Libraries care about “discovery” and usage statistics to justify the high costs of scholarly resources. Libraries also deeply care that these scholarly resources can be discovered and used for generations to come. The Internet has made the art of curation much more complex. CUA Archivists have elegantly written about their new dark arts of digital curation:
In the last two weeks we’ve covered paper and web pages. My job here is done, right? Wrong! Sometimes, we receive collections containing not just paper, but floppy discs, flash drives, and even entire computers. The list goes on. How do we go about processing this stuff?
To begin, it’s essential to have not only data carriers, but also players. Ever seen one of those elephant graveyards? We have something similar in our facility, but with old technology instead of, um, bones. Of course, older hardware was never designed to work on modern computers. We get around this by sticking to external USB drives whenever possible, and using an external control board for 5.25 floppies (FC5025, oh my!) that effectively duct tape an old IDE interface onto, you guessed it, USB.
Did you know that you can alter a computer file simply by opening it? Don’t believe me? Just right-click your desktop and arrange the icons by “last modified”. The very act of saving that last click is an archival deadly sin. Sometimes a piece of media will let you prevent alteration by flicking a switch on the item itself (3.5 floppy discs) or by covering a hole with a piece of tape (5.25 floppy discs). With other carriers, though, you can be fresh out of luck. What can we do about this? In short, by borrowing techniques from law enforcement. Software like Forensic Toolkit (FTK) in conjunction with write-blocking hardware has been used to gather evidence of computer crime for years. Why not apply that technology to archives work? In spring 2015, CUA Archives set up its own digital curation workstation for this very purpose. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Digital Curation – Sent from the Future to Write-Protect You”→