Born Digital Archives Forum

by Jessica Quagliaroli

In the last blog entry Mary Caldera described the many people, committees, working groups, and departments across the Yale University Library System that contribute to the research and work on born digital archives. By my last count, there were at least eight different groups at Yale working on born digital archives. In an effort to highlight this work, the Born Digital Archives Working Group (BDAWG) recently hosted a Born Digital Archives Forum, which was structured around a combination of lightning talks, small group discussion, and Q&As. In addition to the main goal of highlighting work, we also wanted to provide a space for the various practitioners and groups to discuss challenges and share solutions.

The idea for this forum came as I was sitting in a Born Digital Description Taskforce meeting where members began discussing some areas of overlap with another committee. I had the thought that it would be helpful if, in this spiderweb of born digital archival work, we could all gather and update each other on our work and discuss any particular challenges we were facing. The other taskforce members agreed, and the idea was brought back to BDAWG for feedback.

I have to give many thanks to my colleagues on BDAWG for supporting my spur-of-the-moment idea and agreeing to host the forum. I especially have to give thanks to Alice Prael, who volunteered to be my co-planner. Over several weeks of planning, Alice and I secured lightning talk presenters and came up with discussion group topics and prompts.

Though the focus of the forum was on born digital archival work, we wanted to cast a wide net in attendees, and so sent out an invitation to the Yale Library listserv encouraging anyone engaging in born digital archival work to attend. We ended up with 18 attendees, many of whom directly work with born digital archives, but some who were interested in learning more about this area of research and work.

The Forum

We began the forum with our five lightning talk presenters. They were:

  • Born Digital Archives Working Group: Mary Caldera and Alice Prael
  • Base Image Project: Jonathan Manton
  • Born Digital Description Taskforce: Alison Clemens
  • Web Archiving Working Group: Rachel Chatalbash and Melissa Fournier
  • Emulation as a Service Infrastructure (EaaSI): Ethan Gates


Born Digital Archives Working Group: BDAWG Overview, BDAWG Collaboration and Consultation, Priorities for next year - advocacy and education, access, collaboration, network transfers

Slide from the BDAWG’s lighting talk

Each presenter had five minutes to highlight the work and current status of their group or project.

After the lightning talks, we broke out into small group discussions, focused on the following topics:

  • Access and Emulation
  • Privacy and Security
  • Appraisal and Selection
  • Description

Each small group was provided with three to four prompts as a way to generate conversation. However, the prompts were not always necessary. The photograph below shows that the Access and Emulation group merged with the Privacy and Security group to create one conglomerate:

Photograph of the conglomerate discussion group

At the end of the small group discussion a representative from each group reported out what had been discussed. We then ended with any Q&As and actionable items that came out from the small and large group discussion.
Photograph of wrap up discussion

Looking ahead

Overall, we were quite happy with how the forum ran and we received positive feedback from participants. However, there were a few “lessons learned” and areas for improvement for future forums:

  • Timing: Alice and I budgeted 30 minutes for the introductions and lightning talks, 30 minutes for small group discussions, and 30 minutes for the large group discussion. However, it was clear that 30 minutes was not enough time for both small and large group discussions. Going forward, we will likely plan for a two-hour event, providing for more discussion time.
  • Messaging: Early on I named the forum the “Born Digital Archives Working Group Forum,” which led to some confusion on both the purpose and scope of the event. Some thought the forum would only cover the work of BDAWG. The name was changed to the “Born Digital Archives Forum” and a line in the invitation was added to encourage all individuals engaging in born digital archives work, including interns, to attend. Clarifying the title and intended audience contributed to a higher attendance.
  • Sharing Outcomes: Each discussion group was provided with a whiteboard, markers, notepads, and pens. My intention was to capture the notes and any concrete action items on the whiteboards, which could then be photographed and shared out to the group. This was not communicated effectively, and most attendees took notes on their laptops, which meant that the outcomes of the forum could not be directly shared. Future forums should account for this, and some sort of digital note-taking platform, even a simple blank Google Doc in which attendees can dump notes, should be provided.

With these areas for improvements in mind, BDAWG looks forward to hosting more Forums in the future.


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