Checkout System & Capstone Project: Final Thoughts

In the last post, I described some of the results and lessons learned from the different stages of the checkout system during the trial run. In this post, I will discuss some of my thoughts and impressions with respect to the checkout system and the overall project.

Before I began this project, there was no system in place at the Briscoe that specifically dealt with the UTVA and its hardware. Any use and requests were handled in an ad-hoc manner, usually by the videogame archivist or the digital archivist. Now we have a system that can used by other staff members which, hopefully, increases the collection’s accessibility.

There exists tension with the item level control necessary for processing the unique artifacts. One can think of a gaming system as one distinct culturally artifact or as one console plus the appropriate peripherals. One of the Pages suggested using  one checkout slip for each item instead of one slip for the entire system. Using multiple slips would be more in turn with already established Briscoe procedures yet the relationships among all the components must be made visible. The key is preserving the artifact and the activity. In the hypothetical research scenario, our visitors are attempting to interact with an authentic gaming performance.

While not a perfect solution, the workflow I established is one potential answer to this issue. The test run generated recommendations for improving the checkout system. For example, I created second versions of the access tools that incorporate the results and lessons learned that I mentioned in the previous post. We kept both versions so anyone who comes after me can see the evolution of our thinking.

I also drafted a complementary workflow that can be implemented when accessioning any new UTVA collections that contain hardware. This workflow essentially covers the first stage of the checkout system: Stabilize & Maintain the Hardware. Coupled together, the Briscoe will be able to impose greater intellectual control over the UTVA moving forward. And as the collection grows, the system can be revisited and improved.

And I wrote a series of short-, mid-, and long-term recommendations that can be taken to prolong the life of the UTVA and its materials. Unfortunately, the consoles will last only so long. We will reach a point at which they simply will no longer work. But, until that moment, the Briscoe is better prepared to handle researcher requests and we hope better access leads to increased use. We have the objects and take pride in helping others interact with them.

Throughout this project, I had two global questions guiding me: 1) How can we best operate in the space between researcher and collection? and 2) How can we make access more accessible? While the UTVA is a specific collection at a specific institution, these questions apply to virtually all archives and every archivist.  I have found that one answer to both of these questions is simple: work with a group of incredible people.

While working on this project, from starting in August 2015 till December 2015, I have had the pleasure of working with, and being supported by, amazing people both at the School of Information and the Briscoe Center.  There is virtually zero chance I could have made it through (and graduated!) without them.

From the iSchool, I would like to thank Tara Iagulli, the iSchool’s Director of Career Development. She helped to find the project and put me in contact with the right people. I would also like to thank Professor Diane Bailey, the faculty supervisor for the capstone projects during the Fall semester. She was a great resource during all 4 months of the project for myself and the other iSchool students.

At the Briscoe, I would like to thank Lynn Bell, the Assistant Director for Exhibits and Material Culture, Daniel Kaufman, the Reference Archivist, and Margaret Schlankey, the Head of Reference Services, for taking time out of their schedules for stakeholder interviews and all the other times I popped in with questions. I deeply appreciate the Pages, Kate and Kathy, for testing the checkout system. I also would like to thank Briscoe staff in general for being so welcoming, especially as they got ready for a year-long renovation!

Finally, I would like to thank Ms. Jessica Meyerson, the Briscoe’s Digital Archivist and my project supervisor. I could not have done this without her. Not only was she involved with my project, she gave me the opportunity to accompany her to meetings as she worked as a professional archivist within the University system. Her wide-ranging knowledge and acumen is nothing short of spectacular.  Thank you for everything.


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