Episode 5: Elena Colón-Marrero, Digital Preservation, Forensics and Creating Your Own Field

 

Every episode of this podcast gets more exciting to me but I think having this conversation with Elena was deeply personal in a way that I never expected it to be. We’ve been Twitter pals for some time and I knew that she worked with Jarrett Drake so she already had major bonafides there. But I’m always really nervous when I go to talk to people about digital preservation because I’m still learning SO MUCH.

In my last job, they thought I knew a LOT more than I did about digital materials. I told them I didn’t at the very beginning but they didn’t seem to get it? It was a disaster. So I get really nervous about the idea of what I do/don’t know and how that comes across. Part of the reason I started Archivist’s Alley was to help myself better understand some of the things that I don’t completely “get” in the areas of preservation that I know BRAINBURSTINGLY INCREDIBLE people in.

Elena went beyond what I ever would have expected or thought. The work that she is doing and how she is going about it is revolutionary and our conversation left me jumping up and down and super excited. I hope that you get that from this.

One of the most (if not THE most) difficult things to do in preservation is to discover a void or area that has not been worked on/with and then go for it. This is what Elena Colón-Marrero is doing. When you have little to no research or previous work to assist you, it can be the hardest thing in the world and LONELY AS HELL. But it’s also super freeing because it means YOU are the one to develop the field. Period.

I can’t say that I’ve had that experience with something as complex as digital preservation but I MOST CERTAINLY have had the experience of wanting to do less traditional preservation work than your average bear. My entire career has been spent searching for those voids in our field. It’s very exciting work but GOOD GRIEF. It’s exhausting and frustrating and sometimes you feel like you’ve got 2 strikes against you at all times. It is an exceptionally tough road to travel down. But it’s so worth it.

Clearly, Elena knew what formats she was going to work with from the VERY start.

I feel extremely lucky to have been able to have this conversation about digital forensics, preservation, personal identity and the incredible work that this woman is doing.

Speaking of work, let me link you to some of her brilliance!

A short bio:

Elena Colón-Marrero is responsible for processing and reading the Museum’s digital collection with an emphasis on historic software objects. Colón-Marrero has a Master’s of Science in Information from the University of Michigan and B.A. in history from Christopher Newport University. Prior to joining the Museum, Elena was the 2015 John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Archival Fellow for Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library.

Some of her written work:

Also, here is a link to the 2017 Core Magazine. On page 17 (pdf pg 19) you will find a great article entitled, “Preserving Software with Digital Forensics” that Elena wrote, highlighting her work at the Computer History Musuem. Check it out here:
Finally, here is the website for the ultra fabulous Computer History Museum! Go! Visit! Check it out! Tweet about it and join their social media pages!!

http://www.computerhistory.org/

Episode 4: Echo Park Film Center- Community, Culture & Creativity!

I have no qualms about saying that I am 100% in favor of the Echo Park Film Center in every which way possible.

Paolo and Lisa are two of the most amazing people I know.

It’s hard to really put into words how much I love them and the Echo Park Film Center because I would probably end up going on forever and then you would never listen to the episode and I think I want the episode (and them) to speak for themselves.

In 2018 Los Angeles, it is exceptionally difficult to create a space where community and joy in learning is the primary goal. But Paolo and Lisa have done this thing. Their staff is beyond amazing. The entirety of the Echo Park Film Center is magical.

It is a place that, in this day and age, somehow continues to exist and that gives me so much hope. Lisa and Paolo give me hope. They teach children, teenagers, old folx. Their client base is so varied it would (and should) make your head spin.

If you are not local to LA but you get here every so often….make a bee line to EPFC.

If you live here and have never been, OMFG, GO!!!

Thanks again, Lisa & Paolo, for doing this episode. You always make me feel like a million bucks when I am in your presence!

Lisa Marr and Paolo Davanzo are filmmakers, media arts educators, and community cinema activists whose work is a catalyst for creative collaboration and positive social change. Originally from Canada and Italy respectively, they currently work and live in Los Angeles, where they help run the Echo Park Film Center, a non-profit community media space that has been providing equal, affordable access to film/video education and resources since 2001. In 2008, they launched the EPFC Filmmobile, an old school bus transformed into an eco-friendly cinema and film school on wheels. As The Here & Now, Marr and Davanzo travel the world, making and sharing handmade films and music with everybody.

Episode 3: Snowden Becker – Home Movies, Archives and Law Enforcement

It’s been a supercharged few weeks hasn’t it, friends?

Yeah.

I thought about delaying this episode a little longer because of the current climate and because of how hot everything is right now around discussions of people in positions of authority and guns and the madness. But since I don’t readily have a episode with a validly angry amazingly powerful teenager on hand, I think going with this episode is actually quite important and after careful consideration, it’s a good time for it.

Snowden Becker is probably one of my favorite women in the archiving field. The tragedy of this podcast is that you can’t see how INSANELY stylish she always is. This woman has the best shoes EVER and snappy outfits to match. She looks like she stepped right out of a George Cukor movie.

Then she begins to discuss a topic and it’s just as well-put together as the ensemble she showed up in. This is a woman who doesn’t bullshit, is constantly learning and teaching, and doesn’t waste time on subjects or interests that are not somehow connected to the idea of Being Better.

I was initially nervous when I heard that Snowden was working with the police on her examination of body worn cameras, since I firmly believe that established law enforcement in the US is structured in a way that favors Rich White Straight Men, causing People of Color to fear for their lives on a daily/hourly/minute-by-minute basis.  My conversation with Jarrett Drake on the last episode spoke to this when we chatted about his experiences with the on-campus guards.

THAT SAID, what Snowden is doing here is absolutely essential. While the subject sparks more emotions than an entire Beyonce album, the one thing to keep in mind is assessing this work needs to be done separately from having feelings about it. Both can (and should) be done, but one of the most useful aspects of this project is that, as Snowden says in this episode, she is leveraging her privilege to get something really accomplished here. AND IT IS VALUABLE.

I was incredibly lucky to have had Snowden as a professor. Her continued support has been invaluable to my career. She regularly and consistently makes it a point to lift others up, especially younger people just beginning in the field. Her work is not limited to the law enforcement examinations as you will see. In my opinion, her work is pretty limitless

Fun Snowden Becker Fact: She can knit like crazy, while asking challenging questions to a speaker at a conference who really did not see it coming. I’VE SEEN HER DO THIS. IT IS MAGICAL.

I highly recommend that you visit her website, follow her on Twitter and ask her any questions you wish to. She’s 100% one of *the* most approachable people.

Her current bio:

SNOWDEN BECKER has been a leader in the field of media archives and preservation for over fifteen years. She is a co-founder of the international Home Movie Day event and the non-profit Center for Home Movies, which was awarded the SAA Hamer Kegan Award for archival advocacy in 2017. She holds a BFA in Printmaking from the Maryland Institute, an MLIS from UCLA, and is completing a PhD in Information Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Her dissertation, “Keeping the Pieces: Evidence management and archival practice in law enforcement” is based in part on fieldwork in the property room and major crimes unit of a Sheriff’s office central Texas. Other recent projects include the IMLS-funded “On the Record, All the Time” National Forum on preservation and data management needs for police body-worn cameras (more info at http://is.gseis.ucla.edu/bodycams/). Becker manages the MLIS program in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA, and regularly teaches workshops and graduate courses in heritage preservation, media collections administration, professional development and portfolio design.

Web: http://snowdenbecker.com
Twitter: @snowdenbecker

 

Episode 2: Jarrett Drake, Respectability Boxes & Archiving Accountability

Thanks for coming back to Episode 2 of Archivist’s Alley!

Got great responses to our first episode with Siobhan over at MARMIA. That was such a fun time. I have to say- I have the best unpaid job on this podcast- spending a little time with, hands down, the most exquisite human beings working in this field. I am so glad I am getting to introduce them to all of you listening. I am continuing to record episodes as I go and prepare more and more. SO MANY EXCITING GUESTS COMING UP!!

This week is Valentine’s Day so our guest is a friend and colleague whose work and ideas I feel INCREDIBLY PASSIONATE  about and I hope that you do too. I get a little excited in here. I use some adulty language of the 4-letter variety, so be aware. But I’m about to use some of that now too so, to hell with it. We’re all grown ups.

Mr. Jarrett Drake is one badass mofo.

But he’s also one of the most incredibly qualified and mindblowingly REAL motherfuckers I know.

I don’t know anyone like him. Sometimes I wish I did because we could really use more Jarretts in the world but other times…His words and power are so great that he’s like the Highlander: there can be only one.

I suggest that you follow him on twitter: @jmddrake. His threads on labor, archives, the experiences of POC in archival and academic environs are GOLDEN. He also deconstructs football politics in a way that even people who aren’t football-ish (like me) can find illuminating.

His Medium page, medium.com/@jmddrake, is SO. DAMN. GOOD.

For our podcast discussion, I recommend you read these pieces, as we mention them:

https://medium.com/on-archivy/im-leaving-the-archival-profession-it-s-better-this-way-ed631c6d72fe

https://medium.com/on-archivy/archivists-without-archives-a-labor-day-reflection-e120038848e

Jarrett’s own bio is as follows:

Jarrett M. Drake is a PhD student in Social Anthropology at Harvard University and an advisory archivist for A People’s Archives of Police Violence in Cleveland. His lines of inquiry converge on issues of justice, state violence, accountability, and memory work. Prior to Harvard, Jarrett spent four years as the Digital Archivist at Princeton University. While there, he volunteered as an instructor in the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons (NJ-STEP) Consortium through the Princeton Prison Teaching Initiative, teaching preparatory and introductory college composition. Jarrett is a graduate of Benjamin Banneker Achievement Center in Gary, Indiana

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I loved doing it.