Gueguen – Question1
1How is data curation a part of your job?
Digital Archivist, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library – University of Virginia
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 I am the Digital Archivist for the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. We collect materials in many areas, but primarily we are concerned with humanities and social sciences (broadly speaking). This means that I work with everything from 20-year-old floppy disks that might contain the work of a contemporary novelist, to hard drives of architectural design files created over the last 20 years, to the electronic “papers” of a modern local organization saved to Google Docs. The materials I work with generally have no unifying characteristics; they represent a wide variety of ages, types, formats, carrier media, and data size.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Data curation, to me, means ensuring that data is safely transferred from its original context (such as a disk, a hard drive, or an email account) into the archive. Since much of the material I get was created in the past and lives on obsolescent software or hardware, sometimes just figuring out how to read the disk is a challenge. With any type of material, I need to capture metadata about it, such as its size, data type, and other important details. Knowing these details at the beginning means that in the future I can verify that it has not corrupted. I also document the chain of custody and any preservation actions taken, which could potentially have an impact on future use. If I am lucky, I get the opportunity to work with donors who still have access to their data. In those cases I can gather information from them about their computer use: How do they organize files? How much do they use social media? Do they create things in electronic form, or do they use a combination of paper and electronic files to do their work? Knowing the answers to these questions helps me piece together the context of their collection so that it can be understood in the future.