The Organization of Your Own Health

I recently came across an article on Wired entitled “Do You Want Your Apps to Know About Your Last Doctor’s Visit?” The article was about being able to download your own health records and then transfer them to a third party source. The article discussed how the data you ultimately accumulate on your smart watch can be downloaded and then released to a third party app. It also warned against the privacy issues that this brings up for patients and what releasing this information will do.

I thought that this article was interesting in relation to knowledge organization because of how we organize our own personal information i.e. medical records, text conversations, Tweets etc. versus how others would organize it. I know that I don’t personally keep a copy of my own medical records, but I know plenty of people who do. There are also people who like being able to access them via online medical services, such as MyWestMed. Patients can log in, view, and download their personal medical records via those sites. They can do this privately because the only people who have access to the medical records are themselves and the doctor’s office that needs to view them.

However, this article does bring up a good point. Do we want to open this Pandora’s box of letting third party apps be able to view and organize our personal information as we see fit? Or do we need to take charge of our information and find a way to organize it that’s more standardized? I tend to agree with this article’s perspective in that I don’t want third party apps ultimately making decisions for me, especially when it comes to my health. Ultimately, we have to think about where we’re going and how technology when it comes to our own personal information can be helpful but also could be harmful.

Nicole Marconi 653-01

Source: Crawford, Susan. (2019, October 2nd.) “Do You Want Your Apps to Know About Your Last Doctor’s

How Do You Catalog Bongos?

I volunteer at the Welcome Desk at the Brooklyn Public Library, answering questions and telling visitors about programming. One of the programs that people are always most surprised and impressed by is the Musical Instrument Lending Library – since its inception last spring, it has inspired many questions and exclamations of “that’s so cool!”, and it has been so popular that most of the instruments have consistently been checked out. It wasn’t until I started this class, though, that I wondered, how exactly do they catalog the musical instruments?

Unlike with books, there doesn’t seem to be an established practice for cataloging instruments. While there are some instruments held by the Library of Congress, they are very specific, rare examples, and accordingly catalogued more like works of art, with an artist, date, and even a title – like this violin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1699, referred to as the “Castelbarco,” which has a whole detailed history. And, although there are many guides to music cataloging, they all seem to be intended for cataloging recordings of musical performances in various media, and occasionally music scores, but not three-dimensional objects.

Looking into it, I found this list of musical instruments available for loan from the BPL Musical Instrument Library. The instruments are loosely organized by type (Percussion, String, and Electric String). Each type is listed by the number of instruments available and then the name (“Two Bongos,” “One Claves,” “One Cowbell,” etc.). From there, you can click on the individual catalog record for, for example, the bongos.

What I found most interesting is that they are listed as if each bongo is a copy of a book with the same title – they are grouped under one “title,” with each individual item listed, with its location, call number, and status listed. They don’t have actual call numbers, though, but instead “MUSICAL INSTRUMENT no. 1” and “MUSICAL INSTRUMENT no. 2” are listed. The call numbers seem to start over again for each instrument type, so that the call number for the Claves is also “MUSICAL INSTRUMENT no. 1.” The bongos record is quite complete, with a detailed notes section, a number of subject headings (including “Bongo – Instruction and study” and “Bongo – Methods – Self-Instruction”), and three alternate titles (“Circulating Bongos”, “CP CP221 tunable bongos,” and “Tunable bongos”). Aside from the fact that you can’t put them on hold (you have to make an appointment), the record functions quite similarly to that of a book.

So, thanks to the intrepid catalogers at the Brooklyn Public Library, now we all know how you catalog bongos (at least in this one instance)!

–Laura Indick, INFO653-01

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Posted in Cataloging, Libraries, Uncategorized

Archive in Motion: 75 Years of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center currently has on view a comprehensive and inspiring exhibit tracking the history of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division. However, it also works as an in-depth depiction of the work done by a performing arts archive, commenting on the division’s own archival practices as much as it does the objects on view. The Dance Division was conceived of by Genevieve Oswald, who at the time was a music librarian at the NYPL. In 1944, she made the case that the dance collections did not neatly fit into either the music or theatre archives, and deserved modes of collecting and archiving that took into consideration the form’s unique needs. The NYPL’s Dance Division was established, and in 1999 it was renamed after one of its major supporters, choreographer and director Jerome Robbins. The exhibit is both a history of dance and a history of the Dance Division, all at once, and manages to communicate both these objectives without letting one overpower the other.

I found it really interesting to get these two perspectives simultaneously, and it was impressive to see the breadth of collection material that the Dance Division has gained stewardship of over the years. The exhibit underlines the unique approach performing arts archivists and curators must take to represent the form; there was a wide range of multimedia materials, all working together to form a coherent view of a speechless – not to mention ephemeral – art form. There was an entire section at the beginning of the exhibit devoted to dance notation, documenting the ways in which choreographers and dancers recorded and remembered their steps. It is almost like the equivalent to a musical score for a composer; yet the significance of these materials is greatly overlooked by those who are not themselves dancers, unlike scores, which are generally understood by the public to be necessary documents to preserve. Representing the importance of choreographic notation as, in a way, the earliest archival methods for dance materials completely transforms the way one views the exhibit that follows.

Salvador Dali, set design for Romeo & Juliet, watercolor and graphite, 1942

Other types of materials on view that attempt to form an understanding of the historical context were set designs and set models, such as a rejected Salvador Dali watercolor sketch for a possible production of Romeo & Juliet. There were costumes on view, often next to a video screen that would be playing a clip of that costume in motion. The Dance Division is responsible for a huge initiative to record and preserve dance performances, from those of the New York City Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera to those from a tiny avant-garde company downtown. They pride themselves on this video collection, but the exhibit also emphasizes the importance of material objects, from works on paper to ephemera to costume, in providing context and reinforcing the reality of the visual media. 

Ballet shoe worn during rehearsals by dancer Anna Pavlova (1881-1931)

I would highly recommend anyone interested in archives or special collections to go see this exhibit, even if they think they have little interest in dance or dance history. It is an exciting opportunity to get a glimpse into the process of a major arts archive, and to see how the staff adapted over the years to continue carrying out Genevieve Oswald’s vision of preserving and providing access to this elusive form.

Sarah Fischer
INFO 653-02


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Youth Culture As An Artifact~

When it comes to youth culture in the twenty-first century, I have to say the the talk around it is not always very positive. In fact, the tone around discussion about youth culture often comes across as dismissive if not downright derisive. That is why I think it is a rather pleasant surprise to see an archival project devoted to preserving youth culture rise up. Currently, the project, launched by Google Arts & Culture (which has its own problems, I know) and spearheaded by the non-profit organization YOUTH CLUB, is only focused on collecting artifacts of youth culture from Britain. The artifacts the project is looking for include “gig stub tickets and photos” but also materials objects such as flyers and clothing. For example, the project recently acquired a “skinhead bank” of memorabilia (Baah, 2019). Many of the archived photos to be part of this collection also come from the publication Sleazenation of which the current director of YOUTH CLUB, John Swinstead, was the co-founder. The overall aim of this project appears to be less about creating a shrine to nostalgia and more about creating a space for the celebration of youth culture.

“1980s: Group of young punks on King’s Road, London” Gavin Watson from Google Arts & Culture collection for the Digital Museum of Youth Culture

What I find most interesting about this collection, other than its premise, is that there are currently open calls for submissions to this project. Any persons who grew up in/spent time in their youth in Britain are welcome to submit artifacts from that time in their lives. The project has teamed up with the Photocopy Club to ensure anyone who wants to provide a submission is able to scan their documents, photos, etc. People located remotely are also welcome to scan in their own artifact and submit them online. This community collaboration is expanding the borders of the museum in many important ways. Most importantly, to me, is the democratization of what is and is not considered an artifact. Often, before an item is even in contention for receiving a spot in a museum or adjacent institution, it has already been curated and identified as a “museum-worthy” item. For this project, any item from a submitter’s youth by merit of it being present during their youth puts it in contention for museum space. More, individual people are deciding what artifact they want to be part of their collective story. I believe that this kind of “open access design” is the future of GLAM spaces.

As we move into the digital age, more and more artifacts are going to be either 1) in need of digitization in order for preservation or 2) be digital from the start. As the Internet is roughly democratized and as GLAM institutions progress towards digitizing their whole collections, this seems to indicate that the current shift towards open access design will be the new standard. When it comes to collecting, organizing, and cataloging remnants of youth culture, this seems to be the best direction. Contemporary youth culture and Internet culture are becoming indistinguishable. When it comes to other collections, this new standard may not be as convenient. We are definitely living in the time and trial and error as GLAM institutions try to navigate the preservation of digital artifact while at the same time trying to digitize historical collections in accessible ways. 

I think the YOUTH CLUB’s project is an interesting approach that touches upon some of these issues. At the very least, it seems like it is trying to realize its own premise of non-conformity and the celebration of youth by implementing forward-thinking practices in the collection of archival materials. This project is navigating the intersection of many complex issues such as youth, authority, institutional practice, etc. As this museum is not set to open until 2023, I guess we will all have to wait with bated breath to see if the project sinks or swims.

~Kelli Hayes (INFO 653-01)


Baah, N. (2019, May 13). This Museum Wants to Preserve Youth Culture with Your Photos. Retrieved October 7, 2019, from

Hampson, L., & Richman, G. (2019, October 5). 40 incredible images from world’s first digital youth culture museum. Retrieved October 7, 2019, from

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Posted in Archives, Cataloging, Museums, Open Access, Preservation

Indigenous Knowledge Organization

The Xwi7xwa Library in British Columbia is approaching its collection in a way that serves the needs of indigenous patrons and addresses the problems of western focused organization systems.  The library is catering to its patrons not only through their categorization and storage methods, but through their programs.


The building is designed much like an indigenous pit house, in a subterrain level, inviting all who enter to immerse and engage in the culture of Interior Salish nations.  Inside, books are categorized by the Brian Deer Classification System, which was developed by Brian Deer in the early 1970’s. Deer, an indigenous librarian, wanted to make materials about land claims and treaties easy to find for other aboriginals.  Deer’s method also sought to challenge the traditional western organization methods, which did not, and still do not, cater to preferred names or non-roman symbols typically found in Native American languages. The system is also designed for users to find information, not in the traditional alphabetical manner, but by region. This allows for related items to be grouped together.  If one were to go with predetermined subject headings suggested by the publishers or alphabetical organization, much of the materials would be dispersed in a less helpful manner.  

The Xwi7xwa Library uses Deer’s system and continues his mission of tackling the biases that exist in western methods, while simultaneously raising awareness about these issues. Many do not realize that under DDC, Indigenous people are found only under the 970 grouping of North American history, insinuating that they are of the past, or that Native American creation stories are filed under folklore.  

By employing these methods, the Xwi7xwa Library is truly thinking about how to best serve their patrons by making their materials findable in an intuitive way. They are also educating the public and raising awareness about the problems with western categorization.  Hopefully this is a system that other organizations will emulate in their spaces.

Vanessa Castaldo – INFO 653-02


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New publishing platforms and cataloging

On Friday, September 20th, I went to the New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1. One of the exhibitors was a group of graduate students from Werkplaats Typografie, a school in Arnhem, Netherlands. They were presenting a project called W.T. Wurm’s Almanac, a “new timed-release supplement, published in quarterly seasons on Google Calendar” (“About – W.T. Wurm’s Almanac,” 2019). I talked with one of the creators of the project, Maria Smit, who described the impetus of the project when she and her fellow collaborators realized that they could see the past ten years of their school’s event after syncing it to their own online calendar. They wondered if they could use this “archive” format as publishing platform to share work. As Maria described the project, I immediately started to think about how the items published would be organized and classified if they were to be indexed. So far in class, we have been largely focusing on printed works as cataloging developed to deal with this media. Increasingly, however, cataloging has increasingly grappled with how best to organize time-based and born digital material. I am excited to learn more in Knowledge Organization so that when I come across new born digital material, like W.T. Wurm’s Almanac, I will at least have some clue as to how to catalog it.

Madera, Gerardo, Maria Smit, & Michelle Lin (2019). W.T. Wurm’s Almanac [website]. Retrieved from

Hepzibah Rapoport (INFO 653-01)

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Ethical Database for Brain Scan Imaging

Why We Need Guidelines for Brain Scan Data
by Evan D. Morris, Ph.D.


Brain scans, aided by AI, reveal as much about you as your DNA. Grappling with their ethical implications is vital to scientific integrity.

Morris 2019

After last week’s reading about the privacy of birthdays and control over personal information I thought of this article from Wired Magazine written by a professor from Yale. Morris discusses the ethical need for a better knowledge organization system that protects the privacy of patients and their brain scan imaging. He brings up an interesting point that many brain imaging research is funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH), some of which require research to be held in an NIH database without ethical consideration for who accesses the data.

As brain imaging technology advances–such as predicting behavioral traits–so does the access to that information, potentially without the contest of the patient. He draws comparisons between DNA databases used by police to the potentiality of brain scans utilized by those in positions of authority.  What would an ethical knowledge organization system that catalogs and houses brain scans be structured?

Hilary Wang
INFO 653-01


Morris, Evan D. (2019 September, 17). Why We Need Guidelines for Brain Scan Data. Wired. Retrieved from

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Posted in Cataloging, Knowledge Structures

by Hugh McLeod

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