Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Digital Lives Research Seminar

On Monday I attended the Digital Lives Research Seminar Authenticity, Forensics, Materiality, Virtuality and Emulation and the presentations will be appearing online soon via the Digital Lives pages

There was a packed programme of speakers with a huge array of experience, of direct relevance to the AIMS work were the following:

Helen Broderick, British Library described her work as Curator, Modern Literary Manuscripts including cataloguing the born-digital material in the Ronald Harwood archive. The paper part of the collection had already been listed by a colleague and Helen encouraged hybrid collections to be tackled as single entity and this is what I intend to do with the Stephen Gallagher material at Hull.

Helen described using QuickView Plus software to view and used two screens (one to display the digital file and the second to record descriptive notes). Other thorny issues to be tackled include email and how this could be made available to others without infringing Data Protection and other privacy concerns.

Seth Shaw, Duke University gave an account of the current work at Duke, openly admitting that work on arrangement and description was very sporadic! They are looking to standardise their policies, documentation etc with the search interface another element on his todo list! It was clear that practice was being shaped by their experiences echoing the underlying element of the best practice guidelines that AIMS will produce based upon our combined experiences.

It was good to see colleague Michael Olson, Stanford University who gave an account of the forensics work at Stanford including the approach adopted for the Stephen J Gould material and outlined the resources in the Forensics Lab.

Gabriela Redwine, Harry Ransom Centre (University of Texas) provided an update on the forthcoming Computer Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections (see due to be published later this year. It came as no surprise to those present that the biggest challenge the research had identified was legacy hardware and software; other challenges included trust and authenticity. This led to a discussion around some of the ethical issues surrounding born digital materials and that we should be looking to multiple sources of information to build-up a complete picture (metadata, creator and forensics).

Erika Farr & Naomi Nelson, Emory University gave a fascinating account of their work on the digital material in the Salman Rushdie archive and the multi-disciplinary approach to tackling this collection. After discussion and consideration they agreed to respect the hybrid nature of the material; to balance the needs of the researcher and the donor but also the desire to provide an authentic ‘experience’. They had originally distinguished between paper and born-digital material with separate agreements but quickly revised this to one based on content and NOT format. They discussed with the donor his relationship with the PC and how he used it whether he customised parts etc to understand this aspect better. They were even able to recover files from a laptop he had accidentally damaged. The use of an emulator does give a totally different perspective to the born digital material that simply allowing access to the content can ever do. Whether this approach is always possible or practical remains to be seen.

Our host Jeremy John, British Library described their approach and workstream including imaging the disk and creation of digital replicates – viewed via original software and emulator and then facsimile versions for user viewing. He encouraged using hash values generated by two systems as additional level of verification. The British Library policy was to disk image wherever possible and were actively using emulators using a virtual machine based on the original hardware OS.

I was able to give a quick introduction to the AIMS project and from the questions that followed some of our work regarding access and use is of particular interest to others.

Jeff Ubois highlighted the main issues that arose from the Personal Digital Archiving Conference 2010 earlier this year including complexity of media with the need to compare donor agreements, interface design, suitability of tools re Facebook etc identified for future consideration and action. He also spoke about the public/private boundaries and mentioned a Research Libraries Group project ‘Good Terms’ about engaging with public companies for digitisation programs.

No comments:

Post a Comment