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Tech Tuesday: What’s on the Menu?

by on February 1, 2011


The key to successfully pairing fine wine with food is to pick flavors that are complementary.   So, what do you get when you mix an Archivist with Computer Scientists and Engineers?  We get great minds cooking up some exciting new things to add to our technology knowledge menu – and create artistic images, too!

Over the last few weeks, we’ve blogged about successful partners, useful tools, and seats at important tables.   Today’s blog highlights a unique pairing of an archivist who heads up a research team at a major university supercomputing center.

In October, Dr. Maria Esteva, one of the NCAST research partners at the Texas Advanced Computing Center – or TACC at the University of Texas at Austin – gave two talks at the National Archives, about her work as lead Research Associate and Data Archivist at TACC.

Maria’s first presentation, focused on a TACC project to develop an interactive application to help us understand – or visualize – how large or complex data are organized or structured.   It’s as important as having a cookbook or recipe card with good illustrations for detailed instructions.

Through the TACC project, we can use advanced tools such as visualization, natural language processing, and data mining to help us understand data structure and content for very large collections of records, which helps us plan what might be the best way to manage and preserve the records into the future.  Watch this video (it’s a little over 1 hour) of her presentation.

 

One of the things you notice about Maria within the first 15 minutes of listening to her is how much she loves her work.  Most archivists do. What makes her work unique is her ability to feel completely comfortable working alongside computer scientists and engineers to explain how archivists think and do their work.  She presents the profession’s toughest problems to computer scientists and engineers who have spent their careers waiting for just these types of challenging research opportunities.

So, how do we clone someone like Maria?  Watch this video of her (a little under one hour) , where she shared with us critical skill sets and knowledge that archivists and records management professionals need to actively and successfully collaborate in this setting.

What’s so fascinating to me about data visualizations is that, like abstract artworks, they can be very beautiful to look at and ponder.  Just last week, TACC released this article that describes and demonstrates their data visualization framework for organizing and accessing large volumes of electronic records in the NCAST test collections:

A Window on the Archives of the Future: TACC partners with the National Archives to find solutions to the federal government’s digital records challenge

http://www.tacc.utexas.edu/news/feature-stories/2011/a-window-on-the-archives-of-the-future/

So, you see, perfect pairings are made – and when you get the right minds, flavors, and images together, beautiful things happen before your eyes!  Feel free to leave your comments or questions below, or send a note to ncast@nara.gov.


Comments

Meredith February 1, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Thank you so much for sharing, Rita. I was sad I missed Dr. Esteva’s presentations and I’m glad they are available here!

Mark February 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Dr. Esteva’s work is the featured visualization on International Science Grid This Week. See http://www.isgtw.org/ and click on the image labeled, Archival analysis art.

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