AIMS Workshop pt. 2: Accessioning

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  • The second major area for investigation and development in AIMS has been the archival function of accessioning.In this section of the workshop, I am going to briefly introduce our investigation into accessioning of born-digital materials by collecting manuscript repositories. Then, Mark Matienzo will discuss one particular developmental activity of that investigation, developing an accessioning process at Yale’s Manuscripts and Archives. Next, we have asked a guest speaker, Seth Shaw, to present his own case study on accessioning. This will be followed by a short focus group discussion at our tables. Finally, we will all come back together for a quick review of the discussions.
  • Accessioning has been traditionally understood as the set of processes where a repository takes physical and legal custody of records from a donor and formally documents, or "registers" that transfer. The processes have clear links to both collection development and arrangement and description, and in some cases, institutions may view them as part of those processes. However, for a number of reasons, we have considered accessioning as a distinct primary function.Within our framework, accessioning serves a vital role to allow a collecting repository to establish physical, administrative, and intellectual control over records that have been transferred. The accessioning processes allow archivists to gather a wide variety of information that inform and prioritize other processes, such as arrangement and description, further appraisal, and requirements for access. Accessioning also provides an environment in which archivists can document their actions and ultimately transfer the accessioned records into an environment for their storage and maintenance.The goals of accessioning therefore reflect the need to establish control over and ensure the authenticity and reliability of transferred records. If a collecting repository is unable to establish an adequate level of control over transferred digital records, then it is likely that it has not successfully accessioned them. The archives may have instead simply accessioned containers of computer media, rather than actually accessioning digital records or manuscripts. Accordingly, archivists with "legacy" accessions of electronic records, such as those containing computer media, may want to consider "reaccessioning" those transfers to establish a suitable level of control.
  • During our investigation, AIMS has identified four primary functions of accessioning:Transfer records and gain administrative controlStabilize transferred recordsIntellectual control and documentation to support further processesMaintain accessioned recordsIn order to undertake these functions in real time, there is a great deal of preliminary work that must be undertaken. These prerequisites, like the other areas of the AIMS model, broadly fall into several categories; in this case, they are policies, procedures, and infrastructure.There are many policies required to support accessioning properly. These may range from departmental preferences to absolute requirements set at the institutional level. Policies crucial to accessioning must cover a number of topics, including:File format and normalizationHow to deal with legacy media in collections How to deal with retention and/or separation when dealing with physical media and/or  computers Intellectual property, privacy, restrictions, and permissions issuesService level agreement for storage and other technical needs, Discovery, disposal, retention, or even neutralization of viruses or malwareProcedures, in the form of institutional practices and workflows, are also essential to successful accessioning of digital records. These workflows may include a number of different models for accessioning, such as accessioning as baseline or minimal processing, co-accessioning of born-digital materials with paper records, deferment of e-records accessioning, accessioning as resources allow, and retrospective accessioning of previously received electronic records.Infrastructure to support accessioning includes a wide variety of software and hardware. Much of this software and hardware is expensive both in terms of upfront and ongoing costs, as well as in terms of the staff time needed to use and support it. This is particularly true when one considers the emerging use of forensic software in the archives as we have. Dealing with a variety of media and types of records also requires a collecting repository to have the appropriate level of expertise and flexibility as well. This expertise will take resources to build, and archivists are urged to consider collaborative partnerships to allow for the better sharing of knowledge.  
  • The transfer and administrative control processes in the AIMS framework are very similar to those for other formats of records. Archivists should ensure that the necessary documentation has been established and reviewed. The activities include:Ensuring legal agreement has been received and filedReviewing documentation generated in collection development in preparation for transferTransferring material in accordance with donor/transfer agreementsVerifying transferDocumenting transfer in register, accession record, etc. There is a distinction between accessioning digital records and accessioning the media on which the records are received.Archivists working with electronic records should be familiar with the various types for transfers and their implications. Types of transfers can include receipt of retired media formerly in use by a creator, records copied to media only used for transfer (such as external hard drives, CDs or DVDs), or a direct transfer using disk imaging software or by copying files across a network. Using any of these methods, transfers should be verified to ensure their success.Scale necessitates automated procedures creating documentation.
  • Once the records are under administrative control, archivists should focus their efforts on stabilizing the digital records. This work includes a number of tasks like integrity checking and identifying and potentially addressing threats preservation issues in the records, such as viruses, unknown or not preferred file formats, and the physical condition of media.Institutions may choose to document the media they've received in a variety of ways, such as spreadsheets containing information about the format, label text, and physical condition.  Some institutions may choose to photograph the media to provide more thorough documentation, particularly if the media is viewed as having artifactual value.
  • Archivists next need to establish intellectual control and gather documentation that will enable further work necessary to process, maintain, or use the records. Those  responsible for accessioning electronic records should think strategically about the types of documentation most useful or necessary within their repository. This is the opportunity to assess the content of the records and create some high-level description that may include information like: Creator, dates of creationExtentIntellectual property and other rights statusesSubjects or contents descriptionTypes of recordsThis may not be easy documentation to create; particularly for certain kinds of digital media.
  • Once the records are under an adequate level of physical, administrative, and intellectual control, the archivist should prepare the records to be maintained over time. This includes a number of activities, like:Performing necessary normalizations to preservation formats (and, optionally, access formats)Creating package for storage containing records and metadataTransferring package to storage environmentVerifying success of transferCreating metadata on record storage location, any normalization information, and success of transfer in appropriate locationUltimately, the records should also be transferred to a secure storage location that can be monitored by the collecting repository. This seems like a straight forward obvious task. However, we have seen many collecting manuscript repositories that do not have safe and sound storage for accessioned digital records. All too often, archives are forced to rely on ad hoc storage.
  • AIMS Workshop pt. 2: Accessioning

    1. 1. Accessioning<br />Kevin L. Glick<br />Yale University<br />
    2. 2. What is Accessioning?<br />Archival institution takes physical and legal custody of a group of records from a donor and documents the transfer in a register or other representation of the institution’s holdings<br />Within AIMS Framework<br />Processes which establish physical, administrative and intellectual control over transferred records; assessment and documentation of future needs; documentation of actions taken; beginning of safe storage and maintenance<br />
    3. 3. Elements of Accessioning<br />Prerequisites<br />Policies<br />Institutional practices and workflows<br />Software, hardware, and expertise to support transfer<br />Transfer records and gain administrative control<br />Stabilize transferred records<br />Intellectual control and documentation to support further processes<br />Maintain accessioned records<br />
    4. 4. Elements of Accessioning<br />Prerequisites<br />Transfer records and gain administrative control<br />Ensure legal agreement has been received and filed<br />Review documentation generated in collection development in preparation for transfer<br />Transfer material in accordance with donor/transfer agreements<br />Verify transfer<br />Document transfer in register, accession record, etc. <br />Stabilize transferred records<br />Intellectual control and documentation to support further processes<br />Maintain accessioned records<br />
    5. 5. Elements of Accessioning<br />Prerequisites<br />Transfer records and gain administrative control<br />Stabilize transferred records<br />Assign identifiers<br />Document media<br />Assess condition of media and records<br />Transfer records off media or image media<br />Harvest technical metadata from files and filesystem<br />Intellectual control and documentation to support further processes<br />Maintain accessioned records<br />
    6. 6. Elements of Accessioning<br />Prerequisites<br />Transfer records and gain administrative control<br />Stabilize transferred records<br />Intellectual control and documentation to support further processes<br />Harvest descriptive and structural metadata from files/filesystems<br />Audit trails; lists of actions and whether they succeeded/failed<br />Future needs for processing, appraisal, access, and preservation<br />Restrictions<br />Identification of duplicate assets<br />Acknowledgement to donor<br />Maintain accessioned records<br />
    7. 7. Elements of Accessioning<br />Prerequisites<br />Transfer records and gain administrative control<br />Stabilize transferred records<br />Intellectual control and documentation to support further processes<br />Maintain accessioned records<br />Perform necessary normalizations to preservation formats (and, optionally, access formats)<br />Create package for storage containing records and metadata<br />Transfer package to storage environment<br />Verify success of transfer<br />Record storage location, any normalization information, and success of transfer in appropriate location<br />

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