Reflection and Archeology Program Office Report

This class has been eye opening for me. There are a lot of possible directions that you can take with a preservation plan. One recurring theme in our readings was that digital objects are not defined by everyone in the same way. This came through early in our readings when Owens wrote of digital objects’ “fuzzy boundaries” (p. 6) and “screen essentialism” (p. 46). We went on to discuss what it means to authentically render an object and how this informs preservation intent. Thinking of digital objects in different ways also means that we can open our minds to different types of access in order to observe restrictions based on privacy, copyright and cultural norms (Owens, p. 164).

It’s important then not to start with assumptionsabout what preserving a digital object means. Getting stakeholder input early in the process can help identify what aspects of digital content are of value to preserve. This will help an organization flesh out realistic goals based on their available resources. In working on my class project, I got a lot out of my discussions with my organization, and I think that process of talking it out was helpful for them as well. However, I think my involvement was just the beginning for them since I didn’t speak with anyone within their parent organization and user needs mainly focused on those for staff. Hopefully, my report can be a basis for further discussion.

This leads to my last takeaway. This is an iterative process. Preservation never ends. There may be a lot of things you’d like to accomplish, but think about what you can do that’s sustainable in the long term. At the same time, don’t feel overwhelmed by that commitment. The Levels of Digital Preservation includes recommendations for what to do at a minimum to preserve digital content. You can start small if necessary and have ideas in place to expand when the time is right. Additionally, things will change. Storage media will need to be replaced and formats can become obsolete. Digital media has changed how we think about information and different formats may come along that challenge your current approach.

In the case of my organization, there is so much potential for what they can do with their digital content once they get past the initial effort of consolidating and organizing their content. I suggested conducting an annual review in my preservation policy draft to encourage further reflection.

So here’s a question to ponder about our consultations. Having been through this process, what was one thing you would do differently if you did it over again?

Digital Preservation Report Archeology Program Office

5 Replies to “Reflection and Archeology Program Office Report”

  1. I think if I’d had more time I would have done a second, follow-up survey or tried to speak directly to some of the other volunteers and docents who handle the digital materials. Having only one person to speak to led to some misinformation and miscalculations on my part, that might end up not being as useful to the organization as I’d hoped. If I was a paid consultant and not a grad student strapped for time, the possibilities for improvement would be much more feasible!

    1. This is an interesting point. I was able to speak to one of my organization’s interns during my initial conversation with the museum’s director, but for the most part I was working with one person. The intern was interested in participating in the first interview as a learning experience but he seemed a little reluctant to speak up about his perspective on the museum’s work. I’m wondering now if I should have tried to get the interns more involved throughout the semester since they are the ones who are going to have to perform a lot of the tasks I included in the digital preservation policy. Something to think about for next time, I guess. 🙂

    2. I love the point everyone brought up here about how it would have been helpful to interview more people within the organization. I remember asking the person I interviewed “Is there anyone else you think I should talk to?” but this didn’t actually lead to more conversations. There were other people who I know had important roles in creating and preserving digital objects who I probably should asked to interview. Instead I relied on my contact person to get answers from them about how certain things were done, which generally worked fine but I might have gotten even more insight had I spoken to them directly.

      Another thing I mentioned in class and in a previous blog post comment is that I wish I had said “show me” more often and seen more things firsthand rather than relying on verbal descriptions. But I think I hesitated to do this and to interview more people because a part of me was afraid of taking up too much of their valuable time. This is a valid concern but also reflective of my lack of confidence in what I had to offer them in return because I never considered myself an expert in digital preservation. (I talked a little more about this confidence problem in the comments of Gwen’s post.)

  2. Similarly to Perri, if I could do this project over again I would like to talk to more people at the organization. Gathering feedback from more staff members and community users could have further developed my understanding of the historical society’s needs and capabilities. I had two contacts during this project and through them was able to receive feedback from more employees, but it still would have been beneficial to speak to more people directly.

    Though this would not be possible, I also wish I could visit and see everything for myself. I feel that being there in person would also make consulting easier and more effective.

  3. I agree with Perri and Maya – I’d ideally like to have talked to more staff, volunteers, and board members at my organization, to better understand challenges and priorities. And I definitely wanted to visit and better understand the physical setup and how people at the org worked!

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