Like a lot of people I have spent January setting priorities for the year ahead. I haven’t given up chocolate or done any more exercise but I have been giving some thought to both where I would like to focus in my work and some of the areas I would like to develop in my practice. One of the first things I would like to do is sign up for an xml course – I’m keen to improve my technical skills and this looks like a good place to start. I will always be an archivist not a developer but I want to be able to to have more confidence to be able to:
- talk to developers and IT colleagues
- develop a more critical approach to choosing tools to work with
- try out more technical tasks such as file format id-ing
- explore more possibilities of using data in a digital humanities contexts
Other things I’m focusing on at the moment are conducting an in-depth analysis of my digital preservation workflow. We’ve been playing around with automating elements of our workflow which ingests and processes research data and then prepares it for long term preservation. What I have planned out at the moment is very piecemeal and I know from experience that piecemeal solutions hide weaknesses and dependencies that have not been fully thought through. Our test instance of Archivematica fell over because of an upgrade elsewhere on the system – lack of communication and insufficient planning led to a problem. This is of course why we’re not yet in the production stage but it did bring it home to me about how important solid planning and the identification of dependencies are (if that wasn’t already apparent!).
Getting the information out there
I’m also exploring cataloguing systems and am currently playing with AToM – an open source standards-based a cataloguing system from Artefactual (who also develop Archivematica) which looks to offer many of the things which we will be requiring. I have some existing catalogues to import (which is proving rather more tricky than I thought it would be) but I like what I see of what the system offers in terms of standards conformance, ease of use and interoperability. I am looking for a system that will nicely expose digital and non-digital descriptions side by side and an integration with Archivematica is important for this. I am also keen for it to work alongside our current Onesearch library catalogue to allow users to navigate across collections and find their way around everything the university has to offer.
I want to get into the habit of regular blogging and have been inspired by Jen Mitcham’s regular Digital Archiving updates as well as Kirsty Lee’s Bits and Pieces. A longer read which I will be coming back to which is worth a look is Bentley Historical Library‘s Appraising Digital Archives with Archivematica paper which was written from elements already appearing in their blog.
So – here’s to a busy year of digital archives!