Author Archives: Morgan McKeehan

Collecting & Sharing Resources for Digital Preservation Topics

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In the last couple weeks of my residency I’m focused on looking back over the entire trajectory of the project, to review and document what’s been done, and reflect on what worked well, what could be improved, and how this work might be useful for future practitioners. In this concluding phase, in addition to finalizing deliverables for our host sites, residents also write final reports for the NDSR program, with the goal of providing a clear, complete, and, I hope, potentially useful roadmap for anyone seeking to understand the project later on, in case there’s something in the work that applies to their own context, that they can put to good use.

Searching for and discovering resources about developments and questions in digital preservation has been an exciting and rewarding part of the residency. There’s so much ground to cover, and there are great resources and discussions on the wide range of topics, with new resources available all the time. I think it would be a huge help and a great resource for the community to have a central point for collecting and organizing access to resources as they accumulate around developing topics. I’ve been wondering what kind of approach could work for providing a comprehensive, but accessible site. Throughout our residencies, I’ve admired my cohort members’ use of this blog as a space for proposing and testing out ideas and starting conversations, and I wanted to use my final blog post to invite any ideas or discussion about the suggestion to create a community-developed, shared resource collection point for digital preservation topics.

What kind of software? Located where? Build a new site, or integrate with an existing site?

Given the scale of the material to include, and the rewards of open collaboration for this project, I’d vote for MediaWiki. Although wikis can seem complicated at first, the learning curve is pretty quick if clear documentation is provided, and the software provides an excellent tool for collaborative writing (and organization, with a little tending), as well as being actively developed and free, and learning wiki editing is useful and rewarding, for contributing to other knowledge-sharing projects. A wiki could potentially also have the significant benefit of interwiki links, to Wikipedia, Wikiversity, the DPC wiki, or other dedicated wikis. There are also great cases to be made for WordPress, Github, or Basecamp, though, so there are definitely many options to consider.

As far as location, my initial inclination for this idea was definitely to expand and strengthen an established project if possible, rather than starting from scratch to build another wiki. There are a number of existing sites with a similar purpose, and I’ve wondered if it would be possible to join them. Determining location would be important for defining the identity of the site, so it seems like a question for community consensus.

What to include in the site? How to structure the content?

I think that an accessible, easy to deal with, non-overwhelming page for each topic, to support browsing and accessing frequently-updated collections of community-recommended resources, would be a useful format. If this is in a wiki, the structure would then consist primarily of topic pages. Each page would have a stripped-down format, perhaps including only the following sections:

  1. Definition. Brief description of the topic. Very brief! This page is not meant to be a comprehensive article about this topic. It’s a pointer to helpful resources.
  2. Annotated Bibliography for this topic. This section is the heart of the page/most important part. The resources in the bibliography could be of all types – articles, blog posts, videos, slide presentations, github projects, podcasts, any approach to informing on this topic. Listing the bibliography in archaeological order could help keep track of current work. Community-contributed annotations for each resource could help spark discussions, and also assist researchers who are unfamiliar with a topic and just getting oriented.
  3. Relevant Tools for this topic, with a brief definition of each, and possibly level of development activity. Interwiki links could be especially helpful for providing information, and possibly just transcluding content from other sources, for tools.
  4. See Also
  5. References (for citations in the descriptions/tools sections.)
  6. Talk pages. If this is in a wiki, the talk pages provide a great structural layer, and could grow into a place for coalescing discussions over time and linking out to existing forums like Digital Preservation Q&A and the digital curation google group.

What topics to include?

I brainstormed an initial list of topics, aiming for a comprehensive but manageable starting point, and grouped topics into categories to try to make a more manageable table of contents. This list is inevitably biased toward my own interests and categories, and it’s just an initial suggestion. What other topics should be included? How could the organization be more effective or intuitive for a broad range of users?

  1. Glossaries
  2. Preservation by Content Type & Form Type
    • AV Preservation
    • Audio Preservation
    • Research Data
    • GIS Data
    • Digital Art Preservation
    • Software Preservation
    • Web Archiving
    • File Formats
    • Removable Storage Media
  3. Systems & Tools
    • storage topics
    • CMS
    • DAMs
    • repository software
    • preservation systems
    • emulation
    • format migration
    • email archiving
    • digital forensics
    • version control
    • project management & workflow resources
  4. Management Practices
    • Archives & ERM – oriented
    • grant development & funding
    • sustainability
    • environmental impact
    • assessment
    • ethical considerations – building a healthy workplace
      •  fair salaries/unpaid internships, workplace health, diversity in the workplace and the research environment
  5. Standards & Specifications
    • PREMIS & other preservation metadata standards
    • OAIS
    • certification standards –  TRAC, DRAMBORA, etc.
    • bagit
  6. Theory/Foundations
    • Intellectual Property Rights
    • Open Software- principles and practices
  7. Organizations & Initiatives, past & present
    • OpenPlanetsFoundation, DPC, CNI, POWRR, NDSA, NDSR…
  8. Training & Tutorials
    • DPOE, etc.
    • Developing education for Digital Preservation

Ongoing maintenance and updating would clearly be a challenge, and important to address and to plan for. Please share any thoughts or suggestions you have about this idea! Does it seem worthwhile? Has anyone tried developing something similar? How did it go?