Digital Destiny


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Presentation on electronic records management and archival issues. Originally presented at the Fall 2008 meeting of the Southeastern Wisconsin Archivists Group

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Digital Destiny

  1. 1. Brad Houston University Records Archivist University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  2. 2. <ul><li>More records created since 1945 than during the 3000 years before that </li></ul><ul><li>90% of all of these new records are born-digital </li></ul><ul><li>Electronic records are ephemeral! </li></ul><ul><li>Electronic records are intangible! </li></ul><ul><li>Electronic records are decentralized! (multiple creators) </li></ul><ul><li>Result: massive challenges for institutional archivists </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Give detailed instructions on setting up an electronic records program at your institution </li></ul><ul><li>Endorse or explain specific Records Management Applications (RMAs) </li></ul><ul><li>Tell you that your electronic records management system is WRONG </li></ul><ul><li>Pretend to be the last word on electronic records </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Provide an overview of electronic records challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Examine how the “functions” of archival practice (appraisal, processing, access, etc.) change in light of electronic records </li></ul><ul><li>Provide some (not all) vital characteristics to look for in archival e-recs systems </li></ul><ul><li>Allow for lots of discussion and feedback at the end </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>UWM Archival Collection 200: University Communications and Media Relations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mixed media (mostly photographs), including digital photos </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>First ‘born-digital’ accession of material in UWM Archives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Processed Spring 2008 by UWM SOIS fieldworker </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mistakes were made by professional staff: here’s how to avoid them! </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Data or information that has been captured and fixed for storage and manipulation in an automated system and that requires the use of the system to render it intelligible by a person. ( Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Strictly speaking, it is not possible to preserve an electronic record…” ( Luciana Duranti) </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>Digitized: records scanned into the system for access or preservation purposes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Behaves” like analog records– usually discrete, usually separable for RM purposes </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Born Digital: records created ‘on-line’ for electronic use, disposition </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Often linked to other records (e.g. in a relational database), making it hard to separate/schedule </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Requires unique identity of records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dates made, transmitted, received, filed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Names of authors, addressee, recipient, creators </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Requires provable integrity of records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Name of handling office </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Name of records custodian </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Indication of annotations, modification actions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Indication of technical modifications </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Message : Is the content of the document adequately preserved? </li></ul><ul><li>Media : Is the storage medium durable enough to retain its integrity over time? </li></ul><ul><li>Metadata : Is there enough supplementary info to contextualize and prove authenticity of the document? </li></ul><ul><li>If you lose even one of these components of an electronic record, you have not adequately preserved it . </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Make sure your records management program is up to date! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Records Schedules! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Electronic Document Management! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Electronic Records Management! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Note: EDMS and ERMS are NOT the same! </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Training, Workshops, Outreach! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Fundamental message: E-recs are records too! </li></ul></ul></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>Includes rules which govern: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Which documents are eligible for inclusion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Who inputs/removes records (“trusted custodian”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How long records remain (Classification system) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How to remove expired records (retention scheduling) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Key function: guaranteeing ongoing authenticity of records </li></ul><ul><li>DoD 5015.2: U.S. standard for TRSs </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>Electronic records are tricky to deal with without RM, but by no means impossible </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Coordinate metadata collection/transfer procedures with organization records manager </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work with targeted creators directly to encourage file organization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Talk to your IT dept., administration about RM utility, functional requirements </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>Received directly from Univ. Communications and media relations; maintained case file </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chain of custody, context of digital photos </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Submitted on CD-Rs along with analog photos </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Immutability of format suggests authenticity </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Problem: no trusted recordkeeping system at UWM </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Authenticity is presumed, but not demonstrated </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>None active yet, but we’re working on it… </li></ul><ul><li>UWM uses Xythos for shared file storage </li></ul><ul><ul><li>EDMS capabilities should be enabled within year </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ERMS capabilities are DoD 5015.2 compliant, but have not been discussed in detail yet </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Importance of “getting in on the ground floor” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Talk to your IT dept. about TRS requirements! </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Knowledge </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Information Ecosystem </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Information Studies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Documentary Forms in the Digital Environment </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Skills </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Management Skills </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technical Skills </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Soft Skills </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>How to survey mass quantities of e-records? </li></ul><ul><li>How to appraise series of interrelated e-recs? </li></ul><ul><li>How to prepare records for accession? </li></ul><ul><li>“ Post-custodial era?” </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Increased role of questionnaires/surveys </li></ul><ul><li>Przyblya and Huth: we should become partners and students of creators and IT staff </li></ul><ul><li>Swain: Appraise at series level, NOT item or folder level </li></ul><ul><li>Key point: understand how systems work to document transactions– appraisal follows naturally </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>Moving records from recordkeeping to preservation system </li></ul><ul><li>Based on work Wilczek and Glick did at Tufts and Yale </li></ul><ul><li>Involves creation of SIPs (Submission Information Packages) and AIPs (Archival Information Packages) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Content information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Preservation Description Information </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>Establish relationship, define project, collect information </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Creation of XML schema for records </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Assess value, record types, formats, identification, copyright, access rights </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Create or modify policies for each of above </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Assess recordkeeping system </li></ul><ul><li>Assess feasibility of submission project </li></ul><ul><li>Finalize submission agreement </li></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>Create and Transfer Submission Info Packs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Includes: metadata, digital signatures, transformation audit trail </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Validate SIPs and transform metadata </li></ul><ul><li>Formulate Archival Info Packs and create configuration rules </li></ul><ul><li>Assess AIPs </li></ul><ul><li>Formally accession </li></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>Photos were transferred in 2006, so preliminary appraisal did not occur </li></ul><ul><li>Photos were grouped within CD-R by subject </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Within directories, often many shots of same event from different angles, different lighting, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fieldworker grouped photographs within subject by event pictured, then sampled </li></ul><ul><li>Lessons learned: encourage better use of metadata by producers </li></ul>
  22. 23. <ul><li>Do traditional arrangement schemes apply? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What constitutes an electronic “series”? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Is “folder-level description” meaningful? </li></ul><ul><li>Is “item-level description” practical? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Search engine technology? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>File name issues? </li></ul><ul><li>File Format issues? </li></ul><ul><li>What do we do with this metadata? </li></ul>
  23. 24. <ul><li>In some cases, directories=folders </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Item-level description possible for small collections; directory-level will be more common </li></ul></ul><ul><li>In other cases, entire database must be described and made available </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Access to Archival Databases (NARA) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Post-Custodial effect: encourage standardization among active users </li></ul><ul><ul><li>File naming, directory structure </li></ul></ul>
  24. 25. <ul><li>Digital photos were treated the same as analog photos in description </li></ul><ul><li>Directory structure was already present for arrangement; file names inconsistent </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Less of a problem because of thumbnails </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Arranged digital photos as separate series because of access issues </li></ul><ul><li>Very ad hoc process– should institute policy for next processing project </li></ul>
  25. 27. <ul><li>Problems with hardware and software obsolescence </li></ul><ul><li>Problems with file format obsolescence </li></ul><ul><li>Physical storage necessities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Of the three, probably the least pressing problem </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ There is a much greater assurance that 20 or 30 years from now , you’ll be able to find records from the Civil War than you will from anything that’s going on today. “—Amy Moran </li></ul>
  26. 28. <ul><li>Can you still read these? </li></ul>
  27. 29. <ul><li>Migration: Moving files to new systems on periodic basis </li></ul><ul><li>Emulation: creating programs to read original datastreams </li></ul><ul><ul><li>CAMiLEON project, Univ. of Michigan </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Encapsulation: providing a framework to read files within a discrete XML ‘wrapper’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The best solution, but also the most difficult </li></ul></ul>
  28. 30. <ul><li>Why reformat? </li></ul><ul><li>The usefulness (or not) of standards </li></ul><ul><li>Are native formats viable? “It depends” (h/t Susan Davis) </li></ul><ul><li>A good stopgap solution, but should not replace creation of preservation system </li></ul><ul><li>Consider usability of new format </li></ul><ul><li>XML is ideal, but again requires most work </li></ul>
  29. 31. <ul><li>Formats for textual records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Text File (UNICODE encoding) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Open Document Format (ODF) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>PDF and PDF/A </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Formats for image records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>TIFF </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>JPEG 2000 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Formats for other A/V records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>AAF (Advanced Authoring Format) </li></ul></ul>
  30. 32. <ul><li>After sampling, photos for preservation were converted to TIFF </li></ul><ul><li>TIFF preservation files currently stored on UWM Archives Dept. Server </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Probably not the best solution, but acceptable </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Copies were made and converted to JPEG for access copy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Numerous mass-converters on market to do this quickly </li></ul></ul>
  31. 33. <ul><li>How will your users discover the files? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Finding Aid as normal? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Digital collection page? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How will your users get to the files? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Web access vs. In-house access </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Direct access vs. access copies </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How will e-recs access reorient your reference process? </li></ul>
  32. 34. <ul><li>“ Reading-room only access to digital content is not the desired or expected access.”—Tim Pyatt </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Feasibility considerations of online access </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Access copies  Greater usability </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Short term: faster load time, familiar interface </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Long term: use as a backup if data is lost </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reference will shift from searching-oriented to research-oriented questions </li></ul>
  33. 35. <ul><li>Finding aid notes in Use Restrictions field that access copies are available </li></ul><ul><li>Patrons are referred to CD on which access copy is found to view photos </li></ul><ul><ul><li>CD is for reading room use only </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Volume of photos  No web access… yet </li></ul><ul><ul><li>May add some to our Digital Collections in future </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We treat these as analog for access– may not be as useful down the road </li></ul>
  34. 36. <ul><li>Coordinate with your records management program before even THINKING archives </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage donors/creators to practice good arrangement processes with active files </li></ul><ul><li>Work with administration, IT dept. EARLY to develop requirements for recordkeeping </li></ul><ul><li>Use producers’ knowledge of file schemes to inform appraisal decisions </li></ul>
  35. 37. <ul><li>Develop policies to standardize process, add authority to solicitation </li></ul><ul><li>Consider digital preservation environment (Emulation? Migration? Transformation?) </li></ul><ul><li>Rethink concept of archival series– not necessarily analogous, esp. for born-digital! </li></ul><ul><li>Outreach, Outreach, Outreach! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Did I mention outreach? </li></ul></ul>
  36. 38. <ul><li>InterPARES project </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Open Archival Information System Reference Guide </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>CAMiLEON project (Univ. of Michigan and Univ. of Leeds) </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>
  37. 39. <ul><li>Fedora Project Ingest Guide </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>New Skills for a Digital Era– proceedings and case studies </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>PDF/A Competence Center </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>DoD 5015.2 RMA design criteria standard </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>
  38. 40. <ul><li>Slides of this presentation will be available on the UWM Records Management website </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Any other questions? Contact me: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>414-229-6979 </li></ul></ul>