This is a guest post from Camille Salas, an intern with the Library of Congress.
My first experience working in a cultural heritage institution was as a teen docent at the El Paso Museum of Art in the mid-1990s. It is difficult to find details about the teen program now but it was open to high school students interested in learning about art history and giving tours of the museum’s collections to the general public. Two museum staff members led training that consisted of a summer crash course in art history and practice giving guided tours. They understood the difficulty in relating to teens, especially during summer, and did a great job of guiding us from the Renaissance to the Modern Art era. They also inserted occasional references to Beavis and Butt-Head to make things livelier and for better or worse – I now associate the two cartoon characters with the Ashcan art movement! For our final assignment, we were asked to select a painting from the museum’s Samuel H. Kress Collection, research the subject matter and materials, and then give a brief tour of the painting to our fellow docents. My tour of St. Jerome in His Study (c. 1457-1504) by Filippino Lippi was the first of several tours I gave at the museum until I left El Paso for college. The experience proved museums do not have to be stuffy or only for select individuals.
Samuel H. Kress Collection
I did not think about St. Jerome much after my time at the museum until this past summer when I started working with Viewshare. As I came up to speed on all things related to Viewshare, I became acquainted with a view created by the National Gallery of Art that among many items, displays the locations of Kress Collections in the United States.
Through Viewshare, I revisited the paintings I first saw many summers ago and with just a few clicks, I quickly gleaned some new information about El Paso’s Kress Collection. Some new revelations included the fact that El Pasohas one of the larger Kress Collections outside of the National Gallery of Art. I also confirmed that the museum’s Canaletto is one of the most important pieces in the collection when I saw its purchase price. The Kress Collection view contains information about purchase prices, purchase dates, seller, and the different mediums used to create the paintings. As I went through the view, I had many questions: How many paintings are related to religious imagery? Which paintings captured landscapes or interiors? Would it be helpful to sort by artist or estimated creation date? The Kress Collection view served as a useful guide when I created a view based on some of the born-digital artwork from Rhizome’s ArtBase.
As mentioned in earlier posts on this blog, the Rhizome ArtBase contains new media art dating from the 1990s. When I completed the preliminary ArtBase view, I did not expect that there would be many similarities between the two art collections but there are a few. Both art collections offer information on the medium, materials, and technology used by the artists. The majority of items in the Kress Collection are identified as oil on canvas paintings. In the Rhizome ArtBase, mediums are not captured for the majority of items but when reported, websites are the most popular.
Like many of the other views I have worked on in the past four months, creating the Rhizome ArtBase view yielded many moments of discovery. I shared links and images with friends across the country whenever I stumbled upon something that I felt they would enjoy. Even though I did not look at the Rhizome artworks within the context of a traditional, museum setting, I noticed that being at the computer permitted me to use the Internet to immediately delve into other works by the artist or further explore context, medium, or subject.
Another discovery was thinking about how the instructors of my docent class could have used Viewshare, had it been available then, to teach us about similarities and differences in art movements. Viewshare could be a potential tool for teaching and positively impacting a new generation of cultural stewards.
I would be interested to hear if any museums are using or planning to use Viewshare to engage their visitors.
In a previous interview about the Library of Congress collection of video games, David Gibson put out an open call for folks to contact him about donating their video games and video game ephemera to the Library. As soon as he mentioned this in the interview I knew I needed to ask him if I could get in line to be the first to help round out the collection. While the Library of Congress has a range of items it has practically no games for console systems and no systems to play them on. At the very least, I was excited to offer the folks working with the games the hassle of needing to figure out what exactly they should do with a series of video game consoles. David said they would be happy to take both my games and my systems.
So, I drove down to the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation with my crate of games and systems to help make a small contribution to the Library’s Collection. I had been meaning to take a quick tour around the facility (which is rather amazing) and this provided a great opportunity to do so.
Giving up my games ended up being a bit of an emotional experience. I think the emotion of that experience underscores why it matters for the Library to collect games. The box of games and systems had sat in our basement for the last five years, and my mother’s basement for a good while before that. The last time I sat down and played through most of these games was when I was on Christmas break during my sophomore year of college. With that said, once I was there standing in the parking lot of the Packard Campus exactly what I was doing started to sink in. Before turning them in, I decided to take a cue from cyborg anthropologist Amber Case and create digital artifacts to encapsulate some of my analog memories. I took a series of photos of some of the games that played particularly important roles in my life. Here are a few images of those games.
The first role playing game I ever saw was Dragon Warrior. I got to play a copy of it that I borrowed from a neighbor for a few days before I went out and bought the used copy pictured here. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent battling slimes in there. Similarly, memories of playing through the impossibly hard levels of Battletoads with friends back in Wisconsin flashed through my mind as I pulled that cartridge from the box. How was such an impossibly hard game so enjoyable? I’m most sentimental about EarthBound. The bright colors, the silly plot line, it washed over me before I put the lid on the box and turned it in.
These were waves of nostalgia. These were waves of memory. As I picked up the box and took it inside I thought that these feelings, these relationships with these games, are some of the reasons that it makes sense for these objects to join the range of other creative works of film and music that the Library’s Archivists, Librarians, and Engineers collect and preserve out at the Packard Campus. These games are creative works that have had a massive cultural impact. Understanding them is now part of understanding American and World History.
It is still the early days of collecting and preserving video games at The Library of Congress, but I for one am excited to know that a parts of my childhood, like my copy of Super Mario Brothers/ Duckhunt/ Track Meet, will be on the shelves (and in whatever other preservation format it might take on) in the same building that houses much of the film and music that played the same role in my parent’s childhood.
As David mentioned in the last post;
“The Moving Image Section is actively seeking donations of video games, game related periodicals, and equipment to the collection. We are particularly interested in consoles and games from the 1970s through the 1990s, since these are underrepresented in our current holdings. I truly believe that we have the potential to amass a wonderful collection that reflects the creativity and ingenuity of the nation’s video game heritage here at the Library of Congress but this will only be possible with the cooperation of others who have a passion for this subject. If you would like to donate, please contact David Gibson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Brian Taves (email@example.com) for more information.”
I am happy to have had the chance to interview Jan Ziolkowski, Director, and Yota Batsaki, Executive Director, of Dumbarton Oaks, about some recent developments involving use of technology to enhance the institution’s collections.
Bill: The Dumbarton Oaks collections are as fascinating as they are diverse, relating as they do to Byzantine, Pre-Columbian and Garden and Landscape studies. Can you tell us a bit about how you are using digital technology to curate and provide access to your holdings?
Jan: Dumbarton Oaks is formally designated as Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections. Although the Museum and Gardens are open to the public six days a week in the afternoons, the Library, Rare Book Room, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Coins, and Seals are normally inaccessible—for reasons of their limited space, the value of their holdings, and our relatively small staff—except to scholars and often by appointment only. And yet we are eager, perhaps as never before in our history, to perpetuate and promulgate our fields by making them known in the most engaging ways to the largest possible public. Digital technology is a godsend.
Bill: You have some interesting online exhibits, including the The Ancient Future: Mesoamerican and Andean Timekeeping and the Nicholas V. Artamonoff Collection of photographs from Istanbul and Western Turkey from 1935-45. Is the intent for the exhibits to foster scholarship, public engagement or other outcomes?
Jan: All of the above! The exhibit on Mesoamerican and Andean timekeeping was developed as a complement to a large scholarly meeting (called in our terminology a symposium) we hosted in October, which in turn was intended to engage with popular interest in the apocalyptic associations, ascribed to the Mayans, of the year 2012: think of the film by that name. The symposium was a fantastic success—more than can be said of the movie.
The Artamonoff exhibit arose from the seemingly unglamorous process of inventorying our vast archive of photos from the thirties and, beyond that, to document Byzantine sites in the eastern Mediterranean. The methodical examination of our half million images and documents—which is far from complete—has turned up many exciting caches of material. This was one. More are to come!
Yota: Incidentally, as a result of ICFA staff’s research on the collection, we discovered an additional corpus of material by Artamonoff at the Smithsonian’s Freer-Sackler Archives, which will soon be added to the online exhibit. Artamonoff’s images of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture in Istanbul, as well as the daily life of the city’s inhabitants, have already attracted attention from new and unexpected audiences – whether historians of photography, Ottoman architecture, Istanbul in the early twentieth century, or the Russian diaspora. One interesting example is a current resident of Istanbul who was able to identify his grandfather’s house (and a relative!) in one of Artamonoff’s photographs.While our intent is to further scholarship and engage the public with our digital projects, serendipity also allows us to reach a wider audience beyond those we may have targeted. Our blogs and social media channels play a crucial role in keeping the public updated on our various digital projects, while also allowing them to participate in our ongoing work to share our collections more broadly.
Bill: The Byzantine Seals Online Catalogue is “an ongoing project to record the 17,000 Byzantine lead seals held by Dumbarton Oaks and publish them online.” What led you to undertake the project? How did you determine the best way to present the images and the related textual information for what appears to be a unique collection?
Jan: When I was in my first year as director, I calculated rapidly on a pad how long it would take us to complete our printed catalogue of Byzantine seals. My estimate was that we would need another seventy-five years if we continued at the rate we had been achieving since our foundation in 1940. I am a reasonably patient person, but the prospect of waiting until even my children were centenarians was too much. Instead, I committed us to digitization. My idea was to have us produce the highest-quality images we could of all the seals, to supply the metadata from the printed catalogues as available, and to consider initially providing skimpier data for many of the other seals until we could devise a more methodical way of cataloguing them. The results have been remarkable, thanks to the counsel of our consultant for Byzantine sigillography, the commitment of our Post-Doctoral Associate in Byzantine Sigillography and Numismatics, the engagement of our photographer, and the contributions of fellows, interns, and students who have pitched in with their special skills and energies. Like most digitization projects, the seals require a team effort. We like to think that the spirit and environment of Dumbarton Oaks lend themselves particularly well to such group work.
Bill: I see that Dumbarton Oaks has involvement through grants and other projects that might create born-digital research data such as digital photographs, ground-penetrating radar images, geographic information system data sets and other fieldwork data. Do you foresee a point where this data could be kept by you or another organization for secondary use?
Jan: Our mission is to further scholarship. We hope to make as much of our digital treasures freely available as we can. At present the restraints are first and foremost technical. We want to be acknowledged and to have some control over the quality of reproduction from our images, but we are without any desire to profit in dollars and cents from what we possess.
We have many ambitions, some of which will take many years to fulfill. For instance, I would love to see us arrange both images and other evidence relating to the gardens so that it would be possible to visit the space virtually and to navigate it not only across space but also across time. A visitor could look at a present-day planting and see what occupied the same site twenty, forty, or sixty years ago. Such a perspective could provide information about changes in garden practices and culture. It could also tell us something about climate change.
Another example would be the great Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Dumbarton Oaks played a central role in the study of the architecture and the cleaning and restoration of the mosaics in this extraordinary monument. Often the images in our archive provide better information about architectural and artistic features of the edifice than can be gleaned from the building in its present condition, after the toll that has been taken on it by neglect, repurposing, and time. My dream is that one day our photos and documents could be digitized and be accessible at the touch of a finger to a person who toured a three-dimensional model virtually.
Bill: What is your approach to managing and preserving your digital collections? What are your major challenges? And how do you see your digital preservation requirements evolving?
Jan: We have recently switched to a new content management system that, in conjunction with our new website, has offered new possibilities for displaying and managing our digital collections. We have also just finished a six-month internal and external review of our digital holdings, procedures, and current and future needs, with a view to improving management of our digital assets. Having invested significantly in the creation of digital collections, we are committed to sustaining these digital assets for the long-term. In the coming year, we will be looking to make further investments in IT support to further our digital initiatives and ensure the long term preservation and dissemination of our work.
Bill: Can you tell us about your staff who work with the digital collections? What kinds of background and training are you looking for?
Jan: More and more of our staff work with digital assets, to varying degrees. Images of most museum objects have been captured on site, although the medieval manuscripts travel to Cambridge to be digitized. The Library mounts many online exhibitions, especially to enhance our symposia. The Gardens, Rare Book Collection, and Library have collaborated in a massive digitization of correspondence and other materials related to the design and construction of our gardens. The Rare Book Collection has been digitizing selections from its vast holdings. We have spoken already about Byzantine seals, and a similar story could be told about our plans for Byzantine coins. Our Oral History project, involving recordings (both audio and audiovisual) and transcriptions, constitutes another body of material.
In the future I expect that we will need to have a relatively small number of colleagues who are devoted full-time to IT matters. Our database specialist needs to be flanked by a digital assets manager and by a person tasked more generally with helping us to prioritize among potential digital initiatives and to make them happen. All three of our full-time staff in Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives are heavily concerned with the digital collections there, although that concern is immediately visible in the title only of one. In our Library and Museum, no staff member has a job title that signals explicitly a connection with digital collections, but I know that more and more of my colleagues spend increasing amount of time on digital collections.
The background and training we seek varies widely. Some of our needs are extremely specialized, requiring knowledge of specific content relating to our fields of study or demanding particular degrees … but in the end high energy, passion, intelligence, and collegiality count greatly.
Bill: Looking into the future, where do you see Dumbarton Oaks going with regard to digital technology in general and digital information in particular?
Jan: Our greatest strength and impact involve people. The humanities, a branch of learning in perpetual crisis, have become particularly devalued over the past decade. They have not elicited as strong or persuasive a defense as they deserve. Dumbarton Oaks can offer a model for ways of bringing information technology to bear upon art history and archaeology, philology and history, and all the other fields that help us to understand what people of other places and times communicated through images, words, and objects. We are small, but I hope that in our smallness we work efficiently and beautifully, like a Swiss watch. A place that has librarians, archivists, museum curators, publishers, and gardeners as well as Byzantinists, Pre-Columbianists, and Garden and Landscape scholars. It is through collaborations across disciplines that we can make meaningful progress and DO’s community aspect both fosters and facilitates such exchanges.
This post is adapted from remarks I gave to the judging panel for the 2012 Digital Preservation Award on behalf of The Signal. We were honored to be among the finalists for the award, which was subsequently won by The Digital Preservation Training Programme, University of London Computing Centre (to whom we offer hearty congratulations!).
It is my great pleasure to appear before you today. On behalf of the entire team behind The Signal, let me say that we are immensely pleased to be a finalist for this award. We’re also happy the blog has drawn your attention—because drawing attention is exactly what it’s meant to do!
“We are the first generation to exploit the opportunities of digital data. These opportunities cannot be taken for granted.” I like this quote, which I borrow from the Digital Preservation Coalition. The words perfectly sum up a modern dilemma: we rely on data to capture history as it unfolds, extend knowledge in every area, and save lives in advance of natural disasters. But digital frailty can easily undermine these essential purposes. Files get corrupted, format migration goes awry and data gets lost.
This is not a secret. It is well-known that large amounts of data are at risk.
If digital content is so incredibly valuable, yet so terribly fragile, why is preserving it such a challenge? The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access considered the social issues behind this question. It found that two of the major reasons are complacency that the problem is not urgent and fear that the problem is too big to take on. While these look to be opposites, both complacency and fear are the result of insufficient understanding. People may even know about a problem intellectually but haven’t received the right messages to get them motivated.
The Blue Ribbon Task Force came up with a number of recommendations for helping to ensure that valuable digital assets remain available for future use. Among other things, they called for building preservation-aware communities and raising awareness in general. A big part of the solution as they saw it lies in getting the right information to practitioners, students, funders and, crucially, the public as a whole. People need to hear the right message in order to do the right thing.
The recommendations to raise awareness and push out training are perfectly sensible. There’s just one thing: we live in an age of constant partial attention. Everyone is bombarded with far more information than they can possibly absorb. It’s a buyer’s market for messages. People expect relevant information to come to them and to resonate with their needs. We are so drawn in by effective information that we are liable to walk into each other and perhaps into traffic while entranced by a Smartphone screen. Information consumption is now very highly selective and the digital preservation community needs to act on this reality.
When we launched The Signal in 2011, we wanted to tell appealing, accessible stories that had a reasonable chance to make it though the info-clutter and reach our preservation partners as well as many others. We wanted the stories to connect in a way that made people react. We wanted comments, and beyond that, we wanted to influence how people think about digital preservation, ideally to the point where they take positive action. And when I say ‘people’ I mean the broadest audience possible: students, skilled practitioners, staff looking to upgrade skills, as well as policy makers, educators and the public overall. It’s our belief that a key to establishing a sustainable basis for digital preservation is through raising awareness on much larger scale than we have managed in the past.
So, how well have done in meeting these objectives for The Signal? It’s a tricky business trying measure things like public engagement and our other intentions, but we can cobble together a few preliminary measures that I think demonstrate some success.
Let me start with some qualitative evidence that our work to get attention has paid off. The Signal was recently named as among the Best of the Federal Blogosphere, and is broadly cited as a training resource; the Cambridge PrePARE Project and Don’t Panic project of the West Yorkshire Archive Service are examples from the UK. I’m particularly happy to say that references to the blog appear across an array of communities, including art, genealogy, libraries, archives, museums, video games and more. It’s fair to say that The Signal reaches the broadest and most diverse audience of any digital preservation information resource.
There are some impressive numbers to indicate our reach. We’ve averaged one post a day and just recently passed 400 in total. Our intent to engage has borne fruit, with over 18,000 subscribers and 950 reader comments. There are some fascinating conversations here about everything from metadata, to personal digital archiving, to different approaches to training and education. I pleased with one other set of numbers: the dozens guest bloggers we have recruited, along with the many interviews we have had with our preservation partners and other thought leaders from around the world. We’ve solicited a broad sweep of perspectives from preservation experts, artists, teachers, curators and policy makers. This is in keeping with our objective to engage as many audiences as possible to highlight the importance of digital preservation.
Looking into some Twitter data, I found that tweets that refer to the term “digital preservation” have been regularly trending upward since The Signal launched in May 2011. Compared to that point, there are now almost three times as many mentions per week, and many of these refer directly to post from The Signal. In terms of geographic distribution, Tweets the reference our blog posts have come from dozens of countries around the world. I think it’s fair to say that we have had some success in broadly promoting awareness of and knowledge about digital preservation.
Thank you very much for your consideration today, and, we hope, your continuing attention into the future!
Fifty years from now, what currently accessible web content will be invaluable for understanding science in our era? What kinds of uses do you imagine this science content serving? Where are the natural curatorial homes for this online content and how can we work together to collect, preserve, and provide access to science on the web? These were the three principal questions up for discussion at a recent NDIIPP digital content summit. I am excited to announce the publication of a report, Science at Risk: Toward a National Strategy for Preserving Online Science (PDF) as the output of that summit.
This report summarizes the discussions and findings from the meeting, suggests a number of calls to action for stewardship organizations, and includes two perspective papers and a brief case study from different participants to represent the view of creators and future users of online science.The first perspective essay comes from Fred Gibbs, Assistant Professor of History at George Mason University and Director of Digital Scholarship at the Center for History and New Media. Gibbs provides a perspective on the diversity of web content that historians of science are likely to be interested in and why. The second essay—from Bora Zivkovic, Blogs Editor at Scientific American, visiting Scholar at NYU School of Journalism, and organizer of the ScienceOnline conference—provides the perspective of a content creator on the development of science blogging. This is followed by a case study of the U.S. National Library of Medicine History of Medicine Division’s Health and Medicine Blogs collection pilot. This collection exemplifies how cultural heritage organizations’ existing collecting goals can translate into a targeted web archive collection development strategy. The report closes with an appendix briefly listing examples of similar ideas for web archive collections that cultural heritage organizations could create based on the priorities identified by meeting participants.
The full report is online as a free PDF. With that noted, I wanted to draw attention to two specific pieces of it in this post. First, the articulation of the value of ephemeral science content on the web and second the calls to action.Why is Online Scientific Discourse Valuable?
Below are three kinds of value the participants identified in this content. These are not meant to be exhaustive, but instead as a starting point for explaining why this web content is important.
The Record of Scientific Knowledge, Discovery, and Innovation:
Much of the history of science, technology, medicine, and mathematics is built from primary records of scientific publication and unpublished materials of scientists. Traditionally, material has been preserved through a combination of collecting the personal papers of scientists and their published work in books and journal articles. With the emergence of practices like open notebook science, science blogging, and science discussion forums a considerable amount of this content is being produced and presented on the web. If we do not act to collect this contemporary material, we may end up with more complete records of scientists’ unpublished notes and personal communication from previous eras than we do from our own.
Related, the emergence of citizen science projects has resulted in some discoveries and advances in science happening on the open web. For example, the discovery of the green pea galaxies occurred entirely on the discussion forums that accompany the Galaxy Zoo website. The forums, where these kinds of discussions occur, document the process and contributions of individuals in scientific discoveries.
Changes in Scientific and Scholarly Communication:
Aside from documenting the record of science and discovery, the new media of blogs, websites, and forums are themselves documentation of significant changes occurring in scholarly communication. Much as work on the history of the book documents an array of changes in culture, the history of online communication media are themselves of considerable value in understanding science and scholarship in contemporary society. In this respect, these sites are going to be of interest as valuable primary sources in the history of technology, communications, and media.
Public Understanding and Perception of Science and Science Policy:
Conversations and reactions to science from members of the general public represent one of the most exciting prospects for historians of the future to understand science in our times. In particular, various controversies around topics like evolution, vaccines, and climate change have stirred up an enormous amount of online discussion. Records of these discussions will be invaluable for historians and policy analysts for understanding and exploring public reactions and perspectives on science. Furthermore, various pop-cultural developments that touch on science topics (for example, videogames like Spore) are similarly likely to generate substantive online discussion and offer potentially unique perspectives on science in our times.Calls to action
As a result of the discussion at the summit, and the following essays, we suggest four calls to action for cultural heritage organizations.
Call for Engaging, Assisting, and Supporting Content Creators:
The scientists and science communicators who participated in the summit were eager to learn more about how they could help to manage and steward their content. Eventually, the personal documents of scientists often make up special collections at libraries and archives. There is considerable value in the cultural heritage community creating guidance materials for managing personal digital information. Specifically, reaching out to scientists and science communicators to help them better steward their own content can help creators self archive. The Library of Congress provides personal archiving guidance to the general public that can be customized and redistributed to a specific audience.
Call for Developing Relationships with Online Science Communities:
The organizations or communities that host or contribute to online science projects or discourse must care for their assets in the near term. Cultural heritage institutions have the mission and expertise to serve as long-term stewards. Relationships at the institutional level can be built to give guidance on preservation practices during the life of a project and advise on future curatorial homes for data when organizational affiliations change.
Call for Targeted Web Archive Collections:
To meet the challenge of stewarding this content, we suggest cultural heritage organizations begin to develop focused web archive collections related to their particular institutional goals and needs. For example, a focused special collection on open notebook science, or a collection focused on controversies around vaccines, or the web presence of its scientists and science centers. Cultural heritage organizations are uniquely positioned to, based on their own particular focuses, identify and collect around particular themes and topics that can collectively serve as part of a distributed national and international online science collection. The case study of U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Health and Medicine Blogs collection provided in this report can serve as an exemplar. Also included are examples of a series of different kinds of special collections we could see different cultural heritage organizations developing as an appendix.
Call for Outreach to Historians and Other Researchers:
Stewardship organizations must establish a user community which values the content they are preserving. There is not yet substantive interest from historians of science and other researchers in online scientific discourse. While researchers and scholars of literature and the arts have been engaged in helping develop practices around the collection and preservation of born digital artwork and literature, there has not been a similar reaction in the history of science community. Archivists, librarians, and curators ought to reach out to historians of science and make them aware of the born-digital primary resources that can be collected. Simply put, without intervention, much of this online discourse is likely to disappear before historians of science take an interest. Engaging professional organizations and associations for these researchers will be a critical component in developing sound collection approaches and policies.
The December 2012 Library of Congress Digital Preservation Newsletter is now available.
In this issue:
This is Part Two of a two-part interview. Part One ran on Monday Dec. 10, 2012.
In this installment of the Insights Interviews series, a project of the Innovation Working Group of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance Innovation Working Group, I’m talking to Dirk von Suchodoletz from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Freiburg, Germany and a representative to the Open Planets Foundation. He visited the Library in October of 2012 to give a public presentation of his work on emulation and we thought it would be useful to get him to discuss it in even more detail for the blog.
Are there other pieces of infrastructure that need to be in place for emulation to work?
Emulation strategies depend on a couple of components like the hardware emulators themselves and a well managed software archive. Nevertheless, these efforts can be shared among the relevant memory institutions as they face similar challenges.
If running the actual emulator and reproducing the original environment can be separated from the user interface a specifically configured environment with remote access can be envisioned. Additionally, services could be distributed over several providers or institutions to enable specialization following the division of labor principle. Remote access applications and protocols need to be defined to abstract and translate the actual capabilities of the chosen local platform to the remote running service interfaces.
Here, optimally the same base principles are valid for accessing recent and obsolete environments. Emulated original environments then “blend” in seamlessly with actual services. These considerations could lead to a solution which provides seamless access to a variety of different older software: a 1985 home computer a game running in the Multiple Emulator Super System (MESS) emulator; mid-2000 Linux, Windows or Sun Solaris desktops; the mid-90s Apple Macintosh PowerPC architecture and even some modern 3D CAD applications through a single application representing a front-end interface to the emulation services. This application has also to adapt to different input/output methods.
When talking of distributed services a proper user authentication, authorization and accounting service needs to be provided. This service can help to protect not only the IP-related issues of certain artifacts, but deal with privacy-related problems of access-restricted objects as well as help to implement a business model for emulation services.
You just did a full day workshop on emulation at iPres 2012 in Toronto in early October. How did that go?
The workshop was actually the first full-day event featuring emulation at the annual iPres conference. It brought together the relevant practitioners and actors in the digital preservation community discussing new directions for new digital preservation and access challenges. Nearly fifty people discussed the challenges they are facing in their institutions or presented possible solutions.
The legal deposit requirements in many countries for their national libraries bring in a range of non-traditional artifacts like multimedia objects and computer software, like the Danish Legal Deposit Act which was changed in 1998 to include digital materials, including computer games and interactive software on physical media. The game data gathered from web harvesting comprises the most common file types for this kind of material: Flash, Java, and, more recently, Unity3d. The digital revolution changes the workflows in governmental departments and thus directly effects the type of material received by the mandated national archives. For example, the Austrian State Archives gets data stored in and created by online applications such as the tax reporting system. Not only public online applications, but also files created in Microsoft Access applications, complex Excel sheets and other so-called ”end-user programming” software poses a threat to data that is not easily migrate-able.
A domain with quite different requirements compared to archives and libraries is digital art. As the media and platforms digital artworks were made on are decaying, new ways to preserve access are needed. Digital Art often cannot be easily migrated as it depends on certain software and hardware setups. Solving emulation for art and games should solve most other emulation cases, or as a museum representative put it: “Digital art and games are the e-books of tomorrow.” The actual e-book standards already allow much more than would fit into plain PDF/A.
Migration as a strategy pushed its limits, emulation extends them significantly. Nevertheless, big institutions may not have hit their crisis point yet and thus haven’t started looking in the direction of emulation. Nevertheless, database preservation is often poorly done and cannot cope especially well with purpose-made business logic put into the interfaces. Emulation is, at the least, a good fall-back solution for objects which failed to migrate. The discussion on applicable strategies to preserve object authenticity can be pushed through significant properties.
Tell us about the current projects you’re working on, including the Baden-Wurttemberg Functional Longterm Archiving and Access (bwFLA) project.
After a series of more theoretical and prototypical research and implementations the bwFLA project actually tries to practically implement preservation and access workflows. If a digital artifact or a whole computer system becomes subject to digital preservation, a defined workflow is required to support the preservation process of the object’s original context i.e. rendering environment.
The workflow makes use of the user’s knowledge to identify necessary components of the object’s rendering environment, to the effect that the rendering environment is complete and there are no missing dependencies for the chosen configuration and the digital object’s contextual environment. BwFLA implements both ingest workflows for the objects with the instant control option by the ingesting user and access workflows making use of the collected knowledge and additionally preserved software components to reproduce the artifact’s environment.
The bwFLA preservation approach defines a user-centric workflow, which makes use of current user knowledge and thus is able to provide certain guarantees regarding completeness, rendering quality, and non-conflicting dependencies. Furthermore, through a defined framework all interactions between the user and the computer environment can be observed and recorded. This helps to develop a more efficient reproduction workflow instantiation while also enabling us to gather and preserve more detailed information on the usage of certain computer environments and their software components.
While an emulation approach has technical limitations (e.g. due to DRM, software licenses (external servers or hardware dongles), external data sources), the proposed workflow is able to find issues and indicates risks related to long-term preservation. BwFLA has now defined work processes and associated workflows and laid the groundwork for a couple of building blocks including Emulation-as-a-Service components.
We see digital preservation and access as an endeavor which should be coordinated by federated relevant memory institutions and third-party service providers. The advantages of today’s IT developments offers the chance for better (national and international) collaboration if using the proper approaches. The actual costs can be kept moderate if the major memory institutions join their forces and pool their efforts to sponsor emulator development communities.
Plus, the actual developments in general IT both for commercial and end users opens the chance to more tightly integrate digital long-term preservation into existing systems. The emergence of the cloud-paradigm re-centralizes services and end users interact with them remotely through standardized web-client applications on their various devices. This offers the chance to use partially the same concepts and methods to access obsolete computer environments.
In order to provide a large variety of user-friendly remote emulation services, especially ones with authentic performance and user-experiences, a distributed system model and architecture needs to be agreed-upon and to be developed, suitable to run as a cloud service. The shift of the non-trivial task of the emulation of obsolete software environments from the end user to specialized providers can help simplify digital preservation and access strategies. Besides offering their users better access to their holdings, libraries and archives may gain new business opportunities to offer services to a third party. Emulation-as-a-Service can help to fill the gap between the successful demonstration of emulation strategies as a long-term access strategy and its perceived availability and usability.
In this installment of the Insights Interviews series, a project of the Innovation Working Group of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance Innovation Working Group, I’m talking to Dirk von Suchodoletz from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Freiburg, Germany and a representative to the Open Planets Foundation. He and his research partner Klaus Reichert visited the Library in October of 2012 to give a public presentation of his work on emulation and we thought it would be useful to get him to discuss it in even more detail for the blog.
This is Part One of a two-part interview. Part Two will run on Tuesday Dec. 11, 2012.
Tell us briefly about your work at the University of Freiburg and your involvement in the Planets Project and the Open Planets Foundation.
I’m currently holding a position as a lecturer and principal researcher at the chair of “communication systems” at the Institute for Computer Science at Freiburg University. Besides doing research I’m teaching seminars, planning and organizing courses and supervising the scientific work and thesis preparation of the students working with the chair’s various research groups. The courses are both on the Bachelor and Master level and focus on communication networks and computer systems, from the introduction of routing principles to telecommunication in large networks, covering issues like mobile networks, location-based services and privacy. Practical issues such as programming special client/server applications in Open Source environments or building blocks of our digital preservation workflows are part of the supervised student work.
My main research interests are in emulation-based digital preservation and access. I’m looking into the several building blocks which could be the foundation of “Emulation as a Service,” a cloud service providing remote access to a wide range of different emulation services allowing for object migration, access and interaction in their original environments.
Originally I got involved with emulation and digital preservation through a thesis idea of a colleague on maintaining access to popular computer games of the home computer era in the 1980s. This led to this first small research group joining the German nestor initiative in 2005 and we got invited to participate in the large scale EU integration project PLANETS which ran from 2006 to 2010. We became part of the preservation action team and especially the emulation working group. This brought us in contact with practitioners at the major memory institutions like the British Library, the National Libraries of the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria as well as national archives.
In our research we looked into requirements for reliable emulation, automation of preservation workflows and remote access to original software and hardware environments. After the end of PLANETS we were among the founding members of the Open Planets Foundation (OPF) and started to look into digital software archiving, reference workstations for end-user access to diverse emulation services as well as migration-by-emulation projects. The OPF brings together the major players in the domain of digital preservation around Europe and coordinates events like the regular hackathons, bringing together practitioners and researchers to work on practical challenges, like the hackathon on emulation we just had here in Freiburg.
In 2011 our research group joined into a Baden-Wurttemberg state-sponsored project on practical emulation workflows to complement services in libraries and archives. Recently I cooperated with the National Archives of New Zealand in an emulation office environment reference project and an early 1990s floppy disk recovery project.
Our readers may not fully understand some of the concepts behind emulation for digital preservation. Could you give us a little background?
Emulation is a concept in digital preservation to keep things, especially hardware architectures, as they were. As the hardware itself might not be preservable as a physical entity it could be very well preserved in its software reproduction. There are a variety of tools available to run a second operating system on top of your actual working environment. The so-called guest-operating systems optimally do not “see” any difference between the real thing (the metal and circuits physical object) and it’s software reproduction. Thus, not only does the hardware need to be kept functional, but also a piece of software.
This approach introduces a lot of advantages: Emulators and installed original environments can easily be distributed and replicated. For memory institutions old digital artifacts become more easy to handle. They can be viewed, rendered and interacted-with in their original environments and do not need to be adapted to our modern ones, saving the risk of modifying some of the artifact’s significant properties in an unwanted way. Instead of trying to mass-migrate every object in the institution’s holdings objects are to be handled on access request only, significantly shifting the preservation efforts.
Plus, the emulation approach maintains access to every type of object ever produced if an appropriate emulator and the original software is available. It offers the unique chance of using objects in their creation environment. In most cases the applications or operating systems developed by the format vendors or software producers are the best candidates for handling a specific object of a certain type. The vendors are expected to have the most complete knowledge about their own data formats, and especially for proprietary formats the format information is often incomplete. Often there are no other alternatives than these original environments because of the proprietary nature of many digital objects and formats.
In short: Emulation uses a different approach compared to other well-established migration strategies in digital preservation. Emulation strategies usually do not operate on the object itself, but are intended to preserve the object’s original digital environment. Emulation helps in becoming independent of future technological developments and avoids the modification of certain digital artifacts in a digital long-term archive.
How did you get interested in emulation as a digital preservation solution?
It was a combination of several strands. Working at the university requires you to find a PhD topic and a colleague came up with the idea of eternal computer game access using emulation. Another strand was the interest in virtualization. I’m involved in an infrastructure project to make Windows maintainable and usable in student computer pool environments. A wide range of different environments for courses has to be made available on top of the same machines. Combining these strands brought me into the digital preservation domain of emulation. This strategy can be used not just on today’s operating systems but on deprecated ones as well.
For example, imagine if we’re able to maintain the course installations that we’ve created today. In 10 years time those will still be the perfect environments to access and re-run digital artifacts which were originally produced there. This approach was proposed by Euan Cochrane at National Archives NZ and Maurice van den Dobbelsteen at the National Archive in The Hague to preserve typical governmental office environments to be able to reproduce typical artifacts from a certain era. Being in the field of computer science for quite a while I lost the faith in migration of proprietary formats years ago. Standards might be a nice thing, but if I cannot reproduce a “standard artifact” like a PowerPoint 4.0 presentation in today’s environments, they fail to serve me.
The computer industry and software vendors have understandably different agendas compared to memory institutions required to preserve the digital heritage. Emulation is in my opinion a very good compromise here, helping both sides. The industry can march forward and does not need to keep a long legacy while memory institutions are enabled to preserve objects in an authentic way. Simply, the legal framework needs to be tweaked a bit to fully support this kind of solution. And of course it would be great, if a vendor like Apple would be more open to virtualize Apple desktop machines and emulate mobile devices like the iPad. This would make initiatives like iPad-based schoolbooks much more sustainable and acceptable for both sides.
What are the key technical challenges that must be addressed for emulation to become a widely-used strategy?
Emulators face the same problems as do every software package and general digital objects, so perpetuating emulators for future use is a central component of a reliable preservation strategy . Hence, emulators need to be adapted to the current hardware and operating system combinations regularly.
If the emulator is available as an Open Source package, it can be ensured that a timely adaption to the respective new computer platform appears. Digital objects cannot be used by themselves, but require a suitable context to the already mentioned working environment in order to be accessed. This context must combine suitable hardware and software components so that its creation environment or a suitable equivalent is generated, depending on the type of artifact a user is interested in. The needed additional software components up to now are implicitly used but are not categorized and officially archived. The only memory institution I’m aware of, is the National Library of Australia which preserves a big collection of software boxes and instruction material. Thus a missing operating system or firmware ROM of a home computer might render a digital object completely unusable, even with a perfectly running virtual replacement of the original machine.
In addition to storing and handling the digital objects themselves, it is essential that we store and manage the required set of software components. In order to allow non-technical individuals to access deprecated user environments, the tasks of setting up and configuring an emulator, injecting and retrieving digital objects in and from the emulated environment have to be provided as easy-to-use services. Making these services web-based allows for a large and virtually global user base to access and work with emulated systems.
Alongside managing the software components and associated documentation, a software archive must tackle the legal and technical problems of software licensing. For proprietary software, this may severely limit the rights of the institution to use the software to provide preservation services. Furthermore, technical approaches to protecting intellectual property, such as Digital Rights Management (DRM), copy protection mechanisms, online update or registration requirements all create significant problems for a software archive.
To tackle this problem will require the cooperation of software manufacturers with a designated software archiving institution to provide suitably licensed unprotected copies of software for long-term preservation purposes. We recommend the development of an approach similar in concept to the legal deposit approach used by many national or copyright libraries.
End of Part One. Part Two will run on Tuesday Dec. 11, 2012.
Note: Edited on 12/10/12 to add research partner.
This is a guest post from Camille Salas, an intern with the Library of Congress.
As a first year graduate student at the University of Maryland’s School of Information, I, like many other library students across the country, enrolled in a required course that focused on the organization of information. I often referred to the class as “Cataloging 101” and was concerned that the class, although an important foundation for my future career, was going to be for lack of a better word – dry. However, I was pleasantly surprised on the first day of class to see a syllabus that had a mixture of technologically-based assignments and guest lectures. One assignment in particular that sparked great discussion and engagement with the material was the opportunity to create a digital library with a tool recently developed by the Library of Congress.
Viewshare is a tool that is free and can be used to generate and customize interfaces to digital collections. It was officially launched to the cultural heritage community a year ago and has been used to display art and special collections, government documents, and scientific research results.
The hands-on class assignment created by our professor required students to create a digital collection by executing metadata modeling, data loading and cataloging, and interface design that are all supported by Viewshare. It was the first time that he used Viewshare for an assignment and the students embraced the opportunity to explore its functionality while applying our new knowledge. My classmates were wildly creative and used photos of historical monuments, vacation photos, school library displays and artifacts related to the creation of an independent rock magazine.
I decided to use a set of photographs of art and architecture in my hometown of El Paso, Texas. Through the process of creating the digital collection, I thought about how I would classify public art murals with political meanings and architecture that predated Texas’ statehood. Everyone had a unique user experience and our discussions led to thinking about cataloging in a whole new light as we exchanged ideas about what kinds of classification systems would work best for each view. We also discussed which elements made for a well-rounded digital library collection.
Another facet of the experience that I found relevant to my future career is that Viewshare is a tool used by cultural heritage practitioners to make their collections easily accessible to potential users. Information students are especially keen to know what is new in the library field and this assignment appealed to that student sensibility. Innovative assignments such as the one created by Dr. Erik Mitchell serve to not only engage students with the material but also have the potential to introduce students to tools that might impact their lives as I experienced this past year.
During the same semester, I sought out a library internship and received one with the Library of Congress. As luck would have it, my work is now focused on efforts to promote Viewshare to the cultural heritage community. Within the past four months, I have shared my enthusiasm for Viewshare with new users inside and outside the Library by creating views and assisting users with questions and formulating views. In addition to displaying collections, I have learned how Viewshare can be used to provide access to information that might otherwise be difficult to share. For example, I worked with a librarian interested in sharing a database of digitized Russian collections. She had originally built a relational database of the collections but could not share the database with the public due to security restrictions. We worked together to create a view that included all the collections that anyone could access. She hoped that it would not only serve those interested in Russian studies but also as a reference for those digitizing Russian-related collections.
I have also learned how other educators are using Viewshare. Dr. Stephanie Y. Evans, a professor at Clark Atlanta University, used Viewshare as a guide for students to learn about the travels of African American writers. Dr. Evan’s “Swag Diplomacy” view can be used to teach vocabulary, geography and literature.
In the coming months, I am excited to have the opportunity to present and demonstrate Viewshare to a new group of Dr. Mitchell’s students. Dr. Erik Mitchell plans on using Viewshare as a capstone assignment for his class this semester. For those interested in a sample Viewshare lesson plan, I share the following Viewshare Lesson Plan Example (PDF) with gratitude to Dr. Mitchell for allowing me to adapt his original assignment.
Given my experience thus far, I believe Viewshare will be of use to many future and current information professionals as a career skill, information resource and a platform for increasing access to digital collections. It holds the potential to not only enhance in-class assignments for information students but for a broad range of subjects and disciplines.
The following is a guest post by Jefferson Bailey, Strategic Initiatives Manager at Metropolitan New York Library Council, National Digital Stewardship Alliance Innovation Working Group co-chair and a former Fellow in the Library of Congress’s Office of Strategic Initiatives.
In this installment of the Insights Interviews series, a project of the Innovation Working Group of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance Innovation Working Group, I am excited to talk to Bailey Smith and Anne Wootton, two of the co-founders of Pop Up Archive.
For those readers unfamiliar with Pop Up Archive, tell us about the project, how it came about, and what specific needs you see it addressing?
We started Pop Up Archive after surveying the public media ecosystem and realizing how much valuable digital audio content is currently unfindable and in danger of being lost forever. While larger institutions have the resources to tackle this issue, many oral historians and producers are neither archivists nor technologists, and lack the resources to hire support.
Whether archival oral history material or the hours of raw audio that are edited down to mere minutes for a produced piece, we set out to provide a straightforward, scalable system of organization and vocabulary for broadcast audio and related material. We help producers share digital audio content in ways that are meaningful and useful, through training and information management consulting with open-source software solutions.
The Pop Up Archive system provides a well-documented method for independent producers to store and access content: media files are seamlessly uploaded to the Internet Archive for permanent preservation with the option of social sharing through SoundCloud. The initial phase of Pop Up Archive resulted in software plug-ins scheduled for fall 2012 release through Omeka, an open-source web publishing platform. Phase two of the project focuses on data standards across organizations and web service needs.
Tell us how your preliminary research informed the development of the Pop Up Archive. How did your review of technologies and archival literature, as well as interviews with content creators, help you identify solutions, establish goals, and plan and manage the project’s growth? Also, what role did your individual personal or professional backgrounds play in creating Pop Up Archive?
We both came from backgrounds in journalism and the humanities, and met at the UC-Berkeley School of Information, where we joined the Master’s program in 2010. The iSchool provided us with the training to better understand how technology can be used to organize, display, and reuse media. In the past, Anne managed a newspaper digitization project at Brown University, and Bailey produced a radio documentary. You could say that we melded our interests — and when The Kitchen Sisters, independent radio producers based in San Francisco, came to us for help with 30 years worth of archival audio content, Pop Up Archive was born.
Our preliminary research focused on independent radio producers in particular, but it also entailed conversations with oral history archivists and public media organizations like the Public Radio Exchange. Since then, we’ve expanded our focus to include almost anyone, whether a person or an organization, wondering what to do with archival audio. When we begin our research for Pop Up Archive, we identified three main types of comparable services for independent radio producers: digital asset management systems, archival systems, and radio distribution services. However, each of these services addresses only certain segments of the comprehensive environment that we aimed to create for producers. Our goal was to find the sweet spot at the intersection of these systems and to help our users implement a solution that meets their needs: ease of use, secure storage, archival rigor, content management, and access to a multitude of publishing avenues. We set out to build an alpha version of the solution using open source software and focusing on The Kitchen Sisters as a use case. We set a six month timeline, aiming to finish the alpha version by our graduation from the Berkeley iSchool in May 2012.
There is often a DIY ethos at the heart of innovation. The tinkerer in the garage is a popular motif, but it is important to remember that frequently the pieces of technology necessary to solve a problem already exist — innovation can be a matter of assemblage and building the crucial, and sometimes invisible, pieces linking existing technologies together. As you mentioned, Pop Up Archive builds on pre-existing tools like Omeka, Internet Archive, and SoundCloud. How did you approach working with existing technologies and what challenges did you face building interoperability and creating a seamless workflow for users?
Our priority was to ensure that we were meeting the needs of the community, and it quickly became clear to us that there were great tools out there that we could leverage and build upon. The question then became: which tools should we use? Omeka, while not expressly designed as an archival solution, impressed us with its user friendly interface, configurability through lightweight plug-ins, and ability to export various XML outputs.
We were also informed by the directives set by many funding agencies when they evaluate digitization proposals from media collections. Preservation and access were two major concerns — while national libraries and universities might be able to store media securely and share it with their wide networks, independent producers and small archives lack the resources to do so. Also, media collections of all stripes are increasingly trying to experiment with social media. We’re lucky that the Internet Archive is based in San Francisco, since we’ve spent a good amount of time there in the past year — it’s an incredible organization with a noble mission and tireless dedication to safeguarding content in formats that are continually updated for the eventualities of the web. Similarly, we’ve benefited from SoundCloud’s presence in San Francisco, not to mention their active community (over 40 million users), robust API, and increasingly ubiquitous waveform player, which enables timed comments and provides producers and archivists with an entirely new venue for their work.
Similarly, what are some of the challenges and solutions to building a technology tool geared towards non-technical users? Have there been any unforeseen hurdles in the creation or adoption of the Pop Up Archive?
Most producers focus their time and energy on creation, and it’s hard to clear the initial hurdle of hunkering down and dedicating time to back catalogs. Oral history archivists often have more of a focus on cataloging, but might be using legacy systems or are reluctant to try new, untested methods. And everyone is trying to figure out how best to manage and distribute content on the web. You can lose an entire afternoon packaging and re-packaging content for a variety of web services (PRX, SoundCloud, Stitchr, Slacker, etc.), not to mention whatever internal organizational system is in place, if any.
However, nearly everyone we’ve spoken to yearns to make access to their content easier, and not just for the public: they want easier access for themselves as well. We’ve spoken to organizations that currently find archival material by pulling CDs off a shelf and reading the cover notes until they find the right one. It’s not an efficient use of time. Our experience has been that when producers realize that a small initial investment will save valuable time in the long run, they’re excited to get started.
Due to the short lifespan of storage media, digital preservation often requires engaging with creator communities long before they might consider their material endangered or archival. What lessons have you learned about how smaller radio programs and independent media creators approach digital preservation and their personal archiving?
The bald fact is that smaller radio programs and independent media creators often don’t approach digital preservation or personal archiving at all. They’re focused on creation and production, as well they should be. The Kitchen Sisters, for instance, coined the term “accidental archive” to describe the material they’ve accumulated over the course of their 30-year career, but their dedication to creating new content has generally trumped the need for archiving. And, of course, the archival task only became more daunting as their archive grew. Fortunately, it’s never too late. We’re working with The Kitchen Sisters and with others to get their archives up to speed and make sure that going forward, all new work will seamlessly join the archive.
This means that with today’s proliferation of digital media, archiving and production are (or need to be) synonymous. That’s why ease-of-use is so important to us, because our system won’t work if it isn’t streamlined with existing workflows. If it’s not clear to content producers that Pop Up Archive will ultimately save them time, they have no reason to use it. We’re talking about saving time in two ways: integrating archiving seamlessly into the production process, and compiling records across organizations so that searching for oral history and public media content is a more rewarding experience.
A maxim of the preservation and cultural heritage community is that collaboration is essential to the success and sustainability of projects. Tell us about some of the community partnerships that Pop Up Archive has formed and how you see them enhancing and extending the project.
We were fortunate to work with The Kitchen Sisters as our initial “clients.” They were appropriately willing — enthusiastic, even! — to address the archival issues surrounding their collection. They’ve been working in their field for decades and are connected to a great network of producers, oral historians, and others in the public media ecosystem — not to mention that their collection is incredible and made much of our initial work a rewarding process of unearthing archival gems, which only solidified our commitment to this type of material and those in possession of it.
We’ve already mentioned the critical roles that the Internet Archive and SoundCloud play in our work. Similarly, the Omeka developer staff and community at large have been endlessly helpful when it comes to answering all sorts of questions, from basic coding help to brainstorming about the possibilities for our system. We were thrilled to receive funding this year through the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation News Challenge — in addition to much-needed financial support, the Knight Foundation encompasses a wide network of forward thinking media-minded people and organizations, so it’s been rewarding to plug into that community. (The Knight News Challenge aims to accelerate media innovation by funding ideas in news and information. More at newschallenge.org.)
We’ve benefited hugely from the relationships we’ve established, starting with our initial needs analysis and industry review. We’re working with PRX, audio archives and initiatives like the Oral History in the Digital Age project, and numerous other web services, audiovisual preservation communities, and content managers. And this fall, we’re expanding Pop Up Archive to serve more organizations. Our beta testers — which include the Society for American Baseball Research, Canadian college radio station CFRC 101.9, longtime Chicago radio reporter Charlie Meyerson, and the UNC Southern Oral History Program — will help us finalize our Omeka solution and move toward a platform-agnostic repository of oral history and public media records.
We’ve been encouraged by the great turnout and diversity of the training workshop participants. The training provides fledgling archivists a jumping off point. When you’ve got a mass of content that’s scattered here and there on hard drives, laptops, thumb drives, etc., it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The training workshops act as a bit of a lesson in orienteering for the archiving landscape. We introduce the foundational concepts of archiving. (Why are standards and controlled vocabularies important for you?). We also have an opportunity to show rather than tell participants how easy it can be to observe sound archival practices in their everyday operation.
I also want to offer a big congrats on your recent selection as one of the Knight News Challenge: Data! One of Knight’s “Six Ways to Scale” is to “Beta test in a native environment” and Pop Up Archive seems to be taking that maxim to heart. How will receiving the Knight grant help support the project’s continued development and rollout?
Thanks! We’re so excited to have the support of the Knight Foundation. The other Knight News Challenge winners are leaders in media innovation, and we’re honored to be in such esteemed company.
As you mentioned, we’ve been hosting online trainings, and we hope to continue that. We’re also expanding our outreach while focusing more closely on a select group of beta testers, mentioned above, who are testing our plug-ins and information management services. We’ll provide guidance on incorporating archiving into the organization’s workflow, selecting and configuring the appropriate server, installing Omeka, reviewing the organization’s collection and analyzing existing media and metadata for consolidation, cleaning up existing metadata, mapping metadata to the PBCore standard, batch importing files and metadata, importing and assigning metadata to individual files, integrating Omeka with the organization’s existing site, and sharing content via SoundCloud and the Internet Archive.
We’ll also be hosting a workshop at SXSW: “Build an Archive and Make it Count.” We’re looking forward to spending hands-on, in-person time with content creators to show them just how easy archiving can be. In fact, we’d like to re-brand archiving entirely to reflect the realities of today’s production workflows.
Lastly, any advice for other innovators out there considering or working on digital preservation projects?
Talk to people. The world of digital preservationists is an encouraging and inclusive community full of people looking for solutions. We can’t even count all of the “informational interviews” that led us to significant discoveries, introduced us to seminal people, or helped push our work forward.
Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. Our mantra around the office is “imagine what we’ll know this time next week.” We’ve been amazed by how much we’ve learned. That little saying helps to get us over the hump when obstacles just seem too vast to surmount.
Apply for things. Whether prizes, money, or both, we credit much of our early success to timelines set not by ourselves, but by outside organizations from whom we wanted support. This was certainly true of our Master’s thesis at Berkeley, but also true of the Berkeley Big Ideas competition, which enabled us to pay for some crucial early engineering and feed ourselves while we worked on this project through the summer. And, of course, the Knight Foundation is turning philanthropy on its head by offering funding cycles where big decisions get made relatively quickly. They look for applicants who are quick on their feet, and that skill ultimately translates very well to successful innovation.
The following is a guest post by Barry Wheeler, Digital Projects Coordinator, Office of Strategic Initiatives
These are questions we hear frequently when speaking to people about their digital conversion projects. Unfortunately, the questions are hard to answer. The material can get very technical and can be difficult to apply. So I’ll try to answer the first question now and the second two questions in a follow-up blog post later on. As always, feel free to ask questions or make comments.
Here’s a sample scenario: You’re in the store looking at a scanner and the box contains perhaps the cheapest legal sized desktop scanner available. In big print the manufacturer claims, “2400 x 4800 dpi.” So, you have a very inexpensive scanner with very high resolution. This is just what everyone wants. But is this the only consideration?
Remember this – resolution is important but it is only one measure of scanner quality. Other measures are also as important but won’t be discussed in this series of posts. For example, two other important characteristics are:
If color accuracy and fine image detail are important, you have to consider much more than simple resolution.
Now, to begin to answer the first question – what is resolution? Let’s take a look at how a scanner works. Figure 1 shows a simple scanner in action. A hidden stepper motor and gear train pull the light and sensor assembly along a geared track. As it moves, a light shines into the light guide and is focused up toward the page. The motor moves the assembly along in very small steps – the manufacturer specifies a rate of up to 4800 steps for each inch the capture line is pulled across the document.
Figure 2 shows the main scanner parts from below. The stepper motor and gears are shown along with a portion of the light guide. The light guide is an optical plastic rod that spans the page width. The LED lights shine into the guide from one end; the baffles and mirrors guide the light onto the page and back onto the sensor.
Figure 3 shows a small section of the sensor. The sensor is a row of 2400 light-sensitive diodes per inch. Each time the motor moves the scanning head a single step, the light along a row is bounced off the page and onto this line of tiny light-capturing elements.
Now we can understand the manufacturer’s claimed resolution. Since with each step, the reflection is measured along the row, the manufacturer claims a maximum resolution of 4800 rows per inch. Since there are 2400 sensors per inch in the row and each sensor measures the reflected light at one dot on the page, the manufacturer claims a maximum resolution of 2400 dots per inch in each row. Thus, the manufacturer claims a maximum resolution of 4800 dots per inch x 2400 dots per inch.
But the International Standards Organization (ISO) does not accept this claim.
With each step, each of the diodes attempts to measure the reflected light at one point. Technically, each diode measures a sample of the reflected light at each point. So, the ISO claims a maximum sampling rate of 4800 dots per inch x 2400 dots per inch.
Does this make a difference? Aren’t the terms “resolution” and “sampling rate” just different words for the same thing?
No. These words make a huge difference – believe the numbers and you may be very disappointed. I’ll explain this later on in Part 2.
Martha Anderson – who is one of the driving forces behind American Memory, NDIIPP, IIPC and NDSA – has an effect on most people she comes in contact with. Watch her work a room at a conference. People beam when they greet her and she relaxes them with her warmth and charm, even as she elicits a formal respect from them. Her effect shows in her dedicated staff, in collaborations with her colleagues and in the success of the many projects and programs she helped launch. Anderson has directly influenced the development of the Library of Congress’s digital programs and collections. And now she is retiring.
When I spoke with Anderson in October she was a little preoccupied with writing her farewell speech, even though her retirement date was months away. Radiating South Carolina graciousness and sincerity, she said, “I want to say goodbye properly. Anything less would be rude.”
In fact, when Anderson’s colleagues describe her character they repeatedly cite her graciousness as well as her skill at building relationships, her confidence and vision, her ability to nurture people’s strengths and build strong teams and her leadership in cutting through group dithering to get real work done. The list of complements goes on.
Anderson would never give in to such praise for a moment though. The way she tells it, over the course of her career she just happened to be in the right place at the right time, several times over. Anderson laughingly said, “I’ve always just shown up and things happened. Throughout my whole life, I never planned a lot.”
She began her professional career as a secondary school teacher and then spent twenty years as a military spouse. She returned to school in the mid-1980s and then began working at jobs (“showed up” in response to job ads) that combined history and technology: a microform publisher, a CD-ROM publisher and then finally the Library of Congress’s National Digital Library Program.
“The project looked really interesting,” said Anderson. “I knew what they wanted and how to do it. At the CD-ROM company, we worked in video and audio and I had worked on getting everything converted and into the right format. I knew the different platforms. And I had worked with descriptive records. On one project, we marked up a published index and had it keyed, tagged and written to tape in MARC format. So, I felt really sure that I was going to get the Library job.” Anderson began working on the American Memory project in January of 1996.
Many American Memory staff did not have library degrees or high-tech skills, but they did have an aptitude for what needed to be done, a passion for the project and a willingness to learn. Liz Madden, a former American Memory staff person, is now a Library of Congress digital media projects coordinator. Madden said, “This was such new work that there weren’t really tools or known best practices for any of it. We all had to make do with what we had and make it up as we went along.” Anderson — with her multimedia experience, project management and natural fit for the job — helped guide the staff, shape the project and make it successful.
Abbie Grotke – another American Memory veteran and now the Library’s web archiving team lead — agrees that Anderson’s diplomacy and leadership style was one of the reasons for American Memory’s success. She said, “Martha has a natural ease with people that smoothed out relationships with Library staff. And she could talk about the high-level picture while at the same time talk comfortably at the technical-detail level.”
By 1999, the digital library had grown and the Library faced new challenges. In 2000, Congress chartered the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. “When the opportunity for the NDIIPP program came up, that’s when I made the decision that I would spend the rest of my career at the Library,” said Anderson. “I decided I would stay and see it through. It was a great challenge and it was actually the logical flow from having digitized all that stuff. And it was an opportunity to work with all these terrific people.”
NDIIPP ratcheted up the technical and social challenge for Anderson. Where American Memory was a unique collaboration among internal groups at the Library of Congress, NDIIPP was the Library’s unique collaboration among numerous external institutions. The common goal of the collaboration was to research and utilize practical digital-preservation solutions.
Again Anderson rose to the challenge. Throughout NDIIPP’s first decade, Anderson helped lead and nurture the program, facilitating often-difficult but crucial collaborations among the hundreds of institutions, laying a solid foundation of proven best practices for digital preservation and helping build a distributed digital preservation infrastructure. And after NDIIPP’s first decade, Anderson branched out and helped carry the work forward into the development of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance.
Kris Carpenter-Negulescu, of the Internet Archive, said, “I think in many respects she has the makeup of an entrepreneur. What she built at the Library of Congress and NDIIPP is similar to what often happens in a Silicon Valley start-up. She helped to raise funding, in this case from Congress. Then she worked with a loosely defined body of needs and requirements to develop programs, even though there wasn’t a lot of support or understanding within the Library or even within the broader community at the time.”
Grotke said of Anderson’s guidance through the groundbreaking, often experimental work of the NDIIPP partners, “She has an ability to lead when things are uncertain or unknown and assure everyone that things are on course.”
Of all the projects that Anderson has worked on, she is fondest of the International Internet Preservation Consortium, which was formed in 2003. “It was a can-do kind of group from the very beginning,” said Anderson. “The people attending the meetings would say, ‘We don’t want some big organizational overhead on this because we’ve seen how, if people put that first, nothing ever happens. We just want to get to work.’
“And they have so much integrity and people are respectful of each other. If you put out a question on the IIPC list, you get thoughtful, careful responses, very respectful of the question. They are smart and passionate but yet are willing to learn from each other. And they are the people who are willing to take a risk in their own institutions. They are doing the odd thing in big, traditional libraries.”
Carpenter-Negulescu said that Anderson is a natural compliment to the IIPC. She said, “Martha’s a master at bringing together communities of unlikely interests. She builds bridges between individuals with extreme personalities and differences of opinion. She’s able to connect with people, engage people, make them feel included, welcome and attended to. She inspires them to act and actually get things done. She was the one person who, without offending others, would speak up and politely say, ‘Can we get back to the issue at hand and try to come up with a resolution here?’”
Anderson’s staff at the Library of Congress appreciates the respect that she shows for each individual here, especially how she seems to hone in on peoples skills and nurture them. Abbey Potter, program officer at the Library of Congress, said, “Martha recognizes and develops people’s strengths. She’ll challenge you if she thinks you can handle certain tasks. She makes it so that you’re happy in your work.”
Anderson developed a tight, efficient team by helping people figure out what it is they really would like to be doing and how it is they can best contribute. When asked about that, Anderson said, “That’s just my old classroom teacher habit. You learn to do that with students, leverage their special gifts.”
Across the library a lot people just plain enjoy Anderson’s company. She tells a great story and seems to say what’s on her mind. She is equally comfortable talking about her grand-kids or politics or gardening or origami or new technologies or publishing models.
As she prepares to leave the Library, winding down in these final weeks, Anderson said, “There is joy and sorrow. The joy is that I have had the opportunity to work with all these people to and do these neat things. All of you people feel like my family to me. And this team is the greatest team. They work the hardest. They’re the smartest as far as I’m concerned, across-the-board. The managers in OSI are really good and I consider them my friends. In some ways I’ll miss seeing these people every day. And the sorrow is that it’s time for me to move on.”‘
Grotke said, “It’s good for her to move on at this stage of her life, even though it’s too soon for the rest of us.”
Anderson shook off the solemnity, smiled and said, “Remember, I am not a planner, so I am basically just showing up for retirement.”
This is a guest post from Camille Salas, an intern with the Library of Congress.
Meghan Frazer is the Digital Resources Curator for the Knowlton School of Architecture at The Ohio State University. She previously worked as a digital resources librarian at Kenyon College where she was the first recipient of the Rick Peterson Fellowship. The Fellowship is awarded to an early career IT professional or librarian who led a collaborative effort to resolve a significant challenge in IT/digital libraries.
CS: You recently gave a presentation at the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) Forum entitled “Collections Amplified” (PDF). The presentation describes how you used three different available data tools, including Viewshare. Tell us about the core idea of your talk? What do you mean by the term “collections amplified”?
MF: The idea of “amplifying” collections comes from the desire to do more with a collection after items have been described and archived in a digital repository. The talk described a method for embedding visualizations into DSpace collections using only the administrative interface. By using the tools described to create a map or timeline and then displaying the result on a collection or community homepage, we can improve the visual experience of our users.
CS: Why is improving the “visual experience” of your users important for someone in your role? It would be great to hear your perspective on why it’s important for users to have these visualizations and for information professionals to have the knowledge to create them.
MF: A good visual experience is important because we are more likely, as users, to spend time with websites that are easy and interesting to use. While subject experts may use the collection regardless of its interface, I think you can reach a wider audience by attending to the presentation of the items. In the specific case of data visualizations, I also think it provides a way for researchers to present the patterns they see to users of the website, in a way that a list of items cannot.
CS: Please walk us through how you used Viewshare to amplify a collection and what prompted you to use the tools in combination?
MF: First, I exported the collection’s metadata from DSpace and cleaned it up a bit to create a csv file. I then imported the csv file to Viewshare to create a new data set. Next, I used the “Build” function to create views which can then be embedded back into DSpace using the embed code provided by Viewshare. There is a step-by-step description of the process available in slideshare (slides 43-56 specifically address Viewshare) and also at the ACRL TechConnect blog.
CS: In using Viewshare and DSpace together, what did you learn about them individually? Did your thinking about them change at all in using them together?
MF: In researching these processes, it became increasingly clear to me that wanting one tool to do everything is not realistic. Viewshare and DSpace perform their respective functions extremely well, and building a bridge between them allows a user to have the best of both worlds.
CS: Please tell us a bit about how your presentation was received at the LITA forum? What kinds of comments and questions did the audience have for you?
MF: After going through the step-by-step process on a demo DSpace site, we talked more about how to utilize this process using one or more different tools. For example, I pointed them to the existing tutorial on Viewshare and Omeka.
CS: Given your experience with Viewshare, are there any other features you would like to see that would enhance how information professionals use it? Any suggestions for how it might better amplify collections?
MF: The best thing tools like this could do is allow for dynamic updating. Technically, of course, this would be a huge hurdle, but the current process requires me to re-export and re-upload my data whenever it changes. In the case of DSpace collections, for example, if an item is added to a collection, updating the corresponding visualization in Viewshare requires a repeat of the whole process. If instead, the dataset could be set to update itself from the original collection at a set time interval, for example, that would be a great feature.
The following is a guest post by Jimi Jones, Archivist of Hampshire College.
From November 7th through the 16th, the Harold F. Johnson Library at Hampshire College hosted an exhibition called “Pulp to Pixels: Artists Books in the Digital Age.” This exhibition of artists books, curated by Andrea Dezsö, Steven Daiber and Meredith Broberg, is a celebration of both traditional, physical book construction and innovative digital books. Many of the artists featured in the show have created works that bridge the chasm between the analog and digital realms.
As I moved through the exhibition space I was struck by the blurring of the lines between the analog and the digital. Time-honored bookbinding techniques blend with soldering, QR codes, LEDs and computer monitors. Pop-up books share the floor with iPads. iMacs peaceably coexist with a Commodore 64. As an archivist I’m more than familiar with collections that are hybrids of analog and digital materials. The artists in this exhibition are also working in a hybrid milieu and their work shows how well the tangible and the digital can enhance and complement each other.
One work that directly and physically integrate the digital with the analog was the “telescrapbooks” by Natalie Freed and Jie Qi. These books use microcontrollers to communicate with each other. The Electrolibrary by Waldemar Wegrzyn is a book that is full of electric contacts that allow the user to access additional online content when the book is plugged into a computer via a USB cable. These pieces utilize physical, hard connections to make the book interactive.
Other pieces, like Manja Lekic’s Aunt Pepper have no apparent “digital interactivity” until the user holds the book’s images up to a webcam. When the webcam “sees” certain portions of the book’s pages the computer plays music. Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse’s aptly-named Between Page and Screen also uses webcam. This work is a book with human-indecipherable geometric shapes that, when exposed to a webcam, conjures words on the computer screen which allows the reader to follow the epistolary novel encoded in the book.
Not all of the artists books featured in the exhibition have a direct analog component, though. There were many pieces for which no trees gave their lives. One that immediately caught my eye was Petra Cortright’s HELL_TREE, which is an e-book that consists of screen captures of a computer desktop with various text and images files that come together to create a cascade of content. Moving through Cortright’s e-book is especially fun for an archivist – the content is all there, and the order starts to emerge as you move through the material.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “what about apps?” One of the apps (displayed, appropriately enough, on an iPad) on exhibit was Jason Edward Lewis’ Speak, which is an application that allows the user to drag her finger through a field of letters to create instant poetry. The user can also import text from a Twitter feed to play with.
One of the things that occurred to me as I played with Lewis’ piece was the performative nature of the Pulp to Pixels show. I’ve attended a lot of book art exhibitions, most of which feature books in cases and on pedestals, and I’ve never seen a more interactive/hands-on experiential celebration of the book.
Oh and if you’re thinking apps are a new thing in the book world, I’d direct you to Paul Zelevansky’s The Case for the Burial of Ancestors Book Two. This book – which is a physical, printed-on-paper book – included a floppy disc (oh the preservation issues there!) with a computer game on it. This book dates back to 1986 – likely before many current Hampshire students were born!
There was also Nick Montfort’s 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, which features both a print book but also a Commodore 64 (which some whippersnappers may claim is an “obsolete” computer) in order to “consider the phenomenon of creative computing and the way computer programs exist in culture.”
Interactivity and performance were the hallmarks of this show. While both of these concepts did not begin with e-books (pop-up books, puppet books, choose-your-own adventures, anyone?) they definitely find impressive and often instantaneous expression in the digital world.
Gretchen Henderson, who gave the keynote speech at the exhibit’s reception, created the impressive Galerie de Difformite. This crowdsourced book and website invites “subscribers” to take images from the different exhibits on the website and manipulate (deform) them in some way. Subscribers are invited to then send the images in for inclusion on the site. The book and site thereby become a gallery – a wunderkammer – displaying these deformed, reformed, manipulated and repurposed objects. With Henderson’s work the Internet becomes a conduit, allowing subscribers to take part in a growing, changing, ongoing performative work.
As I moved through the exhibition that word “performative” kept coming back to me. As an archivist my chief mandates are the preservation and access of information. How do we preserve the kinds of artworks found in the Pulp to Pixels exhibit? Is it reasonable to believe that in fifty years a user will be able to not just view one of these interactive pieces but also interact with it in the way(s) intended?
While we can preserve these kinds of works as-is and we can also preserve records of them, it remains to be seen how – or if – we will be able to preserve the infrastructure (displays, software, Internet communication protocols) needed to make them interactive. In many ways the questions we face in trying to preserve these kinds of dynamic artworks are also faced (and being treated by) the Preserving Virtual Worlds project as well as many members of the National Digital Stewardship Project.
Archivists, librarians and curators will continue to look at this kind of scholarship and research to guide our preservation decisions. In the meantime, artists will keep creating works like those showcased in Pulp to Pixels – works that integrate analog processes and digital technologies and expand our notions of what books are and what they can be.
This post was originally published on the Hampshire Library Media Services blog.
The following is a guest post by Abbie Grotke, Library of Congress Web Archiving Team Lead
A previous post described the End of Term collaborative web archive. Well, when we say collaborative, we mean it. This year, our call for volunteers brought forward Associate Professor Debbie Rabina and her fabulous students at Pratt, who identified social media content to preserve as a part of the project – an area our team was increasingly concerned about, since these accounts don’t show up on official lists of government websites. I recently asked Rabina some questions about their involvement in EOT. For those interesting in learning more, she has shared more details on her blog.
Abbie: Tell us about who you are and who was involved.
Debbie: I am associate professor at Pratt Institute, School of Information and Library Science, where I teach the Government Information Sources course. This semester, my class volunteered to help the EOT project by capturing social media websites of the federal government.
The following students all contributed to the project: Laural Angrist, Leo Bellino, Denis Chaves, Megan Fenton, Eloise Flood, Shanta Gee, Lucia Kasiske, Mike Kohler, Emily Lundeen, Julia Marden, Joan, Erin Noto, Lauren Reinhalter, Megan Roberts, Malina Thiede and Rachel Whittmann (who provided the title for this blog).
Abbie: How did you get involved in the EOT project?
Debbie: I saw an announcement on Free Government Information (FGI) that the EOT team was seeking volunteers for the 2012 harvest. The notice briefly described the project and called for volunteers to nominate, through an online form, U.S. Federal government domains to be archived. I emailed the contact person at the Library of Congress and received an immediate and enthusiastic response that brought about this collaboration.
Abbie: How did you decide to tackle the work of identifying social media sites?
Debbie: We used several government directories to systematically search each government agency and check to see if they have social media website. Specifically, we used the A-Z list on USA.gov and the Government Manual on FDsys. After the initial divvying up of the agencies was done, students utilized the finding tools we learned in class to proceed from directory to website to content management system. Students used a combination of searches to make sure they did not miss any site. They search official agency websites to see if they link to their own social websites and followed up by searching with social media by agency names. Finally students ran some Google searches to pick up on sites that may have been missed. Only a small fraction of agencies have no social media presence.
Abbie: How many and what types of social media did you nominate?
Debbie: In all, we nominated approximately 1,500 social media websites. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube led the nominations, and in all, we found government site on about 30 social media sites including Pinterest, GitHub, Foursquare and many more. Leading agencies included the State Department, Dept. of Defense, NASA and the Health and Human Services.
Abbie: What were some of the challenges the students faced?
Debbie: It was often difficult to thoroughly uncover all the social media available from a single agency. Some agencies maintain hundreds for social media sites. For example, the State Department has social media for every US embassy around the world, and it was difficult to nominate all of then. In such cases we choose to be selective rather than comprehensive and nominated sites that are of current interest. In the case of the State Department, the student nominated site from embassies in countries in the news such as Syria and Afghanistan. Other agencies with hundreds of social media sites include the Dept. of Justice and NARA.
Abbie: What are some surprises/interesting stories based on the work the class is doing?
Debbie: Overall students were impressed by the wide use and variety of information they found. As one student said, “The kind of information that each one produces is quite a bit more extensive and somewhat more focused than I realized.”
Students were surprised by the widespread use of social media in government, including by agencies that traditionally avoided interaction with the general public. The Secret Service uses social media extensively for public relations and marketing services, and without a doubt J. Edgar Hoover is turning in his grave.
We were also asked to nominate social media for Senators and Representatives not running for reelection and were surprised that some had no social media site at all.
There were a number of agencies that used image-based social media such as Flickr and Pinterest in interesting ways. The Defense Department Flickrphoto stream has different collections or albums and is searchable through tags, archives or sets.
Abbie: What were the lessons learned from this project?
Debbie: The project helped students understand, and often appreciate, the role of social media in communicating with the public. We discovered that almost every agency searched had a Twitter account. As the work coincided with hurricane Sandy in New York, one student observed: “During the hurricane, I was without power and relied heavily on Twitter for information from the City and Con Edison. After that experience (and after being told by some friendly police officers that it was where they were getting all their information), I understood why the federal government would rely so heavily on Twitter as opposed to other social media outlets.“
Most directly, in terms of supporting the course goals, students learned a lot about the information sources of the federal government and the limitations of social media.
There were also indirect lessons. Many students felt this project made them more aware of the work of government. As one student said “this project inspired me to become a more informed citizen” and some drew broader conclusions about the shifting role of government, from making information available to actively trying to communicate information directly to citizens.
On November 12, 2012, my home was broken into and robbed. I lost jewelry, some vintage tech (my beloved 1993 Mac Duo 230 laptop), and, more importantly, my netbook that I use for all my personal computing.
I have learned a lot of lessons from that experience.
First, I am very glad that I have a passworded app on my cellphone that has a record of all my logins and passwords. My laptop was passworded of course, but not encrypted. Because I love the convenience of saved passwords in my browser, I had to immediately change all of my login passwords. Because my Quicken file was on my laptop with its ability to connect to online accounts, I needed to immediately contact financial institutions. I also called in a Fraud Alert to a credit service with which I already had an account.
I had the serial number and receipt for my current laptop, but not for my vintage laptop. Record serials numbers and scan receipts and keep them somewhere that is NOT your laptop.
I back my data up onto a network attached storage (NAS) device, so I am good with that (although I hadn’t done a full backup in 2 months so I lost a few files). But when I needed to access those files before I replaced my laptop, I didn’t have a machine in the house that could access it. So, I also need to additionally get myself an external drive that is more easily portable with a USB connection that I can hook up to any machine, anywhere. And, of course, they could have taken my NAS, too, and I would have been out of luck. Except for my pre-2008 files which I also have on CD-ROMs because that’s how I migrated them then.
I do have copies of some things in the cloud, like photos. And my recent email. But not my full email archive, which is on my NAS, but requires an application that I cannot install on my temporary machine because it’s not supported on that OS.
And I could not get my temporary machine to recognize my wireless printer. How many documents you need to print is not something you think about when planning for an emergency.
So…what lessons did I learn?
What advice do others have about recovering from sudden data loss?
One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the food. But equally yummy is the company that comes with the holiday. Last weekend, I spent Thursday with family, and some of their friends, and some of their family. It was an excellent celebration with a houseful of warm and inviting people, many of whom I met for the first time.
Invariably, when you meet new people, you get the, “what do you do?” question. I also get the “what exactly is that?” follow-up question. Over a year ago, I wrote a post talking about how I explain my job and digital preservation.
For the most part, I still stick to the 30 second speech. I’ll also point out any relevant current events, which I find helps articulate the immediate need for the preservation of digital materials. For example, I mentioned the serious damage Eyebeam Institute’s digital archives sustained during Hurricane Sandy.
But I try not to focus every conversation on stories of loss. I like to tie-in topical posts on this blog that talk about preserving unique digital collections. It helps me frame deeper conversations for particular audiences or interests. In my experience, highlighting the discussions and interviews around digital stewardship stories of culture and history elicit more “oh, now I get it” moments. Here are a few of those types of posts that stick out in my mind:
For the practitioners out there, how do you describe your work or explain digital preservation to new friends? Feel free to share your stories and those conversations here.
If you are looking for a job associated in some way with preserving/curating/stewarding digital information for ongoing use into the future, you want the right mix of skill and experience to attract the right attention from an employer.
I presented my own ideas on this subject a while back, talking from my practical experience as someone who has hired several digital archivists over the years. A premiere talent, I said, was “an ability to understand and adapt to new ways of using technology” because the work we do is rapidly changing. I praised the ability to bridge two social camps: the highly technical and the highly not-technical.
I also extolled an ability to explain what archivists and librarians do and why they do it, declaring that “today, saying something good in a 140 word Twitter message is as important for a library as for a celebrity or car company.”
Some important new findings are presented in Digital Curation in the Academic Job Market (PDF). The article outlines an analysis of 110 job advertisements from 2011 to 2012 that referenced relevant keywords. Some of the findings:
There were also a smattering of references to areas such as personal and interpersonal skills, liaison and support and curation knowledge.
This is all useful information, but it must be considered in perspective. Job ads are meant to cast a wide net while also doing their best to zero in on examples of tangible aspects associated with the position. Tangible in this case often means standards and specifications. While an employer who says “skill applying standards such as x, y and z” may mean exactly that, I’ll bet many are rather more interested in an adaptable person who can be expected to pick it up on the job.
With Good News: Librarian Job Growth Exploding!, there will be lots of opportunity to market oneself for a position associated with digital preservation. A savvy job seeker will do their best to get a broad-based idea about the practical skills needed right now.
11/26: Fixed broken link.
In software development a release candidate is a beta version with the potential to be the final product. Welcome to the release candidate for the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation. After some fantastic commentary on the blog, and presentations at a series of conferences to solicit feedback, I’m excited to share this revised version of the levels for further commentary and discussion. Based on all the feedback we received, the small NDSA action team have worked up these tweaks and revisions.
I’ve provided some of the context for this after the grid, for more background on the project I would suggest reading over the original post on the levels of digital preservation project.
NDSA Levels of Digital PreservationLevel One
NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation Goals
The goal of this document is to provide a basic tool for helping organizations manage and mitigate digital preservation risks. This document does not deal with broader issues related to collection development practices, critical policy framework decisions, general issues involving staffing or particular workflows or life cycle issues. Those are all critical, and in many cases are handled quite well by existing work (like the OAIS model, and the TRAC and TDR standards).
Each level begins to address a new area. Level 1 addresses the most likely risks in the short term. As you progress through the levels they address mitigation of risks over the long-term.
There is both very basic digital preservation information, like NDIIPP’s personal archiving materials, and extensive and substantial requirements for building and managing a digital repository. However, the working group felt there was a lack of solid guidance on how an organization should prioritize its resource allocation between these two ends of the spectrum. The goal of this project has been to develop a tiered set of recommendations for prioritizing enhancements to digital preservation systems (defined broadly to include organizational and technical infrastructure). This is defining targets for at least three levels of criteria for digital preservation systems, at the bottom level providing guidance to “get the boxes off the floor” and at each escalating level offering prioritized suggestions for how organizations can get the most out of their resources.
Your Chance for Additional Input:
It’s our intention to leave this up here for a bit as a release candidate, get some more feedback on how it is all hanging together, and in a little while come back make any final tweaks and then call this version one. So, right now is your chance to give another round of input.
What Would you Link to in the Cells?
As a next step in this project, our group had discussed adding links out to relevant web accessible materials on the topics and terms in each of these cells. We would be thrilled to hear any suggestions for material to link to tho help people act on the activities in each of the cells.
This is a guest post by Leigh Anne Ellison, Sales and Marketing Coordinator, The Center for Digital Antiquity Digital Antiquity.
I am excited for the opportunity to contribute a guest post here at The Signal. I work with The Center for Digital Antiquity, a collaborative non-profit organization devoted to enhancing preservation of and access to irreplaceable archaeological records and data. Let me introduce some of the unique challenges we face as a repository of digital archaeological records.
Archaeology is the study of past human life and culture using material remains. For archaeologists, keeping a comprehensive record of our work is imperative (despite what you might have inferred from watching Indiana Jones movies!). We take excruciatingly detailed notes, shoot numerous photographs, draw maps, and generate tables, charts and complex databases. We do this because many of our primary field methods are destructive and cannot be replicated by future researchers—once a site has been excavated, its research potential is essentially “used up”.
Less destructive field methods, such as archaeological survey and mapping are costly and would be complicated to repeat—and that’s assuming the archaeological resources they located were even still there (encroaching development and erosion over time are just a few processes that diminish the visible archaeological record). As a result, archaeologists are trained to be excellent record keepers.
Unfortunately, we have been less successful as excellent stewards of the data we generate.
Prior to the 1990s, most archaeological records were created on paper, copies of which may be well circulated—in the case of certain popular academic journals or influential manuscripts—but more often exist in one or only a few locations. Generally these publications include only a subset of the data collected—the rest of it often resides among the personal files of the original researcher or land manager responsible for the research.
Our more recent “born digital” data are often no better off. Rather than systematically archiving computerized information so that it can remain accessible and useable, individual archaeologists, museums, offices responsible for maintaining site inventory systems and other repositories typically treat the media on which the data are recorded as artifacts – storing them in various ways which do not make the data easily accessible or ensure their long term preservation.
Paper records are not easily searchable. Furthermore there is a real danger that data recorded only in a few paper copies can be lost too easily. Digital data stored by individuals may become obsolete and suffer the same risk of loss as paper copies if not backed up. Because our data cannot replicated, a critical challenge that the discipline of archaeology has at present is how to ensure that existing data from studies of humans and human cultures, both contemporary culture and those of past times, can be made accessible and used for education and research. Another part of this challenge is ensuring that this information can be preserved in a way that guarantees its availability for use by future generations as well. Our digital repository, the Digital Archaeological Record, exists to meet this challenge.
We have set up tDAR so that it is easy for professional and academic archaeologists and land managers to place data and documents into it. Using tDAR for research is easy. Individuals seeking archaeological information can search the contents of the archive electronically and locate data, documents, images and other sources of information and find what they need for their investigations.
tDAR also has some computing tools within it so that users can compare and integrate the contents of data sets to conduct new research and create new interpretations and knowledge. We believe that easy access to archaeological data will allow researchers to focus more of their energy on analyzing and interpreting data rather than locating it—an effort we hope will lead to more productive and synthetic scholarship.
Our organization is devoted to ensuring that the information in tDAR is well cared for. We check the electronic files regularly and systematically to ensure that they have not deteriorated or become corrupted. We maintain extra copies of the database at different locations to ensure it is secure and can be replaced in the event of a catastrophic loss of one copy.
We have plans and procedures to ensure that over time, the electronic files in tDAR are transformed and will be readable and useable by new versions of computer software. We’ve worked with organizations and individuals whose data were stored in obsolete formats. It is really rewarding to know that these resources—the cultural history they represent and the time, effort, and money that went into collecting them—have been restored and are now accessible to all registered tDAR users.
The Center for Digital Antiquity is a new kind of organization devoted to the care and use of digital archaeological information. Our digital repository, tDAR, is a new kind of archive for archaeological information. Our goals are to ensure the easy and wide accessibility of archaeological information and its long-term availability for future uses. As such, we are part of a larger effort by other disciplines and professions—biology, ecology, law, medicine, etc.—to preserve the results of past efforts and make them available for use by others now and in the future.