Mellon Scholarly Personal Archiving Project


Welcome to our home for information, data, and observations relevant to Penn State’s personal scholarly archiving project.  Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this one year qualitative research project seeks to explain and explore the specifics of and anticipated needs regarding the information workflow of disciplinary faculty, and on faculty needs regarding the acquisition of digital literacies essential to effective research management, robust scholarly creation, and continued navigation of the archiving process.

In the weeks and months to come, you’ll see on this blog project photos, updates, profiles of our researchers, presentations, and publications.  We welcome community dialogue, as well as any questions that you may have about the project.  Thank you for your interest in our work!

Smiljana Antonijevic: Research Anthropologist


Smiljana Antonijevic

Research Anthropologist
As the research anthropologist working on the project, Smiljana comes with the various methodologies, such as developing questions for interviews, creating consent forms, and developing and working with focus groups. Additionally, she conducts the faculty interviews, analyzes the data, presents findings at conferences, and writes papers about the results.

Now and Later: Digital Archiving
Smiljana sees archiving currently expanding into different parts of society. Before you had to be a really important person or have extremely important work in order to get archived, but now everyone has the opportunity to digitally archive their work. In this sense, broadening the base of what is getting archived results in the democratization of the entire field of archiving. We are now able to capture more details of everyday life, which is really intriguing to Smiljana, especially in her role as an anthropologist.

Survivor: Technology We Can’t Live Without
Because DropBox has so many different functions, such as storing and sharing, Smiljana finds that it is the most crucial piece of technology to her workflow. DropBox is important because she travels frequently for work, alternating between living in Chicago, Illinois; State College, Pennsylvania; and Denmark. When she is in between places and works from different spaces, it is important to have a tool where she can share information with herself and with others.

Scott McDonald: Co-Primary Investigator


Scott McDonald

 Co-Primary Investigator, alongside Ellysa Stern Cahoy
As Co-Primary Investigator, Scott was involved with the conceptualization of the project, and he will work on data analysis and the writing up of research results upon his return from a sabbatical.

Now and Later: Digital Archiving
Scott believes that we currently don’t have a very systematic way to archive, especially when it comes to academics and intellectuals. Navigating the continually changing technologies is a lot like navigating the Wild Wild West. Ultimately, we as a society don’t completely know what we’re doing, and it could result in major consequences. Scott argues that this is why it is important to engage in this project, since we are trying to figure out how to support a transition to archiving systematically.

Survivor: Technology We Can’t Live Without
The pieces of technology that Scott deems most important to his own life essentially help facilitate the various components of his workflow, including the intake, organization, and output. Sente, a bibliographic software, plays a major role in his intake, enabling him to organize the research he gathers. Likewise, he finds out about new research from GoogleReader, allowing him to digest and read other peoples’ work. He then uses the note taking application Notational Velocity for his preliminary notes.  A word processor application, such as Microsoft Word or Pages, is an important tool for the output portion. Thus, different pieces of technology are central to different aspects of Scott’s workflow, all working together to create an efficient and systematic workflow.

Benjamin Goldman: Digital Records Archivist

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Benjamin Goldman

Digital Records Archivist
As Digital Records Archivist, Ben is involved with faculty interviews and can speak to issues on long term preservation. After faculty have done all their research and built up a body of work, he is interested in how to keep it around for other people to use in their research later. As an archivist, he is curious about what technologies faculty members use to create anything that may end up in an archive, as well as what their personal archiving habits are, whether they delete often, whether they are using standard or unusual software, and so on.

Now and Later: Digital Archiving
Sadly, Ben does not see digital archiving playing as much of a role in society as it used to. A lot of people know that they should back up their information but don’t. Additionally, technology changes quickly, making it hard to keep up with. Ultimately, data growth has skyrocketed because technology allows us to create infinitely more. Ben cites photography practices in the past and present as an example. Photographers were more careful and took less pictures in the past because they had larger cameras and film was extremely expensive. They produced less, yet the photos were of higher quality. Now, it is so easy to take digital photos that the quantity people take are much greater, even though the quality is not always very high. Essentially, the amount of stuff people have to manage has grown so much, which makes it overwhelming for many people. Ben is unsure of whether this will change in the future.

 Survivor: Technology We Can’t Live Without
Ben uses email heavily for professional reasons and personal reasons. Email helps him to collaborate with other people, to communicate, and to move work between various computers. From an archivist’s perspective, email is curious because people started using it and, in some sense, forgot about cleanliness, as shown by how email inboxes often are disorganized with messages sprawled out all over the place.

Eric Novotny: History Librarian

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Eric Novotny

History Subject Librarian
As the history subject librarian, Eric’s main role has been to recruit participants and serve as a liaison for the History Department. He wanted to ensure that the perspective of historians was represented. Eric was also involved with the survey design and is hoping to do analysis specifically with the historians’ survey results. He will also be involved with the follow up focus groups.

Now and Later: Digital Archiving
As an historian, Eric has unique archiving needs. The research is usually book intensive and therefore he has accumulated a large body of paper. As part of his work, he has to travel and go to archives around the world to make photocopies of materials, since until very recently most archives wouldn’t allow scholars to make digital copies. Currently, Eric’s archive is a hybrid of paper files stored in drawers and digital files on the computer. He thinks that in the future a global archive would be advantageous and, in his view, it would be very valuable if historians could somehow share all the paper information locked up in their drawers. In the future, he would also like to see a tool in digital archiving that is customized for historians.

Survivor: Technology We Can’t Live Without
Eric finds Google, Google Scholar, library databases, and LionSearch to be extremely helpful during the discovery process when he is conducting research to broaden an idea, like his current project on censorship in the libraries. Once he has identified his specific research, he uses citation tools like Mendeley or Zotero, although he believes that citation management tools are not very well integrated into the work that historians are doing. For example, there are citation issues with nonpublished materials, like diaries, that historians use.

John Meier: Science Subject Librarian

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John Meier

Science Subject Librarian
John has been involved with the project by planning interviews and surveys for the faculty subjects. As the science and technology subject librarian, he represents the College of Agriculture, the College of Health and Human Development, the College of Engineering, the Eberly College of Science, and the College of Information Science and Technology. In his supportive role, he has worked with the deans of the colleges and with the faculty to promote participation.

Now and Later: Digital Archiving
John thinks that when it comes to current digital archiving most people assume that it is being done for them. For example, while many people are constantly producing content (such as uploading large amounts of pictures onto Flickr or Facebook), they don’t necessarily see themselves as responsible for backing up their own materials but rather rely on the website(s). Therefore, when it comes to the awareness of the general population, John doesn’t think that we’re fully there yet. However, on the plus side, a certain segment of the population is aware of the need to back up and archive materials, such as using external hard drive.  One positive John sees about digital technology is that it enables us to actually live with less material stuff; even if one loses his/her possessions, he/she may still have photos saved on a website somewhere.

Survivor: Technology We Can’t Live Without
A desktop computer used to be the most pivotal piece of technology for John’s workflow, but now it is his iPad with keyboard, which is much more portable. Portability is essential to John because the amount of time he spends actually sitting at his office desk is less than half the total hours he works during the week.

Alice Teeple: Photographer and Creative Director

photos, profiles

Alice Teeple

Photographer, Creative Director of our Scholarly Workflow blog
Alice creates the visual elements for our project and photographically documents the research process.

Now and Later: Digital Archiving in Society
Alice argues that obsoletion is one of the biggest problems in digital archiving, and notes that film used for photography has already grown obsolete. While film was a necessity when Alice was growing up, it is now mostly used in specialized fields like the fine arts, making it more of a novelty. Although Alice enjoys the physicality of film and its long life span, she mainly focuses on digital photography, which is the dominant norm nowadays. As opposed to film, which could be stored in books, Alice now archives her pictures on her computer. A testament to the rapidly changing field of technology is that she often uses her iPhone to take pictures because it is less invasive, yet it still has great quality. Ten years ago she would have never dreamed she would now be snapping pictures with a phone. However, she at times worries that the rate of change will continue to speed up and cites the continual updates on the iPhone as an example. A consequence of the rapid change in technology is that people who tend to be afraid of the unknown experience more difficulty when trying to catch up.

Survivor: Technology We Can’t Live Without
While Photoshop used to be the piece of technology most crucial to her workflow as a photographer, Lightroom has taken over as her number one “lifesaver.” This computer program enables her to enhance photographs to make them optimal for her clients, such as erasing blemishes and cropping photographs.

Ellysa Stern Cahoy: Co-Primary Investigator

Ellysa Stern Cahoy

Co-Primary Investigator, alongside Dr. Scott McDonald.
As Co-Primary Investigator, Ellysa directs the project research, supervises all grant employees, and oversees and participates in the analysis and dissemination of our research results.

Now and Later: Digital Archiving
While we are currently in the honeymoon period, where it is the dawn of technology with new inventions popping up everyday, Ellysa foresees an eventual catastrophic loss of information in our society’s future. This loss could take a variety of forms but will most likely be major, like Google disappearing. At that moment, we’ll all wake up and finally realize that we placed too much trust in saving our information online. On a more positive note, she predicts that such a loss will force us to reassess, and then develop comprehensive strategies for saving information and improving information’s life span.

Survivor: Technology We Can’t Live Without
Ellysa’s iPhone is the most central component to her workflow because of its versatility. Anything she can access on her regular computer, she can access on her iPhone, such as documents on GoogleDrive and DropBox. Because Ellysa can do countless tasks from her iPhone, she can employ it in both the work and play realms, answering library patrons’ reference questions at one point in the day and reading for pleasure at another. The key to the iPhone is that it gathers all of her information in one place, which aids organization.