Brown Bag: Conservation Collaborations at the MIT Libraries (Summary of the December Talk by Jana Dambrogio)
My colleague, Jana Dambrogio, Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries presented this talk as part of the Program on Information Science Brown Bag Series. Jana is an is an expert in physical preservation, having worked in the preservation field for 15 years as a conservator, consultant, and teaching professional. at the US National Archives, the United Nations, the Vatican Secret Archives — and now we are pleased to have her at MIT.
In her talk, below, Jana discusses two research projects to preserve artifactual knowledge in MIT Libraries’ special collections — including work to reengineer ‘letterlocking’ methods and the broken spines of historical books.
A number of themes ran through Jana’s presentation:
- To conserve physical objects requires ensuring that their integrity is maintained for access and interpretation:
- Effective conservation may require applied research to reengineer the original processes used to produce historical works, in order to understand what information was conveyed by choice of that process.
Reflecting on Jana’s talk, I see connections between her physical conservation research and information science more generally…
The information associated with a work is not simply that embedded within it, although the embedded information is often the focus when creating digital surrogates — both digital and physical may carry with them information about their method of production, provenance, security, authenticity, history of use, and affordances of use. It is useful to model each of these types of information, even if one chooses not to spend equal amounts of effort in capturing each.
Second, new fabrication technologies, such as 3-D printing, are making the boundaries between physical and digital more permeable. Patrons may learn of the affordances of a work through a fabricated surrogate, for example. Furthermore, the scanning and digitization processes that are being used in association with rapid fabrication may also be used in conservation practice as part of the reengineering process — Jana’s presentation describes working with researchers at MIT to do just this…
Finally, collaboration with educational and research users is increasingly important in understanding the potential for information associated with each work, and thus to guide selection and conservation in order to create of a portfolio of works that is likely to be of future educational and research value. As in digital curation, we can’t offer access to everything, for everyone, forever — so modeling the information associated with its work, and its future uses, is critical to making rational decisions.
Marguerite Avery, who is a Research Affiliate in the program, presented the talk below as part of Shaking It Up — a one-day workshop on the changing state of the research ecosystem jointly sponsored by Digital Science, MIT, Harvard and Microsoft.
For the past ten years, Margy was Senior Acquisitions Editor at The MIT Press where she acquired scholarly, trade, and reference work in Science and Technology Studies, Information Science, Communications, and Internet Studies. She joined the research program in September to collaborate on explorations of new forms of library publishing.
A number of themes ran through the talk:
- The two formats published by vast majority of University Presses books, and journals, increasingly compromise the ability of the press to capture and publish modern research.
- The time to publish is also increasingly out of sync with the pace of research — publication occurs too slowly.
- Existing business models and price points are a significant barrier for university presses that do wish to move to different formats or more agile publication models
As a follow-on, we are collaborating to analytically unpack the “university press” model, and identify the minmum necessary characteristics for a sustainable publisher of scholarship. Some preliminary thoughts on a short list include:
- A process to ensure durability of the published work — possibly through supporting organizations such as Hathi Trust, the Internet Archive, Portico, SSRN, LOCKSS, or CLOCKSS
- A mechanism to persistently and uniquely identify works — likely through ISBN’s (supported by Bowker) and DOI’s (supported by CROSSREF)
- Metadata and mechanisms supporting metadata discoverability — e.g. MARC records, LC catalog entries, WorldCat entries, ONIX feeds
- Mechanisms for supporting content discoverability and previewing, — e.g. through google Google Books, Google Scholar, Amazon, Books in Print
- A business process to broker and process purchases and subscriptions
- A way to select quality content and to signal the quality of the selection
- A process to establish and maintain an acquisition pipeline
- A production workflow
- Marketing channels
Matching these necessary criteria to new forms of scholarship, which are accompanied new affordances and barriers, promises to be an interesting and challenging task.