iASSIST Annual Conference 2015

This past week, I attended the 2015 annual conference of the International Association for Social Science Information Services & Technology (IASSIST), hosted by the Minnesota Population Center, the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, and the University of Minnesota Libraries. Data producers, analysts, curators, librarians, and instructional technologists were in attendance, and there were a wide variety of sessions related many aspects of social science data.

During the sessions I attended, I learned of several interesting projects I’d like to share.

Wednesday, June 3rd

First was a session on “Web archiving, audio visual, and image collections.” Marion Wittenberg, from Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) in the Netherlands, which, amongst their large research data collection, holds almost 2000 interviews in audio/visual format, including witnesses’ stories of World War II, interviews with Dutch veterans, and the Oral History Project Indonesia. While you can search and streams some of this a/v data, much of it is requires permission to access, because of the sensitive nature of the interviews.

Also in this session, I learned of the Freedom on the Move project. The programmer on the project, Jeremy Williams, presented on the development of the FOTM database, as well as their creation of crowd-sourcing tools for processing data and creating metadata. This is an important dataset they are building in a disbursed fashion, and it will be interesting to see what researchers and educators can do with it.

Finally in this session, Daniel Tsang at UC-Irvine discussed using web archiving technologies to build library collections of sensitive online materials, particularly those related to the Umbrella Movement during the student protests in Hong Kong. In many countries, government censors and lack of infrastructure can increase the at-risk nature of many materials posted online, whether on Twitter, Tumblr, or other websites. It is important for librarians who collect materials to be paying attention to these materials, for both their cultural value as well as future research potential.

Also on Wednesday was a session titled “The Useful In-Between: Where Data, Arts, and Humanities Meet,” chaired by Kristin Partlo, librarian at Carleton College. This session explored the intersections of the arts and humanities with social science data. Among the case studies, David Pavelich, Head of Research Services in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University, highlighted the amazing amount of data that can be found in rare books and other archival collections, as well as the bond between special collections libraries and data librarians. While we both work in areas that can be scary for some novice users, we also work with these users every day to uncover unexpected and novel uses for our materials.

Another interesting case study in this second session was from Margaret Pezalla-Granlund, who curates exhibit cases at Carleton’s Gould Library. She discussed a collection of artists’ books she had curated centered around the use and display of quantitative information. Again, we see a special bond between Special Collections and data librarianship!


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