Welcome to our blog!

Featured

This is the course blog for the University of Alabama’s School of Library and Information Studies LS 562: Digital Libraries. This course prepares students to develop digital libraries, exploring the issues associated with creating, operating, and maintaining digital libraries; analyzing electronic library programs in the U.S. and assessing their impact on education, scholarship and research.

Students will explore various digital library topics in blog posts throughout the semester. Happy reading!

Advertisements

BiblioTech: The All-Digital Public Library

Shout-out to Ben Steck for mentioning BiblioTech in a discussion board post! Somehow (probably due to my ignorance of the public library world), I knew barely any details about this fascinating project. If you’re in the same boat, buckle up!

(Boats can have seat belts, right?)

BiblioTech is the first fully digital public library in the United States. Laura Cole, BiblioTech’s founding director, described its revolutionary start in 2013 in Bexar County, Texas. The concept grew out of a need to increase library access for a geographically sprawling population, and it was the brainchild of a local judge trying to maximize resources (Cole, 2017, p. 245). Cole pointed out that BiblioTech was only successful because of its timing, implying that this type of solution is certainly not appropriate for every context: “Past efforts had failed, in part, because the public simply was not ready. In the fast-paced world of technology, however, even three or four years can mean the difference between universal product acceptance and product rejection; between success and failure” (p. 246).

BiblioTech certainly sounds like a pioneering success. If your first thought was, like mine, abject horror at the idea of replacing the plethora of community services provided by public libraries with an online repository – fear not! BiblioTech still has physical branch libraries. They deliver the common spaces, computers, free Wi-Fi, and all-important people. The branches even check out e-readers, with adaptive technology for the blind and visually impaired. But the buildings can be smaller because they do not house physical collections. There seem to be two indispensable goals of these physical spaces as complements to the digital library collection: to help bridge the “digital divide” by providing technology access in under-resourced neighborhoods; and to build civil society through education. As Cole summarized, “Technology is embedded in every function of our lives, but education is the key to making it work” (p. 246).

Knowing only this much – the idea of a digital library with and without walls – was already cool enough. But BiblioTech’s educational mission is, in my opinion, its most impressive aspect. Due to the inherent “portability” of this digital public library model, BiblioTech has been able to embed materials, services, and outreach in spaces where they can reach the most vulnerable. For example, the library runs “Mothers and Their Children (MATCH),” a program for incarcerated mothers to facilitate reading, and a training program with technology skills certifications for adults on probation. They also have partnerships, and in some cases satellite “branches” (such as kiosks and service desks), with local school districts, military bases, public transportation, and the health system. A large new branch building just opened this year near the East Meadows Housing Development (Scherer, 2018).

How has this library system grown? Cole’s managerial approach is, in her words, “aggressive” (p. 250). “We are shameless self-promoters” (Cole, 2017, p. 251), she said of her team. Cole also encourages trial and error, noting that “If I have learned nothing else over the past four years, it is that the occasional failure is not a bad thing” (p. 258). The strength of her leadership is clear, and I wonder how important this style of innovation and in-your-face outreach has been to the success of this model.

The story of BiblioTech has me thinking about the power of bringing resources and education directly to people, wherever they need it. It also left me dreaming about how much more powerful this digital library model could be if there were widespread Open Access. But the loudest thoughts that stuck with me after reading Cole’s article were about the identity of a “library.” This was the perfect capstone to our discussions of digital libraries throughout the semester, because this class has greatly expanded my notion of what a “digital library” can be. The entire concept of BiblioTech has further exploded my very notion of a “library.” Yet that word has, in no way, been lost or rendered meaningless. Quite the opposite! The identity of a library as a “library” remains crucial.

In what felt like a surprisingly deemphasized thought, Cole noted in her conclusion that “Temptations to divert our focus from library to ‘technology center’ have been many” (p. 258). She failed to elaborate, but I hear an implication that a diversion from being a “library” would damage BiblioTech’s very purpose. So what makes it, or any other library, continue to be a library? I think, as so many LIS classes rightly emphasize, a values-driven approach to meeting user needs and enhancing their experiences of the world sits at the core of that identity. Technology will continue to change the appearance and logistics of our work, but the “library” will remain.

 

References

Cole, Laura. (2017). BiblioTech: Closing the gap between traditional and digital literacy. Public Library Quarterly 36(3), 244-258.

Scherer, J. (2018, April 19). New BiblioTech opens on East Side, aims to bridge digital divide. San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved from https://www.expressnews.com/news/local/politics/article/New-BiblioTech-opens-on-East-Side-aims-to-bridge-12849238.php

Preserving Digital Art, from Photography Blogs to Memes

As I’ve mentioned in class, I work in digitization, which means that much of my context for digital libraries comes from transforming physical objects into digital images. I have thought very little about approaching digital preservation and digital libraries from a born-digital perspective. For some reason the YouTube video we watched in this last portion of class on preserving digital art really struck me in a way that other conversations about preserving born-digital materials haven’t (Google, 2017).

What got me started was the fact that this video was published by Google–I began wondering how their Google doodles commemorating famous people and holidays are being preserved. This led me to the Doodles Archive; it stretches back almost ten years now, since the Doodles started in 2009, and is a lovely website to explore this new form of digital art.

But Google is a massive company with the resources to undertake a project like this. What about independent musicians, writers, and artists who rely on much smaller funds and time to keep their work accessible online? Blogging sites are still going strong as writing platforms, despite constant predictions of their demise. Blogs give voices and communities to people who are otherwise left out of “official” conversations, and their perspectives–from cooking to travel to parenting to art to reporting from war zones–are valuable as historical and cultural context. What happens when bloggers take their sites down, as most eventually do? There’s the Wayback Machine, of course, but unless a blog gets huge amounts of traffic, we’re lucky to get more than a few snapshots of it preserved. (Fun fact: my old Tumblr blog has four snapshots on the Wayback Machine.)

I discovered a project sponsored by the EU called BlogForever that ran from 2011-2013 and was attempting to harvest and preserve blog content from around the internet, but it has since shut down and I was unable to find any post-project analysis or publications (“About BlogForever”, n.d.). My curiosity is piqued–I would love to know if the project developers felt it was a success and a project worth pursuing. (I’m guessing, since there appears to be nothing published about it since 2013, that the answer is no–or at least that the project funders thought so.) Are there other projects working to preserve blog content for future generations? How are they doing it?

I kept looking for other projects documenting born-digital art and, finding inspiration in the comments section on the digital art YouTube video (I know, I know), decided to see if there were any digital preservation projects focusing on memes. I quickly discovered the Library of Congress launched the Web Cultures and Webcomics Web Archives in 2017 (Blakemore, 2017; Library of Congress, 2017). The Web Cultures collection is part of the American Folklife Center and aims to document digital cultures and vernaculars, archiving websites like Urban Dictionary, the Internet Meme Database, and the Giphy gif database. The Webcomics collection focuses on–well–webcomics from all over the internet, highlighting popular, long-running comics like XKCD and Hyperbole and a Half, as well as works by artists and about subjects not well-represented in traditional print comics.

Both of these digital archives give some useful metadata on the history and content of the websites, and they appear to use the same technology as the Wayback Machine to archive each website. Exploring each collection, however, I wondered how much value they were offering beyond a place to store snapshots of each website permanently. Are they adding any context? What other tools could these archives, and similar projects, use to analyze and explore the content they are preserving? Each collection currently only has thirty to forty websites archived, but the internet is infinitely bigger than that–what about the rest of it?

These are tough questions to grapple with. But it’s easy to forget how new the internet is, and how much newer digital preservation is. We’re still in the early stages. As we continue to ask questions, make mistakes, and move forward, we will keep making progress toward better preservation of all forms of digital art.


References

About BlogForever. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://blogforever.eu/about-blogforever/

Blakemore, E. (2017, June 15). Why the Library of Congress thinks your favorite meme is worth preserving. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/library-of-congress-meme-preserve-180963705/

Google. (2017, May 30). Preserving digital art: How will it survive? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkSG7XaKoAs&feature=youtu.be

Library of Congress. (2017, June 13). Webcomics and Web Cultures Archives now on loc.gov [Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/item/prn-17-087/webcomics-and-web-cultures-archives-now-on-loc-gov/2017-06-13/

Digital Preservation of Video Games

When I was an Junior Fellow for the Library of Congress in 2015, one of the best days of the summer was getting to tour the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia. At one point during our visit, our guide showed us a small stack of games – they looked like PlayStation/Xbox games – and described their preservation activities for videogames. I can’t say for sure, but I doubt the Library of Congress (or any other major institutions) thought about collecting and preserving games back in, say, the 1980s. It took archivists a while to realize that this new kind of media would be culturally valuable, and by then, obsolescence had already set in.  McDonough et al. (2010) emphasize the importance of early intervention from preservationists before the game’s software and/or hardware becomes obsolete (p. 5). I wonder what “new media” the archival community is neglecting as we speak? I bet we could be doing more to preserve memes. Just saying!

I am wildly impressed by (and intimidated by) the digital preservation of videogames because they are complex audio-visual artifacts with specific hosting requirements. McDonough (2010), Dawson (2017), and Sköld (2018) talk about the unique challenges of providing access to games.

Here are some of the many obstacles:

  • Obsolescence: The software and hardware supporting videogames quickly becomes obsolete (McDonough, 5). Have a look at Wikipedia’s list of home video game consoles. Acquiring consoles can be expensive, and it takes a lot of expert knowledge to maintain and repair them. This point reminds me of the video we watched for class, “Preserving digital art: How will it survive?” and its description of the labor involved in constantly migrating and updating software to make sure digital files don’t rot.
  • Preserving interactivity: Because modern games are playable on a variety of platforms/in multiple formats, archives must be able to host a variety of platforms. Moreover, games are increasingly released online with no physical component (Lee et al.). The lazy approach would be to archive videos of streamed games, but then the game’s interactivity wouldn’t be preserved (Dawson). Games are meant to be played!
  • Copyright: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibits the copying of videogames, so archivists must approach companies to secure rights to make preservation copies (McDonough, 6). I would venture to guess that companies who make money from selling videogames aren’t in a hurry to make them universally accessible.
  • Metadata: A brave new world of metadata. The Seattle Interactive Media Museum and the University of Washington Information School GAMER (GAme MEtadata Research) Group made a metadata schema for video games contains more than forty-six elements (Lee et al.). Some of the more unique ones include: franchise/universe, special hardware, controls, and number of players. Some of this information can be hard to find for digital games, especially indie games by smaller creators.
  • Preserving gamer culture: Sköld (2018) discusses the concept of an “expanded notion” of a video game which includes “its game culture, experiences, play, and community activity” (p. 134). These aspects of games are especially relevant in the competitive gaming scene, in which games like Dota, Rocket League, and League of Legends which have their own esports organizations, attract huge fanbases, and host a multitude of recorded events relevant to the game.

Videogames, whether vintage or modern, are meaningful to our society and culture and of great technological value. It is important to fight obsolescence of videogames because preserved games serve as important educational tools for game developers and are important pieces of cultural memory (Sköld, p. 137). McDonough outlines strategies for the long-term digital preservation of games. I think the most impactful strategy archivists can take is to seek out collaboration with the gaming community in crowdsourcing initiatives and to develop relationships with gaming companies to overcome legal obstacles to preservation (McDonough, p. 7). As an archivist, I would love to be make it possible for someone decades from now to play a game they haven’t played in years and feel like a kid again.

References

Dawson, George (30 November 2017). “Digital Preservation: Video Games.” University of North Texas Libraries: Digital Humanities. https://blogs.library.unt.edu/digital-humanities/2017/11/30/digital-preservation-video-games/

Google (30 May 2017). Preserving Digital Art: How Will it Survive?. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkSG7XaKoAs&feature=youtu.be

Lee, Jin Ha, Rachel Ivy Clarke, and Andrew Perti (15 January 2014). “Metadata for Digitally Distributed Video Games at the Seattle Interactive Media Museum.” MW2014: Museums and the Web 2014. https://mw2014.museumsandtheweb.com/paper/metadata-for-digital-video-games-at-the-seattle-interactive-media-museum/

McDonough, Jerome P. et al. (31 August 2010). “Preserving Virtual Worlds Final Report.” Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/2142/17097

Owens, Trevor (26 September 2012). “Yes, The Library of Congress Has Video Games: An Interview with David Gibson.” Library of Congress: The Signal. https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2012/09/yes-the-library-of-congress-has-video-games-an-interview-with-david-gibson/

Sköld, Olle (January 2018). “Understanding the “Expanded Notion” of Videogames as Archival Objects: A Review of Priorities, Methods, and Conceptions.” Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology vol. 69, issue 1, pp. 134-145. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/asi.23875

Speaking of Digital Preservation

Digital Preservation is the conversation of the day for institutions responsible for collection development. It’s not a new thing. It’s been around awhile. However, the way we look at it and handle it has changed. Once upon a time scanning and uploading photos was just a simple processing keeping copies of items for storage usually after it becomes in danger of being damaged or preventing further damage. The concern was mostly to get it done more so than how it was to be done. The digitalizing of the items were not done with little consideration of description or format and with minimal organization. Now, along with the actual storage, there is the software, hardware, imaging, layout, description, and access techniques that must be taking into the equation. Now preservation before damage occurs, along with providing the most availability with internet access is just as important. Essentially, taking care to preserve is the initial thought instead of a latter one as well as making sure whoever views it in whatever process gets a great image.

When looking at the readings and the discussion posts for this topic I was intrigued by the mention of the site HistoryPin (https://www.historypin.org/en/) that accesses various collections and allows visitors to attach pins to images to make their own collection. I thought this was a pretty neat concept. This site has given access to these historical images to people all over the world. What all did they have to encounter to bring this together? There are copyright issues to manage, image choices to be made, layout and description selections, and the list goes on and on. It is not a simple process by any means. But the work put into this site is significantly appreciated, I would think, to many who can bring together and create their own collections thru it.

Where would we be if the various repositories and museums didn’t digitally preserve their collections? Even the gavel of justice has been affected by digital preservation. It has made a major change in the face of evidence. The images from cell phones and dash cameras have made a significant impact on the mountain of injustice from lack of evidence. Its importance goes without saying. The massive number of items that are conveniently at hand can come at a huge price, not only dollars but in a variety of challenges and conflicts.

In addition to what was previously mentioned, there is a conflict with technology and the lack of permanent storage. Every library, museum, and archive has to deal with the continuous issue of updating and keeping current technology. The ever-present challenge of having to keep files secure, readable, viewable, undamaged, and locatable is constant and continuous. Having the staff members that are able to be technical visionaries and more than just competent, who can withstand the currents of constant change in this area, is vital. It is not an easy feat to accomplish, but a necessary one. It requires those who work in this field to keep their skill levels up to date and impeccable.

Digital Preservation certainly has its challenges and issues, but it is so important to our society in so many ways. It opens doors to more knowledge and information that we can even imagine and provides in by various methods and avenues, like HistoryPin and the infamous Google. Professionals in this area are confronted continuously to stay on top of the skills and technically advanced. There are many considerations to be made but they are certainly worth every effort to provide access to everyone. Digital preservation once upon a time meant just getting it copied when it could be and however it could be done. Not anymore.

A Comparison of Grant Processes

As I mentioned in class, I began working for the Alabama Humanities Foundation as their grants director about three and a half months ago. As such, I spend almost the entirety of my 40+ hours a week at work dealing with grants and grantees. I manage our application process and grant software, work with potential applicants by answering questions and helping craft applications, process submitted applications, and handle all necessary paperwork (which is often a lot). AHF regrants funds provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), giving approximately $200,000 annually to support organizations across the state with public humanities projects.

Since AHF grants are funded by federal dollars, we must follow federal regulations and procedures throughout our grant process. This complicates our process and often overwhelms the organizations we work with, who may or may not apply for grants regularly. In our readings, Kenning Arlitsch (2013) did a wonderful job explaining the typical federal grant process, and I thought it might be interesting to explore how AHF’s grant process compares to his description.

HOW IT BEGINS

Arlitsch writes that “a grant proposal typically begins with a need” (2013). This is certainly true for AHF grants as well, and we hope for most grant applications, though I won’t assume. While we do not fund research, AHF does fund community organizations implementing humanities projects, including public discussions, lecture series, teacher workshops, interpretive displays, exhibitions, etc. in the fields of history, literature, philosophy, anthropology, and more. AHF typically funds up to $7,500 for most projects and up to $10,000 for documentary films.

ORGANIZING A TEAM

Since our grants are relatively small, most of our applications are completed by one person. We do, however, require applicants to name all the personnel that will be involved in the projects and supply their resumes. Grantees must also have at least one “humanities scholar” involved in the project (mostly to offer advice and guidance) and a separate fiscal agent, not the project director, to handle all financials.

RESEARCH ADMINISTRATION (SPONSORED PROGRAMS)

Research administration at universities is an interesting topic for AHF. AHF gives grants to many universities across the state, and every school’s grants department is different. Some I work with closely, while others deal only with the project director. In the worst-case scenario, we have several universities that we receive no applications from because the department refuses to deal with the “hassle” of $7,500 grants when they have bigger fish to fry.

THE PARTS OF A GRANT PROPOSAL

Narrative: Fairly spot on for our applications, minus the research and publication aspects.

Management Plan: We don’t necessarily call it this, but we do ask for the roles of project personnel and a general time frame of how the project will proceed.

Budget Justification: We do not require this, but we do expect all budget items to be self-explanatory based on the narrative. If our grants committee isn’t sure what a budget item is for, it will be cut.

Evaluation: We don’t ask for this separately, but it is noted that project evaluations are required and will be included in the final report.

Dissemination: We don’t fund research, so we don’t ask for this.

Sustainability Plan: We do not ask for this in the grant application, but it often comes up in discussions with the grantee. AHF does not want to fund the same projects every year and has rules to prevent doing so.

Advisory Boards: We also don’t require these, though the humanities scholar often fits in this role.

Letters of Support: We do not require letters of support, but they can be included in grant applications. They’re often helpful, especially if the organization is relatively new or the project personnel is not well known in the humanities community.

BUDGETS

The budget is easily the most important part of the grant proposal, and the most difficult to complete. AHF has detailed budget guidelines, and any misstep can result in a decrease of funding. During the review process, I would estimate that 80% or more of the time spent on any application is spent reviewing the budget. AHF requires a 1:1 match (either cash or in-kind) on most of our grants, and a 2:1 cash-only match on documentary films. We do not fund indirect costs, but we do allow up to 15% of the total project cost to be calculated into the grantee’s cost share.

GRANT REVIEWERS AND REVIEWER COMMENTS

This is perhaps the best part of my job and the most beneficial to applicants. AHF values the benefits of helpful feedback and allows me to offer lots of it. We require all applicants to submit a preliminary narrative and budget early in the process, allowing me to offer feedback, and I offer to review the entire application before submission. By working with the applicants so closely, most of our applications reach the grants committee with few issues. More feedback is offered in the instances that grants are denied or not funded fully.

REPORTING

We do not require regular reporting, only a final report at the completion of the project. However, we may check in at any time and often perform site visits as well. To “encourage” adequate reporting, we only release a portion of the awarded funds up front. The remainder is disbursed when we get the final report.

 

In conclusion, working with grants can seem overwhelming, and it’s certainly a lot of work. But the process is easier when you take it step by step and take advantage of all resources, including helpful grants directors!

 

References

Arlitsch, Kenning. (2013). Committing to Research: Librarians and Grantsmanship. Journal of Library Administration, 53:5-6, 369-379. DOI:10.1080/01930826.2013.876828

Alabama Humanities Foundation. (2018). Grants. Retrieved from http://www.alabamahumanities.org/grants/

Digital Preservation and Hypertext: What’s Next?

When I was teaching English Composition to anxious college freshmen four years ago, I tried to let my students know that they were “reading” all the time, even if they were not reading books specifically. No matter what, they were still interacting with texts in a multitude of forms–internet articles, YouTube videos, audio files, podcasts, and the like. A text does not have to be purely words on a page, nor does it have to be stuck in one single format. As we make our way through the twenty-first century, we’re faced with new forms of media and different ways of telling stories. In digital spaces, where you have a multitude of file formats at your tips, a story does not have to be told just through text. It can be conveyed through video, audio, social media postings–a trans-platform approach.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is perhaps one of the best examples of this trend. TLBD was a modernized Pride & Prejudice webseries that ran from 2012 to 2013, telling the story of graduate student Lizzie Bennet as she and her sisters struggle to find careers and love. Over the course of a hundred vlogs, viewers got to know Lizzie and the characters around her quite intimately. But the series was not limited to Lizzie’s vlogs: her sister Lydia had her own vlog series entitled “The Lydia Bennet”; Mr. Collins’s digital production company had its own “Better Living” video series; and Mr. Darcy and his sister appeared in a “Pemberly Digital” webseries that helped to further the plot. TLBD wasn’t all just vlogs, though; there were social media accounts for several of the characters, and tie-in websites that users could actually visit.

Screen Shot 2018-12-03 at 19.56.33
Lizzie Bennet (Ashley Clements) in her first vlog, complaining about her mother.
Screen Shot 2018-12-03 at 19.59.50
Tweets from Lizzie Bennet, tagging the accounts for William Darcy and Georgiana “Gigi” Darcy.

Overall, TLBD was a creative multiplatform endeavour that told an old story in a new, interactive way. The series won an Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media and several Streamy Awards. Each episode racked up hundreds of thousands of views, each Tweet several hundred interactions, and the story itself won a dedicated fanbase. All of which sounds fairly simple.

But… how do you digitally preserve and archive a project like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries?

At first blush, it seems simple: simply take the videos (born-digital items) and put them into an archive. But how to order the videos? Do the videos get organized by their individual series, or should they be organized by date? What do you do with the social media accounts–do you archive all the Twitter feeds created by the show’s producers and keep them separate? Do you include the show’s official Instagram account, which is organized very clearly as an account about the series rather than an inside perspective from the series? How do you deal with so many competing file formats?

The answers to these questions, I suspect, would vary depending on how you wished to preserve the project. If you as an archivist only decide to archive the videos, that’s certainly a decision you could make. But to archive the videos only seems to lose out on the trans-platform approach that the show’s creators wanted viewers to have. Can you preserve collaborative media only by preserving one aspect of it? In addition, how searchable do you make a digital library such as this–would every piece of media be tagged with the characters directly involved, or would mentions of a character (such as an @wmdarcy, whether or not he has replied to the tweet) also be included?

I have a feeling questions like these will become more of an issue as multi-platform projects become the norm. In the digital age, projects are likely to become more collaborative and traverse more platforms. I don’t just mean entertainment, although I have a feeling that more shows will embrace storytelling methods like TLBD‘s over the coming years. This is something that can happen with scholarly work, too. Heiko Zimmermann (2014) delves into two different hypertextual works, She… and A Million Penguins, both of which depended on the contributions of multiple authors with several different file formats (video, written text, audio) involved. Zimmermann posits that these texts are dependent on real-time interaction with the original texts; in the case of A Million Penguins, which was a collaboratively written “novel,” users could see edits being made in real time, which is an aspect that is lost whenever the project is archived. Zimmermann posits that if archivists make all aspects of a project available, users will have to engage in “texual archaelology” to browse through snapshots of the project and try to put it together retroactively (p. 8). However, this textual detective work does nothing to capture the original experience of real-time, multimodal texts. Digital libraries have the ability to congregate all this information and preserve it for future generations; the organization of such projects, however, will be a trickier project for archivists to come.

I don’t have any concrete answers for the questions I’ve raised here; neither does Zimmermann. Digital preservation is still a fairly new practice, and working with born-digital texts that require multiple platforms is even newer. I think this will be an area that opens up as archivists work on preserving more elaborate projects, and I look forward to seeing how these libraries are organized in the future.

References:

Zimmermann, H. (2014). New challenges for the archiving of digital writing. CLCWeb: Comparative Literature & Culture, 16(5), 1-10. Retrieved from https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/clcweb/vol16/iss5/

Digital Preservation in Art Museums

Digital preservation may sound like something that is second nature to archives, libraries, and museums these days. However, that’s not always the case. Preserving born-digital content is considered a must with the growing volume of digital records but it takes a lot of time, resources, and money. One article I read, “Better Together: A Holistic Approach to Creating a Digital Preservation Policy in an Art Museum” discusses how art museums lack the workflows when compared to libraries, archives, and other types of museums. Art museums often see digital artwork often but it is becoming more popular. When an art museum takes a digital record into their collection, they may not be prepared.

As the volume of digital art work increases, art museums have to discuss what digital preservation means to their institution. From preserving the file itself to the metadata and copyright restrictions it can be a lot to keep up with. It doesn’t help that most institutions don’t like to share their preservation workflows. In 2014, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) received a grant and chose to create a digital preservation policy that included all of the museum’s collections. The museum contains over 95,000 works of art ranging from 5th century mosaics to contemporary pieces. In order to start their initiative, they had to define digital preservation. They decided on a “combination of policies, strategies and actions to ensure access to and accurate rendering of authenticated reformatted and born digital content over time regardless of the challenges of media failure and technological change.”

When BMA got the grant, they decided to use the money to preserve the 5 most used collections that had already been digitized over the years. When beginning, the staff at the BMA reviewed the literature relating to digital preservation and then started to create their plans. Creating policies that fit their institution and piloting and perfecting workflows is the hardest part. I understand the challenge of digital preservation as its something we are trying to figure out in my current job. However, I do agree with the Baltimore Museum of Art’s take on it. Looking at your institution and fitting the program to your needs and budget is a must. Once you have your workflows down, it’ll be easy from there. However, there is something about digital preservation that worries me and that is the future of technology.

Technology has advanced more in the last 60 years than it has the entire time humans have walked the Earth, and that’s scary. While we are preserving photographs as TIFFs today, who is to say that won’t be the preferred method of storage in the future? Archiving paper is different from digital. You archive the physical records once and describe them once, maybe adding a few accruals here and there. Digital is a totally different beast. A good digital preservation plan will try and predict future trends as well as current standards.

 

O’Flaherty, E. (2018). Digital preservation for libraries, archives, and museums. ARCHIVES AND RECORDS-THE JOURNAL OF THE ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ASSOCIATION, 39(1), 94–97. https://doi-org.libdata.lib.ua.edu/10.1080/23257962.2018.1431115

Rafferty, E., & Pad, B. (2017). Better Together: A Holistic Approach to Creating a Digital Preservation Policy in an Art Museum. Art Documentation: Bulletin of the Art Libraries Society of North America, 36(1), 149–162. https://doi-org.libdata.lib.ua.edu/10.1086/691378