The DC Punk Archive: Digital Preservation Report

Brief Overview

The DC Punk Archive, a collection in the DC Public Library’s (DCPL) Special Collections, was established in 2014 to document Washington D.C.’s incredibly influential punk music scene from the mid-1970s to present day. The collection is associated with DCPL’s Washingtoniana Collection, which aims to collect, preserve, and provide access to materials documenting Washington D.C.’s history and culture. Having grown up in the area and having gone to plenty of shows (big names and small local shows), I was really interested to learn about their digital holdings and the archive in general.

I reached out to the Special Collections Librarian, Michele Casto, for help with this project and she got me in touch with Lauren Algee, a Digital Curation Librarian responsible for DCPL’s digitization projects, including the DC Punk Archive. Lauren was kind enough to work with me and answer my questions on the digital holdings and digital preservation practices of the DC Punk Archive. I conducted my survey by email.

The Digital Holdings

In terms of their digital holdings, the DC Punk Archive consists of both digitized and born digital materials. DCPL has digitized 4560 scans of fliers, posters, and zine pages. They have 115 video files digitized from umatic and vhs tapes. The Archive also holds a number of born digital materials, including photographs, an ebook, live audio recordings on mini-disc, albums on CD, and films on DVD. They have a decent amount of live performances on magnetic media (audio cassettes and vhs tapes) that have yet to be digitized but are are in need of preservation.

Digital Asset Management

The DC Punk Archive’s digital assets are managed through series of automated and manual processes, included 3 independent management software systems. The assets are accessioned, ingested, preserved, and made available for use. For non-digital material, items are first prioritized for digitization. The time and resources needed for digital conversion of a physical asset is a major driving force in determining which materials are digitized. The DC Punk Archive not only has to factor in converting a variety of media into digital formats, but some of their tems contain content under copyright (for example: the recording of shows from pirate radio station, Radio CPR). Digitized and born digital items are accessioned and backed up on local servers. The DC Punk Archive uses ArchivesSpace to create the accession records. As a digital collection is processed, materials are ingested into the DCPL Preservica repository. Preservica is an all-in-one OAIS digital storage system that allows for the automation of preservation tasks that DCPL staff do not have to worry about. The DC Punk Archive material in Preservica has checksums created and monitored, as well as obsolete files identified and managed.

Processed materials are given descriptive metadata and then made publicly available on the DCPL’s Dig DC website. Dig DC is a web portal for selected digital content from DC Public Library Special Collections. Although ArchivesSpace is capable of being used for public access to the holdings, Dig DC is built on the digital asset management system CONTENTdm. Currently, Dig DC contains over 400 fliers, posters, other ephemera, and an ebook. They do not currently share any video publicly on Dig DC.

Current State Of The Digital Content

Lauren was confident in the preservation practices in place for the DC Punk Archive. The 3 management systems; ArchivesSpace, Preservica, and CONTENTdm, can be challenging to manage together, but each serves a specific purpose for DCPL. Together, all 3 do a considerably good job at helping the digital holdings of the DC Punk Archive maintain level 3s and 4s on the NDSA levels of digital preservation. Lauren is pleased with the way the 3 systems perform and the results they provide. Her next focus is on the unprocessed digital material in the DC Punk Archive which is just a matter of getting the unprocessed material ingested and available on Dig DC.

How It Relates To The Mission

Digital preservation is incredibly important and vital to the mission of the DC Punk Archive. Many of the materials in the collection are at-risk magnetic media and digital preservation is critical to ensure that a copy of it can be made and safely kept for foreseeable future. Additionally, digitizing the collection has proven to be beneficial in helping a wider user base access the collection. The history and culture that the DC Punk Archive captures has national and worldwide audiences. There is a huge amount of public interest in the materials and through digitization, these materials are being preserved and now have the ability to be made digitally accessible.

Institutional Support

Thankfully, Lauren feels that the Special Collections and DCPL understand the importance of digitally preserving the Archive. The DC Punk Archive has been fortunate enough to have the budget and staffing needed for resources and time dedicated to digital preservation. Although, that’s not to say that she couldn’t use more money and staff to continue the digitization projects she has planned related to the collection.

Future Projects/Plans

The DC Punk Archive has a good handle on its current holdings, but is still conscious of new kinds of media (digitized and born-digital) that may soon turn up in new accessions. Lauren aims to be better equipped to accommodate digitally received original studio or live recordings. Also, the DC Punk Archive is currently working with documentarians and expect to receive born-digital video. Both the born-digital audio and born-digital video require a lot of storage space, so Lauren is beginning to plan for how to go about storing it all. Finally, DCPL Special Collections is not web archiving and Lauren says that they hope to be soon. The DC Punk Archive related material would be involved in that web archiving process.

In the coming weeks, I will continue to work with the Lauren, and DC Punk Archive, to develop a digital preservation policy in order to raise their NDSA levels of digital preservation.

2 Replies to “The DC Punk Archive: Digital Preservation Report”

  1. I love the institutional support local popular music scenes are receiving, and in particularly DC’s punk scene. I know that the zine collection at SCPA has seen a number of researchers come through– some who had an academic background, others who would have been categorized more as enthusiasts, and I sometimes wonder how such collections can accommodate and support both audiences, and I imagine that translates– at some level– to digital preservation as well.

    I’ll be interested to hear more about how they plan on dealing with file formats– particularly with the DIY ethnos being such a big part of the punk scene, I would imagine that recordings and documentaries could have been made in a number of formats.

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