First-Timers to the ARLIS/NA Conference, Arts du Monde, in New Orleans

  • Posted on Apr 04, 2017 by

Megan De Armond, Assistant Digital and Metadata Librarian/NYARC Web Archiving Technician, and Coral Salomón, NYARC Web Archiving Fellow, currently work at The Frick Art Reference Library. Below, they discuss their first time attending an Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) Conference and what they learned from the experience.


We had the opportunity to attend the 45th Annual ARLIS/NA Conference from February 5-9 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Both of us work for NYARC at The Frick Art Reference Library where we collect, capture, describe, and archive web content of resources for the study of art. We were eager to attend the ARLIS/NA Conference, "Arts du Monde," to learn more about developments in web archiving and to discover different initiatives occurring in institutions across North America.

Web Archiving and the Arts

Web Archive by Iconathon, from The Noun Project

Web Archive by Iconathon, from The Noun Project

It was very exciting to hear about all the developments occurring in the web archiving world, especially in regards to visual content. Individuals from partner organizations like The Internet Archive and OCLC made an appearance to discuss how art libraries are pushing the boundaries and helping develop capture and access tools, as well as formulate best practices for archived websites.

Coral - Web archiving had a strong presence at the 2017 ARLIS/NA Conference. I had the pleasure of attending the Web Archiving Special Interest Group meeting, hosted by NYARC’s Sumitra Duncan and The Internet Archive’s Karl-Rainer Blumenthal. During the meeting  members discussed challenges, successes, and developments in web archiving.

The Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute Library presented on the workflow established to capture online content for the 2017 Venice Biennale. The institution is using the Internet Archive’s Archive-It software and Rhizome's Webrecorder to effectively archive this collection, which includes sanctioned material such as the biennial’s official website, blogs, and participant's social media accounts. The speaker discussed that while Archive-It has proven to be more efficient at archiving large websites, Webrecorder is useful for capturing social media apps (like Instagram), screensavers, and other small yet very visual online content. Webrecorder is still in its beta stage, but hopefully we will see more innovative uses of these complementing tools to create sustainable web collections.  

Among the good news that resulted from the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute Library’s efforts is that the Internet Archive is improving its crawling capabilities based on the library’s experience harvesting the biennial’s online content. Furthermore, the cooperative efforts between libraries, traditional archives and the Internet Archive has helped it focus on the importance of provenance. The organization is working on improving its interface, so that users that retrieve archived content can easily access information about the institution that archived the material and the collection.

Meanwhile, throughout the conference, the Frick Art Reference Library's Deborah Kempe did an excellent job presenting the efforts made by OCLC’s web archiving working group, as well as explaining the importance of archiving born-digital art resources. As art libraries and other organizations begin to take on web archiving, establishing workflows and best practices becomes more imperative. OCLC recently brought together individuals from different institutions to evaluate existing and emerging approaches for metadata creation of archived websites and to recommend best practices that meet user needs, ensuring discoverability and consistency. Deborah explained that the Web Archiving Metadata Working Group engaged in a comprehensive literature review and prepared two reports. The first report focuses on user needs and behaviors specific to archived web content. The second, which has yet to be released, outlines existing and recommended practices for metadata. In anticipation of the second report’s release, the group has shared information on core components of data profiles and tool evaluations.

Karl-Rainer Blumenthal presenting with Sumitra Duncan on Getting Started with Web Archiving at ARLIS/NA 45th Annual Conference, February 6th, 2017
Karl-Rainer Blumenthal presenting with Sumitra Duncan on Getting Started with Web Archiving at ARLIS/NA 45th Annual Conference, February 6th, 2017

Megan - Although I am familiar with web archiving, I attended the workshop Getting Started with Web Archiving presented by Sumitra Duncan and Karl-Rainer Blumenthal to get an outside perspective on what other institutions and individuals might be interested in learning or concerned about. Sumitra and Karl offered a lot of practical advice and suggestions. They gave an overview of Web Archiving Tools and Services such as Archive-It, Save Page Now, Social Feed Manager, WAIL, Webrecorder, and youtube-dl. Additionally they had worksheets with questions that could help an individual or institution assess what services and resources would be appropriate for their particular situation and purpose, questions to help attendees assess collection scope, and a decision-tree worksheet to help assess best approach to web archiving. All this material would definitely assist in setting up and/or improving a current web archiving program. A budget sheet was also provided to give attendees an idea of what a program could cost with various staffing and subscriptions included that one could decide on value and importance based on cost.

I also attended Debbie Kempe’s session entitled Expanding Web Archives for the Arts. It was exciting to see so many people engaged in the discussion and also to have Karl-Rainer Blumenthal there to offer a vendor perspective and to share a little about the Internet Archive’s current efforts and advances with Web Archiving. There was discussion of expanding web archiving of art gallery websites. Currently NYARC includes NYC galleries in their collection scope and sees the value of archiving beyond this area, but would need partners to come in to help with administration, scope, and quality assurance of sites. There was discussion of partnerships and different ways of approaching a partnership as well as possible ways of getting funding to happen.

“230.5° Arc by 5” by Bernar Venet, located at Lafayette Park, New Orleans, LA

“230.5° Arc by 5” by Bernar Venet, located at Lafayette Park, New Orleans

Other Initiatives in Art Libraries

Coral - One of my favorite panels was Critical Information Literacy in Art and Design Libraries. The session stressed that visual literacy is information literacy. Sian Evans and Jennifer Ferretti, two librarians from the Decker Library of Maryland Institute College of Arts, presented on their new critical pedagogy program focused on engaged instruction and topical library guides. Among the libguides discussed were their Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” guide and “Understanding Civic Unrest in Baltimore, 1968-2015.” Jennifer Ferretti explained how she used Beyoncé’s visual album to introduce students to the concepts of attribution and how to research artistic work. She discussed how students studied similarities between Pipilotti Rist’s “Ever is Over All” and images in the video “Hold Up” to further understand the importance of references.

The duo presented practical tips on how to create engaging library instruction sessions geared towards art and design students using current events, popular culture and instruction formats undergraduates were familiar with like “mind maps,” One of their best pieces of advice, that applies to anything in life, was to be yourself. Don’t take on “hip” topics if you’re not interested in them. Part of engaging users is to be engaged yourself.

“Ever is Over All” by Pipilotti Rist from Giphy

“Hold Up” by Beyoncé from Giphy

Megan - One of the most exciting sessions I attended was Making Collections Accessible: Legal Tools for the 21st Century, moderated by Debbie Kempe with speakers Greg Cram, Associate Director, Copyright and Information Policy, New York Public Library; Kenneth Crews, Attorney with Gibson, Hoffman, Pancione; and Elizabeth Townsend-Gard, Jill H. and Avram A. Glazer Professor in Social Entrepreneurship and Associate Professor of Law, Co-Director of Tulane Center for IP Law and Culture. Each speaker presented on their perspective on intellectual property rights. Kenneth Crews pointed out that nothing in the statute addresses digitization and that the lack of answers, give us answers. In regard to fair use, he emphasized the importance of percentage: how much of the original is used and how is it being used. He proposed questioning whether something is scholarly derivative or scholarly transformative. He also shared that there has been a shift in responsibilities to the rights holder versus the courts and suggested that engaging in Creative Commons licensing makes works more valuable.

Greg Cram spoke about NYPL’s collection of 12,000+ images from the World’s Fair “World of Tomorrow” from 1930-40. He said that NYPL focuses on risk calculation. Cram noted that by making these images available online, NYPL could be at risk of $1.8 billion in damages. Since none of the works had authorship, he deemed it was worth the risk. NYPL created an app and online exhibition, Biblion, to showcase the images.

Elizabeth Townsend-Gard presented a new tool that she co-created, Durationator. My work as an Assistant Digital and Metadata Librarian has given me an opportunity to do some testing with this tool. The Durationator developers are working very hard to have it be as functional as useful as possible for libraries and archives. The tool offers legal information about what a library or an archive can do with a digitized item whether an image, a book, a letter, or another material type. The tool gives an interpretation of the statute so that users can then decide the best way to make it accessible. Unfortunately, I missed the second hour of this session where there was continued discussion of Durationator and the needs of libraries and archives with regard to copyright and fair use.

Poster Session

View of Poster Session Area at Hilton New Orleans Riverside

View of Poster Session Area at Hilton New Orleans Riverside

Megan - There were 37 posters that were part of this session, so many to recount; I am hoping they will be made available on the ARLIS/NA Learning Portal at some point in the future (along with the recorded sessions from the conference). Abstracts of posters can be found here. I co-presented a poster with a colleague from graduate school, Abigail Purcell, entitled Artists’ Books Holdings. Our project was an attempt to look at artists’ books holdings on an international scale using programming with information visualizations to show our results. We were both taking Programming for Cultural Heritage (PFCH) with Visiting Assistant Professor, Matthew Miller and Art Librarianship with Visiting Associate Professor, Ken Soehner, who is also Chief Librarian of the Thomas J. Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We wanted to combine our new found interests in artists’ books and programming with our project. You can read more and check out our code on our Github page. It is still a work in progress, one that either of us would be happy to share more about if interested.

Abigail Purcell and Megan De Armond with our poster on Artists’ Books Holdings, Hilton, New Orleans Riverside

Abigail Purcell and Megan De Armond with our poster on Artists’ Books Holdings, Hilton, New Orleans Riverside

Take Away

It is an exciting time to be an art librarian. It was inspiring to see the multidisciplinary approaches being enacted by art librarians across the country. We were heartened to see what a strong presence web archiving had at the conference and to know that NYARC is at the forefront of capturing and preserving our born-digital cultural patrimony.

T-shirt worn by employee at Cafe Beignet,

T-shirt worn by employee at Cafe Beignet

Coral and Megan want to thank the Frick Art Reference Library and Pratt Institute for the support in their attendance to this year’s conference.

Megan De Armond, Assistant Digital and Metadata Librarian/NYARC Web Archiving Technician, Frick Art Reference Library, The Frick Collection

Coral Salomón, NYARC Web Archiving Fellow, Frick Art Reference Library, The Frick Collection; Pratt Institute Graduate Student

View of the Mississippi River near the conference hotel, HIlton New Orleans Riverside

View of the Mississippi River near the conference hotel, HIlton New Orleans Riverside



Banner image: A View of the skyline of New Orleans as seen from the French Quarter Area, by Gonk, April 2007. Image from Wikimedia Commons

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