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Conferences, Back-to-Back and All Up The East Coast

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A beautiful witch hazel tree I found blooming at the Church of Saint Lucas’ public garden on Hudson Street during a walk.

Happy Spring, everyone!

These past few weeks have been such a blur.  I spent 1 week each in Washington DC and Philadelphia for two very major, inspiring conferences here on the East Coast within a span of 3 weeks.  Going to conferences is a requirement of the residency, and have been in some ways one of my greatest professional challenges to date.

Conferences are a very new experience for me.  During my time as a MLS student, I was also working full-time at JSTOR and interning nights/weekends.  Needless to say, I did not have much of an opportunity (opportunity = time + money) to travel and network.  However, I have found that talking to strangers about NDSR is pretty easy because I’m excited about what I am doing: in some ways my project has become the ultimate ice breaker.  I even made some new friends from faraway places! Although, I do have to schedule in some downtime to practice self-care and get much-needed rest. Conferences require an almost superhuman amount of strength for introverts like me to get through, so I try to be mindful of making sure I get some quiet time each day I’m away from home.

In February, I attended the Radio Preservation Task Force conference, which took place in both Washington DC at the Library of Congress and at the University of Maryland at their College Park Campus. The conference was one of the first of its kind to bring together broadcast and media historians with a focus on preservation and archiving an otherwise overlooked aspect of our recorded history.

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View from the steps of my Airbnb: The Supreme Court building, right around the corner from the Library of Congress, where the first day of the RPTF conference took place.

To kick things off, I arrived in DC a day earlier and took advantage of tours the RPTF set up for early comers. We had a choice to visit the Library of Congress Packard Campus (where the LOC does the bulk of their audio/visual restoration work) or National Public Radio (NPR).  Because of my work specifically at a radio station archive, I opted to take the NPR tour, which was a fantastic and enlightening experience.  Their operations are housed in a state-of-the-art environmentally sound/energy efficient building, which includes a green roof planted with local grasses and a beehive.

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NPR’s green roof, which sports local flora and their broadcast satellite dishes.

We made our way to their news floor (unfortunately, pictures were not allowed in this area) where we got to see NPR staff in action.  We then made our way to their Master Control room and a live recording studio.

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At the end, we got to check out their server room, which is, as you can see below, huge, cavernous and organized.  I must say it was very, very satisfying to see the cables laid out flat and grouped by color.

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The first official day of the conference started off with a keynote speech by Paddy Scannell, which will apparently air on C-SPAN (!!!) on March 19 here.

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Beautifully designed RPTF conference pamphlet.

After the keynote were a variety of panels: one in particular that I enjoyed was the “Public Radio’s Local Heritage” panel, with speakers representing NPR, WGBH and Linfield College in Oregon.

Afterwards, my mentor at NYPR, John, asked if I wanted to step out and pay a visit Smithosonian’s African American Film Archive.  In other words, we played hooky from the conference! But for a pretty good reason: I got to see this beautiful machine:

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And these reels of The Body Guard:

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Day 2 of the conference, we made our way to College Park on a chartered bus, which started with a plenary session that included the one and only Andy Lanset, Head of the NYPR archives (and my other mentor).  Later, I spoke on the Metadata and Digital Archiving Committee, giving the audience (and respondents) an update on my NDSR project.

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View from the Metadata Committee trenches.

Some interesting topics were brought up, ranging from linked data (and how it will save us), the limitations of cataloging categories and PBCore and the need to web archive podcasts. In other words, we could have used more than the allotted 90 minutes to cover all the topics: it felt like a miniature conference in one afternoon.

This is a very quick wrap-up of the RPTF conference.  It was a wonderful coming-together of mainly media and broadcast scholars, archivists, librarians and conservators.  I came back to New York and my project feeling refreshed.

In case you missed the live Tweets, check on the RPTF Storify here.

Next time I write, I will say more on the code4lib conference I attended exactly a week later in Philadelphia.

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