Makers: DIY Personal Archives at PDA 2011

Next up, talks on creating DIY personal archives as part of maker culture. Check out Collin’s post on Maker Subculture for a good overview if you haven’t heard about Maker culture.

The Smallest Day: A nerd and his dad set out to digitize the family archives
Stan James (Lijit Networks)

Stan’s dad had begun scanning 35mm slides and his wedding photos. Scanned nearly 20,000 photos at 600 dpi, 68 home movies, and 54 audio reels. They have also tagged the photos with information of people in them. Also scanned World War II newspaper clippings, postcards, and other manuscript materials.

Tools used: Picasa, Audacity, Dragon Naturally Speaking, Live Mesh, mozy,, LogMeIn and Windows. (Much of this software is free)

Google Street View was a huge hit with Stan’s family to see change in the landscape over time. Using Amazon Mechanical Turk for transcription of scanned letters. Face tagging was also a hit.

Problems: Tagging in Picasa is linked to your Gmail contacts so had to write hacks in order to tag photos with relatives’ names who never had email. Dates before 1970 cannot be used on Picasa web.

SmallestDay Project (working on right now)
Open-source, WordPress-style
All media types
Mechanical Turk transcriptionWiki-style collaboration
Sync’d to individuals
Interested in helping? Contact Stan at

This is a great family project and you can take your memories with you on a laptop because it’s on the cloud. Great way to reconnect with family history and to work with your family.

What do we mean by Personal when we consider Personal Digital Archives?
Lori Kendall (University of Illinois)

“Personal” in Personal Digital Archives can make us emphasize the individual over the social. Kendall has been looking at SOKOL: Joseph L. Bobek via an enthnographic study. Bobek was Kendall’s grandfather and the document was created by Kendall’s mother. Created with many scanned documents and other media. Compiled as a PDF document and distributed on a disc with other digitized family documents.

Distribution as another type of archiving. (Interesting thought–makes archiving more social.)

Archivists do not agree on what to emphasize in personal archiving:
Personal archiving as personal (Cox, 2008, pp. 3-4; McKemmish 2001, p. 3; Hobbs, 2010, p. 222)
Emphasizing the social in personal archiving (Harris, 2001; Nesmith, 2006)

Personal archiving occurs in social practices, social contexts, social materials, and social and sociotextual identities. We identify as people through our connections to social groups. Therefore, it is not surprising that personal archiving reflects these social conditions.

Note: Great talk integrating theories and ideas with personal archiving. I really enjoyed the connections, that I saw, with collective memory, collective identities, and photographic theories (especially Susan Sontag’s work).

The Splendiferous Story of Archive Team and the Rapidly Disappearing Digital Heritage
Jason Scott (Archive Team)

Jason Scott is an activist and collector. He wants to share his stuff with people. Runs the website, in order to save and share digital files. Helps preserve data that is in danger of being lost. A lot of computer history is in danger and being deleted.

Created to save “in danger”digital objects. Duplicated as much of GeoCities as possible when GeoCities was being shutdown. Archive Team collected 900GB of data. Put up GeoCities on Pirate Bay in order to get more attention.

Need ways of empowering people to take charge over their digital data. We need plans *before* the disaster to preserve our data. Archive Team is working on this at the moment (so is Internet Archive).

Take away: Personal digital archiving does not have to be a solitary activity. In fact, it can be a great opportunity for working together and reconnecting with family. There are many ways to archive one’s materials and we’ve seen many idiosyncratic ways and ideas thus far.

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