Professional Development

CurateGear 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013 1:27 pm

Yesterday, I attended an interesting day-long “interactive event”, CurateGear 2013, sponsored by UNC SILS in Chapel Hill. This year’s theme for the day was “Enabling the Curation of Digital Collections.” The format of the day was new to me. There were five tracks, but they ran one after the other. Each track began with a short overview to all participants by each speaker. The speaker gave a 2-3 minute teaser about what he/she would be talking about. Then, at the end of the overview, participants moved to individual breakout sessions to hear in-depth presentations on the topic. The themes encompassed the major areas involved in data curation: repository management environments, planning and assessment, characterization and ingest, processing and transformation, and access and user environments. Most of the speakers were developers who demonstrated specific applications or projects for which they had received grant funding. I attended breakout sessions on

  • ArchivesSpace, the next-generation archives management tool. This will replace Archivist’s Toolkit which we currently use. Its organizational home will be Lyrasis and they will be using a membership model to aid future sustainability. The intention is to release the full 1.0 version of the product by SAA this summer. The application is completely browser-based and they have made a commitment to migrate data from AT.
  • Preservation Intent Statements from the National Library of Australia. Establishing procedures for the long-term preservation of digital objects is quite complex, and this is one institution’s approach to a way to make it more manageble. Intent statements are developed for each digital collection that spell out the purpose of the collection, how it will be preserved, who is responsible, what the general intent for preservation is for that collection, and identifies known issues to preserving it. IT people tend to think about digital preservation in term of document formats while those in charge of collections think in terms of intellectual entities. The speaker, David Pearson, used the example of a Word document which is thought of differently as part of a manuscript collection than it might be in a map collection. The intent statements are developed in partnership between IT and the collection owner as a way to establish a common language and understanding about what needs to be preserved and how.
  • CINCH. This is a tool developed by the State Library of NC to assist smaller institutions in transferring online content (like what we capture via ArchiveIt) into a repository. The potential benefit over capturing strictly via ArchiveIt is that you get a local copy and it is free of charge.
  • Archivematica. This is an open-source digital preservation system. This presentation focused on its ability to do normalization upon ingest and to use their format policy registry to help with file characterization and analysis.
  • Bitcurator. This is a product that is used for digital forensics. Collections that come to the archives now might contain born digital materials on a variety of devices. Digital forensics is a field often associated with computer crime, but that can be valuable in our library world in that it encompasses “recovery and investigation of material found in digital devices.” One purpose would be to provide an automated way identify types of information within donated files that the archives would not want to collect (ie student grades, personnel records, social security numbers, etc.).
  • Viewshare. This is a browser-based application developed by LOC for ” generating and customizing views(interactive maps, timelines, facets, tag clouds) that allow users to experience your digital collections.” I saw potential for easy methods to engage our users with our digital collections. The product can pull data from dSpace to generate interesting views. That can be embedded into our existing web pages to provide our look and feel. I’m looking forward to experimenting with it! Trevor Owens, the presenter, gave a live demonstration to show how easy it is to use and made his slides available.

One of the reasons I attended this particular conference is that I’m trying to get a clearer sense of the skill sets needed by the person who will eventually fill the Library’s Digital Initiatives Librarian position. Digital curation is one of the areas that we plan for this person to coordinate, so I wanted to see the kinds of positions this type of conference attract. I hoped to learn what overlap and gaps there might be between those that self-identify as digital curators and the more general “digital initiatives’ professional. What I found was that there were two distinct demographics at the event: library archivists (the practitioners) and IT developers. I heard a familiar refrain that IT and archivists don’t speak the same language and have to work at building a common understanding of what is needed in these tools.

At the end of the day, a wrap up session was held, led by Helen Tibbo and Bram van der Werf. Their observation was that there is still a divide between library archivists and developers, but the practitioners are the ones that should be in the drivers seat because, data curation is part of maintaining and preserving their collections and thus is really their problem. The approach being put forwarded by Tibbo and the SILS program is modeled after CNI (where institutional membership consists of the library Dean and the University CIO). The idea is a data curation team that includes both camps, archivists and IT.

A final end-of-day observation of interest was that open-source is a business model, and the types of “light weight tools” demonstrated throughout the day don’t usually have a long life. They open up when there is funding, but often stop being developed once the funding ends. Everyone agreed that sustainability of these tools remains a big unknown.

2 Responses to “CurateGear 2013”

  1. Sounds like a very interesting day! I’d love to talk to you more about it. Thanks for the write-up.

  2. I heard a good presentation on CINCH at NCPC and all of these products sound promising. I think we can develop the ability to speak between our archivists,IT and our new Digital Initiatives Librarian. Fascinating account of the conference!


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