Day Of Digital Archives 2012

Yesterday was Day of Digital Archives 2012! (And yes, I’m a little late posting…)

This ‘Day’ was initiated last year to encourage those working with digital archives to use social media to raise awareness of digital archives: “By collectively documenting what we do, we will be answering questions like: What are digital archives? Who uses them? How are they created and managed? Why are they important?” . So in that spirit, here is a whizz through my week.

Coincidentally not only does this week include the Day of Digital Archives but it’s also the week that the Digital Preservation Coalition (or DPC) celebrated its 10th birthday. On Monday afternoon I went to the reception at the House of Lords to celebrate that landmark anniversary. A lovely event, during which the shortlist for the three digital preservation awards was announced. It’s great to see three award categories this time around, including one that takes a longer view: ‘the most outstanding contribution to digital preservation in the last decade’. That’s quite an accolade.

On the train journey home from the awards I found some quiet time to review a guidance document on the subject of acquiring born-digital materials. There is something about being on a train that puts my brain in the right mode for this kind of work. Nearing its final form, this guidance is the result of a collaboration between colleagues from a handful of archive repositories. The document will be out for further review before too long, and if we’ve been successful in our work it should prove helpful to creators, donors, dealers and repositories.

Part of Tuesday I spent reviewing oral history guidance drafted by a colleague to support the efforts of Oxford Medical Alumni in recording interviews with significant figures in the world of Oxford medicine. Oral histories come to us in both analogue and digital formats these days, and we try to digitise the former as and when we can. The development of the guidance is in the context of our Saving Oxford Medicine initiative to capture important sources for the recent history of medicine in Oxford. One of the core activities of this initiative is survey work, and it is notable that many archives surveyed include plenty of digital material. Web archiving is another element of the ‘capturing’ work that the Saving Oxford Medicine team has been doing, and you can see what has been archived to-date via Archive-It, our web archiving service provider.

Much of Wednesday morning was given over to a meeting of our building committee, which had very little to do with digital archives! In the afternoon, however, we were pleased to welcome visitors from MIT – Nancy McGovern and Kari Smith. I find visits like these are one of the most important ways of sharing information, experiences and know-how, and as always I got a lot out of it. I hope Nancy and Kari did too! That same afternoon, colleagues returned from a trip to London to collect another tranche of a personal archive. I’m not sure if this instalment contains much in the way of digital material, but previous ones have included hundreds of floppies and optical media, some zip discs and two hard disks. Also arriving on Wednesday, some digital Library records courtesy of our newly retired Executive Secretary; these supplement materials uploaded to BEAM (our digital archives repository) last week.

On Thursday, I found some time to work with developer Carl Wilson on our SPRUCE-funded project. Becky Nielsen (our recent trainee, now studying at Glasgow) kicked off this short project with Carl, following on from her collaboration with Peter May at a SPRUCE mashup in Glasgow. I’m picking up some of the latter stages of testing and feedback work now Becky’s started her studies. The development process has been an agile one with lots of chat and testing. I’ve found this very productive – it’s motivating to see things evolving, and to be able to provide feedback early and often. For now you can see what’s going on at github here, but this link will likely change once we settle on a name that’s more useful than ‘spruce-beam’ (doesn’t tell you much, does it?! Something to do with trees…) One of the primary aims of this tool is to facilitate collection analysis, so we know better what our holdings are in terms of format and content. We expect that it will be useful to others, and there will be more info. on it available soon.

Friday was more SPRUCE work with Carl, among other things. Also a few meetings today – one around funding and service models for digital archiving, and a meeting of the Bodleian’s eLegal Deposit Group (where my special interest is web archiving). The curious can read more about e-legal deposit at the DCMS website.  One fun thing that came out of the day was that the Saving Oxford Medicine team decided to participate in a Women in Science wikipedia editathon. This will be hosted by the Radcliffe Science Library on 26 October as part of a series of ‘Engage‘ events on social media organised by the Bodleian and the University’s Computing Services. It’s fascinating to contemplate how the range and content of Wikipedia articles change over time, something a web archive would facilitate perhaps.

For more on working with digital archives, go take a look at the great posts at the Day of Digital Archives blog!

-Susan Thomas

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