Thanks to everyone who came along and contributed to the project’s first advisory board meeting last Thursday.
We started with some introductory discussions around the Library’s hybrid collections and the futureArch project’s aims and activities. This discussion was wide ranging, touching on a number of subjects including the potential content sources for ‘digital manuscripts’: from mobile phones, to digital media, to cloud materials.
In the past year, we’ve made progress on developing, and beginning to implement, the technical architecture for BEAM (Bodleian Electronic Archives & Manuscripts). Pete Cliff (futureArch Software Engineer) kicked off our session on ‘systems’ with an overview of the architecture, drawing on some particular highlights; it’s worth a look at his slides if you’re interested in finding out more.
Next, a demo of two ingest tools:
1. Renhart Gittens demonstrated the BEAM ingester, our means of committing accessions (under a collection umbrella) to BEAM’s preservation storage.
2. Dave Thompson (Wellcome Library Digital Curator) demonstrated the XIP creator. This tool does a similar job to the BEAM Ingester and forms part of the Tessella digital preservation system being implemented at the Wellcome Library.
Keeping with technical architecture, Neil Jefferies (OULS R&D Project Officer) introduced Oxford University Library Service’s Digital Asset Management System (or DAMS, as we’ve taken to calling it). This is the resilient preservation store upon which BEAM, and other digital repositories, will sit.
How will researchers use hybrid archives?
Next we turned our attention to the needs of the researchers who will use the Library’s hybrid archives. Matt Kirschenbaum (Assoc. Prof. of English & Assoc. Director of MITH at the University of Maryland) got us off to a great start with an overview of his work as a researcher working with born-digital materials. Matt’s talk emphasised digital archives as ‘ material culture’, an aspect of digital manuscripts that can be overlooked when the focus becomes overly content-driven. Some researchers want to explore the writer’s writing environment; this includes seeing the writer’s desktop, and looking at their MP3 playlist, as much as examining the word-processed files generated on a given computer. Look out for the paper Matt has co-authored for iPRES this year.
Next we broke into groups to critique the ‘interim interface’ which will serve as a temporary access mechanism for digital archives while a more sophisticated interface is developed for BEAM. Feedback from the advisory board critique session was helpful and we’ve come away with a to-do list of bug fixes and enhancements for the interim interface as well as ideas for developing BEAM’s researcher interfaces. We expect to take work on researcher requirements further next year (2010) through workshops with researchers.
Finally, we heard from Helen Hockx-Yu (British library’s Web Archiving Programme Manager) on the state of the art in web archiving. Helen kindly agreed to give us an overview of web archiving processes and the range of web archiving solutions available. Her talk covered all the options, from implementing existing tools suites in-house to outsourcing some/all of the activity. This was enormously useful and should inform conversations about the desired scope of web archiving activity at the Bodleian and the most appropriate means by which this could be supported.
Some of us continued the conversation into a sunny autumn evening on the terrace of the Fellows’ Garden of Exeter College, and then over dinner.