Little Orphan Annie Manuscript

For whatever reason, I am having a difficult time understanding Orphan Works in a comprehensive way.  I get it that they are works in which the owner of the copyright cannot be determined or works for which the owner of the copyright cannot be contacted, but I am trying to find real examples of orphan work to help boil it into something I might encounter.

To get a better picture, I checked out the University of Michigan’s Orphan Works project to better understand just what an orphan could be, but the orphan work candidate list did not populate when I clicked on the link.  I found on Tech Dirt that 95% of newspaper articles written prior to 1912 are orphans.   Exploring this Duke University Law project proposal on the subject helped me to understand the barriers researchers could face when exploring a subject heavily dealt with using orphan works (in this proposal, the example was research on a Native American Activists), but also that orphan films are representative of a large portion of America’s film culture.

Maybe I am thinking about this with the wrong perspective here, but instead of focusing on the strategies needed to search as best and as legally as possible for the owner of an orphaned work, I am more just wondering how these works truly become ‘orphaned.’  And are there ever recent texts or creations that fall into this orphan category, or are these orphaned docs mainly from a time frame of the pre-1912 newspaper articles mentioned above?

Either way, I am really looking forward to hearing more tomorrow about how archivists deal with this issue of orphan works, the accession of them and the management of them as researchers explore them in the archive.


Partnering to Preserve

This past summer, I spent time interning for the Development office at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and learned a good deal about the production of history and preservation.  One of the projects I worked on was a brainstorm on how to support the local and family-oriented holdings at HSP with a more corporate style partner who would be interested in listing their name on HSP as a brand for family history.

This morning I noticed on HSP’s website that FamilySearch would be this partner for digital preservation of the collection.  I was really thrilled to see this news (, partly because I was happy to see my internship site advisor doing awesome work in making it happen, but also because FamilySearch is an interesting partner in comparison to the ever-popular

So here is what will happen:
“The initiative will digitally preserve and publish online the society’s many genealogies and local histories, family trees, and related family documents and manuscripts that contribute to the understanding of many family histories. Collections of particular interest might be those of Pennsylvania’s founding families, including Penn and others.”

How cool will it be to access the family history collections of HSP online?  I view this as a huge step forward to HSP’s accessibility and appeal to the wider region as well as a great step forward in terms of sustainability.  Cheers!

How do we deal with disasters we cannot avoid?

After last Tuesday’s class I could not stop thinking about the Fairmount Water Works and their recent flooding incident.  This is not totally surprising– I was commissioned to create a participatory piece for their FLOW (For the Love of Water) festival in September about (drum roll) flood memories.  The FWW staff had some of the most vivid memories to share– oral history clips about the visuals left in the minds of those staff members included computers floating in a pool of water.

So, in light of our class conversation about considering a disaster plan for an archive or space that speaks to the possible problems the space could encounter, I am thinking, how does FWW deal with disaster planning?  Situated on a gorgeous perch along the Schuylkill River behind the Philadelphia Art Museum on Kelly Drive, FWW is a lovely destination, but it is also in the perfect place to flood, on repeat, ad nauseum, forever.

I was told that the exhibition section of the interpretation center is disaster-proof in that it is designed to raise upward in the case of flooding (and that this happened during the 2014 flood).  I would surmise the institutional archive of FWW is kept with the City and therefore possibly off site, but even still, the contemporary memory of this institution was certainly housed within the technology lost in the May flood.  How can an institution like FWW, who thrives because of its location and is in its location because of its purpose, protect itself in the face of the inevitable?  I imagine there are other such places, some national parks for sure, that must embrace their purpose and place with the risk of loss.  I think, at the end of the day, what matters most is that the institution remain accessible and embrace what it does.  If disaster becomes part of the story– if a certain amount of institutional material is lost at some point because of the environment of daily operations– I suppose that risk is simply par for the course.  But it certainly is not easy to settle that in my stomach.

Archiving Diaries Nowadays

After last week’s round of archives website presentations, I found myself thinking a lot about the digital divide and what exactly that means for collecting information we so excitedly explore in archives and in their online collections.  Currently, these things–diaries, manuscripts, correspondence, journals, letters, notes–are falling by the wayside or being created online.

I realized in that moment that while I have done a great job of citizen archiving the stories of those who have helped with the History Truck (either at the neighborhood level or friend level), while I have newspaper clippings to document the journey, while I can reference work created or audio recorded, I do not have any journal depicting how I have felt or thought about things along the way.  Sure, there are e-mails to friends every once in a blue moon that show moments of vulnerability, but there is little of my personality in the record.  I wondered if this was a common issue.

So I decided to try and counteract this lack of personality by creating a tumblr that captures my feelings about public history in a very contemporary and visual way– mimicking the very funny “#whatshouldwecallme,” I created “#whatshouldwecallpublichistory” this weekend.  I am hoping I keep up with it because it should be a very fun page to examine about ten years from now…. if I am still able to explore it ten years from now… oh, digital things, are you as vulnerable to disappearing as I worry you are?  I hope not, and in the meantime, I will try to keep up with the LOC recommendations for archiving digital items.

On a last note, I have to mention Listen to Wikipedia, a site I discovered at Heavily Scripted, Lee Tusman’s current exhibition at Little Berlin.  LtoW is an audiovisual documentation site experience of live Wikipedia edits, and it is super interesting, relaxing, and smart.  I highly encourage exploring it.