Thursday, October 6, 2011

The To-Do List of a Digital Archivist

It's immensely gratifying to see today coming together. I hope that everyone who is reading is enjoying the blog and learning a lot. While this project wasn't an incredible amount of overhead to put together ("Hi, my name is Gretchen. Could you write a blog on October 6th? Thanks!" ...okay maybe a bit more swearing at Blogger was involved...), I haven't been able to do a lot of thinking about what I would write today. But since the point is to capture a "slice of life" in the world of digital archives, I thought the best illustration for me would be to post my (annotated) To-Do List. So, in all it's glory, here it is:

  • start to draft blog for D0DA
    (woo-hoo! it doesn't say "finish blog" so I can check this one off!)
  • check on saturday shift
    (As a member of the Special Collections staff I am still required to work on the reference desk each week and one Saturday each month. Although I don't consider myself "a people person" and working on the desk slightly stresses me out, I'm generally happy to do this. It helps me to understand how people use our collection, which in turn helps me design better interfaces and tools. It also helps me to learn about what's in the collection. However, I just started here in May and some things that are specific to our department are still a mystery to me. This task is related to my shift this coming Saturdy. The schedule says that my shift this Saturday is only from 1-5, but I know the building is open all day. I need to figure out what's going on...before Saturday.)
  • correct Warner EAD
    (this item and the next one are all related to the AIMS grant project. I started here at UVa in May to replace the former Digital Archivist on the project, which is exploring the management of hybrid collections — those containing both digital and analog materials. One of the collections that was to be processed for the grant was the Papers of Senator John Warner. The collection included 35 CDs of scanned correspondence. There ended up being far too many issues surrounding copyright and to be able to do much with this collection at this point other than to image the discs and put the content into our long-term storage space. This fulfills part of our mandate to steward these materials because they will be "preserved" in this way, but we still need to process them to some level (i.e. track what's actually ON the disks...maybe) and make them accessible.
    [As an aside, the idea for the D0DA project came out of an unconference held by the AIMS team. You can read all about it on our AIMS blog if you are interested.]) 
  • White Paper!!!
    (I am acting as the main editor for the White Paper that is being written by the AIMS partners. The following tasks all relate to editorial work I need to do.)
    • check up on list of accessioning tools referenced in the section on Accessioning. Chris Prom's blog is a good source...
      (The AIMS white paper describes a framework for practice that was developed by the AIMS partners. The framework is divided into four "functions of stewardship": Collection Development, Accessioning, Arrangement and Description, and Discovery and Access. In Accessioning, we describe several tools that will create technical metadata or detailed file manifests which are key to the process of gaining administrative and intellectual control. I just want to make sure that this list doesn't overlook any key tools, and I'm planning on checking the awesome Practical E-Records blog for their list of software and tools to be sure I have my bases covered.)
    • check bibliography against footnotes
      (ARRGGHHH, it's just like being in college again. I hate citation formatting...)
    • still needed appendices: 
      • update of glossary
      • Bios for last few participants
      • Institutional descriptions for all
        (The AIMS project has been a really great experience for me, because I've gotten to make connections with a lot of great new colleagues, and collegiality and collaboration are so important in this field since we're all still kind of stumbling around trying to figure out how to do things. The only downside is that you have to wait for extremely busy people to find time to do things. None of the items below are horribly behind schedule or anything like that and everyone is doing a great job, but this is just the nature of the work.)
    • update word usage documentation
    • (The AIMS project was a collaboration among a few US academic institutions and one from the UK. The joint authorship then obviously lead to regularization of British and American spellings and grammar. But, surprisingly or not, it also leads to a lot of other confusions about terminology that have nothing to do with national origin. There is an overlap of terminology among traditional archival practice and digital library technology, and this means we need to go back and create primary definitions for things that might have just been assumed in one domain or the other. It's also because existing archival terms have to be redefined within a born-digital context: what does it mean to "accession" digital materials? What does it mean to "arrange" them.
    • write appendix entry for D0DA blog
      (Since this blog was inspired by the project, we certainly want to let our generous funders, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, know about this awesome blog!)
  • Plan for Stacks Survey
    (Once the AIMS project is done, my attention will turn back to the rest of the collections here at UVA, and my first priority is to figure out what kinds of disks we have in the stacks. At a certain point in the late 80's processors began removing disks from collections, numbering them, and noting this in collection descriptions. My concern is with any material received prior to this, or anything missed. The first thing I'm going to do is initiate a stacks survey to see what comes up and if further effort to find these disks is needed. This will also give me an opportunity to get a handle of what types of media we have, so that I can start thinking about hardware needs to handle these disks.)
  • Revise agreement Guidelines
    (None of our agreements or legal apparatus currently address digital materials. The AIMS project has been a great opportunity to think through a lot of the issues, and updated our agreements and getting the blessing of legal counsel for them will be another top priority.)
  • Write detailed guidelines for FRED
    (We are fortunate enough here at UVA to have purchased a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device (FRED) and I have been through two full days of training to use it. But I can't be the only one who knows how to do this work, so a detailed documentation book and probably some training materials need to be created ASAP.)
  • Legacy disk imaging
    (Remember all those disks in the stacks? Yeeeaaaahhhh, I need to do something about them...)
  • Data Management Planning
    (In the midst of all of this work, the way we manage our archival data here at UVA is ready for some updating. We are closely following the development of ArchivesSpace because it could be a really great option for us to migrate away from using our ILS to manage accessions and a much easier way for us to create not only collection guides, but also to integrate data about collections with data from digital and born-digital archives.)
  • Rollery Derby meeting Thurs. 6 p.m.
  • Packing for trip to France on Monday!
    (What? I can't have a personal life? :)


  1. Spectacular list, Gretchen! And thanks for having inspired DoDA. A raging success!

  2. Very thought-provoking articles written by the author , Write the nature of the matter and content ,Looking forward to better articles , Will always pay attention to your posts
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