Last week I was in the UK, primarily to attend a DCMI Registry Community Workshop organized by UKOLN, scheduled for Friday, July 24th. Early the following week we found out that as we were gathered in York discussing distributed registries, Rachel Heery passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. Rachel was one of the founders of the Community (then called a working group), and was involved in building a number of registries, including the DCMI Registry and the IEMSR Registry at UKOLN.

There have been a lot of postings about Rachel this week from colleagues and friends, and I wanted to add my voice to that chorus of tributes to an exceptional person. I didn’t know Rachel as well as I would have liked—we worked on different continents and generally crossed paths primarily at DC conferences. But we were both members of two distinct minorities within DCMI: women, and implementers. Neither of us trained as technologists, and came to the sometimes dauntingly technical discussions at DCMI from the point of view of those trying to use DC for real projects, too often frustrated with the 50,000 foot viewpoints expressed by the more technically astute.

Stu Weibel, who knew Rachel, as I did, in the context of Dublin Core, brought her back for me the most strongly by reminding me of one of Rachel’s characteristic interjections:

“We emulate those we admire, and I have often found myself over the years using a phrase that signaled, from Rachel, an objection worthy of discussion… a sort of lilting “Hang on…!” Those who have worked with her will hear echoes of the tone and inflection that made the phrase hers, and commanded respectful attention, a flag that something was not quite right. I always think of her when I say it, and will always try to use it in the service of the honest brokerage of common goals that characterized Rachel’s efforts.”

Stu also reminds us that Rachel’s two most important contributions to the DC efforts (aside from her considerable intellect and personal presence) were in the areas of registries and application profiles–both have been a particular focus for me and Jon over the past four years or so. It gives me some solace to think that she would be pleased that implementers are still working hard in the areas she pioneered, though sad beyond measure that she will not see those efforts bear their promised fruit.

Others who comment on Rachel’s influence and career:
Lorna Campbell
Andy Powell
Lorcan Dempsey
Her UKOLN colleagues

By Diane Hillmann, August 4, 2009, 12:43 pm (UTC-5)

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