SIPs and DIPs, checksums and disk images—in short, all the fun things we talk about in our listservs, blogs, and conferences were probably going to be meaningless to these folks. Instead, I needed to capture what we do on a daily basis and explain why it matters to a fairly diverse group who wouldn't know the OAIS reference model from a hole in the ground.
|Have you seen my functional entities?|
What they really need to know is what we do (at a high level) and why it's important. If we're unable to accomplish this objective—and I would argue that every successful digital archives/preservation program does so—then we face an uphill battle for resources and, ultimately, relevance. And that may only be a wee bit hyperbolic. Advocacy is an integral component of the archival enterprise and we—archives of every size and stripe—are together in this quest to demonstrate our value and seek support.
What is it that you do, anyway?
Making the Case
- Organizing and describing materials so that researchers understand the nature of our collections
- Taking steps to ensure that content can still be accessed and used far into the foreseeable future
- Protecting sensitive personal information and deploying appropriate restrictions based on rights, institutional policies, legal requirements, and donor agreements.
- Improving the means by which people search for and retrieve content
- Developing or providing resources to help researchers use (or reuse) materials in important and meaningful ways.
Over the past two decades, our collective historical record has undergone a sea change: the web has revolutionized publishing and any number of businesses, email and tweets have replaced personal letters, word processing files and spreadsheets now comprise organizational records, and the convenience and ubiquity of smart phones enable us all to amass large collections of digital photographs and video.
As our professional and personal lives increasingly move online and into other digital spaces, the Bentley Historical Library has emerged as a proven leader in the quest to preserve and make accessible essential born-digital materials.
Today, researchers can access the electronic records of former Governor Jennifer Granholm, review the source code for the influential Michigan Terminal System time-sharing operating system from 1968, and study the creative digital output of noted artists such as Peter Sparling, Vince Castagnacci, and Arnold Weinstein.
Our work in “digital curation” encompasses traditional archival functions—the process of selecting materials of high research or intrinsic value and making them accessible to researchers—but also involves additional steps to ensure the integrity and authenticity of content. The Bentley furthermore seeks to add value to materials through the production of detailed description, access portals, and tools that help patrons find answers to their most pressing research questions.