The Digital Preservation Outreach in a Box resources being compiled by the National Digital Stewardship Alliance Outreach Working group are designed as a gentle introduction to the concepts of preserving digital information.
There are a lot of words in that sentence that could use some deconstruction. “Gentle,” for example. Is it possible to “gently” introduce and explain a subject as complex as digital preservation?
We certainly hope so! The Outreach WG is focused on building relationships across institutional boundaries to help communicate the value of long-term stewardship and preservation and to publicize the efforts being made to preserve digital resources.
The Box is one tool to aid in communication. It provides a set of resources to support introductory-level education for those who may have little to no knowledge of digital preservation and digital curation issues, to help them with stewarding their digital information.
That’s all great in theory. Now it’s a question of understanding whether some of our expectations about the Box content will actually work out in the real world.
To test some of these assumptions, the NDSA is working with educators around the country to explore ways to incorporate the Box resources into Library and Information Science education, and to provide feedback to the NDSA on how the resources can be made more usable.
One center of activity is here in the DC area. Jane Zhang, an Assistant Professor at the School of Library & Information Science at the Catholic University of America, is teaching LSC 617 this spring, a “Special Topics in Library and Information Science” course on Digital Curation.
One of the main course goals and objectives is to “create outreach tools to educate targeted audience[s] about the basic functions/processes of digital curation and preservation.”
Jane is incorporating the existing NDSA Box resources into the course, and has designed a semester-long project to get her students engaged with the material by suggesting new additions and preparing presentations of their own using Box content. The students may even present a poster on the project this summer at the NDIIPP/NDSA Partners Meeting in July.
“Our students are using the resources to prepare for a public awareness workshop on digital preservation as well as contribute to the contents of the Box,” Jane said when discussing her approach. “It’s a great way for them to learn how to turn concepts and principles into public actions!”
(You can see full course syllabus here (PDF).
I took a trip out to visit with the class in early January along with fellow NDSA Outreach WG member Dever Powell of the National Library of Medicine. Dever has been very active in helping to develop the Box resources, and the two of us shared some background on our organizations, information on the goals and work of the NDSA and introduced the students to the rich potential housed in the Box.
The students are excited by the opportunity to contribute to an effort that will have national implications, and we’ll keep checking in with them as the semester plugs along.
Another NDSA Outreach WG member, Kim Schroeder of Archive Media Partners, an Adjunct Faculty at Wayne State University, is incorporating Box content in the classroom and in the first-ever NDSA Student Chapter.
She noted that “organizations like the NDSA are getting traction now because we see the immediacy of practicing digital preservation and not just theorizing. The need to begin with a tool such as DP in a Box is the critical first step to standardizing a process that we felt initially, through the first 20 years of digital dependency, was unable to be standardized. Technology has stabilized enough and projects have matured enough that we can move forward to formalize the discipline, its tools and its education. DP in a box has been a wonderful way to begin to illustrate the research, needs and coming standards.”
The NDSA will continually incorporate the work of these “satellite” efforts back into the Box.
Much of the early work on the Box has taken place in the quiet and security of the NDSA wiki, but a public instance of the Box is in development and will allow all members of the digital preservation community to take advantage of the resources.
In addition to an Omeka digital library of Box resources, the NDSA is also developing a “Digital Preservation Forum” that will offer a space for the community to ask questions about digital preservation, curation and stewardship issues in a user-friendly environment and for NDSA experts to provide authoritative answers.
More to come!