UCL Digital Humanities visitHow will history remember you…?Wellcome Library, May 2013Dave ThompsonDigital Curator, Wellcome Library
What’s a digital curator…?1. If you ever find out please let me know. I’m supposedto be preserving digital stuff…2. Day to day responsibility for 2 systems; #Goobi &Safety Deposit Box #sdb – for responsibility read‘Fixing’.3. Work with archivists in the acquisition & long termmanagement of born digital stuff, i.e. problem solving.4. Work with digitisation team on systemrequirements/functionality & process management,i.e. making systems do stuff better.
So, how do I spend my day…?1. Planning. Planning. Planning. Meetings. Meetings.Meetings.2. Project management. Deadlines. Budgets.Objectives. Reporting. Planning. Meetings.3. Process management, how we do stuff, how can wedo it better.4. Tiny, tiny, tiny part of my time spent on actuallymanaging data.
Why do we need to preserve data…?1. Technical reasons, e.g. obsolescence, but also social& economic reasons.2. Formats, media, hardware, software eventuallybecomes obsolete. Data remains an economic good.3. Personal papers provide a unique insight.4. Some data can’t be re-created at any cost, e.g.personal diaries or geophysical data.
So, I canthink of fourlessons, in noparticularorder…
1. Nothing without imagination1. The power of preservation can only be revealed if wecan imagine the uses the data can be put to.2. Data management is not an exercise in technology forits own sake.3. There is nothing that cannot be achieved, but it takesmore than computers & software.4. Successful long term data management is aboutengaging with creators & consumers, with the data &with the future.
2. It’s not my job…1. My role is to pick up where creators left off. At least forborn digital material.2. I can only work with what I’m given.3. Responsibility for creating data that has a sustainablefuture lies with creators.4. The future of the data lies in your hands. Help me out.
3. It is a quest for world domination1. The world is now dominated by data.2. Data creators need to understand the impact ofdecisions they make in creating data.3. Long term vision & data management planning areessential if a data based resource is to have benefits.4. Understanding how to manage data over time is thenew powerbase. Grasp it.
4. Its not a technical problem...1. Digital preservation is not a technical problem. Manytechnical issues already have solutions; it’s a socialproblem.2. Need to engage with data creators, get them to buildsustainable data sets. Need is for sharedresponsibility.3. The challenge is to move digital data into the futurenot just intact but in context & retaining its significanceas research material.4. This makes it a social problem.
So my lessons are that…1. Long term management of data is an opportunity to becreative & imaginative, but also to be challenged.2. Data creators must take more responsibility increating sustainable data sets.3. To understand the management of data is to assumesignificant power.4. The long term management of data is a socialproblem we all share.
‘Doesnt matter if you areHitler, Nero or Napoleon,because archivists,librarians and historians willhave the final word on yourlife.’Twitter, HistoryNeedsYou (RT by DavidUnderdown 20Jan 2013.)