Featured post

Applications now open for the 2015/16 round of NDSR in New York

Posted on by

Applications are now being accepted from host institutions and residents interested in participating in the National Digital Stewardship Residency in New York (NDSR-NY) program. The residency will run from September 2015 through May 2016.

The NDSR-NY program, with generous funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is working to develop the next generation of digital stewardship professionals by funding nine-month hands-on residencies for recent master’s degree recipients to complete digital stewardship projects at host institutions in the New York City area. Similar NDSR programs are being run by Harvard Library and MIT Libraries in Boston and by Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

The application and additional information for host institutions can be found on the Info for Hosts page. The deadline for submission is Friday, April 10th, 2015.

The application and additional information for residents can be found on the Info for Residents page. The deadline for submission is Friday, May 8th, 2015.

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions for more information. If you do not find the answer to your question, contact NDSR-NY at ndsr@metro.org.

Digital Archives Project: Throwback Thursday Edition

Posted on by

Here at Carnegie Hall we’re in the midst of configuring and implementing Cortex, our new Digital Asset Management System. The past few weeks have been a particularly busy time for the Archives department, and given the number of tasks on my plate this week I wanted to keep today’s blog entry short and sweet.

For today’s post I thought I would share an infographic originally posted to Carnegie Hall’s blog a couple years ago in honor of Throwback Thursday (or “#tbt” in the Twitterverse). The infographic illustrates all of the historic material digitized during the Digital Archive Project’s first year. Beyond its eye-catching design, I find that looking at this infographic–whose numbers, albeit impressive, represent only a small portion of the Digital Archive Project’s scope overall–reminds me of what a significant undertaking this project is. I also find it to be a helpful reminder of the impact that the Digital Archives Project will have on our collections here at the Carnegie Hall Archives: once it is fully up and running, the DAMS will allow all of the materials represented below to be properly managed, making them more discoverable and better accessible both to Carnegie Hall staff and, eventually, the public at large.


Carnegie Hall Digital Archives Project: Year 1

Carnegie Hall Digital Archives Project By Numbers: Year 1

Let’s talk about digital preservation

Posted on by

For as difficult as performing any kind of digital preservation can be, advocating for it can be even harder still. To do so constructively often requires the rhetorical tact and precision of a seasoned politician: make clear the stakes, overwhelm your audience with carefully chosen statistics, and finally wrench their hearts with the story of the little old lady from Kansas who can’t see the photos she took of her grandkids two software upgrades ago. As in politics, however, the sausage-making of digital preservation work is as nuanced and technical as its public face is all-too-often overly simplistic, when not downright apocalyptic.

The Onion

The Onion

Warning their unsuspecting publics of an impending “digital dark age,” news outlets from the BBC to The Independent to NPR reverberated those apocalyptic tones in the past week with verve unheard since the last time they did it. Actually, things may be getting worse: whereas the 2003 model tech writer for Britain’s The Guardian saw ample cause for hope among digital library infrastructure projects, today’s has learned to stop worrying and love obsolescence.

Why do we keep this stuff? Doesn’t it just pull us into the past?

Nominally at issue this time is internet pioneer and Google exec Vint Cerf’s assertion that without a “digital vellum” analogous to the millennia-old medium to hold it, future generations will lack any meaningful record of our own. He’s not wrong. In fact, if you watch the video of his actual speech, you’ll notice that his observations on digital preservation are fairly modest and plain; he merely introduces computer scientists to the basic concept of describing hardware and software environments such that they may be emulated in the future with the least significant loss. Rather than cataclysmic, he most often characterizes that problem as “hard.”

The only part of Cerf’s address that scared me was its complete omission of the defining digital preservation work done and continuing to flourish among national libraries, archives, non-profit memory institutions, and yes, even a few private sector partners. Librarians in general are mentioned only in a passing anecdote and as some kind of rabble of unruly schoolchildren; the Internet Archive is a quixotic novelty. This is especially disappointing because Cerf clearly knows better. “Cerf was a keynote speaker and a very attentive attendee at the UNESCO Conference on Digital Preservation in Vancouver in 2012,” UBC Professor and InterPARES project lead Luciana Duranti–no polemicist, rather an actual pioneer in the dutiful advancement of digital forensics–recounted in an email among archivists this week. “He knows.”

‘You’re not helping,’ is the chorus I heard among digital preservationists on social media in the last week, but let’s respect that Cerf is an unparalleled voice of authority among critically important stakeholders, and that he’s using that position at this moment to articulate the values and potential of our work. Our responsibility, in the meantime, is to articulate and pursue the solutions. “As an archivist, I am abashed that many of my colleagues would fly off the handle based on reports in the popular press,” added Ken Thibodeau, a long-time leader of digital preservation initiatives spanning important NARA, NIST, and Object Management Group projects, added to the discussion above. “I for one am happy that someone of the stature, the intelligence, the profound expertise in IT, and the graciousness of Vint Cerf is publicizing our case.”

A complete guide to talking online about digital preservation

We understand that digital preservation is a human and a policy challenge, not a sprint coding assignment. That’s not quite as catchy as “everything you ever loved will die,” so let’s talk digital preservation and see if we can’t come up with a more hopeful message–one that articulates the needs and assuages the fears of the increasingly broad and diverse communities that deserve stewardship. They will remember it longer than The Guardian will remember their own copy, and well after Google fades from the challenge.

For an alternative narrative, consider the comparatively constructive style and hopeful message of The New Yorker’s January foray into the specific challenge of web archiving: “The Cobweb.” This piece by the Harvard-based historian Jill Lepore hits the political high notes: the prodigious dreamer who strikes out on his own, hands clasped across America to achieve his vision, some casual marginalization of the French, and even a stalwart fight against change waged from inside a church! Unlike media coverage in the intervening weeks, however, it seeks explanation of the stakes, the specific obstacles, and a vision of the future, from among a wonderfully comprehensive collection of information scientists and professionals. The reader is left with an appropriately cool-headed impression of the problems (they’re all very hard) and a confidence-boosting appraisal of the fights ahead (they all have their champions).

So at the risk of possibly boring friends and family with our unrepentant level-headedness, let’s continue to talk about digital preservation in constructive terms and tones. We already walk the walk, so why not talk the talk? Let’s offer our alternative vision to the doomsday preppers online, and not just amongst ourselves; let’s advocate our productivity to resource allocators in public, academic, and institutional libraries; maybe let’s send our Q*bert high scores to The Guardian.

Mid-Residency Update

Posted on by

As our cohort of five NDSR residents crosses the midway point of their residencies, Project Manager Annie Tummino checked in with them about their progress and lessons learned so far. Read the interview on the METRO website.

Residents' IDs







Our first interview with the residents, conducted at the beginning of the program, is available here.

code4Lib 2015!

Posted on by

Hi everyone, this is Vicky reporting from Portland, Oregon! I am here on the west coast for the first time attending code4Lib 2015, and since today is the last day of the conference, I thought I’d give everyone a bit of a report about what went on here.

First, I want to talk about the format of presentations at code4Lib. It’s absolutely unlike any other conference I’ve ever been too. There are no multiple sessions going at once. Everything is streamlined into one room. Yes–we sat in a room from 9-5pm watching 20 minute presentations, with an hour for lunch and two to three half hour breaks. This sounds really daunting but I have to tell you–it was so refreshing! I’ll talk a little bit more about the actual presentations later on.

code4Lib also is the first conference I’ve ever been to that takes the idea of explicit consent to heart and offers attendees and presenters ways to opt-in to potential anxiety-triggering events (like being filmed or photographed) rather than opt-out. I find this really progressive and important–other conferences, take note. All presenters had to sign a consent form, and could opt-in to being filmed and live-streamed (find the live stream and archived videos here). Attendees wore red lanyards if they didn’t. You can find a great blog post on explicit consent by code4Libber Tara Robinson here.

Image taken from the blog mentioned directly above.

Image taken from the blog mentioned directly above.

We had an NDSR moment too! Rebecca from the Boston cohort presented on the “horror story” of data loss in LTO tapes at WGBH. It gave everyone in the audience a chill and started some really interesting conversations at break about preservation. It’s especially important because this was the only presentation that focused on digital preservation. I was shocked a conference as techy as code4Lib didn’t include more presentations on digipres, but the presentation are chosen by votes so maybe most attendees didn’t think the other presentations on digipres were relevant. Read more about Rebecca’s presentation here.

NDSR NY & Boston representing at code4Lib 2015! Me, Peggy, & Rebecca

NDSR NY & Boston representing at code4Lib 2015! Me, Peggy, & Rebecca

Peggy and Rebecca also participated in the pre-conference PBCore Hackaton! Read more about that here.

The content of the presentations was super diverse and interesting. The conference organizers did a really good job of grouping the presentations by topic so everything flowed really organically from one to the other. Kudos!

I found that my favorite presentations dealt with actual technical products or services that people had been developing. This was especially interesting to me because of my background in computer science and continued work in the tech-related side of LIS. While there were great presentations on other subjects I’m interested in (management practices and libs & social justice work, to name a few), I found these “meat and potatoes” presentations to be the most eye-opening for me. I had no idea that SASS was something gaining traction in web development, but apparently it’s the next step in web aesthetics. It’s basically a cleaner version of CSS that compiles into CSS–the best part for me: you can have variables instead of duplicates in your code! No more will my web pages have CSS that reads:


*scroll down about 100 lines*

#nav ul ul {display: none; position: absolute; border:1px solid #E9E9E9;}

It will have:

@color: #E9E9E9;

that can be instantiated anywhere I want it! I can change one value instead of one thousand! Mind=blown.

Other tech touched upon library tools that make jobs as techy-librarians easier. Like the presentation on packer.io. Packer.io is a tool for creating indentical machine images for multiple platforms (Docker, VMWare, VirtualBox, etc), all from a single source configuration. The presenters gave the example of an Islanadora install. There are a lot of software dependencies that comes with the install and it is a really convoluted and intense process. If you want to put this on another computer, it would require you to do that whole install all over again. With packer.io, there are no more crazy software stacks. You just “clone” the first computer and boot up the second one with the system image disk. Boom. Just one config.

It’s scriptable so that builds can be automated and it’s API is extendable to make it work with just about anything. This is such an awesome tool and I’m so glad I got to hear someone speak on it in detail. It could definitely have some possibilities at the AMNH. You can see the full line-up of presentations here, many of which have the slides attached.

A slide from a presentation on packer.io. The rest of the slides here & info on packer.io here.

A slide from a presentation on packer.io. The rest of the slides here & info on packer.io here.

Portland has also been a blast to explore. As my first introduction to the west coast, its basically everything I thought it would be: Williamsburg if Williamsburg were a huge city. It was filled with trendy thrift shops, tiny hole-in-the-wall music and tea shops, and a population dressed in the finest worn leather jackets and combat boots. Everyone is really friendly and willing to help when tourists (read: me) get hopelessly lost. The city even gave me a sign post to make getting home easier:

Is it a coincidence Times Square and Mecca are in the same direction?

Is it a coincidence Times Square and Mecca are in the same direction?

Portland had a ton of really niche spots to explore. When I told friends I was going to Portland, the first thing they told me was: get donuts! The best two are Blue Star Donuts and Voodoo Doughnuts. I ended up trying both, but only one can be king. Turns out it’s:

My fav Portland donut spot: Voodoo Doughnuts!

My fav Portland donut spot: Voodoo Doughnuts!

code4Lib provided a great semi-structured social event after-hours at the eBay HQ called beer4Lib where conference attendees brought beer from their home or local to Portland. Everyone got together, shared their takeaways from the con, played some pool, and tried some new craft beers. I’m just excited I got to say I had beers at eBay!

beer4Lib specialty glasses!

Awesome beer4Lib speciality glasses provided by the con organizers!

Today I am going to continue my exploration by adding Powell’s City of Books (apparently, the Strand of Portland) and a cat cafe called Purrington’s Cat Lounge to my list of visited places in Portland. Though I’m sad the conference is over, I’m glad I had the opportunity to both explore a new city and to speak with other techy-librarians and get to see what such a diverse population of institutions are doing to contribute to the management, organization, and storage of digital assets. Needless to say, I’ll be back next year to explore a (hopefully) new city and new conference materials.

PS. As an aside, I thought this was quite funny: after the two people live-tweeting the event, I am the person tweeting the most about the con! How weird…BUT everyone can access the #c4l15 twitter archive here if they want to see what everyone’s been tweeting about!



Born-Digital Workflows CURATEcamp – April 23rd

Posted on by

Peter Chan (Stanford University), Don Mennerich (New York University), and I are planning a CURATEcamp around sharing and discussing born-digital workflows. I’m happy to announce that registration is now open!

Brooklyn Historical Society (128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn) will host the day-long event on Thursday, April 23rd to bookend NYU’s co-hosting of Personal Digital Archiving 2015 on April 24- 26th.

CURATEcamp will differ from the usual curate format. The morning session will consist of short pre-scheduled presentations. After a “birds-of-a-feather” lunch break, the afternoon will breakout, CURATE-style, into streams.

*This will be a highly participatory event.  Due to space limitations, registration is limited to individuals with active digital preservations projects to discuss.  If you are a student studying digital preservation and you’d like to attend, please email me (jk133 at nyu.edu). A limited number of volunteer slots are available. For those of you who cannnot attend, we’ll be making notes available aftewards on the CURATEcamp wiki.


This event is supported by the National Digital Stewardship Residency in New York Program, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and being implemented by the Metropolitan New York Library Council in partnership with Brooklyn Historical Society.



Weekly Digital Preservation Media Diet

Posted on by

In my previous blog post I mentioned that I try to devote some time every week to reading articles, conference roundups, and anything else I can find that is relevant to the field of digital preservation at large. This time around I thought it would be fun to elaborate on this point by digging through my browser history to look at some of the articles and resources that I’ve read over the past week or so. Partially inspired by Steven Soderbergh’s 2014 Media Diet*, here is a glance at what I’ve been reading:

*If you haven’t read this yet I strongly recommend doing so at your earliest convenience. Even if you aren’t Steven Soderbergh’s biggest fan, let his media diet serve as, if nothing else, a motivational tool to remind you that you have the same number of hours in your day as he does.

A preview of my digital preservation media diet this week.

A preview of my digital preservation media diet this week.

Blackblaze’s annual hard drive failure report. Although this report is far from scientific, it’s a fun one nevertheless. I sent this report the day it was released to a couple of my colleagues at Carnegie Hall who are responsible for purchasing commercial hard drives for their departments. Their response was something along the lines of “this makes me nauseous”.


A graphic from the Blackblaze report illustrating the annual failure rate of hard drive failures based on model and size.

A graphic from the Blackblaze report illustrating the annual failure rate of hard drive failures based on model and size.

Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System. Re-read parts of section 2.1 on the OAIS Environment and section 3 on OAIS Responsibilities. Needed to reference the definitions of “Designated Community” for a draft of our Access Policy that I’ve been working on this week.

Creating and Archiving Born Digital Video. Back in December the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative published four reports examining aspects of current practice for creating and archiving born digital video. December was a busy month for me so I’m only getting around to reading these reports now. I’m only on Part I as of this week, but so far I’m finding them to be a hugely relevant and valuable resource. I highly recommend checking them out.

European Commission's Report on Digitisation, Online Accessibility and Digital Preservation of Cultural Material.

European Commission’s Report on Digitisation, Online Accessibility and Digital Preservation of Cultural Material.

European Commission’s Report on Digitisation, Online Accessibility and Digital Preservation of Cultural Material. This report was put together based on a set of national reports submitted at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. It’s chock full of statistics relating to any number of cultural heritage issues, but I skipped down to the section on Digital Preservation (page 51 for those of you following along at home). I liked the way that this report detailed the long-term preservation strategies and action plans for each of the EU member countries, and found myself wishing that there was a comparable document for stateside cultural heritage programs.

Disaster Preparedness Plans. I’m putting the finishing touches on a disaster preparedness plan for the Carnegie Hall Archives so lately I’ve consulted a variety of different plans, tools, and checklists to determine which features will make the final cut. Frankly, I’ve been bowled over by the sheer number of resources out there designed to assist with this task. This week alone I’ve read and compared upwards of a dozen plans. While almost all of the plans offer some useful to takeaways, the one I have returned to most frequently has been the Paul V. Galvin Library’s Disaster Plan Manual and Digital Emergency Preparedness and Recovery Plan. I like this plan in part because of its focus on digital disaster preparedness. It’s also succinct and clearly written. Another resource worth mentioning her is the workbook hosted by NYU Libraries, which has a lot of useful information about really left-field topics like what to do in the event of a bomb scare or terrorist attack. (The more you know, I suppose…)

Some weeks this list looks a lot longer or shorter, depending on what else I have on my plate. But even when I’m swamped with other things that need doing, I still consider reading to be an essential part of my job.  In a field driven by rapidly changing technologies, tools, and workflows, being part of the conversation is crucial to your success. Fortunately, it’s easier now than ever to stay in the loop and find relevant material. By way of concluding this post, here are a few places to get started if you’re looking to build out your reading list:

  • The Signal – the Library of Congress’ blog dedicated to Digital Preservation.
  • Kara Van Malssen’s syllabi for the Digital Preservation course she teaches at NYU’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program, which can be found here.
  • Twitter. If you’re new to this site and/or are unsure about where to begin, try searching for #digipres or #digitalpreservation and see where that takes you.
  • The Digital Preservation Management Workshop and Tutorial website is a fantastic resource, particularly if you’re new to the field.
  • Take a gander at D-Lib Magazine’s archives; there’s a lot of good stuff in there.
  • The Open Preservation Foundation is a great resource for finding out about conferences that are happening and reports that are being released.
  • Google alerts. Pick keywords relevant to the project you’re working on, the problem you’re trying to solve, or the subject you’re interested in learning more about. I usually have a few of these set up at any given point in time that usually include keywords like “digital preservation”, “digital asset management” “preservation sustainability” and “born-digital preservation”.

CurateGear, METRO’s Annual Conference, and more

Posted on by

2015 has been off to a busy start with some traveling and presentations! I won’t go into depth in this post (I will be posting again this week), but I’ve inserted some presentation slides below to give you a sense of things.

Screenshot 2015-01-27 at 8.01.41 PM

Some of the day-to-day in the Digital Forensics Lab. Note: the bottom right image is the estimated time for creating an image of a 5.5 TB drive.


Blake's Adobe PSD files, or the problem with layers

Blake’s Adobe PSD file’s layers

Don Mennerich and I presented at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s  CurateGear 2015 (January 7th).  Videos of the CurateGear short talk  “pitches” are also now available. For those of you unfamiliar with CurateGear, it’s got a very lively format. There are multiple streams; presentations occur simultaneously in different rooms.  Before audience members choose a session, each speaker pitches their talk before the entire audience. Even if you can’t attend all the sessions, then, you get a good sense of the conference sessions.  You’re even encouraged to check out talks during talks. There’s also nothing like seeing a speaker actually demonstrate, in real time before your very eyes, a tool that is in development! I won’t be able to go into much depth in this post, but I advise everyone to keep an eye out for next year’s CurateGear. Some highlights included updates on browser-based emulation (“Emulation as a Service“) practices and some interesting success and failure rates and metric reports from Stanford (checkout slide 3, this slide ) and Emory University. Doug White’s demo, from audio cassette to game executable (“Get off my <strikeout> lawn</strikeout> tapes!”), was particularly cool. Don also presented later that week at the first BitCurator Users Forum 2015 (January 9th).  This was an opportunity for BitCurator users to, among other topics, debate disk imaging target formats for different media and content types, the merits and challenges in student workers handling the imaging of media, and future projects integrating BitCurator in workflows.

After getting back from Chapel Hill, last week I presented at METRO’s annual conference (January 15th). For those of you that missed this sold out event, check out METRO’s videos, slide decks, and pics from the event.  Almost all of the NYC-NDSR presented together (this was the first group presentation for us, but it won’t be our last). After each of us spoke, we were able to sit with our mentors and talk to interested audience members in the course of two table sessions. It was heartening to hear from a number of interested students and institutions engaging in disk imaging practices. While it was great for me to get updated on the New York community projects,  a surprise announcement put a light damper in the days: METRO’s Executive Director, Jason Kucsma, had resigned.  While I wish him well , the New York archiving community will miss him!




Top Five (So Far)

Posted on by

Shira here. Since we recently passed the halfway point of our residencies I thought I’d write about some of my biggest takeaways from my NDSR project so far. Without further ado, they are (in no particular order):

1. Understand the root issue
The first step in my project was to understand how the organization’s digital assets are created, used, and stored. To do this, I spent the first several months of my residency interviewing staff throughout Carnegie Hall to better understand what their day-to-day interactions with digital media are like. Although my project objectives are ultimately focused on developing preservation and sustainability policies for this born-digital media, these conversations quickly helped me identify the root issue my NDSR project was designed to address: that up to now there hasn’t been a streamlined process at Carnegie Hall for staff to push digital assets and their associated metadata upstream.

A selfie taken in the Rose Museum by The Carnegie Hall Archives Department in honor of #MuseumSelfie day on Twitter.

A selfie taken in the Rose Museum by The Carnegie Hall Archives Department in honor of #MuseumSelfie day on Twitter.

It was essential for me to understand that the overarching goal of my project would be to help fix this problem going forward. Developing policies for sustainable preservation is an important part of the solution, but designing these policies without recognizing and addressing the underlying issues would have resulted in failure. In this case, having a solid understanding of the root issue enabled me to develop a slightly different (and ultimately much more successful) strategy than I had originally planned to take. 

2. Ask questions.
Don’t refrain from asking questions for fear of being wrong. If you have doubts about something, speak up.

3. Anticipate delays.
Delays both small and large tend to occur in most large scale projects, not least in those with a lot of moving parts. I expected as much going into my residency, but what I did not expect was the fact that the pace of work at Carnegie Hall can be dictated, to a large degree, by where we are in the concert season. So while some delays might be unforeseeable, I’ve learned to anticipate the times of the year when my colleagues will be busiest, and to adjust my timeline accordingly.

Another stellar contribution to #MuseumSelfie day courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives Department.

Another stellar contribution to #MuseumSelfie day courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives Department.

4. Make time to read.
Staying abreast of what’s happening in our field is crucial. I try to set aside some time every week just to read articles, conference roundups, or even threads on Twitter about digital preservation. When I do this I’m frequently surprised at how much material there is out there that’s directly relevant to my project in some way.

5. The Devil is in the details.
Truly. Whether it’s a minor task such as writing an email, or a more significant one such as preparing a report or giving a presentation, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to check, double check, and triple check. If you’re still in doubt, ask someone to check your work for a fourth time. The NDSR cohort has been essential in this vein. I couldn’t have asked for a better or more supportive group of professionals, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity NDSR-NY has given me to learn from them.