February 2008

The Afterlife of Media

Lorcan Demsey’s blog entry on the Afterlife of Media and the observation “Who would have imagined, for example, that the youth of today would strum, drum and hum along to Should I stay or should I go? by The Clash?” sparked another chain of thought as I read it.

Individuals often struggle to convey the impact of digital preservation to a wider audience. I’ve been struck by how the introduction of ipods and itunes (and their competitors) have changed my musical listening (and those of teenagers too). It has suddenly made older music more accessible.

In my case to paraphrase Lorcan “who would have thought a teenage ska-punk fan would have Louis Prima (Swing Jazz) on their ipod?” (and not just the Jungle Book tune either).

Perhaps anyone wanting to explain long-term benefits of digital preservation to the public could do worse than looking at the impact of digital conversion and ongoing digital preservation in making old music, film or books available online?

Assembling the evidence would probably show Long-tail effects within digital preservation are having a profound impact.

JISC Comparative Study of e-Journal Archiving Solutions

Im pleased to announce on the blog that Tee EM Consulting (Terry Morrow) and Charles Beagrie Limited successfully bid in February for the contract to complete a study of e-Journal Archiving Solutions. It will be great to work with Terry on this study. The consultants from Charles Beagrie Limited will be myself and Maggie Jones. I’ve worked a lot with Maggie in the past and am really looking forward to working with her again on this study and e-journal archiving issues.

The aims of the investigation into e-journal archiving solutions are:

a. To provide UK institutions with real-world scenarios that will enable them to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the various archiving solutions. Different archiving solutions may suit some types of content more than others and depending on their focus, suit some institutions more than others;
b. To build on existing literature in this field, both JISC funded reports and other relevant material;
c. To identify and explore the potential differences across academic disciplines in the use and eventual exploitation of archived e-journal material;
d. To identify and explore the future needs of those working in UK HE/FE institutions, including researchers, teachers, students and librarians, in relation to archived e-journal material;
e. To identify and explore the future needs of a range of different teaching and research-oriented organizations, in relation to archived e-journal material.

First African Digital Curation Conference

Most digital curation and preservation news seems to come from Europe and North America so it is interesting to see emerging interest in digital curation and digital preservation issues in the developing economies. With that in mind Im flagging up the first African Digital Curation Conference held in Pretoria on 12-13 February which concluded today. The conference was organised under the auspices of the South African Department of Science and Technology, three science councils (the CSIR, the Human Sciences Research Council and the National Research Foundation), the University of Pretoria and the Academy of Science of South Africa.

The conference programme looks interesting.

During the first day, international speakers shared perspectives mainly from the UK, the European Union and the USA, whilst also looking at new roles and opportunities. The South African Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Mosibudi Mangena, talked on the implications of the OECD declaration on Data Sharing for Publicly Funded Research Data for African and South African policy on research data and information management.

Curation of African digital content and practices in specific science domains was the focus of day two of the event. Proceedings concluded with discussion on a formalised network of African data and information curation centres.

I hope there will be conference proceedings or reports and perhaps some colleagues who attend will blog the event: if so I will add a future post to the blog.

New UK National Nuclear Archive to be established

Colleagues may have missed the announcement that The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will invest £8 million in plans to create the UKs National Nuclear Archive (NNA) in Caithness, Scotland. The money will be invested over three years and will help get the £20 million project off the ground.

For those interested in the digital preservation issues involved in the NNA, I would refer you to an informative presentation by Simon Tucker Information Manager at NDA. This was a presentation to the ‘Nuclear Information over the Millennia Workshop’ held in November 2006.

The NNA will potentially hold between 20 and 30 million digital, paper and photographic records primarily concerning the history, development and decommissioning of the UKs civil nuclear industry since the 1940s. Around 20 specialist jobs will be created by the project. The archive will take about four years to build and many more to establish as an exemplar in its field. Land near the airport, currently owned by the local authority, has been earmarked as a potential site.

The development will undoubtably be an important one and is a good reminder of the long-term value over centuries of some electronic records and digital preservation issues in key industries.

Digital Special Collections in Libraries

Its still quite rare to see research library webpages covering the issues of how to manage and curate contemporary special collections in digital formats so I would like to flag up two particularly good examples here.
The first is the The Wellcome Trust Library’s Digital Curation webpages I came across recently. It is an excellent ‘how to’ guide and sharing of practical experience in dealing with digital special collections built up over the last couple of years at Wellcome. It includes links to the Library Strategy, a ‘Digital Curation Toolbox’, and useful glossary and links.
The second is the Workbook on Digital Private Papers produced by the Paradigm project. The Personal Archives Accessible in Digital Media (paradigm) project funded by JISC involved the research libraries of the Universities of Oxford and Manchester. The workbook captures the projects experience in accessioning and ingesting digital private papers into their digital repositories, and processing these in line with archival and digital preservation requirements.

Both are highly recommended.