The description of the closing plenary from the RBMS 2014 Preconference above is from the preconference website. My notes are below.
Reilly took the most pragmatic approach to the plenary theme of “library/archive as place,” discussing current thinking about environmental control of physical archival material. He began by asserting that environmental stability is not as important as was once thought. Instead, maintaining temperature and relative humidity within a range over time offers demonstrated benefits for collections. Specifically, temperatures between 35 and 55 Fahrenheit are ideal for special collections materials. Maintaining a temperature in this range can slow the deterioration of collections by four times that of room temperature conditions. Combined with relative humidity between 30 and 50%, collection deterioration can be slowed sevenfold. Reilly also noted that this conditions can mask a “host of sins,” including acidic paper and metal fasteners. So, proper environment reduces the urgency around item-level processing.
Reilly also focused on sustainability. Obviously, constant environmental control is generally at odds with lowering one’s carbon footprint. He noted that by using ranges, instead of absolutely values for temperature and RH, it is possible to experiment with turning environmental controls off for periods of time (such as overnight), and allowing spaces to “coast.” This may reduce energy usage over time, increasing sustainability and decreasing costs, even if reducing temperatures to 55 or below initially seems an insurmountable barrier. He cited UK PAS 198 as a standard that incorporates this latest research, and builds in sustainability concerns.
Emily Gore is the Director of Content for DPLA, and she talked about that institution’s role as a virtual place for aggregating local content. She described the content and service hubs model that DPLA uses to feed content from individual institutions, some of which are quite small, into the DPLA architecture. DPLA’s excellent API offers a platform for playing with metadata from a wide variety of sources. But, as Gore noted, there are significant challenges to the DPLA model. For example, there are currently 26,000 different rights statements associated with images in DPLA. Thus, users have no way to browse by simple rights categories such as “public domain” or “orphan work,” etc. She is currently working on a major project to standardize rights categories, which will (hopefully) provide a model for all of us digitizing content in the US.
Mattern gave and extremely well-written and dense talk on the aesthetics of special collections spaces. I will admit that my brain was a bit fried from the fabulous information overload that is RBMS, and I was unable to take any notes that would do this talk justice. Fortunately, you can just go read it (and view the slides) yourself on Mattern’s blog.