Showing posts from 2013

Updating my requirements

Last week I published my digital preservation Christmas wishlist . A bit tongue in cheek really but I saw it as my homework in advance of the latest Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) day on Friday which was specifically about articulating requirements for digital preservation systems . This turned out to be a very timely and incredibly useful event. Along with many other digital preservation practitioners I am currently thinking about what I really need a digital preservation system to do and which  systems and software might be able to help. Angela Dappert from the DPC started off the day with a very useful summary of requirements gathering methodology. I have since returned to my list and tidied it up a bit to get my requirements in line with her SMART framework – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. I also realised that by focusing on the framework of the OAIS model I have omitted some of the ‘non-functional’ requirements that are essential to having a worki

My digital preservation Christmas wish list

All I want for Christmas is a digital archive. By  paparutzi on Flickr   CC BY 2.0 Since I started at the Borthwick Institute for Archives I have been keen to adopt a digital preservation solution. Up until this point, exploratory work on the digital archive has been overtaken by other priorities, perhaps the most important of these being an audit of digital data held at the Borthwick and an audit of research data management practices across the University. The outcome is clear to me – we hold a lot of data and if we are to manage this data effectively over time, a digital archiving system is required. In a talk at the SPRUCE end of project workshop a couple of weeks ago both Ed Fay and Chris Fryer spoke about the importance of the language that we use when we talk about digital archiving. This is a known problem for the digital preservation community and one I have myself come up against on a number of different levels. In an institution relatively new to digital preservation the term

COPTR: It's short for "Making my Thursday much easier"

This is a guest post from Nathan Williams, Archives Assistant. For four days of a working week I can largely be found on the front desk of the Borthwick Institute assisting people with their research, fetching up documents within our vast holdings, and assisting people with interpreting the materials they have in front of them. Part of the role of an Archives Assistant is one of providing researchers with the tools of discovery. On the fifth day of a working week I don a different cap altogether, for on Thursday I head on up to Jen Mitcham’s office to help with a different challenge altogether: digital preservation. So it was somewhat of a pleasant surprise when I received an email circulated through the jisc-digital-preservation list regarding the beta launch of COPTR or the Community Owned digital Preservation Tool Registry . Ok, so my title is silly, but here’s why it really should stand for “Making my Thursday much easier”: As an institutional repository with strong University, Re

Fund it, Solve it, Keep it – a personal perspective on SPRUCE

Yesterday I attended the SPRUCE end of project event at the fabulous new Library of Birmingham. The SPRUCE project was lauded by Neil Grindley as one of the best digital preservation projects that JISC has funded and it is easy to see why. Over the 2 years it has run, SPRUCE has done for a great deal for the digital preservation community. Bringing together people to come up with solutions for some of our digital preservation problems being one of the most important of these. The SPRUCE project is perhaps most well-known for its mash-up events* but should also be praised for its involvement and leadership in other community based digital preservation initiatives such as the recently launched tool registry COPTR (more about this in a future blog post). Library of Birmingham by  KellyNicholls27 on Flickr SPRUCE can’t fix all the problems of the digital preservation community but what it has done very effectively is what William Kilbride describes as “productive small scale problem sol

Advice for our donors and depositors

Anyone who knows anything about digital archiving knows that one of the best ways to ensure the longevity of your digital data is to plan for it at the point of creation. If data is created with long term archiving in mind and following a few simple and common sense data management rules, then the files that are created are not only much easier for the digital archivist to manage in the future, but also easier for the creator to work with. How much easier is it to locate and retrieve files that are ordered in a sensible and logical hierarchy of folders and named in a way that is helpful? We are producing more and more data over time and as the quantity of data increases, so do the size of our problems in managing it. We do not have many donors and depositors at the Borthwick who regularly put digital archives into our care but this picture will no doubt change over time. For those who do deposit digital archives, it is important that we encourage them to put good data management into p

Do sound engineers have more fun?

At the end of last week I was at the British Library on their excellent ‘ Understanding and Preserving Audio Collections ’ course. British Library and Newton by Joanna Penn on Flickr The concept of  ‘Preserving audio’  is not a new one to me. Audio needs to be digitised for preservation and access and that pushes it firmly into my domain as digital archivist. I know the very basics such as the recommended file formats for long term preservation, but when faced with a real life physical audio collection on a variety of digital and analogue carriers it is hard to know what the priorities are and where exactly to start. This is where the  ‘Understanding audio’  part of the course came to my rescue, filling in some of the gaps in my knowledge. The course The first day of the course was fascinating. We were given a run-down of the history of audio media and were introduced to (and in many cases, allowed to handle) many different physical carriers of audio. Hearing a wax cylinder being playe

A short detective story involving 5 ¼ inch floppy disks

Earlier this year my colleague encountered two small boxes of 5 ¼ inch floppy disks buried within the Marks and Gran archive in the strongrooms of the Borthwick Institute. He had been performing an audit of audio visual material in our care and came across these in an unlisted archive. This was exciting to me as I had not worked with this media before. As a digital archivist I had often encountered 3  ½  inch floppies but not their larger (and floppier) precursors. The story and detective work that follows, took us firmly into the realm of ‘digital archaeology’. Digital archaeology:   “ The process of reclaiming digital information that has been damaged or become unusable due to technological obsolescence of formats and/or media ” (definition from  Glossaurus ) Marks and Gran were a writing duo who wrote the scripts of many TV sitcoms from the late 1970's on-wards. ‘Birds of a Feather’ was the one that I remember watching myself in the 80’s and 90's but their credits include m

Twelve interesting things I learnt last week in Glasgow

The Cloisters were a good place to shelter from the heat!  Photo Credit:  _skynet  via  Compfight Last week I was lucky enough to attend the first iteration of the Digital Preservation Coalition's   Advanced Practitioner Course . This was a week long course organised by the APARSEN project and based at the University of Glasgow on the warmest week of 2013 so far. On the first day Ingrid Dillo begun by telling us that 'data is hot' - by the end of the week it was not only data that was hot. It would be a very long blog post if I was to try and do justice to each and every presentation over the course of the week, (I took 30 pages of notes) so here is the abridged version: A list of twelve interesting things: These are my main 'take home' snippets of information. Some things I already knew but were reinforced at some point over the week, and others are things that were totally new to me or provided me with different ways of looking at things. Some of these things are

Assessing the value of digital surrogates

I had an interesting meeting with colleagues yesterday to discuss how we manage digital surrogates - digitised versions of physical items we hold in the archives. At the Borthwick Institute we do a fair amount of digitisation for a variety of reasons. These range from the large scale digitisation projects such as the York Cause Papers , to digitisation to create images for publications and exhibitions to single pages of Parish Registers for family history researchers. As I am in the process of setting up a digital archive for the Borthwick Institute, effectively managing these digital surrogates also becomes my concern. The need to preserve these items is not as pressing as for born digital data (because they are only copies, not originals) however, to start to build up the collections that we have in digital form, to allow access to users who can not visit our searchroom, and to avoid having to carry out the same work twice, appropriate creation and management of this data is importan