JFK Library Digital Preservation Unconference

Since its pilot launch in 2013, the National Digital Stewardship Residency program has paired the next generation of digital archiving leaders with professional mentors, in projects that advance the NDSR commitment to managing, preserving, and making accessible the digital record of human achievement.” In addition to strategizing on and employing digital preservation frameworks, the program residents are tasked with organizing an event at their host institution. On February 23rd, the JFK Library in Boston, Massachusetts hosted a Digital Preservation Unconference spearheaded by National Digital Stewardship Resident Alice Prael, in conjunction with host mentor Erica Boudreau, JFK Archivist. The full-day event was a resounding success, with over seventy-five attendees participating in eleven different sessions, developed by the participants themselves.

In advance of the Unconference, Prael developed a wordpress site, organized volunteers, set up a Twitter account and accompanying event hashtag (#jfkdigipres), and promoted the event via New England area listservs and social media. Prael also set up a form for session idea submissions, registration, and a page with information about unconferences, including a great introductory video from Transparency Camp.

The day began with a few opening remarks by Prael, then plenty of time for coffee and conversation while attendees proposed and voted on sessions in a casual, collaborative environment. Those attending ranged from directors of local archives and libraries, to Simmons students and other NDSR program affiliates. Once the votes were tallied and scheduled via a live Google sheet, participants could chose between three concurrent sessions held during three different fifty-minute session slots. The breakout groups involved open discussions and brainstorming on topics like Practical Preservation Workflows and Strategies, Crowdsourcing for Digital Archives Projects, Web-Archiving, and Content Migration. Event volunteers and participants kept live community notes via Google docs, which Prael made sure would remain available as reference sources after the Unconference.

Sessions were lively and highly productive, with participants exchanging experiences, pitfalls, and resources. Christina Zamon and Micha Broadnax, both with Emerson College Archives, led a fascinating conversation on digital preservation of social media that touched on open source tools, collection policies, and ethical dilemmas inherent in the same. In another break-out, Marisa Bruhns sketched out the ingest workflow employed at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory to an eager crowd not afraid to ask questions or make suggestions. Several sessions ended up addressing the reliability of the Internet Archive as a long term preservation platform, specifically from the perspective of smaller institutions. The vibe throughout the day was buoyant, with participants inspired to share and interact amidst the informal, relaxed energy an unconference promotes. Kudos to Prael and the JFK Library for providing the space for these much needed conversations on digital preservation in the LAM community.

Read Prael’s follow-up blog post here, and make sure to check out the storify of the day’s tweets.

Unconference update written by Lily Cristina Troia, SNAP Student Blog Editor. 

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