Student Matt Carmichael Develops and Shares Digital Curation Strategies

Community Profile

Student Matt Carmichael leads digitization efforts at the History Museum of Hood River County in Oregon, since he was hired in 2011 as the museum’s Photography Collection Manager.

His expertise in digital imaging technologies for community-based archives landed him the opportunity to share his experience at the Oregon Museum Association’s Annual Conference in Ashland, Oregon on October 29, 2012.

“A lot of the museum world is still in an analog-based mentality,” said Carmichael, whose position at the museum was originally funded in part by a $15,000 Google grant to digitize, catalog, and disseminate the museum’s entire collection of continuous tone images, including prints, negatives, and slides.

“Digital curation is a new concept for many museum professionals and is a more inclusive concept than digital archiving and digital preservation. It addresses the whole range of processes applied to digital objects over their lifecycle,” he said. “In my presentation, I explained that more and more community members are looking to their local institutions with questions about what to do with personal archives. My research has found a need for community-based museum professionals to work with the public and teach them the processes involved with managing digital objects throughout their entire life cycle.”

Carmichael’s position at the museum evolved from an internship he began in spring 2010, at the same time he started our school’s MLIS program. “I had been looking for library work or volunteer opportunities in Hood River when I started the MLIS program. The Hood River library had just closed, so I ended up at the museum, and that’s how I got interested in archives,” he said. New to the MLIS program, Carmichael wasn’t eligible to receive credit for the internship; however, the experience has served him well. “I started working with photographs, and then the director asked if I would help manage the transition of moving artifacts in preparation of a building renovation. I needed the experience so I grabbed the opportunity.”

Using knowledge and skills developed through his San José State University School of Information course work, Carmichael designed a digitization policy that included a long-term plan for managing digital content. Then he started digitizing the collection, which included designing an appraisal and selection process. The Google grant that jumpstarted the project was written by Carmichael’s mentor, the mayor of Hood River, Arthur Babitz, whose personal interest in local history and photography led him to design the Historic Hood River Photo Blog. The photo blog has improved access to the museum’s photo collection and generated interest in the History of Columbia River Gorge.

In 2012, Carmichael worked with the Hood River County Historical Museum Coordinator to secure a new grant from the Oregon Heritage Commission to continue the digitization project.   The Oregon Heritage Commission Coordinator Kyle Jansson was impressed with the museum’s digitization efforts and level of professionalism. “The Oregon Heritage Commission wanted to know more about digital curation techniques and how other community-based institutions could start their own digitization projects,” Carmichael said.

Carmichael spoke on this topic during his presentation at the Oregon Museum Association’s Annual Conference and recently submitted an article about the basics of a digitization project for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Departments: Heritage Bulletin. The article will be released in the next few months. He also recently presented his work at a ASIS&T meeting; you can listen to his presentation here (to skip the meeting announcements just fast forward 23 minutes into the recording.)

In addition to his work at the museum, Carmichael works 10 hours a week as a SLIS student assistant for the school’s  Virtual Center for Archives and Records Administration (VCARA), helping Associate Professor Dr. Pat Franks. Carmichael coordinates, plans, and manages VCARA tours, meetings and events. VCARA’s Fourth Annual Conference on “Digital Stewardship and Knowledge Dissemination in the 21st Century” will be held on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Pacific Time). All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Carmichael plans to graduate from San José State University School of Information in spring 2013.

Influential Classes

Vicky McCargar’s INFO 259 Preservation Management, John Horodyski’s INFO 284 Seminar in Archives and Records Management (Digital Asset Management), and Dr. Henry Lowood’s INFO 284, Digital Curation of New Media : “These classes taught me how to do all of this. They planted the seed, and then I took it on myself to do my own research.”

Favorite Blogs

Historic Hood River Photo Blog, Another DAM Blog by Henrik de Gyor; Records Management Future Watch, by Steve Bailey

Professional Associations

Society of American Archivists (SAA) and American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T)