Tag Archives: digital archiving

Meeting up

It is always great to share ideas and experiences with others in your field, and so the meeting of the Digital infrastructure programme – of which our project is part – was enjoyable and very useful.

The first thing, after arriving at the impressive LSE Library building, was to introduce ourselves and provide some 5 min presentations on our projects. A full list is here: 

Through our project and my growing general interest, digital archiving techniques are helping me to shape some new approaches to more conventional electronic records management problems.

The outcome of Manchester’s Caracanet Case Study, which deals with the acquisition and preservation of email accounts, will be invaluable to records managers trying to define approaches to managing emails as records across their organisations.

The Institute of Education’s Digital Directorate project was interesting to me as archivists approaching essentially a records management challenge. The inter-disciplinary approach can surely only benefit both fields.

I am a keen advocate of training and awareness and several projects – DICE, PrePARE, SHARD – looked at ways of engaging the producers of research data with preservation issues. I’ll also be very interested in the outcomes of Bristol’s DataSafe project. There are so many methods now of delivering training; these projects should give some useful pointers to what works best and what our target audiences want.

The discussions that followed covered the value and benefits of digital preservation and how best to establish a business case for DP projects. I’m still convinced that it will be the hard numbers around reduced storage costs that will give a bedrock to the other DP benefits. The implied processes of appraisal and selection around what groups of records to keep will surely give us the opportunity to get rid of the huge amounts of unstructured information many organisations are storing.

There was a debate about the best approaches to ‘community engagement’ around digital preservation, including an account of a previous three day ‘hackathon’ as part of the AQuA project. Whilst I am a big fan of listservs and online forums, this event showed that getting a few people in a room to share their experience is still the best way to build and maintain a ‘community’.

Thanks to JISC and the SPRUCE project for organising and to the attendees for a really enjoyable and useful meeting.

Adapting OAIS for records management

In planning this project we’re obviously referencing the OAIS standard for a digital archive.

To quote from Wikipedia, ‘Open Archival Information System (or OAIS) is an archive, consisting of an organization of people and systems, that has accepted the responsibility to preserve information and make it available for a Designated Community’.

The OAIS approach reminds me of the old style paper records store method for managing records. We (the records manager) receive the closed files and store them safely and securely. When a record is required we are asked by the department for a specific box or file. We then make it available.

This is being replicated in several ways in current records management approaches. At one conference I heard of one organisation moving its paper files to offsite storage, then providing a ‘scan on demand’ approach when a file was requested. The offsite store would provide a scanned copy and email it to the requesting department. I thought this was a nice way of sidestepping a massive digitisation project – a digital ‘copy’ is provided when required, the mass of original paper retained in a low-cost storage environment.

In-house electronic document management solutions, from a simple intranet to a full blown EDRMS, have often relied on the information being available instantly via a search.  That obviously relies on the quality of the stored records and speed / accuracy of the search engine.

Could the OAIS approach work in an internal business context? Can the electronic records be submitted or ‘declared’ to the records management team and stored. The records with long term retention converted into preservable formats. On demand, the records can be made available through a print to PDF facility. The audit trail of access is inherent in the very record produced.

There are several visual depictions of the standard on produced on page 4-1 on http://public.ccsds.org/publications/archive/650x0b1.pdf, to which I add my ‘scrawled on the back of a napkin’ version to explain how this approach might work:

The benefit, you’d hope, would be ‘future proofed’ electronic documents managed and made available at a reasonable cost over decades. The drawbacks would, perhaps be in the user experience where people are used to the instant search return of a Google query. Now the user would effectively be searching a catalogue of record references and requesting access to the one they want.

The challenge is: would the approach actually work? That is one of the things we are trying to explore with this project.

Kicking off…

My name is Kit Good, University Records Manager and Freedom of Information Officer at the University of London. I’m lucky enough to work in an institution where the technology department, the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC), has a dedicated Digital Archiving team with a lot of experience in delivering preservation projects around electronic records.

 I’d met with Ed Pinsent, Digital Archivist, several times since I started last year to discuss the challenges around electronic records management. It was back at the start of September when Ed approached me about submitting a bid to the JISC 12/11 Digital Infrastructure Programme.

Ed and Kit

Our bid proposed testing the concept of ‘a simple toolkit of services and software that can plug into a network drive and create preservation copies of core business documents that require permanent preservation’. We were delighted to find out earlier this month that our bid was successful. 

We are hoping that the outcomes of this project will be useful to records managers, the digital archivist community and the Higher Education Sector as a whole. This blog will track the development of the project from its November kick-off to its February close.

More posts to follow…