tuning in, June 2015

As usual, it’s been a minute, but here’s a recap of some of what I’ve been up to professionally in the new year:

I got promoted! As of July 1, 2015, I’ll be a Librarian II, which means I’m a faculty member on the path to permanent track status…which means I have to deliver more conference presentations, publish peer-reviewed articles, serve on University and regional or national committees, invent the ultimate audio format…no, not that last thing, but I’ll have to work hard and a lot, and then demonstrate my impact on the University community, as well as the libraries and archives professions. I’m up for the challenge, for the next three years at least, at which point my Peer Review Committee will tell me to proceed, or I’ll pursue the first job title I ever dreamed of wanting:  trash collector. Standing on the back of a moving truck and leaping off to heave stuff from barrels and cans into it still seems appealing.

In the Hornbake Digitization Center (HDC), I hired, trained, and supervised three new student digitization assistants, one of whom has graduated and accepted a job at Sirius XM in DC, where he’ll manage the digital audio archives. The newbies joined four assistants with seniority, and they’ve collectively formed the best crew I’ve managed, because they’ve taught each other various procedures, communicated clearly with each other and me, and collaborated effectively on time-sensitive projects. Digital Conversion and Media Reformatting (DCMR) HDC adjusted its focus in 2015, moving from mostly in-house production to a balance of in-house production and quality inspections of vendor-produced digital files. DCMR manager Robin Pike arranged for $xx,000 worth of vendor digitization projects last year (and she’s acquired $xxx,000 for them this year!), so in addition to transferring magnetic tapes and scanning photographs and texts, assistants have been looking at and listening to tens of thousands of files that vendors produced, to ensure that the files are complete and free of errors. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished recently, especially because the detailed inspection of such a volume of files has been so acute, and we’ve been firm about refusing work that isn’t good.

I’m improving at delegating tasks – it’s a less egocentric and more empowering method, I think, than trying to control and do it all – and my assistants have proved themselves capable of completing acceptable work with some substantial up-front guidance (e.g., like 10/15-minute project meetings) but minimal later involvement.

The folks at Lost in the Stacks, “the only Research Library Rock’n’Roll show!”, broadcast on 91.1 WREK at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, interviewed me this spring about my work in HDC and about audio preservation in particular. It was a thrill to be on the show and to speak with my friend and former UT Austin classmate Wendy Hagenmaier. We worked together on the podcast iSchool You, so it felt fitting to be on the air together again.

At the joint meeting of the Mid-Atlantic and New England regional archivists in Boston in March, I dug walks around Boston Common, getting lost in the hotel under construction, and hanging out with my close old UMass friends Derek and Pam (and Peanut, their beagle). The conference, or at least the sessions I attended, were so-so, and hey, sometimes that’s how it goes.

Later in March, The Multi-Media Archive: Stewardship and Use of Audiovisual Media Documenting Contemporary Art History symposium at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art was much more rewarding. Learning about common and complex audiovisual materials in archives, and what stewards and users of those archives desire in regards to the preservation of and access to them, was pleasurably enlightening. I learned something too from Megan McShea about how to deliver a measured, rich, and minimally humorous slide presentation talk.

April, often maligned as the cruelest month, was fruitful:  I began serving on an advisory panel for a small northern college’s NEH grant proposal; I showed a few digital videos from UMD’s collections at a DC/MD/VA Association of Moving Image Archivists party; and I bought a sweet new Trek 7.2 bicycle to commute to and from work.

My 12-month service to the University of Maryland Libraries as co-chair of the Emerging Technology Discussion Group concluded in May. It wasn’t difficult work – it involved booking rooms and scheduling Libraries staff to make presentations and stir discussions about cool new tools and services they’re using or exploring – but it was rewarding and fun. The Libraries staff recently elected me to serve as a member of the Faculty Mentoring Committee, and I’ll begin in July. Let’s relish this June lull.

Lastly, a one-two opportunity happened this week:  I displayed a poster entitled “Establishing the In-House Internet Archive Digitization Workflow” at the University of Maryland’s Library Research and Innovative Practice forum one day, and then co-presented “Saving College Radio” with Dr. Laura Schnitker at Catholic University of America’s Cultural Heritage and Information Management forum the next. I was glad to talk batch upload automation and audio preservation – they’re two of my favorite things.

And ah, yes, the real last note:  I chaired the event committee that produced the Third Annual Edible Book Festival at the University of Maryland. It was easier than ever to do, because we’re getting better at it, and it was the most popular e-book fest yet at UMD, but I’m still mad that my entry, William Faulkner’s The Pound and the Curry, didn’t win in the Least Appetizing category. It looked pretty gross.

Until next time (I hope not “Until next year”),

e.

Sifting through the Dikes of Holland

For the past few years, the Dikes of Holland have been widely acclaimed as the best live underground act in Austin, Texas. I caught dozens of other local groups in the flesh the two years I lived in ATX, but for me, the Dikes always held the crown. A thundering, five-headed juggernaut, they swill beer, thrash through crowds, swap instruments, sweat immensely, and churn out great, pummeling, punk garage rock. They’re not to be missed if they pass through your town. In late February 2014, I caught up with multi-instrumentalist Trey Reimer via e-mail to discuss writing, recording, performing, and recordkeeping with the Dikes. Stream their latest LP, “Braindead USA“, and check out the interview below.

How’s it going? What’s up with the Dikes these days and nights?

Things are going great! We just played The Creationists’ last show and spent the next couple of days writing some new material. We have about 10 new songs so hopefully we’ll be recording in the next couple of months. Our new songs have the same Dikes’ energy but there seems to be some darkness in our new material. It’s fun to write dark music.

What’s the group’s songwriting process like?

It differs slightly from song to song but for the most part someone usually comes to practice with an idea and we see where it goes from there. Occasionally we’ll have a full song written out before showing it but I prefer just having a rough idea and working on it together. The outcome is always better when it’s a collaboration.

Do you record your rehearsals/practice sessions? If so, how do you decide what to keep?

Recently we have been especially since I live in another state [Trey’s native Oklahoma] now. I’ve always thought though that if a song or idea is good enough then you’ll remember it (I’ve probably forgotten all my Big Money hits because of this stubbornness).

Neckbeard Ranch makes me chuckle and cringe every time, because I’ve had some unruly beards over the years. How long did you have your own studio?

We had that studio for a few years but we all moved out of that house. JP still has all of the gear so I’m sure we’ll make a new studio in the future so we can once again grow that neck beard out!

When you’re cutting a record, do you record to analog tape or digitally to hard drives? How do you keep your recordings safe? Do you make multiple copies or back them up? Who owns the masters?

We record digitally and back them up on an external hard drive. We don’t prefer digital to analog it’s just what we’ve had to work with so far. We also own all the masters.

Let me put on my archivist cap for a minute. Archival records are those records created in the course of business that having enduring value and are deemed worthy of long-term retention for preservation and access. Besides your LPs and singles, what belongs in the Dikes of Holland archives?

Fuck if I know. I just strum guitars.

I’m thinking about mint copies of each release, photos, posters, videos, recording contracts, etc. The Dikes have had great press (two Austin Chronicle covers and features, the in-depth Austin360 article, Spin’s “50 Best Things We Saw at South by Southwest 2013”, and your WFMU session, available in the Free Music Archive). Is collecting or preserving these kinds of things something the Dikes are doing or interested in?

I can only speak for myself when I say that is something I have not been doing, unfortunately. It’d be great to have all that stuff in mint condition but all I have is some press of ours in my filing cabinet and about half of our records. I do like the idea of preservation but it’s never something I’m naturally inclined to do. I think it’s because I prefer looking to the future.

Did you know you can download your Twitter and Facebook accounts? You should. I do it once year and back them up on my external hard drive. Everything’s nested in folders sent to the e-mail address associated with the accounts, so it’s saved there as well.

The fact that it can all disappear in a moment’s notice gives me great hope and pleasure. There’s nothing better in life than a clean slate.

I think it’d be a shame to lose that historical documentation of the band, and your interactions with fans and other bands. The Dikes have a great sense of humor. Do you all have access to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, or does just one of you manage them?

We share the Facebook page but I’ve always updated our Twitter account. I still don’t quite understand Twitter and I literally think no one is going to see what I write so it’s usually just a bunch of bullshit except when I’m professing my love for The Blind Shake and Crooked Bangs.

The Austin music scene still seems to be thriving now, and you all are or have been involved in many other groups/projects (Spray Paint, Foreign Mothers, Reeeemer, Gangster Rainbow, La Migra, Planets, etc.). The couple years I got to take it in, as amazing as it was to hear how much cool stuff was being created, I was also glad to see a few people visually documenting the scene, in particular Andy Ray Lemon and Angel Delgado-Reyes: http://demoniotx.blogspot.com/. I think those two are responsible for all the live footage of the Dikes available on YouTube. What’s your relationship like with those guys?

Yeah those two are great along with Renate Winter, Jon Chamberlain, and Eric Karjala. All of the success we’ve ever had we owe to the documenters. For example, we got to go on tour with Black Joe Lewis and play in front of literally hundreds and hundreds of people, who for the most part all literally hated us, all because Joe watched our YouTube videos Angel shot. It’ll also be good to have chronological documentation of our drinking habits over the years to show at our future AA meetings. We drink too much. Thanks Eric K. for the tagged photo where I’m covered in beer and have stroke face. That’s going to be a good one to show at the meeting.

Have you considered making a music video?

One day we (Liz, I think) came up with a great idea to remake the volleyball scene in Top Gun, speeding motorcycles and all. The problem is we’re kind of a lazy band so it’s probably best we put that effort into the music. If anyone ever came up to us with an idea that we liked and said they’ll do all of the work I’m sure we’d be into that. As long as it has something to do with Top Gun.

Jamie Zuverza, who draws all those creepy/funny posters for the 29th St. Ballroom, Beerland, and Hotel Vegas shows, said he was digitally preserving them and keeping copies of any that were printed, too. 10, 20, 30 years from now, when the music’s changed or in a slump, those are the kinds of things that might go up in an exhibit.

Jaime is the biggest sweetheart of a person I’ve known in Austin so that makes it so easy for me to say and without much jealousy that he is one of those real special talents that most artists can only strive to be like but will never quite be. So yeah, I like his work.

I imagine I’d see a bust smoking three cigarettes and wearing gold chains, then Jamie’s distinctive lettering and the names — Hidden Ritual / Mirror Travel / Low Times — and say, “Man, I can’t recall a note, but that must’ve been a good night.”

Exactly.

I caught the Dikes playing as The B-52’s on New Year’s Eve 2012 and dug the set without knowing any of their music besides the big singles. You and Liz Burrito told me to listen to them, which I finally did, and I’ve got six or seven of their records now. What’s their influence on you?

I’m not sure they were so much an influence as they were just a great band with great songs that people need to listen to. Let’s just say there’s a lot more to them than Love Shack. That’s a hard night for me to look back on with much enjoyment though because I know a lot of people lost a great friend that night.

How many shows do you play a year?

50 give or take 25. Depends on how many tours we go on.

What do you hope for or expect or demand of an audience?

Hope, expectations, and demands from an audience are a dangerous thing to have. Like my good friend and mentor Treasure Mammal said, “Fuck expectations,” and it’ll always be better than you thought it’d be. Oh, and it’s also dangerous to have demands for a crowd when you’re playing a basement show in Buffalo, NY, with a bunch of krust punks. Just play as fast as you can and maybe spit on the wall a couple of times and hope they don’t catch on to you because you really don’t want to find out what they use those shoulder spikes for. Actually, those people ended up being really nice to us after we played. Was it because I spit on the wall? Can’t say for sure.

How do audiences differ throughout the States, far beyond the Austin oasis?

I’ve always loved playing the smaller cities/towns. They always have the most excitement and energy. Even if they didn’t really like us there’s no way we could ever notice and that’s fine with me. As far as the bigger cities go Chicago is pretty special for being such a large city and still having a supportive and nurturing music scene that’s always been good to us. Our core audience members that seem to love us the most no matter where we play are the middle-aged men whose idea of casual drug taking might differ from other people’s idea of what the word casual means. The only exception that I can think of is the denim man with the snake skin boots who used to run sound for the Rolling Stones. He hated us with a fierce passion. He couldn’t believe we didn’t have roadies pre-tune all of our guitars before we started playing our set at the Margarita bar in El Paso, TX.

I saw y’all 14 times when I lived in Austin and was sad I missed it when you recently came through DC. It’s been a terrible winter and I was worried when you recently drove all over the north. How was the “Dikes on Ice” tour?

If I can sum it up in one word that word would be “treacherous” and since it seems like I can I’m going to go with that… “treacherous”. The fact that anyone left their house and came to those shows was pretty unbelievable. To see one person risk life and limb to get to our show is a better feeling than 100 people coming out when the weather’s beautiful.

When will you hit the road again?

The only thing we have planned right now is SXSW and that’s always like a mini-tour inside a city.

Well, we’re about out of time….not true! Just a quick wrap. Thanks for this exchange, Trey. I look forward to hearing more new music from the Dikes and hope I got you thinking about building your archives.

Good to hear from you and thanks for always being so supportive of our band. Hope all is well!

December twenty-thirteen note

For two months now, I’ve been the Digital Librarian at UMD Libraries. It’s a permanent status-track faculty position, one which might allow for me to make my stamp here. I’ve hired numerous student digitization assistants this fall, and our Digital Conversion and Media Reformatting Digitization Center is operating at full tilt. We’re currently working with a great array of materials: 1/4″ open reel tapes, early 20th century postcards, 19th century photographs and correspondence, 18th century musical scores, and Maryland Agricultural College publications from the 1910s. I’m happiest to have two assistants working a combined 40 hours per week to digitize the WMUC Collection sound recordings, which are marvelous and unique records that document the University of Maryland’s aural history since the mid 20th century.

I’ve been grateful to attend seven professional conferences this year, as well as to study advanced audio reformatting techniques and workflows for a week in September at George Blood Audio Video. (Besides learning, networking, carousing with UT iSchool colleagues, and making meaningful new professional connections, it’s been a treat to enjoy the vegetarian fare that New Orleans, Alexandria, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Los Angeles have to offer.) The libraries/archives discourse is robust, healthy, and constructively critical, I think.

My site is updated with my refreshed resume, new and old papers and blog posts, and the Powerpoint version of the poster that Dr. Laura Schnitker and I recently presented at the Cultural Heritage Archives symposium at the Library of Congress. I’ll do my best to dip in more often and keep my site current as I become even more engaged in the libraries/archives realm.

Nearly eight months here at UMD Libraries

It’s been too long since I’ve posted here, and so much cool stuff has happened. Here’s a recap of what I’ve been up to and what’s ahead.

I joined the Born Digital Working Group, a team comprised of folks from University of Maryland Libraries (UMD Libraries) and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), to test archival imaging tools and to devise policies for electronic and born-digital assets. The Tools subgroup, of which I was a member, concluded much of its work and parted ways in May. This autumn, we’ll welcome a fellow as part of the inaugural National Digital Stewardship Residency program, and she or he will have equipment and guidelines to use that we set up. In April, I wrote about working with our new Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device, and both MITH and UMD Libraries Special Collections published my post on their blogs:  http://mith.umd.edu/born-digital-working-group-configuring-fred/

A major effort to create a digital edition of the U.S. writer Katherine Anne Porter’s correspondence is underway. My supervisor Robin Pike recently invited me to the project, and I’ve devised quality assurance procedures to assess the integrity of TIFF and JPEG images, OCR scans, hOCR scans, and MD5 checksums. I’ve just begun reading The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter and am honored to be working with material created by a writer of such high caliber. This is the link to the project announcement:  http://digital.lib.umd.edu/kap

Two weeks ago, I attended the Association of Recorded Sound Collections conference in Kansas City with my colleagues Robin, Henry, Joanne, and Chuck. In addition to many intriguing and inspiring sessions, a trip to the Marr Sound Archives, many UMD and UT shout-outs, introductions to major collectors and professionals, and long conversations with Board members and other ARSC Conference Travel Grants award winners, the buzz and energy surrounding the National Recording Preservation Plan were compelling. I believe much important work is set to occur in the coming decade at Illinois, Indiana, and Maryland, as well as at other institutions and smaller archives. Here’s the way to the NRPP:  http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2013/13-014.html Let’s do this!

There’s so much amazing material that outside vendors and my astute graduate student digitization technicians digitize. What I’ve most enjoyed listening to have been digital surrogates of wire recordings of Arthur Godfrey’s variety shows from the 1940s and 1950s. They’re endlessly entertaining, marvelous sound recordings (I often call over the technicians and Henry Borchers, Broadcast Media Digitization Librarian, to listen to humorous segments and ukulele-led musical numbers). The expert folks from George Blood, L.P., based in Philadelphia, are making these digitally reformatted transfers for UMD Libraries. I’ll soon have the opportunity to travel to Pennsylvania to study with them.

Since winter, Digital Conversion and Media Reformatting has been focused on converting open reel tapes and migrating ADAT recordings from the WMUC Collection for an upcoming autumn exhibit. WMUC is the University of Maryland’s radio station, the oldest freeform college radio station in the United States. The breadth of content – sports, news, radio dramas, interviews, on-the-street recordings, and in-studio live music sets – is great. Laura Schnitker, the UMD Libraries’s ethnomusicologist (and the WMUC deejay helming The Bohemian Challenge) and I are assembling a presentation we’ll deliver to the DC-area ARSC group and students at George Washington University in June. It’s been technically challenging and aurally fascinating work, which Laura and I might also report on in abbreviated form at a poster session the American Folklife Center is soon set to hold.

Lastly, I volunteered at Maryland Day and made radio shows (http://storify.com/UMDLibraries/maryland-day-2013-what-did-you-do-today), and mingled with guests at the William Morris Wayzegoose dinner (http://storify.com/UMDLibraries/wayzegoose). Everything that goes on here hits all my intellectual gray matter pleasure centers. I’m grateful I landed at the University of Maryland Libraries, and I’m excited about all my ongoing projects and those yet unknown. More soon, rather than later.

The Transcribe LBJ links are published in the Other Projects section now, as well as a link to the report that three classmates and I compiled for our Digital Archiving and Preservation project. There’s also a new section – Links – which features a few professional resources, one personal art project, and UT friends’ blogs and sites. Lots of links!

I recently began work as the Digital Reformatting Specialist at the University of Maryland in College Park. Digital Conversion and Media Reformatting, a newly created department (distinct from Digital Stewardship), is establishing a large Digitization Center (DC) in Hornbake Library. We have high-resolution flatbed scanners, an overhead scanner, an excellent digital camera, and all kinds of legacy audiovisual equipment. At the moment, we’re handling photographs, negatives, printed materials, objects, and texts. Once my colleague Henry receives his A/D convertor and finishes calibrating the A/V playback machines, we’ll begin working with sound, film, and video recordings. I’m overseeing daily operations in the DC, supervising five student technicians, performing metadata quality control on digital objects and files, and, alongside my boss, Robin C. Pike (@AVarchivist), meeting with librarians across campus to discuss in-house and outsourced large-scale digitization projects. It’s been an exciting first few weeks and I’m grateful to be here. Soon I hope to have UMD projects to point to. Until then, the digital conversion works goes on.

My video digitization project is privately published now, while I work on the links and metadata. There are, however, a couple of other projects I’ll soon add to, um, Other Projects, one of which is a transcription of a telephone call between Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson in 1968. Part of the Transcribe LBJ project, it was an optional task for my Survey of Digitization course, and I took it up eagerly, conducting research to capture proper names, site names, and security clearance codes (Eisenhower and Johnson were discussing media claims that the U.S. planned to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam). Glifos is a rich-media manager, so the transcript and the audio recording are in synch, and the text is searchable at single-word level. When the website is live I’ll add the link. This is a new element in the partnership between the UT School of Information and the LBJ Library and Museum, and I imagine future iSchoolers will do plenty of fine work for the Presidential Library. I might even make time to transcribe a few more calls myself.

A mere two weeks have elapsed since I started my video digitization project, which is nearly complete. On April 17 (my Nana Grayce’s 94th birthday) I finished digitally converting the last of the VHS tapes that would play. Unfortunately, three tapes were too damaged to play. I was also afraid that three others would be unplayable, after the JVC VCR wrenched the tape off of the leader during rewinding. This turned into an opportunity for me, however — I learned how to disassemble VHS cartridges, how to splice videotape, and how to reassemble the cartridges (which I got good at after doing it wrong a number of times) — and the tapes played just fine.

My setup was complex last weekend:  three VCRs and three analog-to-digital converters capturing three different tapes in iMovie on three Dell computers. I’m glad the iSchool’s IT Lab has comfortable chairs on wheels, because I was sitting and gliding among the computers for six hours on both Saturday and Sunday. The tapes I was working with were long, between 1-3 hours, and saving the DV and MPEG-4  files took a long time, too. I actually let the computers run those files overnight on Saturday, so I could begin transfers right away on Sunday at noon.

Perhaps I should have put the bottom line on top:  most of the videos are available to view! A few (the amazing 8MM copies, my so-so art film, and “Matt and Anita’s Excellent Adventure”) aren’t currently functioning, but I’ll fix ’em eventually. For those that do play, I plan to add more metadata (fuller descriptions, durations, names, and locations) and markers, so viewers will know where to jump to certain sections. If you find any links that don’t work, or a video that won’t load, please let me know. The degradable HTML5 plugin I’ve activated should run videos on the best to the most basic online video players, but every computer in the world is its own quirky object, so one never knows what’ll happen. Anyway, having completed this much work in so little time, and to have (in)tangible proof of my efforts available on my site, I feel a fine sense of accomplishment, and I’m looking forward to watching the home movies more closely soon.

Hey’all ~

I added to the collective mindhive yesterday:  I bought this domain name and began to build the site. It’s a personal and professional space. Streaming videos of my grandparents’ home movies (8mm -> VHS -> MPEG-4), my father’s commercial and industrial work, and a short film I made when I was an undergrad will reside on the Video Digitization Project page. Papers I wrote as a graduate student at UT Austin’s School of Information (the iSchool) are collected on the Writings page. Links to various projects I completed at the iSchool are stored on the Projects page. And my CV’s posted for all to see, too. Although my digital photographs are available on flickr and Facebook, I may eventually display them here.

Have a look around and drop me a line sometime. Comments, questions, and/or anecdotes about working in audiovisual archives would be most appreciated.

Aloha,
Eric