Professional Development

Chelcie at CurateGear 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014 12:23 pm

Last Wednesday I traveled with Rebecca and Tanya to CurateGear 2014 in Chapel Hill, NC. In its third year, CurateGear is a day-long event that showcases tools that facilitate digital curation. The three tools I found most interesting were MetaArchive, a TRAC review tool, and BitCurator.


MetaArchive is a co-op of university libraries and independent research libraries who work together to preserve their digital content. Each MetaArchive member institution contributes a secure, closed-access, preservation server to the MetaArchive LOCKSS network. After an institution ingests content to its own preservation server, six other servers in the MetaArchive LOCKSS network replicate that content. Servers are assigned to content in order to maximize geographic distribution.New or changed content is stored alongside the original, and in fact, this support for versioning is a huge advantage of MetaArchive’s preservation strategy. The seven servers check in with each other periodically in order to perform fixity checks and verify that all seven copies remain identical. If a mismatch is identified, the servers reach consensus about which copy is “correct” and repair the mismatch. The repair is treated as a version and stored alongside the original. The co-op model offers economies of scale, and membership in MetaArchive seems very reasonable. The knowledge community of MetaArchive strikes me as an appealing alternative to preservation-as-a-service vendors such as DuraCloud and Preservica.

TRAC review tool

Acronyms abound in our profession, and for those who aren’t familiar, TRAC refers to Trustworthy Repositories Audit and Certification (TRAC): Criteria and Checklist, which is now ISO 16363. Essentially, TRAC is a method for demonstrating that a digital repository meets certain criteria for trustworthiness. There are 88 criteria on the checklist, and they fall into three categories:

  • Organizational Infrastructure – e.g. mission statement, succession plans, professional development, financial stability
  • Digital Object Management – e.g. metadata templates, persistent unique identifiers, registries of formats ingested, preservation planning
  • Technologies, Technical Infrastructure, and Security – e.g. detecting bit corruption, migration processes, off-site backup

While TRAC is designed for repositories to become certified as trustworthy, many institutions simply use it as a self-assessment tool. Developed by Nancy McGovern, the Head of Curation and Preservation Services at MIT Libraries, the TRAC review tool enables the assessor to provide evidence of how well a repository meets a TRAC criterion and rate its compliance on a five-point scale:

  • 4 = fully compliant – the repository can demonstrate that has comprehensively addressed the requirement
  • 3 = mostly compliant – the repository can demonstrate that it has mostly addressed the requirement and is on working on full compliance
  • 2 = half compliant – the repository has partially addressed the requirement and has significant work remaining to fully address the requirement
  • 1 = slightly compliant – the repository has something in place, but has a lot of work to do in addressing the requirement
  • 0 = non-compliant or not started – the repository has not yet addressed the requirement or has not started the review of the requirement

Of course, knowledge of whether a repository meets all of these 88 criteria isn’t the purview of one person, and another benefit of the TRAC review tool is that it enables the lead assessor to assign certain criteria to other people (such as admin or tech team), making the whole process of assessing repository activities more transparent across an organization.

Technically speaking, the TRAC review tool is simply a Drupal instance with a page for each TRAC criterion, so it’s very lightweight and easy to begin using after download!


BitCurator bundles open-source digital forensics tools to help memory institutions manage born-digital materials and perform tasks such as:

  • acquiring disk images of floppies, hard drives, laptops, or desktops
  • generating technical metadata for the disk images
  • identifying and retracting sensitive information such as SSNs, credit card information, etc.

Most of the tools that BitCurator is adapting for use by memory institutions originate in the law enforcement world, whose purposes are very different from our own. BitCurator repurposes these tools for the curation tasks of special collections and archives. For example, capturing a disk image (rather than file by file by file) not only preserves the environment in which the creator worked, but also in a certain sense preserves the “original order” of the records. Last summer I attended a BitCurator hackathon hosted by the Open Planets Foundation, where my main output was a detailed draft of a workflow for ingesting born-digital materials. At CurateGear 2014, I was pleased to hear about some updates to BitCurator 0.5.8 and pleased, too, that my draft workflow doesn’t yet need revision!

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.

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