The course was organized by the kinds of choices digital archivists must make about quality, metadata, management, storage, preservation, and delivery. Without repeating all of the information in the course, I'll just list the highlights as I saw them:
- High quality digital objects adhere to five established principles: interoperability, reusability, sustainability, authenticity, and scalability. Better quality requires more time, more storage, and better equipment, but it also allows for a wider variety of uses. We should create the best quality digital objects we can afford now so that we have greater flexibility later.
- Metadata allows for the identification, management, access, use, and preservation of a digital object. There are several different types of metadata: administrative, descriptive, preservation (including technical), and structural. Metadata should support local needs, but should also be standardized in order to enable interoperability. Controlled vocabularies should be supported. Keep in mind that metadata is never truly finished - there will always be changes or updates to make, or new information to capture.
- The management of digital files must include all derivatives of the original object (and there could be hundreds) as well as the metadata about that object. Management must be built into your digitization workflow; it should not be a separate activity. There is no one digital asset management system (DAMS) that will solve all of your problems - you will most likely need an array of systems to accomplish all of your goals. In any DAMS, web delivery is only a small piece of the puzzle despite how important it is to users and probably to your management.
- Storage choices will depend on the choices about quality you made earlier - the higher quality files you have, the more storage you will need. While storage may be getting cheaper, back up and preservation services are getting more expensive. It might be best to consult an expert when it comes to storage.
- Preservation starts at the point of creation of a digital object, which is also the point at which the creators of digital content probably don't want to be bothered with questions about preservation, so it's on us as archivists to maintain the focus on preservation concerns. The first stage in a successful preservation plan is simply to acknowledge that digital preservation is important (much like the first step in overcoming addiction is to acknowledge that you have a problem, I suppose).This is as far as we've gotten, to be honest, but we hope to move onto the next stage soon, which is to take action.
- Delivery involves both discovery and access. Discovery is based on the indexing of your metadata and/or the full text of your scanned documents. Access is how users interact with your digital objects once they are discovered - are the objects simply viewed, or are they able to be manipulated or extracted by the user?
- Planning and prioritizing digitization workflow. This is no different from planning and prioritizing our processing workflow, and should be done in the same systematic way.
- Creating descriptive metadata. Descriptive metadata is
archival description, which means that we already know how to create it,
and also that our finding aids are full of preexisting descriptive
- Managing and preserving digital assets. We manage our physical holdings, whether through the use of a database or a paper shelf list, and we are responsible for their long term preservation. This is true of digital files as well, whether they are born-digital records or digital surrogates of physical objects. Though digital files do present some specific challenges that will require more technical knowledge than we may start out with, the fundamental responsibility is the same.
I will be taking another Foundational DAS course, "Digital Curation: Creating an Environment for Success" on January 18th in Boston, so I'll be posting again in a few weeks. Until then, thanks for reading!