111 Articles
Medium 9781442276147

More Than Merely Transcription

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

More Than Merely TranscriptionAn Analysis of Metatasks and Twitter ChatChristine RosenfeldPh.D. candidate in Cultural Studies at George Mason University, crosenfe@gmu.eduAbstract This article seeks to understand the practices that digital volunteers of the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center (TC) engage in aside from transcribing. A thematic analysis of the Twitter feed @TranscribeSI demonstrates that volunteers are doing much more than just transcribing; they are additionally engaging in critical archival practices regarding reflexivity and filling in gaps in the historical record. Museums that hope to foster deep engagement among volunteers and to create a sustained community of virtual museumgoers may wish to model their digital initiatives on those of the TC. Doing so will ensure that museums move beyond mere data extraction toward building complex relationships with audiences through online initiatives. As a result of Web 2.0 technologies, museums in the 21st century are undergoing a transformation in the way that they produce and disseminate knowledge. Mancini and Carreras (2010) write that “new [museum] users do not only consume, they also want to be involved and to model their environment, creating social and cultural values for themselves and rejecting hierarchical structures” (60), which requires museums to decide whether to integrate user-generated knowledge into their archive, mission, structure, and workflow. For the purposes of this article, Web 2.0 refers to “the practice of getting users to add value to a website by having them build its content, thus accelerating the cycle of media production so that sites become dynamic, constantly updated sources of new material” (Gehl 2014, 47). Web 2.0 has exerted pressure on museums of the 21st century to switch from being institutions of memory to dynamic social spaces (Kelly 2010; Mancini and Carreras 2010). The Smithsonian Institution (SI) is beginning to embody the dynamic social space that characterizes contemporary museums (Kalfatovic et al. 2008). This movement is demonstrated by the Transcription Center (TC), an online digital space where volunteers transcribe and review other volunteers’ transcriptions of historical materials.

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Showcasing Collections from a Community Museum

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Showcasing Collections from a Community Museum

Jennifer Morris

Archivist, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, morrisj@si.edu

Abstract Crowdsourcing cultural heritage materials presents opportunities and challenges for archives and museums. Successful engagement with collections through crowdsourcing initiatives requires mindful planning and careful selection of materials. This article presents the Anacostia Community Museum’s experience with the Smithsonian TC and details the museum’s efforts to gather and highlight additional data pertaining to its collection. After providing a brief history of the museum, the article describes the processes undertaken by the collections and curatorial staff for selecting projects, which were informed by exhibitions, reference services, and the museum’s mission. Next, the workflow and challenges faced by the museum are discussed before turning to recommendations for improvement.

In recent years, museums, archives, historic societies, and other repositories of cultural heritage began using their digitized collections to engage with the general public, special interest groups, and their core constituencies by means of crowdsourcing. Regardless of the methods employed by organizations—such as transcription, tagging, indexing, or identifying content—crowdsourcing initiatives present “a powerful platform for audience interaction with museums, offering truly deep and valuable engagement with cultural heritage” (Ridge 2013, 446). These projects offer opportunities for cultural heritage institutions to tackle backlogs, provide access to minimally processed collections, and increase discoverability of unique and rare resources (Zastrow 2014, 21). Some challenges for repositories considering crowdsourcing include implementing and maintaining a functional technological infrastructure, management of digital volunteers, and assuring the quality of the data being generated (Zastrow 2014, 23). Additionally, repositories may have a mismatch between the human capital, on the part of staff, to sustain a crowdsourcing initiative and how to meet institutional goals. The Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) considered these issues before deciding to become a participating unit in the Smithsonian Transcription Center (TC).

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Great Expectations

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Great ExpectationsMeeting the Needs of Online Audiences at the Archives Center of the National Museum of American HistoryJoe HurseyArchivist, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, hurseyw@si.eduRobert HortonChair, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, hortonr@si.eduAbstract The Archives Center of the National Museum of American History collects, preserves, and provides access to archival documents that support the museum’s mission, exhibitions, research, and collecting programs. The Archives Center holds more than 1,350 collections that document the history of technology, innovation, business, consumer culture, American music, and popular culture as well as many other topics. In addition, it supports the Smithsonian’s digital initiatives by digitizing collections and making them available online, which in many ways is a challenge. This article outlines the Archives Center’s involvement with the Smithsonian Transcription Center, the creation and evaluation of a pilot project, and the construction of an effective digital workflow.

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The Creation and Evolution of the Transcription Center, Smithsonian Institution’s Digital Volunteer Platform

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

The Creation and Evolution of the Transcription Center, Smithsonian Institution’s Digital Volunteer PlatformAndrew GuntherLead Application Developer, Enterprise Digital Asset Network, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Smithsonian Institution, gunthera@si.eduMichael SchallSenior Consultant, Quotient, Inc.Contractor for the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Smithsonian Institution, mschall@quotient-inc.comChing-hsien WangBranch Manager, Library and Archives Systems Support Branch, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Smithsonian Institution, Transcription Center Project Manager, WangCH@si.edu
Abstract
This article discusses the technical design considerations in creating and evolving a digital volunteer platform for transcribing historic documents and collection records. We outline the thought process of our technical team in attempting to architect and build a system that could achieve a mission of collecting knowledge to promote discovery as well as a platform that was extensible, versatile, able to be integrated, and adaptable to future needs. A unique and unexpected aspect of our project is that the digital volunteers not only contributed data but also shaped (and continue to shape) the technical product, user interface, and user experience.

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Planning and Storytelling with Collections

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Planning and Storytelling with Collections

Establishing the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Transcription Center Presence

Courtney Bellizzi

Museum Specialist, National Museum of African American History and Culture, bellizzic@si.edu

Abstract The newest Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), is set to open in the fall of 2016. Since its establishment in 2003, the museum has built a collection to help tell the story of the African American experience and how it shaped—and continues to shape—both America and the world. One of the ways that we hope to share our collections prior to the museum’s opening is through the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center (TC). The TC allows virtual visitors to explore and interact with Smithsonian materials in a personal way. In order to make this possible, NMAAHC developed a plan to highlight collections based around the themes of the museum’s inaugural exhibits, unexplored collections, and research interests. This article examines how collections are picked for the TC, the establishment and evolution of in-house workflows to sustain the work, and collaboration with curators, researchers, education, and social media staff to enhance the public’s online experience.

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