About Digital Curation Services
The Bentley Historical Library's newest division, Digital Curation Services, was established in April 2011 with the goal of developing and implementing solutions for the long-term preservation and management of digital materials across their lifecycle. The division is responsible for the administration of born digital and digitized materials in both the University Archives and the Michigan Historical Collections.
The division's mission reflects the Bentley Library's belief that archives must take a proactive role in the preservation of digital content. Digital Curation Services will therefore work closely with record creators and donors to provide guidance on best practices for record creation and administration as well as sustainable file formats and transfer methods. In addition to ensuring the long-term viability of content through various preservation procedures (virus scans, filename normalization, checksum calculation, file format conversion, etc.) and secure storage, Digital Curation Services will add value to content through archival description, the development of access mechanisms, and the management of risk by enforcing restrictions on sensitive materials.
There is a significant shift to the creation of records in digital form. Devices like ipads, iphones and blackberries allow for the continual flow of data creation and dissemination day and night. The ease of creating digital content, however, does not mean that there are not challenges. There are in fact several challenges. Digital information, whether it is a record or not, needs hardware and software to make it readable and usable. As we all know, technology continues to change. The challenge is to make sure that important documentation is maintained in a way that it will continue to be usable in five, ten or fifty years. Best practices include using sustainable file formats, maintenance of important documents on a server rather than writing the content to removable media, making sure that there is a backed up strategy in place and organizing the content so that key documents can be easily located and migrated when necessary.
Another challenge is that digital technology allows for the creation of an abundance of digital content. Worldwide there has been 800,000 petabytes of data created this year alone. A major challenge is appraising archival content produced within various systems that may not be actively managed or that has not been identified as an official record. To combat this challenge, it is best practice to have a scheme for the organization of your digital content so that significant records are grouped into categories. It is also best practice to regularly clean up your files. It may be that once a final report or paper is completed, the earlier versions and working drafts are no longer necessary. A similar routine can also be established for e-mail. Get in the habit of purging routine and transitory messages on a regular basis.
Lastly, the challenge of digital is the proliferation of third-party systems. The main recommendation with the use of third-party systems such as Yahoo mail and Flickr is that if you are using the system for important documentation including e-mail or photographs, you should determine whether the company provides a way for you to easily export your content. Check the terms of agreement or ask a service representative about this detail. It may be important at the time you would like to change systems or transfer a selection of content to the archives.