2014 SGA Annual Meeting Breakout Sessions Recap: Let’s talk about acquisition and appraisal of digital records!

In an effort to engage the rich discussions that were had as part of the “Everyday Digital Archives” breakout sessions at the 2014 SGA Annual Meeting, here is the first of four posts highlighting topics that arose during the first breakout session discussing the acquisition of digital records. Hopefully these posts will be thought provoking to the SGA membership and will help to contribute to the ongoing conversation about the many issues that come part and parcel with managing digital archives.
Breakout Session 1: Acquisition of Digital Records
Several challenges/issues to consider were discussed, including proper storage, the importance of establishing policies, and how to educate donors about digital records.  The conversation about donor relations was especially interesting, highlighting the importance of educating donors ahead of time about what digital records they have and where they may be (i.e. not just on your computer, but Internet presence via blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).  Simson Garfinkel and David Cox’s “Finding and Archiving the Internet Footprint” speaks to the issue of identifying a donor’s online record presence.  The book I, Digital: Personal Collections in the Digital Era, edited by Cal Lee, also explores how archivists can manage born-digital materials generated and kept by individuals.  Another important point discussed was working with donors in providing information about their records, i.e., what exactly do they have in their digital files?  The donor being able to provide an inventory of their digital records – through a file tree text document or some other survey of their records – can help archivists to know which records should be accessioned.  Also, BitCurator’s bulk_extractor report tool could be used as a pre-emptive measure to help archivists determine what digital content is available and what of that content they would want to accession (this was talked about at the BitCurator Users Forum on January 9, 2015).
Many ideas regarding continuing education opportunities were considered, including:
·        Distributing the knowledge that can be found in ARMA & SAA courses by using the network of University System of Georgia schools (e.g. holding workshops at USG institutions around the state that archivists living near those institutions could more easily attend)
·        Short courses on how to use tools helpful in accessioning digital records (e.g. BagIt, Duke Data Accessioner, etc.)
·        Educate executives/administrators on what is a digital record that needs keeping through ARMA’s “RM 101” seminars
·        Reading case studies – a good way to find out what other institutions are doing
Many questions were asked during the breakout session, including:
·        What are we talking about when we say “digital archives”? (purely born-digital documents, digitized documents, email, etc.)
·        Where to get started in acquiring digital records?
·        Can your institution even manage digital records – should you accept them?
·        Are our ideas about born-digital records fear driven?
An interesting concern for the near future that was raised dealt with digital data from scientific research – the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense all require data and publications to be archived and shared.  The question becomes, how are we going to ensure this scientific data remains accessible?
Hopefully the ideas/issues/thoughts shared here have been useful.  Feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment!  Coming up next is a post on Breakout Session 2: Providing Access to Digital Records.

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