Virtually Pop Your Top

A virtual collection of electronic records which can be sorted using your fingers and a touch screen the size of a movie screen. The data can also be manipulated in various ways to improve collection control. This image was taken at the 2012 E-Records Forum in Austin, Texas. An Open House at the Texas Advanced Computing Center’s Visualization Lab was apparently a “highlight” of the forum.


As promised, it is time to mention the most interesting person I had the chance to talk with at the NAGARA/CoSA Conference in Santa Fe last week. I guess when you ask the right questions “they” will come! By they I mean the smart people… 🙂 After one of the sessions, Mark Conrad an Archives Specialist working with the Applied Research Division (Office of Information Services) of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) approached me. He said “aren’t you the one asking about open source solutions?” But of course I was the one! I was so excited to here that NARA is going there!!! I also had the chance to attend a session titled ISO 16363 Audit and Certification of Trustworthy Digital Repositories. The session was delivered by Mark and Technology Specialists from Kentucky. This “Archives Specialist” slash technical guru immediately started rattling off a list of tools and projects that I should take a closer look at. Using his tricked out iPad he started prompting his screen to pop my top. Mark works in the Center for Advanced Systems and Technologies (NCAST). In his position with NARA, he works with computer scientists and engineers from all over the world “to leverage new theories, knowledge, methods, and techniques to advance the lifecycle of electronic records.” Part of the mission of his division includes looking into “emerging technologies.” I must say I about did a back flip when Mark pulled up images of a Visualization Lab in the works. Simply mind blowing! There it was— a virtual filing cabinet. As an archivist, I would be able to process or arrange and describe electronic records by using my fingers and a touch screen. Yes- a touch screen- a virtual system used to arrange collections and sort data- with color codes and all. The volume of records in a particular series is proportional to the amount of data within a particular sector of the collection. In January of 2011, the web administrator of NARAtions: The Blog of the United States National Archives interviewed Mark Conrad. She asked him what he was working on and he said “with the assistance of 17 student interns, I am collaborating on a number of projects. For example, many of the students are currently loading large numbers of files into a testbed that is being used by the computer scientists working on the CI-BER project. The purpose of the project is to provide insights into the management of very large data collections. As the number of files and bytes in a collection goes up some of the systems used to manage the collection break down. This project will help us to identify some of the bottlenecks and look for better ways to build systems that don’t break down as the volume picks up.” He also said he was working with the “Department of Energy, NIST, Naval Sea Systems Command, Army Research Lab, and other Federal Agencies on ways to share information about current and emerging practices for managing and preserving engineering data for as long as it is needed.” Sometimes I am glad that I ask a grippa questions— if I didn’t care about open source solutions, I would have never met one of the most interesting archivists with a technical background ever.

Explore posts in the same categories: Archival Science, Archives, Code and Script, Computational Code, Computational Science, Computer Programming, Computers, Conferences, Digital Archives, Digital Humanities, Digital Issues, Digital Media, Edification, Knowledge, Mind, National Archives and Records Administration, Networking, Open Source, Presentations, Professional Endeavors, Records Management, Scientists, Software and Hardware, Technology, Visualization, Worthy Reads, Writers

4 Comments on “Virtually Pop Your Top”

  1. pennycoho Says:

    Excellent information. Reading all the way through your insightful article today I admit I was pleased to see the volume of work going on in the area’s of archival storage and retrieval of electronic records. I actually just want a thingy (small) inserted in my head that would immediately access requested info from my digital archives! Great post! 🙂


  2. Sounds like you had a grand time!


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