Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Archives Unlocked vision launched at the Southbank Centre

Archives Unlocked vision launched at the Southbank Centre. Press release. The National Archives. 29 March 2017.
     The National Archives (UK) has launched a vision and action plan to help archives secure their future through digital transformation, investing in new workforce skills, and encouraging innovation. This vision and action plan offers a future where "businesses, creative industries, arts organisations, academia, and communities can fully exploit a more resilient archives sector, with the UK leading the world in digital transformation."  It is built on themes of Trust, Enrichment and Openness, that highlight "the importance of archives in holding authority to account through scrutiny, in driving innovation and creativity for businesses and across society, and in cultivating an open approach to knowledge accessible to all."

The rich, national collection of archives "are the nation’s collective memory." The updated vision is needed to sustain the Archives for the long term. "The Archives Unlocked action plan embodies this. It sets out what is required to release the power of the archives."

"Working with partners, stakeholders, investors and individuals, we will have greater potential and influence to accomplish what we need to do. The UK will be home to world-leading archives: both digital and physical."


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Thumbs.db – what are they for and why should I care?

Thumbs.db – what are they for and why should I care? Jenny Mitcham. Digital Archiving at the University of York. 7 March 2017.
     Post about the thumbs.db system files and how to deal with them in an archival situation. Windows uses a file called Thumbs.db to create thumbnail images of any images within a directory, and the thumbs.db files are stored in each directory that contains images. They proliferate quickly. If the Windows Explorer preferences must be set to display hidden files and "Hide protected operating system files" option also needs to be disabled in order to see these and other hidden files.  IT can change account options to stop these thumbnail images from being created.

"Do I really want these in the digital archive? In my mind, what is in the ‘original’ folders within the digital archive should be what OAIS would call the Submission Information Package (SIP). Just those files that were given to us by a donor or depositor. Not files that were created subsequently by my own operating system."

[In our data ingest workflow, we use a utility that creates a csv file of items in directories for processing. The csv file is the ingest template which contains the file names and file metadata. This controls the files that are ingested. Unwanted files are removed from the csv file, which means that during ingest time, they are excluded from being ingested into Rosetta. - Chris]

Monday, March 27, 2017

Saving At-Risk Audiovisual Materials

Saving At-Risk Audiovisual Materials. Jeanne Drewes. American Libraries. March 1, 2017.
     Many audiovisual collections are considered at risk. Large amounts of content could be lost through deterioration of the original media unless it can be transferred to more durable digital formats. As libraries and other institutions rediscover the value of these collections they are taking steps to preserve the sounds and images they contain. Here are some steps to consider when planning your audiovisual preservation project.
  • Know what you have. This is an important first step.
  • Determine your priorities and set goals.
  • Develop an action plan based on your goals. 
"Preserving our own history as a profession by capturing the voices and stories of our colleagues is key toward ensuring our future."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

21st-Century Preservation Basics

21st-Century Preservation Basics. Brian J. Baird. Sidebar.  American Libraries. March 1, 2017.
    Since most scholarly information is now electronic, the basic elements of any digital library preservation policy in the 21st century include:

  • Cooperation. Every library has unique digital collections to preserve, but as the volume continues to grow exponentially, and as older material gets accessed less frequently, libraries may need to cooperate in order to collect and preserve materials long term. 
  • Environmental conditions. Optimal conditions for storing and preserving electronic information must continually be reexamined and improved. 
  • Disaster planning. A library disaster plan should build on an institution’s IT disaster plan to address specific needs.
  • Reformatting.  
  • Repositories. Ideally, repository collections should be well preserved, sharable, and cost-effective and could expand on the consortial efforts already in use.

"Preservation in the 21st century must be proactive, visionary, and cooperative. If it is not, vast amounts of cultural heritage are in danger of vanishing."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Collecting Digital Content at the Library of Congress

Collecting Digital Content at the Library of Congress. Joe Puccio, Kate Zwaard. The Signal.
March 21, 2017.
     The Library of Congress has increased its digital collecting capacity in order to acquire as much selected digital content as technically possible, currently 12.5 petabytes, and make that content accessible to users. Expansion of the digital collecting program is "an essential part of the institution’s strategic goal to: Acquire, preserve, and provide access to a universal collection of knowledge and the record of America’s creativity." The newly-adopted strategy is directed at acquisitions and collecting, and is based on a vision in which the "Library’s universal collection will continue to be built by selectively acquiring materials in a wide range of formats" and via collaborative relationships with other entities.

The strategy is based on the assumptions that the amount of available digital content will continue to grow rapidly, that the Library will acquire content selectively, that the same content will be "available both in tangible and digital formats", and that intellectual rights will be respected.  Their plan for digital collecting over the next five years is categorized into six strategic objectives:
  1. Maximize collections of selected digital content submitted for copyright purposes
  2. Expand digital collecting through purchase, exchange and gifts
  3. Focus on purchased and leased electronic resources
  4. Expand use of web archiving to acquire digital content
  5. Acquire openly available content
  6. Collect appropriate datasets and other large units of content

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Creating the disruptive digital archive

Creating the disruptive digital archive. John Sheridan. Digital Preservation Coalition. 1 March 2017.
     The National Archives has been working on a new Digital Strategy. "Digital" is their biggest strategic challenge. Archives worldwide are "grappling with the issues of preserving digital records. We also need to be relevant to our audiences: public, government, academic researchers and the wider archives sector – to provide value to them at a time of change."

Traditional archives are built around the physical nature of the records, but digital records "change all our assumptions around the archive – from selection to preservation and access". Their new Digital Strategy is to move beyond the digital simulation of physical records and to become a ‘disruptive’ digital archive, to be "digital by design".

The National Archives is currently a "fully functioning digital archive with a Digital Records Infrastructure capable of safely, securely and actively preserving very large quantities of data with associated descriptive metadata" which is applying the paper records paradigm of selection, preservation and access to digital records. This is their first generation archive.  The second generation digital archive they are aiming for is to be "digital by instinct and design":

  • rich mixed media content (things like websites), datasets, computer programs, even neural networks, as records not just information in document formats
  • ability to select and preserve all these types of things 
  • digital information has value in aggregate – that it’s not just individually important artefacts that have historical value. 
  • a relentless engineering effort to preserve digital objects that measures and manages the preservation risks
  • transparent in its practices
  • develops approaches for enabling access to the whole collection with regard to legal, ethical and public considerations. 
  • regards the archive as conceptually interconnected data.

"These are ambitious aims and there are many challenges we need to tackle along the way." Collaboration between archives and other institutions is essential in moving forward.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Developing a Digital Preservation Infrastructure at Georgetown University Library

Developing a Digital Preservation Infrastructure at Georgetown University Library. Joe Carrano, Mike Ashenfelder. The Signal. March 13, 2017.
     At the library of Georgetown University, half of the library IT department is focused on digital services such as digital publishing, digitization and digital preservation. These IT and library functions overlap and support each other, which creates a need for the librarians, archivists and IT to work together. It provides better communication and makes it easier to get things done. "Often it is invaluable to have people with a depth of knowledge from many different areas working together in the same department. For instance, it’s nice to have people around that really understand computer hardware when you’re trying to transfer data off of obsolete media." 

While digital preservation and IT is centered in one department, the preservation files are in different systems and on different storage mediums throughout the library, but they are in the process of  putting them into APTrust.  Several strategies to improve their digital preservation management are:
  1. Implement preservation infrastructure, including a digital-preservation repository
  2. Develop and document digital-preservation workflows and procedures
  3. Develop a training program and documentation to help build skills for staff
  4. Explore and expand collaborations with both university and external partners to increase the library’s involvement in regional and national digital-preservation strategies.
These goals build upon each other to create a sustainable digital-preservation framework which includes APTrust and the creation of tools to manage and upload the content, particularly creating  custom automated solutions to fit their needs. They are also developing documentation and workflows so any staff member can "upload materials into APTrust without much training".

Librarians and archivists need to be trained and integrated into the process to ensure the sustainability of the project’s outcome and to speed up the ingest rate. "Digital curation and preservation tasks are becoming more and more commonplace and we believe that these skills need to be dispersed throughout our institution rather than performed by only a few people". 

"By the end of this process we hope to have all our preservation copies transferred and the infrastructure in place to keep digital preservation sustainable at Georgetown."

Monday, March 13, 2017

What Makes A Digital Steward: A Competency Profile Based On The National Digital Stewardship Residencies

What Makes A Digital Steward: A Competency Profile Based On The National Digital Stewardship Residencies. Karl-Rainer Blumenthal, et al. Long paper, iPres 2016. (Proceedings p. 112-120 / PDF p. 57-61).
       Digital stewardship is the active and long-term management of digital objects with the intent to preserve them for long term access. Because the field is relatively young, there is not yet a "sufficient scholarship performed to identify a competency profile for digital stewards". A profile details the specific skills, responsibilities, and knowledge areas required and this study attempts to describe a competency profile for digital stewards by using a three-pronged approach:
  1. reviewing literature on the topics of digital stewardship roles, responsibilities, expected practices, and training needs
  2. qualitatively analyzing current and completed project descriptions
  3. quantitatively analyzing the results from a survey conducted that identified competencies need to successfully complete projects
"This study had two main outputs: the results of the document analysis (qualitative), and the results of the survey (quantitative)."  Seven coded categories of competence emerged from the analysis:
  1. Technical skills;
  2. Knowledge of standards and best practices;
  3. Research responsibilities;
  4. Communication skills;
  5. Project management abilities;
  6. Professional output responsibilities; and
  7. Personality requirements.
Based on the responses for Very important and Essential, a competency statement representing this profile would suggest that "effective digital stewards leverage their technical skills, knowledge of standards and best practices, research opportunities, communication skills, and project management abilities to ensure the longterm viability of the digital record." They do this by:
  • developing and enhancing new and existing digital media workflows
  • managing digital assets
  • creating and manipulating asset metadata
  • commit to the successful implementation of these new workflows
  • manage both project resources and people
  • solicit regular input from stakeholders
  • document standards and practices
  • create policies, professional recommendations, and reports,
  • maintain current and expert knowledge of standards and best practices for metadata and data management
  • manage new forms of media
The study suggests that, in practice, technical skills are not always as essential in digital stewardship as job postings suggest. Hardware/software implementation and Qualitative data analysis skills were important to only half of the respondents. Workflow management is a universally important skill deemed ”Essential" by almost all respondents. Other categories appeared as Somewhat Important, or as areas that need further research.

The study suggests that "although specific technical skills are viewed as highly important in different settings, a much larger majority of projects required skills less bound to a particular technology or media, like documentation creation and workflow analysis."  Digital stewards should possess, not only a deep understanding of their field, but the ability to "effectively disseminate their work to others."

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Top 10 Digital Archives Blogs

Top 10 Digital Archives Blogs. Jan Zastrow.  Information Today. July/August 2016.
Post about keeping up with reading about an archival or historical topic. By sharing it with others we can learn about new developments in the field without having to read all the current literature ourselves. Here is a list of  selected sources to help sift through the noise and keep up with the quickly evolving world of digital archives, electronic records, digital preservation and curation, personal archiving, digital humanities, and more. Some are from institutions, others are more informal, and they are mostly U.S.-centric, English-language sources. [I learned about some new helpful sites here.]

Society of American Archivists
1. The Society of American Archivists’ semi-annual The American Archivist, theoretical and practical developments in the archives profession in North America.

2. SAA Electronic Records Section runs the popular BloggERS! which aggregates news, information, and resources on electronic records, including case studies, reviews, and surveys.

U.S. Federal Agencies
3.The National Archives’ AOTUS Blog, and more at archives.gov/social-media/blogs.html.

4. The Library of Congress: The Signal: Digital Preservation with up-to-the-minute digital issues (such as web archiving, audiovisual preservation, digital forensics, data migration, and digital asset management).

Aggregated Sources to save you time.
5. ArchivesBlogs is a syndicated collection of blogs about archives, “by and for archivists,” taken from international RSS and Atom feeds every hour.

6. Digital Archiving Resources is an excellent annotated database of materials on digital archiving created by doctoral students at the University of Central Florida.

7. Digital Preservation Matters:  For more than a decade articles on digital preservation, long term access, digital archiving, digital curation, institutional repositories, and electronic records management. Search the blog’s archive, use the tag cloud interface, or subscribe via RSS or on Twitter.

Blogs: By and For Individuals
8. The brainchild of Kate Theimer, ArchivesNext  advocate of archives, technology, and professional issues

9. Trevor Owens: User Centered Digital History blog with cutting edge essays on digitization, born-digital, primary sources, web archives, and digital art, etc. 

10. Jaime Mears, Notes From a Nascent Archivist  is chockfull of great ideas, resources, projects, and more.


Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Hidden Phenomenon That Could Ruin Your Old Discs

The Hidden Phenomenon That Could Ruin Your Old Discs. Ernie Smith. Motherboard. February 6, 2017.
     An article about regular CD and DVD optical discs and the problems that cause them to deteriorate.  "CDs and DVDs were sold to consumers as these virtually indestructible platters, but the truth, as exemplified by the “disc rot” phenomenon, is more complicated."  Early research showed that problems with the reflective layer could make the disc fail in 8 - 10 years. Or the degradable dye used in record-able discs will break down. The disc degradation sometimes looks like a stain or discoloration, or tiny pin pricks on the disc surface. "The eventual decay of optical media is a serious situation, whether you're a digital archivist or simply someone who wants to watch a movie on a weird format like a Laserdisc."

A Library of Congress preservation specialist said that the disc destruction showed up in three different forms: the "bronzing" of discs;  small pin-hole specs located on the discs; or "edge-rot".
Five facts about disc rot, according to the Library of Congress:
  1. Discs with significant errors are often still at least partially readable. This depends on the type of disc and where the error occurs.
  2. A scratch at the top of a CD is more problematic than one on the bottom, because scratches to the top surface can penetrate through and damage the reflective layer.
  3. DVDs generally have better integrity than do CDs but layers can delaminate over time. Dual-layer discs tend not to hold up so well.
  4. Recordable discs, and particularly DVDs don't last as long, due to the degradation of the organic dye used. A poorly recorded disc tends to wear out more quickly.
  5. Proper storage and handling helps. A well-made commercially pressed disc can last many decades if stored and handled properly. Discs stored in harsh environmental conditions with elevated temperature and/or humidity will have shorter expected lifetime.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The role of archives

The role of archives. Helen Hockx. Things I cannot say in 140 characters.  January 20, 2017.
     The role of Archives, especially when it comes to digital records, is not commonly understood. An archivist should ask questions "about the file structure, the access system, who accessed it, and how was it used… Appraisal is based on context, or the entire record keeping system and the importance of individual items depends on how they relate to one another within a system". This is difficult to do after the fact. The heart of the problem is: who makes decisions on what records to keep? A perception is that Archives are "museums with artifacts, and have no authority over digital records”.  access to the digital files should be determined by the “data stewards” under the direction of the University’s Information Governance Committee. The role of Archives, data access, record lifecycles and retention schedules seem to be largely misunderstood.


Monday, March 06, 2017

Electric WAILs and Ham

Electric WAILs and Ham. John Berlin. Web Science and Digital Libraries Research Group. February 13, 2017.
     Web Archiving Integration Layer (WAIL) is a one-click configuration and utilization tool that fits between institutional and individual archiving tools from a user's personal computer. Changing the tool from a Python application into an Electron application has brought with it many improvements especially the ability to update and package it for Linux, MacOS, and Windows.

WAIL is now collection-centric and provides users with the ability to curate personalized web archive collections, similar to Archive-It, but on their local machines. It also adds the ability to monitor and archive Twitter content automatically. WAIL is now available from the project's release page on Github.  More information about WAIL is available on their wiki.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

What Do IT Decision Makers Want?

What Do IT Decision Makers Want? Tom Coughlin. Forbes. March 1, 2017.
     An article that looks at a study of over 1,200 senior IT decision makers in 11 countries. Some findings

  • The vast majority of those surveyed have revised their storage strategy in the last 12 months because of frustrations with storage costs, performance, complexity and fragmentation of existing solutions. 
  • 60% say storage expenses are under increased scrutiny 
  • 95% are interested in the scalability and efficiency of software-defined storage. 
  • Digital storage is about 7% of the total IT budget.
  • Some concerns: 
    • High costs: 
      • 80% were concerned with the cost of their storage system
      • 92 % worry about managing storage costs as capacity needs grow. 
      • On average 70% of IT budgets are allocated to data storage 
    • Performance: 
      • 73% are concerned with the performance of their existing storage solution. 
    • Growing complexity and fragmentation: 
      • 71% of respondents said storage systems were complex and highly fragmented.  
  • Software-defined storage [which involves separating the storage capabilities and services from the storage hardware]  is playing significant roles in improving the utilization of storage resources and stretching storage budgets.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

A lifetime in the digital world

A lifetime in the digital world. Helen Hockx. Blog: Things I cannot say in 140 characters.
February 15, 2017.
     A very interesting post about papers donated to the University of Notre Dame in 1996, and how the library has been dealing with the collection. The collection includes a survey that is possibly “the largest, single, data gathering event ever performed with regard to women religious”. The data was stored on “seven reels of 800 dpi tapes, ]rec]120, blocksize 12,000, approximately 810,000 records in all”, extracted from the original EBCDIC tapes and converted to newer formats in 1996, transferred to CDs then to computer hard disk in 1999. The 1967 survey data has fortunately survived the format migrations. Some other data in the collection had been lost: at least 3 tape reels could not be read during the 1996 migration exercise and at least one file could not be copied in 1999. "The survey data has not been used for 18 years since 1996 – nicely and appropriately described by the colleague as “a lifetime in the digital world”.

The dataset has now been reformatted and stored in .dta and .csv formats. We also recreated the “codebook” of all the questions and pre-defined responses and put in one document. The dataset is in the best possible format for re-use. The post gives examples of  digital collection items that require intervention or preservation actions. A few takeaways:
  • Active use seems to be the best way for monitoring and detecting digital obsolescence.
  • Metadata really is essential. Without the notes, finding aid and scanned codebook, we would not be able to make sense of the dataset.
  • Do not wait a lifetime to think about digital preservation. 
  • The longer you wait, the more difficult it gets.