The Pitfalls of Working with Born Digital Records: Two Presentations

Don Mennerich, a digital archivist in the Manuscripts Division at The New York Public Library, and I presented at the 2013 code4lib conference in Chicago, Illinois. Our presentation specifically focused on the complications of working with legacy born-digital records in special collections, and the occasionally extraordinary steps we undertake to preserve them or make them accessible. Our slides are available below or on Google Docs.

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Additionally, I presented a workshop on working with open source digital forensics tools to the University of Michigan student chapter of the Society of American Archivists last October. Nearly six months later, I have been able to get the slides and audio together in video form:

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 [originally posted by Mark A. Matienzo]

Digital Oral Histories, Transcripts, and User Interfaces

One of the most heavily used collections of born-digital records in Manuscripts & Archives is RU 1055, Oral histories documenting New Haven, Connecticut ( Since being acquired a few years ago, more than 50 different interviews have been used by a number of different researchers, the majority of those researchers Yale students. Manuscripts & Archives does not currently have an online access system to provide access to these born-digital records. All access is provided onsite. Use copy Audio CDs were created of the audio recordings and use copy pdf files were created of the transcriptions. Patrons are required to either access these use copies onsite using computers in the reading room, or purchase duplicate copies to be sent to them. While this is not the most robust system, the collection is used relatively heavily. Perhaps the usage would increase if they files were available for access other the Internet, particular users from farther afield.

One interesting aspect of research use of this collection is that the majority of patrons only utilize the text transcriptions and never listen to the audio interviews that the transcriptions were created from. Only a dozen audio recordings have been accessed in the last two years. Oral histories are not an area of my research focus. However, it would seem that much is lost to the researcher if they chose to rely entirely on the text transcriptions rather than the original recordings. There is no nuance at all to the text. A cursory Internet search results indicates that there is a professional debate about this subject (see: for example). A unit inside Manuscripts & Archives, the Fortunoff Archive of Holocaust Testimonies ( purposefully does not create word-for-word transcriptions, but instead creates in-depth finding aids describing the content of the video recordings in an effort to emphasize the importance of the videos themselves. I wonder what other organizations are doing. This issue will have great relevance as we continue to develop an online access system for born-digital and digitized collections. For oral and video histories, do we want a simultaneous, or side-by-side view of the audio or video and transcription? Or does this view too much emphasize the importance of the text? I don’t know the answer myself and am concerned that those who do have informed opinions may not participate in the development of the access systems. [originally posted by Kevin Glick]

3D-printed enclosures for the KryoFlux boards

I was recently asked to install two new KryoFlux floppy disk controller boards, replacing an older revision KryoFlux and an even older Catweasel controller board. The awkward thing about the KryoFlux is that unlike the Catweasel, it does not sit inside the computer, but on the outside, so we have the funny setup of a floppy disk ribbon cable coming out of a hole in the back of the computer into the KryoFlux and then a normal USB cable connecting it back to the computer.

Since this is just a bare electronic board sitting on the table, we thought it would be a good idea to find some way of protecting it. And then I thought about the 3D printers that Yale just got as part of the new Center for Engineering, Innovation, and Design! I took a KryoFlux, made a bunch of measurements, and designed an enclosure on my computer. The next day, I brought in a prototype, made some adjustments to my design, printed another enclosure, and voilà!

We really do live in the future! And in the spirit of the 3D-printing community, I have uploaded all of the enclosure’s files: [originally posted by Aschi Haggenmiller]

Imaging Jaz Disks

I had some fun on Friday morning. It was my first attempt at creating a forensic disk image of the 2 GB Jaz disks (see: We have had these disks in the University Archives for several years, but haven’t had the capability to deal with them. Our student is currently working through our backlog of previous accessions of digital records and he came upon these Jaz disks. He had never seen or even heard of a Jaz disk. I tried to explain that they were from the manufacturer of Zip disks. This only proved to show my age, since he had never heard of these either; before his time.

The great difficulty with Jaz drives is that they were never all that popular in the consumer market and used a more expensive connection to the computer, SCSI 50 pin HD that was more expensive. This means that the connection to one of our lab computers can be difficult. At first I was unsure how we might connect from the 50 pin HD SCSI 2 on the Jaz drive (which I had managed to pick up when cleaning out an office for a retired administrator years ago) to the forensic computer workstation. I realized that our Tableau T3458 forensic bridge has a SCSI 68 pin HD SCSI 3 input. A quick search on the Internet revealed a $4 connector. It came in the mail last week and I pulled it out on Friday and made my first attempt to connect and image. With just a little bit of manipulation, it connected properly. The disk was formatted HFS on a Mac, so I was not able to mount the drive and Windows assumed it need to be formatted. However, I was able to use FTK Imager to create a raw image of the disk that I can open in FTK Imager or FTK. [originally posted by Kevin Glick]

Jaz drive with disk

Busy day in the forensics lab

We had a little bit of a traffic jam in the digital records forensics lab today as our new student Michael continued with his second day accessioning DVDs and Michael Lotstein gave some assistance to Suzi Noruschat while she was imaging her second small batch of DVDs. Kevin Glick, not pictured, working in the next cubicle on an accession that a patron has requested. <>. [originally posted by Kevin Glick]

Busy Friday Afternoon in the Forensic Lab