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Electronic Records

  • Born digital archives

    In my past life, I worked as a digital archivist, focusing on managing born digital collections. Links to some of the past projects I’ve participated in follow.

  • Collaboration Before Preservation: Recovering Born Digital Records in the Stephen Gendin Papers

    For some, the phrase “born digital resources” may be unfamiliar, but Ricky Erway, Senior Program Officer at OCLC Research wrote a brief essay entitled Defining “Born Digital”, which provides a handy, working definition: “items created and managed in digital form.” Manuscripts and Archives, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and Yale University Library overall have had a notable history of working with born digital resources over the past ten years.

  • 24 Hours: The Day of Digital Archives

    Thursday, October 6 was the Day of Digital Archives, organized by friend and colleague Gretchen Gueguen at the University of Virginia. I missed the post deadline yesterday, but it's been a busy week, so I might as well walk through some of the highlights of my work related to digital archives that occurred during that 24 hours from 12 am Thursday to 12 am Friday. 12 AM: It's late, but I'm finishing the last bit of work of writing up lecture notes. This fall, I am teaching a class on digital preservation as an adjunct in the iSchool at Drexel University. The iSchool is on the quarter system, so we have only ten weeks to cover a wide variety of material. Last week the students got an introduction to the Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System, and this week's topics (on which I am writing the lecture notes) are selection and appraisal, assessment, provenance, and authenticity. Some of the sources of the week's material include a forthcoming case study from the City of Vancouver Archives, the DCC Curation Manual's chapter on appraisal and selection, sections of the CLIR publication Authenticity in a Digital Environment, and the final report of the W3C Provenance Incubator Group.
  • Delicious and the Preservation of "Platforms"

    Just as plenty of others have, I recoiled in horror when I heard that Delicious (née del.icio.us) was being "sunsetted". Regardless of the red flags that have been raised about its potentially imminent demise, I've still been using it on a daily basis. I've been an active user for over 6.5 years, which is longer than I can say for just about any other web platform or service. I deleted my Friendster and Myspace accounts quite a while ago; I've been on Flickr almost as long as Delicious, but the bookmarking wins out by a good four months or so. I started using Delicious in my final semester of library school, and it shows. I used it for procrastinating as well as a way to organize research materials before I had Zotero. The bulk of the bookmarks from that first day of use (February 24, 2004) were likely imports from my browser, but I quickly showed a facility for adding stuff that I saw as interesting, useful, etc.
  • Update: Aus-Archivists Not Dead?

    Earlier today I'd posted about the Australian Society of Archivists' announcement about the Aus-Archivists listserv being "lost." Tim Sherratt, an Australian colleague and friend of this blog, announced this post on ArchivesLive, the Ning group created by the ASA seemingly to replace the listserv. Pat Jackson, ASA President, has already responded with an update: The ASA National Office has not lost the Aus-Archivists list-serv. We have moved from an outsourced service provider to managing our new server at the National Office. The Aus-Archivists list-serv was a bit too ancient for our spanking new server to manage. In terms of the posterity of the contents of the list-serv, the wonderful discussions and debate it fostered and engendered, they are not lost. It is our intention to post them to the ASA website where they can be perused. Further to that, it is my understanding that the Aus-Archivists list-serv is also deemed to be permanent under the ASA retention schedule. The ASA will be investigating other methods of storing the list-serv for permanent retention.
  • Goodbye, Aus-Archivists: Listservs and the Commitment to Digital Preservation

    [Update: Aus-Archivists might not be gone for good, as ASA intends to share the entire run of postings on its website. See this post for details.]

    Despite my relative distaste for the A&A list, I have previously found it useful and argued for its retention when it was threatened in 2007. I still agree with most of what I wrote 3.5 years ago, although I might have toned things down in retrospect. In an effort to find other e-mail discussion lists on archives that engaged my interest, I joined Arcan-L (the Canadian archivists' listserv) and Aus-Archivists (the Australian archivists' listserv, maintained by the Australian Society of Archivists).

    Surprisingly, Aus-Archivists had been idle since around the end of October. I noticed this tweet from the Australian Society of Archivists only in passing at the beginning of November:

    The ASA Office would just like everyone to know that our List Serv is still currently unavailable, we apologize for any inconvenience...

    I didn't hear anything else between then and earlier today. I should note that I'm not a member of ASA, and so I can't speak to any communication they had with their membership. However, today a message was sent out by Pat Jackson, the ASA President, to all Aus-Archivists subscribers, announcing that the listserv was lost entirely.

  • The Medium Is Not The Message

    "Electronic records" is a particularly awful phrase and does not even actually capture anything about the underlying records at all. As far as the term goes, it's not too far off from "machine readable records." As a profession, can we start actually thinking critically about the underlying technical issues and push for using terms that more accurately describe what it is we're dealing with? I understand it's a convenient catch-all term, but there is a large range of issues that differ with the kinds of data and systems.
  • Google Message Discovery

    Amidst this week of notorious hoaxes, Google has launched Google Message Discovery as an enterprise-focused add on for its Google Apps platform. Google Message Discovery goes well beyond a simple and reliable e-mail backup system and provides three key features of interest to records managers: Content-addressable storage for electronic mail stored immediately upon sending or retrieval Creating explicit retention policies based upon time Compliance with relevant laws and best practices Straightforward discovery for any use, regardless if internal or concerning litigation Google Message Discovery, as well as other related offerings such as e-mail security, clearly has its origins in Google's acquisition of Postini last year. Postini isn't some startup with dubious or perpetually beta offerings (e.g. Dodgeball or GrandCentral); some of their better known clients include BASF and Merrill Lynch. At $25 per user per year, the service seems to be an incredible steal.
  • DataPortability.org and the Dream of a Web 2.0 Backup System

    I just discovered DataPortability.org through Peter Van Garderen's blog post about it. I was entirely surprised that I'd heard nary a peep about it. Some basic examination (running a WHOIS query on the domain) shows that it's still a fairly new project. I have to say, though, that I'm entirely impressed. Those involved have given a whole lot of thought to how they're going to be doing things, as evidenced by those who have signed up to be involved and the DataPortability Charter. To wit, the Charter's principles tend to speak for themselves: We want sovereignty over the profiles, relationships, content and media we create and maintain. We want open formats, protocols and policies for identity discovery, data import, export and sync. We want to protect user rights and privacy. And, of course, the thing that made me squeal with delight like a pig in mud: 4. DataPortability will not inventing any new standards. I mean, that's probably the best news that someone like me could get.
  • Throwing Out the Baby, the Bathwater, and the Bathtub: The Sad State of the Archives and Archivists Listserv

    Today, Nancy Beaumont, Executive Director of the Society of American Archivists, made an announcement on the Archives & Archivists listserv that SAA would no longer retain the first thirteen years of posts from the listserv. During this time the listserv was hosted by Miami University of Ohio, and last September, the list was moved to an SAA server. This stems from a decision made by SAA Council that they not retain the archives for three reasons: 1) an appraisal decision informed by the SAA's archives at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, 2) a consideration of administrative issues, and 3) a consideration of cost. While the appraisal decision is well-informed by the claim that the list archives do not have evidential value as SAA records, the belief that these records have little informational value does not sit well with me. The list archives document the development of archives becoming a stronger profession in the face of technology and the creation of a tight-knit social network.