career professionals who are more than qualified for this and should apply if it were a paid position. Based on the ad this is a volunteer position though it should be a paid position, but it sure doesn’t sound like an internship.

My colleague’s response: “Lol. I think I’m more concerned that this announcement means there is a pool of people out there who will take this unpaid position. I feel like the profession is very hypocritical sometimes. There is a push for it to be considered in the sciences instead of the humanities or arts, there are tons of organizations, there’s certification, and we’re called professionals but yet there doesn’t seem to be a desire or need to pay those “professionals” well or even at all. I think we need to start an Archivist revolution and demand that our colleagues stop taking unpaid positions and start requiring salaries that reflect our value in society”.

Of course, she is not really going to start a revolution, at least not an armed one, but I like her spunk!

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Stories, Voices and Endings…Day 12

Day 12.  Today, I continued working on an audio/visual collection that includes oral histories, recorded workshops, group interviews, and tours of historic structures and sites narrated by locals with stories of their families, community and past times. The project requires transferring analog audio to digital files for preservation and for research access. So, as part of my work I get to play with software and hardware that allow me to reduce or increase the speed of playback, filter white noise and isolate sounds. Again, this is why I love this field of work.

While playing with the technical aspects is a good time, transcribing taps into my linguistic and story-teller tendencies. Transcribing requires active listening and re-listening. This sometimes means replaying the same audio clip so many times that a sentence no longer has meaning, but has become a syllabic chain of phonemes. Hard on the ears, but great for the mind! There is also something dreamlike in replaying disembodied voices that convey emotions based on recall. Not only are the stories intriguing, but the voices convey a palpable sense of nostalgia while memories re-create the world as it was.

And, when I need a break from active listening I take a step away from the text, sit back, breathe deeply and listen, truly listen to the voice. Not the story or the words, but the voices. Tones, notes, syncopated or synchronized sounds occurring naturally in throats and mouths. Dialects, inflections, personal vocal traits, vocal mannerisms and the weathering of the voice can be such a rich aural experience.

Today’s my Oral History voices included locals recalling the experience of working in the timber industry, working family farms and living in a rural area. And so, my photo-journal reflects the same…the Arcata Bottoms and Mad River.

Day 12. Pastoral and preparing for endings.

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Day 13 Countdown

Day 13.
A few days ago it hit me.  Hard.  15 days until my vacation in paradise is over.  Vacation? What’s that you say?  This is no vacation, it’s a job! A career! I relocated over 1,200 miles for a this 6-month job.  I drive almost that many miles every month commuting to and from work.  I work ten-hour days and clock about a 40 hour work-week just in drive time every month.  But, seriously!  Have you seen my commute? Zoom in on this because it’s worth it!

So, at day 15 panic set in because my routine, my life and a job I love are going to be turned upside down!  No more coastal morning drive on Hwy-101 with a fog-lifter from Los Bagels after flirting with the surfer-barista who looks amazingly handsome in an apron.  I’ll miss coasting over the 101 berm at Clam Beach to watch the morning sun hit the waves as the early morning clam-diggers do their thing in waders.  And, sadly I will not get to cross the three lagoons I love.  Big Lagoon I’ll miss you the most.

So I took Day 13 to explore a little more of the Park.  I’m fighting a cold so I took it easy today: Lady Bird Johnson Grove and the Trail, two owls in a tree (thanks to Rex, a really nice Redwood Park VIP), Dolason Ranch Trail, Bald Hills Prairie, and Redwood Creek Overlook.  Then home to a beautiful sunset on the coast. (Oh – I’ll miss the archives too!)

Day 13.  Short and sweet. Panic subdued for now. Enjoy…
(Click on an image to view a larger image and scroll through using the arrows.)

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