I've seen a lot of EMC press releases in my career, but this announcement from September 21, 2010 is at the top of my list. EMC is sponsoring the digitization of assets from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (and helping to sponsor the museum's education initiatives as well).
I'm a huge baseball fan. I called the museum (located in Cooperstown, New York) and let them know that I've been assigned to publicly document the relationship, technology, and archival strategy that will develop between the museum and EMC. Who gave me the assignment?
When I spoke with Ken Meifert at the museum, he told me that it would be best if I visited in person, but not right away, because he had to attend Game 1 of the World Series in San Francisco (I would have been perfectly willing to go with him to get a deeper understanding of the museum's mission and purpose).
So I waited a few weeks before taking my wife and son with me for a visit. Here's what I learned.
The Big Picture
Most people recognize Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony that occurs each year. Indeed, the public area inside the museum dedicated to the Hall of Fame is measured at over 4,000 square feet.
The total square footage of the public museum exceeds 55,000 square feet, so it is clear that the recognition of baseball greats represents only a portion of the overall mission, which is described as follows:
Preserving History. Honoring Excellence. Connecting Generations.
The game of baseball and the history of America are deeply intertwined. This helps to explain the selection criteria for accepting new artifacts into the museum. They are looking specifically for contributions that offer unique and valuable insights into American history. For example, chief librarian Jim Gates explained to me that they recently received a slide rule that had at one time been used to help calculate baseball statistics. This type of donation has more value than autographed pictures of famous baseball players, because it sheds greater insight into the American past (so send all of your autographed pictures of Ty Cobb to me!).
The library is another important facet of the museum. It contains millions of documents, over half a million photographs, and thousands of hours of recorded film, video, and sound. According to their website they receive over 60,000 research inquiries per year! Jim was kind enough to display some of the more interesting artifacts for us. The picture below shows some of them.
The table contains the following:
- The large book represents hand-entered statistics for every player in the National League during 1947. If you want a closer look at the page from this book you can click here. Starting on April 15, 1947, this page represents the statistics of a rookie baseball player named Jack Robinson.
- The promissory note for the sale of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees.
- A base ball rule book from 1856. Each "club" had their own rule book, and when they met to play they had to decide on the rules for that particular game. In reality this practice in still in effect today, given that each league has different rules (e.g. designated hitter), and each team has different rules for their home park (the ground rules).
- An 1867 book called "Base Ball as Viewed by a Muffin". A muffin was essentially a third-stringer who was on the team because each club needed members (and the dues that each member paid). Their skill level was lower than the first-stringers, and the baseball phrase "he muffed it" evolved from these individuals.
Between the contents in the library and the museum, there are an overwhelming number of options when it comes to the strategy for digital preservation of the assets. So what's the plan for the use of the EMC equipment and relationship?
A Two-Phased Approach
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum already has their own IT department, and just like any IT department, they have to keep up with the pace of information growth. Phase 1 of the engagement will be targeted at improving the efficiency of the existing IT operations. I hope to document the steps that they are taking along the way.
The second phase will be the ongoing (and never-ending) digitization of museum and library assets. This of course is similar to the effort sponsored by EMC at the JFK Library. The first step in this phase is the creation of the business plan for exactly what gets archived, why it gets archived, and the ongoing cost associated with doing so. This business plan will drive to an implementation over the course of time.
I'm Ready to Play
When the Red Sox run out onto the field before each home game, they play the John Fogerty song "Centerfield". The song includes the familiar phrase: "Put me in coach, I'm ready to play". That's certainly how I feel about this project. The intersection between baseball and American history is fascinating and represents an extremely unique and fun way to learn.
I think it would be helpful for me to move out there during the summer to closely track how things are moving along.
On a personal note, I decided to post some of the pictures that I took when my family and I received a personal tour of the museum archives. Enjoy!