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ACA 2023 Belonging: An Interview with Madelynn Dickerson and Christine Kim

22 Jun 2023 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

The ACA 2023 Annual Conference is fast approaching! The ACA blog, In the Field, is featuring the profile of a few members who will be presenting at the 2023 conference. Today we are featuring the profile of Madelynn Dickerson, Head of Digital Scholarship Services at the University of California, Irvine and Christine Kim, OAC/Calisphere Service & Outreach Manager at the California Digital Library.

Q: What is the title of your conference presentation? Tell us about it in 1 or 2 sentences.

Madelynn & Christine: Our presentation is called “Aggregation and Curation in Digital Collections: Identifying Inclusive Practices and Partnerships with Community-Based Archives.” We will be sharing information about a research assessment project that we are doing as part of “Community-Centered Archives Practice: Transforming Education, Archives, and Community History” (C-CAP TEACH), a Mellon-funded initiative at the University of California. The assessment project aims to identify and describe best practices for the development of ethical and inclusive digital collections and exhibitions, while understanding barriers that community organizations may face in contributing collections to aggregators.

Q: Can you walk us through your academic and professional path?

Christine: Since starting my archival journey, I’ve been lucky enough to explore the many moving components in the ecosystem of library services. My prior experiences include processing (and digitizing) archival collections and leading student engagement activities at the University of California, Irvine, as well as coordinating community engagement for ArchivesSpace, an open source application used to manage and describe archival collection material. Since 2019, I have been at the California Digital Library supporting the Online Archive of California and Calisphere – two services that provide broad, public access to digital collections contributed by libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage organizations throughout California.

Madelynn: I have an academic background in literature and art history, and transitioned from full time contract teaching to librarianship about ten years ago. My first full time job was as evening circulation supervisor in a small academic library and from there I was pretty ambitious about gaining as much experience as I could across different areas of librarianship while simultaneously enrolled in an online MLIS program. I have been at the University of California, Irvine since 2018, where I started as the Research Librarian for Digital Humanities and History. I have been the Head of Digital Scholarship Services since 2020.

A snapshot of the Calisphere website, the statewide aggregation of digital collections contributed by libraries, archives, and museums throughout California. Calisphere provides free access to unique and historically important artifacts for research, teaching, and curious exploration.

Q: What brought you to the field of archival studies and practice? 

Christine: As an undergraduate, I was a student in both film & media studies and history programs, with my interests intersecting at the representation of historical narratives in the media. So when I started my first internship at an archives, it was as if my interests glass slipper-ed into an actual tangible career path, but now adapted to explore how archival practices – and the visibility of firsthand accounts – influence the historical record.

Madelynn: Archival studies was always something that was interesting to me, and I managed to pursue professional development and projects related to archives early in my career even though it wasn’t always directly related to my job at the time. For example, when I was working the night shift in circulation about 10 years ago, I wrote a CLIR Hidden Collections grant proposal after finding some materials stored in an old chicken coop on campus. The proposal made it to the final stages and ultimately wasn’t funded, but it was a great learning experience. Now as a Head of Digital Scholarship Services, I have formal responsibilities around digital stewardship in many areas, including digital collections.

Q: What does the theme of the ACA 2023 conference, “Belonging: Considering archival bonds and disconnects,” mean to you in terms of overall archival orientations and practice?

Madelynn & Christine: The conference theme speaks to the importance of representation, particularly narratives that are often misrepresented or excluded in the mainstream historical record. Aggregation aims to increase discoverability of historical resources, and web usage analytics demonstrate that digital collection aggregation can amplify the visibility of records; however, whose stories do aggregation service models privilege, and whose stories are absent? How do we ensure aggregated materials maintain appropriate cultural context? Our assessment project and research are centred in identifying strategies to mitigate the disconnect, particularly with a focus on surfacing and shifting change to address the priorities expressed by community-based archives in an effort towards representative and inclusive aggregation and exhibition practices.

Q: Can you tell us about your research approach and perspectives?

Madelynn & Christine: Our assessment project is rooted in identifying pathways to support a representative aggregation of digital collections, surfacing the barriers to participation, and defining actionable strategies to responsibly surface historically excluded narratives. By extension, we are concerned with sustainable and inclusive approaches to digital exhibitions. We are working with a consultant to conduct this assessment and develop a guide for effective and meaningful collaboration with community-centred archives. Our approach involves data analysis of current participation in aggregation services, website analysis of aggregation service scope and policies, environmental scans, and interviews and surveys with community-based archives.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s conference?

Madelynn & Christine: We look forward to learning from colleagues about initiatives they are embarking on to facilitate belonging and inclusion in their archival practices! We are grateful for the opportunity to share a progress update on our research assessments and welcome ideas and feedback.

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