On January 6, 2012, I had the opportunity to attend CurateGear, an interactive, day-long event focused on digital curation tools and methods held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This meeting did many things right.
It introduced attendees to the wide spectrum of digital curation activities, from appraisal to ingest to auditing and preservation. The general nature of these activities is not dissimilar to those working with physical archives, but there are some specific challenges for which tools and workflows are needed. For example: automated assessment and extraction of technical and structural information from and about files, creation of authentic copies made from the original media, assignment of fixities for preservation auditing and the extraction and creation of metadata. There is a growing community of practice in these areas.
Each session contained four speakers who were limited to 15 minutes each. Then each session was followed by an hour of demos by the speakers from the previous sessions. And they had to be live demos. That’s right, the attendees got the opportunity to see a live demo of every tool that was presented. And there were long breaks where people got to meet each other and compare notes. More conferences should do this.
The organizers invited speakers who are, for the most part, practitioners in the field, who have experience they can share and tools they can show. Not every tool is available –some are in development–but it was a great learning opportunity to see what practices, workflows and tools exist, or should exist and so are being developed.
The people who participated in this event as speakers or attendees came from many communities: federal agencies, research university archives, state archives, library and information schools and digital forensics and it was exciting to see so much overlap and conversation. Among the tools and services that were presented at the conference were:
- Duke Data Accessioner
- Georgia Tech File Format Library
- National Library of Australia Digital Preservation Knowledgebase
I strongly encourage people to go to the CurateGear site to review the presentations that have been posted. This is an exciting area of tool development, addressing the needs of the automation of digital collection appraisal and ingest and the curation these collections throughout their life cycle. Some of these tools are already available as open source, and there is most definitely a lot of room for participation in these efforts and in the development of new ones.