POST: Data and Humanism Shape Library of Congress Conference

Mike Ashenfelder (Library of Congress) has published a write-up of the Library of Congress’ Collections As Data conference on the LOC blog The Signal. Ashenfelder notes that the conference “coalesced into two main themes: 1) digital collections are composed of data that can be acquired,  processed and displayed in countless scientific and creative ways and 2) we should always be aware and respectful that data is manipulated by — and derived from — people.”

He then goes on to summarize each of the conference’s speakers, illustrating each’s salient points and providing links to the projects spoken about. Issues of “virtual reunification,” citizen science, data visualization, collaborative work across discipline silos, and how to better connect communities with resources will be especially relevant for dh+lib readers. In opening the conference, Jane McAuliffe (Library of Congress) pointed out why the Library of Congress organized and hosted the Collections as Data conference:

McAuliffe said, “It’s not enough anymore to just open the doors of this building and invite people in. We have to open the knowledge itself for people explore and use.” She introduced the Library of Congress’s new division, National Digital Initiatives — who organized the event — and said, “Today is a perfect example of the work we want them to do, leveraging the Library to bring all of you together, discussing the best practices and lessons learned from your work, thinking through next steps and what we can do even better moving forward.”

Similarly, Thomas Padilla’s (UC Santa Barbara) closing keynote emphasized the importance of an awareness of the creators and curators of the data that institutions use:

Padilla echoed the same sentiments of many of the day’s speakers, that we need to be aware of who assembled the collections, who made the decisions and how they may have influenced the collections with a subtle – or not so subtle — bias. He called for more transparency and openness around digital collections to help avoid systematic bias — gender, racial, geographical or cultural — and he singled out the Digital Library Federation’s Cultural Assessment Group  as a step in the right direction.

Ashenfelder closed by sharing that LOC “has commissioned a report based on the presentations from this event and the small, half-day workshop that followed the next day.”

dh+lib Review

This post was produced through a cooperation between Caleb Derven, Rachel DiCresce, Heather Hill, Kathryn Kuntz, Ariadne Rehbein, Samuel Russell, and Ashley Zengerski (Editors-at-large for the week), Caro Pinto (Editor for the week), Sarah Potvin (Site Editor), Caitlin Christian-Lamb, Roxanne Shirazi, and Patrick Williams (dh+lib Review Editors).