Last week I had one crazy eye fixing the annoying bugs and problems that FileMaker Pro was causing, and the other one looking out for more potential issues that I could find a way to avoid. Now that I feel good about the database again, I have resumed digitizing the articles. I have been making great progress with 2011’s media records: January and February are already digitized, and I’m diving into March this morning.
With this project, I’m kind of making things up as I go along, but am really trying to make the best decisions I can. Of course, this is for the sake of the preservation of MNA’s history. But it is just as important to note that thse articles and newspaper commentaries are also the history of the community, of La Paz as a city, and of the development of art in the nation of Bolivia as a whole. Keeping that in mind, (now that I’m finally gaining my bearings and finding my niche in the museum) I’ve decided that I need to set a few important goals for my work here.
1.) Getting a back-up hard drive. The museum has finally agreed to this, and my supervisor Oscar sees that it is important to have a safe copy of this material. That’s been a great step forward….but I still haven’t seen a hard drive, so I need to keep pushing.
2.) Setting a precedent for well-cared for records. The government in Bolivia mandates that Nationally representative organizations need to save any press/media records that reflect their institution. This is why MNA has a collection for me to archive at all (although…they are superglued into a three ring binder book, and not saved to last). It occurred to me this morning, that MNA is most likely more ambitious in it’s effort to digitize these records than most other National institutions. This means, I could be creating one of the first digitally borne efforts to preserve cultural feedback in Bolivia.
In the future, other institutions could look to this archive for advice, for a template, or for suggestions in their own aims to take on a similar project. With that as a possibility, it is important that I fully curate and establish a.) appropriate security provisions, and b.) bilingual research/EAD finding aids for both museum staff and potential researchers looking to use the information held within the archive.
3.) Make sure I am utilizing every resource available to me. Also on the way to work this morning, I had the privilege of meeting a new temporary employee in the U.S. Embassy here in La Paz. He is a civil servant back in D.C. and has been placed here to aid in the environmental department because of his background in the Oceanic and Atmospheric sciences. His work sounded very interesting, and he seemed genuinely interested in my project as well. He did make a comment that it seems like my project is something that might not be very sustainable once I leave. At first I was a little bit taken aback by that, but then I realized….he’s right. I already know what I’m doing here, because I created the database myself, and have been entering the records myself. But nobody else does. There are a lot of problems with my doing this entirely independently.
I would like to create a good-sized body of records before I bring other museum staff into the archival project, but I need to be thinking about the best ways to teach others how to use the database, so that they can efficiently edit, amend, adapt, and modify what I am doing here. In addition to teaching someone else about the data entry process, my decisions regarding its organization and style need to be explained as well. I need to start learning about others staff members’ positions here, and what aspect of this archive might benefit each of them individually. Basically, I need to do some verbal usability testing by asking others what’s missing, what’s confusing, or what’s difficult to use in the database interface. Oscar has sat down with me and gone over the structure of our FMP database, but I haven’t brought others’ perspectives or advice into it yet, and I think doing that could only add to the practicality it would offer the museum once I leave.
I’ve created tabular, print mode, and record entry layouts within the software, to make it easier to streamline data reading depending on what the person operating the database aims to do. What I didn’t do (probably because of my frustration last week) was link it to external technologies. I knew when I created this that the likelihood of someone eventually requesting a copy of some article (or other information) from the archive was probably pretty high. I also knew, that the likelihood of them having a compatible version of FMP at their fingertips was extremely low. The museum here is wonderful, but the people who will be handling and taking this archive off of my hands, are not as tech saavy (it’s actually weird to even call myself that, but in comparison, it’s true). I need to begin setting up a way for them to send/receive files across different computers, systems, and softwares, and to exchange data with other institutions. For example, we just had an exhibit (that I talked about in an earlier post) that featured Canadian Inuit artists. Wouldn’t it be a nice international gesture to send their art museums or national institutions copies of the articles that discussed this exhibit? I really think so! I would love for MNA to be a pioneering institution in sharing this kind of data with its exhibit partners :)
This shouldn’t even be that difficult; something as simple as Microsoft Excel could do the trick. I plan to investigate the types of software I have available to me this week, using both Embassy and MNA resources.
This is important to me, because I would like to leave here knowing that I’ve done the best I could with the resources I had available to me. That’s all for today, now I’ll go and attempt to be ambitious :-P