Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Archival Odyssey

Now that we are a little bit more prepared for our first steps into fieldwork we have been confronted by a daunting question: How do we manage all of this data? This question will become significantly more important over the next two weeks as we take photographs, conduct interviews, make logs, write field notes, and draw floor plans of buildings in Keels. As we work through our assigned readings we get a sense of how to conduct an interview and take a compositionally well framed photograph, but dealing with all of this material presents many other challenges.

Some of the tools of fieldwork: computer, microphone, digital audio recorder, XLR cable and instruction manual (Photograph: Noah Morritt)
The past three days have included a lot of discussion and debate. Every day it feels like we begin and end our day with a discussion about the proper convention for labeling digital files, filling out metadata forms, and depositing our work on the field school hard drive. Although it may seem that we have not made any progress, we have in fact addressed important questions and developed practical solutions.

The importance of properly documenting and managing our data it not simply a question of organization: we have a responsibility to ensure that the materials we collect are properly preserved for posterity. The people we interview are giving us their time and sharing information with us, and we have to acknowledge this. Ensuring that we properly preserve this information is not just good fieldwork methodology, it is a gesture of goodwill and an ethical responsibility.

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