Last Thursday I was delighted to attend the culminating workshop for the Society of Archivists‘ (SoA) funded digital curation project at Gloucestershire Archives. As Viv Cothey, the developer employed by Gloucestershire Archives, has noted, “Local authority archivists may well be fully aware of the very many exhortations to do digital curation and to get involved but are frustrated by not knowing where to start”. Building upon previous work on a prototype desktop ingest packager (GAip), the SoA project set out to create a proof of concept demonstration of a ‘trusted digital store’ suitable for use by a local government record office. The workshop was an important outreach element of the project, aiming to build up understanding and experience of digital curation principles and workflow amongst archivists in the UK. I have been involved with the management board for the SoA project, so I was eager to see how the demonstration tools which have been developed would be received by the wider digital preservation and archivist professional communities.
Others are much better qualified than me to evaluate the technical approach that the project has taken, and indeed Susan Thomas has already blogged her impressions over at futureArch. For me, what was especially pleasing was to see a good crowd of ‘ordinary’ archivists getting stuck in with the demonstration tools – despite the unfamiliarity of the Linux operating system – and teasing out the purpose and process of each of the digital curation tools provided. I hope that nobody objects to my calling them ‘ordinary’ – I think they will know what I mean, and it is how I would describe myself in this digital preservation context.
Digital preservation research has hitherto clustered around opposite ends of a spectrum. At one end are the high level conceptual frameworks: OAIS and the like. At the other end are the practical developments in repository and curation workflow tools in the higher education, national repository, and scientific research communities. The problem here is the technological jargon which is frankly incomprehensible to your average archivist. Gloucestershire’s project therefore attempts to fill an important gap in current provision, by providing a set of training tools to promote experimentation and discourse at practitioner level.
I’ll be interested to see the feedback from the workshop, and it’d be good to see some attendee comments here…