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National Digital Stewardship Residents Present Their Preservation Projects
Posted On May 17, 2016
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On May 5, 2016, the 2015–2016 Washington, D.C., cohort of the National Digital Stewardship Residency (NDSR) program hosted a symposium, Digital Frenemies: Closing the Gap in Born-Digital and Made-Digital Curation (#ndsr16) at the National Library of Medicine (NLM). (The other cohorts are based in Boston and in New York.) Speakers from cultural heritage and academic institutions addressed the relationship between digitized and born-digital materials as they highlighted efforts to preserve complex software and game technologies through emulation, create cultural digital collections through mobile public library labs, collect and curate data, and resolve workflow issues and infrastructure challenges in large and small organizations. A summary and slides of the entire proceedings are available on its website.

Residents of the NDSR program have the opportunity to develop, apply, and advance their digital stewardship knowledge and skills in real-world settings. Much care is taken to match each resident with a suitable institution, program, and project. Applications for the 2016–2017 Washington, D.C., cohort will be posted on the Library of Congress website.

Preserving Software

First up was Jason Scott’s (@textfiles) presentation, “The Walking Dead.” Scott is curator of the software collection at the Internet Archive and is also known as the Angel of Death. He sees his mission as “stopping websites from disappearing into nothingness.” A rescue last year saved somewhere between 50,000 and 75,000 manuals that were going to be tossed in a few days. His notion is that these manuals, and the thousands of CD-ROMs he has collected, have persisting “historic cultural value and meaning.”

A self-proclaimed amateur archivist, Scott is committed to the mantra “collect for use.” His approach is to maintain the look and feel of the original technology through emulation, which allows software written on one computer to be used on another. The Internet Archive’s Emularity Engine mimics old computers in a web browser so that people can experience a video game, for example, as it might have been “back in the day.” In the Console Living Room, users can choose from myriad collections of video games and systems.

Scott was quick to note that the Emularity Engine is just one of several approaches to digital preservation of software that assures consistent playback for a large number of people. For example, Olive seeks “to establish a robust ecosystem for long-term preservation of software, games, and other executable content” run on external servers, and bwFLA uses a scalable emulation service model. Scott’s closing words to those in charge were, “Give professionals more agency to be able to do what they think is needed and right.”

DIY Memory Lab

Next, the audience got a view of preservation from the perspective of new professionals in the field. Jaime Mears (@JaimeMears) talked about her NDSR project “What Do Our Memories Look Like?” for the District of Columbia (DC) Public Library. Based on the premise that it takes knowledge, technology, time, and money for people to learn how to save their memories, DC Public Library created a do-it-yourself (DIY) lab to help. It is at once a place, a group of resources, and a series of programs. Perhaps the most enduring part of Mears’ project—that is likely to have the greatest impact beyond DC Public Library—is the LibGuide created to help others build their own memory labs. From her presentation, it is clear that Mears’ mantra is “make personal archiving accessible and fun.”

AIA Repository

Valerie Collins (@valeriemcollins) co-led the testing and implementation of an institutional digital repository system for born-digital materials at the AIA (American Institute of Architects). During her presentation, “Building Curation Into Records Creation: Developing a Digital Repository Program at the American Institute of Architects,” Collins described how important it is to work closely with staff when choosing a repository system and inventory documents, determining the structure of the repository, deploying the system, and providing access to digital materials.

U.S. Senate Archives

John Caldwell’s (@JCaldwell89) NDSR project, “Improving Digital Stewardship in the U.S. Senate Historical Office,” assessed the U.S. Senate’s workflows for transferring digital assets into the Congressional Records Instance of the National Archives and Records Administration’s Electronic Records Archives. He also studied senators’ digital assets in preparation for their ultimate transfer to academic and institutional repositories. The project involved 72 individuals representing 18 Senate committees and member offices who contributed to recommending workflows and tools (e.g., the Duke Data Accessioner), as well as creating guides and checklists to make preserving digital assets easier. Caldwell’s recommendations for the U.S. Senate Historical Office include the following:

  • Establish archival controls (e.g., organization and fixity) early in the archival life cycle
  • Establish strong collaboration with technical staff
  • Align with the Center for Legislative Archives
  • Reassess tools periodically
  • Appoint a Senate information manager

GPO Audit

At the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), Jessica Tieman (@J_IreneTieman) conducted an internal audit to prepare for the ISO 16363:2012 certification of GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) as a Trustworthy Digital Repository. Recognizing the importance of standards, Tieman recommends being flexible while implementing them. When preparing for ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certification, Tieman has three recommendations:

  1. Identify the reasons your repository is participating in the process
  2. Define your designated community very specifically
  3. Develop consistent practices to objectively measure compliance
  • Documentation
  • Evidence
  • Transparency
  • Adequacy
  • Measurability

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Barbie E. Keiser is an information resources management consultant located in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.

Email Barbie E. Keiser

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