On leaving (but not leaving) archives

For reasons that are boring to get into, I decided that I needed to leave the Library of Virginia a couple months ago and move into a new position that is not in an archival repository. I loved my time at LVA, and it saddened (and continues to sadden) me that I needed to leave, but such is life sometimes.

But I don’t want to leave the archives community, nor the archival profession overall. I still think that manuscripts, institutional archives, open government, and history are important in a modern society. So that is why I am starting RVA Research, in which I will perform independent research and archival consulting services throughout Central Virginia. This is my way of staying in the community which has shaped my professional career so far, a community which has given me many friends and has allowed me my career so far. So, if you have any research needs in Central Virginia (or know someone who does), I hope you’ll give me a chance to help!

Moving Domains

The summary:

  • If you subscribe using my Feedburner feed, this won’t affect you at all.
  • If you just pop through on Twitter, this won’t affect you at all.
  • If you subscribe to some sort of other feed, subscribe to the Feedburner feed instead.
  • If you have this blog bookmarked, update your bookmarks to http://amongotheritems.org

The details:

I am moving this blog from http://amongotheritems.org to http://amongotheritems.org.  I first registered this domain name in 2006 when I was a junior in college and I wanted to play around with having my own server and my own domain name.  It changed names, changed formats, and changed purposes over the course of time.  I think I used it as three different kinds of wikis, multiple different kinds and topics of blogs, a Drupal instance, and an exercise in writing html by hand.

But recently, I finally decided on a name and a purpose.  This is my place to talk, primarily, about archival matters and is my more or less professional page.  And while I’m happy with the name of the blog, the domain name is a remnant of when this was just a place for me to experiment.  And so, the final (hopefully) change of my ever changing blog will happen.  I like the name of the blog, Among Other Items, and have no plans on changing it; it follows that I should have the domain name match.

The old shadeball.org domain will redirect to the new site for about a year and then I’m just going to let it expire. I think I thought of this possibility when I changed everything over to a Feedburner feed; if you subscribe to that or just come here via Twitter, then you probably won’t notice any differences.  I hope to take care of this tonight and have the new domain up and running by tomorrow.  Then, less talking about the mechanics of running a blog and more talking about issues.  As a teaser, I think I’m going to start doing a roundup of links that are of interest to me and possible to the rest of you.

My First Week in the Real World

I have just started my second full week of work at the Special Collections Research Center at the College of William and Mary.  I am the Public Services Archives Specialist, and so I’ve been (unsurprisingly) doing a lot of things that face the public, in addition to my training.  My primary task, so far, has been to answer all of the email reference questions that come into our general special collections account.  These have primarily been genealogical requests so far, which is different than the kinds of requests I was getting at UNC.  For example, one person specifically mentioned the DAR in her request.

I’ve also been getting my hands into the social media tools used by the SCRC.  We have a Twitter account, a Flickr page, a Youtube page, and I just created our Facebook page.  I’m currently trying to post a today in history from our collections type post every day as well as mentioning all the classes that come in and use the SCRC.

I’ve also been participating in a lot of classes.  Well, participating may be a strong word.  What I’ve been primarily doing so far has been to make sure that the students don’t break anything while the other staff member conducts the class.  But I will have classes of my own to teach in the spring.

Finally, I’ve just started to learn how to accession new materials that we purchase or are donated.  Here at the SCRC, accessioning means that we take the materials, create a basic record for them, and put that record on the web.  For some collections, especially ones that are single items, that might be enough.  Other collections that will eventually need processing go into a spreadsheet to be worked on by undergrads, grad students, or volunteers.

So that’s what I’ve basically been doing so far.  We’re also working on ways to create a better workflow for dealing with reference requests (in the pondering stage) as well as the workflow for how we recruit, prepare for, and execute classes.  I’ll keep you all updated.

Master’s paper update

I’m chugging along on my master’s paper, which is due three weeks from today.  I am finishing up the data collection as we speak, and I want to have a draft finished by next Monday.  What I’ve found so far is that there is a decent amount of archival intelligence material on these websites; however, the information is scattered all across various pages.  Only 3 out of the 14 websites I’ve looked at so far have a dedicated page for user education; for the rest, I’ve had to scour their websites hoping to find information.

We’ll see what the rest of the data collection finds.  Also, sad to say that I never got a reply from the Eloquent Systems people about the email I sent them… oh well.

Browser ennui

I’ve had a problem deciding what web browser I should be using.  I’ve been using Firefox for a long time, but for some reason the current versions on Ubuntu like to freeze a lot, causing me to have to force quit and then start it up again.  Its also kinda slow, both in opening the program itself and in opening new webpages.  I’ve also been using Chromium, which is what Google Chrome is based on; however, its pretty new and not solidly mature yet.  Also, the development version of it has been suffering from some bugs recently.  So now I’m writing this from Opera, which is the third of web browsers that I have been considering.  It seems fine so far, but it isn’t open source, which is kind of not good.  Also, I don’t really like the way it does extensions… I would rather them just be in the browser bar rather than separate applications that hang out on their own.

Any suggestions for which browser I should go with, or new browsers to try?  In the end, it doesn’t really matter; all of them deliver the same thing: the internet.

Under construction

As you may be able to tell, my blog theme now looks very very basic.  Well, for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t have a theme right now.  I’m a compulsive tinkerer, and so I’ve decided that I’m not happy with any of the themes that are currently out there.  So, in order to have some fun, have some more control, and to learn some more, I’m going to create my own theme, based off of the WordPress Default theme.  So, hopefully, this will start to look better as I continue to learn and write more.

(I wanted to have one of those animated .gifs of an under construction sign with a guy digging, but I felt that was a little too 1996.)


Crowdsurfing, to me, is the most selfish thing someone can do at a concert.  You are making a lot of people, who are there to enjoy the music, hold you up while you float on top of a sea of bodies.  You’re ruining the experience of the people who are holding you up.  If I had my druthers, I would probably just let all crowdsurfers fall on their heads.

This comes from Warped Tour, which I went to with Christi, her friend Megan, and Megan’s brother and friends.  I can’t even remember the name of the band we were seeing when this happened, but the singer said, after like the 3rd or 4th song, that he didn’t like crowd surfing.  “Sweet,” I thought. I thought he was gonna tell everyone to stop crowdsurfing and let everyone enjoy the concert.

Oh no.  He told everyone to get their crowdsurfing out on this one song.  He wanted to beat the “record” set by My Chemical Romance of 60 crowdsurfers per minute.  So when the song first started, it was fine.  We were doing okey shoving the people up to the front while still having some semblance of sanity.  However, I was watching for crowdsurfers and pushing them over, and not hearing the song whatsoever.  But near the end of the song there were just too many of them, and two or three of them converged on the little area where me and Christi were.  Christi needed to get out of there, and just as we were trying to get out, another crowdsurfer came over and grabbed my neck while he was surfing, presumably in order to stay up.  I grabbed his hand and threw it back at him; he gave me the “What the hell, dude?” look.

Mosh pits are one thing.  Everyone in the pit should know whats going on, and if you don’t want to be in the pit, you can just move over a little bit.  Even the biggest pits don’t take up that much space.  But crowdsurfing can go anywhere where there are enough people to hold you up; that can be most of the crowd.

Education, the American South, and Strangers with Cameras

[Note: This post was crossposted from my Daily Kos account.  Its similar to an earlier post I did, called Stranger With A Camera, but has a more political bent than the anthropological bent of the first post.]

Recently, there has been a lot of talk of how the Republicans have become a southern, regional party, and a lot of polling done on all sorts of topics, such as where are the Birthers primarily located, who believes that North America and Africa were once part of the same continent, and so on. And the tone underlying some of these posts, whether or not it was intentionally, is one of condescension. When presented with the polling data that shows that white Republicans are the majority of the Birthers, shock and dismissal are the reactions.

Throughout all of this, there hasn’t been any mention of education. Why do you think some many people in the South don’t know that Africa and North America were once part of the same continent, or that Barack Obama was really born in the United States? 7 out of the bottom 10 states for high school graduation rates are in the South. Standing here and gawking at their problems isn’t going to fix any of them; in fact, its probably only going to make them resent us more.

But people from other regions going into the South and telling them we can help them isn’t going to work either. The documentary Stranger With A Camera shows that you have to work with the community rather than try to impose upon it. In the early 1960s, many film crews from television networks and documentary productions came into the South and filmed only the poorest of the poor, leaving out all other aspects of Southern, especially Appalachian, life. The people in Appalachia who saw this going on felt that their communities were being used as propaganda for the War on Poverty and that all of the good aspects of their communities were being lost. People, primarily college students, on the VISTA program came from all over the country to Appalachia and were tasked with trying to help improve these communities, through things like working in schools, helping to develop community centers, and other things.

But people did not like this imposition. They felt that they were being told that they were unable to help themselves, that they needed help from the outside. One man saw a film crew filming on his property and shot and killed one of the, director Hugh O’Connor. One of my bosses was in the VISTA program while she was in college and was assigned to live with a family while trying to develop programming for a community center. While she was there, she was poisoned by the family with which she was staying. Now, this post is of course not condoning their actions. But it is indicative of their feelings that they felt like they had to do this.

All of this to say that we need to stop blanket generalizing any region or any people, but especially the South. What we need to do is to truly understand them and push for better education by working with insiders. Working with community organizations is how we can get this to work. The goals of Appalshop, the people who produced Stranger With A Camera highlight what needs to be done if we are serious about helping people in need.

Our goals are to enlist the power of education, media, theater, music, and other arts:

* to document, disseminate, and revitalize the lasting traditions and contemporary creativity of Appalachia;
* to tell stories the commercial cultural industries don’t tell, challenging stereotypes with Appalachian voices and visions;
* to support communities’ efforts to achieve justice and equity and solve their own problems in their own ways;
* to celebrate cultural diversity as a positive social value; and
* to participate in regional, national, and global dialogue toward these ends.

I-40 craziness in Greensboro

I’m a transit nerd.  I like learning about roads, bridges, highways, trains, neighborhoods, and all sorts of elements of history of cities.  In Greensboro, there is a part of I-40 that is just ridiculous.  I-40, along with I-85, used to go through downtown Greensboro, through a section that they call Death Valley.  They decided to build a road that goes around the city instead of through it, called the Urban Loop, and they routed I-40 and I-85 around the city instead of through it.  They renamed the Death Valley route Business I-40 and Business I-85, and that was supposed to have been that.

Except that the people who lived around the Urban Loop complained about the noise that the two highways brought in.  This is out in the suburbs, so the people there have the money to complain.  After a couple of months, the NC DOT decided to route I-40 back through the Death Valley route, but leave I-85 out on its new route on the Urban Loop.  Now, part of this reasoning was pragmatic: without a real interstate on the Death Valley route, it lost all of its federal upkeep money.

But while the change back was happening, its led to some weird routage.  I first noticed this when I was driving to Virginia, and the I-40 route I took while going west went through Death Valley, and the I-40 route I took east went on the Urban Loop.  I didn’t know the names at the time, I was just really confused that the signs told me to take one route west and one route east.  They’ve been in the process of resigning basically even since I moved to North Carolina, and they’re supposed to be done round about now.  Its just an interesting process, and kinda weird that its taken it almost a year to change all of the signs to reroute I-40 back through downtown Greensboro.

Movie filming in my apartment

Over the weekend my friend Josh Clayton filmed some shots for his movie “The Virgins” in my apartment.  I took some pictures of the filming process.

Filming for "The Virgins"
Here’s Josh and his director of photography, Aravind, setting up for a shot in the living room.

Filming for "The Virgins"
Here’s everyone in my kitchen, talking as the camera and lights are set up.

Filming for "The Virgins"
Here’s the set up in the kitchen for a shot being done in the living room.

All together, it was a very interesting experience to see how the cast and crew interacted. Josh seemed to be very laid back with his cast and crew, and it seemed to work well for that group of people. It took about 4 hours for them to film a couple of minutes worth of the movie. But there were 7 different shots which each required set up time, so it doesn’t seem like it took that long.