Monumental Archives

In every aspect of our lives, we must curate our own collections. If two glasses break and you only had 4 to begin with, you have to decide if you are going to keep those to glasses and just get two new ones or if you’ll donate those two and just get a brand new set of four. This, effectively, means that if you choose the second option then there may be no proof that the first set of glasses were ever in your possession. The same is true of information, what we choose to archive and choose not to archive can irreversible change the way materials are viewed. Our class reading on post-custodial archiving mentions that the in the process of archiving materials that often not only are these materials taken from their communities but during this process materials may be curated in such a way as to silence or erase certain aspects of a people or history. Which has led me to thinking about the current conversation regarding confederate statues.

The conversation around there monuments are very tense and tend towards people being very much on one side or the other. So, with that in mind I am going to approach this from a curating a collection stand point as we consider it. According to one article, a vast number of these statues were only erected 50-70 years after the Civil War and the article claims many of these statues were erected to “glorify what became known as the “Lost Cause”” ( Gilbert, 38). From the there this article mentions that what should happen to this monuments is something that each community will have to decide for itself and while doing so these communities should consider if these monuments were made as a memorial to the war or if they were made as more of a political statement during the Civil Rights movement (Gilbert, 39). And, this is not to say that things like happen only with older monuments.

This situation also brings to mind, for me, the recent clash when a memorial was raised in California regarding the “comfort women” of World War II. This statue depicts three young girls holding hands on a pedestal and a well-known activist looking up at them and it meant to commemorate the women that were detained and raped during World War II (Hauser, 1). This statue now stands in San Francisco, where it is said it will remain, but it was met with harsh criticism from Japan’s Hirofumi Yoshimura, who even went so far as to cut the sister-city ties Osaka shared with San Francisco (Hauser, 1).  Yoshimura claims that it is an unfair representation as many of the women known as comfort women volunteered for that position, while the advocates of the statue maintain that the women were not there voluntarily and the statue is to remind us of the victims (Hauser, 1). Now, I do not know enough about this situation to make any great statements about who is right but, what I can say is if information had been curated differently, better, in more detail, or just in some other way perhaps these vastly different viewpoints of a point in history would not be quite so different.

The point I am trying to make in all this is as we begin curating collections, choosing what will stay and what will go, we need to think as wide and as worldly as possible.  Sadly, even in this digital age there is no way we can comprehensively store everything, especially in an accessible way. But, as the aged monuments and the newer memorial shows the importance of  having an as comprehensive history as possible is critical to understanding both the past and out modern world.

Works Cited

Alpert-Abrems, Hanna. “Post-custodial Archiving for Our Collective Good.”25 October 2018. https://www.clir.org/2018/10/post-custodial-archiving/

Hauser, Christine. “It is Not Coming Down: San Francisco Defends “Comfort Women” Statue as Japan Protest.” New York Times. 4 October 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/us/osaka-sf-comfort-women-statue.html

 

Kozlowski, James C. “Standing to Challenge Removal of Confederate Park Monuments.” Parks & Recreation, vol. 53, no. 5, May 2018, pp. 34–39. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=129489386&site=ehost-live.

 

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Accessibility and User Interfaces

DOS, or the Disk operating system, which consisted of hideous green text on a black background was one of the original interfaces of computers and is almost completely unusable for the current generations. Recently, due to a program at my library I had the opportunity to witness a dozen teens try to figure out how to utilize the DOS system in order to play a video game. The results were enlightening for a couple different reasons. First, a little background on how this happened.

My library has a Raspberry Pi which has been made into a  DOS emulator and has had games which will only work on a DOS system installed as well, which I thought would be fun to show the teens. But, I had not considered the tech shock they ended up suffering. It quickly became a case of teens versus the old interface. After attempting to use the mouse to no avail, they started tapping on the screen, which ultimately failed, and next they attempted voice commands. All of these endeavors may have been successful on modern user interfaces, but DOS was immune to their attempts. Eventually, they accepted my help, we typed in the long strings of words needed to launch the game, and they happily played. Mostly, I bring this up to illustrate how interfaces have changed, how users today expect very different behaviors from interfaces and also to open up conversation about how accessibility has changed.

User interface design is a key factor in how well a library and its resources are utilized. In our modern world of instant gratification and immediate responses, users expect this behavior from everything. Watching these teens struggle with the antiquated DOS really brought home how important fitting into this current scheme is. While undoubtedly, there are still millions of people who could adjust to an older user interface and go back to typing commands, I think there are very few people who want to, given how much easier, and more accessible current interfaces are.

Accessibility to the internet is unfortunately not a guaranteed thing, as we learned from Fulton’s article however, I felt it was important to start with the story above because of how it showcases how technology has become more accessible overall.  Touch screen, using voice commands, both of these interfaces are common today and they help people with different disabilities be able to access technology. But, it is important to note that while technology interfaces have come a long way, the same can not be said of the internet interfaces.

According to a study done in 2016 regarding accessibility and the internet, when websites specifically for various disabilities were studied, some fairly major issues were found.Overall, this study focused on 19 web pages which were designed with the intent of assisting disabled people (Waight and Warren, 122). Often, they websites were not particularly easy to find in that they had to be searched for specifically by name and they didn’t always come up in the first page of results in these cases as well (Waight and Warren, 124). While some of the pages features audio or video and audio aspects, the length of the clips varied between 15 seconds and 334 seconds, which researchers noted could be an issue as people have trouble remembering audio material which is longer than 30 seconds (Waight and Warren, 127).  Additionally, the number and size of navigation of buttons varied and that the top menus did not even stay static between the sub-pages of the websites (Waight and Warren, 128).

Consider, that everything listed above are issues on websites which are meant to make at least some part of the internet more accessible to people with disabilities. This study did not include the thousands of mainstream web pages, for example think of any restaurant and I am sure they have some type of a website up, which do not seek to make their web pages more accessible. By considering small changes, like making the top menu static or by integrating a text reader, in web pages we can help make the internet more accessible to all types of people.Whether or not the changes to technology interfaces were done with the intention of creating more access, it is undeniable that modern interfaces allow more access than the old DOS system. If we can bring this trend of making things more accommodating into the world of the internet and web pages, I think it is the next big step in accessibility. 

Waight, Mary, and Warren Oldreive. “Accessible Websites – What Is out There?” British Journal of Learning Disabilities, vol. 44, no. 2, June 2016, pp. 122–129. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/bld.12119. (maybe?)

The Dangers of Digitization

Unintentionally, prominently displayed in my living room is my rather vast collection of VHS tapes. From disney movies to weird obscure movies that have never made it to DVD, these things take up an entire bookshelf. When new people come into my house they always comment on the fact that I have these VHS tapes and yet, seem more shocked to find out that I still have a working VCR in my house. Somehow, to these visitors it is more strange that I have a way to watch this horde of VHS tapes then the fact that I have such a horde to begin with.

In addition to these VHS tapes I also have certain materials in duplicate on DVD now. Primarily, these cross format twins are the aforementioned Disney movies but there are others I have purchased in the “current” DVD media format , I am using quotes here because Blu-ray and completely digital formats are perhaps the more current format. But, I bring this up because there is a matter that really bothers me with the digitization of particularly movies. Before I proceed I will mention that I am completely in favor of transitioning materials into the most current and modern format, in order to preserve the materials. However, I am not in favor of altering the original product during the transformation process.

Just focusing on two instances of this which exist in my personal collection there are some major changes and additions which have been made to these materials. I have a a 1997 VHS copy of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and a 2008 DVD copy of the same movie. Between these two formats an entire scene has been heavily altered, the scene where Maleficent transforms into a dragon and breathes fire-all the fire in my 2008 version is heavily and obviously computer generated.

My second example of this is the movie E.T., in an attempt not to spoil anything I will just say at one point there are police officers and they have guns in their hands in the original VHS release.However, when it was released onto DVD for the first time that scene had been edited and the guns were replaced with walkie talkies (Fisher, 1).  This decision was made by the original creator, where as in the case of Sleeping Beauty it was not. Additionally, do to the upset caused by the change when the movie was released again on Blu-ray the edit was removed (Fisher, 1).

 

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Image result for gun scene from et 1982
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This may seem silly, especially when the cases I am pointing out are just alterations of fictional movies, but the base of the matter is the same. People are altering or correcting content as it is moved to a new format. If that were to happen continually, eventually the original content would cease to exist and a pseudo product would be in its place.

 

In 2003 a photograph was printed in a newspaper which showed a British soldier under hostile fire who was seemingly directing an Iraqi man to safety(Farid, 1). This photograph was fake and was rather quickly proved to be a combination of two different pictures to create this “award winning” picture, as it is described in the article (Farid, 1). While this is altering original content to create something else, admittedly it is not changing formats but, it shows how the digital world can jeopardize materials.

 

However, I feel it important to point out that this is a very grey area. Sometimes, the alteration of materials is in fact restorative and does not degrade the original product. But, the question is at what point do alterations cross the line from restorative to truly altering the material. As digital materials become more and more common, this is the question and task those facilitating the digitization are faced with.

 

Works Cited

 

Farid, Hany. “A Picture Tells a Thousand Lies.” New Scientist, vol. 179, no. 2411, Sept. 2003, pp. 38–41. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=10837386&site=ehost-live.
Fisher, Russ. Steven Spielberg Regrets Altering ‘E.T.;’ Will Release ‘E.T.’ and ‘Raiders’ on Blu-ray in Original Forms, 14 Sept. 2011, http://www.slashfilm.com/steven-spielberg-regrets-altering-et-raiders-hit-bluray-original-forms/. Accessed 20 Sept. 2018.