Society of American Archivists (SAA) 2017

In late July I had the pleasure of participating in the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and serving as a co-panelist at a rights-oriented session: The session was moderated by Kelcy Shepherd (DPLA Network Manager, Digital Public Library of America). and my co-panelists were Laura Capell (Head of Digital Production & Electronic Records Archivist, University of Miami), MJ Han (Metadata Librarian, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), and Sheila McAlister (Director, Digital Library of Georgia).

The session was quite well attended, with approximately 150 in attendance, and heavily promoted after the sessions were made available online (I’ve seen it float by on multiple mailing lists!). Although the introductory slides are available I strongly recommend this excellent summary of the panel from Michael Barera (Archivist, Texas A&M University-Commerce). Given our audience – archivists who likely hadn’t implemented standardized rights statements to any great degree – we provided an introduction to and the standardized statements, and moved to a panel discussion of the benefits of providing standardized rights information, the panel’s implementation hurdles, the complexities that we’ve encountered in rights statements assignments, and answered questions from the community.

We had a great time connecting with colleagues, learning about new tools and exploring Portland during #saa2017

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As for the meeting itself – it was very large with multiple concurrent sessions, and there were a few days of Society business meetings and workshops before the primary conference sessions, and an unconference after the meeting. The meeting was hosted at the Portland Conference Center and to everyone’s delight, one of the conference hotels hosted a cat show the day after the conference.

As a copyright attorney working as a librarian, archivists’ work can be somewhat opaque and having the opportunity for informal networking and discussion of archival practices in the rights context in other institutions besides my own was invaluable.

Brandy Blog Post

I attended sessions that were pretty unique to SAA. My favorite was Everyone’s Vested Interests: Archivists and Affinity Groups, which turns out to be a really oblique way of saying super unique corporate archives. We were regaled with tales from Coca-Cola, Levi, IBM (including the making of Hidden Figures), Harley-Davidson, and Disney. The session was a must-attend for anyone working in archives that preserve fandom-focused materials (and as a Penn State Employee was actually useful in helping to understand how the Archivists & Special Collections team uses what we have to cultivate our fan base and obtain important scholarly collections). Plus, the exhibits hall was packed full of vendors showing off their new techy wares – I was particularly taken by automatic microfiche scanners!

Finally, one of my favorite things were the epic ribbons that SAA provides conference goers! A more accurate badge has never been assembled.

Meet the Developer Team – Chad Nelson


For our first edition of Meet the Developer Team, we would like to introduce Chad Nelson who works at Temple University and is a part of PA Digital. The Developer Team has worked tirelessly on PA Digital’s aggregator so that our hub can harvest over 214,000 records from 38 institutions throughout Pennsylvania and contribute them to the DPLA.

Michael Carroll, Interviewer (MC): Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your role/association with Temple University and the work you do there?

Chad Nelson, Developer Team Member (CN): I’m Lead Technology Developer at Temple University Libraries. I’m part of the team that builds applications and services that help users get access to our resources and make staff lives easier. I’m responsible for keeping the team of developers interested and focused, thinking strategically about our infrastructure and the maintainability of our applications.

MC: How did you first get involved with PA Digital and the DPLA?

CN: Before I started at Temple, which is when I started working with PA Digital, I was already involved with DPLA as a Community Rep. As a rep, I used data from the DPLA and the DPLA API to build applications I thought explored the data in new ways. As part of that process, I wrote a small software library making it easy to use the DPLA API in the Python programming language. I also built a few apps – Color Browse ( allowing a small selection of DPLA data to be searchable by Color, and DPLA by State and County (, that shows DPLA item distribution at the State and County level.

MC: Can you elaborate about your role in and contributions to PA Digital?

CN: I maintain the servers that power the PA Digital Aggregator, and contribute to the software we use to pull in data in from contributors, normalize it, and feed it through to the DPLA. This includes updating the application to perform new functions, reviewing code submissions from other developers on the PA Digital project, working with the metadata team on designing future requirements, or analyzing problems with data from new contributors.

MC: What is your favorite app for engaging with DPLA materials? How did you go about the initial stages of developing your apps for the DPLA?

CN: The Color Browse app is my favorite app that I worked on because I learned so much from building it, and it has really helped me discover items in collections I would never have otherwise found.
I started off that project by wondering how searching and classifying by color could even happen. I had never done that kind for work before so I started off small, trying to understand how I would get a list of all the colors in an image. Once I had a good sense of how that worked, looked around for a dataset with lots of images I knew how to get a hold of easily – and DPLA was the obvious choice.

MC: Are there any apps that you are currently working on or would like to see developed for the DPLA?

CN: I’m very irregularly working on the Color Browse application to add more items, allow searching for multiple colors within an image, and syncing with DPLA.

MC: How would you rate your experience working on PA Digital and how does it relate to the work you do at Temple University?

CN: Working on PA Digital has been challenging. Trying to find the right balance between writing applications that are general enough to handle the many different systems our contributors is not easy. It is something the DPLA itself has struggled with, and it is pretty obvious why.

It has really made me appreciate just how diverse and varied the structure of cultural heritage data is, and what a huge undertaking by the DPLA it is to have aggregated as much as they have.

2017 Updates

2017 has already been an amazing year for PA Digital!

We began our year with a webinar, “Highlights of DPLA Whitepapers Webinar” in January in order to give an overview of three complex documents for our existing and prospective contributors. During this webinar, we summarized Aggregating and Representing Collections in the Digital Public Library of America. This paper explored the possibility of including more collection-level description within the DPLA. The second white paper, White Paper: Recommendations for Standardized International Rights Statements acted as documentation and information for Lastly, we spoke on DPLA Metadata Quality Guidelines which acts as a refresh of the DPLA’s metadata requirements and recommendations for better data quality. View our slides here!

We have had two harvests so far this year. Our April harvest saw the inclusion of Bryn Mawr College, Bloomsburg University, Montgomery County Community College, Slippery Rock University, Ursinus College, Philadelphia University, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. This harvest included 19 new collections and 18,480 digital objects (records).

PA Digital was well-represented at DPLAFest 2017 in Chicago. Brandy Karl, Copyright Officer, from Pennsylvania State University presented on “Implementing Rights Statements @ PSU and PA Digital” (part of Turn the Rights On: a Update and Comparison of Regional Rights Standardization Projects). View her slides here!

Delphine Khanna and myself presented on “Reaching Out to Potential DPLA Hub Contributors: PA Digital’s Communication Strategy and Plan, or “The Accidental Public Relations Manager.” View our slides here!

Our June 2017 harvest saw the inclusion of West Chester University, Pennsylvania State Archives, La Salle University, Millersville University, Sewickley Public Library, and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. This harvest also added 48 new collections and 27,780 digital objects (records).

We would like to extend warm thanks to all who worked with us to bring in new collections.

You can see all of PA Digital’s records in the DPLA by searching or faceting on our name PA Digital: PA Digital Records in the DPLA.

View our progress since we went live in DPLA:

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We also revamped our website recently. Check it out:

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In addition to new contributors and records, we are planning:

  • Two metadata workshops,
    • Metadata Anonymous Webinar, 8/23 at 1pm
    • If You Liked it Then You Should Have Put Metadata On It: Descriptive Cataloging and Selecting Rights Statements for Digital Collections at the 2017 Pennsylvania Library Association (PaLA) 10/18 at 9am
  • Two orientation webinars, and
    • Knight Orientation Webinar, 7/20 at 1pm
    • Fall Webinar TBD
  • Three educational online modules on rights statements for this summer and fall.
    • What is Copyright?
    • What is a Rights Statement?
    • Implementing Rights Statements

We are looking forward to presenting our work and onboarding more institutions and more content from current contributors within the coming year. Stay tuned for more details.

As usual, for information about our project, or about how you can participate in PA Digital and the DPLA, please email anytime to


Rachel Appel, Co-Manager, PA Digital, on behalf of the PA Digital Team


Pennsylvania State Archives, Chicken on Barrel with String on Leg