Historian’s Report January 18th, 2022

Historian’s Report Jan. 18, 2022

HISTORIAN’S 2021 YEAR-END REPORT TO THE OPA BOARD*

2021 Year End Report (1): Revised Proposal for a Pilot Digital Historian Book & Comments: The Box

Sent By: Priscilla Hunter 31xii21

Topics:  1.Revised Proposal for an Online Vault of Archived Historian Books.

2.Unresolved Issue: the Box.

Section 1: PROPOSAL AND ACTION PLAN for DEVELOPMENT of an OPA DIGITAL HISTORIAN BOOK

Recap of Background Work

At its November meeting, the Board supported my development of an online Historian Book (HB) and heard the initial case for considering using the retail Professional DropBox communication system as the platform of the historian’s annual books. I thought DropBox sounded promising and agreed to investigate in more detail the costs and benefits of DropBox as the support platform of an online Historian Book. All members agreed.

At its December meeting, I summarized a preliminary version of the project and the findings of my research into capabiities and benefits of both DropBox and a different communication system, Google Drive. I recommended the adoption of Google Drive instead of DropBox as the online communication system most useful for OPA’s creation, maintenance, and reader sharing of an online historical record of its annual accomplishments.

Evaluation of DropBox

After proposing that we first consider using DropBox as the communication platform of the HA, then reading more about online communication, I discovered that DropBox has the following basic features that do not seem to adequately support the work of creating and maintaining a professional arts organization’s permanent historical record. DropBox is tailored for in-house-communication using a few fixed, repeatable forms with endless revision capability, such forms basic to the operation of small businesses, from single subscriber to 100 subscribers, each with their own login ID and password. There seem to be four or five incremental levels of DropBox storage and technical capabilities, monthly subscriptions varying in price from single-subscriber accounts with 2 TB storage ($13/month/one subscriber) up to many TB storage ( $20/month/minimum three subscribers) or $30/month/up to 100 subscribers & unlimited storage. But the variety of forms used in a DropBox account apparently does not greatly increase with the number of subscribers.

Comparing Google Drive

I think the literature on communication systems should be continually evaluated in the pilot program, but it seems that, in general, even the free, unlimited-time use of a basic Google Drive plan offering 15 GB of storage would apparently give OPA greater initial storage capacity and greater design flexibility and historians’ control over the creation and use of a greater number and variety of forms and files. Unlike DropBox, all forms used may be copied and read without cost by OPA Board and other members or permitted non-members (e.g., other historians or other researchers), but our official files would not be alterable by unauthorized readers. However, any errors of language or content discovered subsequent to installation by the historian or other qualified authors would need to be acknowledged and corrected by the Historian or other OPA official, if I understand this correctly.

An important advantage are the free 15 GB of Google Drive storage, which will be very helpful to the HB developers in judging how many GB or TB of storage space will be needed to run an ongoing set of digital historian books for OPA. It will show us if we’ll need to purchase additional Google Drive storage space, at a cost of about $1.99 (/GB?) a month, I believe.    

Developing an Initial Action Plan for a Digital Historian Book.

This plan entails taking ad hoc steps necessary that will lead the HB committee to initiate a preliminary trial vault structure in which future OPA historian books will be safely archived and  accessible to interested users. That vault will be created by the implementation and evaluation of a Pilot Version of a Digital Historian Book. The following projection is a specific, detailed version of the historian’s generic project outline (9xii21) and attempts to answer and reflect certain concerns and questions expressed by members of the Board during discussion of the proposal at the December Board meeting.

I asked the Board  in December to approve the naming of a small task force or (sub-)committee of OPA members consisting of at least myself (Historian) and Rana Tahir (Treasurer &Webmaster) and perhaps one or two interested non-board member volunteers to create a pilot program to gradually develop and implement on Google Drive a trial online historian book. The process of online book implementation would remain in the preparation stage for as long as it takes to successfully inaugurate a trial online historical record of OPA activities, actions, and events, targeting installation of complete records of the OPA year of 2022, proceeding to the installation of official documents as they come in to the Historian after the trial book begins operation and, as feasible, the simultaneous recapturing and installing of earlier 2022 documents to round out the 2022 year.

Board Action on the Issue

After good discussions at the November and December board meetings, the Board reached a consensus and supported Rana and my development of a Pilot Program to implement an online historian book digitally supported by Google Drive that will archive the historian books permanently, repeating (some? all?) documents shared initially on the website. The HB committee’s work of developing a project pilot will begin in February of 2022 and has no fixed deadline for implementation of the pilot book or the final version of the digital HB.

Rana volunteered to be on the organizing committee to design a working digital historian book  (HB) with Priscilla. Priscilla recommended that former OPA presidents and historians Jennifer Rood and Bruce Parker be invited to join or advise our pilot task committee. Rana suggested that they be invited to join or advise us or just send us any online materials they have that might be useful in establishing the Pilot program and the trial online historian book.

Summary: The HB committee’s long goal is to design, implement, and maintain an effectively functioning system of data collection and storage. One project objective is to ensure good user accessibility for use in future historical record keeping and use by the Board of OPA and others. The committee will begin creating and trouble-shooting the new historian book pilot in February. No deadline for completion of any stage of the pilot program has been set.

Unfinished Business

The Board has heard the issue but not yet moved to set the delinieation of year (calendar year? from Board service year to Board year? etc.) that the Historian should use to organize the OPA historian books. Until correction by the Board, I propose that  Rana will set up preliminary folders according to the 2021-2022 Board service season.

The Board has not yet considered the basic issue of who will be the registered user or users of the Gmail Drive account that will store the OPA historian books.

Next Steps

  1. Expansion of a Historian Book Committee. The present HB committee will consist of Rana (Treasurer and Webmaster) and Priscilla (Historian). In January I will contact Jennifer and Bruce in January and Invite them to participate in the process. 
  2. Rana will create a Historian gmail address and register OPA or OPA Historian as a user of Gmail storage and communication services.
  3. In late February I will “call a meeting” with Rana and any other committee participants to begin to map out a plan and calendar to

Section 2: The Box

A Separate but Related Area of Recurring Concern Requiring Board Action

At both the November and December meetings, board members brought up and we discussed a separate but increasingly worrisome issue of organizing and storing the contents of “the box”—a bigger and bigger cardboard box full of previous historians’ print records and memorabilia–their historian books—a boxed collection that has traditionally passed from historian to historian. Over several or many years of OPA history the box and the archives it contains have become less and less accessible and more and more problematic, aggravated in part, perhaps, by the changing stability of the state’s demography.

The causes of the box’s problems are the size and weight of the box and the board’s scattered geographic locations—maybe always intra-statal and now of a clearly more and more interstatal composition. This long-overhanging problem of the Historian position on the OPA Board is now demanding the attention and time of two OPA historians. One is the 2021-2022 Historian (me, still packing up my house in Ashland but by 1 Februaty 2022 supposedly on my relocation road trip to Austin TX). The other is the recent past President and Historian, Jennifer Rood, who is no longer associated with the Board and asking it for relief.

Jennifer’s distress from the box’s continued presence in her home, taking up needed space, reveals the negative effect of a set of nuisance factors built into the box system. Because of the imminent transfer of my residence to Texas, Jennifer’s plight cannot be helped by the usual procedure of one or both historians traveling somewhere in the state to meet up for a hand-off of the box to its new host.

It is important to recognize that there is ongoing and growing urgency in the need for the board to enact a workable solution to the unworkable logistics and accessibility of the collected historian books in a cardboard box. So far the Board has come up with no satisfactory immediate solution to the current nuisance of the box format because there does not seem to be an obvious or easy solution to this multifaceted problem.

Finding a Solution to the Box Problems

The problems of the box full of old historian books/records are time and space and the logistical obstacles they present to accessibility and storage of the information in the box. In the current arrangement for handling the box archive, accessibility to information is limited both by the records’ material format and their constantly shifting localization, and their organization (a table of contents) doesn’t seem to be noted outside of the box itself. The box of annual historian books, whatever form they may have taken over the years, have, for a while now, been accessed by a limited number of people (usually board officers) or one person (the historian) in any given year.

But it should be recognized that the OPA historian books may contain information that future board members and non-board members and, with appropriate permissions, even non-affiliated members might find beneficial (historians, arts historians, other arts organizations…).  

The underlying questions about the box center on how and when to eliminate and compensate for the patterns of disconnect built into a once apparently workable but now outdated collection of print-records. The print system is further complicated by an increasingly migratory culture of OPA members.

A starting point:  Identify an OPA or OPA Board Project Director

Some alternative ways the Board might move toward the answers to questions about integrating the box into the   projected online communication system supporting a cache or vault of annual books in an online historian book.

  1. Alternative A – Immediately or soon form a separate, perhaps non-board committee or task group that would design a method, means, and schedule for evaluating, coordinating, digitizing, and integrating into the online Historian Book the contents of the box, working with the HB team when feasible in 2022.
  2. Alternative B – Immediately or soon Hire an OPA member or other poet as an executive assistant who can run and oversee and facilitate the retrieval and transference work of that committee as described in A above, working with the HB team when feasible in 2022.
  3. Alternative C – In 2023 or so turn the search for a solution to the box problem over to the current online book pilot team (Priscilla and Rana) once the pilot Google-Drive program is in place and functioning effectively for easily collecting and storing data and has met the approval of the Board.

Choose and Organize a Box-Integration Process

One model of an already operating system that seems appropriate in this case and is familiar to educators, is a specific idea mentioned by Priscilla at both the November and December OPA Board meetings. It suggests (only) one way we might go about accomplishing the labor intensive work of integrating the box into the online system. The Board could decide to define and establish one or more OPA internships to be supervised by OPA and fulfilled by college students in exchange for institutional credits or payment by OPA. A box-integration committee should be committed to defining reasonable internship objectives, providing supervision of and useful meetings with their intern(s), and carrying the internship project to completion in increments or as a whole.  Any college internship should be designed in collaboration with faculty and departments of some or all Oregon universities, colleges, and community colleges. In such internships, the student intern(s) —if for credit—would have to be supervised by OPA, “graded,” with grades reported back to the crediting department according to term deadlines. The OPA intern supervisors should commit to following through a whole term supervising one or more interns.

Nancy Christopherson (Vice President) has compiled a list of Oregon institutions of higher education and can get such a list to the box archive project chair as needed to  facilitate the structuring and implementation of internships used to solve the box problem. Southern Oregon University, for example, is organized into seven academic divisions that include two of specific interest for exploring this type of internships. One is the Oregon Center for the Arts which the state has placed at SOU; another is the SOU division of Humanities and Culture.

. . .

* I will copy this report to Jennifer and Bruce, previous OPA historians.

END OF REPORT

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