Michelle Caswell: Creating Archives, Making Space & Activating Records of the Now

I first met Dr. Michelle Caswell when I was at UCLA finishing my degree and I already heard how amazing she was back then.

Years later, I was lucky enough to finally get to meet Jarrett Drake in person because he was here in Los Angeles for a conference that (I think) Michelle was running and we talked a little bit about how Michelle’s perspective and work was to the things that we believed and fought for in the archiving world.

Fast forward to now.

The more things change the more they stay the same. Jarrett, Michelle and I are all still working for the same things just maybe not within the same formats or institutions and (obvs) there are many reasons for that as my podcast has shown.

I feel so grateful to have been able to sit down with Dr. Caswell and talk with her about what she does and has been doing because she is TRULY INCREDIBLE. The work that she does and the thinking that she pursues within the archives and memory field is larger than the archives and library/information world. She’s the best kind of academic: the kind who goes for access and important content over fanciness. It’s not that her work isn’t smart- it’s smart as hell!

But the fact that she produces and discusses topics and material that we can all get together on? That’s my jam!

Anyways, here’s our conversation and the bio and links are below as usual.

PLEASE check out those links!!! They are AMAZING!!

BIO: 

Michelle Caswell, PhD, is Associate Professor of Archival Studies in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), where she directs the UCLA Community Archives Lab.
She is the co-founder of the South Asian American Digital Archive, an online repository that documents and provides access to the
stories of South Asian Americans. She is also the author of the book Archiving the Unspeakable: Silence, Memory and the Photographic Record in Cambodia (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), as well as more than three dozen peer-reviewed articles on archives, memory, and communities.

Info on the event at UCLA on 2/23 https://www.saada.org/ucla

Film mentioned in the podcast: “Lavaan” by Zain Alam https://www.saada.org/wherewebelong/lavaan 
Archivists Against:
http://www.archivistsagainst.org/
Michelle Caswell:
https://michellecaswell.org/

Ashley Blewer: Digital Archiving, Open Source Work & Systems of Strength

My friend and colleague Ashley Blewer is one of the most inspirational people I know. She makes hard things seem simple because she enjoys them so much. She has this brilliant gift of being talented at digital preservation and moving image archiving yet not coming off as intimidating or pretentious. She always seems willing to answer questions you might have and goes out of her way not to make you feel stupid for asking.  Ashley has spent countless hours working on projects that provide educational access to folks who might want to learn about moving image archiving but may not have the funds to do so.

I am incredibly proud to know this fabulous human being, count her as one of my friends and get to watch her be the mighty rock star that she is!!!

Please enjoy our conversation and check out the links and the bio just underneath here. Please note that this episode was recorded in advance so forgive date discrepancies

Bio:

Ashley works as at Artefactual Systems as their AV Preservation Specialist, primarily on the Archivematica project. She specializes in time-based media preservation, digital repository management, infrastructure/community building, computer-to-human interpretation, and teaching technical concepts. She is an active contributor to MediaArea’s MediaConch, a open source digital video file conformance checker software project, and Bay Area Video Coalition’s QCTools, an open source digitized video analysis software project. She holds Master of Library and Information Science (Archives) and Bachelor of Arts (Graphic Design) degrees from the University of South Carolina.

The absolutely amazing Beyoncé articles that Ashley wrote that we discussed:

https://bits.ashleyblewer.com/blog/2016/04/29/lemonade/

https://bits.ashleyblewer.com/blog/2016/02/09/format-ion-video-playback-errors-in-beyonces-latest-music-video/

The other OMGWTFBBQ mindblowing piece that she wrote on the recent Netflix doc series, Wild Wild Country:

https://bits.ashleyblewer.com/blog/2018/04/01/wild-wild-country-and-the-magnetic-media-crisis/

MOAR FUN ASHLEY LINKS!!!:

avpres-training resource https://training.ashleyblewer.com/

Jordan Hale: Learning in Public, Enduring Online Toxicity & Being Kind

I wanted to call this episode “Jordan Hale: Badassery In Action” but that doesn’t really explain what they do or who they are except that they are exactly that- a total badass.

I would not be the same person if I didn’t know Jordan. This episode starts off with me laughing and I am so glad that it does because Jordan brings me joy. I cannot imagine anyone meeting Jordan and not being folded into the joyful, strong and brilliant person that they are and continue to be.

We agree and disagree, they teach me so many things. Speaking to Jordan on this podcast and listening to them tell me about their work, I learned so many things that made me fall even more in love with archiving, preservation and the kickass people who make up this community. I’m all starry-eyed for Jordan Hale and not just because we have great cat conversations (although that’s a big plus cuz their cats are like majorly adorable mmkay?).

 

Here is Jordan’s Bio:

Jordan Hale is a landscape geographer and cat friend who is presently the Digital Repositories Librarian at the University of Waterloo. Their dream is to work as a media archivist for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Here are some of the amazing things that they have written, some of which we discussed on the podcast:

Here is the NBD (No Big Deal) campaign that Jordan & I both love!

Here is the Little Free Libraries piece that raised such an uproar. IT’S GREAT. Read it!!

Click on this link for Jordan’s incredible piece on the ethics of archiving sex-worker’s lives.

And I know that many of you will be as interested in Jordan’s thesis as I was so here is access to their work on the memorial highways in Canada.

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/