5 Questions with Web Archivist Karl-Rainer Blumenthal

October 28th, 2015

KarlPhoto by Carl Krause

Archive-It is happy to announce that Karl-Rainer Blumenthal has joined the team as our newest web archivist. Karl will help all of our partners to build their collections through training, help documentation, user testing, and application support.

What brought you to your new role with Archive-It?

I fell in love with web archiving and especially Archive-It while working for one of our partners, the New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC), who collect specialist art historical resources from the web in addition to their own institutional sites. As one of the first National Digital Stewardship Residents in New York, I helped NYARC to ensure the highest possible quality and longest lifespan for their collections. That charge was a lot of fun in and of itself, but the best part of the job turned out to be the opportunities that it gave me to meet and work with other Archive-It partners and web archivists. They are a wonderful community and kept me constantly involved with the most fascinating issues that they face. I enjoyed putting together a little regional practice group, just for my fellow partners in New York, but now I’m excited to expand my reach and work with partners everywhere! I couldn’t be happier that the end of my residency in New York and Archive-It’s need to grow its team coincided.

What is the most exciting aspect of web archiving? The most challenging?

I’d give the same answer to both of these, actually: it’s the sheer scale of the challenge. It’s going to take the attention of all kinds of librarians, archivists, technologists, scholars, and more, to preserve the web, and we’ll only succeed if we all get to both prioritize our interests while collaborating on one another’s. Good things always seem to happen when these folks pool their resources and work together, so I’m excited to facilitate that in every way that I can!

What advice can you offer a newcomer to web archiving, then?

Don’t be shy. To make Archive-It the best service that it can be, we need your input and your insights, no matter what your experience or area of interest in web archiving is. All voices are welcome and needed here. I know that I learned as much as one could in a very brief period of time by talking to Archive-It’s web archivists and their networks of partners (and hey, it ended up being really fun, too). If you have a concern, you’re likely not the only one; if you have an idea, you’re certainly not the only one who will benefit, so share often and widely.

Archive-It New York

Karl and partners Alex Thurman (Columbia University) and Sumitra Duncan (NYARC) at the first meeting of the Archive-It NY Partners group at the Museum of Modern Art. Photo by Shira Peltzman.

What’s it like to work at the Internet Archive so far?

So inspiring! While the collections are digital, you can really feel their presence at IA HQ in San Francisco. The commitment and incredible talent of their stewards really bring them to life, I guess. I’ll work primarily from my new hometown of Chicago in the future. While I’m sad that it will take me away from the San Francisco staff for much of the year, I look forward to coming back to recharge my batteries and feel that same awe on a regular basis.

Anything that the partners and your new colleagues might be surprised to learn about you?

Well, like most archivists and librarians of a certain age, or so it seems, I spent my youth in and out of punk rock bands. I even got to “tour” a little bit, if you could really call it that. (Find me off of official channels and I *might* agree to show you the evidence in the Wayback Machine!). So I guess that’s not so much of a surprise, but would you have guessed that some of that time overlapped with my tenure as a tenor in a barbershop quartet? It’s true. Sadly, I don’t think any evidence of that adventure survives.