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Preserving Digital Materials at the Smithsonian Institution Archives

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A presentation about the challenges of long term digital preservation of CAD, Digital Audio Tapes, digital videotapes, websites, social media, email, text documents, and images at the Smithsonian …

A presentation about the challenges of long term digital preservation of CAD, Digital Audio Tapes, digital videotapes, websites, social media, email, text documents, and images at the Smithsonian Institution Archives. Given by Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig, Electronic Archivist, at the Smithsonian Institution Digitization Fair held in Washington, DC in 2010.

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  • 1. Preserving Digital Materials at the Smithsonian Institution Archives
    Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig
    Electronic Records Archivist
  • 2. Long-term digital preservation
    More than 350 accessions contain electronic records in a variety of types including video, sound, images, databases, applications, websites, and text. These range from exhibit planning documents to unit handbooks to conference images.
    One collection can contain thousands of files
    Files arrive via removable media or file transfer
    Goal is to ensure authenticity, integrity, and accessibility
    Use best practices and accepted archival standards
    Use formats that are open, lossless, and widely accepted. Proprietary formats, i.e., Microsoft Word and WordPerfect are problematic
    Document all processing steps including virus scans and checksums
    Perform full-level preservation as much as possible. Bit preservation at minimum for files we cannot convert or emulate.
    Original files always maintained
    Images and video are the top types in terms of size
    Files kept on backed-up SIA servers, LTO tapes
  • 3. CAD – Computer assisted design
    A 2-D CAD drawing of an aerial view of the plan for the National Museum of the American Indian, 2003. View in AutoCAD proprietary software. SIA Accession 06-012
  • 4. Same 2-D CAD drawing preserved as a PDF file. SIA Accession 06-012
  • 5. Digital audio tapes
    Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra
    Lena Horne
    Jazz Smithsonian Radio Broadcast with Lena Horne, “A Spanish Tinge,” 1997
    All clips from SIA Accession 04-062
    Introduction by David Baker, SMJO
    “Manteca” performed by SMJO
    Using DAT machine on loan from Smithsonian Folkways to conduct digital-to-digital transfers
    Audio files being preserved as WAV/Broadcast WAV
  • 6. Digital Video
    “The Colbert Report – National Treasure: Portrait of Stephen” video
    SIA Accession 10-111
    NASM Udvar-Hazy Center preview video
    SIA Accession 04-055
    • Digital A/V files are huge and complex
    • 7. Preservation tools and formats/codecs not as straightforward as other types.
    • 8. We also have been digitizing our video histories
  • SI Websites and social media
    Archiving SI websites since the late 1990s through a variety of methods
    Now using open-source archival crawler Heritrix and other tools for social media captures
  • 9. Email collections
    Conducted three-year grant-funded project to study techniques for long-term preservation of email collections
    Resulted in tools and procedures now in use
    at SI Archives
  • 10. Images
    Roxie C. Laybourne, a pioneering forensic scientist at the Smithsonian Institution,
    examines aircraft parts.
    SIA Accession
    04-086
    Exhibition photograph from the National Portrait Gallery’s “Champions of American Sport.”
    SIA Accession 09-066
    Original formats include GIF, JPG, EPS, TIF, PCD, etc.
    Accepted preservation format currently is TIF.
    Smithsonian American Art Museum staff paints the “Wall of Expression” in commemoration of Sept. 11, 2001.
    SIA Accession 03-127
  • 11. Text documents
    MS Word document
    from SIA Accession 02-094
    WordPerfect document
    from SIA Accession 95-052
    Rich Text
    Format (RTF) document
    from SIA Accession 06-058
    Numerous word-processing files and spreadsheets
    Preservation format is PDF/A or PDF