4 Replies to “Make Sure You Dance With the Bits That Brought You: How Fixity Enables Emulated Access”

  1. Great post and excellent gif.

    You mentioned how the archivists identified the correct version of Photoshop in the emulation article. To be honest, I found the process to access the outdated files to be so complex and tech heavy. I wonder how many institutions have files that could be “born again” but don’t have the technical ability to go through the process of emulation. I would have liked to know how the institutions in the NDSA survey felt on the topic of emulation, if they have files that may require it, and their willingness to carry it out. It just sounds like such a time consuming process. Maybe when contractors or cloud storage providers offer emulation as a standard feature it won’t seem like such an epic challenge. Until that time, however, fixity is going to be just as important to make sure that the files are still functional if and when emulation is easier to use.

    1. Yeah, it’s definitely a complex process. I think that the case studies presented in the emulation paper represent some of the first explorations of emulated access in an archive, and the process will eventually become easier as more specialized tools and workflows are developed.

      Still, I think that as we move into a world where nearly every archive has *some* digital holdings, archivists are simply going to have to become more comfortable with technology. Just as a traditional archivist needs to have a complete understanding of the physical objects in their collection (what are the properties/vulnerabilities of the paper? the binding? the cover? etc), a digital archivist needs to have an understanding of the structure and content of their digital objects in order to properly preserve them.

      Its very true that emulation is not necessary for every archive. I would argue though that for an archive that has complex media that they think might benefit from emulation they really have a responsibility to not let technical complexity be their only barrier.

  2. This reminds me of something that has been discussed in class previous: preservation is about future access.

    I think partially because I’ve never really done fixity checks myself, the process sometimes feels a bit abstract. Checking fixity seems just about making sure the bit streams are the same so an archivist can claim authenticity. As you point out in this post however, fixity checks are not just about ensuring authenticity, but they can also be essential for providing future access. I think this is important for archivists to keep in mind; we are not just trying to make sure digital objects are exactly the same, but we are trying to ensure these objects can be accessed and used in the future.

    1. I think you’ve hit on an important point here. I was very focused on emulation in my post, but the fact is that maintaining the authenticity of your files is important for all kinds of access, including access schemes that haven’t been invented yet!

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