The Best of BDAX: Five Themes from the 2016 Born Digital Archiving & eXchange

By Kate Tasker

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Put 40 digital archivists, programmers, technologists, curators, scholars, and managers in a room together for three days, give them unlimited cups of tea and coffee, and get ready for some seriously productive discussions.

This magic happened at the Born Digital Archiving & eXchange (BDAX) unconference, held at Stanford University on July 18-20, 2016. I joined the other BDAX attendees to tackle the continuing challenges of acquiring, discovering, delivering and preserving born-digital materials.

The discussions highlighted five key themes to me:

1) Born-digital workflows are, generally, specific

We’re all coping with the general challenges of born-digital archiving, but we’re encountering individual collections which need to be addressed with local solutions and resources. BDAXers generously shared examples of use cases and successful workflows, and, although these guidelines couldn’t always translate across diverse institutions (big/small, private/public, IT help/no IT help), they’re a foundation for building best practices which can be adapted to specific needs.

2) We need tools

We need reliable tools that will persist over time to help us understand collections, to record consistent metadata and description, and to discover the characteristics of new content types. Project demos including ePADD, BitCurator Access, bwFLA – Emulation as a Service, UC Irvine’s Virtual Reading Room, the Game Metadata and Citation Project, and the University of Michigan’s ArchivesSpace-Archivematica-DSpace Integration project gave encouragement that tools are maturing and will enable us to work with more confidence and efficiency. (Thanks to all the presenters!)

3) Smart people are on this

A lot of people are doing a lot of work to guide and document efforts in born-digital archiving. We need to share these efforts widely, find common points of application, and build momentum – especially for proposed guidelines, best guesses, and continually changing procedures. (We’re laying this train track as we go, but everybody can get on board!) A brilliant resource from BDAX is a “Topical Brain Dump” Google doc where everyone can share tips related to what we each know about born-digital archives (hat-tip to Kari Smith for creating the doc, and to all BDAXers for their contributions).

4) Talking to each other helps!

Chatting with BDAX colleagues over coffee or lunch provided space to compare notes, seek advice, make connections, and find reassurance that we’re not alone in this difficult endeavor. Published literature is continually emerging on born-digital archiving topics (for example, born-digital description), but if we’re not quite ready to commit our own practices to paper magnetic storage media, then informal conversations allow us to share ideas and experiences.

5) Born-digital archiving needs YOU

BDAX attendees brainstormed a wide range of topics for discussion, illustrating that born-digital archiving collides with traditional processes at all stages of stewardship, from appraisal to access. All of these functions need to be re-examined and potentially re-imagined. It’s a big job (*understatement*) but brings with it the opportunity to gather perspective and expertise from individuals across different roles. We need to make sure everyone is invited to this party.

How to Get Involved

So, what’s next? The BDAX organizers and attendees recognize that there are many, many more colleagues out there who need to be included in these conversations. Continuing efforts are coalescing around processing levels and metrics for born-digital collections; accurately measuring and recording extent statements for digital content; and managing security and storage needs for unprocessed digital accessions. Please, join in!

You can read extensive notes for each session in this shared Google Drive folder (yes, we did talk about how to archive Google docs!) or catch up on Tweets at #bdax2016.

To subscribe to the BDAX email listserv, please email Michael Olson (mgolson[at]stanford[dot]edu), or, to join the new BDAX Slack channel, email Shira Peltzman (speltzman[at]library[dot]ucla[dot]edu).

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ktasker-profile-picKate Tasker works with born-digital collections and information management systems at The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. She has an MLIS from San Jose State University and is a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists. Kate attended Capture Lab in 2015 and is currently designing workflows to provide access to born-digital collections.

Digital Preservation in the News: Copyright and Abandonware

Heads up for anyone with an interest in video game preservation…

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is seeking an exemption to the Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies (17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)). The exemption is proposed for users who want to modify “videogames that are no longer supported by the developer, and that require communication with a server,” in order to serve player communities who want to keep maintain the functionality of their games–as well as “archivists, historians, and other academic researchers who preserve and study video games[.]” The proposal emphasizes that the games impacted by this exemption would not be persistent worlds (think World of Warcraft or Eve Online), but rather those games “that must communicate with a remote computer (a server) in order to enable core functionality, and that are no longer supported by the developer.”

The exemption is opposed by the Entertainment Software Association, representing major American (ESA) game publishers and platform providers. The ESA response to the EFF proposal argues that the scope of the proposed exemption is too broadly defined, and that “permitting circumvention of video game access controls would increase piracy, significantly reduce users’ options to access copyrighted works on platforms and devices, anddecrease the value of these works for copyright owners[.]”

In addition to the comments by the EFF, ESA, and their respective supporters, there are also a number of articles which go into much greater detail on this issue.

What do you think? Should there be a legal exemption for modifying unsupported (but still copyright-protected) video games to ensure their enduring usability?

The latest round of public comment on the proposed exemption closes on May 1, 2015. To voice your opinion, follow this link to Copyright.gov, where you can learn more and submit a comment voicing your opinion on this and other existing proposals.

Martin Gengenbach is an Assistant Archivist at the Gates Archive.