SAA 2019 recap | Session 204: Demystifying the Digital: Providing User Access to Born-Digital Records in Varying Contexts

by Steven Gentry


Introduction

Session 204 addressed how three dissimilar institutions—North Carolina State University (NCSU), the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS), and the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA)—are connecting their patrons with born-digital archival content. The panelists consisted of Emily Higgs (NCSU Libraries Fellow, North Carolina State University), Hannah Wang (Electronic Records & Digital Preservation Archivist, Wisconsin Historical Society), and Stefana Breitwieser (Digital Archivist, Canadian Centre for Architecture). In addition, Kelly Stewart (Director of Archival and Digital Preservation Services, Artefactual Systems) briefly spoke about the development of SCOPE, the tool featured in Breitwieser’s presentation.

Note: The content of this recap has been paraphrased from the panelists’ presentations and all quoted content is drawn directly from the panelists’ presentations.

Session summary

Emily Higgs’s presentation focused on the different ways that NCSU’s Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) staff enhance access to their born-digital archives. After a brief overview of NCSU’s collections, Higgs first described their lightweight workflow for bridging researchers and requested digital content, a process that involves SCRC staff accessing an administrator account on a reading room Macbook; transferring copies of requested content to a read-only folder shared with a researcher account; and limiting the computer’s overall  capabilities, such as restricting its internet and ports (the latter is accomplished via Endpoint Protector Basic). Should a patron want copies of the material, they simply drag and drop those resources into another folder for SCRC staff to review.

Higgs then described an experimental Named Entity Recognition (NER) workflow that employs spaCy and which allows archivists to better describefiles in NCSU’s finding aids.The workflow employs a Jupyter notebook (see her Github repository for more information) to automate the following process:

  • “Define directory [to be analyzed by spaCy].”
  • “Walk directory…[to retrieve] text files [such as PDFs].”
  • “Extract text (textract).”
  • “Process and NER (spaCy).”
  • “Data cleaning.”
  • “Ranked output of entities (csv) [which is based on the number of times a particular name appears in the files].”

Once the process is completed, the most frequent 5-10 names are placed in an ArchivesSpace scope and content note. Higgs concluded by emphasizing this workflow’s overall ease of use and noting that—in the future—staff will integrate application programming interfaces (APIs) to enhance the workflow’s efficiency.

Next to speak was Hannah Wang, who addressed how Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) has made its born-digital state government records more accessible. Wang began her presentation by discussing the Wisconsin State Preservation of Electronic Records Project (WiSPER) Project and its two goals:

  • “Ingest a minimum of 75 GB of scheduled [and processed] electronic records from state agencies.”
  • “Develop public access interface.” 

And explained the reasons behind Preservica’s selection:

  • WHS’s lack of significant IT support meant an easily implementable tool was preferred over open-source and/or homegrown solutions.
  • Preservica allowed WHS to simultaneously preserve and provide (tiered) access to digital records.
  • Preservica has a public-facing WordPress site, which fulfilled the second WiSPER grant objective.

Wang then addressed how WHS staff appropriately restricted access to digital records by placing records into one of three groupings:

  • “Content that has a legal restriction.”
  • “Content that requires registration and onsite viewing [such as email addresses].”
  • “Open, unrestricted content.” 

WHS staff actually achieved this goal by employing different methods to locate and restrict digital records:

  • For identification: 
    • Reviewing “[record] retention schedules…[and consulting with] agency [staff who would notify WHS personnel of sensitive content].” 
    • Using resources like bulk extractor
    • Reading records if necessary.
  • For restricting records:
    • Employing scripts—such as batch scripts—to transfer and restrict individual files and whole SIPs.

Wang demonstrated how WHS makes its restricted content accessible via Preservica:

  • “Content that has a legal restriction”: Only higher levels of description can be searched by external researchers, although patrons have information concerning how to access this content.
  • “Content that requires registration and onsite viewing”: Individual files can be located by external researchers, although researchers still need to visit the WHS to view materials. Again, information concerning how to access this content is provided.

Wang concluded her presentation by describing efforts to link materials in Preservica with other descriptive resources, such as WHS’s MARC records; expressing hope that WHS will integrate Preservica with their new ArchivesSpace instance; and discussing the usability testing that resulted in several upgrades to the WHS Electronic Records Portal prior to its release.

The penultimate speaker was Stefana Breitwieser, who spoke about SCOPE and its features. Breitwieser first discussed the “Archaeology of the Digital” project and how—through this project—the CCA acquired the bulk of its digital content, more than “660,000 files (3.5 TB).” In order to better enhance access to these resources, Breitwieser stressed that two problems had to be addressed:

  • “[A] long access workflow [that involved twelve steps].”
  • “Low discoverability.” Breitwieser stressed some issues with their current access tool included its inability to search across collections and its non-usage of metadata in Archivematica.

CCA staff ultimately decided on working alongside Artefactual Systems to build SCOPE, “an access interface for DIPs from Archivematica.” The goals of this project included:

  • “Direct user access to access copies of digital archives from [the] reading room.”
  • “Minimal reference intervention [by CCA staff].”
  • “Maximum discoverability using [granular] Archivematica-generated metadata.”
  • “Item-level searching with filtering and facetting.” 

To illustrate SCOPE’s capabilities, Breitwieser demonstrated the tool and its features (e.g. its ability to download DIPs) for the audience. During the presentation, she emphasized that although incredibly useful, SCOPE will ultimately supplement—rather than replace—the CCA’s finding aids. 

Breitwieser concluded by describing the CCA’s reading room—which include computers that possess a variety of useful software (e.g. computer-aided design, or CAD, software) and, like NCSU’s workstation, only limited technical capabilities—and highlighting CCA’s much simpler 5-step access workflow.

The final speaker, Kelly Stewart, spoke of SCOPE’s development process. Heavily emphasized during this presentation were Artefactual’s use of CCA user stories to develop “feature files”—or “logic-based, structured descriptions” of these user stories—that were used by Artefactual staff to build SCOPE. After its completion, Stewart noted that “user acceptance testing” occurred repeatedly until SCOPE was deemed ready. Stewart concluded her presentation with the hope that other archivists will implement and improve upon SCOPE.


Steven Gentry currently serves a Project Archivist at the Bentley Historical Library. His responsibilities include assisting with accessioning efforts, processing complex collections, and building various finding aids. He previously worked at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Tufts University, and the University of Baltimore.

DLF Forum & Digital Preservation 2017 Recap

By Kelly Bolding


The 2017 DLF Forum and NDSA’s Digital Preservation took place this October in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Each year the DLF Forum brings together a variety of digital library practitioners, including librarians, archivists, museum professionals, metadata wranglers, technologists, digital humanists, and scholars in support of the Digital Library Federation’s mission to “advance research, learning, social justice, and the public good through the creative design and wise application of digital library technologies.” The National Digital Stewardship Alliance follows up the three-day main forum with Digital Preservation (DigiPres), a day-long conference dedicated to the “long-term preservation and stewardship of digital information and cultural heritage.” While there were a plethora of takeaways from this year’s events for the digital archivist community, for the sake of brevity, this recap will focus on a few broad themes, followed by some highlights related to electronic records specifically.

As an early career archivist and a first-time DLF/DigiPres attendee, I was impressed by the DLF community’s focus on inclusion and social justice. While technology was central to all aspects of the conference, the sessions centered the social and ethical aspects of digital tools in a way that I found both refreshing and productive. (The theme for this year’s DigiPres was, in fact, “Preservation is Political.”) Rasheedah Phillips, a Philadelphia-based public interest attorney, activist, artist, and science fiction writer opened the forum with a powerful keynote about the Community Futures Lab, a space she co-founded and designed around principles of Afrofuturism and Black Quantum Futurism. By presenting an alternate model of archiving deeply grounded in the communities affected, Phillips’s talk and Q&A responses brought to light an important critique of the restrictive nature of archival repositories. I left Phillips’s talk thinking about how we might allow the the liberatory “futures” she envisions to shape how we design online spaces for engaging with born-digital archival materials, as opposed to modeling these virtual spaces after the physical reading rooms that have alienated many of our potential users.

Other conference sessions echoed Phillips’s challenge to archivists to better engage and center the communities they document, especially those who have been historically marginalized. Ricky Punzalan noted in his talk on access to dispersed ethnographic photographs that collaboration with documented communities should now be a baseline expectation for all digital projects. Rosalie Lack and T-Kay Sangwand spoke about UCLA’s post-custodial approach to ethically developing digital collections across international borders using a collaborative partnership framework. Martha Tenney discussed concrete steps taken by archivists at Barnard College to respect the digital and emotional labor of students whose materials the archives is collecting to fill in gaps in the historical record.

Eira Tansey, Digital Archivist and Records Manager at the University of Cincinnati and organizer for Project ARCC, gave her DigiPres keynote about how our profession can develop an ethic of environmental justice. Weaving stories about the environmental history of Pittsburgh throughout her talk, Tansey called for archivists to commit firmly to ensuring the preservation and usability of environmental information. Related themes of transparency and accountability in the context of preserving and providing access to government and civic data (which is nowadays largely born-digital) were also present through the conference sessions. Regarding advocacy and awareness initiatives, Rachel Mattson and Brandon Locke spoke about Endangered Data Week; and several sessions discussed the PEGI Project. Others presented on the challenges of preserving born-digital civic and government information, including how federal institutions and smaller universities are tackling digital preservation given their often limited budgets, as well as how repositories are acquiring and preserving born-digital congressional records.

Collaborative workflow development for born-digital processing was another theme that emerged in a variety of sessions. Annalise Berdini, Charlie Macquarie, Shira Peltzman, and Kate Tasker, all digital archivists representing different University of California campuses, spoke about their process in coming together to create a standardized set of UC-wide guidelines for describing born-digital materials. Representatives from the OSSArcFlow project also presented some initial findings regarding their research into how repositories are integrating open source tools including BitCurator, Archivematica, and ArchivesSpace within their born-digital workflows; they reported on concerns about the scalability of various tools and standards, as well as desires to transition from siloed workflows to a more holistic approach and to reduce the time spent transforming the output of one tool to be compatible with another tool in the workflow. Elena Colón-Marrero of the Computer History Museum’s Center for Software History provided a thorough rundown of building a software preservation workflow from the ground-up, from inventorying software and establishing a controlled vocabulary for media formats to building a set of digital processing workstations, developing imaging workflows for different media formats, and eventually testing everything out on a case study collection (and she kindly placed her whole talk online!)

Also during the forum, the DLF Born-Digital Access Group met over lunch for an introduction and discussion. The meeting was well-attended, and the conversation was lively as members shared their current born-digital access solutions, both pretty and not so pretty (but never perfect); their wildest hopes and dreams for future access models; and their ideas for upcoming projects the group could tackle together. While technical challenges certainly figured into the discussion about impediments to providing better born-digital access, many of the problems participants reported had to do with their institutions being unwilling to take on perceived legal risks. The main action item that came out of the meeting is that the group plans to take steps to expand NDSA’s Levels of Preservation framework to include Levels of Access, as well as corresponding tiers of rights issues. The goal would be to help archivists assess the state of existing born-digital access models at their institutions, as well as give them tools to advocate for more robust, user-friendly, and accessible models moving forward.

For additional reports on the conference, reflections from several DLF fellows are available on the DLF blog. In addition to the sessions I mentioned, there are plenty more gems to be found in the openly available community notes (DLF, DigiPres) and OSF Repository of slides (DLF, DigiPres), as well as in the community notes for the Liberal Arts Colleges/HBCU Library Alliance unconference that preceded DLF.


Kelly Bolding is a processing archivist for the Manuscripts Division at Princeton University Library, where she is responsible for the arrangement and description of early American history collections and has been involved in the development of born-digital processing workflows. She holds an MLIS from Rutgers University and a BA in English Literature from Reed College.

Inaugural #bdaccess Bootcamp: A Success Story

By Margaret Peachy

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

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At this year’s New England Archivists Spring Meeting, archivists who work with born-digital materials had the opportunity to attend the inaugural Born-Digital Access Bootcamp. The bootcamp was an idea generated at the born-digital hackfest, part of a session at SAA 2015, where a group of about 50 archivists came together to tackle the problem facing most archival repositories: How do we provide access to born-digital records, which can have different technical and ethical requirements than digitized materials?  Since 2015, a team has come together to form a bootcamp curriculum, reach out to organizations outside of SAA, and organize bootcamps at various conferences.

Excerpt of results from a survey administered in advance of the Bootcamp.

Alison Clemens and Jessica Farrell facilitated the day-long camp, which had about 30 people in attendance from institutions of all sizes and types, though the majority were academic. The attendees also brought a broad range of experience to the camp, from those just starting out thinking about this issue, to those who have implemented access solutions.

Continue reading

Latest #bdaccess Twitter Chat Recap

By Daniel Johnson and Seth Anderson

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

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In preparation for the Born Digital Access Bootcamp: A Collaborative Learning Forum at the New England Archivists spring meeting, an ad-hoc born-digital access group with the Digital Library Federation recently held a set of #bdaccess Twitter chats. The discussions aimed to gain insight into issues that archives and library staff face when providing access to born-digital.

Here are a few ideas that were discussed during the two chats:

  • Backlogs, workflows, delivery mechanisms, lack of known standards, appraisal and familiarity with software were major barriers to providing access.
  • Participants were eager to learn more about new tools, existing functioning systems, providing access to restricted material and complicated objects, which institutions are already providing access to data, what researchers want/need, and if any user testing has been done.
  • Access is being prioritized by user demand, donor concerns, fragile formats and a general mandate that born-digital records are not preserved unless access is provided.
  • Very little user testing has been done.
  • A variety of archivists, IT staff and services librarians are needed to provide access.

You can search #bdaccess on Twitter to see how the conversation evolves or view the complete conversation from these chats on Storify.

The Twitter chats were organized by a group formed at the 2015 SAA annual meeting. Stay tuned for future chats and other ways to get involved!

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Daniel Johnson is the digital preservation librarian at the University of Iowa, exploring, adapting, and implementing digital preservation policies and strategies for the long-term protection and access to digital materials.

Seth Anderson is the project manager of the MoMA Electronic Records Archive initiative, overseeing the implementation of policy, procedures, and tools for the management and preservation of the Museum of Modern Art’s born-digital records.

Announcing the Second #bdaccess Twitter Chats: 2/16 @ 2 and 9pm EST

By Daniel Johnson and Seth Anderson

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

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Contemplating how to provide access to born-digital materials? Wondering how to meet researcher needs for accessing and analyzing files? We are too! Join us for a Twitter chat on providing access to born digital records. This chat will help inform the Born Digital Access Bootcamp: A Collaborative Learning Forum at the New England Archivists spring meeting.

*When?* Thursday February, 16  at 2:00pm and 9:00pm EST
*How?* Follow #bdaccess for the discussion
*Who?* Information professionals, researchers, and anyone else interested in managing or using born-digital records

Newly-conceived #bdaccess chats are organized by an ad-hoc group that formed at the 2015 SAA annual meeting. We are currently developing a bootcamp to share ideas and tools for providing access to born-digital materials and have teamed up with the Digital Library Federation to spread the word about the project. Information and a Storify about our previous Twitter chat is available in a previous bloggERS post.

Understanding how researchers want to access and use digital archives is key to our curriculum’s success, so we’re taking it to the Twitter streets to gather feedback from practitioners and researchers. The following five questions will guide the discussion:

Q1. _What is your biggest barrier to providing #bdaccess to material?

Q2. _What do you most want to learn about providing #bdaccess?

Q3. _What factors and priorities (whether format-based, administrative, etc) motivate your institution to provide #bdaccess?

Q4. _Have you conducted user testing on any of your #bdaccess mechanisms?

Q5. _Who do you rely on in providing #bdaccess or in planning to do so?

Q6. _Would you be willing to showcase your methods of #bdaccess at the NEA Bootcamp?

Can’t join the chat on 2/16/2017 ? Follow #bdaccess for ongoing discussion and future chats!

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Daniel Johnson is the digital preservation librarian at the University of Iowa, exploring, adapting, and implementing digital preservation policies and strategies for the long-term protection and access to digital materials.

Seth Anderson is the project manager of the MoMA Electronic Records Archive initiative, overseeing the implementation of policy, procedures, and tools for the management and preservation of the Museum of Modern Art’s born-digital records.

#bdaccess Twitter Chat Recap

By Jess Farrell and Sarah Dorpinghaus

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

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An ad-hoc born-digital access group with the Digital Library Federation recently held two successful and informative #bdaccess Twitter chats that scratched the surface of the born-digital access landscape. The discussions aimed to gain insight on how researchers want to access and use digital archives and included questions on research topics, access challenges, and discovery methods.

Here are a few ideas that were discussed during the two chats:

You can search #bdaccess on Twitter to see how the conversation evolves or view the complete conversation from these chats on Storify.

The Twitter chats were organized by a group formed at the 2015 SAA annual meeting. We are currently developing a bootcamp to share ideas and tools for providing access to born-digital materials and have teamed up with the Digital Library Federation to spread the word about the project. Stay tuned for future chats and other ways to get involved!

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Jess Farrell is the curator of digital collections at Harvard Law School. Along with managing and preserving digital history, she’s currently fixated on inclusive collecting, labor issues in libraries, and decolonizing description.

Sarah Dorpinghaus is the Director of Digital Services at the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center. Although her research interests lie in the realm of born-digital archives, she has a budding pencil collection.

Announcing the First-Ever #bdaccess Twitter Chats: 10/27 @ 2 and 9pm EST

By Jess Farrell and Sarah Dorpinghaus

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

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Contemplating how to provide access to born-digital materials? Wondering how to meet researcher needs for accessing and analyzing files? We are too! Join us for a Twitter chat on providing access to born digital records.

*When?* Thursday, October 27 at 2:00pm and 9:00pm EST
*How?* Follow #bdaccess for the discussion
*Who?* Researchers, information professionals, and anyone else interested in using born-digital records

Newly-conceived #bdaccess chats are organized by an ad-hoc group that formed at the 2015 SAA annual meeting. We are currently developing a bootcamp to share ideas and tools for providing access to born-digital materials and have teamed up with the Digital Library Federation to spread the word about the project.

Understanding how researchers want to access and use digital archives is key to our curriculum’s success, so we’re taking it to the Twitter streets to gather feedback from digital researchers. The following five questions will guide the discussion:

Q1. _What research topic(s) of yours and/or content types have required the use of born digital materials?_

Q2. _What challenges have you faced in accessing and/or using born digital content? Any suggested improvements?_

Q3. _What discovery methods do you think are most suitable for research with born digital material?_

Q4. _What information or tools do/could help provide the context needed to evaluate and use born digital material?_

Q5. _What information about collecting/providing access would you like to see accompanying born digital archives?_

Can’t join on the 27th? Follow #bdaccess for ongoing discussion and future chats!

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Jess Farrell is the curator of digital collections at Harvard Law School. Along with managing and preserving digital history, she’s currently fixated on inclusive collecting, labor issues in libraries, and decolonizing description.

Sarah Dorpinghaus is the Director of Digital Services at the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center. Although her research interests lie in the realm of born-digital archives, she has a budding pencil collection.

Bits and Baby Steps: RAO Engages with Electronic Collection Material

By Stacey Lavender and Rachael Dreyer

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

Officially formed and charged in October 2014, the Society of American Archivists Reference, Access, and Outreach (RAO) Section’s Access to Electronic Records Working Group aimed to evaluate current practices and approaches to providing researchers with access to born-digital and electronic material. There were four initial parts of the working group’s charge:

  1. Conduct initial research to determine on which key focus areas related to reference, access, outreach, and preservation work the working group shall focus its efforts.
  2. Compile a bibliography of key resources, including publications, presentations, and workshops, which explore how archival institutions provide access to born-digital and electronic records. Other organizations active with electronic records will also be included in this resource list.
  3. Conduct a survey of the archival profession regarding current practices and attitudes towards providing access to born-digital and electronic records.
  4. Compile and analyze the survey data in order to identify challenges and opportunities which RAO can address.

The fourth part of the charge is currently underway, and while the data analysis isn’t complete, some big-picture trends have emerged.

While just about every respondent indicated that their institution was providing some access to electronic content (both digitized and born-digital), 89.5% of respondents indicated that at least some of their electronic materials are currently inaccessible to patrons.

A significant portion of this inaccessibility can be attributed to the same reasons that most institutions have some inaccessible analog materials. 18% of respondents reported a lack of time and staff resources as the cause of their electronic background, and 16% cited donor and/or legal restrictions as a contributing factor. However, the most common response by far (62%) came from those having trouble providing access to specific formats of materials. This problem of formats (dealing with obsolete media, obsolete hardware, and the threat of media degradation) as a prevalent and ongoing problem in providing access to electronic records was perhaps the strongest trend revealed in the survey.

Another trend that the survey highlighted was the simple fact that respondents are on the lookout for resources and education opportunities related to access to electronic records, and they’re open to using many different options.

Large percentages of respondents indicated an interest in participating in workshops (48.8%), viewing web resources (40.7%), standards/guidelines (34.9%), and professional assistance from archivists or IT professionals (43%). So it’s clear that the interest in educational opportunities and resources is there, we just need to figure out how best to meet that need.

It is also worth noting that the desire to develop partnerships with the IT professionals in our institutions was something that came up more than once in the survey.

In addition to the 43% of respondents mentioned above that were interested in professional assistance from IT professionals, about 84% cited lack of IT support as an obstacle of some concern when it came to providing access to their electronic materials.

We’ll delve even further into these trends (and some others!) in our survey report, which we plan to have out in the next couple of months. Overall it was very heartening to see that for the most part we’re dealing with similar problems, which means we can tackle them together!

Since so many of the concerns around access to born-digital materials focus on the technological constraints and requirements, end-user access has been relegated to a lower rung on the ladder. But here’s the thing: to get to the higher rungs on the ladder, you have to have a stable base with those lower rungs! So, increasingly, the focus has shifted to the end-users’ needs, as well as the need for appropriate levels of arrangement and description. Public-services archivists are keenly aware of the back-end processes—good arrangement and description is essential to assist researchers in navigating those records.

The working group hopes to help RAO archivists, as well as anyone else in the profession, to take concrete steps toward providing research access to born-digital and electronic records at their institutions. If you have ideas or projects that you would like to see the RAO working group take on, we would love to hear from you!

Rachael Dreyer is currently Head of Research Services for Special Collections at the Pennsylvania State University. She was formerly a reference archivist at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming. She’s very interested in balancing the needs of researchers with the technological “challenges” that born-digital collections present. She is Co-Chair of the RAO Access to Electronic Records Working Group.

Stacey Lavender recently completed a two-year stint as the Houston Arts and History Archives Fellow at the University of Houston. She’s most interested in working with born-digital materials, finding new and technologically innovative ways to provide access, and participating in public outreach initiatives to promote collections. She is Co-Chair of the RAO Access to Electronic Records Working Group.

Born-Digital and in the Virtual Reading Room

By Christine Kim

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

At the University of California, Irvine (UCI), we wanted to provide access to the rapidly growing volume of born-digital records but couldn’t really justify the time it would take to look through every single item to evaluate its relevance. This balance of providing access to researchers while simultaneously evaluating the digital content is a huge challenge we’re faced with as we justify collecting and preserving with promoting access to information.

What did we come up with? The Virtual Reading Room (VRR).

In order to for me to properly introduce the VRR and explain how it truly fits into our growing suite of digital resources, we need to back up a few paces. Let’s start from our digital collection page, UCIspace @ the Libraries, which we like to call UCIspace for short. UCIspace is where our digital collections currently live (though we have been working on a big move with the California Digital Library to transition to Calisphere) and includes a variety of materials, such as digitally reformatted collections (images, audio-visual files, oral histories, pdf documents, etc.), as well as born-digital collections. UCIspace is powered by DSpace, a highly customizable open source software package that preserves and enables open access to all sorts of digital files and is administered by the super amazing and incredibly talented IT folks at the UCI Libraries.

We currently have 13 collections on UCIspace, of which six collections include born-digital materials. The six collections may include both digitally reformatted as well as born-digital items, which all co-habitate in peace. They are all now digital and treated with equal amounts of care.

These six collections include born digital materials. Total views from date of creation to February 1, 2016.
These six collections include born-digital materials. Total views from date of creation to February 1, 2016.

 

Okay, so we have digitally reformatted and born-digital materials available through UCIspace. Then what’s the VRR all about? Well, our VRR is a virtual space that resides within UCIspace in order to provide an extra layer of security for certain items or sub-collections.

We were acquiring volumes and terabytes of hard drives and digital files and raw footage, and our collecting pace was not going to slow down to let us catch up with identifying its digital content. We learned from our physical backlog that if we waited, this material would never be available for access. But we also knew that we couldn’t just make this stuff available. Could we apply MPLP practice to born-digital materials?

That’s where the VRR comes in. We thought, hey, what if we have people agree to certain terms and conditions, and then put these items behind a login so that folks can have access once they agree to some conditions? We like to dream big. And so with that thought, we investigated with our IT unit to see what the possibilities and limitations were. As it turns out, they like to turn dreams into reality.

Any item within the VRR has a certain level of privacy–you can’t just go into the collection page and see the image. The item is “locked” and resides behind a login screen.

Items from the Mark Poster born digital files, 1985-2009. Top item is unrestricted. Bottom item indicates it is accessible through the Virtual Reading Room.
Items from the Mark Poster born-digital files, 1985-2009. Top item is unrestricted. Bottom item indicates it is accessible through the Virtual Reading Room.

Selecting an item within the VRR will prompt a login screen. In order to gain access, both remote researchers and those using reading room public workstations must request access via the VRR Registration Form.

Application for the Virtual Reading Room in UCISpace @ the Libraries.
Application for the Virtual Reading Room in UCISpace @ the Libraries.

Submitting this form provides the user with a login and password, but the most important factor is that the researcher agrees to certain terms and conditions as part of requesting access to VRR materials. These terms are indicated within the “Rules of Use.”

A check-box counts as a digital signature!
A check-box counts as a digital signature!

The “Rules of Use” lists a handful of conditions of use, including the statement: “All digital content in UCIspace @ the Libraries is made publicly available for use in research, teaching, and private study.” The complete “Rules of Use” document is available for all to read.

What type of collections are available in the VRR? For now, we have two collections with items in the VRR, the Mark Poster Born Digital files and the Richard Rorty Born Digital Files. One key aspect is that the entirety of the collection does not have to be in the VRR–DSpace allows us to create a collection, and manage sub-collections so that only selected portions of the collections are behind a login screen.

What are the results of the VRR? Well, here are some use statistics.

From date of creation to February 1, 2016.
From date of creation to February 1, 2016.

How did we make this happen? Having awesome teammates definitely helps. But along those lines, it also helps to have a clear understanding of how a great team operates. Communication, dreaming big, and having a mutual goal of providing excellent public services.

Please reach out to Christine Kim (christik [at] uci [dot] edu) if you have any questions about the Virtual Reading Room, UCIspace, or anything else about UCI Libraries Special Collections & Archives.

Kim_BornDigiandintheVirtualReadingRoom_ERSblog_6Christine Kim is the Public Services Assistant at the UC Irvine Libraries, Special Collections & Archives. She is responsible for connecting researchers with archival and special collections materials, and delights in sharing the resources uniquely available at UC Irvine. She holds an MLIS from San Jose State University and a BA in both History and Film & Media Studies from UC Irvine.

Ensuring Born-Digital Access at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library

By Rossy Mendez

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

By exploring the contents of a drive, archivists can obtain information about the contents of folders, the size of files, and details of creation. They can determine what hierarchies are in place by observing a file’s structure and nesting. Despite the richness of metadata available for digital records, archival description remains one of the biggest challenges of processing born-digital collections.

One of the ways that the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library of Princeton University has maximized EAD description has been to explore the definitions of EAD elements. Before I address how the Mudd Manuscript Library is doing this, I would like to provide a bit of a background of the library.

The Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library is part of the Rare Books and Special Collections Division at Princeton University. The Library houses and provides access to the university archives and public policy collections. In addition to 30,000+ linear feet of physical records, there are several collections of born-digital records that include student newsletters, the records of a former dean of the graduate school, and more recently, student activism.

Nearly all the staff at Mudd participate in the reference rotation. The benefit to this all-hands-on-deck approach is that the technical services team gains greater insight into how patrons use the collections and finding aids.

At Mudd, patrons can access born-digital collections remotely through the finding aids website.  Individuals can filter out digital material by selecting the “Available online” option from the faceted search menu or by accessing individual folders or items within a collection. By clicking “View Content,” patrons are linked directly to pdfs, images, and even videos. For restricted records, patrons with the appropriate credentials can use their username and password to access files.

Screenshot of Finding Aid for Tiger Hockey Email Newsletters, Princeton University Archives
Screenshot of Finding Aid for Tiger Hockey Email Newsletters, Princeton University Archives

Archivists at Mudd believe that description is an important part of providing access.

Three principles should drive the creation of born-digital description:

  • A user should be able to know what and how much born-digital content exists.
  • A user should be able to know where the digital content lives within the finding aid and have easy access to that content.
  • Moreover, a user should be able to deduct the context of record creation.

One of the most significant changes Mudd archivists made to local EAD description was to the <extent> element. Initially, archivists conceived of the <extent> field as the physical space files occupied in a drive: records were indicated in measures of files and bytes. However, a significant number of patrons do not understand this information. Replacing bytes with “Digital folders” and “Digital files” as a unit of measurement allowed patrons to learn about hierarchies and the arrangement of collections. Furthermore, the inclusion of the word “digital” provided a further indication of the nature of the material.

In addition to <extent>, the <unittitle> element plays an important role in differentiating between digitized and born-digital content. Since the access path is the same for all content, the word “digital” in the title statements at the series and subseries level provides a quick way to tell which sections have born-digital content.

Lastly, the <phystech> element ensures that patrons have as much information about the creation of the digital record as possible (including, for example, the type of computer used) and can address potential compatibility issues.

As archivists we should aim to provide complete access to our records. Good archival description releases the patron’s burden to investigate technical aspects and allows them to focus on what is most important: discovering information and sharing it with others.

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Rossy Mendez was formerly a Public Services Project Archivist at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. Currently, she is a Project Archivist at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, where she is working on processing the museum’s audio-visual collections and collaborating in the creation of a museum-wide metadata schema and the implementation of Archives Space.