If you want to go fast…

If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.

(African proverb)

There is no better guidance for those working in the realm of born digital archives than the proverb quoted above. I manage a technical services unit responsible for accessioning, arranging, describing, and caring for our archival holdings, regardless of format. My primary goal in engaging more deeply with born digital archives was, and still is, to develop and operationalize workflows and procedures for our born digital acquisitions and holdings. My born digital education has been long and arduous, but one lesson that sunk in very quickly is that I could go neither fast nor far without help, and a lot of it. Fortunately, I work in an institution with many knowledgeable practitioners and a history of contributing to research on born digital archives. Here are some of the individuals (a few of which are no longer at Yale), efforts, and resources at Yale that are helping me reach my goal.[1]

  • Archivists with born digital archives expertise, including a few involved in early born digital archives research efforts, such as InterPARES and AIMS: An Inter-Institutional Model for Stewardship project. Members of this group from my repository were instrumental in laying the groundwork that my unit and others have been able to build upon. (Shout out to Michael Forstrom, Kevin Glick, Mark Matienzo, and Don Mennerich, and Gabby Redwine.)
  • Archivists, archives assistants, and student assistants in my unit who are doing the critical work of gaining physical and intellectual control over our born digital archives as well as discussing, testing, providing feedback, and implementing processes and procedures. (Shout out to those not named elsewhere Robert Bartels, Mike Brenes, Alicia Detelich, Eric Sonnenberg, and Camilla Tessler.)
  • Born Digital Archives Working Group (BDAWG). BDAWG emerged from a discussion among three Yale University Library units– Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Manuscripts and Archives, and the Preservation Department– about resources and capacity for born digital archives at Yale during a time when organizational changes made it necessary to review our management of shared hardware and software used to safely capture and access born digital archives. The discussion resulted in the directors asking a small group (who would become BDAWG) to collaboratively develop a roadmap for addressing born digital archives at Yale. Several years later we continue to work toward realizing our vision: “all Yale University Libraries and Museums (YUL/M) special collections are able to acquire, manage, preserve, and provide access to born digital archival materials, with at least the same level of stewardship and care as is devoted to our physical collections.” Past and present members and contributors are me, Mary Caldera; Rachel Chatalbash; David Cirella; Euan Cochrane; Kevin Glick; Matthew Gorham; Michael Lotstein, Jonathan Manton; Morgan McKeehan; Rachel Mihalko  (secretary); Alice Prael; Jessica Quagliaroli; and Gabby Redwine.
  • Born Digital Archives Working Group Advisors. This group provides resources, advice, guidance, advocacy, and, most critically, trust in members of BDAWG. Past and present advisors are Matthew Beacom, Kraig Binkowski, Ellen Doon, Dale Hendrickson, Christine McCarthy, E.C. Schroeder, and Christine Weideman.
  • Digital Accessioning Support Service (DASS). In my opinion BDAWG’s greatest accomplishment, after getting various Yale practitioners to together, is proposing and successfully advocating for a centralized service to support born digital archives accessioning. The service, developed by Gabby Redwine and Alice Prael in collaboration with BDAWG, captures digital content on physical media via imaging and copying, creates SIPs, and, for some repositories, stages files for ingest into Preservica. The two-year pilot, funded by Central Library, Manuscripts and Archives, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, served as a proof of concept and significantly reduced several repositories’ imaging backlog. The service is currently funded by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.  Ongoing analysis and discussions will determine the future of the service.
  • Digital preservationists in Digital Preservation unit selected, implemented, and is managing our digital preservation system, Preservica. In addition to managing Preservica, the unit assists collection owners in their use of Preservica and advises on various born digital archives matters. The unit and its members are also engaged in research and projects relevant to born digital archives such as the Emulation as a Service project, in collaboration with the Software Preservation Network; and the Technical Approaches for Email Archives project. Shout out to Seth Anderson, David Cirella, Euan Cochran, Ethan Gates, Grete Graf, Morgan McKeehan, and Kat Thornton.
  • The di Bonaventura Family Digital Archaeology and Preservation Lab, is co-managed by the Preservation Department and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. It is home to critical hardware and software and hosts digital preservation and digital accessioning support services and open lab hours.
  • At BDAWG’s request, the Archives and Manuscripts Description Committee (AMDECO) is developing recommendations for the description of born digital archives. Shout out to the born digital archives description task force members: Alison Clemens, Matthew Gorham, Jonathan Manton, Cate Peebles, and Jessica Quagliaroli.
  • Web Archiving Working Group. This group grew out of a web archiving initiative by the Yale Center for British Art and a contract with Archive-It shared by several Yale units. The group is charged with developing “a web archiving strategy for Yale University, including website harvesting, description of the archived web content, development of access methods, and investigation and management of rights issues.” As special collections repositories acquire archives from individuals and organizations who create and maintain websites, I am closely watching developments from this group. Current and past members not already named elsewhere are Andrea Belair, Maureen Callahan, Daniel Dollar, Jason Eiseman, Melissa Fournier, Heather Gendron, Louis King, Tang Li, Suzanne Lovejoy, Haruko Nakamura, Pam Patterson, and Steve Wieda.

And, of course, we are reliant on and ever grateful for the support and efforts of our Library and Yale IT colleagues and the broader community of researchers and practitioners that are contributing to the profession’s growing knowledge of born digital archives and their preservation.

So there you have it, most of it at least. My work is ongoing. With infrastructure, a commitment to research, and a community of practice, my task seems, while still challenging, less daunting. In a sense this is a letter of appreciation for all those on the journey with me. I am confident that together, we will go far indeed.

[1] (any omissions are sorely regretted and can only be attributed to the author’s imperfect memory and poor documentation)