Looking forward

jogger-jogging-sport-marathon

A picture of people doing a lot more exercise than I do! (image: http://skitterphoto.com/?portfolio=4-mile-run-groningen)

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

Preservation workflows

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(image: startupstockphotos.com/post/123128198211)

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

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You won’t need a Mac to access our catalogue… (image: startupstockphotos.com/post/123128547586/at-barrel-soho-nyc)

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.

Blogging

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!

 

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6 thoughts on “Looking forward

  1. “I am looking for a system that will nicely expose digital and non-digital descriptions side by side”…

    Does this mean you’d like Technical Metadata exposed alongside Descriptive Metadata?
    If so, I’d be interested in that too.

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    1. That isn’t what I meant but now you mention it that is an interesting thought. I suppose I imagined that the kinds of technical metadata you might want to expose such as file format, size etc could be dealt with in a cataloguing system but I hadn’t given much thought (as yet) to how a system would cope with this, how the standards deal with this (current or proposed) or to what extent the process of extracting and then exposing the metadata can be automated. So much to think about! Are there particular metadata you were thinking about and how might you see it exposed?

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  2. > Are there particular metadata you were thinking about and how might you see it exposed?

    I just like metadata on principle, me…

    In a former life, I used to catalogue born-digital documents for NDAD. We archivists on the team often used to discuss the best way to express their “digital-ness” using ISAD(G) elements. You can see some results at http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20101104101827/http://ndad.nationalarchives.gov.uk/CRDA/58/DD/detail.html. We used “Extent” and “Custodial History”, probably for a purpose they were not intended for.

    The questions I ask myself are…

    – Could ISAD(G) be doing more to represent born-digital content?
    – Assuming we wanted to do this, could we integrate an automatically-generated metadata output (e.g. from DROID) into an archival catalogue? (i.e. rather than try to identify a page count or file format “manually”).
    – If we succeeded, how would it look in AtOM?
    – Why do we want to do this? Are users interested in it?

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  3. I’m definitely no expert on this but I really think ISAD(G) is not especially good at representing this information. As for the new proposed standard RiC that rather remains to be seen…

    I’m quite interested in the idea of automating the process of extraction and exposing it. As for why we would want to do this or whether users would be interested – people may well use (meta)data which is available – they certainly won’t use it if it isn’t exposed in the first place.

    It might be interesting to see if there examples of catalogues exposing this kind of information and whether institutions who do have thoughts about usage or reasons for this.

    By nature digital archives are accessed via a surrogate so it feels wrong not to expose the metadata of the original to get as close as possible to the “look and feel” (if that’s the right phrase) of the original. In some contexts that’s really important.

    I’m definitely going to be doing more thinking about this!

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  4. > It might be interesting to see if there examples of catalogues exposing this kind of information and whether institutions who do have thoughts about usage or reasons for this.

    Yes. For instance, University of Stratchclyde archives: http://strathclyde.ica-atom.org/group-of-children-seated-on-rocks-in-backcourt-garden

    They’re using AToM. In this instance, they are able to expose some simple image metadata. Interestingly, they do it within a dedicated section that appears to be separate from the ISAD(G) bit of the catalogue.

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    1. Thanks for this heads up – have spoken to Strathclyde before and it would be interesting to compare notes with them. Thank you for pointing them out to me – any other suggestions always very welcome!

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