UCSF Awarded California Revealed grant

We’re happy to announce that we have been selected to digitize several of our collections through the latest round of the California Revealed digitization granting program. California Revealed is a California State Library-funded initiative to digitize, preserve, and serve historically significant Californiana in partnership with archives and other repositories across the state.

For this latest round of digitization, which will begin in April of this year, we will be digitizing our Tales and Traditions scrapbooks, several of our scrapbooks documenting the experiences of Hospital Unit 30 in World War II, and several folders from the records of the Black Caucus, specifically production materials for their Black Bulletin newsletter.

All of these collections combined document some fascinating slices of California history where it intersects with the history of UCSF. Since UCSF is one of the older UCs (though it has changed form several times), it should come as no surprise that they intersect a lot! Just as a sample, these materials contain histories of the development of a public health program in the state of California, an account of California survivors of WWII war crimes such as Nazi medical experiments and the dropping of the Atomic Bomb of Hiroshima, the development of one of the first summer camps created specifically for people with diabetes, the medical questions that were at the beginning of the California drug craze, and the development of the civil rights movement in California and the intimate ties between organizers who were employed at UCSF and the larger nationwide movement.

We’re excited to get these materials digitized and available to everyone, no matter their location. We’ll announce when they’re online.

Web-Archiving at UCSF: now with Request to Capture

As you may remember, we’ve been going through the process of revamping our web-archives collections and services, and have been posting some updates as we go along. As we’ve written about on here before, in the Archives we periodically crawl and save copies of UCSF websites to document the institutional history and changing and developing public face of the University.

If you spend much time attempting to save and document websites, you quickly learn that things on the web change A LOT, and they change quickly — a lot more quickly than you might think, in fact. The average life of a website is only 100 days. Here in the Archives, we feel this most clearly as the speed with which our “URL Seed List” (the list of sites we’re archiving) becomes out of date, and does not include important new campus websites.

We’re in the middle of an ongoing project to try to better address these gaps in our collecting by manually updating our lists to reflect more centralized UCSF IT record-keeping, and by coordinating our efforts with the UCSF IT and Web-Governance groups to make sure we get at least one good copy of sites that are at “end of life.” But there’s more to this too, if you’re a member of the UCSF community then we want to hear from YOU about what sites we should be collecting.

We’re excited to announce that we’ve added a new section to our website where UCSF affiliates can submit a request to have their site captured and added to the archive, and/or have the url added to our seed list for ongoing capture. Just as with the physical archives, our collection is curated, so we cannot guarantee selection of your site for capture, but regardless we want to encourage you to submit far and wide!

We know there are many important UCSF-affiliated websites that we’re not currently capturing, and so we’d love to expand our collections to better reflect the rich institutional life of this dynamic and diverse community of researchers and clinical practitioners. So if you’re in charge of a website that we should be capturing, submit a request to us today!

Submit requests here: https://www.library.ucsf.edu/archives/ucsf/web/

Born-Digital Archival Description

We know that, if you’re not an archivist, the intricacies of archival descriptive standards and finding aid creation might quickly make your eyes glaze over. However these descriptive standards are pretty important to our work, and to the usability of the materials we collect, so we want to take a moment to share an archival description project that some archives staff have been working on. It may seem mundane, but we think it’s a pretty big deal.

If you’re a regular archives user you probably know that most of the information about our collections is recorded in a finding aid — a document which provides contextual information about the collection and gives a list of all the things inside. We describe collections this way — in aggregate rather than individually like books or journal articles — because it’s important to maintain the context of an archival collection. A chain of letters or emails, for example, are best understood when they are viewed alongside all the other pieces of the chain. Not only would it be impossibly labor intensive to individually catalog each letter or each email, but it would also end up being an impediment to actually accessing and understanding each individual piece. The meaning of each item in a collection relies completely on its context.

When we are describing collections and making finding aids here in the archives, we often refer back to standardized guidelines which the archival field has produced to define the rules about how to describe something. In our case, this is usually a document called “Describing Archives: A Content Standard”, also known as DACS. DACS does contain some guidance about describing digital archival materials, but for many born-digital materials (laptops, smart phones, magnetic disks, and the files they contain), DACS lacks the information and specificity we need as processing archivists.

To help try to address this problem, Charlie Macquarie (our digital archivist) has been working for the past year with the other digital archivists in the UC System — Annalise Berdini at UC San Diego, Shira Peltzman at UCLA, and Kate Tasker at UC Berkeley — to come up with a set of detailed instructions for describing these materials. This team started by examining existing practices used in finding-aid creation at 35 different archival institutions, and from these examples and from professional experience drafted a detailed set of rules. They solicited and received feedback from archivists and librarians across the UC System in 3 different rounds of review, and received approval to publish and establish these guidelines as a UC-wide standard for describing born-digital archival material.

Now that these guidelines are published, anyone can view them and provide feedback. The most up-to date version of the guidelines is available on GitHub as a repository, and a static version of the guidelines (if you don’t want to navigate a GitHub page) can be viewed as a pdf file inside that repository. As computing, processing, and describing practices evolve these rules will necessarily have to change accordingly, so the document should be considered a living one. If you’re interested in the ins and outs of archival description, please feel free to provide feedback (or submit a pull request) if it strikes you!

Now that this UC-wide guideline exists to help inform our own institutional practice here at UCSF, we hope to be able to start adding information about born-digital collections to our finding aids more frequently. Keep an eye out for new description of digital archival materials coming down the pike!

Finally a special thanks is in order to David Uhlich, Kelsi Evans, David Krah, and Polina Ilieva who all reviewed and provided important feedback to the guidelines in the initial review phases.