Accessioning and Ingest of Electronic Records #1409

On October 25th, 2013 I attended SAA’s DAS workshop of Accessioning and Ingest of Electronic Records.  The workshop was hosted by Harvard and led by Erin Faulder, the Digital Archivist for Tisch Library at Tufts University.

The workshop covered key concepts and issues regarding policy decisions based on institutional mandates, suggestions for working with donors, key elements of the digital transfers, and the need for digestible workflows and guidelines.  There was a quick overview of the OAIS model with a breakdown of SIP’s, DIP’s, and AIP’s, and an emphasis to use the OAIS model as the foundation for the digital workflow each institution creates.  Two major themes emphasized throughout the workshop were 1) building trust and communication with donors, and 2) accessioning digital material goes beyond traditional accessioning and incorporates elements of appraisal and processing.

Beginning discussions with donors at an early stage ensures the greatest amount of success.  Gaining a better understanding of the types of digital records created allows for the archive to plan out the process, including any monetary issues, and to gain a better understanding of preservation concerns.  Early discussions also engender trust and understanding about what levels of access and preservation an institution can provide.  Understanding the fragility of the programs and carriers that digital material has been kept on is key to preservation planning. The discussions also focused on understanding the donors technical support and finding the best ways of transferring digital materials with limited resources.  A few programs like Bagit and Dropbox were presented as possible options for transferring digital material with incorporated checksums and virus scans, and attendees were strongly advised not to encourage the use of email transfers as a possible method.

The other major focal point of the class centered on a new view of accessioning that integrates appraisal and processing as part of the overall accessioning workflow.  Although it was noted that one person should not be making all policy and procedural decisions, we were encouraged to incorporate appraisal and processing (arrangement and description) into the established workflow.  These extra levels of processing are currently built into the Tufts digital accessioning and ingest model, solely because they use Fedora as their digital repository, and not because it is a mandatory part of digital accessioning.

Although the workshop did cover these topics, it did so in a very broad vision for most of the subject areas, and it did not provide or suggest established institutional workflows and policy examples.  The workshop was attended by archivists from a number of types, size, and staffed institutions with varying digital backgrounds.  It seemed, for most of them, to be a very good foundation for planning to begin a program of ingesting digital records.  There were only a few attendees that were already in the midst of building out a program with software to begin this process or actively accepting these types of materials. I hope that as the workshop is taught and enriched with new information there are more exchanges of institutional workflows and guidelines as possible examples for others to get comfortable with the roles and responsibilities established.

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