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Digital Preservation at NDSA – Making It Work

August 15th, 2011 · No Comments

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A few weeks ago I was honored to attend the National Digital Stewardship Alliance meeting. The NDSA was planned by the Library of Congress as part of their NDIIP project.  There were more people there than I expected and it was a humbling experience to hear some of the brightest and most creative brains in Digital Preservation speak.

The high volume of information was overwhelming.  I spent more than six hours at the end of the conference compiling a PowerPoint of the important research highlights.   A small sample of this information is included below.

There were many wonderful presentations giving case studies on how institutions used their own creativity to try and enhance the longevity or migratability (new word?) of their digital files.  The amazing work often was done on a shoestring which though unfortunate, also forced a certain level of imagination and invention.

A few examples are:

Jack Brighton, of campus radio station WILL, gave a wonderful presentation on what a small station is doing to make their civil rights collection more accessible.

Kickstarter.com did a great presentation on how they are helping arts projects get funded and we hope that as they branch into community work that digital preservation might fit into that.

The UK Web Archiving project covered some of the complexities and true effort that it takes to try and tackle capturing the online history of its nation.   http://www.webarchive.org.uk/ukwa/

- As of December 2010 – 9 million sites with .uk, probably 1M more

- 10,027 websites archived

- Need skills in Linux, Java, Hadoop, and SOL

5 keys processes to web archiving

- Selection

- Harvesting

- Storage

- Preservation

- Access

http://www.webarchive.org.uk/ukwa/ngram/

 

So after taking in all this good information, what is it that I have left the conference with?

People just like us are doing some wonderful problem solving out there.  There is some potential being unlocked, but there is so much to do.

As I see it the Action Items are:

1)    Greater broadcasting of the successful case studies for migration and open solutions.

2)    Training classes in how to boil this down for each type of format/issue.  The NDSA Outreach group held a session called “Digital Preservation in a Box”.  This is the beginning of standardizing the tools that we need.

3)    Overarching education to information and production professionals, as well as, the general public about the dangers of digital fragility and the need for migration (at the least).

I have mentioned to my classes for years that future anthropologists, sociologists and historians will have little to sift through from the late 20th century.

Some of it is being worked on by archivists now but much is gone.  Let’s keep making progress so that the future of our current history is not lost, like the way of silent films.

More informational tidbits from NDSA:

 

Other Great Projects

—       ThatCamp.org

—       http://www.scola.org/scola/sampledigitalarchive.aspx

NYPL Labs

—     http://search.creativecommons.org/?q=nypl+map+rectifier&sourceid=Mozilla-search

—     http://menus.nypl.org/

Archiving Facebook

Grad student designed Firefox add-on for individual archiving of Fb.

www.Bit.ly/archivefb

Preserving Virtual Worlds

—      www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/17097

 

Cool Tools

—  http://www.google.com/landing/historypin/

—  http://blogs.yu.edu/cpa/2011/02/23/open-source-video-platforms-kaltura-vs-entermedia/

 

Great Quotes

—    JackBrighton”(DAM) is more like an appliance than an Ecosystem.”

—    Michael Nelson “We need to raise the level of user expectations.”

—    Michael Nelson “In all good computer science functions you solve the problem through indirection.”

—    Wheatley and Frieze “The world does not change one person at a time.  It changes as networks of relationships form among people        who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.”

—    Tim O’Reilly(?) “Teach preservation as a mindset.  Bake this into the tools.”

 

New Phrases

—    Social Curation

—    Metadata Ecologists

 

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Category: Archiving Challenges · Digital Obsolescence · History of Media and Access · New Tools · Preservation · Professional Resources · Skills with a Capital I and T · Social Media

Digital Fragility is Just the Beginning

May 4th, 2011 · No Comments

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There has been much written recently about digital fragility. Researchers and archivists have heard dueling longevity and futuristic projections. In trying to push this dire need without appearing like Chicken Little, I have embarked on serious primary research to expose the sheer volume of the problem. The in-depth article will be coming out in a professional journal within the year. Until then, I felt that I needed to speak up a bit about the need for our activism.

Between my teaching digital archiving courses and my work with clients, this issue has been prevalent in each work day. In fact, while re-processing an archives for a client, a case of 5 ¼” floppy discs were found. No one in-house knew exactly if these were of value, what was on them or even if they were created by the organization. When we offered to open them on a computer with a floppy drive, we were told just to throw them out. This is the fear that archivists are living with. Each time an archivist approaches this obsolete media, the questions come: How many others are out there? How many are being thrown out because it is easier? How many are left? How long do I save them? If I am able to find a player/drive/ etc. will I be open the software that the data is formatted in? Will it even be playable? Are we missing decades of human knowledge? How long will this continue? How can archivists slow down the moving train of media change? Can archivists increase re-formatting awareness? Is reformatting my only option? Where does emulation stand? Who do I call? Who do I write? How do I make a difference in this loss that flies in the face of everything my profession holds dear?
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Digital Obsolescence · Media Obsolescence · Preservation

An Unsound Future

October 15th, 2010 · 1 Comment

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In an age where music is so easily copied and accessed, it’s hard to imagine that any valuable recordings could ever be lost. But a new study predicts a grim future for millions of recordings across America.

The National Recording Registry was established ten years ago, following the passing of a congressional bill. The purpose of the NRR is to “maintain and preserve sound recordings and collections of sound recordings that are culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant, and for other purposes” (Public Law 104-474; H.R. 4846). Recently, the NRR released a 181-page report, The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: a National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age. This report was the first “comprehensive, national-level study of the state of sound recording preservation ever conducted in the U.S.” 130 years since the invention of the phonograph, it’s about time the subject was addressed.
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Copyright Issues · Digital Obsolescence · Media Obsolescence

The Cost of Doing Business

July 21st, 2010 · No Comments

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A recent question posted on the AMP blog, “Is preservation cost-prohibitive?,” made me think about costs related to archives in general. As a former corporate archivist, I am painfully aware of budgets and bidding out work! Now that my shoe is on the other foot, and I am consulting in the field, the issue is even larger for me. When I was the “client” and was requesting bids for work, I (and my coworkers) were always concerned by the process. We knew many vendors were underbidding to get the work and that could pose a financial risk for them if they got the project. We also were forced to consider those bids because there was quite a bit of paperwork to do if the lowest bid was not selected. In the end, we could often work around it by choosing the firm with the most expertise in an area as long as their bid was not too much higher than the lowest one.

It’s easy for a client to forget about the hidden costs of operations related to projects. There are often random emails with questions, monthly or more frequent conference calls, technology testing or review, on-site meetings or visits, etc. All of these items take up staff time – and not just a little bit of it either – it really adds up. I think many clients might be shocked if they realized exactly how much time. Often a fair amount of this time can be billed back as project management time, but only if the client is willing or that category has been built into the project.
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Skills with a Capital I and T

An Archivist’s Brand New Hat – New Beginnings for My Family History

May 10th, 2010 · 5 Comments

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Dr. Thomas Merriweather In a national economy in which double-digit unemployment figures travel in the opposite direction from the signs that things are said to be improving and a local economy that would jangle the nerves of the most fiercely optimistic, I am frequently riddled with doubt as to my decision to return to school for the academic qualifications to do something I truly enjoy. It was easy to buy into the notion of getting paid for doing a job for the sheer happiness it brings. I didn’t anticipate that timing is everything and having the know-how, energy and desire to take on an all new career was only half the battle.
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Developing A Digital Collection · Preservation

Saving It Because I Can

March 17th, 2010 · 1 Comment

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Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, my father brought home our first computer. It was a Mac. I can’t recall which model it was, but it was an all-in-one box with a screen the size of a small Kleenex box (I only wish I was joking!). Initially I was suspicious of this computer: having been raised on a steady diet of science fiction and comic books, I knew what computers were capable of. But my father convinced me that computers are only as smart as the person who programs them, so I gave in, turned it on, mastered the mouse and became addicted to computer gaming.

There was one game in particular that I liked. I can’t remember what it was called, but I created a group of witches, elves and trolls and we went on adventures: slayed dragons, defeated evil overlords, rescued princesses – that sort of thing. It was like a single-player, kiddie computer version of Dungeons & Dragons. I loved it, but I was also very bad at it. The computer won every time.
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Category: Digital Obsolescence

The Paradigm Shift

February 10th, 2010 · No Comments

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In teaching multimedia archive,s I think about the future of our content constantly. Like a new mother, I fret for its security, growth and health. What is THE answer for our degrading media, emulsions, for our software obsolescence and our equipment falling down around our ears?

Recent discussions on the AMIA listserv brought new energy to this discussion and I wanted to put my spin on this. The subject line was “What’s Not Cool About Cold?” and it solicited some serious discussion about whether we have made a horrible mistake for a generation of archivists and content.

Jim Lindner argues that the imminent demise of tape players is more important in an archivist’s preservation decision than our focus on the imminent degradation of the media itself. The latter being our big decision to place much of our media in cool or cold storage. The group discussion mentioned the fact that many of our players are no longer supported by their manufacturers and the simple math that the lack of machines and the existing wear on their parts will not even cover the playback of the volume of archival tapes awaiting…migration? This hits a deep reality. Have we lost hundreds of thousands of hours of archival motion under our watch? Maybe even millions or billions of hours?
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Media Obsolescence · Preservation

Losing Data Meant for Access

December 4th, 2009 · No Comments

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After teaching so many archival and technology classes, I began to realize the incredible depth and breadth of our loss of data. Over the last three decades billions of discs have been created and sold and presumably used. What has happened to these discs? To the data? If even 5% was worth saving for historical purposes, that is still about one and a half million discs to save and migrate. Has that been done?

We all know that the answer is “no.” So that means that we need to look at what is important and what level of effort is necessary to save it. I know that we can not save everything and I know that we would not want to. As Nik Cubrilovic mentioned in a recent Washington Post article entitled “Letting Data Die a Natural Death”: “Not only is a lot of this data not important, but do we really want to keep it? I certainly would not want a full account of everything I did in my youth sitting on a server somewhere. I am also certain that we do not want the record of our as a society time being documented and discovered by future civilizations based on Twitter messages.”
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Category: Digital Obsolescence · Media Obsolescence

Digitizing from an Archival Student’s Perspective

October 27th, 2009 · No Comments

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Digital preservation is a wonderful thing…as long as I do not have to do it. As I work in an archive/library at my university, digitizing a collection for online use, I have lots of time to think about digital preservation, its benefits and disadvantages, how the nature of libraries and archives is changing and what it means for us all.

As a newly graduated student, I dream of processing unique materials, rummaging through boxes and loosely organized files to find the rhythm of a collection. Documents and artifacts that tell someone’s story, that make me chuckle or make me sad, that surprise me and some that bore me. These materials get my hands dirty, make me feel gritty, make my skin break out, but make me feel real. But the scanner? It makes me feel definitely like something other than an archivist or a librarian. I must work quickly and without thinking – I am there to scan only, not to make judgment calls, or to find order in chaos, nor to find that collection rhythm.
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Category: Archiving Challenges