Internship with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Image & logo source: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, 2015.

This post details my final report of my Digital Asset Management internship with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, California taken to fulfill the credits for LIS 690 in the University of Hawai‘i, Library and Information Science program during the Spring 2015 semester. This report was submitted electronically in the form of a PDF and in print to Dr. Noriko Asato on Friday, May 1, 2015. The electronic version of my corresponding presentation can be found at https://app.emaze.com/@ALOWOOQQ.

Internship Description

This Digital Asset Management internship with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles offered an opportunity to work with born-digital materials, digital workflows, and databases. Working directly with the Digital Archivist, I ingested, organized, and attributed metadata to digital images, creative design projects, and video files created for and by the Marketing and Creative Services Department of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. This was a great opportunity to learn about digital asset management, metadata creation, taxonomies, and database construction, all of which are valuable skills when working in any digital archive or digital collection.

Objectives

The main objective of this internship was to attach metadata to individual images within the Extensis Digital Asset Management system and to gain experience using a Digital Asset Management system (DAM). Metadata entered is chosen from a pre-approved controlled vocabulary list provided at the start of the internship as well as new controlled vocabulary that was created by me and approved by the Digital Archivist supervising the work.

As the intern, I was responsible for reading all instructions provided, becoming familiar with the DAM system, conducting research, creating new controlled vocabulary based on that research, compiling a bibliography of that research, and adding other descriptive and copyright metadata to each image as assigned (Table 1).

In order to complete my tasks the supervising Digital Archivist assigned a batch of 100 – 400 images to me and provided a detailed set of instructions via email which relate directly to that particular batch. These instructions contain information such as copyright, photographer and controlled vocabulary suggestions. I then would log into the DAM system, create a smart gallery for just the images assigned (ingest and organize) and begin assigning copyright, descriptive and keyword metadata to each records such as expiration date, copyright, credit, rights management, role, photographer, event, exhibit, keywords and cataloger (attribute metadata).

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.30.55 AMThis process involved reviewing the original instructions sent to me by the supervising Digital Archivist to confirm that I was entering in correct information with regard to copyright and photographer, exhibit room, exhibit, expiration and more. Since many of the images had never been analyzed, I was also responsible for researching the object and finding credible related information in order to assign new controlled vocabulary to the objects in that batch. As a result, I compiled a list of controlled vocabulary that I created and added to the DAM after being approved by the supervising Digital Archivist. I also added all research sources to a bibliography that was shared with my supervisor upon her request.

Once the metadata had been entered into the object record, I set the record status as “review,” notified the supervising Digital Archivist via email and allowed her time to review my entries. Once she reviewed my entries, she would send me an email with detailed instructions for changes, updates or requests for clarification. She also approved or rejected any new controlled vocabulary created for the batch. At that point, I reviewed the instructions for corrections, updated the records and corresponded with the supervising Digital Archivist that the changes had been made. After everything was reviewed and satisfactory, my supervisor would then send me a new batch of 100-400 images, and the process would start over.

Table 2: Sample of Controlled Vocabulary created during internship.

Scope of Work

As of April 23, 2015 I have researched, assigned metadata and revised metadata for approximately 600 images and created 82 new controlled vocabulary terms (Table 2) based on my research conducted for digital objects assigned. Overall, I have assigned new and pre-approved controlled vocabulary to 600 digital images and assigned copyright metadata to each.

Reflection

One of the great aspects of completing this internship is the ability to work with such a well-established museum that is respected and recognized around the country for its collections and facilities. I also value the ability to be trained by a professional Digital Archivist who earned an MLISc degree from UCLA, which is one of the top schools in the country for Library and Information Science studies. Her professional experience and perspective has been very helpful in my learning process and is something that I will strive for in my professional career.

I didn’t have any person conflict with the supervising Digital Archivist and in fact she was extremely helpful, replied to all emails in a timely manner and was very organized, encouraging and thorough with her instructions and feedback. The only negative thing that I experienced during this internship was the issue of logging in to the DAM.

Because it required remote access I needed to have a very strong Wi-Fi access point which, needless to say, difficult to find here in Hawaii. Even when I was logged in, I often would be kicked off the system randomly with error messages stating that I was not active even though I had been active for long periods of time entering metadata. Lastly, toward the end of the internship the proprietary system, Extensis needed to be updated for the most recent version of Java. However, this update was taking longer  than expected and kept everyone off the system for about 5 days. In the end, they opened it back up for use without completing the update. However, when I gained access again I was no longer able to enter through the browser Google Chrome or Firefox and had to go through Safari instead.

My goal in looking for a digital asset management internship was to gain experience working with the CMS or DAM system in order to make myself more marketable and skilled for full-time employment and post-graduate paid internships. Working directly with the digital collections enables me to gain practical knowledge of the DAM platform and to build confidence cataloging for a professional organization.

The courses that best prepared me for this internship were:

  • LIS 605: Metadata Creation for Information Organization;
  • LIS 670: Introduction to Information Science & Technology;
  • LIS 652: Introduction to Archival Management; and
  • LIS 653: Seminar in Archival Studies.

Although I took LIS 605 in my first semester, taking it early allowed me to set the foundation for my future studies and experiences understanding and manipulating records in library and archival settings. It was particularly helpful in teaching me the basics of cataloging, understanding all aspects of an object which requires recordation and practical experience cataloging records in Connexion. LIS 670 allowed me to refresh the basic knowledge for information science and technology, coding and to analyze how the information science fields are changing with the use of digital collections and metadata to describe collections.

LIS 652 and LIS 653 prepared me for work in archival collections by understanding archival theory and how records are collected described and preserved. They also provided me with some experience analyzing and critiquing various well-known digital collections, experience using Microsoft Access, refreshing my skills of website design and entering XML for records housed in the University of Hawai‘i, Archives and Manuscripts Department.

My annotated bibliography includes readings that are focused on archival theory, digital asset management systems, metadata, as well as digital initiatives and plans from well-known museum and archival collections. These readings helped me in understanding the development of archives to digital archives, issues that may arise in these types of collections such as the long-term preservation and fragility of digital objects and born-digital collections. These readings have also allowed me to reinforce theoretical knowledge learned in the classroom setting relating to collection management and archival theory.

Prior to entering the LIS program I worked as an executive assistant and legal secretary for approximately fifteen years for civil litigants and in-house counsel in mid-sized firms and large corporations such as Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA and American Apparel, Inc. While in these positions I was in charge of record management which required that I ingest, organize, inventory and prepare for long-term preservation and storage all records relating to clients, subsidiaries, and on-going litigations. During this time there was a shift from paper based record management to paper-less offices. This allowed me a lot of experience with accessioning, deaccessioning, scanning and creating descriptive data for inventories at file, folder and box level.

I have also gained very useful experience and theoretical knowledge by attending the Society of American Archivists, Digital Archives Specialist courses that are offered in partnership with the Association of Hawai‘i Archivists of which I am a student member (Table 3). These classes range from two hours to all day and require that the students take a 10 – 20 question exam after completion of each session. The credits are then applied toward the Digital Archives Specialist certification that accumulates in a comprehensive exam offered in-person at various locations in the contiguous United States.

Philosophy of Librarianship

While attending the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, I have developed a personal philosophy that clearly describes my desires of how I wish to contribute to the information science profession; Informing, connecting and preserving for the future. Much of my involvement in the LIS department has included instruction and guest speaking. For example, as the team captain for the LIS web team, I created and implemented workshops to help teach fellow students HTML, CSS and web design skills. I also was invited to the LIS 610: Foundations of Information Professions, LIS 670: Introduction to Information Science & Technology and American Studies Department course AMST 684: Museums and Collections to teach those skills to specific classes and talk about projects in which I have participated or acted as leader.

Additionally, I believe whether in my personal or professional life, it is important for me to connect with others and connect those people to information in a meaningful way. Therefore, during my time in the LIS program as well as post-graduation, I plan on continuing this part of my interaction with others by not just connecting with other professionals, students and users in a professional and genuine manner but also to strive to remain open to learning from my colleagues and to connect users to information in a way that empowers them to be able to increase their understanding of resources and to take control over their own information and information finding process.

While earning my MLISc I was focused in a polarized way in the sense that I geared my studies and experiences toward technology as well as handling, conservation and preservation of print and primary sources. For this reason, preserving for the future will be a goal and contribution in my future career. This includes preservation of born digital, preserving materials through digitization, and preservation and conservation of primary sources such as rare books, circulation materials and museum object collections.

I have primarily been influenced by the ALA code of ethics specifically sections three, four and five which speak primarily to the users right to protection of privacy and confidentiality, respecting intellectual property rights and treating others with respect, fairness and good faith. Also, the SAA Codes of Conduct and Ethics sections relating to history and memory and recognizing that primary sources help us to gain insight into the past and present human experience and that as an information professional has inspired me to be a part of helping to prolong human and social memory for the future.

Additionally, I am very interested in the ethical preservation and digitization of indigenous materials. While creating my first place winning poster entitled, The Challenges of Preservation and Conservation in Hawai‘i for the 2013 Special Library Association student chapter poster conference I came across interesting literature that relates to the ethical handling, digitization and storage of indigenous records.

One of those articles was by Krisztina Lazlo entitled “Ethnographic Archival Records and Cultural Property” which I found in an issue of Archivaria from 2006. In this paper, she talks about the importance of creating and building trust with the tribal representatives and the community, shifting your own personal concepts of ownership of information and approaching indigenous materials with a standard of care also from a cultural perspective such as assigning metadata with a non-western viewpoint, digital storage and sharing of sacred items, allowing collaboration with researching and understanding the materials within the collection by creating internships for students in those indigenous groups, and repatriating the materials and objects to the originating community if desired.

This changed the way that I thought about collections in that it opened my eyes to the idea that not all information should be exposed to the world, and that although we are taught to process collections a certain way based on information science and archival theory, that there is a myriad of ways to approach a collection depending on the content and context of the materials. Most importantly, the indigenous community should have first-hand exposure and involvement in these collections through internships and volunteer-ships that will also benefit the museum or archive in obtaining expert knowledge of the related objects within the collections.

For these reasons, my personal philosophy to inform, connect and preserve for the future ties in well with the vision statement of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County which strives to stay, “…connected — to each other, to communities, to other species, and to the Earth [and] integrating [its] global research and extensive collections with engaging learning experiences that…provoke curiosity and deepen understanding of our natural and cultural worlds…[to] inspire the widest possible audience to enjoy, value and become stewards of the living Earth.” (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Foundation 2015).

A Message To Future Students

I would absolutely recommend this internship to future LIS students. My main goal in taking this internship was to learn how to use a Digital Asset Management system and a Collection Management System. I personally felt that the cataloging courses and archival seminars, while very instructive and beneficial, did not provide enough experience actually working in an actual system where I could gain experience and confidence working with digital collections and/or cataloging.

I began looking for employment and post-graduation internships during the start of my final semester in the LIS program, and without fail, they all required experience working in a CMS or DAM. While I had gained extensive experience physically processing collections (removing staples, re-housing, implementing preservation and conservation methods) as well as digitizing and reformatting objects and records as a volunteer in local organizations, many of them did not have an actual CMS or DAM, but still were using Excel to inventory records.

The professional values I have been able to demonstrate while in this internship include but are not limited to, assisting with collection development, management and digital library construction, synthesizing and applying skills, concepts and theories learned in outside volunteer-ships and LIS courses with the internship experience so that I am competent for entry-level profession after finishing my degree. Additionally, by interviewing and working directly with the professional staff of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County I have been able to hone my skills in the following areas:

  • Taking initiative by creating new controlled vocabulary, asking questions about records, confirming information and conducting research on objects.
  • Managing and allocating time well and being dependable and prompt with deadlines by scheduling time each week to work on the assigned images,
  • completing the work in a timely manner and logging all my work hours and assignments completed in a work-log created in Google Sheets.
  • Consulting with supervisors for feedback and improvement by emailing the supervising Digital Archivist after completing each batch of assigned images, carefully reading feedback and corrections and implementing the changes requested.
  • Learning and adopting the practices and procedures of the site by carefully reading the instructions provided by the supervisor, learning the DAM system and referring back to all instructions before implementing changes or asking questions.
  • Working effectively with a team and independently by communicating clearly with my supervisor over email and telephonic meetings and attending to my tasks each week in a timely and professional manner with little to no supervision or prompting. I am mindful to follow up with updates, questions and feedback in a prompt and professional manner.
  • Showing respect for users, colleagues and supervisors by corresponding and communicating in a professional manner.