Great news: now there's a digital archive to access the historically important "Freedom Summer", a seminal moment in the US civil rights movement. The Wisconsin Historical Society has just released the 1964 Freedom Summer Project. Not only are there 25,000 manuscripts and key documents, but there are finding aids to help users access the information and instructional materials for teachers.
We've just released an online collection of 25,000 manuscripts related to the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer project. It's free and open to anyone for non-profit educational purposes at
Besides thousands of archival documents from COFO, CORE and SNCC and papers from dozens of individual activists, the site includes a downloadable Powerpoint about Freedom Summer and a PDF Sourcebook of key documents for teachers.
I'd be grateful if you'd forward this note to colleagues and educators who might be interested. As the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer approaches, we want teachers, students, historians, librarians, museum curators, the media, and anyone else to use these primary sources in their 50th anniversary programming.
We'll be adding a few thousand more pages this year, so please "like" us on Facebook and follow along:
Wisconsin Historical Society
Our friends Gary Price and Shirl Kennedy over at Full Text Reports have a handy reminder today:
...some of the papers and reports posted on FullTextReports.com are freely available online for just a limited time before they disappear behind a paywall (or go away entirely). If you see something you suspect might be useful to you (or a colleague) in the future, download it the day you see it because it may not be accessible later without a subscription (or it may have been moved or taken offline).
-- Note to FullTextReports followers — Grab It When You See It!, Full Text Reports (April 17, 2013).
Just another reason to remember that libraries should be collecting, not pointing. (See: When we depend on pointing instead of collecting.)
(By the way, in case you hadn't noticed: the left hand navigation pane here at FGI has a feed of the latest reports listed at Full Text Reports!)
There's a new digital archive in town, from the Wilson Center's Cold War International History Project and its new Digital Archive of declassified official documents called www.digitalarchive.org.
Digital collections include: the Berlin Wall, Chinese nuclear history, Cuban foreign relations, Geneva Conference of 1954, Mitrokhin archive, and much more.
From the Wilson Center Web Site:
The Wilson Center [recently] launched a new Digital Archive of declassified official documents from nearly 100 different archives in dozens of different countries that provide fresh, unprecedented insights into the history of international relations and diplomacy.
The new website – www.digitalarchive.org – features uniquely powerful new search tools, an intuitive user-interface, and new educational resources such as timelines, analysis from leading experts, and biographies of significant historical figures. The Digital Archive will continually expand with new documents, translations, and analysis as they become available.
The new Digital Archive has been designed from the ground-up to make these historical document collections available to the broadest possible audience, from high school students through world-renowned scholars. Thousands of official documents from dozens of governments are now accessible through intuitive searching with filters such as location, date, subject, or language. Users can also browse topics by exploring themes or collections like the Database on Inter-Korea Relations and popular subjects such as the Warsaw Pact or the Cuban Missile Crisis.
We've mentioned the Library of Congress's Viewshare, a free and open tool for creating interfaces for digital cultural heritage collections, here before. Here is an interview with Jennifer Brancato digital archivist at East Texas Research Center, Stephen F. Austin State University, about her use of Viewshare to create a fascinating view of a set of digitized funeral records.
- Better Know a Viewshare: Exploring Texas Funeral Records, by Trevor Owens, The Signal Library of Congress Digital Preservation blog, (April 18th, 2012).
I love Viewshare! It is free and easy to use. No programming skills are required and there is no need to involve your IT staff. I think this tool is something any institution -- small, large, museum, library, archive -- could easily and quickly put into action. Viewshare made it possible to accomplish our goal of presenting our digital collections in a more dynamic and visual way.
In an excellent article in the current issue of Library Hi Tech, Eric Morgan, the Digital Projects Librarian at the Hesburgh Libraries at the of the University of Notre Dame, provides examples of building services based on digital collections. As he says:
In our mind, the combination of digital humanities computing techniques - like all the services against texts outlined above - and the practices of librarianship would be a marriage made in heaven. By supplementing library collections with full text materials and then enhancing its systems to facilitate text mining and natural language processing, libraries can not only make it easier for readers to find data and information, but it can also make that data and information easier to use and understand.
- Use and understand: the inclusion of services against texts in library catalogs and "discovery systems." by Eric Lease Morgan, Library Hi Tech, Vol. 30 Iss: 1, (2012) pp.35 - 59. [subscription required]
It goes without saying that no library can develop such innovative services without actually acquiring copies of the digital information and building its own digital collection. Pointing to resources that are controlled by others limits the services that libraries can provide.
Those of us of a certain age remember the debates in libraries over "access vs. ownership." We don't see those terms used as much any more, but the issue remains with us as libraries increasingly opt for a service-only, libraries-without-collections model in which they license access to information rather than acquire information that they can carefully select, organize, preserve, and for which they provide not just access, but access and services customized to their user-communities.
The distinction between having "access" to information -- where the access (and fees) are controlled by others -- and owning information has mostly been too subtle for the popular press. You can see this as the popular press regularly refers to Google as a "Library" and now refers to Amazon's new e-book loaning feature as a "lending library." This loose use of the term "library" diminishes its association with free-access libraries that are run by and accountable to their communities and replaces it with an association with fee-based commercial services accountable only to stockholders or company owners.
So I found it very interesting to see not one but two recent articles in the consumer press that make a clear distinction between access and ownership and make at least a tentative argument in favor of ownership even for individual consumers.
- Why Amazon lending worries me, By JP Mangalindan, CNN Money (November 4, 2011).
For users, there's a drawback that isn't nearly as obvious yet, largely because it's still early days. By subscribing to one of these services, they're relinquishing ownership over the content they consume.... It's renting versus owning in its most basic form. In one scenario, that money is going towards something that's yours. In the other, you're paying for temporary use of a good, service or property.
- What happens to ownership as the world goes digital?, By Mathew Ingram, GigaOm (Nov 4, 2011).
[T]here's also the way that renting changes our legal relationship to the content we are consuming. Amazon has shown the downsides of this in the past by actually deleting copies of e-books from people's Kindles remotely after a complaint by the rightsholder -- and those were copies that people had actually bought, not rented. One of the reasons I argued that a "Netflix for books" made sense was that it would at least make it clear to people that they didn't actually own the books they were buying, but only a short-term license to use them.
That kind of behavior could become more common as we move to a streaming, rental-style model for all content. Netflix has run into trouble by changing the terms of its service in order to promote streaming at the expense of physical DVD rental -- but what is to stop it or Amazon from altering the terms of the contract that allows you access to the content that you listen to or watch or read? Amazon was quite happy to remove access to documents that were hosted on its platform by WikiLeaks, even though the organization had not been charged with nor convicted of any crime. What if companies decide you no longer have the right to watch certain TV shows or read certain books?
Maybe if the consumer press continues this trend and continues to point to the distinction between access and ownership, the idea will migrate to libraries and we'll begin to see more libraries fighting to control information for their communities. That would be a welcome turn of events. We'd be able to get back to valuing services and collections.
Viewshare is a free platform for generating and customizing views, (interactive maps, timelines, facets, tag clouds) that allow users to experience your digital collections.
Viewshare is available to individuals associated with cultural heritage organizations including, but not limited to, individuals associated with libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, colleges and universities.
- Get an account.
- Import your collection. (Ingest collections from spreadsheets or MODS records. Upload from your desktop or import them from a URL. )
- Generate views (distinct interactive visual interfaces to your digital collections, including maps and timelines, and sophisticated faceted navigation).
- Embed and share. (Just copy-paste to embed your interface in any webpage. Provide your users with novel and intuitive ways to explore your content.)
- Announcement: "ViewShare.org: Create and Share Interfaces to Our Digital Cultural Heritage," by Trevor Owens, Digital Archivist with the Office of Strategic Initiatives, Library of Congress, Digital Preservation Blog, "The Signal" (October 31st, 2011)
- Terms of Service
This isn't new information, but I don't think we've mentioned it here before. UNT, one of the participants in the End-of-Term Web Archive project (EOT), which aimed to capture the entirety of the federal government's public Web presence before and after the 2009 change in presidential administrations, is hosting a project to investigate innovative solutions to issues around web archives. The issues include being able to to identify and select materials in accord with collection development policies and being able to characterize archived materials using common metrics in order to communicate the scope and value of these materials to administrators.
The project will use 10 librarian Subject Matter Experts who will classify the EOT collection according to the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) Classification System. The project will also develop a set of metrics to enable characterization of materials in Web archives in units of measurement familiar to libraries and their administrations.
- Classification of the End-of-Term Archive: Extending Collection Development to Web Archives, University of North Texas Libraries (21 April 2011).
- End-of-Term Web Archive
Wielding Wikipedia, by Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed. (April 5, 2011).
With its magnetic pull on students who might have otherwise burrowed into the stacks, Wikipedia might seem like a library's natural enemy. But to librarians at the University of Houston the popular online encyclopedia has become a valuable ally, helping to draw more eyes to their digital collections than ever before.
At the annual meeting of the Association of College and Research Libraries here on Friday, the Houston librarians explained how they had recently enlisted a student, Danielle Elder, to evangelize the content of their Digital Library on Wikipedia, the eighth most popular website in the world, to see if it would improve exposure for their artifacts. Wikipedia quickly became the No. 1 driver of web traffic to Houston's online collections, surpassing both Google and the university's home page.
[Update 2/18/11: The editor at the Center for Journalism Ethics has kindly agreed to reprint our response to Bill Sleeman on their site. The piece was slightly edited from the original. We greatly appreciate their efforts in providing wide ranging context to this critical issue.]
I'd like to add some context to Sleeman's op-ed because I think he conflates and ignores several issues surrounding Wikileaks the organization and the leaked US State Department cables themselves. Unfortunately, I can not submit a comment on the Center for Journalism Ethics site where he published his op-ed, but I post it here in the interest of open discussion.
Sleeman ignores the information and focuses instead on WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and the actions of members of the American Library Association -- Al Kagan's American Libraries Magazine article as well as Larry Roman's comment/response offer a good review of the ALA Midwinter conference WikiLeaks dustup. Sleeman repeatedly suggests that we have only one choice: "embrace" WikiLeaks or reject it. This is a false choice and misdirection. In doing this, Sleeman has adopted the strategy being used by those who wish to suppress the information by distracting us from it and focusing instead on the messenger.
Libraries should be focused on how to address the information needs of their users. Different libraries will have different answers to that question, which is as it should be.
1) Sleeman casts his piece as a minority opinion. However, if the preliminary data on my WikiLeaks survey hold true (and I hope those that haven't done so will take the survey ;-)), then Sleeman is not an "outlier" as he would have us believe. The documents community seems to be split 50/50 on whether or not it is important for libraries to collect and give access to the cables -- and only 3 libraries so far say that they've even cataloged the WikiLeaks cable site. When Sleeman says that the situation, "demands more careful parsing than the [liberal] library community has been willing to do," he is, in one stroke, mischaracterizing and demeaning his colleagues.
2) The cables are not a "dump" but are in fact being actively vetted and redacted by Wikileaks and the the news organizations with which WL is working (UK Guardian, der Spiegel, NY Times, El Pais, and Le Monde). Only a very small number have actually been released (3891 of 251,287 to date). Those cables, while technically classified, are now publicly available to anyone and analysis by journalists around the world continues to grow (see WikiRiver as well as the news organizations' sites linked to at the end of this piece).
By ignoring the role of journalists and newspapers in the vetting and release of the cables, Sleeman tries to turn the issue into one of Assange vs. the world. I don't think Sleeman would suggest that we should ignore other leaked materials, but maybe he would? Does he object to any publication of leaked information in any newspaper, or is there something about this particular release that he finds objectionable? Does he oppose libraries containing any leaked information? He does not say. As Steven Aftergood wrote recently, "[T]he bulk of the Pentagon Papers, which were leaked in 1971 by Daniel Ellsberg, never formally underwent declassification review.... This means that every public and private library in the country that has a copy of the Papers is technically in possession of currently classified material." Would Sleeman say that we should remove all versions of the Pentagon Papers from our libraries -- including the 4,100 pages of the Pentagon Papers read into the record of the Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds by then Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK).?
3) There have always been leaks of government information, most often for political purposes or individual vendetta (Pentagon Papers and the Plame affair are but the most in/famous). There are (admittedly weak) laws on the books to protect whistle blowers but none really to protect military whistleblowers (hence PFC Bradley Manning, the alleged cable leaker, has been held without charge at Quantico Marine base since July, 2010). These cables are not "stolen" per se, but leaked information. Daniel Ellsberg, perhaps the most famous leaker of government secrets, has praised wikileaks and their work.
4) Researchers and the public are justly intrigued with this kind of information. The Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series is one of libraries' most highly sought-after titles so it only makes sense that library users would want access to the cables and their cache of diplomatic information far in advance of any FRUS publication -- which is supposed to be "no more than 30 years after the event recorded" but which is currently far behind schedule in violation of the law (see Aftergood, "State Dept Series Falls Farther Behind Schedule"). These materials will certainly be sought-after by researchers and the public in the future. But who will ensure that they have that access if libraries do not?
Sleeman uses the cliche of the information on the web being like "toothpaste from a tube," saying that, once information is "out there," it "isn't going back." But this cliche is only half of the story. While it is true that one cannot guarantee that information, once released, can be successfully erased, it is also true, and more importantly so, that one cannot guarantee the preservation or integrity of information without explicit effort. This has important ramifications for libraries as they address the needs of their users. In a year (or 10 years, or more...) when a researcher wants to see the WikiLeaks documents behind news stories and books, will the researcher have a place to go where those documents have been preserved and authenticated as unaltered from the WikiLeaks release of those documents? Or will documents have disappeared or become unreadable or altered over time because they lacked adequate curation? Will there be documents, but no way to know if they are the ones that were used by earlier researchers? When FRUS releases some of these cables, will researchers be able to compare them to the WikiLeaks versions to verify accuracy of earlier research?
Libraries have a role to play in preserving information over time for their users. Sleeman would ignore these issues; he says, "I am not willing to embrace the many calls in the library community to harvest and preserve this material locally." To me that seems like a short-sighted response, inadequately justified with ad hominem rhetoric.
5) Wikileaks staff and volunteers are transparency activists.
WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organisation. Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists (our electronic drop box). One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth. We are a young organisation that has grown very quickly, relying on a network of dedicated volunteers around the globe. Since 2007, when the organisation was officially launched, WikiLeaks has worked to report on and publish important information. We also develop and adapt technologies to support these activities.
WikiLeaks has sustained and triumphed against legal and political attacks designed to silence our publishing organisation, our journalists and our anonymous sources. The broader principles on which our work is based are the defence of freedom of speech and media publishing, the improvement of our common historical record and the support of the rights of all people to create new history. We derive these principles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In particular, Article 19 inspires the work of our journalists and other volunteers. It states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. We agree, and we seek to uphold this and the other Articles of the Declaration.
We cannot, of course, *know* the motivations of Assange or other WikiLeaks staff or those who leaked the documents any more than we can know the motivations behind other leaks or even the motivations behind the official release of documents in FRUS. Journalists and librarians can, however, document what we do know and provide that as context to any document or publication. As librarians, we do not "embrace the WikiLeaks initiative" when we point to it or even when we add the documents themselves to our collections. Libraries have information on all points of view created for all kinds of reasons. Part of what we do is document the record of society for others to use and evaluate. Our role as librarians is to select what is significant and give it context. (Part of that context is the bibliographic metadata that describes information and its source; part of the context is the rest of our collections that we build by subject and discipline.) Isn't it self-evident that the WikiLeaks material has become significant regardless of the motivation of those who leaked it?
Perhaps a close analogy here is to the collections of emails of scientists studying climate change (which *were* in fact stolen, not leaked). In both cases, I can see different libraries making different decisions about including WikiLeaks or those emails in their collections. I would hope that libraries that chose to collect the emails would include the several official reports that exonerated the scientists from the wrong-doing that the thieves attempted to impute. In the case of WikiLeaks, I would hope that a library would include news reports, State Department publications, and robust metadata etc., giving additional context to the cables.
6) Unintended Consequences:
There was a fascinating debate hosted by DemocracyNow in December, 2010 between Steven Aftergood and Glenn Greenwald in which Aftergood laid out many of the same arguments that Sleeman does about agencies becoming more restrictive because of the cable leak. However, I think Greenwald's arguments countering this are equally feasible.
Again, however, Sleeman is misdirecting us from the issues facing libraries. Now that the information is available and has been widely used and quoted, libraries need to deal with the existence of the information. While it is interesting to think about whether or not the information should have been leaked and what the consequences of the leaks might be, those issues are unrelated to the issue of preservation of and access to that information.
7) Quality, Provenance, Authenticity:
Sleeman says, "Yet many in the library community seem eager to point to, to acquire, and to preserve this content without any of the usual assurances regarding quality or origin that we would otherwise require when making a collection development decision."
The State Department has not claimed that any of these were invented, modified, falsified or otherwise not authentic. If anything, the official response has implied that the cables are indeed authentic.
In the digital age, it is *particularly* important that libraries document the how and where and who of acquisitions so that users can evaluate them accurately. It would be wrong for libraries to say "here are cables released by the State Department" but it is right to say, "here are cables released by WikiLeaks and claimed to be leaked from the state department." That is an accurate description of their origin.
Related to this, let's be clear: no librarian is suggesting that we should raid the State Department of all its cables. Instead, many librarians are saying that, given the prominence, public availability, and apparent authenticity of this material, and, given that reputable news organizations have published the cables as well as articles based on these materials, these are legitimate materials for us to consider providing to our users.
One option that libraries have in a situation like this is to select and acquire digital files and preserve them without making them publicly available yet. Think of this as preserving with an embargo -- something that many libraries' special collections units do on a regular basis. This ensures that the materials are preserved, but allows the library to put off the decision to make them available until more information on their authenticity and provenance and legal status is available. Preservation does not happen by accident. Preserving the materials now for possible future release is both prudent and cautious.
Sleeman does not address the preservation of these materials. Perhaps he hopes that, even though the toothpaste is out of the tube, it will slowly wither away and get lost. As noted above, I think it is important that the recently released WikiLeaks information be preserved for future scholars. The fact of the matter is that someone will have to preserve this information if it is to remain accessible. As noted above, preservation does not happen by accident.
That means the key question we should be asking is: Who will preserve it?
I am not suggesting that every library should collect these materials. Many libraries will find these materials out of scope for their collections. The strength of a community of libraries with many different collections is being able to make preservation decisions based on the needs of our users. If we rely on others (other organizations, other libraries, other individuals) to preserve material that is important to our users, we may find that we are losing important information (for a similar case in point see "While BBC Wants To Kill Off A Bunch Of Websites, Geeks Quickly Archive Them").
If we rely on a very small number of huge digital repositories, we may find ourselves without an adequate voice in their preservation decisions.
By building our own digital infrastructure, we put ourselves in control of decisions that affect our user communities. That, in my opinion, is what we should be doing. With that infrastructure in place, we should make decisions about WikiLeaks based on the needs of our users -- not based on our like or dislike of Julian Assange.
For readers who want an overview of the issues, I would recommend these additional links:
- CQ Researcher has published an paper that covers the wikileaks issue:
Government Secrecy: Does greater openness threaten national security?. By Alex Kingsbury. February 11, 2011
- Nuanced response from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
- NY Times cable archive
- Guardian cable archive
- der Spiegel cable archive
- CableSearch search interface of cables as they're released. By the European Centre of Computer Assisted Research.
- WikiRebels - The Documentary: in-depth documentary on WikiLeaks and the people behind it.