Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Update on the Donor Survey

As our readers may recall, this past July, the AIMS archivists created a donor survey for born-digital archives. My colleague, Peter Chan, wrote fairly extensively on its origins and purpose; please go here to read up on the background of our survey.

A few months have gone by and the archivists have had the opportunity to think more about how we envision the donor survey fitting into both shared and institution-specific born-digital workflows. First of all, we all agreed that we wanted to move away, as much as is possible, from continuing to create paper-based forms and records regarding donors and content. Moving the donor survey to a web-based tool, complete with an SQLLite database back-end, seemed to be a good way to start (for technical specifics, please see Tom's forthcoming entry regarding the web form - coming up next!). In the web-based survey, we deliberately included a space for the archivist to record comments for each question and answer on the survey. We realized that by creating a place for the archivist to record their findings and/or elaborate on what was recorded by the donor/owner of the personal archive, we could make the process of determining the scope of the personal archive for transfer that much more transparent. As one of our senior archivists on the project pointed out, it's as important to know what was excluded from transfer and why as to have a trail of documentation as to what was transferred and why (especially if the processing of the collection follows many months later!). We hope that adding this feature to the survey will help with the recording of that process in a centralized location and perhaps serve as the digital equivalent to a donor file.

As to how the donor survey fits into our shared and institution-specific workflows, that is still a work in process. Generally speaking, it is intended that the data collected from the survey could be mapped to a submission agreement, which, in turn, would then be part of the SIP (submission information packet). We also intend to map portions of what had been collected from the survey and submission agreement in Archivists' Toolkit and Calm (collection management software from the UK) to form an accession record. Ideally, we want to have to enter/create data once and have it re-purposed as often as is needed throughout our workflow.

We invite you to test out our web survey and to give us your feedback. In our next entry, Tom will be posting a description of the technical side of the survey web form and he'll include a link for access. Other folks have been working on other versions of surveys for electronic records as well. If you're not already familiar with Chris Prom's blog, Practical E-Records, get a readin'. Chris recently posted a version of a donor survey; check it out here.

Liz Gushee
University of Virginia

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