Collaborate with us on “Cultural Assessment”

Hannah Scates KettlerThis update comes to us from Hannah Scates Kettler, Digital Humanities Librarian at the University of Iowa and coordinator of a new working group on Cultural Assessment within the DLF Assessment Interest Group.

It may have been a few months since you last heard from us. Or you may not even know we exist! The Cultural Assessment Interest Group is a new DLF AIG initiative that sprang from many conversations held during last year’s DLF Forum in Vancouver. Channeling energy from Dr. Sofiya Noble’s keynote (“Power, Privilege, and the Imperative to Act) on our social and cultural responsibilities for information structures, a group of DLF GLAM specialists came together to begin evaluating how well we librarians are representing and delivering the shared cultural heritage in our digital collections.

By May 2016, the group of librarians, anthropologists, and museum specialists felt the need to act. As we began to gather under the rubric of “Cultural Assessment,” we drafted a charge, which you can read in full here.

Questions arose regarding our goal to “identify institutional data and practices that may be relevant to building a robust understanding of ‘cultural assessment.’ How do we determine how socially aware and culturally responsible our digital collections are? How do we conduct a “cultural assessment” of our digital collections? Wait, what is “cultural assessment”??  By attempting to define what the group meant by “cultural assessment”, we called on some friends in Anthropology to help us. We are currently in the throes of defining the overarching concept of cultural assessment and we are very grateful for their input.

Yet, there is concrete work that can be done while we grapple with this abstract idea. We can still evaluate our workflows whether or not we can currently pin down exactly what ‘cultural assessment’ means. [pullquote1 align=”left”]We know the end goal is to make our digital collections as inclusive as we may, representative of diverse cultural heritage objects and points of view, and described in a way that is accessible to different communities.[/pullquote1]

Several smaller groups have emerged to tackle areas that may have influence on our digital collection and information modeling. Those include Selection & Digitization, which focuses on how institutions choose and prioritize materials for digitization. Our Levels of Digitization and Preservation Group is investigating how libraries (and eventually how  archives –we need more expertise here!) determine levels of digitization and preservation for digital collections. A Metadata & Description Practices Group will attempt to outline potential measures and standards for metadata and description activities that allow digital collections to be culturally aware. Last but not in any way least, a Publicizing Collections and Discoverability Group will investigate how digital collections are presented, disseminated, and publicized based on communication practices that identify and target particular communities. All of these groups have an eye toward the impact of institutional decision-making, workflows, and practices on marginalized and underrepresented groups.

You can find the Cultural Assessment Interest Group Charge, as well as the charges of all these subgroups on the AIG’s DLF wiki page.

Our sub-groups meet regularly via Google Hangouts and communicate in a publicly-joinable Google Group, to build out a knowledge base about these topics. We are currently developing topic-driven bibliographies and searching for existing rubrics by which to measure our cultural awareness in digital collections. Several of the sub-groups are looking into established workflows for digitization and promotion of digital collections and welcome any input on how various institutions engage in these practices.

  • The Metadata Group meets bi-weekly on Mondays at 11:00am Central Time beginning Aug. 15 (see working documents)
  • The Digitization & Preservation Group meets bi-weekly on Mondays at 11:00am Central Time beginning Aug. 22 (see working documents)
  • The Publicizing and Discoverability Group meets bi-weekly on Tuesdays at 11:00am Central Time beginning Aug. 16 (see working documents)
  • The Selection & Digitization Group meets biweekly on Mondays at 12:00pm Central Time beginning Aug. 15 (see working documents)
  • The Annotated Bibliography Group meets biweekly on Mondays 12:00pm Central Time beginning Aug. 23 (see working documents)

As chair, I hope you’ll be inspired to lend your voice to these discussions. We are attempting to be as inclusive as possible and welcome a diverse array of experiences. The Cultural Assessment Interest Group would benefit from ideas and engagement from all of you in DLF and your friends in other GLAM institutions. Please consider joining us during any of the meet-ups over the next few months, if only for a little while.