Monday, April 24, 2017

Three Keys to Digital Preservation: Management, Technology, and Content.

Three Keys to Digital Preservation: Management, Technology, and Content. Edward Corrado, Heather Moulaison Sandy. ACRL Webinar.  Apr 12, 2017.
     This is a webinar by Edward Corrado and Heather Moulaison Sandy that examines the basics of digital preservation, starting with what it is and what it is not. They then examine three fundamental and interrelated concerns in digital preservation: management, technology, and the content. The webinar also looks at:
  • The life cycle of digital objects
  • Things to know before starting digital preservation projects
  • Preservation techniques designed to endure changes in technology, as well as models and technical resources currently available
Some notes from the webinar:
  • Digital preservation is the active management of digital content over time to ensure ongoing access.
  • Digital objects are mediated by technology
  • It is not possible to leave the digital object alone and expect it to survive
  • By definition, digital preservation is a long-term activity. It requires policies to support this
  • A preservation plan must balance priorities over time
  • The greatest danger to digital materials is that we forget the meaning of them
  • Preservation metadata supports the long-term access and use of content
  • It is important to get content creators on board with preserving and describing the content, since they know the field and the content, and they will potentially be the content users
  • Important steps to take now;
    • Identify and organize content
    • Manage multiple copies of the content
    • Do a risk assessment of your digital operations
    • Document your processes and decisions
Digital preservation is an opportunity that can be both challenging and exciting.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Understanding PREMIS

Understanding PREMIS. Priscilla Caplan. Library of Congress Network Development and MARC Standards Office. 2017.
     PREMIS stands for "PREservation Metadata: Implementation Strategies". This document is a relatively brief overview of the PREMIS preservation metadata standard. It can also serve as an "gentle introduction" to the much larger document PREMIS Data Dictionary for Preservation Metadata. PREMIS defines preservation metadata as "the information a repository uses to support the digital preservation process."  Preservation metadata also supports activities "intended to ensure the long-term usability of a digital resource."

The Data Dictionary defines a core set of metadata elements needed in order to perform preservation functions, so that digital objects can be read from the digital media, and can be displayed or played. It includes a definition of the element; a reason why it is part of the metadata; also examples and notes about how the value might be obtained and used.  The elements address information needed to manage files properly, and to document any changes made. PREMIS only defines the metadata elements commonly needed to perform preservation functions on the materials to be preserved. The focus is on the repository and its management, not on the content authors or the associated staff, so it can be a guide or checklist for those developing or managing a repository or software applications. Some information needed is:
  • Provenance: The record of the chain of custody and change history of a digital object. 
  • Significant Properties: Characteristics of an object that should be maintained through preservation actions. 
  • Rights: knowing what you can do with an object while trying to preserve it.
The Data Model defines several kinds of Entities:
  • Objects (including Intellectual Entities)
  • Agents
  • Events
  • Rights
PREMIS provides an XML schema that "corresponds directly to the Data Dictionary to provide a straightforward description of Objects, Events, Agents and Rights."

Monday, April 17, 2017

Rosetta Knowledge Center

Rosetta Knowledge Center. Ex Libris. April 17, 2017.
     One of the things that I like about Rosetta, is the Ex Libris commitment to an open system. While the software may be proprietary, the essential content is open. The permanent objects and metadata are stored openly, so that they can be accessed or managed outside of the Rosetta software.

Another area that Ex Libris has opened is their Knowledge Center. This is very helpful in training new employees, learning new things about the software, or refreshing my memory. The open website includes:
  • Product Documentation
  • Training: Learn new skills with tutorials, recorded training and other materials
  • Release Notes about the features and capabilities of each product version
  • Implementation Guides that explain the methodology and requirements
  • Knowledge Articles providing answers to help answer questions

Saturday, April 15, 2017

ETD+ Toolkit

ETD+ Toolkit. Dr. Katherine Skinner, et al. Educopia Institute. April 10, 2017.
     Very helpful website for dealing with ETDs. The Toolkit is an open set of six modules to help students create, store, and maintain their research outputs. It was designed to:
  • Help administrators understand the digital research outputs students are creating
  • Help administrators assess what to collect and care for as part of the institutional memory
  • Help students make sure that research outputs are in durable formats and on durable devices;
  • Help students make informed decisions about file formats, documentation, and rights.
The Modules, which include "Learning Objectives, a one-page Handout, a Guidance Brief, a Slideshow with full presenter notes, and an evaluation Survey", are:
  1. Copyright: How can students gain appropriate permissions and how can students signal copyright for their own works?
  2. Data Organization: How can students structure, describe, store, and deposit data and other research files for reuse and/or future access?
  3. File Formats: How will the formats students choose make future access to their research easier or more difficult?
  4. Metadata: How can students store information describing their files to make sure they can tell what they are in the future?
  5. Storage: How can students make well informed choices about where to store their research materials?
  6. Version Control: What mechanisms can students use to make it easier to see the history of a file with multiple versions?
"In a 2014 survey of nearly 800 students across nine universities, students reported that non-PDF files - including research data, video, digital art, and software code - are either as important or more important than the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) PDF as research outputs and evidence. Fully 80% of these students are producing non-PDF research outputs, most commonly tabular data (43%), digital images (38%), software code (29%), and digital text (28%)."
The ETD+ Toolkit provides introductory training for data curation and digital longevity techniques. It helps students identify and offset risks and threats to their digital research.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

It’s not just a word

It’s not just a word. Helen Hockx. Things I cannot say in 140 characters.  April 7, 2017.
     Post that talks about her new job, to coordinate and develop a campus-wide strategy, and to oversee its implementation. Digital assets are managed but it now provides the opportunity to revisit the topic and address the gaps.  "A key finding is the strong focus on “now” – archiving and preservation are routinely overlooked. As a result, some digital assets have been lost and some are at risk."  A recommendation, considering "the 3 pillars of policy, process and technology" is to add “digital resources” to the university's goals where superb stewardship is required. Adding the word “digital” or calling out “digital resources” specifically, may not seem needed by some, but it emphasizes the need to "do a much better job with digital assets, if we applied the same rigor and coordinated approach." We still have a ways to go with digital archiving and preservation.

"So it is not just a word. Digital assets are a new class of resources which requires active care and management over time.  Adding it to the strategic mix is a recognition of their value, and of digital stewardship as a strategic priority. No. it is not just a word, it will have to come with commitment, ownership and resources." Some day we can remove the word “digital” from our strategic plan, "when preservation of digital assets is embedded in the organisational culture and operations, when there is no need to even mention it."

Monday, April 10, 2017

Encoding and Wrapper Decisions and Implementation for Video Preservation Master Files

Encoding and Wrapper Decisions and Implementation for Video Preservation  Master Files. Mike Casey. Indiana University. March 27, 2017.
     "There is no consensus in the media preservation community on best practice for encoding and wrapping video preservation master files." Institutions preserving video files long term generally choose from three options:
  • 10-bit, uncompressed, v210 codec, usually with a QuickTime wrapper
  • JPEG 2000, mathematically lossless profile, usually with an MXF wrapper
  • FFV1, a mathematically lossless format, with an AVI or Matroska wrapper
The few institutions digitizing and preserving video for the  long-term are roughly evenly divided between the three options above. This report examines in detail a set of choices and an implementation that has worked well for their institution. Originally they chose the first option, but with recent advances of FFV1, they reopened this decision and initiated a research and review process:
  • Exit strategy research and testing
  • Capture research (use FFmpeg within their system to generate FFV1 files).
  • Comparison of issues
  • Consultation with an outside expert
Results:  Research into exit strategies, they were able to move FFV1 files to a lossless codec with no loss of data. They decided to capture using FFmpeg, which requires developing a simple capture tool, and developed specifications for a minimal capture interface with FFmpeg for encoding and wrapping the video data.

Technical:  identified a number of key advantages to FFV1, including:
  • roughly 65% less data than a comparable file using the v210 codec
  • open source, non-proprietary, and hardware independent
  • largely designed for the requirements of digital preservation
  • employs CRCs for each frame allowing any corruption to be associated with a
  • much smaller digital area than the entire file
FFV1 appears to be "trending upwards among developers and cultural heritage organizations engaged in preservation work". They also chose the Matroska wrapper, which is an audiovisual container or wrapper format in use since 2002, and which is a more flexible wrapper option.

As more and more archives undertake video digitization" they will not accept older and limited formats" (AVI or MOV), but they will be looking for standards-based, open source options developed specifically for archival preservation. "Both FFV1 and Matroska are open source and are more aligned with preservation needs than some of the other choices and we believe they will see rapidly increasing adoption and further development."

Implementation: They developed a quality control program to validate that the output meets their specification for long-term preservation and checks the FFV1/Matroska preservation master files. These files are viewed using the VLC media player, a free open source cross-platform multimedia player that supports FFV1 and Matroska

Currently, they have created over 38,000 video files using FFV1 and Matroska. "We have chosen two file formats that are open source, developed in part with reservation in mind, and on the road to standardization with tools in active development. We have aligned ourselves with the large and active FFmpeg community rather than a private company. While the future is ultimately unknowable, we believe that this positions us well for long-term preservation of video-based content."

Saturday, April 08, 2017

New Home and Features for Sustainability of Digital Formats Site

New Home and Features for Sustainability of Digital Formats Site.  Kate Murray, Jaime Mears. The Signal. April 6, 2017.
     The Library of Congress web site, Sustainability of Digital Formats, contains "the technical aspects of digital formats with a focus towards strategic planning regarding formats for digital content, especially collection policies." The formats are divided into the type of object, which includes:
  • still image, sound, textual, moving image, web archive, datasets, geospatial and generic formats
The website shows the relationships between formats, including the sustainability factors and the quality and functionality for each content category.
  • Disclosure
  • Adoption
  • Transparency
  • Self-documentation
  • External dependencies
  • Impact of patents
  • Technical protection mechanisms
The new website is at and it now includes
  • The PRONOM ID and the Wikidata Title ID, both which help to document the formats, and 
  • The Library of Congress Recommended Formats Statement
The digital formats site continues to evolve to meet the Library’s and the digital preservation community’s changing needs.

Friday, April 07, 2017

How a Browser Extension Could Shake Up Academic Publishing

How a Browser Extension Could Shake Up Academic Publishing. Lindsay McKenzie. The Chronicle of Higher Education. April 06, 2017
     There are several open-access  initiatives. One initiative, called Unpaywall, is a just a browser extension. Unpaywall is an open-source, nonprofit organization "dedicated to improving access to scholarly research". It has created a browser extension to hopefully do one thing really well: instantly deliver legal, open-access, full text as you browse. "When an Unpaywall user lands on the page of a research article, the software scours thousands of institutional repositories, preprint servers, and websites like PubMed Central to see if an open-access copy of the article is available. If it is, users can click a small green tab on the side of the screen to view a PDF." A legally uploaded open-access copy is delivered to users more than half the time.

"It’s the scientists who wrote the articles, it’s the scientists who uploaded them — we’re just doing that very small amount of work to connect what the scientists have done to the readers who need to read the science." Open-access papers have the information but don’t always look like the carefully formatted articles in academic journals. Some users might not feel comfortable citing preprints or open-access versions obtained through Unpaywall, "without the trappings and formatting of traditional paywalled publishing," even if the copy is credible.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Procuring Digital Preservation: A Briefing

Procuring Digital Preservation: A Briefing.  Digital Preservation Coalition. 21 March 2017.
     Selecting and deploying solutions is especially challenging where the processes are new, or where the available resources are stretched, moving from project to ‘business as usual’ can be hard. This may be the case with digital preservation, but new digital preservation tools, services, and suppliers are emerging rapidly. This requires digital preservation staff make confident choices between different products. The increasing number and type of choices can lead to‘information overload,’ and delay the already complicated process. Even organisations that "properly understand their digital preservation needs can be frustrated in solving them, while solution providers have to meet impractical and at times unfeasible expectations."

The Digital Preservation Coalition hosted a briefing day to clarify requirements help find solutions. The presentations:
  • examine requirements from the perspective of the developer and the collection owner
  • discuss procedures for acquiring a preservation solution
  • discuss case studies and good practices for documenting requirements
  • examine current proprietary and open source solutions for digital preservation
  • Allow vendors to explain their own requirements 

Slides from several sessions are available:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

ACRL Closes with Carla Hayden

ACRL Closes with Carla Hayden. Amy Carlton. American Libraries. March 27, 2017.
     Some quotes from the article about libraries, collections, and information:
  • “When we seek information, we examine the privilege of the voices and sources of our information, and we learn to identify whose voices are present and whose voices are missing and how that impacts and influences our understanding of that information.” Margaret Brown-Salazar
  • "Hayden said her goal is to make the Library of Congress’s  (LC) priceless collections available to everybody—for LC to live up to its nickname of America’s Library. Obama told her that he went to an exhibit there and saw Lincoln’s reading copy of the Gettysburg Address and the contents of his pockets from the night he was assassinated, but he was pretty sure this access was because of his being president. He told her he wanted someone for the job who could make sure a kid in Baltimore, a person at public library, a student at a community college, and anyone would be able to see these treasures. “And that’s when I said yes,” she said."
  • “Our materials are nothing without the people and staff. That’s what makes it come alive”
  • “Librarians are having a moment! Trustworthiness is our strength. We should revel in it and be confident in it. If we’re having a moment, let’s seize the moment!”

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Archives Unlocked vision launched at the Southbank Centre

Archives Unlocked vision launched at the Southbank Centre. Press release. The National Archives. 29 March 2017.
     The National Archives (UK) has launched a vision and action plan to help archives secure their future through digital transformation, investing in new workforce skills, and encouraging innovation. This vision and action plan offers a future where "businesses, creative industries, arts organisations, academia, and communities can fully exploit a more resilient archives sector, with the UK leading the world in digital transformation."  It is built on themes of Trust, Enrichment and Openness, that highlight "the importance of archives in holding authority to account through scrutiny, in driving innovation and creativity for businesses and across society, and in cultivating an open approach to knowledge accessible to all."

The rich, national collection of archives "are the nation’s collective memory." The updated vision is needed to sustain the Archives for the long term. "The Archives Unlocked action plan embodies this. It sets out what is required to release the power of the archives."

"Working with partners, stakeholders, investors and individuals, we will have greater potential and influence to accomplish what we need to do. The UK will be home to world-leading archives: both digital and physical."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Thumbs.db – what are they for and why should I care?

Thumbs.db – what are they for and why should I care? Jenny Mitcham. Digital Archiving at the University of York. 7 March 2017.
     Post about the thumbs.db system files and how to deal with them in an archival situation. Windows uses a file called Thumbs.db to create thumbnail images of any images within a directory, and the thumbs.db files are stored in each directory that contains images. They proliferate quickly. If the Windows Explorer preferences must be set to display hidden files and "Hide protected operating system files" option also needs to be disabled in order to see these and other hidden files.  IT can change account options to stop these thumbnail images from being created.

"Do I really want these in the digital archive? In my mind, what is in the ‘original’ folders within the digital archive should be what OAIS would call the Submission Information Package (SIP). Just those files that were given to us by a donor or depositor. Not files that were created subsequently by my own operating system."

[In our data ingest workflow, we use a utility that creates a csv file of items in directories for processing. The csv file is the ingest template which contains the file names and file metadata. This controls the files that are ingested. Unwanted files are removed from the csv file, which means that during ingest time, they are excluded from being ingested into Rosetta. - Chris]

Monday, March 27, 2017

Saving At-Risk Audiovisual Materials

Saving At-Risk Audiovisual Materials. Jeanne Drewes. American Libraries. March 1, 2017.
     Many audiovisual collections are considered at risk. Large amounts of content could be lost through deterioration of the original media unless it can be transferred to more durable digital formats. As libraries and other institutions rediscover the value of these collections they are taking steps to preserve the sounds and images they contain. Here are some steps to consider when planning your audiovisual preservation project.
  • Know what you have. This is an important first step.
  • Determine your priorities and set goals.
  • Develop an action plan based on your goals. 
"Preserving our own history as a profession by capturing the voices and stories of our colleagues is key toward ensuring our future."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

21st-Century Preservation Basics

21st-Century Preservation Basics. Brian J. Baird. Sidebar.  American Libraries. March 1, 2017.
    Since most scholarly information is now electronic, the basic elements of any digital library preservation policy in the 21st century include:

  • Cooperation. Every library has unique digital collections to preserve, but as the volume continues to grow exponentially, and as older material gets accessed less frequently, libraries may need to cooperate in order to collect and preserve materials long term. 
  • Environmental conditions. Optimal conditions for storing and preserving electronic information must continually be reexamined and improved. 
  • Disaster planning. A library disaster plan should build on an institution’s IT disaster plan to address specific needs.
  • Reformatting.  
  • Repositories. Ideally, repository collections should be well preserved, sharable, and cost-effective and could expand on the consortial efforts already in use.

"Preservation in the 21st century must be proactive, visionary, and cooperative. If it is not, vast amounts of cultural heritage are in danger of vanishing."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Collecting Digital Content at the Library of Congress

Collecting Digital Content at the Library of Congress. Joe Puccio, Kate Zwaard. The Signal.
March 21, 2017.
     The Library of Congress has increased its digital collecting capacity in order to acquire as much selected digital content as technically possible, currently 12.5 petabytes, and make that content accessible to users. Expansion of the digital collecting program is "an essential part of the institution’s strategic goal to: Acquire, preserve, and provide access to a universal collection of knowledge and the record of America’s creativity." The newly-adopted strategy is directed at acquisitions and collecting, and is based on a vision in which the "Library’s universal collection will continue to be built by selectively acquiring materials in a wide range of formats" and via collaborative relationships with other entities.

The strategy is based on the assumptions that the amount of available digital content will continue to grow rapidly, that the Library will acquire content selectively, that the same content will be "available both in tangible and digital formats", and that intellectual rights will be respected.  Their plan for digital collecting over the next five years is categorized into six strategic objectives:
  1. Maximize collections of selected digital content submitted for copyright purposes
  2. Expand digital collecting through purchase, exchange and gifts
  3. Focus on purchased and leased electronic resources
  4. Expand use of web archiving to acquire digital content
  5. Acquire openly available content
  6. Collect appropriate datasets and other large units of content

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Creating the disruptive digital archive

Creating the disruptive digital archive. John Sheridan. Digital Preservation Coalition. 1 March 2017.
     The National Archives has been working on a new Digital Strategy. "Digital" is their biggest strategic challenge. Archives worldwide are "grappling with the issues of preserving digital records. We also need to be relevant to our audiences: public, government, academic researchers and the wider archives sector – to provide value to them at a time of change."

Traditional archives are built around the physical nature of the records, but digital records "change all our assumptions around the archive – from selection to preservation and access". Their new Digital Strategy is to move beyond the digital simulation of physical records and to become a ‘disruptive’ digital archive, to be "digital by design".

The National Archives is currently a "fully functioning digital archive with a Digital Records Infrastructure capable of safely, securely and actively preserving very large quantities of data with associated descriptive metadata" which is applying the paper records paradigm of selection, preservation and access to digital records. This is their first generation archive.  The second generation digital archive they are aiming for is to be "digital by instinct and design":

  • rich mixed media content (things like websites), datasets, computer programs, even neural networks, as records not just information in document formats
  • ability to select and preserve all these types of things 
  • digital information has value in aggregate – that it’s not just individually important artefacts that have historical value. 
  • a relentless engineering effort to preserve digital objects that measures and manages the preservation risks
  • transparent in its practices
  • develops approaches for enabling access to the whole collection with regard to legal, ethical and public considerations. 
  • regards the archive as conceptually interconnected data.

"These are ambitious aims and there are many challenges we need to tackle along the way." Collaboration between archives and other institutions is essential in moving forward.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Developing a Digital Preservation Infrastructure at Georgetown University Library

Developing a Digital Preservation Infrastructure at Georgetown University Library. Joe Carrano, Mike Ashenfelder. The Signal. March 13, 2017.
     At the library of Georgetown University, half of the library IT department is focused on digital services such as digital publishing, digitization and digital preservation. These IT and library functions overlap and support each other, which creates a need for the librarians, archivists and IT to work together. It provides better communication and makes it easier to get things done. "Often it is invaluable to have people with a depth of knowledge from many different areas working together in the same department. For instance, it’s nice to have people around that really understand computer hardware when you’re trying to transfer data off of obsolete media." 

While digital preservation and IT is centered in one department, the preservation files are in different systems and on different storage mediums throughout the library, but they are in the process of  putting them into APTrust.  Several strategies to improve their digital preservation management are:
  1. Implement preservation infrastructure, including a digital-preservation repository
  2. Develop and document digital-preservation workflows and procedures
  3. Develop a training program and documentation to help build skills for staff
  4. Explore and expand collaborations with both university and external partners to increase the library’s involvement in regional and national digital-preservation strategies.
These goals build upon each other to create a sustainable digital-preservation framework which includes APTrust and the creation of tools to manage and upload the content, particularly creating  custom automated solutions to fit their needs. They are also developing documentation and workflows so any staff member can "upload materials into APTrust without much training".

Librarians and archivists need to be trained and integrated into the process to ensure the sustainability of the project’s outcome and to speed up the ingest rate. "Digital curation and preservation tasks are becoming more and more commonplace and we believe that these skills need to be dispersed throughout our institution rather than performed by only a few people". 

"By the end of this process we hope to have all our preservation copies transferred and the infrastructure in place to keep digital preservation sustainable at Georgetown."

Monday, March 13, 2017

What Makes A Digital Steward: A Competency Profile Based On The National Digital Stewardship Residencies

What Makes A Digital Steward: A Competency Profile Based On The National Digital Stewardship Residencies. Karl-Rainer Blumenthal, et al. Long paper, iPres 2016. (Proceedings p. 112-120 / PDF p. 57-61).
       Digital stewardship is the active and long-term management of digital objects with the intent to preserve them for long term access. Because the field is relatively young, there is not yet a "sufficient scholarship performed to identify a competency profile for digital stewards". A profile details the specific skills, responsibilities, and knowledge areas required and this study attempts to describe a competency profile for digital stewards by using a three-pronged approach:
  1. reviewing literature on the topics of digital stewardship roles, responsibilities, expected practices, and training needs
  2. qualitatively analyzing current and completed project descriptions
  3. quantitatively analyzing the results from a survey conducted that identified competencies need to successfully complete projects
"This study had two main outputs: the results of the document analysis (qualitative), and the results of the survey (quantitative)."  Seven coded categories of competence emerged from the analysis:
  1. Technical skills;
  2. Knowledge of standards and best practices;
  3. Research responsibilities;
  4. Communication skills;
  5. Project management abilities;
  6. Professional output responsibilities; and
  7. Personality requirements.
Based on the responses for Very important and Essential, a competency statement representing this profile would suggest that "effective digital stewards leverage their technical skills, knowledge of standards and best practices, research opportunities, communication skills, and project management abilities to ensure the longterm viability of the digital record." They do this by:
  • developing and enhancing new and existing digital media workflows
  • managing digital assets
  • creating and manipulating asset metadata
  • commit to the successful implementation of these new workflows
  • manage both project resources and people
  • solicit regular input from stakeholders
  • document standards and practices
  • create policies, professional recommendations, and reports,
  • maintain current and expert knowledge of standards and best practices for metadata and data management
  • manage new forms of media
The study suggests that, in practice, technical skills are not always as essential in digital stewardship as job postings suggest. Hardware/software implementation and Qualitative data analysis skills were important to only half of the respondents. Workflow management is a universally important skill deemed ”Essential" by almost all respondents. Other categories appeared as Somewhat Important, or as areas that need further research.

The study suggests that "although specific technical skills are viewed as highly important in different settings, a much larger majority of projects required skills less bound to a particular technology or media, like documentation creation and workflow analysis."  Digital stewards should possess, not only a deep understanding of their field, but the ability to "effectively disseminate their work to others."

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Top 10 Digital Archives Blogs

Top 10 Digital Archives Blogs. Jan Zastrow.  Information Today. July/August 2016.
Post about keeping up with reading about an archival or historical topic. By sharing it with others we can learn about new developments in the field without having to read all the current literature ourselves. Here is a list of  selected sources to help sift through the noise and keep up with the quickly evolving world of digital archives, electronic records, digital preservation and curation, personal archiving, digital humanities, and more. Some are from institutions, others are more informal, and they are mostly U.S.-centric, English-language sources. [I learned about some new helpful sites here.]

Society of American Archivists
1. The Society of American Archivists’ semi-annual The American Archivist, theoretical and practical developments in the archives profession in North America.

2. SAA Electronic Records Section runs the popular BloggERS! which aggregates news, information, and resources on electronic records, including case studies, reviews, and surveys.

U.S. Federal Agencies
3.The National Archives’ AOTUS Blog, and more at

4. The Library of Congress: The Signal: Digital Preservation with up-to-the-minute digital issues (such as web archiving, audiovisual preservation, digital forensics, data migration, and digital asset management).

Aggregated Sources to save you time.
5. ArchivesBlogs is a syndicated collection of blogs about archives, “by and for archivists,” taken from international RSS and Atom feeds every hour.

6. Digital Archiving Resources is an excellent annotated database of materials on digital archiving created by doctoral students at the University of Central Florida.

7. Digital Preservation Matters:  For more than a decade articles on digital preservation, long term access, digital archiving, digital curation, institutional repositories, and electronic records management. Search the blog’s archive, use the tag cloud interface, or subscribe via RSS or on Twitter.

Blogs: By and For Individuals
8. The brainchild of Kate Theimer, ArchivesNext  advocate of archives, technology, and professional issues

9. Trevor Owens: User Centered Digital History blog with cutting edge essays on digitization, born-digital, primary sources, web archives, and digital art, etc. 

10. Jaime Mears, Notes From a Nascent Archivist  is chockfull of great ideas, resources, projects, and more.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Hidden Phenomenon That Could Ruin Your Old Discs

The Hidden Phenomenon That Could Ruin Your Old Discs. Ernie Smith. Motherboard. February 6, 2017.
     An article about regular CD and DVD optical discs and the problems that cause them to deteriorate.  "CDs and DVDs were sold to consumers as these virtually indestructible platters, but the truth, as exemplified by the “disc rot” phenomenon, is more complicated."  Early research showed that problems with the reflective layer could make the disc fail in 8 - 10 years. Or the degradable dye used in record-able discs will break down. The disc degradation sometimes looks like a stain or discoloration, or tiny pin pricks on the disc surface. "The eventual decay of optical media is a serious situation, whether you're a digital archivist or simply someone who wants to watch a movie on a weird format like a Laserdisc."

A Library of Congress preservation specialist said that the disc destruction showed up in three different forms: the "bronzing" of discs;  small pin-hole specs located on the discs; or "edge-rot".
Five facts about disc rot, according to the Library of Congress:
  1. Discs with significant errors are often still at least partially readable. This depends on the type of disc and where the error occurs.
  2. A scratch at the top of a CD is more problematic than one on the bottom, because scratches to the top surface can penetrate through and damage the reflective layer.
  3. DVDs generally have better integrity than do CDs but layers can delaminate over time. Dual-layer discs tend not to hold up so well.
  4. Recordable discs, and particularly DVDs don't last as long, due to the degradation of the organic dye used. A poorly recorded disc tends to wear out more quickly.
  5. Proper storage and handling helps. A well-made commercially pressed disc can last many decades if stored and handled properly. Discs stored in harsh environmental conditions with elevated temperature and/or humidity will have shorter expected lifetime.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The role of archives

The role of archives. Helen Hockx. Things I cannot say in 140 characters.  January 20, 2017.
     The role of Archives, especially when it comes to digital records, is not commonly understood. An archivist should ask questions "about the file structure, the access system, who accessed it, and how was it used… Appraisal is based on context, or the entire record keeping system and the importance of individual items depends on how they relate to one another within a system". This is difficult to do after the fact. The heart of the problem is: who makes decisions on what records to keep? A perception is that Archives are "museums with artifacts, and have no authority over digital records”.  access to the digital files should be determined by the “data stewards” under the direction of the University’s Information Governance Committee. The role of Archives, data access, record lifecycles and retention schedules seem to be largely misunderstood.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Electric WAILs and Ham

Electric WAILs and Ham. John Berlin. Web Science and Digital Libraries Research Group. February 13, 2017.
     Web Archiving Integration Layer (WAIL) is a one-click configuration and utilization tool that fits between institutional and individual archiving tools from a user's personal computer. Changing the tool from a Python application into an Electron application has brought with it many improvements especially the ability to update and package it for Linux, MacOS, and Windows.

WAIL is now collection-centric and provides users with the ability to curate personalized web archive collections, similar to Archive-It, but on their local machines. It also adds the ability to monitor and archive Twitter content automatically. WAIL is now available from the project's release page on Github.  More information about WAIL is available on their wiki.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

What Do IT Decision Makers Want?

What Do IT Decision Makers Want? Tom Coughlin. Forbes. March 1, 2017.
     An article that looks at a study of over 1,200 senior IT decision makers in 11 countries. Some findings

  • The vast majority of those surveyed have revised their storage strategy in the last 12 months because of frustrations with storage costs, performance, complexity and fragmentation of existing solutions. 
  • 60% say storage expenses are under increased scrutiny 
  • 95% are interested in the scalability and efficiency of software-defined storage. 
  • Digital storage is about 7% of the total IT budget.
  • Some concerns: 
    • High costs: 
      • 80% were concerned with the cost of their storage system
      • 92 % worry about managing storage costs as capacity needs grow. 
      • On average 70% of IT budgets are allocated to data storage 
    • Performance: 
      • 73% are concerned with the performance of their existing storage solution. 
    • Growing complexity and fragmentation: 
      • 71% of respondents said storage systems were complex and highly fragmented.  
  • Software-defined storage [which involves separating the storage capabilities and services from the storage hardware]  is playing significant roles in improving the utilization of storage resources and stretching storage budgets.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

A lifetime in the digital world

A lifetime in the digital world. Helen Hockx. Blog: Things I cannot say in 140 characters.
February 15, 2017.
     A very interesting post about papers donated to the University of Notre Dame in 1996, and how the library has been dealing with the collection. The collection includes a survey that is possibly “the largest, single, data gathering event ever performed with regard to women religious”. The data was stored on “seven reels of 800 dpi tapes, ]rec]120, blocksize 12,000, approximately 810,000 records in all”, extracted from the original EBCDIC tapes and converted to newer formats in 1996, transferred to CDs then to computer hard disk in 1999. The 1967 survey data has fortunately survived the format migrations. Some other data in the collection had been lost: at least 3 tape reels could not be read during the 1996 migration exercise and at least one file could not be copied in 1999. "The survey data has not been used for 18 years since 1996 – nicely and appropriately described by the colleague as “a lifetime in the digital world”.

The dataset has now been reformatted and stored in .dta and .csv formats. We also recreated the “codebook” of all the questions and pre-defined responses and put in one document. The dataset is in the best possible format for re-use. The post gives examples of  digital collection items that require intervention or preservation actions. A few takeaways:
  • Active use seems to be the best way for monitoring and detecting digital obsolescence.
  • Metadata really is essential. Without the notes, finding aid and scanned codebook, we would not be able to make sense of the dataset.
  • Do not wait a lifetime to think about digital preservation. 
  • The longer you wait, the more difficult it gets.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Why Aren't We Doing More With Our Web Archives?

Why Aren't We Doing More With Our Web Archives? Kalev Leetaru. Forbes. January 13, 2017.
     The post looks at the many projects that have been launched to archive and preserve the digital world; the best known is the Internet Archive, "which has been crawling and preserving the open web for more than two decades" and has preserved more than 510 billion distinct URLs from over 361 million websites. The author asks: "With such an incredible repository of global society’s web evolution, why don’t we see more applications of this unimaginable resource?"

Some of the reasons that there isn't a more vibrant and active research and software development community around web archives may be:
  • Economics plays a role, 
  • Complex nature of web archives
  • The Internet Archive archive is over 15 petabytes, which is difficult to manipulate
  • There aren't many tools that can use the archive, particularly indexing
The Internet Archive last year announced the first efforts at keyword search capability. These kinds of search tools are needed to make the Archive’s holdings more accessible to researchers and data miners.

"At the end of the day, web archives are our only record capturing the evolution of human society from the physical to the virtual domains. The Internet Archive in particular represents one of the greatest archives ever  created of this immense transition in human existence and with the right tools and a greater focus on non-traditional avenues, perhaps we can launch a whole new world of research into how humans evolved into a digital existence."

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

20 TB Hard Disk Drives, The Future Of HDDS

20 TB Hard Disk Drives, The Future Of HDDS. Tom Coughlin. Forbes. January 28, 2017.
     Interesting article on the status and future of hard drives. It looks at the declining market and the trends for hard disk drives over the next few years.  Overall drive shipments in 2016 dropped about 9.4%, meaning that 424 million drives were shipped in 2016. Of the total HDDs shipped in 2016:
  • Western Digital shipped 41% 
  • Seagate shipped 37%  
  • Toshiba shipped 22%.
"The long-term future of HDDs likely rests with high capacity HDDs, particularly in data centers serving cloud storage applications".  Seagate plans to ship 14 and 16 TB drives in the next 18 months, and possibly 20 TB drives in the next three years.

Digital Preservation and Archaeological data

Digital Preservation.  Michael L. Satlow. Then and Now. Jan 26, 2017.
     The post looks at the issue of preservation in relation to the modern scholarly and artistic works. "The underlying problem is a simple one: most scholarly and creative work today is done digitally." Archaeological excavations generate reams of data, and like other scientific data, archaeological data are valuable.  There is no single way that archaeologists record their findings. "Unlike scientists, many archaeologists and humanists have not thought very hard about the preservation of digital data. Scientists routinely deposit their raw data in institutional repositories and are called upon to articulate their digital data management and preservation plan on many grant applications. The paths open to others are less clear."

Institutional digital repositories provide a simple and inexpensive solution. When the project is complete, the data can be converted to xml and deposited. The data conversion would be the most involved part. The xml format would allow the data to be easily accessed and used. "It is time to think about digital preservation as a staple of our 'best practices'.”

Monday, January 30, 2017

Born-digital news preservation in perspective

Born-digital news preservation in perspective. Clifford Lynch. RJI Online. January 26, 2017. [Video and transcript.]
   The challenge with news and academic journals: how do you preserve this body of information. The journal community has working on that in a much more systematic way. There is a shared consensus among all players that preserving the record of scholarly journal publication is essential. Nobody wants their scholarship to be ephemeral so you have to tell people a convincing story about how their work will be preserved.

The primary responsibility for the active archive in most cases is the publisher, but there must be some kind of external fallback system so content will survive the failure of the publisher and the publisher’s archive. These are usually collaborative. Libraries have been the printed news archive, but that is changing. There is also a Keepers Registry so you can see how many keepers are preserving a given journal. The larger journals are well covered, but the smaller ones are really at risk, and a lot of these are small open source journals. "So, we need to be very mindful of those kinds of dynamics as we think about what to do about strategies for really handling the digital news at scale."

With the news, there are a few very large players, and a whole lot of other small news outlets of various kinds. Different strategies are needed for the two groups. We need to be very cautious about news boundaries. "Now in many, many cases, the journalism is built on top of and links to underlying evidence which at least in the short term is readily inspectable by anyone clicking on a link." But the links deteriorate and the material goes away and "preserving that evidence is really important." But it is unclear who is or should be preserving this. There are also questions about the news, the provenance, the motives, the accuracy, and these have to be handled in a more serious way.

"most social media is actually observation and testimony. Very little of it is synthesized news. It’s much more of the character of a set of testimonies or photographs or things like that. And collectively it can serve to give important documentation to an event, but often it is incomplete and otherwise problematic. We need to come to some kind of social consensus about how social media fits into  the cultural record.

We need to devise some systematic approaches to this because the journalistic organizations really need help; "their archives are genuinely at risk" and in many cases the "long term organizational viability is at risk". We need a public consensus. "We need a recognition that responsible journalism implies a lasting public record of that work." The need for free press is recognized consitutionally. "We cannot, under current law, protect most of this material very effectively without the active collaboration of the content producers." This is too big a job for any single organization, and we don't want a single point of failure.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The UNESCO/PERSIST Guidelines for the selection of digital heritage for long-term preservation

The UNESCO/PERSIST Guidelines for the selection of digital heritage for long-term preservation. Sarah CC Choy, et al. UNESCO/PERSIST Content Task Force. March 2016.
     The survival of digital heritage is much less assured than its traditional counterparts. “Identification of significant digital heritage and early intervention are essential to ensuring its long-term preservation.” This project was created to help preserve our cultural heritage, and to provide a starting point for institutions creating their policies. Preserving and ensuring access to its digital information is also a challenge for the private sector. Acquiring and collecting digital heritage requires significant effort and resources. It is vital that organizations accept digital stewardship roles and responsibilities.Some thoughts and quotes from the document.
  • There is a strong risk that the restrictive legal environment will negatively impact the long-term survival of important digital heritage.
  • The challenge of long-term preservation in the digital age requires a rethinking of how heritage institutions identify significance and assess value.
  • new forms of digital expression blur boundaries and lines of responsibility and challenge past approaches to collecting.
  • libraries, archives, and museums have common interests to each preserve heritage
  • heritage institutions must be proactive to identify digital heritage and information for long-term preservation before it is lost.
  • Selection is as essential, as it is economically and technically impossible, and often legally prohibited, to collect all current digital heritage. Selecting for long-term preservation will thus be a critical function of heritage institutions in the digital age.
  • Selecting digital heritage for long-term preservation may focus primarily on evaluating publications already in their collection, originally acquired for short-term use, rather than assessing new publications for acquisition. 
  • Rapid obsolescence in digital formats, storage media, and systems is collapsing the window of opportunity of selection, and increase the risk that records are lost that might not have yet “proved” their significance over time.
Address strategies for collecting digital heritage and develop selection criteria for an institution. Four possible steps to use:
  1. Identify the material to be acquired or evaluated
  2. Determine the legal obligation to preserve the material
  3. Assess the material using three selection criteria: significance, sustainability, and availability
  4. Compile the above information and make a decision based on the results
Management of long-term digital preservation and metadata is important. There are five basic functional requirements for digital metadata:
  1. Identification of each digital object
  2. Location of each digital object so that it can be located and retrieved.
  3. Description of digital object is needed for recall and interpretation, both content and context
  4. Readability and encoding, in order to remain legible over time.
  5. Rights management, including conditions of use and restrictions of each digital item
“The long-term preservation of digital heritage is perhaps the most daunting challenge facing heritage institutions today.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Digital preservation is a mature concept, but we need to pitch it better

Digital preservation is a mature concept, but we need to pitch it better. Dave Gerrard. Digital Preservation at Oxford and Cambridge.  6 December, 2016.
     The OAIS standard can be confusing for newcomers to the field, and one of the potentially confusing areas is the Administrative area. It looks "like a place where much of the hard-to-model, human stuff had been separated from the technical, tool-based parts." The diagram is busier and more information-packed than other areas, and thus could use more modeling. The standard may be easier to use if there were other documents focusing on the ‘technical’ and ‘human’ aspects.

Communication, particularly an explanation to funders, about the importance of digital preservation is vital. It will help to have an 'elevator pitch' to explain simply what digital preservation is. The post suggests "Digital Preservation means sourcing computer-based material that is worthy of preservation, getting that material under control, and then maintaining the usefulness of that material, forever." [Some of these words may be easily misunderstood.]

The "OAIS standard is confusing" "but it has reached a level of maturity: it’s clear how much deep thought and expertise underpins it."  The digital preservation community is ready to take their ideas to a wider audience: "we perhaps just need to pitch them a little better".