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Activist Archivists at CNI 2012 Spring Conference in Baltimore, MD

On Monday, April 2nd, Howard Besser, Director of the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program at NYU will present a project briefing on Activist Archivists as part of the Coalition for Networked Information Spring 2012 Membership Meeting.

The entire presentation is called “Archiving Large Swaths of User-Contributed Digital Content: Lessons from Archiving the Occupy Movement” and includes offerings from Sharon Leon at Occupy Archive, Kristine Hanna from Internet Archive, and Dan Millman, the Director of NYU’s Digital Library.

Archiving born-digital content from the “Occupy” movement can serve as a prototype for archiving all kinds of user-contributed content. In this presentation, several organizations will discuss the tools and methods they have developed for ingesting, preserving, and offering discovery services to large numbers of digital works where they cannot really rely on the contributors to follow standards and metadata assignment. Topics covered will range from automatic extraction of time-stamp and location metadata (and an empirical analysis of which upload services strip these out), to app development for uploading content along with permission forms, to maintaining lists of frequently-changing URL nodes for web-crawling, to issues in educating content creators in best practices. Speakers will also discuss issues in trying to document a social movement while it is happening.

For details about the conference, navigate the CNI website:


OWS Archives Share Day, March 31, 2012

How can a social movement be preserved and represented through archives? What are creative ways archives can be utilized now and in the future through digital technologies? Since September 17th 2011, protesters with Occupy Wall Street have raised their voices in public spaces across the country and taken it to the streets as well as online spaces. Empowered by new media and social networking sites, many people are using digital tools to get their messages across, to document and create spontaneous moments in history. The digital archives created with and in reaction to the Occupy Movement include tweets, pictures, field recording, videos, streams, websites, graphic design, software and much more.

Join Demo Day folks for a public event for presentation and off-line file sharing on March 31st 3-6pm at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, NYC. Anyone who wishes to present their work in art, activism and archive can sign up for a short presentation. Video projection and audio amplification will be available. Attendees are welcome to submit a copy of their digital files for preservation in the OWS digital archive and share their content with like minded others. This event aims to present and archive many views of democracy. This event is presented in collaboration with members of the OWS Archives’ Anna Perricci and Christine O’Heron, and ‘Speakers’ Corners‘ an exhibition by Taeyoon Choi at Eyebeam.

Please send a brief introduction to your work and archive to by March 26th 12:00PM. More information:

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Want people to see your OWS collection?

February 12, 2012 Blog Comments Off

This week, I was fortunate to interview Sheila Brennan, Co-Director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media‘s Occupy Archive and Outreach Coordinator for Omeka. If you’re a group or individual with a collection of materials that you want to make accessible, read on to learn about a great new free tool!

What is Omeka?

Omeka is a free, open-source, web publishing platform for displaying cultural heritage collections, creating digital exhibitions, and collecting materials and responses from public web visitors.

How might Omeka be used by an activist group or individual that is collecting materials to document a movement?

Omeka has been used as the platform for collecting after and during significant events, such as Hurricane Katrina (Hurricane Digital Memory Bank) and the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 (April 16 Archive), and most recently the Occupy Wall Street movement, Occupy Archive.

Using the Contribution plugin with Omeka, a group can start collecting files and responses from individuals through a customizable web form within 30 minutes of installing the software or signing up for an account.

Is it easy to use? How can I learn how to use it?

Yes, Omeka is very easy to use. The administrative web interface is intuitive for most users. The extensive Documentation, or Codex, section provides step-by-step tutorials and screencasts for novices interested in learning how to use the admin side, how to install, and for more advanced users, guidance on how to customize the site.  For those choosing to use the service, we also offer screencasts and step-by-step tutorials in the Help section.

How can I get Omeka? What additional hardware or software is needed to run it?

Omeka may be downloaded at any time, and like most open-source software requires a Linux operating system, or a Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP) configured server, plus the Image Magick program. There are full instructions to guide users through the process of installing the software, in the Preparing to Install and Installation section of the codex. We also offer suggestions for finding third-party hosting.

For those who do not wish to deal with setting up a Linux server or finding an outside host, the service might work best for them. is a little less flexible for overall web design and plugin availability, but is a nice alternative and lets you launch a new site within minutes. A full comparison between the two versions of Omeka is available here.

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s Occupy Archive is built on Omeka. Tell me about the project and the collection.

The Occupy Archive is documenting and saving the digital evidence and stories from the Occupy protests worldwide that began in September 2011 in Lower Manhattan. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) inspired groups to form in small towns and large cities around the world. #Occupy Archive seeks to represent each of those groups with individual collections.

In addition to saving materials currently available on the web related to #OWS, this project is also collecting stories, photos, video, and sounds from those participating in, organizing, or observing Occupy Movements. We want to hear from you. You will retain ownership of all that you share, and you will be contributing to the historical record.

We built the Archive using the Omeka platform and have extensively used Zotero to collect snapshots of organizational webpages, forums, YouTube channels, Facebook pages, fliers, and another digital imprints of the Occupy groups. You may notice that items identified as webpages contain a .zip file–this file is a copy of the web snapshot. We also have experimented with a feed importer that allows us to grab and link to Flickr images tagged with related keywords. We are not ingesting images with rights reserved and are relying heavily on Creative Commons licensed photos.

How can activists contribute to the Occupy Archive? What will happen with
the materials in the long-run?

We encourage activists and observers to contribute through the web form in the archive. If they have photographs to share, they can upload them to Flickr, tag them with OWS and give them a Creative Commons license, and we will automatically archive those photographs.

We will then be archiving this site with George Mason University’s MARS repository maintained by the library for long-term preservation.

~ With thanks to Howard Besser and Sharon Leon!


Creating a living archive using Internet Archive + Archive-It

February 5, 2012 Blog Comments Off

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Alexis Rossi from the Internet Archive about the work that they are doing to preserve the videos, still images, and minutes of the Occupy movement worldwide. The Internet Archive is a non-profit library that aims to provide permanent access to historical collections that exist in digital format for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public. Read on to find out how activists and media creators can use this excellent resource to save their digital materials!

What are you collecting in relation to Occupy, and why?

Internet Archive accepts any media that people choose to upload to If uploaders put an Occupy-related keyword on their item (e.g. “OWS”), it will be automatically included in our Occupy collection. We are pulling Occupy-tagged items from YouTube and Flickr that have appropriate Creative Commons licenses attached, and working with the Occupy Wall Street Minutes Working Group to save audio files documenting assemblies and meetings. We are also saving websites and URLs that have been suggested by individuals and institutions through the web archiving service, Archive-It. Additionally we collect many television channels that carry coverage of the movement, although that content is not currently available to the public on We created these collections because we believe it is important to record major events that occur in the world, whether they are political, cultural, or natural.

How do you collect these materials?

We chose to create a collection that anyone can contribute content to because we think the people involved in the Occupy movement are the ones best qualified to tell us what should be saved. People who wish to contribute audio, video, or text materials can use the upload button on to give us files (an alternate method may be needed for files over 2GB).

Also people can send websites or specific web URLs to crawl through Archive-It to, and after the sites are captured they will be accessible from the Archive-It website and added to the access page. Submission of materials does not require Internet Archive’s approval, so content is available to anyone shortly after upload.

How will you catalog, archive, and preserve these materials?

Internet Archive does not provide any additional cataloging or curation for materials, so it is important that people include sufficient metadata with their uploaded files. All user uploaded media is stored redundantly in two separate data centers, and files are audited regularly to ensure we have not lost any bits.

How will people access this collection?

Most media (video, audio, texts, etc.) is available here.

Web pages collected via Archive-It are here and these will in time be included in the larger collection.

What advice would you give to media creators who want to ensure their content is usable in the future?

Internet Archive wants to save the best digital artifacts possible. For our purposes, that means people should upload the highest quality files they have and give us plentiful metadata about the files; title, description, keywords, date, time, location, creator, license information, etc. The more metadata we have, the easier these items are to find and use.


Public Forum on OWS Archives on February 5th

February 2, 2012 Uncategorized Comments Off

The OWS Archives Working Group is hosting a Public Forum on Sunday, February 5, 2012, 5-7pm.  All are invited to attend. Here is the announcement:

What should an archive of Occupy Wall Street look like?

On its surface, it appears to be an impossible task: to document the activities of a major social movement as it is happening.  And yet this has been the monumental task undertaken by the Occupy Wall Street Archives Working Group (OWS Archives WG), a collection of archivally-interested individuals who have established a sizeable collection of signs, flyers, interviews, oral histories, and artifacts ever since the infancy the occupation at Liberty Plaza (formerly known as Zuccotti Park).  And, as you might expect, the OWS Archives working group have encountered this important question of the ultimate vision for an archive of Occupy Wall Street.

The OWS Archives Working Group is seeking input from people throughout the Occupy movement and the broader community of archivists & collectors on how to move forward with the management of the OWS Archives.  In a public forum at Judson Memorial Assembly Hall, we intend to offer a presentation on the status of the Archives of Occupy Wall Street and host a discussion on visions for the future of the collection.  We highly encourage anyone with an interest in archives and the developing history of the Occupy movement to attend for an exciting and urgent discussion.

Judson Memorial Church Assembly Hall
239 Thompson St.
(This venue is wheelchair accessible)

Sunday Februrary 5, 2012, 5-7pm
Please RSVP to

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Photo Credit: Todd Blaisdell


InformaCam, a new plugin for video activists in the works

January 29, 2012 Uncategorized Comments Off

The Guardian Project, in association with WITNESS (one of ActArc’s collaborators) is currently developing a plugin for ObscuraCam, a phone application that provides video activists with the ability to redact or pixilate sensitive areas of the image (such as a person’s face). InformaCam takes the feature a step farther:

“As with ObscuraCam, the user can perform image filtering and obfuscation on image regions. InformaCam also adds the “Identify” filter, which prompts the user for the subject’s name (or pseudonym) and to fill in whether or not the subject has given his or her consent to be filmed. This checklist of subject permissions can be further developed to match the needs of any organization to provide further protection to the people in front of the camera. Notice again the sensor notifications: the context surrounding each edit to the image is recorded and will be inserted into the media as metadata once the media is saved.”