By Christine Wang
Every archivist wears many different hats. Detective is not usually one of them, but at this year’s SAA Annual Meeting in Atlanta, museum archivists donned their deerstalkers for the day as they delved into a mystery workshop designed to introduce participants to principles and practices in managing born-digital records within an institution.
“Find the Person: Missing Curator Mystery Edition!” led participants (cast as the project archivist at the fictional Three Hills Museum) through the curious case of lead curator and director Jane Stevens, who seems to have suddenly vanished, only leaving behind a mysterious set of files. Tasked with finding out just what had happened to Jane, participants sifted through her files—photographs, text files, spreadsheets, and other various documents—to solve the mystery (spoiler alert: turns out Jane was perfectly fine, having simply rushed off to Russia in her excitement to examine a potential J.M.W. Turner painting). In the process, they grappled with questions not only about Jane and her whereabouts, but also about the organization, protection, and preservation of files like the ones they were examining—that is, of digital archiving and records management in a professional setting.
Rachel Chatalbash and Susan Hernandez from the Museum Archives Section, and Ann Cooper, Wendy Hagenmaier, and Carol Kussmann from the Electronic Records Section planned the workshop based on Wendy’s 2014 workshop for the Society of Georgia Archivists. Wendy and Ann led the workshop for the Museum Archivists Section at the 2016 SAA meeting. The materials for the 2016 workshop covered topics and methods in personal digital archiving to support participants in working with a mixture of personal and archival digital records and boost participants confidence in working with digital material.
This year’s workshop revised and expanded upon the ideas of the original personal digital archiving workshop materials, applying them to the management and archiving of born-digital records in a museum environment. If you would like to view the materials from the workshop, follow the links to the Workshop Activity Instructions and Additional Resources.
Christine Wang is the Nancy Horton Bartels Scholar Intern at the Yale Center for British Art Institutional Archives.