Digitization and Rocket Science: A Day in the Life of a Metroplex Archivist

Archivist MeetingWhat does one do with the scads of boxes containing the entirety of John F. Kennedy's 1963 Parkland Hospital operating room – right down to the tiles and electrical outlets? Or NASA records so specialized that archivists would, in fact, have to study rocket science to verify if the information is potentially dangerous? How does one determine which North Texas newspapers, family correspondence or archives historians of the future will need? These are the questions 25 Dallas/Fort Worth archivists and curators discussed during the Aug. 8 Metroplex Archivists meeting, hosted by University Historian Sybil Novinski in Gorman Faculty Lounge.

Major Dallas/Fort Worth museums, including the Dallas Museum of Art and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art were represented, as well as most regional universities and colleges. After Novinski welcomed the group and shared UD's history with the archivists, many of whom had never visited UD before, she opened the floor to the visiting experts.

Meg Hacker, director of archival operations at the National Archives in Fort Worth, detailed the federal record repository's struggle to find a resting place for JFK's operating room. (It currently resides in a cavern in Kansas — in boxes — with no current plans for display.) The Archives will also make available the many NASA records in its possession, but only after determine what information suitable for the public.

Tara Carlisle, project development librarian at the University of North Texas, explained the 'free-range digitization" effort known as the Portal to North Texas History. The "Portal" provides online access to collections from Texas libraries, museums and archives, including back issues of The University News, UD's student newspaper.

UD's History and Archives Office, located in the lower level of the Blakley Library, includes the papers of many UD professors and founders, including founding Bishop Thomas Gorman's Vatican Council papers, complete sets of university publications, including newspapers, catalogs and yearbooks, and much, much more. 

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