Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Arrangement and Description of born-digital archives

For the last two months the Digital Archivists have been trying to define the requirements of a tool to enable archivists to arrange and describe born-digital archives. To do this we have stood-back and reviewed the traditional skills and processes and whether changes are required or appropriate to accommodate the particular issues surrounding born-digital archives.

The components we identified were as follows:
• Graphical User Interface – needs to be clean and easy to use
• Intellectual Arrangement - must be easy and instinctive for archivists to use
• Appraisal – born-digital archives need to be appraised as much as their paper predecessors
• Rights and Permissions – to enable the management of access to the born-digital archives and also to demonstrate to 3rd part depositors that the material is safe in your care
• Descriptive Metadata – a term we have been using to relate to description information and to explicitly distinguish this from the technical metadata about each file
• Import/Export functionality – to import/export data with other tools
• Reporting – to provide a range of "views" for managing the digital assets

Through a series of user stories and scenarios we have sought to clearly explain the requirement and how this might relate to other functionality.

This work has been under-taken predominantly through the use of GoogleDocs and created a document that we can all access and edit, create diagrams and include screenshots as necessary. Over weeks hundreds of comments have been added, and the text subjected to a comprehensive review and refinement process by numerous staff across the four partners.

Each institution has now scored and prioritised these features and as befits a collaborative initiative like the AIMS project allow us to identify a core group of features and functionality that we feel will be of greatest use to our institution and the wider archival community.

With the exception of intellectual arrangement most tasks and processes are not unique to archives so there is already a body of knowledge and experience in how to approach the task. For intellectual arrangement we have to be clear and precise about what we need and want we didn’t, for example a single intellectual arrangement when multiple versions would be possible in a digital environment.

Over the next few months we will be refining and reviewing these requirements, very much aware that there are only seven months of the project remaining. We also intend to discuss those aspects we identified as "critical" in future blog postings.

Tell us what tools you use with born-digital archives...


  1. I'm trying to figure out an effective system to transform a Drupal installation into a digital library. Unfortunately, I'm carrying four graduate classes + work at the moment, so the time I can devote to this task is limited.

    *reposted to make an edit

  2. The requirements looks very much like those mentioned here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=126670444026467 (Light Repositories - see conditions discussion)