PressForward and #Alt-Academy

Today marked the announcement of two great open access digital humanities projects.  The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media announced its newest initiative, PressForward.  PressForward aims to use open source technology as a means of highlighting work that goes beyond traditional publishing methods.  This initiative aims to promote open access, new methods of dissemination of online scholarship, and the availability to digital publishing platforms. The digital publications PressForward is launching with can be seen here.  An excellent summary of PressForward can be seen on Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Blog. 

Today also marked the announcement of #Alt-Academy, an open access collection of writings on alternative academic careers within the humanities.  The term #alt-academy (often shortened #alt-ac) was coined by Bethany Nowviskie and generally refers to people with academic training who are seeking employment/are employed outside of the tenure track but still within the university realm.  This newly released collection of works can be found on MediaCommons, a site which emphasizes user participation and community development.

Wrapping Up #ACA2011: Day Three

The final day of the ACA conference opened with a plenary session focusing on the idea of Being Archived. The panel featured authors Erika Ritter and Rosemary Sullivan. This presentation provided an interesting look on what is like to be on the other side of the fence – to be the one donating your professional and personal records to an institution. The act of donation experience that many archivists don’t ever get a chance to experience and this presentation provided a look at what goes through the minds of potential donors.

The morning session I attended was entitled Respect and Recognition Continuity and Change in Archives Practice and Aboriginal Documentary Heritage. The panel featured Terry Reilly of the University of Calgary, Sarah Hurford of LAC, Patricia Kennedy of LAC, and Marianne McLean of LAC. Kennedy, Hurford, and McLean all work in different departments of Library and Archives Canada that deal with the acquisition, reference, and development of Aboriginal heritage collections. All three speakers from LAC focused on the need to develop programming which suits the varying needs to Aboriginal communities, researchers, litigation companies, and scholars. In particular, McLean emphasized the growing need to collaboration at every stage of collection development.

Reilly’s presentation focused primarily on her role as the archivist for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC archive is currently in the development phases and Reilly’s work focused on the development of policies and collection mandate’s within the TRC framework. Like the presenters from LAC, Reilly emphasized the need for the TRC to make its work relevant to First Nation, Metis, and Inuit communities – and the ongoing struggle the TRC has with engagement on the local level.

The final #ACA2011 presentation I attended focused on What is a Record in the Digital Environment? The Speakers included Adam Jansen of the University of BC, Jim Suderman from the City of Toronto, and Luciana Duranti of the University of BC. Jensen’s presentation focused on the role of diplomatics (the gensis, forms, and transmission of archival documents) in the digital age. Jensen emphasized the need to archivists to be engaged in the creation of digital content and to understand object oriented programming. Jensen maintained the importance of archivists being digitally literate and being more than merely reactive to digital trends. Jim Suderman’s presentation followed a similar vane to the work of Jansen. Suderman focused on the growing open data trend within Canada and the United States. Like Jense, Suderman suggested that archivists should be involved in the establishment and delivery of the digital platforms used by open data initiatives. This panel concluded with an interesting presentation by Duranti focusing on the Facebook Wall. Duranti used archival theory to deconstruct the digital form that is ‘the wall’ and to explain what the characteristics of a digital record are.

The Intersection of Art and Technology

I was recently reminded of the impact which technology has upon art. Art like many things has been drastically impacted by evolving technologies. Since the impact of technology on art is diverse, to begin with I’m only going to attempt to discuss technology and art history.

The work of Dr Maurizio Seracini is one of the most well known examples of the profound impact technology can have upon art history. For over 25 years Seracini has been using technology to learn more about the works of Da Vinci. Seracini adapted technology from medical and military fields to allow for nondestructive analysis of art. One of the more notable efforts by Seracini is the possible discovery “The Battle of Anghiari” mural by da Vinci. Using radar and tomographic imagery Seracini was able to analyze the hall in which the mural was painted, without damaging any of it’s current contents. The use of technology to examine original architecture and art has immense possibilities, and could allow for scholars to learn a great deal more about supposedly lost architectural and aesthetic features.

Additionally, technology has also been used to assign dates to pieces of art. For example, a relatively new technology has allowed for the dating of early pictographs. This technology uses a type of carbon dating, previously only used on pottery, bones, and other physical artifacts. This carbon dating was previously not possible due to the lack of high levels of organic materials in most pictographs. As technology has advanced more information has been gained about early rock paintings. This is a triumph for anyone interested in early art history, archeology, and the history of many ancient societies.

As technology has increased so has the ease of creating art forgeries. That being said technology has also allowed for the development of technologies which can easily detect forgeries. For example, laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) has been used to examine paints, and materials used in art. This technology has allowed for unique analysis of art, and for a “chemical fingerprint” to be created for original works of art. By knowing the exact chemical the materials used by artists, exposing forgeries has become much easier. Additionally, knowing more about the materials used by artists allows for the expansion of another dimension of art history.

Technology has allowed for art history to become increasingly scientific. Technology can assist in taking a lot of the ‘guess work’ out of art history. By combining science and art, a more in depth history of society and culture can be developed.