by Davis Erin Anderson, Community Engagement Manager, METRO
After kicking off their residencies in early September, our cohort of five NDSR residents have been hard at work at their host institutions for more than a month. Now that they're settled, we thought we'd chat with them about their paths toward their digital stewardship, the principles that drew them to the field, and the work they're doing these days.
In addition to working on projects at their host institutions, our NDSR residents are diligently writing about their adventures on the NDSR-NY website. You can also follow their adventures on Twitter.
Tell us a little bit about your background. What was your area of focus when you were working toward your most recent degree?
Vicky Steeves, American Museum of Natural History: My first degree was in computer science from Simmons College, the same institution from which I received my MLIS. I piloted a program for Simmons College in which I completed my undergraduate degree in three years and my master’s in one. My focus was constantly on my work for my master’s: digital preservation and systems librarianship.
Karl-Rainer Blumenthal, NYARC: For the past several years I was the solo librarian building an institutional repository, tending the archives, and maintaining a great little lending library of both print and sample design materials for a landscape architecture and urban design firm. I kept about as many blocks of stone on the shelf as I did books! This turned out to be a fantastic way to prepare for my residency; landscapes both in the world around us and online are constantly growing and changing, requiring new forms of documentation and technologies to preserve their expression at any given moment.
What inspired you to take on projects that focus on the long-term preservation of and access to digital materials?
Peggy Griesinger, MoMA: One of the first things we learn in library science school is Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science. The third law, "every book its reader," had a profound effect on how I viewed the importance of library collections. If every item in our collection has a potential user, then the challenges of digital preservation become hugely important.
Shira Peltzman, Carnegie Hall: I’m a big believer in the idea that preservation is not complete without access, so I tend to gravitate toward projects that make increased access a priority.
Digital preservation is a rapidly changing discipline. It’s exciting to work in a field where both ideas and technology are constantly evolving. My goal is to help institutions adapt to these changes so that the materials I’m working with can be seen by as wide an audience as possible.
Please give us some insight into what you're working on these days. What early steps are you taking to meet the goals of your specific project?
Julia Kim, NYU: I’m working on born-digital access and preservation workflows at NYU Libraries. I have a tentative workflow in place to take into account a variety of content and carrier types. We’ve also already begun working with archivists and interns to use the Forensic Toolkit, a proprietary software product, to process imaged collections. In one of the major collections, we’ve discovered an additional "fugitive" 345 pieces of media that include hard drives, optical media, and digital linear tape! Needless to say, this means re-strategizing.
Peggy: I am working at the Museum of Modern Art to evaluate existing standards and write best practices for the recording of the process history of the digitization of audiovisual materials. My main work so far has been researching existing metadata standards that could be used to describe process history, and also evaluating how other institutions are (or are not) using those standards. I have also had numerous conversations with the media conservators at MoMA to discuss how they view the process of digitizing audiovisual materials, and what they would require from a metadata standard describing process history.
What's your biggest take-away now that you are a month into the NDSR program?
Shira: My biggest take-away thus far has been the importance of not trying to “reinvent the wheel.” There are a wide variety of digital preservation initiatives currently underway in the stewardship community, and chances are the work you’re doing has some—if not a lot of—overlap with other digital preservation projects out there. I highly recommend reading up on projects with a similar scope or design to yours and reaching out to those project partners for advice about what worked and what didn’t. There’s a lot of wisdom to be gleaned from others in this field, and taking the time to understand how others approached a problem similar to yours will save you a lot of time.
Karl: We’re all in this together. As the projects between New York and Boston this year demonstrate, there’s a wonderful diversity to the types of institutions and the types of research that require innovative digital preservation strategies. And while we each have our own needs and objectives to fulfill, we’re building a knowledge base that draws from and contributes back into a far wider spectrum of librarians.
Photos above provided by and used with permission from Karl-Rainer Blumenthal and Peggy Griesinger.