As a broadly trained public historian, I’ve had opportunities to lead a number of exciting projects. The centerpiece of this portfolio is the Archival Facial Identification Database, which demonstrates the power of facial recognition technology in archival photo collections. My work with Spokane Public Radio and the American Archive of Public Broadcasting is also a significant work of community outreach and digital preservation. As this portfolio shows, I am able to combine technical skills with the best practices of archives and research. I present this portfolio in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a master’s degree in history.
The Archival Facial Identification Database
Facial recognition technology is transforming the way we connect images to people in the world of social media. In the archives, however, we are plagued with images that are poorly documented or separated from their context. During my time in this MA program, I have taken on the challenges of applying current facial recognition to historic images. The first result is a set of lessons learned and future directions, detailed in the paper below. The other result is a browsable database of images that are linked through facial recognition. As I discuss in the paper, this technology allows us to reconnect images to the people, places and times that they document.
Spokane Public Radio and the American Archive of Public Broadcasting
The American Archive of Public Broadcasting, a joint project between WGBH Boston and the Library of Congress, preserves the history of public radio and television in the United States. Public broadcasting is the product of an estimated $10 billion public investment and represents some of the most significant reporting on local and regional issues. But the costs of preserving these broadcasts and providing access to them is prohibitive to most small broadcasters. In 2016 and 2017, as a public history and archiving project, I worked with Spokane Public Radio to prepare their thirty-year back catalog for donation to the archives.
My work began with a series of meetings with station producers to detail the goals and resources of the project. I also spoke with project managers at WGBH and the Library of Congress to propose the donation and begin the process. For the bulk of the project, I kept weekly meetings with producers and volunteers at the station to inventory their recorded media. With the help of volunteers, I built an inventory, following the PBCore xml standard. The project was a chance to be at the center of a cataloging and digitization project to preserve local culture.
- Led an inventory of the station’s recordings, including tape, CD, and digital media.
- Trained a volunteer to assist with cataloging
- Coordinated with archives staff to ensure compliance with metadata standards
- Researched grants and participated in application planning
- Acted as point of contact with outside vendors to get cost estimates for digitization
- Created software to extract metadata from a proprietary media-management system at the station
- Worked with producers and other station staff to get metadata, station history and personal recordings of programs
- Prepared an initial transmittal of programs to the archives, and laid foundations for further donations
- Catalog spreadsheet
- Training of three volunteers
- Cost estimates for digitization by outside vendors (needed for grants)
- Application materials to the AAPB
After more than six months of work on this project, Spokane Public Radio now has a standardized catalog of over 2,000 assets from its broadcast history. Pending funding, the station also has a plan to digitize its past broadcasts on CD and fragile tape media, and to move into a workflow that will support continuous digitization and cataloging. These are major steps towards preserving Spokane’s voice into the future.
As an MA student in the public history track, I have had the opportunity to contribute to Spokane Historical, a web and mobile platform for location-based historic content. These stories depend on concise, accessible writing and well-chosen multimedia features to connect with a global audience. Since 2015, I have published eight stories and three audio programs to the site. These include original research on A.K. Mozumdar, who in Spokane in 1913 became the first Hindu to become naturalized as a U.S. citizen. I also had the opportunity to produce stories in collaboration with the staff of the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. As an associate editor, I edited submissions for two virtual tours of Fort Spokane and the Columbia River basin. This work demonstrates an important skill set for research, writing, and editing for electronic publishing.
- Published stories
- Dutch Jake’s Park
- Carving the Columbia: Ice Age Floods
- Punk Rock Comes to Spokane
- A.K. Mozumdar and the Problem of Whiteness
- The Orchard at Ft. Spokane
- Doomsday Hill
- How the West was Watered: The Fruitland Company Irrigation System
- Make Way for Rising Waters: the 1310 Line and the Flooding of Lake Roosevelt
- Edited tours:
Washington State Archives, Digital Archives
In the Fall Quarter of 2016 I was awarded a graduate assistantship at the Washington State Archives in Cheney. This facility houses both the Eastern Region Branch Archives and the statewide Digital Archives, a national leader in digital public records. Reporting to the state Digital Archivist and Assistant Digital Archivist, I was able to work on a range of archival projects. This was an invaluable opportunity to learn by doing and to benefit from the expertise of the archives staff.
Highlights of accomplishments:
- Digitized and cataloged more than 200 hours of oral histories
- Fulfilled research requests from state agencies and the public
- Assisted with day-to-day operations in the Eastern Region Branch Archives
- Led student tours of the Digital Archives
- Proposed the new histogram feature for the Digital Archives, to help researchers visualize the content of collections
- Created and documented workflow for scanning and digitizing media, helping other student workers to process materials more efficiently
- Cataloged thousands of scanned documents as part of the State Archives’s relationship with the Genealogical Society of Utah
- Contributed two Treasures of the Archives news stories and a number of agency tweets
- Performed quality assurance for a new series of divorce indexes from the Washington State Department of Health
- Contributed code to a desktop application for applying metadata to digital objects
- At the request of National Parks staff, digitized Native American oral histories stored on non-archival tape media
This assistantship was an ideal placement for me. The Digital Archives in particular are on the cutting edge of the field, and brought me into close contact with real-world challenges. Having access to experts in both digital and physical archives was also immensely valuable. The future of the field will depend on people who can productively combine traditional archival skills with 21st-century technical skills, and I am excited to be a part of that future. In March of 2017, I accepted a full-time position as a lead application developer at the archives.
Travels in the Early Parks
As part of Dr. William J.T. Youngs’s online project The National Parks: The Early Years, I contributed this paper on early tourism in the national parks. The website is a media-rich presentation, but the paper also demonstrates my ability to do traditional research and write history for a public audience. This project draws from primary and secondary documents, including audiovisual sources and popular literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With Nicolle Southwick and Joshua Van Veldhuizen, I also produced a short podcast on early park tourism.