Name: Karl-Rainer Blumenthal
Title: National Digital Stewardship Resident (NDSR)
Institution/Organization: New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC)
School: Drexel University

What made you decide to join ARLIS/NY?
It’s the community of practice, and above all its eagerness to support its members, that immediately drew me to ARLIS/NY. Coming to a new city, diploma barely in hand, and into an especially challenging new job, I was thrilled to find a network of professionals so accomplished and equally generous with their experience. 

Can you describe your primary job responsibilities as the National Digital Stewardship Resident at NYARC?
I’ll spend my residency designing and implementing best practices for quality assurance, preservation metadata, and archival storage in the web archiving program shared among the Frick Art Reference Library, and the libraries of the Brooklyn Museum and The Museum of Modern Art. This project has made incredible—and incredibly swift—strides already. My challenge is to make sure that the work can continue and even streamline in its next iteration, and that still further generations of stewards can access and share the that resources we capture today. NYARC is definitely blazing this trail for the field, so it’s equal parts exciting and scary to set the standards by which web-native art reference materials will be captured, preserved, and stored in general. I’ll work closely with the librarians, consultants, and interns at each institution to make sure I’m addressing their vital concerns all along the way. I’ll share updates from the project as well as other news from the world of digital preservation on the NDSR residents’ new blog at: http://ndsr.nycdigital.org.

As someone who is new to New York, what has surprised you about the city?
New York certainly moves at its own pace—I’ve noticed that I’m already about three times faster than the average pedestrian back home in Philadelphia! Still, there are more opportunities to slow down, quiet down, and enjoy the city, it’s places, and it’s people than I think I expected. New Yorkers really do seem to take advantage of all of the amazing cultural resources at their disposal, but if you know where to look, you can also still escape to a walkable, tree-lined neighborhood with small town charm. 

Do you have any advice for students or recent graduates like yourself?
The challenges we face as librarians and archivists are getting more complex all the time, so picking up brand new skills and competencies obviously can’t end with your degree. We all have to advocate publicly and enthusiastically for our profession and our professional development if we want to keep pace with radical technological change. Definitely take advantage of the network that ARLIS and other professional groups provide you, but try to give as much as you take. Meet-ups, workshops, hackathons and the like are great opportunities to both learn from and teach your peers while the resources for more formal educational programs are scarce.  

What is your favorite aspect of being an information specialist?

Without a doubt it’s the mandate that the profession gives me to constantly keep learning, and the opportunity to apply that learning in new, unexpected environments. Having good information acumen, curiosity, and a little bit of tact has enabled me to practice in settings with radically different needs, but similar power to change the way I see the world.

Do you have a favorite museum or gallery?
Coming from Philadelphia, I’ve been spoiled by some great landmark institutions like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Barnes Foundation, and the Rodin Museum. Still, whenever a friend makes the trip down to the city I always implore them to first visit the Mütter Museum—a fantastically quirky collection of medical oddities and specimens. Around Halloween they even host sleepover nights complete with flashlight tours, ghost stories, and séances!

Image: Making timelapses of downtown Philly from the Cira Center tower in 2013 (photo by Sahar Coston-Hardy)