Community Generated Databases for NY State History Conference 2013
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Community Generated Databases for NY State History Conference 2013

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  • 1. Community Generated Data for Research Welcome to a presentation about several developing ways of creating searchable or readable historical databases and collections.
  • 2. This is a presentation about several ways of creating searchable or readable databases which utilize volunteers outside of traditional organizations to create the underlying materials to be used in historical research. The Church Records Preservation Committee of the Rochester Genealogical Society, various aspects of New York Heritage.org, and a program called Viewshare will be discussed and shown. Several other projects are mentioned.
  • 3. How do you get data from the world to a place where it can be analyzed? One good way is to utilize people who have an interest in a subject or place to create a useable data set. They do this because they want to and they have an affection for the work - not because they are hired hands who have to do it. History should not be viewed - it should be experienced. And “amateurs” love to experience things.
  • 4. How does this relate to CGDB’s? • Because digital formats lend themselves to being worked on, on various kinds of equipment, at various times, and can utilize skills that volunteers have gained from other work, in the advancement of history and its data. • All these sources which might be overwhelming to deal with can be more easily utilized if they are easier to use. And CGDB’s can help do this.
  • 5. What is the argument for having or developing a CGDB? in a nutshell - • That costs and time may prevent staff from more fully utilizing items in their collections. • Some of this can be overcome by doing outreach into the community and capitalizing on their skills to create new materials for research use.
  • 6. Technology Your organization * Community group * is the sweet sp you are seek
  • 7. What are some examples of groups and CGDB’s? • The RGS-CRPC - the Rochester Genealogical Society Church Records Preservation Committee • New York Heritage • Viewshare
  • 8. Why are CGDB’s important? • They make various collections much more useful and accessible - think a group of pictures put up willy nilly on a web site vs. accessible and preserved records (RGSCRPC), an indexed and described collection with amplified data (NewYorkHeritage.org), or useful ways of looking at material (Viewshare).
  • 9. Why do this? • Makes your collections available 24/7/365, and gain a wider audience. -->Why have a collection if it’s not used?<-• Once it’s created it can be available not only on the shelf but also on all manner of devices. In other words, market! • Position your organization as a leader in information. Donors take notice.
  • 10. From a library school in Illinois. They have a course in library school that teaches:
  • 11. Why use non-staff? • Outsiders can be highly skilled and motivated, and they can have the time, equipment, money, and skills to make useful contributions. Many train themselves.
  • 12. • There’s a difference for the organization in inner directed vs. outer directed - the “don’t come in”, hesitant to change, and keep it simple for us to have mindset, vs. • “here’s what we have, come enjoy it” and the response to users.
  • 13. • The RGS CRPC has been in operation with a changing cast of volunteers since 2005. • New York Heritage is an ongoing project statewide. I will mention experience in utilizing skills from my working life to enhance various projects. • Viewshare is an interesting and free project that can greatly enhance the visualization and usability of data. Almost anyone can be shown how it works and create useful charts from the underlying data.
  • 14. the RGS CRPC • In 2005, RGS initiated a Church Records Preservation Committee (CRPC) for the purpose of assisting churches and their archives with conservation of their non-replaceable records. • A digitization process has been developed that is otherwise not available to them, is relatively quick and not harmful to the documents. The churches are given a CD of all their records and the privatized records are posted on the website of the RGS. This is done at no cost to the churches. • Work has been expanded to include the records of the Mt. Hope and Riverside Cemeteries (over 500,000 burials) since their records are of genealogical and historical interest.
  • 15. • Records posted on the RGS website have been edited to comply with New York State vital records guidelines. • Copies are given to the church, and will eventually be given to the public library.
  • 16. Who does this? • Volunteers are all active family history researchers and come from many different backgrounds. Most are retired and all are extremely dedicated and hard-working. The photography sessions are 3 - 4 hours long and several volunteers work an average of 10 additional hours per week doing the post-processing.
  • 17. How is it funded? • The work of the CRPC is funded through RGS membership dues and donations. • Recently an anonymous benefactor made a generous donation (multi thousands of $$) to the organization to further the work of the committee. This money has been and will be used to purchase new camera and computer equipment and software.
  • 18. NewYorkHeritage.org NewYorkHeritage.org is a research portal for students, educators, historians, genealogists, and everyone else interested the people, places and institutions of historical New York State. The site provides immediate, free access to digital collections that reflect New York State's long history. But anyone can contribute!
  • 19. Who is this done for? While the materials in New York Heritage are available to anyone visiting the site, the primary focus of the program is geared to New York audiences. The target audiences include: students and teachers of all levels; scholars and researchers; government employees; business community; tourists and tourism agencies; genealogists; and residents and former residents of NY.
  • 20. Who does the work? • Sometimes staff of libraries and societies, sometimes students, and often community volunteers Does it take professional skills? •Only teachability, and adequate equipment. •Can be done in smaller increments and gradually extended
  • 21. What is my experience? • Interesting to do • Helpful to others • Can use Ancestry.com, etc. to further amplify the informational content. • Putting additional content and explanatory information in the searchable metadata makes the collection much more useful.
  • 22. An example of an enhanced record:
  • 23. That was oversized, and was stitched together by a Flip-Pal
  • 24. What is Viewshare? “Viewshare is a free platform for generating and customizing views (interactive maps, timelines, facets, tag clouds) that allow users to experience your digital collections.” What does it look like?
  • 25. What is necessary? • Viewshare links to or operates on already digital materials. It can ingest data from Excel spreadsheets, Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS), Dublin Core data from an OAI [Open Archives Initiative] end point and some instances of ContentDM (version 4 Only)
  • 26. Here’s another source of data
  • 27. The next few slides are from a college in East Texas. This was done by the staff there, but could have been been done by community volunteers
  • 28. From a college class:
  • 29. What are some other generated data that have been created? There are several: The Henrietta NY Public Library has digitized various obits and diaries. An individual from the Wayne County Genealogical Society has taken over 1000 images of Newark/Arcadia Township church records.
  • 30. • The University of Rochester has a Speaking Stones class where biographies of persons buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery are written and made available • Nazareth College has a similar project dealing with the Pittsford NY cemetery
  • 31. • The Ogden Farmers’ Library hosts a genealogical society and has residents who have produced indexes. Some of these are now part of the Rochester Public Library’s Life Records Project.
  • 32. One more CGDB:
  • 33. Basic concepts of CGDB's • Traditional vs. new • Paper vs. digital • Storage vs. use Information can be found much more easily, using search engines etc. Almost anything that exists in a tangible format can be digitized and made available on multiple devices and platforms.
  • 34. • Easy idea, with complex implementation • What is needed vs. what is wanted • If you don’t embrace it, you could be blindsided and considered irrelevant. • Rise of individual sites and lack of curation/standards. • Levels the playing field in a way by allowing communities to help decide what is important to them.
  • 35. Who can do this? • Besides staff of institutions, think of utilizing students and community volunteers to prepare the data, do the scanning of the materials to be made digital, and uploading it. If they are talented, oversee the metadata production that they do. • You ARE going to do metadata, right?
  • 36. How does this relate to CGDBs? Many organizations have existing but underutilized collections. The people doing the scanning, transcribing and actual processing of the materials can be developed from a motivated community. By volunteering their time and expertise, these people process materials that can be discovered and utilized by by a wider audience.
  • 37. How can people to do the CGDB work be identified and used? • • • • Outreach! Talk to groups that want to talk to you. Market the collections Utilize students and volunteers to develop products. • History is in competition with everything else for the user’s attention and it should be easier to access.
  • 38. Ok, how about standards? • Know the requirements for projects like New York Heritage and Viewshare; discuss what standards will be done for a community project. • Set a goal. Have the necessary equipment. Do act on what is produced.
  • 39. Conclusions • Look at your collection and see what could use indexing, easier access, and better marketing. • Try to contact local groups who can do this. • Establish standards, or review the ones that the community group itself has. • If necessary, start small and gradually grow. • Have a plan to follow.
  • 40. To sum up about CGDB’s What do you have that could use more attention? Who in your area might be approached about volunteering or contributing (retirees, students, etc?) What kind of background are you looking for? What kind of training will be required, if any? How are you going to catalog it and make it available? You can find many guides to volunteers in historical settings through a web search. Library schools or college history classes may be other places to look for information.
  • 41. A (sanitized) quote from the actor John Wayne • If you get their eyes, their hearts and minds will follow.