Faces of UMSI: Morgan Daniels

 

From her very first day at the School of Information, Morgan Daniels was hooked.

“I came to Michigan to pursue a master’s degree in library science, and I was immediately engaged with how people talked about information and ideas here,” she says. Working as an information specialist at a human resources consulting firm in Washington, DC had kindled an interest in information that led her to consider a library career.

However, one of her first classes was in archival methods with Professor Elizabeth Yakel. She enjoyed it so much that she added a second specialization in archives and records management–and though she didn’t realize it at the time, she had just started down the long road to a PhD.

“If I hadn’t come to Michigan, I wouldn’t be in a PhD program now,” she says. It was Michigan’s unique combination of interdisciplinary scholarship, flexibility, and collegial support that motivated her to pursue the advanced degree.

After earning her MSI in 2007, she applied to the school’s doctoral program. She is now nearly finished and hoping to defend her dissertation this fall. Her research interests center upon data curation and secondary use, archival representation and museum studies.

Elizabeth Yakel is her advisor and chairs her dissertation committee. The other committee members are Paul Conway, Margaret Hedstrom, and history of art professor Ray Silverman. 

Morgan has been a research assistant on two of Yakel’s grants and they have authored several articles together. In 2012, Morgan won a Best Paper Award at the annual iConference for an article she wrote with Yakel, Ixchel Faniel, and fellow PhD student Kathleen Fear, “Managing Fixity and Fluidity in Data Repositories,” a paper looking at issues in data curation.

An interest in museums and collections comes naturally for an archivist, and in the course of her research Morgan has interned at the U-M Museum of Art and been a curatorial fellow at the Museum of Zoology. She also acquired a graduate certificate in museum studies in 2011.

Morgan’s interests in data archiving and museums have led her to think about data curation in the context of research collections in museums.  Her dissertation examines how people use museum data and collections for research and how they select what information will be useful to them. She is comparing two quite different types of museums, the university’s Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, which is open to the public and offers numerous exhibitions, and the university’s Herbarium, a repository of botanical specimens oriented towards researchers. A particular interest is the role that museums play – or don’t play – in conversations about data reuse.

She expects to receive her doctorate in 2013 and plans to launch her career working at the intersection of data curation, cultural heritage management and user studies in an academic, archival or museum setting.