Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Practical First Steps

Last week I helped organise a training day on born-digital archives for the East of England Regional Archive Council. I was joined by Chris Hilton from the Wellcome Library, Ellie Robinson from LSE and Grant Young from Cambridge University Library. The day followed a similar pattern to an event hosted in Hull last November. There were four main elements to the day:

Institutional Overview
The four of us gave a brief overview of the development of digital preservation in our respective institutions and included Chris’s now legendary simplification of OAIS to "Get Stuff - Put stuff somewhere - Keep stuff safe & Show stuff to people".  Ellie talked through the development at LSE from a risk analysis perspective to get institutional backing to then moving on to actually doing it - the latter sentiment being one of the mantras for the day. Grant talked about his work with digital content - much of it digitised rather than born-digital but now occupying an eye-watering 67TB (both LSE and Hull have about 120GB of born-digital material).

Practical First Steps
The four of us then gave a short presentation offering some practical tips; I looked at conducting a survey to identify material already held in the archives and how this often meant the media had been accessioned but not the contents! Chris shared the experiences at Wellcome of 'Dealing with depositors', Ellie looked at 'Handling born-digital material' including accessioning, virus check and other stages at LSE and Grant talked about 'Issues around File Formats' highlighting a number of challenges and suggesting strategies that could be adopted.

Questions and Answers

The day also included two question and answer sessions designed to get delegates talking about the particular aspects and issues of concern to them. Questions touched on a range of topics including depositors, DRAMBORA, how to approach hybrid collections and depositor agreements. We also heard of work being conducted in a number of local authority archives and hopefully they will share their work and experiences with colleagues in the near future.

Delegates were split into four groups and given demonstrations on using Karen's Directory Printer, DROID and also using FTK Imager with a write-blocker to read a PC hard drive (from my garage) the fourth diversion was a look at two different born-digital scenarios for delegates to consider how they might respond.

There was common agreement on the need to do something, and widespread acknowledgement that there wasn't a single solution or approach. Wellcome, LSE and Hull were all looking at the issue of bulk-ingest into repositories whilst retaining the relationships between files as represented through an often complex series of folders. It so happens that at Hull one of our developers is looking at this very issue so I hope to have an update on this in the next few weeks.

A key theme of the day was collaborating and helpline colleagues and in this spirit all of the presentations are now available on the Hull History Centre born-digital archive pages - thanks to all of the speakers for making this an interesting and informative day.

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