Herding Archivists – and other ideas

I’m only able to attend the second day of THATCamp, so will probably end up fitting in with someone else’s session proposal, but here are a couple of ideas I’d be interested in exploring if possible:

  1. Crowdsourcing Archival Description.  Most archive organisations have significant cataloguing backlogs, which restricts access to collections.  But they also have experience of managing volunteer cataloguing projects.  How can this experience best be translated to an online world?  What would a crowdsourced cataloguing framework look like?  What similar projects already exist as examples of best practice?  Are there available guidelines or principles for participatory UI design which would be relevant here? What do we already know about what motivates people to contribute to crowdsourcing projects?  Is there a minimal level of cataloguing or structure which needs to be provided which the crowd can then add to?  What filters need to be provided to allow participants to choose what they catalogue and in what quantities?  What models of participant/user segmentation can be used to plan and evaluate crowdsourced cataloguing projects?  This could be either a discussion session or include an element of practical prototyping, if someone was up for it.
  2. Herding Archivists.  My background is in small to medium-sized archives in the UK, employing usually between 1 and 30 members of staff (almost all of whom will usually have a humanities background).   Although nominally ‘available’ to the human end-user, information about local collections is all too often inaccessible to developers, hidden inside proprietary database applications.  How can we engage archivists in opening up this data for the developer community, getting over the idea that ‘big computing’ can be as applicable to archives and the humanities as it is to science?  Can we identify some ‘quick wins’?  Can the developers at THATCamp articulate for a non-technical audience of archivists what formats and methods of making archival data would be most useful to them (this links to one of the points in Kicking off the Developers’ Challenge)?  What barriers stand in the way of making archival data available (eg IPR constraints, the complexity of hierarchical archival descriptive practices & standards)?  How do we encourage young archivists to work in this space (spot the other archivists attending THATCamp…)?
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