Practical Digital Preservation: In-House Solutions to Digital Preservation for Small Institutions

By Tyler McNally

This post is the tenth post in our series on processing digital materials.

Many archives don’t have the resources to install software or subscribe to a service such as Archivematica, but still have a mandate to collect and preserve born-digital records. Below is a digital-preservation workflow created by Tyler McNally at the University of Manitoba. If you have a similar workflow at your institution, include it in the comments. 

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Recently I completed an internship at the University of Manitoba’s College of Medicine Archives, working with Medical Archivist Jordan Bass. A large part of my work during this internship dealt with building digital infrastructure for the archive to utilize in working on digital preservation. As a small operation, the archive does not have the resources to really pursue any kind of paid or difficult to use system.

Originally, our plan was to use the open-source, self-install version of Archivematica, but certain issues that cropped up made this impossible, considering the resources we had at hand. We decided that we would simply make our own digital-preservation workflow, using open-source and free software to convert our files for preservation and access, check for viruses, and create checksums—not every service that Archivematica offers, but enough to get our files stored safely. I thought other institutions of similar size and means might find the process I developed useful in thinking about their own needs and capabilities.

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Call for Contributors – #digitalarchivesfail: A Celebration of Failure

Here on bloggERS!, we love to publish success stories. But we also believe in celebrating failure–the insights that emerge out of challenges, conundrums, and projects that didn’t quite work out as planned. All of us have failed and grown into wiser digital archives professionals as a result. We believe that failures don’t get enough airtime, and thanks to a brilliant idea from guest editor Rachel Appel, Digital Projects & Services Librarian at Temple University, we’re starting a new series to change that: #digitalarchivesfail: A Celebration of Failure.

So, tell us: when have you experienced failure when dealing with digital records, what did the experience reveal, and why is the wisdom gleaned worth celebrating? Tell us the story of your #digitalarchivesfail.

A few topics and themes to get you thinking (but we’re open to all ideas!):

  • Failed projects (What factors and complexities caused the project to fail? What’s the best way to pull the plug on a project? Are there workflows, tools, best practices, etc. that could be developed to help prevent similar failures?)
  • Experiences with troubleshooting and assessment (to identify or prevent points of failure)
  • Times when you’ve tried to make things work when they’ve failed or aren’t perfect
  • Murphy’s law
  • Areas where you think the archives profession might be “failing” and should focus its attention

In the spirit of celebrating failure, we encourage all authors to take pride in their #digitalarchivesfails, but if there is a story you really want to tell and you prefer to remain anonymous, we will accept unsigned posts.

Writing for bloggERS!

  • Posts should be between 200-600 words in length
  • Posts can take many forms: instructional guides, in-depth tool exploration, surveys, dialogues, point-counterpoint debates are all welcome!
  • Write posts for a wide audience: anyone who stewards, studies, or has an interest in digital archives and electronic records, both within and beyond SAA
  • Align with other editorial guidelines as outlined in the bloggERS! guidelines for writers

Posts for this series will start soon, so let us know ASAP if you are interested in contributing by sending an email to ers.mailer.blog@gmail.com!

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Thanks to series guest editor Rachel Appel for inspiring this series and collaborating with us on this call for contributions!