Category Archives: Preservation

Coming Soon – Day of Digital Archives – October 6

We will be participating in the Day of Digital Archives (DoDA) this coming Thursday, October 6. The Day of Digital Archives is an international initiative among dozens of archives and archivists to raise awareness of digital archives issues great and small.  The world of digital archives can be equally exciting, intimidating, fascinating and overwhelming! We’d like to help make this area more accessible and easier to understand.

For our part, two of our digital archivists, Cindy McLellan and Courtney Mumma, will post a little about what a day in the life of a digital archivist looks like. Beyond just describing our work with digital archives, we also encourage our users to use social media outlets to ask us their questions. On Thursday, October 6, we will actively engage users on Twitter using our @VanArchives account with the #digitalArchivesDay hashtag. We will answer questions via Twitter wherever 140 character answers are plausible, but will direct answers that require more detailed responses to the blog comments area.

Demystifying Digital Archives using a Fly metaphor and Jeff Goldblum

A good digital archivist makes sure to preserve archives as close as possible to their original form.

Along with our international colleagues, we look forward to shedding a little light on the mysterious world of digital archives! Ask us anything about our digital work and we’ll do our best to answer.

Rescuing the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games’ Bid Corporation Records

BidCorp Press Conference - November 2001

BidCorp Press Conference - November 2001 - Jack Poole addresses (L-R): Philip Owen (Mayor, Vancouver), Marion Lay (Legacies Now), Hugh O'Reilly (Mayor, Whistler), Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Canada), and Gordon Campbell (Premier, British Columbia). (822-C-6 Group 2)

As the official repository for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) records, the Archives has been preparing for the acquisition of the Archives of the Games since as early as 2004. We knew that these archival records would have to be identified and transferred to the Archives very quickly after the Games since the organizing committee would only exist for a short while longer to tie up any final business. In the summer before the Games, VANOC welcomed us into their headquarters so that we could analyze their working environment and determine the best ways to acquire their valuable legacy documents.

After the Games, VANOC representatives continued working closely with us to ensure that once a donation agreement was signed, their records could be easily and securely transferred to the City Archives. The first group of records for transfer, the records of the Bid Corporation (BidCorp), were at an immediate risk of being permanently damaged by some unwelcome invaders, Continue reading

CURATEcamp 2011 – Collaborative solutions through unconferencing

Digital curation is an emerging challenge that applies what archivists already do

  • receive donations
  • decide which elements have lasting value
  • process and store them
  • provide access to researchers

to digital materials. This creates new challenges. For instance, we have to provide the digital materials in forms that are useful to many different communities, such as technology professionals, data scientists, librarians, and humanities researchers. Each of these professions (and more) are working in various ways to come up with digital curation solutions.

Professional conferences are typically a meeting of the minds of people from a single profession. This means that different communities are each coming up with their own digital curation solutions in a vacuum and missing out on the benefits of collaboration. The unconference format addresses this flaw.

Unconferences tend to be based around a topic area rather than a profession. I recently funded my own attendance to CURATEcamp 2011 at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. CURATEcamp defines itself as “a series of unconference-style events focused on connecting practitioners and technologists interested in digital curation.” The themes of each session are provided by participants rather than set in advance: as of the first morning, the schedule was an empty slate.  First, we learned the informal procedure of the event, which was a challenge for some of us who are used to highly structured professional conferences.. After this introduction, the organizers asked us to go away for coffee, talk to each other and then come back with our ideas to fill in the schedule.

Meyer Library at Stanford (the columns were built to look like palm trees!) Camp events were held between Meyer and Green libraries, both part of Stanford University Libraries & Academic Information Resources (SULAIR)  Photo by Manuel Gomez (autreche)

The blank schedule on the whiteboard was daunting at first and it changed several times over the course of the two-day event, but these are the sessions we came up with. If you follow the link, you’ll find that some attendees linked their notes from the session to the schedule grid. Continue reading

Vinegar: the scent of self-destruction?

Cellulose acetate film, also known as safety film, is well-known for its tendency to chemically self-destruct. The cellulose acetate plastic film base deteriorates over time, releasing acetic acid, which leads to the embrittlement and shrinkage of the plastic base. The term, Vinegar Syndrome, is used to describe this chemical breakdown as the film starts to smell like vinegar. (Vinegar is a 5% acetic acid solution in water.)

Deteriorating negative in original envelope

Deteriorating acetate negative

The negatives above show the classic channeling and buckling associated with Vinegar Syndrome. Obviously, cellulose acetate negatives in this condition render the image very difficult to see and can result in losses to the emulsion.

Risky business: Stripping the emulsion

Emulsion stripping is a conservation treatment used to separate the gelatin pellicle or emulsion from the plastic film base. This is a risky treatment Continue reading

Association of Canadian Archivists Conference in Toronto

Association of Canadian Archivists Conference – Toronto, June 2-4, 2011

The Triumph of the West! Archivists representing Western Canada take home the Sir Arthur Doughty Cup

Perhaps overshadowed by the glorious victory of the Western team in the always contentious annual ACA softball game, and the subsequent awarding of the coveted Doughty Cup to team captain and coach Terry Eastwood, was the fact that there was also a conference being held.

The annual ACA Conference is the largest meeting of archivists from across Canada. This year’s conference was the 36th, and was attended by over 325 people – a record  number of delegates. The City of Vancouver Archives Continue reading

“Early Vancouver” Now Online

One of the most consistently used resources in the City of Vancouver Archives is Major Matthews’ Early Vancouver.

Written between 1931 and 1956, and totalling seven volumes and over 3,300 pages of single-spaced, typewritten text, Early Vancouver is a treasure trove of information for historians, novelists and anyone interested in the early days of Vancouver’s development. Until now, the only way to access it was to visit the Archives in person. Thanks to generous support from the Vancouver Historical Society, we are now able to present Early Vancouver online.

Early Vancouver contains many transcriptions of letters and newspaper articles, but is mostly comprised of reminiscences of residents and Matthews’ accounts of his interviews with them, interviews usually made when “kindly calling at the City Archives for a cup of tea and a piece of cake” or, sometimes, “while on a street car.” To give you a taste of the kinds of things you’ll find, we’ve picked out some gems.

We originally thought of simply digitizing each volume and processing the images with optical character recognition to make them keyword searchable. Unfortunately, several test scans proved that the combination of thin, fragile onion skin paper and fuzzy typeface made the OCR completely ineffective. It also didn’t help us deal with the marginalia in most of the volumes. Over the years, Major Matthews constantly edited Early Vancouver, often by scribbling additions and corrections on the pages. We decided to incorporate this marginalia into the text and turn our online version of his work into a 2011 edition. Continue reading

Preserving Vancouver’s Digital Heritage

First in a series about Vancouver’s groundbreaking digital archives system.

Can you guess what the City of Vancouver has in common with the International Monetary Fund?

No? Both of their archives are collaborators on the same digital preservation project.

Archivist holding an 8-inch floppy disk

Archivist with an 8" floppy disk from our holdings. Anybody got a machine that reads these things?

Most organizations these days use digital recordkeeping to conduct their business. Some portion of what they create might be valuable to researchers in the future, but there isn’t a system available yet that can preserve it.  Since it is our duty to preserve and provide access to Vancouver’s digital heritage, we are building such a system.

Digital records deteriorate faster than a document from the 1800s or a photo negative from 1950.  Continue reading