When the Society of American Archivists announced the creation of its Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) Curriculum and Certificate Program earlier this year, I couldn't wait to learn more about it. As a Digital Archivist who has learned most of my technological skills on the job rather than in a classroom, it sounded like the perfect way to continue my professional education. When the SAA Education Committee came up with the idea to find an archivist who would take the required DAS courses, (hopefully) pass the quizzes and comprehensive exam, and blog about the whole experience, I happily volunteered.
Though the Digitization Unit at the JFK Library is focused primarily on the digitization of analog archival material, I believe that the preservation and management of born-digital records is something with which all archivists should concern themselves. And though our collections date mainly to the mid-twentieth century, our backlog does contain materials generated more recently, most notably within the voluminous papers of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Just today I learned of a mysterious circular piece of computer hardware (I'm told it resembles a container used to transport a cake) that was sent to us with one of the Senator's accessions. What is it? What information does it contain, and how will we access it? How can we move the information somewhere else, and how will we preserve it? And finally, how will researchers access it? Hopefully by the time I've completed the DAS program, I'll be ready to answer questions like these. Until then, the mysterious circular object, along with many others like it, will remain on a shelf in our stacks, its nature and contents hidden, edging closer and closer to irretrievable obsolescence.