Born-digital archives - Hull History Centre

Born-digital archives - Hull History Centre

Born-digital archives:

a simple SWOT analysis

Simon Wilson, Senior Archivist


• born-digital archives

• the AIMS Project and White Paper

• SWOT analysis

- reflections on our capacity and capability

UKAD 2012 21 Mar 2012 | 2

Born-digital archives

Material created digitally – documents, images spreadsheets,

databases, e-mails, web pages, twitter etc etc

- need strategies for both media and the content

- archives have to be extracted/accessed

without affecting their authenticity

Not talking about digitisation where material is converted into

digital format, although many issues are similar

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The AIMS Project

and White Paper

The AIMS Project

• Two year project Oct 2009 – Sep 2011 funded by The

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

• Virginia (project lead), Hull, Stanford and Yale

• Digital archivist at each site & software developer at UVa

• Core project team also included lead archivist at each site

and involvement of digital repository experts

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AIMS Project – White Paper

Recommendations for good-practice,

based on partners shared experiences

- not based on specific infrastructure

or tools

- starts from ‘paper-based’ archival


- technical and professional standards

- build-upon work of other projects

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AIMS Project – White Paper

Framework split the workflow into four main areas:

Collection Development


Arrangement & Description

Discovery & Access

With-in each section it identifies key factors for success,

pre-requisites, objectives, outcomes, tasks and decision points

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SWOT analysis:

reflecting on the archive sector’s

capacity and capability

Strengths: they are still archives

We already possess most of the skills needed

- processes for accessioning

- principles for appraising material

- procedures for identifying/closing sensitive material

We each already have relationships with

hundreds of individuals & organisations

we might want to collect material from

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Strengths: free tools are available

Range of free software that we can use

- Karen’s Directory Printer - to create a file manifest

- OS Forensics

- DROID - for file identification

Some software is being developed to fill gaps in workflow

- Curator’s Workbench – collection preparation tool

- Hypatia – arrangement and description tool

- BitCurator – digital forensics tool

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Weaknesses: fear

Plenty of reasons not to do anything

- software/hardware is constantly changing

- range of media and formats

- OAIS terminology


- specialist skill by 1 person in the team,

but skills/experience must be shared

The transition from paper to hybrid & digital only collections

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Weaknesses: gaps

There are multiple routes to reach the same objective

- makes it confusing for those starting-off

- difficult to join the dots with all of the free tools into a

seamless operation (commercial products are available)

- dependant on institutional-specific ICT / infrastructure

Advocacy is needed with two key groups:

- depositors (ask different questions & work differently)

- funding bodies (align collecting with rescue archaeology)

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Opportunities: collaboration

With ICT colleagues

- forensic workstation for processing a range of media

- digital repository

With other archives

- share/exchange experiences but also technical capabilities

- potential for shared/comissioned services

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Opportunities: new tools for access

Empowering the user

- no-longer reliant upon an archivist’s description

- potential to conduct free text search of the archives directly

- GPS based search etc

New tools/ visualisation

- word clouds

- Muse tool (for email)

by us on behalf of our users

or by users directly on a

copy of the data/content?

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Threats: user expectations

User expectations

- of access and delivery online

- need to ensure security of data and compliance re copyright

- user community not yet well-formed – so we don’t know

what they might want

Interaction with users – register to gain access (online) or only

provide access in the searchroom?

Material collected much closer to creation - issues relating to

access to sensitive material & copyright etc remain unchanged

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Threats: scale of the task

Scale of the task

- is daunting and overwhelming

- we have to automate as much as possible

We are not collecting enough

- what has already been lost from the 1980s on

We need to make the case that born-digital archives aren’t

an optional extra, if we wish to remain a collecting repository

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Accreditation standard co-creation debate

Should digital preservation be a

distinct element or part of broader

collections policies/strategies ?

Not just about policy (s 2.4) or strategy (2.7)

Also impacts: collections development (2.2), cataloguing plans

(2.5), accessioning procedures (2.8), cataloguing (2.9),

security of collections (2.10), service development (3.1), access

(3.15), user-focused (3.2), user experience (3.3), remote access

(3.5) , legal obligations re access (3.6)

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SWOT analysis as a planning tool

Each institution needs to conduct its own SWOT analysis

- identify its particular strengths, opportunities etc

Accreditation Standard - planning/advocacy role

Sector needs a vision/roadmap

- where are we going, what is our target, how can we get there

AIMS White Paper: policies, issues, decisions, tasks etc

- what is feasible now, technically or operationally

- what is sustainable and scalable in the longer term?

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Things you can do tomorrow...

Use traditional survey skills

- identify born-digital material already held

- set initial priorities; media/file formats to support etc

Build-upon existing relationships

- depositors: initial conversations around b-d material

- ICT colleagues: transfer files from media to network storage

- other archives: making contacts, sharing experiences etc

Update existing policies/procedures

- integrate specific aspects relating to born-digital archives

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What is possible...

At Hull we have gone from having a handful of items and no

policies/procedures (in Jan 2010)

- 7 born-digital ONLY collections (122 GB)

- workflows, revised/updated policies etc etc

- ask each depositor about b-d material

AIMS provided the spring-board, now making

the transition so that b-d is included in our work as normal,

included in library objectives, institutional reputation etc

Learnt from others & reciprocate by sharing our experiences

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Nature (and format) of archives has changed dramatically, but

most of our professional skills are still relevant

Some new tools, new software, new terminology and more

acronyms to learn

Can’t “keep everything” and hope Google enables access

Trusted Digital Repository

- collaboration between organisations and allow archives to

develop capability and capacity - but needs political will

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Contact details

Simon Wilson

Tel 01482 317506



White Paper

UKAD 2012 21 Mar 2012 | 22

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