Thursday, April 5th, 2018...11:50 am

Born-Digital Post #3

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This post continues the series, “Behind the Scenes at Houghton”, giving a glimpse into the inner workings of the library’s mission to support teaching and research. Thanks to Magdaline Lawhorn, Administrative Fellow & Project Archivist, for contributing this post.

Our born-digital journey continues to be filled with research, trial and error, and lots of excel spreadsheets. Besides all of the technical preparations and planning that make up Houghton’s born-digital project, there are physical requirements that have to be addressed as well. Location, location, location! Physical space is very important to the success of accessioning the backlog identified in the survey; it is one of the factors that determines how quickly we can gain access to the materials. Ironically, digital materials (all those ones and zeros) do take up physical space!

Two of the main concerns are where to house the materials throughout the survey and where to conduct the survey and actually accession the materials. At the beginning we knew right away that we could not house all of the born-digital materials (currently mixed in with manuscript material, so it takes up a ton of space) and accession in the same place due to the physical constraints of our office. So, we determined that if accessioning were to take place in our office, an alternative space needed to be created for staging the materials. In order to find temporary storage we talked to one of our colleagues Micah Hoggatt, Reference Librarian, whose familiarity negotiating space at Houghton came in handy. Micah was able to find temporary space, two bays in our stacks (in the sub-basement).

Two bays in the sub-basement

Two bays in the sub-basement

This swing space will play a pivotal role in the life-cycle of our born-digital materials. Materials identified through the survey will be requested through Aeon (the same special collections and archives request tool our researchers use), then moved to the appropriate space in our stacks where they will await assessment. Once the materials are ready to be assessed they will move to the accessioning office. At this stage born-digital materials will be separated from their analog collection. The born-digital materials will be accessioned following our Accessioning Workflow which includes: recording the materials in the media log; photographing the materials; removing the media; and labeling the materials. After accessioning the born-digital materials they will return to the temporary space while the analog materials return to their original homes in the stacks or Harvard Depository (our offsite storage facility).

 

Chart depicting the movements of the physical materials during the Born-Digital Survey as described above

Chart depicting the movements of the physical materials during the Born-Digital Survey as described above

 

Next we needed to rethink our office space. Our current office set-up was only suitable for our analog accessioning practices. We re-configured the space by adding another desk to become our new Born-Digital Forensic Workstation. The workstation was intentionally centered in between my desk and that of Melanie Wisner, Accessioning Archivist, so that we could both have access to our networked computers (devices with Internet access) and the Born-Digital Workstation. At the moment the workstation includes a Dell monitor, Solo8 Hovercam, a Mac Mini, and various external drives.

 

Born-Digital Forensic Workstation

Born-Digital Forensic Workstation

 

Stay tuned for the next post where we will delve deeper into the Born-Digital Forensic Workstation. We will talk a little bit more about each of our tools and other potential useful gadgetry.

 

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