Three Questions: Casey E. Davis

caseydavis
Casey E. Davis is Project Manager for the American Archive of Public Broadcasting at WGBH Educational Foundation in Boston. Casey manages the day-to-day activities of the AAPB, including outreach, access, overseeing web development, coordinating with the Library of Congress on policy and strategy, and assisting with sustainability. She established the Association of Moving Image Archivists’ (AMIA) PBCore Advisory Committee to support and improve the Public Broadcasting Core (PBCore) metadata standard, is the Co-Chair of the New England Archivists Roundtable for Early Professionals and Students (REPS), serves on the NEA Membership Committee, is Founder of ProjectARCC (Archivists Responding to Climate Change), and serves as Archivist for DearTomorrow (deartomorrow.org). As an archivist, Casey is passionate about access and use of audiovisual archival collections and archival advocacy. Personally, she enjoys traveling, visiting historic sites and museums, and collecting embroidered patches. Before working on the AAPB, Casey worked for the PBS history documentary series American Experience and earned her MLIS with a concentration in Archives Management from Louisiana State University.

What changes would you like to see happen in the field?

Two weeks ago, I had the honor of attending the EUscreen conference in Warsaw, Poland. For those of you who aren’t familiar with EUscreen, it is an initiative to provide access to Europe’s audiovisual heritage through collaboration of academic and broadcasting institutions. Together, these organizations have made available thousands of historic sound and moving image items through the EUscreen portal, which it then fed into Europeana. I was surprised and amazed at the variety of individuals who attended and presented at the conference — from archivists to museum curators to media studies scholars and historians to technical experts, educators, photographers and open-access activists. Each of the presentations at the conference was extremely relevant and valuable — I brought home many ideas for potential projects and new forms of engagement with our users. Attending the conference made me think that too often (at least in the United States) archivists and our allied professions including librarians, museum curators, educators and humanities scholars tend to operate in silos. Our research often does not go beyond the eyes of those within our immediate profession. In the digital age, our worlds are constantly colliding, and all of the above-mentioned professions care deeply about access and use of our shared cultural heritage. Working closely together and sharing ideas to ensure that it’s done right — and with all types of users in mind — seems only natural.

My notes from the EUscreen conference can be found here: https://americanarchivepb.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/content-in-motion-aapb-attends-euscreen-2015-conference/

The EUscreen portal is available at euscreen.eu.

What advice do you have for new archivists? 

  • Consider all of your coursework as relevant archival experience.

When I graduated with my MLIS, I had very little practical experience working in an archive. In fact, the extent of my experience included the nothing more than the creation of a few promotional and instructional videos for our special collections research center at Louisiana State University. But I considered all of the coursework — and the often-loathed group projects — as relevant experience. When I interviewed for my current job, I brought with me printouts of my hand-coded EAD finding aid and a draft digital preservation plan for the project for which I was interviewing, using the skills I learned during my Digital Curation course. My now boss told me in the interview that leading up to the interview, she was concerned that I didn’t have enough experience, but by the end of the interview, she concluded that I had proved her wrong. 

  • Don’t be afraid to apply for a job that isn’t exactly what most people would consider archival work. 

My first job out of grad school was not in an archive. I was a Special Projects Assistant for a history documentary series, and I worked on digital projects associated with new productions. Not only was this amazing experience, but it led to me getting my current job, which is in the archives of the same organization. Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone and apply for those interesting job postings that aren’t in an archive. Often you will find that in those experiences you will gain unique skills and knowledge that can be used when you do find that perfect archives gig.

  • Find ways to gain experience with audiovisual materials.

For years, audiovisual archivists like myself have enjoyed being the red-headed stepchild of the profession, but this can’t be the case for much longer. Our collections are becoming less and less format specific, and we’re at a crucial time when the audiovisual record of the 20th century is deteriorating before our eyes. At the same time, many collections are being acquired which contain either analog or born-digital moving images and sound. In 2014, archivist Sibyl Schaefer gave a presentation at the SAA conference titled “We’re All Digital Archivists Now: Digital Forensic Techniques in Everyday Practice.” In her presentation, she argued that all archivists need to be able to work with digital materials, and that relying on only one person in your organization to handle the digital materials is not scalable. I would argue that the same goes for audiovisual collections. Pretty soon, we all need to identify as audiovisual archivists.

I would suggest joining the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA), or at least the free listserv. The AMIA Education Committee blog is also a place to go for resources related to moving images.

  • Join ProjectARCC.

My last recommendation is a little shameless promotion of ProjectARCC (Archivists Responding to Climate Change). We’re a group of archivists who are alarmed about the impacts of climate change on our profession and on humanity, and we’re working to mobilize our community to take action. New archivists, especially those who are younger, are going to be the ones dealing with the devastating impacts of climate change for decades to come. I believe that not only is it a moral obligation for people to take action to prevent its worst impacts, but it’s also a professional responsibility for those who are tasked with the charge of preserving history for future generations. Email me at casey@projectarcc.org if you’re interested in joining our movement.

Who has influenced you in your career?

My biggest influencers are my parents, my professor and friend Dr. Elizabeth Dow, my amazing boss Karen Cariani (Director of the AAPB at WGBH), and Alan Gevinson, Director of the AAPB at the Library of Congress.

I grew up in a rural town in the southern part of Mississippi, a place where tradition is the expectation. My parents have always supported my ambition, and I wouldn’t be where I am without them. My professor Elizabeth Dow moved the dial even further and encouraged me to take big chances with my career and stay actively involved in the profession throughout it. Karen and Alan are incredible leaders who have guided me — and our project — over the past two years. I couldn’t have asked for better mentors.

Advertisements