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.

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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.