In Defense of Silos

February 8, 2010

Jones Dairy Farm Silo


I’m not one for management jargon.  I’ve been skimming my share of management books lately.  Most recently, Good to Great (especially the booklet for social sectors).  Good to Great was published in 2o01 so I’m behind in the lastest chic management style, but then again, so it seems is our terminology.  Take the term “silo” for instance.  It has been used for some time now as a term of derision or organizational roadblock.  “Information silos” within organizations, keep groups from working together effectively because they are not sharing information stored up in respective areas.  They cause redundancy, missed opportunities.

Silo’s for silo’s sake

I actually love silos.  My mother’s side of the family have farmed in Kalkaska County Michigan since the early 1900’s.  I always knew we were near the end of our three-plus hour drive to visit when I saw the alternating green and white slats of  Uncle Cor’s silos.  They were a sign of progress, destination, relief!  Silos store up grain for later use.  They are a safeguard against paucity. Solitary silos now remind me how few family farms are left in this country.  I am relieved when I still see a few solitary silos at a farm.  It may mean a family hasn’t given up yet.

No More Jargon

I don’t want to add to the lexicon of jargon, nor think myself influential enough to do so if I tried.  But I can’t get an image out of my head. Every time I hear the term silo used in the management sense, I really see windmills.  You see, windmills, like sections of an organization, do something.  They take wind and and turn it into power to (traditionally) grind something (usually grain).  Their effectiveness and efficiency as stand-alone entities is limited, but together in groups, they can create energy to power or feed large populations (think windmills of La Mancha).

With the rise of alternative energy as a paradigm of efficiency, I can’t help but think that soon we’ll see management books exhorting organizations to create organizational “wind farms” and to replace the old rickety  windmills with efficient turbines.  Thankfully, in addition to selling books, such jargon allows the rank-and-file something to laugh about over coffee.


I have recently been working with other state archivists and their staff on the issue of providing online access to primary resources. Many states have been approached by vendors (, iArchives and Genealogical Society of Utah to name a few) interested in developing a business relationship to provide online access to original documents. The Council of State Archivists created a task force, the Online Content Providers Task Force, to deal with the issues surrounding such relationships. The result is a statement of intent, guidelines and issues to consider while working on any digitization project. You may access the online statement at:

If you have any questions about the statement please contact me directly at the Archives of Michigan.

Google Patent Search

April 10, 2007

Patents Search.

I realize it is hard to keep up with Google’s new beta products, but I thought I would share this in case you haven’t seen it. Google Patents is a simplified patent search either by keyword or by patent number. I give a workshop on researching the history of residential homes and businesses and I try to mention the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site ( However, the Google site is easier to use.

I have found the patent search useful when I have stumbled across gadgets in our attic, garage and basement. At our latest house, there is a music box screwed to base of our entry door. It was quite a mystery until I took it apart, found the patent number and ran it at It turned out to be a children’s furniture music box that could be screwed to a crib or rocking chair. The original owners were members of the U.S. Music Box Society, it was screwed to the front door because it played the tune “Bless this House.” Mystery solved. Have a great day.

“For, lo winter is past
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land”
-Song of Solomon.

Each year, the announcer Ernie Harwell started the Tiger baseball season with this verse. It was a right of Spring–as is baseball itself. There probably isn’t a better sport for archivists than baseball. Statistics, records, history. It’s all right there. Here are a few updates provided by the Archives of Michigan staff:

First, there’s our April Image of the Month. We spotlight the Detroit Tigers’ 1945 season. Click here for this feature

If you enjoy our baseball images, then you might consider sending one as an E-Postcard. The E-Postcard page also provides links to current and past baseball Image of the Month pages. You can find all this here

I also have a note that’s not baseball-related, but still very good news to some. We’ve updated our Naturalization Records Index page by adding indexes for Barry and Genesee Counties. Naturalization indexes are now available online for a total of thirty-one Michigan counties (An additional number are available in the Archives reading room.). You can access the online naturalization indexes here

All these features can also be accessed through the Archives of Michigan home page:

Internet Public Library

September 13, 2006

If you ever look at you might be interested in today’s “Site of the Day” it is none other than the Internet Public Library. Of particular interest is the Archives section under the Arts and Humanities. There is a listing for all of the state’s official archives: and more.

It began out of the University of Michigan School of Information and is gathering new partners. Check it out, spread the word!

Memory Miner Software

August 22, 2006

Good morning. Just a quick post to talk about a few websites I was told about recently. The first is really a software program called “Memory Miner”( This is currently a Mac-only beta program. But watch the Quicktime demo, it does some very interesting things with photos and timelines.

Second, is the search engine “retrievr” ( This allows users to sketch the shape of what you want to search–you draw it–no text. The idea is very exciting, however, the execution is somewhat lacking. Try it out, see what you think. At this time, it only searches images on, a free photo sharing website.

Finally, the beta e-commerce site uses some unusual search methods for products. Sometimes the small shops are the only ones to be bold enough to share new ideas. What’s this to do with archives? It is exciting to see how technology interfaces (or how it does not) with historic records. It also is interesting as we think about new and improved avenues of access to our collections. (thanks to U of M SI student Cathie Tosach for the heads-up on these sites).

Really Simple

August 17, 2006

I finally figured out how to get an RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”) feed for the blog (if you are interested in background on RSS start here) . For those of you who haven’t used this, it is a way to get automatic updates when I post new content to the site. If you need help getting started, let me know. You can use these feeds: TheAnecdotalArchivist

You can use a number of readers including Google, GatorNews, FreeReader, or Pluck among others. I have also changed the settings to allow non-members leave comments. So please, comment away!.