I'm beginning to understand that the archivist that's expressing his strong views is coming from the position of textual records, and wanting to privilege appearance as a characteristic in migrations. I've just created a new version of my template that allows for some sort of privileged characteristics based on record types, e.g., textual versus structured data versus email, audio, etc. I may be nearing a compromise.
@anj People have been struggling here to get agreement on an approach/format for YEARS. I'm _so_ close.
2/2 "The formats often provide much of the framework for the essential characteristics - the appearance, behavior, context, and structure. The content of the record types are often _mapped_ to the structure required by the format. Of course it's not always the case, especially for textual records. If we find we need to have plans for WordPerfect as applied to different record types, then we will. "
I replied: "I absolutely agree that one has to take record types/content into account when identifying essential characteristics. But saying that we should have plans centered on record types is like saying that we will have different preservation plans for personnel records versus contracts versus agency correspondence rather than a plan to preserve the _paper_ that they are printed on. If I can't preserve the container for the record content then it's lost." 1/2
The same colleague is essentially against having preservation plans that are based on file formats, and instead says we should be looking at essential characteristics of record types. He's not wrong that the type of record content informs the essential characteristics, but those characteristics in part exist because of the format that contains them. And record types can be comprised of so many possible format variations over a 50 year period of preserving electronic records.
Warning - I need to vent. I have a curmudgeonly colleague questioning every decision I've made about how we'll document essential characteristics of formats and preservation migration decisions. He seems to think that no one, even the electronic record processing archivists who review files, test tools, and perform migrations at the time of ingest or review for release, are really capable identifying characteristics and validating transformations. I'm getting more cross with every email I get.
So, where are people publishing? Where do we share research outcomes and datasets? What journals and blogs are people reading? Of course there's OPF and DPC and DCC and iPres and the U.S. Digital Preservation meeting. Where are we coalescing as a community of practice where we can keep on on what others are doing? Where are we depositing our research outcomes as a community?
The # 1 issue in the session was lack of communication and lack of methods for sharing research internally and externally. People repeatedly talked about informal and unofficial sharing. And no easy way to keep up on what's happening in the broader preservation community, including publications. That made me think--where do _we_ publish, share our research results, datasets, etc. What journals do we regularly read? This is a somewhat U.S.-centric question since we don't centralize _anything_.
This morning I was part of a session facilitated by a consultant, in which we talked about how we could/should reinvigorate or preservation research unit. This has always been entirely focused on analog collections. I'm trying to help plan a more inclusive future that included digipres. That said, new resources won't likely be forthcoming in this federal environment. I kept being referred to as "the optimist" which amused me greatly.
@anj I just saw the Preservation Actions Registries annoucement from OPF. Wasn't there someplace else we were setting up to share preservation plans? I can't find it again.
I've been surveying colleagues at other national libraries and archives about their staffing levels and types of roles they have in their units. I hope it can help me justify adding staff so I'm no longer a unit of 1. But I know I can't be too hopeful in a climate where are federal agencies are required to reduce their number of employees. With any luck I can "realign" staff from other areas so we're not actually increasing staff counts.
I know it's a bit of a naive question (imagine the scale given n number of possible combinations of transformations), but when one is asked by a curator how/whether other institutions quantify the measurement of risk in format transformations and if we should take that into consideration ourselves, it's worth asking.
Digital Preservation at U.S. National Archives
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