reading notes: ADC reading group introduction!

It turns out that several of my colleagues are also interested in making time for professional development reading! The result has been the development of the Archives and Digital Curation (ADC) reading group. I’m the primary organizer for the group at this point. So far, this has involved providing a list of possible readings and facilitating a vote for selecting readings, scheduling a discussion time and room, prepping discussion questions, and providing a recap of discussion notes. Whew! It is a lot of work, but valuable. I’m sure the process will change over the next few meetings. Finding a sustainable and productive way to facilitate the meetings is key — I hope to post about the process of developing the group in the future.

Read on for a recap of our discussion!

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CurateGear 2015

My first professional development activity of 2015 took place last week in lovely (and unseasonably cold) North Carolina. CurateGear is an event hosted by the SILS program at UNC-Chapel Hill that provides practitioners a platform to  both share and learn about the application of digital curation tools. Video of all of the lightening talks can be found on the CureateGear 2015 website.

The following are a few of the things I found most interesting:

Digital Curation Education

  • I found Carolyn Hank’s talk about her research on digital curation education interesting. As a recent graduate, I think there is definitely a need for a clearer understanding of how to best prepare students for the workplace. This topic came around again in the closing panel. The panelists highlighted the notion that students don’t necessarily need to learn specific tools-of-the-month in the classroom, but instead need to learn to think strategically about addressing the concepts that make up digital curation (e.g. ingest in practice, AIP concept modeling, workflows, restricted access methods vs. open access methods, digital forensics use cases).  This is all in my own words, and the panelists phrased it better — I just remember nodding my head a lot and forgetting to take good notes!

Using Data to Plan for Born-Digital Processing

  • Erika Farr talked about her team’s work to measure effort spent in born-digital processing. She explained how her team created effort categories, used Redbooth to track tasks and time, and what they hope to gain from the resulting data. I think this kind of measuring and planning will only become more commonplace as more and more archives are able to ramp up born-digital processing.

Emulation and Access for Digital Archives

  • Susan Malsbury from NYPL talked about their efforts to provide access to a collection of born-digital records from the 1980s/1990s. Currently, the records are available at a reading room station only. Users can view the collection by using Quick View Plus and the DOSBox emulator.

Analyzing Archive-It Collections

  • Lori Donovan, from the Internet Archive, demoed the newest updates to Archive-It. Archive-It 5.0 provides partners with a newly redesigned and expanded reports feature.  It is now possible to explore data captured with useful (and pretty!) visualizations that show size of captures, use of data budget, amount of duplication, file types, and more. The reports feature is only one part of Archive-It 5.0 redesigned – I can’t wait to see what else they’ve updated.

I also want to give a shout out to the talks by my colleagues Nancy McGovern and Kari Smith — the topics of their talks were focused on the high level planning side of things, but planning is essential to curation “gear” selection! The work they discuss is related to so many things I’m working on. I’m sure a future post about my work will reference the management tools for curation and the digital archives eco-system visualization.

Though I was itching for a hands on session to play with all the tools discussed, I enjoyed CurateGear 2015 and the opportunity to see a variety of tools in action.

fellow update: what is it… you do here?

What does a MIT Libraries Fellow for Digital Archives do?

This question and similar derivative questions (Digital preservation is what? Digital curation means what?) have been consistent companions since I started graduate school in 2012. Explaining the details of digital curation and preservation is a topic big enough for it’s own post. I’m not going to venture there today, but I would like to highlight what a Digital Archives Fellowship is all about. My quick answer is that the fellowship experience provides built-in mentorship and an opportunity to continue to develop skills that help me wrangle digital content and context. As far as what I do here …

Office Space gif

Office Space gif from

My official project plan is still in development. As my projects become more defined, I’ll provide updates about my work on this blog. But, essentially, I’m here to help the Digital Archivist in furthering the development of the digital archives program. This means we are working on things like:

  • Workflow analysis and documentation related to transferring, processing and managing digital collections
  • Testing and development of use cases for various digital archives tools that assist or automate processing and management activities (e.g. Archivematica, ArchivesSpace, BitCurator)
  • Enabling access to digital collections in the reading room and online

As a fellow, I also have the luxury of extra time for skill building and professional development. So far, I’ve set aside time each week for this blog as well as for developing programming skills. First up, is Python. I had hopes of taking an edX course in data analysis using Python, but my hopes were dashed quickly (by the second week). I learned the basics of Python in graduate school, but those seven weeks felt like they took place seven years ago! My retention was pretty bad, so I’m back to basics. Through Code Academy and a textbook from graduate school, I’m relearning Python. I’ll provide an update on my progress once I have a better idea of how I might use Python—maybe to analyze digital collections or automate part of a workflow. For now, here is an example of my brilliant Python abilities.

Image of very simple Python code


reading notes: 25 years of C-Span

Browning, Robert. “Creating an Online Television Archive, 1987-2013.” International Journal of Digital Curation, no. 9.1 (2014). Accessed November 10, 2014. doi:10.2218/ijdc.v9i1.288

“By utilizing technology at the beginning, we kept pace and never fell behind in the collection, organization, and management of the information we recorded.” (p.10)

Browning’s recent article in IJDC provides insight into the successful development of a C-Span video archive over the past 25 years. It’s interesting to discover how an archive kept pace over a period (1987-2013) that saw such significant evolution in computing technology. Browning discusses the archive’s process for capturing video, selecting file formats, preserving and duplicating files, indexing and providing access. It strikes me that two key factors are at play in the success of this project—continuous collaboration with IT staff and steady funding/support of the archive. Browning doesn’t discuss either of these factors in depth, but the amount of indexing done for all content and the overall adaptability to change is truly impressive. The current access system for the C-Span Video Library is also really nice with cool features to help users save and share videos. I would really love to read more accounts like this of other successful (or not so successful) digital archiving projects that cover a wider range of file types and subject matter.

As of writing this post, the C-Span archive has captured 207,468.0700 hours of programming!

From the C-Span Video Library- Betsy Wade Oral History Video. Wade was the first woman copy reader at The New York Times and eventually a chief copy editor and columnist—and as an added bonus she begins the interview by sharing how important the public library was to her as a teen.

The reading notes posts found on this blog are intentionally question-filled and causal. Each notes post serves as a sort of open journal record of my professional development reading as the MIT Libraries Fellow for Digital Archives. See the introduction post for more on this series. I welcome suggestions for future readings—current or archival!