So my work for this class was actually pretty satisfying, it felt like what I was doing, working with my org, was actually useful. I want to emphasize this part, though. Over the course of the semester, I actually created a real life digital preservation policy for a real organization. So few of our projects in grad school have a real world impact or larger significance beyond a grade. I felt so much more excited to work on this project because I knew it would have an impact and be relevant to my career later on. I just feel a sense of satisfaction after having completed this project, it makes it feel like the work was worth it. Ugh! So satisfying!
I think a major difficulty with the project didn’t have to do with the assignment, but rather the issue of working with our respective organizations. Communication and misunderstandings presented an issue. Some of our orgs were busy, too busy to communicate with us regularly about the progress of the project. I was never able to get feedback on my plans before I submitted them, only afterward, and had to make edits after the assignment was due. I also found that it was hard to communicate all of the nuances of my org’s current management practices. I misunderstood what they were telling me, and based my survey and next steps plan on incorrect information, which I later had to change. This made me anxious about the accuracy and helpfulness of my policy later on. I feel like my reports aren’t ever really done because I might need to keep tweaking them here or there. But, I will be working with my org (WYPR) over break as well, so there will be room for edits then.
Overall, I do feel like I was able to practically apply the information that we learned in class, and I learned about what specific elements are required to build a sustainable and realistic digital preservation plan. I didn’t even know what fixity was until this class, and now I can provide guidance on how to perform those checks. I appreciated learning about the different types of preservation (artifactual, folkloric, informational), and recontextualizing my understanding of emulation as a preservation strategy. While I didn’t necessarily apply that to my policy with WYPR, I still feel like I’ve gained a greater appreciation for those guys on the internet making illegal emulators and pirating their favorite games. These guys were engaging in digital preservation before the companies themselves were!
Something I kind of wish I learned a little more about was metadata, and how to preserve not just the information in a database, but the database itself? This may be a little outside the scope of the class, but learning more about maybe how administrative and preservation metadata works, if there are specific (different?) schemas for them. I also repeatedly came across weird one off databases at my orgs that I don’t really understand. Where does the database live? Is it one object or file, or is it just a constellation of many objects that I can’t simply physically store in one place? Is it software or is it a file containing records of other files? I think this is something I want to understand more, because every institution has one and if I’m ever in a position of power, I’ll need that knowledge to make informed decisions about how to preserve them.
I don’t necessarily feel like I’m done learning about digital preservation (it’s an iterative process… right?) but I do feel like I’ve got a decent foundation of understanding that will help me out as I start applying for jobs and graduate in the spring.