Posts Tagged ‘Archive’

Archives and Society seminar
6 November 2012
Kirsten Ferguson-Boucher (University of Aberystwyth)
Computer-Assisted Review


computer (shutterstock)Kirsten Ferguson-Boucher talks about Computer-Assisted Review (also called content analysis amongst other things).  There is a lot of detail here about the variety of elements that make up archival practices and the increasing need to rely on computers to aid in this task.  The issues surrounding Big Data – including volume (amount of data), velocity (the increasing flow of data), Veracity (preservation issues), and value (what do we gain by saving and managing this data for the future?) – are all vital elements in the Information governance and insurance agenda.

Ferguson-Boucher works here way through the complexity of the subject and makes comparisons between the UK and US approaches and legal variations.  She concludes that computers enable archivists and lawyers to reduce the error in their work, but this is by no means a replacements.  Computers need to be used in conjunction with human investigators to assess and analyse materials.

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Archives and Society seminar
23 October 2012
Dr Andrew Flinn (UCL) and Anna Sexton (UCL)
Exploring Participatory Approaches to Archives 

shutterstock_60840838[1]Andrew Flinn begins the discussion into exploring participatory approaches with a talk that explains why this approach differs from the older model of provision and professional-only working practises, and how this might help archivists and the users of archives work together collaboratively to improve services, knowledge, and capacity.  This is about bringing down the walls that separate the user from the provider, but not in a way that would undermine either.  It is a method to engaged people much more with the resources and processes in the archives sector.

Anna Sexton takes over the discussion by talking about her own research project.  This is the development of a participatory digital archive on the subject of recovery in mental health.  Each individual who has had the experience of recovery is asked to develop an archive that is personal to them.  This is managed by Sexton and seeks to address issues of injustice and to use social action to solve social problems.  In the second half of her paper, Sexton examines criticisms of the participatory approach and compares those issues to her own project.  She realises that there are issues in the approach (how representative is it?  How collaborative is the process and is it any different than the top down approach traditionally carried out by archives?  How sustainable and transformative is it?), but believes it to be a valuable addition and methodology.

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Archives & Society
Electronic records/digital preservation
Simon Wilson (Hull History Centre)
6 March 2012

Simon Wilson admits that some years ago the thought of putting together a repository of digital materials was scary for him and his colleagues.  However, with the help of a successful grant funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Hull History Centre became partnered with colleagues at the Universities of Virginia, Stanford, and Yale on a project entitled AIMS (Born Digital Collections: An Inter-Institutional Model for Stewardship).  This grant enabled the archivists at Hull to focus entirely on born-digital documents for an extended length of time. 

In today’s paper, Wilson looks back over the project, what they learnt, and what ideas they have for other archives.  As part of the project a white paper was produced which is now available online.  This was written for archivists by archivists and looks at the entire process of archiving born-digital materials.

There are a variety of difficulties with learning to archive born-digital materials.  For starters the material can often be much larger than a physical copy whilst also appearing much smaller (for instance a pdf could contain thousands of pages).  Then there is the issue of formats and changes in technology.  At Hull they updated an old computer (which they now call their forensic workstation) that contained a zip drive, floppy drive, CD-ROM drive and, in addition, USB connectivity.  This enabled them to access digital material contained in old formats, check them, and upload them via USB.  Hull also takes photographs of the physical containers (i.e. the floppy disk itself) in the hope that this might also be useful to future research.  In addition they have learnt to use various tools that enable them to rapidly check file formats and other aspects of digital files. 

The AIMS project has given Hull confidence in considering the issues surrounding the collection, storage and management of born-digital archives.  This might include documents such as pdf’s, but also e-mails, letters, reports, blogs and websites amongst much else. 

The AIMS project was awarded Archive Pace Setter status which means that it is recognised as achieving an innovative approach to new methods of management and collection care.  The project also has a blog entitled Born Digital Archives which follows their process throughout the project and is well worth a look.

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Digital History
15 November 2011 
David Thomas and Valerie Johnson (TNA)
Does the Digital change anything?

Digital preservation is a hot topic in the world of archiving – just how do you preserve the digital record?  What do you keep?  What do you ignore?  These issues have always been crucial for archivists attempting to judge what will be useful for future researchers.  However, the digital poses specific problems as well.  For born-digital records when do you consider them complete?  A website (for example) can change regularly but still be considered complete – how do you archive something like that?  These are issues that David Thomas and Valerie Johnson from the National Archives tackle head-on.  David Thomas notes the American National Archives attempt to preserve US digital material on a scale beyond anything achievable in Britain.  However, does the scale necessarily matter?  Thomas believes that the concern over digital materials becoming unusable due to format changes  have, for the most part, proved unfounded.  Most projects, for instance, can still be accessible.  The issue is one more of survivability.  Of JISC and AHRC funded projects, Thomas believes around 10% have vanished entirely since the beginning of the dot.com boom. 

Valerie Johnson looks at the archive itself in more detail.  What should be kept and in what way?  How should archived digital materials be searchable?  What is the way forward?  There are hurdles still to overcome, and a recognition in the archive industry that digital materials will be scaling up over the coming decade and that means to catalogue and organise those materials are still required if those preserved materials are to be of any use to future researchers.  So does the digital change anything?  The answer here appears to be yes, but also no.


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