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Showing posts from 2018

To reorganise or to not reorganise?

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A blog post from Jim Costin our Bridging the Digital Gap trainee - written for International Digital Preservation Day Last year, Jenny Mitcham, our former digital archivist, posted about saving your digital stuff from becoming files which are unable to be opened and how to manage a personal digital archive. What I’m going to be talking about is following on from that and a unique issue which we both came across recently when putting some new items into our digital archive. This phenomenon can be referred to as the folders within folders with folders...  I’ll forgive you if you’ve never heard that term before. To put it simply, the phrase refers to having multiple folders nested within each other. The picture below will give you an example of it which was created just for this post: Now, whilst the example above shows how to not name your folders, it does show how easily you can end up nesting folders. Whilst this might be a very good way of organising data and knowing e

The sustainability of a digital preservation blog...

So this is a topic pretty close to home for me. Oh the irony of spending much of the last couple of months fretting about the future preservation of my digital preservation blog...! I have invested a fair bit of time over the last 6 or so years writing posts for this blog. Not only has it been useful for me as a way of documenting what I've done or what I've learnt, but it has also been of interest to a much wider audience. The most viewed posts have been on the topic of preserving Google Drive formats and disseminating the outputs of the Filling the Digital Preservation Gap project. Access statistics show that the audience is truly international. When I decided to accept a job elsewhere I was of course concerned about what would happen to my blog. I hoped that all would be well, given that Blogger is a Google supported solution and part of the suite of Google tools that University of York staff and students use. But what would happen when my institutional Google accoun

Goodbye and thanks

This is my last day as Digital Archivist for the University of York. Next week I will be taking on a brand new post as Head of Standards and Good Practice at the Digital Preservation Coalition . This is an exciting move for me but it is with some sadness that I leave the Borthwick Institute and University of York behind. I have been working in digital preservation at the University of York for the last 15 years. Initially with the Archaeology Data Service as part of the team that preserves and disseminates digital data produced by archaeologists in the UK; and since 2012, branching out to work with many other types of digital material at the Borthwick Institute. This last six years has been both interesting and challenging and I have learnt a huge amount. Perhaps the biggest change for me was moving from being one of a team of digital archivists to being a lone digital archivist. I think this is one of the reasons I started this blog. I missed having other digital archivists ar

Testing manual normalisation workflows in Archivematica

This week I traveled to Warwick University for the UK Archivematica meeting. As usual, it was a really interesting day. I’m not going to blog about all of it ( I’ll leave that to our host, Rachel MacGregor ) but I will blog about the work I presented there. Followers of my blog will be aware that I recently carried out some file migration work  on a batch of WordStar 4 files from screenwriting duo Marks and Gran. The final piece of work I wanted to carry out was to consider how we might move the original files along with the migrated versions of those files into Archivematica (if we were to adopt Archivematica in the future). I knew the migration I had carried out was a bit of an odd one so I was particularly interested to see how Archivematica would handle it. It was odd for a number of reasons. 1. Firstly, I ended up creating 3 different versions of each WordStar file – DOCX, PDF/A and ASCII TXT. After an assessment of the significant properties of the files (essentially,

Probably my last UK AtoM user group meeting

This week the 3rd UK AtoM users group meeting was held at the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) in London. A packed and interesting programme had been put together by Justine Taylor and it was great to see how well attended it was. Indeed a room change was required to accommodate the number of people who wanted to attend. Elizabeth Wells from Westminster School Archives started off the presentations by talking about how she is using AtoM to catalogue objects and artefacts. Several of us in the room have items in their care that are not archives, but I think Westminster School were the only archive to be looking after a 92 year old pancake! Being able to catalogue such items in AtoM is a high priority for many AtoM users given that they don’t want to manage multiple systems. It is really interesting to hear how different institutions use AtoM and in particular the workarounds they use to resolve specific problems. Elizabeth talked us through the processes she has put in place

Auditing the digital archive filestore

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A couple of months ago I blogged about checksums and the methodology I have in place to ensure that I can verify the integrity and authenticity of the files within the digital archive. I was aware that my current workflows for integrity checking were 'good enough' for the scale at which I'm currently working, but that there was room for improvement. This is often the case when there are humans involved in a process. What if I forget to create checksums to a directory? What happens if I forget to run the checksum verification? Also, I am aware that checksum verification does not solve everything. For example, read all about  The mysterious case of the changed last modified dates . Also,  When checksums don't match...  the checksum verification process doesn't tell you what has changed, who has changed it, when it was changed...it just tells you that something has changed. So perhaps we need more information. A colleague in IT Services here at York mentioned to

What are the significant properties of a WordStar file?

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I blogged a couple of months ago about an imperfect file migration . One of the reasons this was imperfect (aside from the fact that perhaps all file migrations are imperfect - see below) was because it was an emergency rescue triggered by our Windows 10 upgrade. Digital preservation is about making best use of your resources to mitigate the most pressing preservation threats and risks. This is a point that Trevor Owens makes very clearly in his excellent new book  The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation (draft). I saw an immediate risk and I happened to have available resource (someone working with me on placement), so it seemed a good idea to dive in and take action. This has led to a slightly back-to-front approach to file migration. We took urgent action and in the following months have had time to reflect, carry out QA and document the significant properties of the files. Significant properties are the characteristics of a file that should be retained in order to

Checksum or Fixity? Which tool is for me?

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The digital preservation community are in agreement that file fixity and data integrity are important. Indeed there is a whole row devoted to this in the NDSA Levels of Preservation . But how do we all do it? There are many tools out there - see for example those listed in COPTR . It was noted in the  NDSA Fixity Survey Report of 2017  that there isn't really a consensus on how checksums are created and verified across the digital preservation community. Many respondents to the survey also gave the impression that current procedures were a work in progress and that other options should be explored. From the conclusion of the report: "Respondents also talked frequently about improvements they wanted to make, such as looking for new tools, developing workflows, and making other changes to their fixity activities. It may be useful, then, for practitioners to think of their fixity practices within a maturity or continuous improvement model; digital preservation practitione

Some observations on digital appraisal

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A couple of months ago I attended a Jisc sponsored workshop at the University of Westminster on digital appraisal. There were some useful presentations and discussions on a topic that I find both interesting and challenging. Within the workshop I made the point that my approaches to some elements of digital appraisal may differ depending on the age of the born digital material I'm looking at. For example, I may wish to take a firm line about removing modern system generated files such as Thumbs.db files and Apple Resource Forks  that come into the archives - my reasons being that this is not really the content that the donor or depositor intended to give us, rather an artifact of the computer system that they were using. However I also stated that for an older born digital archive I am much more reluctant to weed out system files or software. It seems easy to weed out things that you recognise and understand - as is often the case with contemporary digital archives - but f