Friday, July 10, 2015

Digital POWRR

On Tuesday June 30th, the fruits of many months of labor came to fruition in the form of a workshop that was held at Portland State University on the 30th of June and on July 1st.  The workshop was hosted by the NEH-funded Digital POWRR group who provide free workshops on  low-resource and scalable digital preservation solutions for small and medium-sized institutions.

It LOOKS intense!
This workshop was co-sponsored by the Northwest Archivists and the Sustainable Heritage Network.  I represented NWA's Education and Professional Development Committee with the generous assistance of Bryce Henry, NWA's Oregon Rep who helped assemble a conference hotel rate and rooms and the actual workshop spaces at PSU.  Huge thanks to Bryce for his support in this endeavor.  I also want to acknowledge Josh Zimmerman, former NWA President who wrote a letter of support for the Digital POWRR grant and encouraged me to work with them to bring their workshop to our members in the Pacific Northwest.  And of course the POWRR instructors for their excellent workshop, which I have been receiving great feedback on.

What makes this workshop so vital to our area in particular is that frequently our members have requested avenues to explore newer, cutting edge aspects of archives, such as digital preservation and with the current courses being somewhat monetarily prohibitive it is difficult to engage these newer workflows and tactics without group support.  In addition, the POWRR project was able to offer travel reimbursement scholarships for members who needed additional assistance which led us to hand out 3 scholarships, bringing in members from Washington and Idaho as well as Oregon.

The workshop included instructions on common digital preservation workflows and introduced participants to 2 unique tools for increasing the effectiveness of digital preservation workflows.  We got to try out and bring home copies of the tools we used in the workshop, provided on a cool jump drive.

These tools even SOUND cool!
It was fantastic!  The tools have helped me revise my current process for ingesting digital material, or adding them to our dark archive, including streamlining the metadata creation process and advising on some ways to improve collection tracking in Excel.  And heck, a lot of this was also a huge validation nod that I was doing the right thing all along but with more piece-meal solutions or adhoc tools.

The process now includes registering the materials in the dark archive ingest log with a few updated fields, then processing the collection from the media to the repository via the DataAccessioner tool, once this process is complete you will have a master copy and if need, an access copy.  Both have the same XML report of the contents of the collection including checksums and the metadata added at the time of migration.  Once the two copies have been created, we use the DAMetadataTransformer to create reports from the XML that are easier to read and we include those in each folder (master and access).  Now that the resource is in the system, we can describe it in Archivist's Toolkit and create a finding aid, or we can determine another descriptive method that better suits our patrons' needs.  Either way, we have moved past the earlier ad hoc phase into something more robust and reliable.  From this point we can investigate better access models, or systemic solutions that cover ALL aspects of digital preservation including the difficult and costly aspects like geographical distribution and redundancy, regular integrity verification and multi-role processes distributed across multiple work units.  All things that now seem much more likely with concrete possibilities for action.  In every sense, I would count that workshop as a huge success!

I am pretty pleased at how well the workshop turned out with a special thanks to the awesome work the Digital POWRR folks have done and their desire to provide solutions that work for those of us with little to no resources to accomplish, what appears to most, to be a draconian task.

There's been a lot going this summer (isn't school out by the way, why is it so busy?) and I hope to bring more news of interesting conferences (I went to my first Orbis Cascade Alliance meeting where I got to present on some unique collections bibliographic description project) and other cool projects.  We have been trucking along on our LSTA grant to digitize public health data in Oregon, so expect more news from either Maija or I on that front soon.

Till next time,
Max

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