2014 SGA Annual Meeting Breakout Sessions Recap: Let’s talk about digital preservation!

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 final post, highlighting topics that arose during the fourth breakout session, in which the always exciting topic of digital preservation was discussed!  Hopefully this post (and the previous three!) 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 4: Preservation of Digital Records
This breakout session explored the current state of digital preservation among SGA members, discussed first steps toward establishing digital preservation policy and practice, identified significant challenges among member institutions and developed suggestions for ways in which SGA could better support digital preservation for archival professionals in Georgia.  Here are some highlights of topics that were discussed:
Challenges
  • Insufficient resources (both financial and staffing)
  • Problems with sustainability because it can be difficult to get necessary commitments for ongoing support of digital preservation
  • Slow implementation at some organizations because of the “tyranny of perfection”; administration and/or upper management waiting for perfect solutions instead of simply getting started
  • Difficulty of selling the idea that something is better than nothing (again moving out from under the tyranny of perfection)
  • Steep learning curve (for example some institutions/professionals paralyzed when faced with engaging with digital preservation elements like the OAIS reference model)
Observations
  • Archives professionals need to be able to plan and implement digital preservation solutions that are realistic and feasible without getting burdened with the need for perfect solutions
  • Even with institutional support, we need to develop feasible, realistic digital preservation plans that can be implemented with success
  • There is a need for advocacy, both externally and internally, as part of digital preservation planning (demand from users, support from within institutions)
  • Getting technical systems and policy in place is hard but “cultural policy” is hard too
  • When developing digital preservation policy, remember to refer to existing relevant documentation like preservation policy for physical collection or collection management policy; don’t reinvent the wheel.
  • Exploring the role (and practice) of appraisal with digital preservation and policy development
What can SGA do to help? (Ideas)
  • Program in digital preservation (create committee to organize this, set objectives, decide issues and report from across state/region)
  • Create a list or index of policy statements on digital preservation and/or digital collection management
    • Must have variety, peer-to-peer institutions
      • Small institutions, large institutions
      • From institutions with “established” digital programs and “emerging” digital programs
    • Maybe closed to SGA members only, not open on web, to encourage sharing
    • Not just digital preservation policies need to be shared, but also the goals for creating a policy, and how much of that goal institutions are accomplishing
  • Create model similar to SAA best practices and processes by which institutions come to digital preservation strategies
  • Dedicate issue of Provenance to digital preservation
  • Digital preservation “Match.com” for mentoring
  • List of SGA Annual Meeting attendees for networking

Hopefully the ideas/issues/thoughts shared here have been useful.  Feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment!  

2014 SGA Annual Meeting Breakout Sessions Recap: Let’s talk about processing 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 third of four posts highlighting topics that arose during the third breakout session discussing the processing 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 3: Processing Digital Records
In beginning to think about processing digital records, it may be helpful to keep in mind this quote from Richard Pearce-Moses from his article “The Perfect and the Possible: Becoming a Digital Archivist”: ““…what we do remains the same; it’s only how we do it that will change.”  Many interesting articles and case studies about processing digital records can be found in the archival literature.  One of the most cited articles is Carroll, et al.’s, “A Comprehensive Approach to Born-Digital Archives,” about processing and providing access to Salman Rushdie’s digital files at Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.  There are way too many articles to mention in this post, but two other thought provoking ones worthy of mention are Jefferson Bailey’s “Disrespect des Fonds: Rethinking Arrangement and Description in Born-Digital Archives” and Jane Zhang’s “Original Order in Digital Archives”. 
The importance of reading articles and case studies about processing digital records was one of the many topics discussed during the breakout session.  Various challenges, observations, tools and resources were discussed and many, many questions were asked.  Here is a sampling of what was talked about:
Challenges
·        Dealing with all sorts of different formats, including proprietary formats
·        Security and integrity
·        Keeping the files associated with the description
·        Hybrid collections
·        Metadata
·        Getting a grasp of what you have – the way digital files are organized can be more chaotic – can’t guarantee that people are good custodians of their digital files
Observations / Thoughts
·       Having flexibility within your processing approach is important
o   need to determine how the repository wants to provide access, and from there create policies for processing; figure out steps to make it happen; set a goal
·       Hands-on experience a must – but also a daunting thought – does the fear of making a mistake keep us from making the needed initial effort?
·       Processing of digital records needs to start with administration – getting everyone on board
·       Map already known archival knowledge to what is coming with digital archives (i.e. “…what we do remains the same; it’s only how we do it that will change”)
·       Know what is critical
o   Look at the low-hanging fruit: if you’re given a body of electronic records, look at the ones that you could easily provide access to (PDFs, etc.) — > establish your processing workflow that way – this could help with tackling the harder modes
What do we need?
·       More cross-training of staff is needed – everyone needs to know how to handle digital
·       Need to have established policies and procedures for processing
·       Examples of successes and failures, in different sized shops (case studies!)
·       Best practices with a place to start, basic steps, and resources to support implementing them
·       Advocacy for the importance of digital archives jobs – either getting new positions or training for current staff
·       Technical skills to do archival processes on digital records
Tools?
It was indicated in a couple of the breakout groups that several repositories have only gotten to the stage of collecting and inventorying digital records, thus not many tools have been put in practice.  Another issue that was raised is that we as archivists hear the names of many tools that would prove helpful in working with digital records, but we don’t know what or when to use the tools (i.e. what tools will help in acquisition, processing, digital preservation?).  Further compounding the issue, archivists may be afraid to ask about digital archiving tools because they feel like they should already know (the “I don’t want to be the person to admit I don’t know about this” syndrome.).  Some tools that were mentioned include:
·       Archive-It (for web archiving)
·       Archivematica (https://www.archivematica.org/en/)
·       BitCurator (http://www.bitcurator.net/)
·       Managing digital content in CMSs (ArchivesSpace, Archon, QuadraStar, Archivists’ Toolkit, etc.)
Questions asked
·       Where do we start?
o   Survey what we have and where it is stored
o   Look for ways to collaborate with other staff
o   What formats are we receiving records in?
o   What equipment do I need to process, preserve, and provide access for particular digital formats?
·       Can processing digital records model analog processing?
·       Where to start in processing hybrid collections?
·       How can we find out about tools that can be used?
·        What is realistic, when you have a small staff?
·        What infrastructure is feasible in a small archives or with a small budget?
Resources mentioned
·       Chris Prom’s Practical E-records blog – http://e-records.chrisprom.com/
·       Q&A Digital Preservation – http://qanda.digipres.org/; www.digipres.org
        Case studies
        Atlanta Historical Computing Society – http://atlhcs.org/
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 4: Preservation of Digital Records.

2014 SGA Annual Meeting Breakout Sessions Recap: Let’s talk about access to 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 second of four posts highlighting topics that arose during the second breakout session discussing the issue of creating and managing access to 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 2: Access to Digital Records
The Access to Electronic Records Working Group, part of SAA’s Reference, Access, and Outreach Section, observes that: “Much scrutiny has been placed on accessioning, processing and preserving electronic materials, while very little attention is given to how we provide access to these materials.”[1]  The goal of this breakout session was to bring attention to this very important topic.  Accessioning, processing, and preserving digital records are important (there’s no debate there!), but accessioning, processing, and preservation of digital records means nothing if the records are not being used.  And the only way digital records will be able to be used is if effective access mechanisms are created.  During the breakout session, several challenges to providing access to digital records were identified, including:
  • Copyright, Intellectual Property
  • Access to materials is often not covered in donor agreements
  • The need to implement access systems
  • Training for staff
  • Need for administration and constituent education (support, funding, understanding patron needs)
  • Security and control concerns
    • How do we ensure digital records cannot be altered, deleted, changed?
    • What tactics can we use to keep them available and safe?
      • Provide access to copy, prevent access to the digital original
      • Read only versions
  • Lack of IT infrastructure and support
  • Time and effort necessary to research and vet software and tools
In addition to the challenges outlined above, participants in the breakout session made several observations about issues that need to be addressed when tackling the task of providing access to digital records:
  • The issue of having the necessary skills:
  • The issue of intellectual and physical control over what is in our collections:
    • Only after getting intellectual and physical control of our records is access possible
  • The issue of obsolescence:
    • Tools change so rapidly that once a tool is implemented it is already obsolete
  • The issue of leadership:
    • No leaders in the state taking charge
  • The issue of access versus preservation:
    • Need access AND preservation platforms
A very fruitful conversation to come out of the “Access to Digital Records” breakout session was the discussion had by participants about what SGA can do to help.  Several suggestions were made, including:
  • Identify local leaders in the field willing to serve as a resource
  • Creation of a consulting committee to assist repositories in laying the groundwork for providing access to electronic records
  • Maintaining policies, guides, links to resources (under SGA’s “Resources” tab)
  • Host an online forum for practitioners to ask questions and discuss issues
  • Advocate for greater funding for USG-wide systems
  • Hands-on training sessions for tools such as DSpace and ArchivesSpace
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 3: Processing Digital Records.



[1]Reference, Access, and Outreach Section, “Access to Electronic Records Working Group,” Accessed August 2, 2015, http://www2.archivists.org/groups/reference-access-and-outreach-section/access-to-electronic-records-working-group

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.

Registration is open for workshop, Digital Preservation Tools: A Sampler

Instructor: Seth Shaw
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Columbus Marriott
Empire Mills Room
800 Front Avenue
Columbus, GA
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Digital preservation is a complex topic with many challenges. Identifying and selecting the right tools to help solve those problems can be confusing. This one-day workshop will introduce a selection of tools supporting digital preservation and how those tools might be incorporated into a workflow. Participants will see demonstrations of several tools and will practice with a few using their own laptop computer.

Digital preservation tasks addressed will include data acquisition (for example, TeraCopy, FTKImager, and HTTrack), fixity checking and monitoring (LOC’s Bagger and AVPreserve’s Fixity), scanning for content or threats (e.g. bulk_extractor and Identify Finder), format identification (e.g. Jhove and Droid), format migration, environment emulation or virtualization, and projects designed to package many of these tools together (BitCurator and Archivematica).

To get the most from this workshop, participants should be familiar with basic digital preservation concepts such as fixity, checksums, migration, and emulation. They should have good computer skills — word processing, browsing the Web, email, copying and renaming files, and creating folders. They do not need more advanced knowledge, such as programming or database design, although familiarity with command-line interfaces and XML is useful. (Individuals with experience in digital archives or advanced skills are welcome to come and contribute to the conversation!)

Attendees must bring their own laptops.

Registration is $80 per person; this workshop is limited to 15 attendees. The registration deadline is October 7, 2015.

Refreshments will be served during the morning and afternoon breaks. Lunch will be the responsibility of the attendees.

For more information on the course or to register, click here.

Registration open for workshop, A Guerrilla Approach to Digital Archives

Saturday, September 12, 2015
Georgia Archives
5800 Jonesboro Road
Morrow, Georgia
10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Lunch will be provided

This one day workshop will introduce archivists to the basics of digital archives, explaining the concepts of curating and preserving electronic records in terms of traditional archival practice.  Participants will learn practical things they can do to acquire, preserve, and provide access to electronic records with limited resources and technical expertise. 

Creating and sustaining a robust, trustworthy digital archives is hard work. The problems are complex, and even more perplexing as technology evolves and presents new problems. At the same time, archivists don’t have to build an ideal system. Instead, a “guerilla approach” looks for short-term tactics – inexpensive, simple steps that can help archivists move in the direction of the strategic ideal. Breaking digital archives into smaller pieces makes the problem manageable. 

Participants will discuss the core functions of digital archives and how they parallel traditional archives. Which records should be selected and acquired? How should those records be arranged and described? How should they be housed and preserved? And what about access? Participants will learn how their existing knowledge can be adapted to digital archives.

The facilitator, Richard Pearce-Moses, will lead participants through a series of questions, call for possible solutions, and suggest some of his own.

 

Who should attend?

 

To get the most from the workshop, participants should understand the fundamentals of archival practice – appraisal and selection, arrangement and description, housing and preservation, reference and access. They should have good computers skills – word processing, browsing the web, email, copying and renaming files, and creating folders. They do not need more advanced knowledge, such as programming, database design, programming, or web design. (Individuals with experience in digital archives or advanced skills are welcome to come and contribute to the conversation!)

Registration is $80 per person; this workshop is limited to 15 attendees. 

The registration deadline is August 29, 2015.

For more information and to register, click here.

About the instructor

Richard Pearce-Moses was a practicing archivist for thirty years before coming to Clayton State University to head the Master of Archival Studies Program in 2010.  He is a Certified Archivist and a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists. In 2007, he received the Frederick G. Kilgour Award for Research in Library and Information Technology, and in 2009 the Library of Congress named him a Digital Preservation Pioneer.

 

About a “Guerrilla Approach”

The workshop name was inspired an article by Christopher A. Lee, “Guerrilla Electronic Management” in Records & Information Management Report 18:5 (May 2002). He notes, “We need to act now in ways that we can, rather than waiting for better solutions to come along.” Lee’s article quotes Jakob Nielsen, who coined the phrase, “insisting on using only the best methods may result in having no methods at all.” Participants are encouraged to read Lee’s article, online at http://www.ils.unc.edu/callee/guerrilla_erm_2002.pdf.

Upcoming DAS Workshop: Developing Specifications & RFPs for Recordkeeping Systems

Date:
June 1, 2015
Location:
Robert W. Woodruff Library
Emory University
Atlanta, GA

The development of a fully functional digital archives requires an integrated recordkeeping system that identifies, describes, schedules, and destroys or retains your organization’s born-digital records. Successful recordkeeping systems reflect business processes and applicable federal and state statutes while identifying records with permanent value to be archived. The ideal recordkeeping system interfaces with a digital repository used to curate electronic records and support a wide range of archival processes, including preservation and access. Before purchasing or building a recordkeeping system, you need a clear list of systems requirements specific to your organization. From these specifications, you can build a good Request for Proposal (RFP), select a system or vendor, and successfully implement your recordkeeping system.

This course if one of the Tactical and Strategic Courses in the Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) Curriculum and Certificate Program.

Upon completing this course you’ll be able to:

  • Identify and define systems requirements for an electronic recordkeeping system and/or digital repository;
  • Develop and distribute a Request for Information (RFI), RFP, or RFQ (Request for Quotation);
  • Evaluate and select a recordkeeping system; and 
  • Implement the system.

Who should attend?
Archivists, records managers, IT professionals and administrators who need to define systems requirements for an electronic recordkeeping system and/or digital repository and then develop a RFI, RFP, or RFQ.

The Early-Bird registration deadline is May 1, 2015.

Workshop Fees

  • SAA Members
    • Early-Bird: $199
    • Regular: $269
  • Employees of Member Institutions
    • Early-Bird: $229
    • Regular: $299
  • Nonmembers
    • Early-Bird: $259
    • Regular: $319

Register for the workshop here.
Attendance is limited to 35.

    Upcoming DAS Workshop: Appraisal of Electronic Records

    Date:
    Tuesday, June 25, 2013
    Location:
    Kennesaw State University Center
    3333 Busbee Dr. NW
    Kennesaw, GA 30144

    Increasingly, archival records are created in electronic formats. As a result, archives of all types need to be responsible for the preservation of electronic records. After a review of the fundamental principles of archival appraisal and appraisal policies, you’ll be introduced to the unique issues that need to be addressed when appraising electronic records. Case studies will highlight the practical aspects of appraisal when dealing with electronic records.

    Upon completing this course you’ll be able to:

    • Develop an appraisal policy for your archives.
    • Include electronic records on records retention and disposal schedules.
    • Address technical issues (such as metadata, software dependence, etc.) that arise when appraising electronic records.
    • Appraise electronic records for your archives.
    Who should attend? Archivist Practitioners, Records Managers. Anyone responsible for the archival appraisal of electronic records.

    What should you know already? Archival appraisal of records, as well as some basic knowledge about digital preservation and electronic records.

    Workshop Fees

    Registration Type Fees: Early-Bird / Regular
    Full Registration #1337
    SAA Member: $185 / $235
    Employees of Member Institutions: $210 / $260
    Nonmember: $235 / $285

    Register for the workshop here.
    Attendance limited to 35.