#snaprt Chat Flashback: Digital Special Collections and University Archives

Guest author: Ariadne Rehbein
MLS/MIS Student at Indiana University Bloomington and SNAP Roundtable Senior Social Media Chair

For the SNAP Roundtable Twitter chat on Sunday, October 25, 2015 we discussed challenges and opportunities surrounding born digital and digitized archival collections in the academic environment. Here is a summary of key points and a smattering of interesting tweets from the discussion. To learn further details, please check out the chat its entirety on Storify.

What tools and training are important in this line of work? What can students do to prepare themselves?

It was recommended that students gain awareness of common metadata and preservation standards and platforms such as Omeka, DSpace, and Fedora. Suggested resources included the COPTR registry of digital preservation tools and SAA’s Digital Archives Specialist courses.

Moreover, SNAPers were encouraged to be willing to experiment, develop relationships with archives creators and technologists, and learn new things on the job:

There was also a discussion about what it means to know a metadata structure and a more in-depth discussion of different schemas.

What common challenges do archivists face in preserving and providing access to digital collections?

Building infrastructure was the biggest challenge we discussed. Ruth Kitchin Tillman captured some of the biggest concerns in under 140 characters:

The chatters agreed that digital stewardship requires the understanding and buy-in of stakeholders as well as financial resources:

Rights issues were brought up as another consideration when providing online access to digital content:

What are some of the most exciting aspects of this work?

Chatters were excited about the new opportunities made possible by online access:

Where can new archivists look for advice when developing workflows or working with legacy media?

Lots of different types of resources were suggested, including posting to listservs, posing questions on Twitter, conferences, and searching online for existing guides, such as those provided by OCLC. SNAPers also discussed building their networks and getting in touch with people they have met in person or through Twitter.

What differences are there between managing digital university archives and special collections?

Many academic institutions combine these areas into one department, but some of the concerns surrounding these collections are quite different. Access requirements were cited as the main focus for managing digital university archives:

The variety and complexity of materials are the focus for managing digital special collections:

What challenges do individuals face in managing their personal digital materials? Can or should archivists offer guidance?

Chatters brought up a swath of challenges! Management issues include the scattered nature of digital files and online activities as well as a lack of metadata. People may also be unaware of the fragility of digital objects, even those that are “in the cloud.” There was not a clear consensus on how appropriate or essential it is for archivist to offer personal digital archiving guidance, perhaps depending on the collection focus of the archives and the availability of appropriate guidelines and tools.

Some chatters considered it imperative that archivists are advocates for personal digital archiving:


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