October 31, 2017 will mark the end of the Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) pilot phase; an endeavor funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Since receiving the grant in August 2015, SNAC has moved forward in its goal of establishing a sustainable, community-driven and -supported cooperative for sharing descriptive archival data; archival data housed in search system which forefront the identities and stories of millions of creators of archives, special libraries and museum holdings.
As the pilot end date approached, there was still work to be done, so the cooperative leadership officially requested an extension, and Mellon granted an additional three months. It’s also important to know that SNAC was invited to apply for a second pilot phase with funding from November 2017 through October 2019. The grant proposal for the next pilot phase is pending the award grant from the Mellon Foundation at this time. The cooperative leadership and membership are excited about the prospect of SNAC’s future development.
NARA’s official involvement in SNAC started in 2012 when Archives staff accepted an advisory role in SNAC as the project morphed from a research and development venture into an effort to launch a new cooperative of archives data sharing. Presently, two staff from NARA’s Office of Innovation, Jerry Simmons and Dina Herbert, represent the agency as External Agency Liaisons to the SNAC cooperative. They coordinate all of NARA’s efforts for SNAC work, including active participation in the planning and development of SNAC’s governance and administration along with the seventeen partner institutions. NARA, as the Federal lead institution, forms one third of the SNAC operations effort, working closely with representatives from the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities and the California Digital Library.
From the beginning of the pilot phase in August 2015, NARA’s representatives were actively involved in SNAC’s user interface system development through consultation and software testing. Currently, NARA’s SNAC Liaison team responds to requests to test newly developed system functions, ensuring all necessary user requirements are met. Additionally, we work closely with the leadership of the SNAC Communications and SNAC Editorial and Standards Policy working groups in order to coordinate efforts and share responsibility for communicating all aspects of SNAC activity to the cooperative partnership, and to be a responsive voice to policy issues surrounding descriptive standards and use policies implemented in SNAC.
In keeping with NARA’s dedication to social media, NARA’s SNAC Liaisons are engaged in a robust Twitter project to bring exposure to SNAC’s rich content of descriptive data. Regular tweets with anniversary-focused themes have been well received in the early months of the effort. And, in keeping with the cooperative spirit, NARA SNAC Liaisons are actively teaming with social media experts from partner institutions to promote SNAC and to demonstrate its power to connect records creators with shared relationships and common life stories. Among these efforts is a special project to demonstrate the relationships between polar explorers, their personal and professional connections, their affiliations with polar expeditions, and the locations of their personal papers and artifacts.
In its primary role, NARA has taken the lead in development and execution of SNAC’s formal training program called the SNACSchool. Both of NARA’s SNAC Liaisons are active members of the SNACSchool Working Group along with SNAC partners from other SNAC partner institutions including Barbara Aikens, Smithsonian’s Archive of American Art; Alan Mark, George Washington University Library; Melanie Yolles, New York Public Library; and Glen Wiley, University of Miami Library. The working group formed in late 2016 with the primary mission of developing a formal training program for SNAC. The current curriculum includes modules covering basic archival authority control, searching the SNAC database, and creating and editing data in SNAC.
Next week, SNACSchool will make its debut at the Millar Library on the campus of Portland State University during the Society of American Archivists (SAA) annual meeting. SNACSchool instructors will host a group of new SNAC users for a live classroom event, and another group participating remotely from several locations across the country. SNACSchool’s future will involve in-person events at large conferences such as SAA, however, a great deal of energy is now dedicated to developing a training schedule via remote events, while developing a highly flexible, self-paced learning platform for the cooperative’s future.