College Park Aviation Museum: Digital Preservation Survey

The College Park Aviation Museum (CPAM), located less than ten minutes from campus, is an institution dedicated to “promoting aviation innovations at College Park Airport and in Prince George’s County while fostering research, inventiveness, and lifelong curiosity about the history and science of flight.” The museum is on the grounds of the College Park Airport, which has the distinction of being the site where Wilbur Wright taught the first military aviators to fly in 1909, and because it has been in operation ever since, it is known as the world’s oldest continuously operating airfield. Inside the museum’s exhibition space, a visitor can encounter historic aircraft and artifacts related to local aviation history while also getting an unobstructed view of the airport’s runway through a large wall of windows. The museum is a great destination for families, with numerous hands-on activities for children and a balcony overlooking the runway where visitors can bring picnic lunches.

The exhibit hall of the College Park Aviation Museum 

In keeping with its mission to preserve local aviation history, the museum has a small research library which contains materials focusing on the people, aircraft, and events associated with the College Park Airport and aviation in nearby Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties. Additionally, the library holds general materials on the development of civil and military aviation, significant aviators, and aviation technology, as well as a collection of children’s books dating from as early as 1910. Complimenting the books, magazines, and audiovisual material in the library, their archival holdings include photographs, negatives, newspaper articles, letters, logbooks, pamphlets, posters, scrapbooks, and other records. Significant topics represented include Airmail, the Benjamin Foulois Collection, The Cloud Club and Columbia Air Center, the Elaine Harmon Collection (Women’s Air Service Pilots), Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO), Preservation of College Park Airport Collection, and the U.S. Army Signal Corps Aviation School.

To learn more about the digital holdings of the organization, I interviewed Laura Baker, who began her career at the CPAM as a Museum Educator two years ago and was recently promoted to Curator of Collections. Laura was very enthusiastic to have CPAM be one of our class’s digital preservation projects, because she wants CPAM to be a forward-looking, modern institution with as much of their holdings digitized and made accessible as possible. Baker is new to her position, and has recently been focusing on staffing changes and important projects like the creation of a new air mail exhibit, so she has not yet had the time to do a full survey or audit of the museum’s digital holdings. Our interview was fortuitously timed because she said she is looking forward to focusing more on the collection and its priorities. The interview questions were a useful starting point for thinking about what digital material the museum has, how it is currently being managed, and what steps need to be taken to preserve it.

There is no complete inventory of library or archival holdings that can be consulted to identify the museum’s digital holdings, although individual inventories exist for specific categories or digitization projects. Laura reported that the bulk of the museum’s digital holdings are in photos. There are, for example, a large number of airmail photos that have been scanned at 600 dpi in conjunction with the recent exhibit. There is also a collection of historic photos that are lower quality jpegs and have been problematic for the museum because no one knows where these photos are originally from. They seem to be copies of photos from other institutions, and researchers will sometimes contact CPAM for copyright clearance for these photos, but the museum does not know the status of these photos or who to contact for the proper permission. An educator is currently working to try to solve this problem. In addition to historic photos, there are also a number of contemporary photos of museum events, like the recent Airmail Centennial. These photos are stored on the common drive, along with a small amount of scanned documents like airmail pamphlets and letters. A limited number of these photos are also on the CPAM website, but the website is hosted through the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission and CPAM does not have full control of their website. This puts some frustrating limits on how many photos they can share and how they can be displayed.

In the past, the museum partnered with Digital Maryland (DM) to digitize and host their ERCO photo collection. When I asked Laura about how this relationship worked and if it was something they would like to continue in the future, she said she did not know but was eager to investigate. The relationship with DM was lost after staffing changes, but the Digitization Supervisor, Linda Tompkins-Baldwin, recently visited the museum to explain how DM works and renew CPAM’s ability to post directly to the DM site. She also offered to help the museum in whatever way they needed throughout the digitization process. From the museum’s perspective, there are significant benefits to partnering with DM again. It allows CPAM to put more content online without hitting roadblocks from the Commission, it serves as an additional backup of digital files, and it comes at no cost to the museum. DM will pick up the materials from the museum and do all the digitization work so that CPAM can focus on other projects. The downside to partnering with DM is that it is only a collections database and cannot serve as a platform for digital exhibits or other types of interpretive content that the museum would like to produce. Also, if the museum wanted to charge fees for use of the photos, DM works on an “honor system.” Laura does not see these issues as a reason not to partner with DM again, but if the museum upgrades from PastPerfect into something with more online capability, she believes they could have a more meaningful digital collections presence than what DM offers. She also cautioned that if the partnership is restarted, it needs to be integrated into the daily operations for collection management so that it will survive any future staffing changes.

In addition to digital photos, the museum has a number of materials in other formats. There is a wall of VHS tapes, DVDs, and cassettes, which mostly chronicle events that have taken place on the airfield (like air shows) or movies shown at the museum for a program. The museum plans to migrate AV materials in obsolete formats to digital files in the future. Moreover, there are CD-ROMs with contemporary photographs of CPAM events and both floppy disks and USB-drives that contain unknown content. After our interview, Laura was able to locate an inventory of these various formats. The museum does not have any old hard drives or computers–Laura stated that it is their policy to get rid of old equipment when it is no longer needed, transferring the files stored there to newer systems. CPAM has been collecting oral histories in conjunction with the Library of Congress (LOC) Veterans History Project. When asked if the museum keeps a copy of those oral histories after submitting them to LOC, Laura consulted with the person in charge of the project. She discovered that the most recent oral histories are stored on the common drive and the older ones are stored on DVDs. There is a hard copy list of the oral histories with the names and dates of each.

When asked how the digital content is being managed, Laura said there currently is no plan in place for preserving digital content. After reviewing the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) Levels of Digital Preservation together, we concluded that the museum is not yet at level one in the five categories. Employees are generally conscientious about labeling files in ways that make them easy to find, creating file structures that make sense, and refraining from “cluttering” the drive with unnecessary files. Laura reported that moving forward, new policies are in place for naming conventions, and educators are sorting through the common drive to identify photos. There are no file fixity and data integrity checks on the museum’s digital content, and the files on the common drive are not set for restricted access because the museum has had problems in the past with employees restricting access to administrative files and not telling others how to access those files when they leave the museum’s employment. In regards to metadata, inventories of digital content tend to be created on a project-by-project basis and it seems some content produced in the past may not be inventoried at all. They also use the collection management system PastPerfect, and Laura would like to see more complete and accurate records kept of all objects in the collection, admitting that this has not always been done well in the past.

On the museum’s perceptions of the state of their digital content, Laura said that right now the museum’s digital content is limited and not much is being done with it, but the institution is eager to do more. She assessed the creation and preservation of digital content as not quite “mission critical,” but “definitely a priority,” and actions are already being taken in that direction. The museum’s director believes that digital content is an important part of how museum’s operate today and wants to see CPAM catch up to what other institutions are doing. Meeting this goal, however, sparks important questions–how does the museum do it, how do they pay for it, and who is going to be the person(s) doing the work? These practical questions can sometimes constrain CPAM’s ambitions, as they (like nearly all museums) have only limited time, equipment, and funds.

When asked what digital content the museum is not currently collecting but would like to, Laura said the museum has made it a goal of diversifying their collections. They operate in a county where the majority of residents are African-American or Latino, and they would like to see more people of color represented in their collection. They also want to collect more material related to women and aviation. The goal of diversification is not one explicitly linked to digital content, but if there are digital materials they could be collecting that would make their collections more inclusive, that is something they would like to pursue. They would also be interested in archiving digital content related to exhibits and events that are happening at the museum and the airport. The museum does not have a blog, but they have written blog posts for the Smithsonian National Postal Museum that they would like to see preserved.

The museum does not have an archivist on staff, so the digital materials fall under Laura’s purview, but there are plans to hire a Collection Assistant and an Assistant Director to assist with projects that might include digital preservation in the future. Laura would also like to initiate a relationship with the University of Maryland to get one to three interns working in the museum on a semester-by-semester basis, although to do so she feels the museum needs more support and equipment. Right now, for instance, the museum only has one computer that would be available to interns. Laura would also like to get better digitization tools and train volunteers or interns on how to use them. There is only so much that the museum can put on their common drive, however, so they would also need more storage space if they were to significantly increase their volume of digital content. To both sustain existing content and to produce more, the museum would have to consult with Prince George’s County and various other funding streams, and perhaps look into applying for new grants. Given the current limits of their staff, equipment,  and budget, Laura believes its necessary to get a grant to outsource the creation and maintenance of their digital content or to use a free service like DM.

Greenbelt Museum

Scope of digital holdings

The Greenbelt Museum is a community museum that focuses on the “New Deal history and living legacy of Greenbelt, Maryland” (“Greenbelt,” n.d.). Founded in 1937, the town was designed as a “utopian cooperative community” by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration in hopes that it would become an accepted model of collective living across the country (“Greenbelt,” n.d.).  

Greenbelt was later designated a National Historic Landmark, and the museum was founded in 1987 as a partnership between the City of Greenbelt and the Friends of the Greenbelt Museum (FOGM). The Museum provides tours of an original Greenbelt home, walking tours of the community, rotating exhibits, and educational programming. Their collection scope includes items that were made and/or used in the town; associated with a resident, location, or event in Greenbelt; and that originated or were used from 1936-1952 (“Collections,” n.d.). In total there are approximately 2,000 artifacts in the Museum’s collection, with an estimated 50% already digitized. This total does not include the Museum’s archives, comprised of textual records, maps, and photos.

Their digital holdings consist primarily of image files in TIFF format, but also include recordings and transcriptions of oral histories. More recent oral histories are in MP3 format; however older recordings are stored on cassette tapes and have not been digitized. The Museum’s primary collection of oral histories, taken in 1987, were transcribed and scanned into PDF format. These scans were done a decade ago, and the Museum’s Director/Curator, Megan Searing Young, has indicated that they likely need to be rescanned. Finally, there are not corresponding analog copies of every digital object in the Museum’s possession.

Managing their digital content

While the Museum’s Collections Policy outlines digital content management and security in detail, it is unclear if actual day-to-day practices adhere to the policy. PastPerfect software is used for the collection database, Searing Young, describes as “searchable, though it’s clunky” (personal communication, October 9, 2018). Only the Museum’s artifacts are catalogued in PastPerfect, which excludes archival material since they have not been treated as objects.

According to the policy, records should be backed up on a weekly basis, with Searing Young as the sole responsible party of the repository. One copy of the backup is kept on her computer (which is owned by the city); one copy is kept in the Greenbelt Community Center safe; and one is kept off museum grounds (the policy does not specify where). When interviewing Searing Young, she said that a backup of their digital content is kept on a dedicated external portable hard drive with Greenbelt’s IT department, located at the city’s municipal building, but she was unsure of how it is stored.

On Searing Young’s computer, files are divided into subject folders which are grouped alphabetically with minimal metadata that differs across folders. In general, each image file name consists of a short description of the subject, its photographer, and whether the photo belongs to the Museum or the Library of Congress. Images are treated less as artifacts and more as archival records.

Staff perceptions of the state of digital content

The Museum’s Director is deeply concerned about their digital content and sees it as critical to the institutional mission that they have a digital preservation strategy in place. She strongly feels that this should be a priority for the whole organization.

Future collection plans

The original Greenbelt community was racially segregated until the late 1960s, and historically the museum has not been concerned with collecting material from African American residents in the area. Searing Young feels that this lack of diverse voices in the collection needs to be rectified. In 2012, on the occasion of Greenbelt’s 75th anniversary, she created a separate archive for objects and records from the Greenbelt African American community during the New Deal era and beyond.

Additionally, the Museum wants to acquire more video resources; objects that would provide more contextualization around the Resettlement Administration’s plans; and documentation of how homeowners were recruited and applied for the original Greenbelt homes.

Available resources

Greenbelt Museum is unique in that their collection is owned by the city; however, in the annual city budget there is no line item set aside for collection care. Generally $2,000 to $4,000 are allocated each year for museum purposes. The rest of their funding is provided  through two investment funds: a NEH Challenge grant and the Founders Fund, managed by the FOGM. The FOGM’s operating budget for fiscal year 2019 is $45,000 (City of Greenbelt, 2018).

Museum staff consists of one full-time employee, the Director/Curator, and two part-time employees, an Office Manager and an Education/Volunteer Coordinator. Much of their workforce consists of 20 to 25 volunteers.

It is unclear when the Museum could realistically tackle a large-scale digital preservation project, as they recently acquired the duplex next to the historic Greenbelt home and plan to expand the space for an education center, office space, and collection storage. This is expected to take place over an 18 month timeline.

References

City of Greenbelt. (2018, June 4). City of Greenbelt, Maryland: Adopted budget fiscal year 2019. Retrieved from https://www.greenbeltmd.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=13193

“Collections management policy and manual.” (n.d.). Unpublished internal document, Greenbelt Museum.

“Greenbelt Museum mission statement.” (n.d.). Unpublished internal document, Greenbelt Museum.

Geneva Historical Society

Introduction

The Geneva Historical Society is located in Geneva, New York. The Historical Society is committed to preserving Geneva history and using digital and analog materials to educate the community and sustain community interest in Geneva’s memory.  The Society is made up of a small group of employees who wear several hats. The Society’s greatest digital preservation concern comes from too many duplicates, a lack of a content management system, and no inventory of digitized items.

Digital Content

The Society’s digital content includes historical materials that are part of their archival collection, promotional and educational materials, and digital items generated through business-related actions. The historical collection includes materials available on the Society’s website, on NewYorkHeritage.org, and on the Rochester Regional Library Council’s NYS Historic Newspapers website. There are photographs, videos, and audio available for public access on the Society’s websites. The items available on NewYorkHeritage.org includes post cards, papers, and photographs. On NYSHistoricNewspapers.org are the Society’s microfilmed newspapers. The Society no longer has the original newspapers and now rely on this website for research, both internal and for the public. The Society also has StoryMaps, which are hosted by Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

The Director of Education and Public Information uses digital content for promotional and educational purposes. The Educator uses photographs and maps from the Society’s collection, public domain materials from websites such as Library of Congress and Wikimedia, and photographs taken at the Society’s events. The Educator uses Illustrator, Indesign, and Photoshop files for publicity and programming. The Curator uses Publisher files for exhibits.

The Society’s digital holdings also include image collections on the website media gallery through WordPress, a MailChimp media gallery, content on Google Photos and Dropbox, and other institution-based materials.

Content Management

Much of the Society’s current struggle with their digital content comes from the lack of management for these materials. The staff at the Society practice independent digitization. When a staff member needs something digitized, they do it themselves. Employees are unaware of what items others have already scanned. These digitized items are kept in folders on the employee’s computer, using their own filing system. This process has led to much duplication.

This duplication continues on the shared computer located in the Photo Archive. Using an Epson V300 scanner, staff scan items and store them on this computer. The materials saved on this computer are accessible to all of the staff through their own computers. This leads to duplication of the staff’s individual files.

The employees do not all have the same computer or operating system. They use Windows but not everyone has Windows 10. The digital formats used by the Society are generally jpg, tiff, and pdf. The digital copies have varying resolutions and file sizes and there is no standardized filing system, so finding objects that other employees have saved is difficult and time-consuming. If the Educator is looking for a certain image and knows it has already been digitized, she will ask the Archivist or Curator if they know the location. If the image isn’t digitized or easily accessible, the Educator will use the Epson V300 scanner and save the image to her desktop.

The staff agree that improving the state of their digital content is a priority. The staff believe that the digital content is too unorganized and that time is wasted looking for items and scanning materials already digitized. Getting their digital content under control is critical to the Society’s mission, as both staff and members of the public are negatively impacted by the disorganization. Organization is needed for more efficient access and use.

NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation

In terms of the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation, the Society is at Level 1 for the five areas. Although the Society has many copies, these duplicates are unintentional and uncontrolled and many have different factors (like resolution and size). The Society uses a Synology NAS storage system. Each employee’s desktop is backed up daily using Syncback Free to a Synology NAS over P2P network. The Society currently rests at Level 1 for the Storage section. When it comes to file fixity, there does not seem to be a process in place for checking fixity for digital objects. For the Information Security section, employees do not know what files other staff members are using as they digitize items independently, use different software, and have their own filing systems. There is no inventory for the Society’s digital content, so the Metadata section is also at Level 1. The Society does seem to use a limited set of formats with jpg, tiff, and pdf, but without an inventory of the digital objects, a complete list of the formats in use is unknown.

Further Collecting and Resources

There are more digital objects that the Society would like to collect. There are 50,000 photographs and business and family records that still need to be digitized. The archivist would actually like to digitize the entire archive but does not have the resources. To improve the state of the digital content, staff members could devote extra hours to digital preservation and the Society could accept community volunteers. The Society has previously worked with a yearly budget of $2000 for office equipment, including computers and software licenses.

Conclusion

The Society needs to get the content management of their digital materials under control, especially since they intend to add thousands of more objects into their holdings. Uncoordinated filing systems and a lack of an inventory contribute to their mass duplication and current struggle with inefficiency. Fortunately, the Society’s resources and staff commitment make the prospect of an improved digital preservation process likely.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation Digital Preservation Report

Background on the National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a non-profit organization that works to protect and advocate for historic buildings across the United States. There is a central headquarters for the operations in Washington, D.C., both on the business side and on the collections side, as well as the individual historic sites in multiple states. The collections staff works with the institutional documents for collections and with the staff at the sites that are found across the country. These sites fall into 3 categories: Stewardship sites, Co-Stewardship Sites, and Affiliated Sites. Stewardship Sites are owned and operated by the National Trust, while Co-Stewardship Sites are owned by the National Trust but are operated by a separate non-profit. Affiliated Sites are neither owned nor operated by the National Trust, but are affiliated with the organization for tech support and marketing. The National Trust has no involvement with the collections of Affiliated Sites. Of the 27 sites, 7 are Stewardship Sites, 14 are Co-Stewardship Sites and 6 are Affiliated sites. The national office has a role in overseeing the collections at the Stewardship and Co-Stewardship sites, but the collections are maintained and organized by the staff at the individual sites. This has lead to a lack of standardization in the past when including collection documentation in the collections management system and when naming files.

Scope of the Digital Collections of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

The majority of the digital materials held by the National Trust and their sites are photographs of 3-dimensional collection objects, photographs of paper materials in the collections and scanned documents containing information about the collections. These photographs and scanned documents (as .pdf documents) are found in the National Trust’s Re:Discovery Proficio Collections Management System. The version of Re:Discovery that the National Trust bought is a cloud-based version that can be viewed by anyone with login information. A large portion of institutional documents, not necessarily related to the collections, was scanned in 2013. These scanned documents are in a folder on the scanned drive. The file names are indicative of what is in the file, for the most part. It is usually an overview and therefore the collections staff is not sure what is exactly in the set of scanned documents. The collections documents, like deeds of gift, are held by the site or by the national office. Some of this information is included in their Re:Discovery Proficio system, either through the attachment of documents or through the entry of the information into the system fields. Most of this information is held in an analog form, rather than a digital one. Modern photographs of the sites are found in a separate digital asset management system housed in the National Trust’s intranet. The day-to-day operations of the sites and the main officeare now electronic and are stored either on the individual employee’s hard drive or in a shared drive in a folder for the site. The scanned documents are also found on this shared drive. The sites and the central office have not scanned any visual materials or do not have any audio files in the collections at this time.

There is standardization among file formats because they only have certain types of files (.jpeg and .pdf files for the collections materials).

Current Organization of Digital Materials

The National Trust currently has three locations for their digital materials (collection photographs and documents): Re:Discovery Proficio, individual drives and a shared drive.

The materials in Re:Discovery can be accessed by the staff and volunteers at the sites, and by the staff at headquarters. Their Re:Discovery is divided between the Collections module and the Libraries and Archives Module. The Collections module contains the records for the 3 dimensional collections objects held and displayed in the sites. The Libraries and Archives Module contains the records for the paper collections. There is some overlap between the two modules with books, as those are either in the Collections Module or in the Libraries and Archives module. Each type of module allows for the attaching of photographs and documents.

The materials in the individual drives and on the shared drive are documents referring to the collections as well as the normal running of each site and sometimes photographs. The individual drives are employee- or site-specific. The sites each have their own drives which aren’t shared in addition to the drive that is shared. These are organized into folders, usually by site, but there are folders that are more subject-specific. Within the site folders there may also be folders labeled by the year and the name of a current or former staff member with photos of a site. There appears to not be a larger organizational structure governing where certain types of files are kept and where backup copies are kept.

There is no inventory that provides an overview of all of the materials, what they are, and where they are located. A central problem, then, of maintaining these files over a long period of time is not knowing if there is anything missing. Due to having files spread over multiple locations, there is no standardized way of ensuring data security through file fixity or through editing permissions. There are different levels of access within Re:Discovery, which does provide security and back-up of the materials. There is also a log of when the last edits were made to the digital records within the system. There is also not a document that details who has which editing and removing permissions for digital materials or set way of determining where files are stored and which site-specific files are put in the shared drive.

Staff Response to Digital Preservation

The staff at the national headquarters are committed to find a way to centralize their digital resources but there are issues with implementation at the sites, especially the smaller sites. Their hope is to create a preservation plan that can be followed by a collections staff member (if there is one) at an individual site, but especially by interns and volunteers at the sites. Few of the sites have dedicated collections staff, so a primary goal and function of the preservation plan is that it can be implemented by interns and volunteers. To be effective, it should not require specialized technical knowledge, either with computers or with collections management. There have been large-scale standardization workshops with the site staff in the past (a previous focus was on the standardization of the finding aids created at the different sites) and the organization/centralization of digital materials could be the focus of a future workshop. There also is not a smaller organizational structure among the sites, except for the distinction between the Stewardship, Co-Stewardship, and Affiliated Sites mentioned above. The primary goal for the staff at the headquarters is to have everything in a centralized location, rather than trying to find something by looking in multiple places.

Future Collections Impacting Digital Preservation

The collections staff do not anticipate getting more materials in differing file formats in the future, other than if the site staff begin to create videos of events at their site. There is the expectation that as more materials are added to the collections at the sites, there will be more .pdf documents and .jpegs of collection items. These new materials would be integrated into the existing file structure and uploaded to Re:Discovery Proficio.

Human Resources and Technological Possibilities

The national headquarters has collections staff, include a collections director and a fellow, as well as interns on a fairly regular basis. The sites have different staffing structures due to the differences in the size and budget of the sites. Not every site has a collections manager, so anyone who would be working on digital preservation at these sites would be a volunteer or intern. This necessitates an easily followed and clear digital preservation plan that would integrate smoothly into day-to-day operations. On the technical side, there is a precedence of the national organization helping smaller sites by buying a scanner for the site. This sort of support could be used to buy external hard drives or cloud-based storage.

Conclusion

Overall, the National Trust is in an interesting position: they are both a large organization and a small one. Their digital materials therefore have to be accessible in multiple virtual places so that the sites and the headquarters can share information. The National Trust has a substantial amount of information that is available, but it isn’t standardized. With both of these things in mind, the most important pieces moving forward are to make the system simple enough to be followed by small organizations and centralize where materials are held so they are accessible.

Old Trails Museum Survey and Report

Introduction

The results of this overview were generated from a survey given to the Old Trails Museum’s director as well as follow-up e-mails clarifying specific points. Its purpose is to help establish the institution’s current digital collection practices, concerns, and goals in order to develop a digital preservation plan and set of policies tailored to the Museum’s unique needs.

Institutional Overview

Located in northeastern Arizona, the Winslow Historical Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to collecting, preserving, and exhibiting information and artifacts related to its community history and culture. The Historical Society was established as an independent organization in 1997. It owns and maintains the Old Trails Museum (from here out referred to as OTM), an educational institution meant to foster community engagement with and exploration of local history. Located near a historic transportation hub, the Museum is home to a series of diverse collections. These include histories related to U.S. Route 66, the Hopi, Laguna, and Navajo people, the Mormons’ Brigham City, and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. The Museum also collects items and histories related to former residents, community businesses, and local institutions, making it a significant local source for genealogical research.

The Historical Society is governed by a Board of Directors and operates under the direction of a part-time director and part-time associate. One of the major challenges facing the institution is the lack of arrangement in their holdings. The Museum’s current priority is to develop and enact a collections management policy to better maintain intellectual and physical control over their collections. Within the next year, they hope to finish creating and implementing their Collections Management Plan. Working with a digital preservation consultant will hopefully provide them an opportunity to build best practice digital preservation policies into their larger collection management plan.

Collection Policy

“The purpose of the OTM Collections is to stimulate interest in and understanding of Winslow’s economic, political, and social development, as well as its relationship to the region, state, and nation as a whole. OTM will accept materials from the time period immediately preceding Winslow’s founding through the present day, and from Winslow’s municipal boundaries and the surrounding areas. In addition, the OTM Archives include materials on the history of the museum itself and its activities and programs.” (Provided by Museum Director)

Institutional Goals for Digital Collections

Creating, managing, and enabling access for digital materials is a high-level priority for OTM. After their Collections Management Plan has been adopted, OTM will then work on creating metadata for upload into PastPerfect and PastPerfect Online. PastPerfect is a collections management software system popular among small and medium-sized cultural institutions. PastPerfect Online is the public facing component to this system that enables catalog sharing and searching.

The Museum has three specific goals for its digital content management practices:

  • Maintain best practices for digital image scanning, preservation, and storage
  • Maintain best practices for digital document scanning, preservation and storage (including converting and grouping multiple JPEGs into one PDF)
  • Maintain best practices for digital audio creation, conversion (if needed), preservation and storage

These goals are largely format driven and reflect the OTM’s plan to continue collecting and preserving objects of these types.

Overview of Digital Collections and Management Strategies

Currently, OTM holds a significant amount of digital content in the form of documents, images, audio files, and webpages. The documents number approximately 5,000 and include Word documents (Office Suite 2007)., PDFs, and scanned JPEGs. The Museum also has an estimated 10,000 images scanned as JPEGs or TIFFs and around 300 oral history audio files saved as MP3s. The JPEGs and TIFFs were created using Adobe Photoshop CS2 9.0. OTM is currently archiving WordPress pages from the OTM website as PDFs, which number around 200. These files were recently converted to the latest version. There are two clear branches within the Museum’s digital content: items digitized to further accessibility and born-digital objects mostly related to the OTM’s history and activities (with the oral histories as a notable exception). Differentiating between the two types of content will help guide preservation decisions by determining the level of adherence needed to file formats to preserve contextual information embedded in the object. It will also be important for determining static files and active files, which may need different preservation policies.

Not all digitized or digital objects are owned by the Museum, which means that attention should be paid to potential conflicts related to intellectual property, copyright, or other ownership questions.

There are currently two copies of each digital object in OTM’s collection. One is housed on the Museum’s desktop and the other is protected in a cloud-based storage provided by Carbonite. The desktop is an HP running a Windows 7 operating system. The OTM desktop is stored in a locked building with an alarm system. It is password protected and access is limited to the director, associate, and collections volunteers. Once the digital catalog is online, the Museum will continue to limit access to the original copies on the desktop. Carbonite is a cybersecurity company specializing in data protection. It provides automated back-up services to a cloud storage system. Carbonite users have the option of allowing the software to automatically save which files it deems important or to manually input those settings. The platform seems well-suited to OTM’s needs as it will automatically save user-created files such as word documents, PDFs, music files, PowerPoints, and more. However, the software defined saving system only backs-up files in the C:\ drive and won’t save files over 4GBs in size. Thus, the Museum will need to ensure that all the files they want saved are located in the proper place if they use automatic back-up. Access to the Carbonite files are also password protected and encrypted using a 128 bit encryption.

OTM’s desktop is monitored by AVG antivirus but there is currently no system for documenting and checking file fixity for possible corruption. Similarly, because the Museum is in the process of arranging and creating metadata for its collections, there is no overarching inventory for its digital content, though some portions have been completed and are stored on the desktop and through Carbonite.

The Museum has a distinct advantage in that it generates most of its own digital content through digitization efforts and its own administrative records. This means that the staff can be proactive in the type of file formats they employ including limiting it to a select few.

Analysis

            Mapping the OTM’s current digital preservation strategies to the NDSA’s Levels of Digital Preservation helps to structure the survey results against standardized and certified best practices for digital preservation and provides a roadmap for future actions. This exercise revealed that the OTM is currently meeting one of the five platforms for sound digital preservation at the first level. Having two copies, non-collocated and getting digital materials off of mixed media is an essential first step to good preservation which the institution has already met. In addition, while the Museum doesn’t meet the exact definition for basic levels of information security and file formats, they do have basic security practices in place and have some flexibility as to determining what types of file formats will be used. Creating policies and documentation will be two of the most important next steps in these areas.

File fixity and metadata are the weakest categories for the Museum. Part of this will hopefully be strengthened as the institution creates PastPerfect records for its content. Checking fixity will most likely require the implementation of new tools as well as the creation of policies and processes for documentation.

Resources

OTM has a number of resources that can be brought to bear on their digital preservation efforts. As mentioned in the institutional overview, they have two paid staff members, a director (who works twenty-eight hours a week) and an associate (who works eight). Though their current digital work is aimed at the digitization of analog records and the creation of metadata, some of their time may be redirected towards digital preservation needs. In addition, the Museum has a volunteer network, some of whom have expressed interest in working with the oral histories collection.

The Museum has a dedicated budget of $500 for computer maintenance and $1,000 for archival equipment and supplies. There is also room in the budget for use of some discretionary funds.

Finally, OTM has access to the software platforms Carbonite and PastPerfect. Carbonite is already providing a layer of additional storage and security, but it could also be useful for maintaining data integrity. The software regularly runs data integrity checks and compares the files in cloud storage with the original files on the adjoining computer. In addition, the software’s restore file function provides basic information about file count and size that could prove useful as checks for restored files. While PastPerfect records are still in progress for the Museum, the software could aid in producing inventories of digital content as well as be a management platform for collecting descriptive metadata. Though the Museum is planning on creating one file for analog materials with digitized content, these records could provide a base-level inventory of digitized content that could be added to with more specific information such as storage location.

Conclusion

This survey has provided a basic overview of the Old Trail Museum’s current digital holdings, their preservation strategies, and their goals for the future. The Museum is off to a good start in their current storage strategies and in the level of information security they provide. Their major challenge moving forward will be to create better documentation of their content and preservation policies. Using the data generated by this report, the next step will be to identify immediate preservation actions the Museum can take to bolster their digital collections.