Chris Prom‘s talk on his Fulbright research ‘Tools for implementing Digital Preservation Standards’ for the ‘under resourced’ archive at the Society of Archivists’ Data Standards Group meeting (presentation slides should be available here shortly) yesterday has finally spurred me into posting a roundup of projects which I’ve encountered over the last couple of months, which are specifically relevant to digital preservation in a small archives repository.
When I embarked upon my Churchill Fellowship in 2008, practical implementations of digital preservation research were only occurring in large repositories, usually at a national or sometimes state level. With the notable exception of the Paradigm project and related work at Oxford University, there had been few attempts to scale down the large programmes, or to package up the various tools available with the products of digital library/repository world, as envisaged by the 2007 UNESCO report Towards an Open Source Archival Repository and Preservation System. The smaller programmes I did visit were generally concentrating on a niche subset of digital archives (for example, email or web archives).
Dedicated followers of digital preservation issues are probably already aware of the RODA repository created on a Fedora base by the Portuguese National Archives, and may have read this review of the demo site from another UK local archivist. Chris Prom is now embarking on a more formal assessment, and his blog postings on RODA (and the evaluation criteria he is using) make for worthwhile reading. RODA is likely to be of particularly interest to UK-based archivists who use the collections management software package, CALM, since this is also in use at the Portuguese National Archives, although there doesn’t seem to have been any attempt to date to link the two together. What happens with a hybrid accession? is the obvious question.
Chris also introduced yesterday’s audience to a new project, Archivematica, which is packaging already available open source preservation tools into a Linux Ubuntu-based virtual appliance. As the project’s wiki explains, ‘This means an entire suite of digital preservation tools is now available to the average archivist from one simple installation’. This is a really exciting development and I am looking forward to seeing the results of Chris’s evaluation. Archivematica is developed by the same Canadian team, Artefactual Systems, who are behind the ICA-Atom archival description software commissioned by the International Council on Archives.
Closer to home, since I am involved on the board for one of the projects, it is remiss of me not to have mentioned before on this blog the digital curation work going on at Gloucestershire Archives, although the website itself has only been made available relatively recently. This work is the first real attempt to develop a practical digital curation architecture in a UK local authority archives setting (as opposed to simple re-use of existing tools, piecemeal). Plenty to explore here.
And finally, on a less technical level, but nevertheless, I think, an important development. At the sixth of the Society of Archivists’ roadshows in December 2009, I was delighted to hear of Kevin Bolton‘s work in drawing up simple accessioning checklists for digital archives at Manchester Archives and Local Studies, and – most importantly – how these are being developed regionally for the North West, in conjunction with Cheshire Archives and Local Studies. Particularly at this time of economic recession (or are we supposed to be out of that now?) I believe it is vital that smaller archives pool their resources and work in partnership to find solutions to digital archives issues, and it is good to see a framework for the future being mapped out here in the North West.