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Archive for June, 2012

In the PrePARe project, we were particularly interested in how members of the research community would like to receive additional information and training.  Many interviewees said they were not likely to attend training courses on digital preservation.  However, many digital preservation issues fit in well with areas where training courses do exist, such as Information Management, Reference Management or Project Management.  In discussion with other projects in the same JISC funding strand, it was proposed that rather than producing a single training course we would produce short training modules which can be slotted into other related courses which are run at the University.   We selected four key areas of digital preservation:

  • Storage (‘Store It Safely’)
  • Documentation and metadata (‘Explain It’)
  • Data sharing and re-use (‘Share It’)
  • Planning (‘Start Early’)

For each module, we prepared slides, and detailed explanatory notes that could be used as a script, which provide more examples and context.  While the intention was that each module should last around 5 minutes, they run closer to 10 minutes.  Each module is designed so that it can be used independently of the others.  A further module (‘What is data?’) provides a brief introduction to data to give some additional context.

We piloted the modules during the Managing your Information workshop at the University Library in June 2012.  The workshop consists of two 2-hour sessions.  Attendees came from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, including Arts, Social Sciences and Sciences.  For the pilot, our aims were:

  1. To test the concept of having distinct modules embedded into an existing course, from both delivery and participant perspectives.
  2. To gather feedback on the content of the modules from participants.

Overall, the modules integrated well with the main workshop, and the feedback on the modules was positive.

The modules will be deposited in Jorum and are currently available on Slideshare:

These modules complement a leaflet ‘Sending your Research into the Future’ produced in collaboration with the LSE and University of London, coming soon!

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Saving it for the future – The first PrePARe seminar was held last week on 13 June 2012 in CRASSH’s new premises (Alison Richard Building). We chose the topic of  “Personal Digital Archiving” because we thought it might have a broad appeal. This seemed to be right – we had 30 or so attendees from a range of disciplines including Engineering, the Judge Business School,  as well as the Humanities and Social Sciences. The speakers were chosen to approach the subject from two differing perspectives – Professor Alan Macfarlane is an emeritus Professor or Anthropological Science and Life Fellow of Kings College, recently retired from the University of Cambridge who through his lifetime has been interested in what role digital media can play in his discipline and life. He described the creator’s perspective, outlining his experience of managing and looking after his digital legacy tracking back to the early 1970s (when he had to wait for one year to store his 71MB project until the Computing Service had bought more memory). What made his talk particularly relevant to the audience was that he composed it around the reasons “why not to do it” – the lack of incentive to produce digital outputs, the lack of recognition (when they are produced), the  fear of abuse or work being used out of context, cultural possessiveness over a researcher’s data (seeing intellectual assets as private property). All of these resonated with us but seeing the amazing work that he has created throughout his life and seeing that he has successfully saved it for the future, I think,  has shown that it might be worth to overcome these obstacles. You can see an expansion of his talk on youtube.

Dr Jeremy Leighton John, Curator of eMSS (electronic manuscripts) at the British Library and Principal Investigator for the Digital Lives Research Project, took  the curator’s perspective describing what happens to personal digital archives when they reach the British Library.  He explained how material can be looked at and worked on by curators without leaving a trace using digital forensics and how  privacy can be ensured when the material is being viewed by third parties, for example, when readers in the British Library reading room can roam through the ghosted version of someone’s personal computer (a facility, we are told, that will be available soon). It was very interesting, I thought, that he reported that increasingly depositors of literary archives started discussing their deposits during their life giving them better control over what material can and should be made accessible in future and allowing the curator to understand the material in more detail. For more information on his work see Digital Lives – an initial Synthesis.

The lenghy discussion at the end showed that there were many more questions to debate and I hope we will!

“A very interesting seminar. I found out about things I had long wondered about – and more” (anonymous). It certainly got us all thinking about digital preservation.

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Throughout June, the PrePARe project team at DSpace@Cambridge will be tweeting digital information and preservation tips.  There will be one a day for the whole month (including Bank Holidays).  Please get in touch through twitter or leave a comment on this blog if you’d like more information on any of the issues that we cover.  We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Follow DSpace@Cambridge on twitter!

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