Creating an Archivist Bootcamp for Born-Digital Access

By Daniel Johnson

This post is the second in a bloggERS series about access to born-digital materials.

At the 2015 SAA conference in Cleveland, I participated in a born-digital hackfest along with about 50 other people, with the purpose of developing proposals for collaborative projects that would help address current obstacles to born-digital access in the following areas: Advocacy for Access, Understanding Users for Access, Agile for Access, and an Archivist Bootcamp.

My group was assigned the task of putting together a proposal for a hands-on Archivist Bootcamp for Born-Digital Access that would train attendees to provide access to born-digital content. Our group discussed a variety of topics, including the growing need to provide access to born-digital material, how to design a bootcamp for an audience with differing skill levels, topics to be included in the bootcamp, other similar existing programs, and the pros and cons of an in-person bootcamp.

After the hackfest, we began an iterative process to create a formal proposal. You can view and comment on the proposal here. The proposed two-day bootcamp would cover a full range of expertise necessary to facilitate access to born-digital materials, from hard technical skills to soft people skills. We also established some broad topics that such a bootcamp could cover:

  • Establishing policies
  • Technical implementation case studies and best practices
  • Hands-on technical sessions
  • Reference for born-digital materials
  • Advocacy/program development — Interactions with managers
  • Workflows for access
  • Donor relations
  • User relations — Working with researchers
  • Risk assessment — Access vs. security/privacy
  • Processing for access

Although the bootcamp itself is designed to be a hands-on two-day experience, additional infrastructure will be needed to ensure the viability of the training.  A centralized wiki, in conjunction with online forums with a specific focus on accessing born-digital material, will provide information to bootcamp participants prior to attending and will also serve the wider community as a resource in its own right.

Information added to the wiki and forums will inform the curriculum of the bootcamp. New information and ideas uncovered during bootcamp sessions will bolster the online tools, which could eventually develop into something like a virtual bootcamp or ongoing webinar series. In other words, the bootcamp and online infrastructure would help sustain each other.

There is still a lot of work to do. Most importantly, we need to put together a project team. This will include 5-10 people to develop/design the bootcamp and identify possible instructors, funding sources, and spaces to hold the bootcamps. At this time, we are seeking volunteers for the project team, as well as feedback on all aspects of the proposal. We are in the beginning stages of this project and want it to accurately assess the needs of the community to provide access to born digital materials. Please feel welcome to send comments, ideas, and questions to the Born-Digital Access Hackfest Team Leader, Daniel Johnson (daniel-h-johnson [at] uiowa [dot] edu), and Researcher, Alison Clemens (alison.clemens [at] yale [dot] edu).

Daniel Johnson is the Digital Preservation Librarian at The University of Iowa focusing on the long-term preservation of digital and born-digital material. Previously Johnson worked as a project archivist at Brown University running a CLIR grant to process The Gordon Hall and Grace Hoag Collection of Dissenting and Extremist Printed Propaganda and as a digital archivist at The HistoryMakers African American Video Oral History Archive.

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