Saturday, September 13, 2008

American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) conference notes

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to present at the AASLH conference in Rochester, NY on a panel with John Ansley (Marist College), Russell Gasero (Reformed Church in America) and Duane Watson (Wilderstein Historic Site). Our topic was "Using Digital Collections to Expand Your Audience" and each of us took a different viewpoint on the topic.

I led off and talked about for digitization programs and how each is using its assets to promote their collections and institutions. My slides are below. I talked about two programs that had placed materials elsewhere on the Internet, then about two programs that had placed materials on their web site in interesting ways.

Russell Gasero talked about creating and using video at the Reformed Church in America to educate people about its history as well as what is in its archives. In the 1980s, the RCA wanted to produce a video about its history, however, a producing a video was going to cost $1000/minute. The RCA did do a 15 minute video, but there was much more that could be said. Russell is using software on his computer to create short videos. He noted that while people are purchasing high-definition TVs, our cell phones are video studios and playback devices. People seem to be okay with the rugged and rustic look from cell phone video. Therefore, we shouldn't be obsessed with having the best quality available.

When creating a video, Russell:
  • Determines the purpose of the video
  • Decides on the audience
  • Works on his storytelling techniques
    • Watch TV commercials in order to learn how to tell a short, succinct story.
    • "Short is cheaper"
    • "Brevity is beautiful"
His work flow is:
  • Gather images/material
  • Create a storyboard. You'll need approx. 10 minutes per minute minimum.
  • Create the narrative and record the audio. Consider who, what, where, when, how and why.
  • Put the images and the audio together.
  • Look for transitions (how you get from one scene to the next) and keep it simple.
  • Export to whatever medium you want.
Russell mentioned the following software -- PowerPoint Pro, Encore, Moviemaker and Audacity.

Duane Watson gave us a brief overview of Wilderstein, which is a historic house. The house is staffed by 200 volunteers and 2 paid staff. There are 10 people who work in the archives. The house has extensive holdings (45 rooms of "stuff"). Duane has worked with the Southeastern NY Library Resources Council to create digital images for Hudson River Valley Heritage. They digitize 108 items with help from an MLS student who was hired (grant funded). The 108 items equates to many more images, since some of the items are newsletters. For example, they digitized the American Field Service Bulletin.

John Ansley talked about the Lowell Thomas Travelogues that have been digitized at Marist College. This project is not yet completed (it will end in 2009). The 1000 cubit feet of materials spans the mid-1800s to the 1980s and include materials in all types of formats. He mentioned using Moviemaker and Audacity, as well as Google Analytics. John sees this digital collection as being a teaser for researchers. It will definitely attract me people to the collection.

After our presentation, I went to the exhibit hall (approx. 60 exhibitors) and visited with Alexander Street Press, Kirtas Technologies, Museum Association of NY, PastPerfect Software, and the Upstate History Alliance.

It was unfortunate that I couldn't stay for the more of the conference due to my crowded schedule. I know it would have been an educational and useful conference for me. Next year's conference will be August 27-30, 2009 in Indianapolis, IN. The call for proposals is already online. A session proposal must be submitted by an AASLH member, however, non-members may be presenters.

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