Guest author: Jessica Rayman
MSLS Student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
CurateGear is a one-day, digital curation conference held annually at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The event “focuses on digital curation tools and methods” in an effort to bring professionals together to share their research and developments. This year’s CurateGear took place January 14 with 65 participants from around the United States and a few from overseas. The topics of the day included professional needs and strategies, data and repository management, new processes and workflows, collection management and description, hosted and distributed services, media and disk images, and observations and implications. With such a variety of topics, CurateGear serves as a great introduction into the digital curation discipline for students or those just beginning in the field, as well as providing relevant information and new approaches for the established professional.
The day began with an overview of the day’s events and a session on “Professional Needs and Strategies.” Carolyn Hank of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville presented on the impact of digital curation tools in the classroom, which looked at digital curation syllabi to determine if a set of “core” readings and authors existed in the classroom. Alex Nelson from the National Institute of Standards and Technology discussed “Navigating Unmountable Media with the Digital Forensics XML File System.” Nelson proposed treating a file listing from an outdated operating system like a file system using DFXML, avoiding special software and allowing for the use of a normal interface. Other presenters and their topics included Matthew Kirschenbaum, “Researching the Literary History of Word Processing: Lessons Learned”; Susan Malsbury and Don Mennerich, “Documentation of Born Digital Collections in a Centralized Processing Environment”; Dorothy Waugh, “Teaching Files: Incorporating Born-Digital Materials into Instruction”; Bradley Glisson, “Global Positioning System Evidence: Its Impact and Implications for Digital Curation”; and Mark Evans, “Integration of Collections Management and Digital Preservation.”
After a short break, CurateGear resumed with a session on “Data and Repository Management,” followed by breakout sessions that gave participants the opportunity to view demonstrations and ask the presenters questions that are more detailed. The presenters and topics in this session included Jon Crabtree and Don Sizemore, “Using iRODS Policies to Support Preservation Actions”; Nancy McGovern, “Digital Preservation Management Tools”; and Erin Clary, “Human Subjects Data in an Open Access Repository: Considerations and Challenges.” I attended the breakout session on “Digital Preservation Management Tools,” which provides a structure intended “to assist organizations in demonstrating good practice and becoming recognized as a trusted digital repository (TDR).” For students and new archivists, this is a very useful tool for questions concerning long-term preservation goals. Those interested in more information can visit the DPM website.
The next session focused on “New Processes and Workflows,” followed by another round of breakout sessions. Presenters and topics in this session included Matthew Farrell, “Providing Remote Access with Docker: A Proof of Concept”; Josh Schneider, “Using ePADD to Process and Provide Access to Email Archives”; and Terrell Russell, “iRODS Pluggable Rule Engine.” I joined the breakout session on the ePADD software, where Schneider provided a demonstration of the four modules used to appraise, process, discover, and deliver. The session led me to consider more seriously the best approach to email archives, since one donor can hold multiple accounts full of personal information. The ePADD software offers several convenient tools to make an email collection easier to process and more efficiently provide access to users.
After lunch, participants resumed the conference with a session on “Collection Management and Description.” The presenters and topics for this session included Kari Smith, “Organizational Considerations for Implementing Archivematica”; Carl Wilson, “VeraPDF and JHOVE”; and Brad Westbrook, “Enhancing the ArchivesSpace Public Interface.” The presenters for the following session, “Hosted and Distributed Services,” included Sam Meister and Katherine Skinner, “Preservation as a Process: The MetaArchive Cooperative and Distributed Digital Preservation”; Jack O’Sullivan, “Preservica: New Access Options, Workflows and Ways to Eliminate Duplicate Work”; and Klaus Rechert, “Local Usage of Emulation as a Service – Docker, Live-System and More.”
The last session of the day covered “Media and Disk Images.” Presenters and topics included Doug White, “Game Cartridge ROM Capture”; Dianne Dietrich, “Vintage Forensics: Wrangling HFS Metadata into DFXML”; and Kam Woods, “BCA-Webtools: Accessing and Visualizing Disk Images in a Web Browser.” With the promise of seeing a demonstration of NES games using an emulator and Sega Genesis games using Retrode to create a disk image, I chose this breakout session. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, the live demo took place in the last 10-15 minutes of the session, but gave the audience the opportunity to see the procedure for creating a disk image (from the original cartridges) and playing the games through an emulator. Despite the technical difficulties, the demonstration still provided interesting information regarding game cartridges from retro gaming systems.
After a brief wrap-up session focusing on the importance of having an event like CurateGear, in which participants agreed on the importance of collaboration and the continuing development of preservation tools and policies, the event came to a close. As a new student to the archiving world, many of the topics seemed foreign and overwhelming since the vocabulary is fresh and not yet second nature. However unfamiliar some of the material seemed, the different topics throughout the day provided me with a greater understanding of the challenges digital curators face and some of the proposed methods to overcoming those obstacles.
Of the presented topics, I found the many different and innovative ways to provide access to older formats particularly interesting—especially when I think of the data I have lost over the years moving from one type of technology to another. As I think of my own personal files, I cannot help but think when does this end? Since we are in the information age, technology will only continue to improve. Are we taking the steps now to ensure that the technology we use today carries into the future? When does storage become an issue, or is it always an issue? At that point, what does reappraisal look like? What is the best way to present this information to users? These are the questions I ask myself as I try to fill in my knowledge gap between what I have learned and the research being conducted in the field. In the end, the conference proved the importance of digital curation practices and provided less-experienced attendees with a foundation for what to expect in the field.
Notes and slides from most sessions can be found here.