Tag Archives: digital preservation

Gaps In EdTech History

There are gaps in history, eras when important things happened but no one properly preserved the records. If you study history, you probably have your favorite examples of mysteries that will only be resolved with a time machine – or a very lucky find. The history of education is facing such a blank space.

Within the last decade, conversations about #EdTech have been accelerating and expanding. More material is being produced than anyone can assimilate. The born-digital portion of the discourse is impressive. Even the research, analyses, and insights being developed today aren’t always archived correctly; but academic studies are more likely to be preserved by their institutions, unofficial but effective efforts like Internet Archive save many of the web sites, and popular press collections by journalists, bloggers, and commenters are more likely to be preserved (at least temporarily) by whoever hosts them. Today, born-digital means easily transferable, and possibly preserved.

The decades before the Internet became a common (and largely chaotic) depository for all of human information weren’t so fortunate. It was an era that started with discussions about students possibly being interested in getting jobs that would develop computers, up through the period when computers dominated classrooms but were largely constrained within the walls of the schools. It was an era that had governmental and institutional initiatives; but it was dominated by pioneering teachers, administrators, and students who didn’t wait for official approval to expand what, why, how, when, and where they taught and learned. Compared to today, there was far less material produced, which means each artifact is that much more valuable. We at HCLE (the History of Computing in Learning and Education Virtual Museum) are focused on that era and those people, and are surprised that we can find few others doing similar work.

The teachers, administrators, parents, and students then asked the same questions being asked today. How much screen time is appropriate? What lessons are best taught by the teacher lecturing versus the student exploring software? Does the cost of technology create a digital divide based on wealth? EdTech’s historical gap is filled with insights and answers that apply to questions today.

EdTech’s blank space exists because the pioneers who didn’t wait for approval also didn’t necessarily document their intent or process. Sometimes it was unintentional, because the pioneers were so busy pioneering that they postponed documenting their progress. Sometimes that was intentional, because official records could trigger official demands to cease and desist. 

The documents that were produced were usually printed on non-archival paper. They are perishing through age and neglect. The hardware is becoming more fragile, and possibly impossible to repair because of the lack of replacement parts. The software is being lost because it was stored on a variety of media, some of which are degrading quickly, some of which are orphaned because the hardware readers are no longer available, some of which are orphaned because the operating systems no longer operate, and some of which might work but no one remembers how to run the programs. The most valuable and ultimately most perishable information are the stories stored in people’s memories; the true source of the research, analysis, insights, and wisdom that may or may not have been documented elsewhere.

Liza's van with computer monitors, wheel barrow of monitors and Stephie dog
News “Managing the not-so-virtual assets of HCLE” – by Liza Loop

It is a sad, yet unavoidable, reality that the pioneers are reaching the end of their lives. The era we study began in the mid-fifties, sixty years ago. As people age, memories fade, and are ultimately buried. After they’re gone, their descendants are tasked with sorting through estates that may include boxes of old notebooks, personal letters, newsletters, photos, home movies, computers, programs – a massive amount of work given to someone in mourning who understandably wants to get past a difficult part of their life. Artifacts are easily tossed away. Our awareness of the urgency is why we are preserving our document collection, recording stories of the pioneers, and reformatting born-digital information that was almost orphaned. (Thanks to the volunteers and collaborating institutions that are making it possible.)

The loss of artifacts and first hand accounts is not unique to our museum. Any museum that is working with the history of a topic from the fifties through the nineties experiences the same urgency.

Change in society is accelerating, but today’s efforts are more likely to be born-digital in an era when the awareness of preserving the information is being discussed. The efforts of decades ago didn’t benefit from the preservation efforts; yet, those efforts were the enablers of today’s acceleration.

Change requires adaptation and learning. A hundred years ago there was change; but a person could learn skills that would be useful for decades. Very little retraining was required. It was the era of lifelong careers. If you needed or wanted to learn something new, you found a class and learned from the teacher. Today, the skills you learned to operate your computer, your phone, your car, and your appliances may become outdated with the next overnight update. If you need or want to learn how to use the new version, you expect to teach yourself, possibly by communicating with peers. We’ve become less reliant on authority figures and more reliant on ourselves and our community, online or offline.

Understanding how we adapt to change is becoming more important because change is accelerating and adaption becoming more necessary. And yet, the history of our adaptations to one of our most important changes is being lost.

Civilization was enabled by education. What, why, how, when, and where is largely different from a hundred years ago, and even fifty years ago. Our civilization is entering a new era that is dramatically different from the previous era. Between the two was a transitional era, an enabling time that is easy to ignore, overlook, and even throw away. We are working to defend against the growth of that blank space in our history, to save enough of the artifacts and first-hand accounts to tie the eras together, to document a time when change accelerated – a useful study considering how understanding change will be necessary for understanding our civilization. If you’re doing the same, great! Thanks for doing what you do, and thanks to everyone who is helping.

HCLE Second Quarter 2015 Progress Report

Welcome to the second quarter of 2015 HCLE report. We share many of these news items via our outlets (wiki, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and collect them here for your and our convenience.

Our staff of 1.3 FTEs, several volunteers and many outside collaborators reached the following milestones in the spring quarter of 2015.

  • Attended and presented at a series of conferences (AAM, MW, Brink, STS)
  • Contacted original members of the Homebrew Computer Club for stories and funding
  • Creation of a metadata superset for simplified coordination with other institutions
  • Developed a list of supportive scholars for future proposals
  • Expanded our list of collaborators including, Pratt SILS, OAC/CDL, CITE, Henry Ford Museum, SHOT CIS, …
  • Extended our outreach via podcasts, and possible publications

With these accomplishments (and with the appropriate funding) HCLE should be able to produce a Proof Of Concept virtual museum web site in 2015. Subsequent to the proof of concept will be the major tasks of digitizing and curating the collection, and designing the complete virtual museum interface. Those tasks may not be completed in 2015, but significant progress is anticipated.

Please pass our news along, especially if you know someone else who will want to contribute money, know-how, artifacts, stories, or connections. Even by glancing at what we’ve done, you’re helping make HCLE happen as you pass along the story. Thank you.


 

  • LO*OP Center

    • Open Education Systems (OES)
      • Liza published the first draft of the OES concept on the HCLE wiki. HCLE is about the past. OES is about the future. The two naturally work together with HCLE providing the data and insights that direct the OES vision.

 

  • Fundraising

  • HCLE currently relies on general operating funds provided by LO*OP Center, Inc. Future sustainability requires additional underwriting from individuals, members, foundations and government agencies. At present there are no plans to generate revenue through fees to access the Virtual Museum.
    • To increase the chances of grant awards, we initiated a search for a professional fundraiser/grantwriter. No selection has been made, yet.
    • CLIR
      • A proposal for the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) was prepared but not submitted. The exercise, however, produced an impressive list of scholars and collaborators who now support our work.
    • A letter to scholars has been drafted to encourage research, maintain relations and to provide a source of Letters of Support for grant proposals.
    • We made a direct appeal to member of the original Homebrew Computer Club. While the primary intent is to collect their stories, a secondary benefit is to increase our visibility to potential funders. See Stories for their response.
    • A draft was created for a Kickstarter project to crowdfund the Proof of Concept.
    • We have received a promise of grant writing assistance from Jeremias Herberg (Luneburg University).

 

  • Operations/Virtual Museum Web Site

  • As HCLE progresses from the present start-up phase into normal operation this section will enlarge.
    • Proof Of Concept (PoC) web site
      • Preliminary conversations were carried out with Jessica Sullivan about the Proof of Concept web site. Preliminary specifications were sketched out. The PoC site is a high priority. Funding is being sought with public, crowdfunded, and private sources.

 

  • Collection

  • The content of the HCLE Virtual Museum comprises materials collected and preserved by founder-director Liza Loop and currently owned by LO*OP Center, Inc. Additional items are being donated and related items, owned and hosted online by other individuals and institutions are being referenced in the HCLE catalog.
    • The Collection continues to be digitized as resources allow. Mark Pilgrim is digitizing Apple ][ disks, Anthony Cocciolo (Pratt Institute) digitized various floppies and Betamax tapes, and Jerry Herberg (Luneberg University) aided Liza in sorting, cataloging, and digitizing parts of the Collection. Discussions with Henry Lowood (Stanford) and Fred Turner (Stanford) continue.
    • All digitization efforts are being encouraged to use the Catalog, though some translations may be required.

 

  • Catalog

  • The Catalog is the software that contains and manages the database. No free open-source software was found that met our criteria, so we are developing this capability internally.
    • The Catalog is in use and enabling the digitization of the Collection.
    • Stan Crump, our programmer, improved the operation and coordinated with the digitization project at Pratt. The more we use it, the more we learn about how it must handle needs such as multiple users; especially, collaborators.

 

  • Metadata

  • Information about each item is stored in the Catalog and can be displayed in various formats for scholars, museum staff and visitors. Maintaining a rich set of metadata is essential for locating documents and images as well as understanding their context and significance.

    • Svetlana Ushakova completed her metadata crosswalk work, effectively providing a comparison between three external metadata sets (EADS, MARC, Dublin) with our internal metadata set.
    • A metadata superset was created based on the work done by Svetlana. A superset will allow us to capture enough metadata to export subsets that match the requirements of collaborators.
    • Svetlana will document some of her work as part of a class project.
    • We began a search for a new metadata coordinator because Svetlana needs to concentrate on her studies.
    • We prepared a metadata schema (list of fields with explanations) and distributed it to various collaborators so we can better coordinate our efforts.
    • We’ll pass along this quote from a collaborator that distinguishes metadata from search data.
      • museums systems were not developed with public search in mind, and they do not support much descriptive metadata.” – from Ellice Engdahl

 

  • Wiki

  • This informal web site serves as an online rallying resource for those building the formal Virtual Museum. It will continue to provide a virtual sandbox and conversation pit for staff and volunteers after the museum site is launched.

    • The wiki continues to grow and the style continues to mature and stabilize. A restructuring has been proposed, but only style elements have been incorporated. This may take a dedicated individual for an intense, short-term effort. The main additions have been:
      • OES (see LO*OP Center above)
      • PIAL Play It And Learn (the draft of the games section)

 

  • Stories

  • Our stories highlight how folks learned to use computers between 1955 and 1995 and how and what teachers taught with them. Our emphasis is on learning and teaching; we leave documenting the history of the computing industry to others. Our story tellers are not the celebrities of the high tech revolution. They are the unsung heroes who changed the way we educate ourselves and our children.
    • HCLE EdTech Pioneers: our growing list
      • We launched a new initiative to contact each HCLE EdTech Pioneer, if possible, asking them to improve their pages, nominate others for the list, and contribute, information, insights, artifacts, introductions and any other resources that HCLE can use.
        • The following people were kind enough to be interviewed; and have nominated several other EdTech Pioneers.
          • Liza Loop, our founder – whose page hadn’t been given the attention it deserved, until we consolidated several pages into one.
          • Bob Albrecht – interviewed by Jon Cappetta and possible blog
          • Glen Bull – who will also propose to CITE’s funders about publishing Pioneer stories on a regular basis, and who may work with Jacoby Young on podcasts.
        • The following people have been contacted. There have been some improvements to their pages, but the bulk of the material awaits existing links or an interview.
          • Marge Cappo
          • Kevin Lund
          • Mitchel Resnick
          • Dan Bricklin (Innovator)
      • HCLE Pioneer Meeting
        • We are organizing a meeting of the HCLE Pioneers to demonstrate our appreciation, provide a venue for collaboration and gather more stories. Formal, structured interviews are useful, but informal, casual conversations from Pioneer to Pioneer may reveal insights an interviewer wouldn’t know to pursue.
    • Atari podcast
      • Thanks to an interview of Liza Loop on an Atari podcast, contacts were made that may extend the reach of our Pioneers’ stories
        • Jacoby Young – podcast
        • Glen Bull (CITE) – an HCLE column in the CITE Journal

 

  • Exhibits

  • Online exhibits will simulate a gallery of objects to wander through, take the visitor on a guided tour or invite hands-on participation.
    • PIAL Play It And Learn (the draft of the games section)
      • The PIAL exhibit will provide gamers and the curious the opportunity to play the original games within browser-based emulators of the original environment, while providing data to researchers interested in investigating what the gamers learned, and how.
        • A draft page has been produced and will be heavily modified.
        • Bibliographic references to game design have been added to aid designers and researchers.

 

  • Outreach

  • As a new institution, HCLE is making contacts in the worlds of museums, formal education and independent learners — both online and face-to-face.
    • Conferences
      • A variety of conferences, seminars, and gatherings were attended to improve HCLE’s network, identify interested scholars, publicize our progress, enlist collaborators, and identify potential funders.
        • Museums and the Web
          • attendance and blog
        • Alliance of American Museums
          • attendance and represent Online Museum Working Group
        • Brink Institute
          • panel participation and blog
        • Science and Technology Retreat Conference
          • recruiting for HCLE
    • Publications
      • We are pursuing the (re)publication of two books:
        • ComputerTown USA! e-book
        • Future Flashback – a new look at the past and future of educational technology
          • We are considering convening an Ed Tech Pioneer private meeting to generate additional material for Future Flashback
    • Podcasts
      • Liza Loop participated in one podcast (Atari) which may inspire an HCLE series through the actions of Jacoby Young.
    • Social Media
      • We have been reasonably successful at engaging other professionals by commenting on and sharing posts and publications found on social media. Though informal, these contacts have expanded our network and produced opportunities for collaborations, funding, and increased visibility.
      • We continue to use social media as a source of Initial contacts
      • Social Media Traffic Report
1/1/2014 12/29/2014 3/28/2015 6/30/2015
Facebook 59 91 92 97
Twitter 67 271 294 354
WordPress 18 42 43 46
Wikispaces 12 41 42 49
  • #EdTech could use a dose of #EdTechHistory

 


 

  • People/Volunteers

  • We are a community of builders, researchers, educators, learners and enthusiasts. We aim to recognize each person who contributes to HCLE. Their contributions are described throughout this newsletter
    • Svetlana Ushakova – Metadata coordinator, soon to be emeritus
    • Stan Crump – Programmer, soon to be emeritus
    • Jon Cappetta – Interviewer (Liza Loop, Bob Albrecht)
    • Helen Passey – in negotiations for graphic illustration
    • Jeremias Herberg – assisted Collection, is a Collaborator, and may provide insights into funding

 

  • Collaborations

  • HCLE is such a small organization that it must join with more established partners to accomplish its mission. Happily, we are finding willing colleagues.
    • Associate Professor Anthony Cocciolo from Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Sciences enlisted a class of students to help digitize and present some of HCLE’s artifacts.
      • Artifacts: floppies and Betamax
      • Timing: summer project
      • Coordination: Anthony and Stan are getting media into catalog
    • Henry Ford Museum
      • Liza Loop visited the Ford to establish contact and to investigate possible collaborations.
    • Letters of Support (consequence of preparing CLIR proposal)
    • OAC/CDL (works with DPLA) – contact = Adrian Turner
      • Application to be Contributing Institution in process
    • Texas Coast Bend Collection shared their (private) example of a digital museum.
    • tschak909 – Thom Cherryhomes, Atari Education System
    • Kimon – exhibit, Retrocomputing

 

  • Admininstration

  • Even virtual organizations must attend to the tasks that make them “real” within the surrounding social and governmental context.
    • Possible Advisory Meeting
      • We are considering convening an advisory meeting to get an informed, outside opinion of HCLE’s progress and direction.
        • IEEE History Project
        • SHOT
        • Museum of Play
        • The Henry Ford
        • Larry Cuban
    • Newsletters
      • We continue the production of these quarterly newsletters, partly to spread the word about our progress, and partly to capture and preserve the history of this history museum.
    • Backups
      • They may be dull, but backups are a high priority for a virtual museum.

 

 

Pratt Helps Digitize HCLE

We can’t do this without help. Well, yes we could, but building our virtual museum would take too long and there is an urgency to our work. Thankfully, more collaborators are arriving, finding bits of the work that benefit them and us, and they take on the task. One impressive project was just completed by Professor Anthony Cocciolo’s (@acocciolo) students at Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Science (@prattsils). They used a selection from our historic digital media collection and turned it into an accessible and useful exhibit.

Born digital does not mean lives eternal. Electronic media continue to be a maturing technology. Even in 2015, solid state USB drives and SD cards have limited lives. Go back to materials from 1985, and realize how much more fragile they were and are. Floppies (big and small) and video tapes (Betamax, etc.) were created with magnetic-sensitive materials applied to other materials that held them in place; and then were read by running them at high speed past read sensors. There are plenty of opportunities for errors and failures. Old magnetic media and the data on them are perishable. Hence, one of the aspects of our urgency.

 

Prof. Cocciolo assigned his students with the careful task of taking artifacts from HCLE’s collection, gingerly handling them, properly cataloging them, and recording the information on more modern media online. It wasn’t as simple as ‘hit play and record’ because some of the artifacts showed their age. Their careful persistence is appreciated. – And then they went further. They took the initiative to create an online exhibit that gave credit HCLE and its parent organization, LO*OP Center, rather than themselves. A very altruistic action.

Screenshot 2015-06-28 at 11.52.24

They deserve more credit, which is one reason for this post. If you’ve been a student or a professor you know ways to commend (and recommend them) for what they’ve done. I recommend that you visit the exhibit they created. There’s good reason to believe that eventually some of these students will be looking for jobs. They’ve already proved they can go beyond textbooks and homework.

For HCLE, they have produced a basic model of what we will produce for HCLE’s virtual museum. Our collection is far larger, which means there is more opportunity for others to help; and, undoubtedly there are artifacts that benefit other scholars, too. If you are interested in collaborating, great! Contact us. If you know someone who might want to help, please make that introduction. If you want to thank Anthony, his students, and Pratt, please do so. They may have just preserved a critical bit of history that enables your or other’s research.

We have a big project. We can’t do it alone. It is more fun to do it with other people and organizations. And then we get the other task, the stewarding of the various contributions to create a consistent and reliable resource for scholars and the curious. We learned a new way to learn, and now students are showing us a new way to teach others about that history. Thank you.

HCLE Second Quarter 2014 Progress Report

HCLE Second Quarter 2014 Progress Report

Welcome to the second HCLE quarterly report (second quarter of 2014). We share many of these news items via our outlets (wiki, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and collect them here for your and our convenience.

So much has been going on that we’ve barely had time to reflect upon our progress. The following is a long list of items that we’ve worked on in the last three months. Consider them headlines, and if you want more details behind them, send us a note if there isn’t a link. (You’re also invited to browse our wiki, the virtual museum’s electronic loading dock, where many of these topics have working pages.)

Please pass it along, especially if you know someone else who will want to contribute money, time, artifacts, stories, or connections. Even by glancing at what we’ve done, you’re helping make HCLE happen if you pass along the story. Thank you.

Operations

  • Digital Repository
  • Stanford
    • Henry Lowood enabling digitization of HCLE collection
    • Fred Turner using HCLE archive as class material
  • Internet Archive
    • referred us to Mark Pilgrim who will copy all Apple II disks
  • database
    • preliminary screens running on HostGator.
  • Writing Competition / Story Project
    • two winners: Delia Caban & Jane Wilson
  • example exhibits being reviewed to aid design
  • Proof of Concept
  • Back Office Thinking proposal incorporated into program plan

Funding

  • government and institutions
    • Proposal applications submitted
      • NEH – Preservation and Access
        • recommendations on how best to archive HCLE’s collection
      • ESA – Oregon Trail
        • build exhibit and research platform for study of games and education
      • NEH – Digital Projects for the Public
        • production and publication of Design Document for HCLE’s Virtual Museum
    • Proposal applications in process
      • NEH – Humanities Collection and Reference Resource
        • digitization and cataloging of documents and software in HCLE collection (cancelled after conferring with NEH)
      • Cal-Hum – California Humanities
        • Oral History project of California EdTech Pioneers
    • Complete list of proposals available on the wiki
  • Individuals
    • Vision Club – Lisa Webster, Joi Ito
    • Vision Club newsletter
  • Corporate & Foundations
    • Google NYC
    • GE Foundation
    • Vulcan
    • Hewlett Foundation
    • Mellon Foundation
  • Associations – ACM, IEEE,  ISTE
  • Reviewing Foundation Center
  • Reviewing GetEdFunding.com
  • HCLE to donor introductory letter prepared for:
    • Liza to individual – done (HNW letter)
    • Liza to organization – done but up for revision
    • HCLE to individual (Fundraising Letter HCLE-to-one Vision Club invite)
    • HCLE to organization (Fundraising Letter HCLE-to-many)
  • Funding database updated and planned to be ported to CiviCRM on HostGator
  • other contacts made:
    • Brabson Library & Educational Foundation
    • Tech Museum of Innovation
    • EMC Heritage Trust Project
  • in search of: volunteer to implement CiviCRM on HostGator

Outreach

  • Social Media traffic report
1/1/2014 3/29/2014 6/29/2014
Facebook 59 71 80
Twitter 67 98 194
WordPress 18 29 31
Wikispaces 12 25 28

Collaborations

  • Stanford
    • Henry Lowood enabling digitization of HCLE collection
      • People’s Computer Company
    • Fred Turner using HCLE archive as class material
  • Internet Archive
    • referred us to Mark Pilgrim who will copy all Apple II disks
  • Living Computer Museum
    • Justin Speilmann
      • Discussion of designing and operating our Traveling Exhibit
    • Cynde Moya
      • Archiving practices and consultation referrals
  • HCLE is now a partner in the National Digital Stewardship Alliance
  • The Made (themade.org) Peter Suk & Alex Handy
    • How early games designers learned their craft
  • Southampton, Earl Graeme – possible UK trip and talk
  • RICHES Mosaic Interface – innovative online museum
  • New York School – LL intro
  • NIU – Blackwell Museum of Education – email intro sent
  • NMOE – National Museum of Education – email intro sent
  • American Folklife Center, Library of Congress – Nicole Saylor (Nicky), Head of the Archive, – technical connection
  • David Larsen – @Apple1Computer
  • U of MD – Porter Olsen
  • Cathleen Wiggins, Dir. Museum Ed & Leadership in Tech and the arts, Bankstreet Sch of Ed – lft msg
  • Pratt School of Library and Information Sciences, Craig MacDonald, Prof Interested in collaborating and will connect us to other Pratt profs., specifically Anthony Cocciolo who is teaching “Projects in Digital Archiving”
  • Alex Lin, http://faculty.ndhu.edu.tw/~aleck.lin/#pr
  • Karen Kroslowitz, Dir of Collections, Computer History Museum
  • EMS museum – Kristy vanHoven

People – staff, volunteers, participants, unaffiliated, possible contractors/consultants

  • board development
  • Vision Club – Walter Isaacson NEH talk & NPR interview
  • Delia Caban – volunteer, retired for now
  • MsBosh – volunteer
  • Diana Morningstar – professional databaser
  • new volunteers
    • Shalinie De
    • Jonathan Straus
  • PCGuy (Stan) – catalog team
  • Jessica Sullivan – possible consultant
  • Ekatarina in  Ontario with McMaster Online Museums
  • Roy Pea, Stanford Sch. of Ed.
  • Peter Sessions – HCLE Pioneer
  • Marvin Wisenread

Admin

  • Program Plan – updated to support operations, internal budgeting, and proposals
  • Reconciling previous budgets with current proposals
  • Dunn & Bradstreet registration and update
  • SAM registration and update
  • In search of: a volunteer accountant willing to work on non-profits that are in the midst of grants
  • In search of: an HCLE logo

 

Notes on Education Domain Modeling

Note from Liza Loop (June 17, 2014)

The word, ‘Education’, is derived from two Latin roots: ‘e’ or ‘ex’ meaning ‘out’ or ‘out of” and ‘ducare’ meaning ‘to lead’. Education leads you away from where you are to someplace new. It is related to teaching, learning and schools in complex ways. It also entails a vast number of ‘learning objects’, ideas, stories, documents, physical objects, situations and events. How do these various elements relate to each other? Perhaps more important, how may we characterize the learner as he or she begins when we first look at him or her learning and as he or she is led out of that place? All of these relationships can be seen as the domain of education. Modeling this domain is a challenge. Meeting this challenge becomes important as we move away from storing our cultural heritage on paper, which can be accessed by sorting through piles on shelves and in boxes, and begin to keep our records in the digital where only a rational machine (computer) can place it before our eyes. The machine relies on the model to locate the item we’re looking for. Unless we have created an effective model it will be very difficult to retrieve the information we seek.

 

This post is inspired by Jon Pearce’s course in Domain Modeling at San Jose State University in California.

Jon Pearce’s old course post

Additional details, and an opportunity to expand the discussion are available on our wiki.

Assessing Preservation of the HCLE Archive

We know what we need to do. But how do we describe it so others understand (and fund) the work?

2013 and 2014 are when HCLE has been building the framework for the construction of the Virtual Museum. General plans are in place. Initial collaborations have begun. Our network is extending into all the necessary fields: humanities, history, education, computing, computers, curation, preservation, exhibits, etc. Now the details begin to reveal themselves.

HCLE is applying for an NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) Preservation Assessment Grant. (HCLE > NEH PAG – Maybe we all need shorter names.) Our first step is straightforward to us: get the right help to steer us to the best way to turn a collection into a widely-accessible digital repository. Every collection starts with a bit of chaos. Now is when we put some order to the informalities.

Here’s our draft abstract. You are welcome to comment.

1. Project abstract

The target collection is an historical record of the introduction of computing into teaching/learning environments from the early 1960s to 1990. It comprises documents (publications, correspondence, notes, manuals, product inserts, etc.), software (printed listings, paper tape, magnetic tape, audio cassette tape, various floppy disk formats), hardware (mini- and micro-computers and peripherals), and recorded conferences and interviews (multiple formats). The goal is stabilizing, preserving and inventorying educational software and supporting documents used in teaching of the humanities. In the case of historic software, transferring software from historical to modern media is not a simple case of reformatting; it is preservation because a) the original magnetic media will degrade and b) devices capable of accessing the software from original media are rapidly becoming unavailable.

Creating a digital repository sounds simple, but it only stays that way if every artifact is like the rest. Hundreds of copies of a magazine can all be processed the same way as one. Our collection is a mix of documents, software, and hardware. The documents exist as newsprint, mimeographs, dot matrix, hand-written notes, instructions on the backs of boxes, etc. The software is on such a diverse media that we may find that no one has a complete collection of drives and readers; and then, some of the software is stored as printed text that must be typed in.

a selection of the collection
a selection of the collection

Error checking may require proper emulation environments to make sure each program operates properly. (And then someone has to play the games to make sure they work.) The hardware was usually designed to only last a few years. Obsolescence wasn’t planned. Technology changed so quickly that everything was effectively obsolete as soon as it was available for sale.

We plan to hire a consultant to provide a professional opinion, and as usual be very grateful to our volunteers. While this may seem like a small task, it is a necessary one that will enable the very existence of our Virtual Museum. These are exciting times for our (currently) small museum. Thanks for being a part of it, even as a spectator.

Catalog Challenge – March 2014

The catalog: the main event for researchers where every artifact will be available and searchable after it has been scanned.

As the HCLE Virtual Museum develops, we’ll provide glimpses of the catalog because researchers may not want to wait. (Classes are already being taught based on the items scanned and stored by Stanford Digital Repositories.) The catalog may not be the most heavily visited page, but it may be the most valuable.

Introduction

Here’s one of HCLE’s challenges, as viewed by Founder and Vision Keeper, Liza Loop. HCLE has a collection of physical items – books, papers, letters, videos, audios, software on all media, program listings, course syllabi, etc. Most of this “stuff” is on paper. IMG_2043 There are probably at least 10,000 items and the collection will grow from there. The physical paper needs to be scanned to create digital images readable online. The digital items need to be uploaded from their resident devices into a common format. In addition we have hundreds of web links to digital items. Then, both physical and digital items need to be cataloged.

We also need constituency relationship management software (CRM) to keep track of members, donors, potential funders, authors, staff, volunteers — all the people and institutions that are related to a museum, or library, or archive. For HCLE, it is possible for a person designated an educational pioneer to also be a contributor of various artifacts, and to be a volunteer and financial donor. The list will probably start with about 3,000 entries and grow.

We want to relate the information about the people with the items catalog without having to double enter any of the data. For example, the volunteer who enters a piece of software into the catalog should have a record in the CRM and an identifying field (element) in the catalog. What are the best (easiest) open source tools to use for this?

Digital Resource Locators

As our collection grows more of our digital items are being hosted online by other institutions, e.g. Stanford University Libraries Special Collections and Internet Archive, and not by HCLE itself. To make these items show up on a museum visitor’s screen requires each one to have its own internet address. There are several competing methods for identifying online resources and HCLE is working on choosing which one to use. Which scheme best handles link decay?

HCLE Tools

So far we’ve explored MS Access, MySQL, Omeka and we want to look at CiviCRM. One of our volunteer consultants suggested that we should think of the task as implementing CiviCRM and extending it to include the catalog. We prefer to have the catalog be a single, simple, flat table rather than a complicated relational structure. We don’t have sufficient experience in-house, so we’re open to advice and expect to depend on volunteers or raise the money for paid consultants.

Invitation

We have the beginnings of a Catalog development team. Click here if you’d like to follow along with the team’s conversation. Send an email to Liza@hcle.org if you would like to join the team.

Stay tuned.

Mostly written by Liza Loop, with a few edits by Tom Trimbath

Reblog – Kindred Voices from other Corners

We at HCLE feel the urgency to save the early years of our collective digital heritage. We are concentrating on Learning and Education. Others are covering the rest, with complementary overlapping. Here’s a voice from the University of Central Florida which was inspired by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and reported via the Library of Congress (NDSA – Digital Preservation). It is nice to know we are not the only ones working on these issues.

Meghan Vance, a Public History graduate student at the University of Central Florida wrote the following guest blog for the Library of Congress

Engaging Communities to Preserve: The History Harvest as a Collaboration Model for Digital Preservation

“But the History Harvest left a lingering question in my mind: How can all historical organizations (from a house museum to a volunteer-based historical society) digitize their artifacts and archives for public use and preservation? Thus began my internship with E-Z Photo Scan. They took me under their wing and taught me a plethora of information about digital preservation.”

She writes nicely what we have on our minds at HCLE.

“Often, the two biggest challenges that small organizations face are lack of manpower and money. Through collaboration with private businesses, universities, libraries and other data management companies, small organizations can conduct local events to crowd-source the digitization and digital preservation efforts.”