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Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone): Stewarding Digital Geospatial Data

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esri by user kk+ on Flickr
esri by user kk+ on Flickr

I had the pleasure of giving a lightning talk (PDF) at last week’s Esri Federal GIS Conference in Washington, DC. The conference, which is free to Federal government employees, annually brings together over 2700 attendees of all experience levels to discuss the latest in geospatial technologies.

I tried to have fun with it, using the lyrics of the song “Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Till It’s Gone) by the hair-metal band Cinderella as a jumping-off point to discuss our work preserving digital geospatial information.

The main point of the presentation was to raise high-level awareness of the need to steward digital geospatial information over the entire lifecycle to ensure its long-term preservation and accessibility. We’ve identified a number of points of intersection where the library/archives community and the geospatial community (including the private sector) have shared interests, and we’ll continue to do presentations like this to encourage the development of those interests.

Videos of the talks haven’t been posted yet, but I’ll update in the comments when they do.

Of course, five minutes wasn’t long enough to get into details of our current work in the geospatial area, but that’s what blogs are for!

For example, there’s recently updated guidance on the Library’s Sustainability of Digital Formats site to include an extensive (though not exhaustive) selection of digital geospatial formats of potential importance to Library collecting activities.

The Digital Formats Web site provides technical analysis about digital content formats; identifies and describes the formats that are promising for long-term sustainability; and helps to develop strategies for sustaining these formats over the long-term. These resources are chiefly designed for internal Library use, but they are a valuable resource for anyone with interests in digital formats.

The folks behind the formats site also recently made a presentation on the updates to the Users/Historical Data Working Group of the Federal Geographic Data Committee. This group is open to participation from organizations at any level of government, academia and the private sector and we invite participation as another way to provide guidance to the federal government on the preservation and use of historic geospatial data.

The Library’s formats folks may also make a presentation to the FGDC’s Coordination Group later this year.

Secondly, NDIIPP has been supporting a 4 year activity by a consortium of state governments, including North Carolina, Utah, Kentucky and Montana, to explore the preservation of state government digital geospatial data. That effort, known as the Geospatial Multistate Archive and Preservation Partnership (GeoMAPP) is coming to a close. One of their final project deliverables is a Geoarchiving Business Planning toolkit.

The Toolkit includes guidance documents and tools to assist in the planning and development of a geoarchiving business plan for establishing, sustaining, or extending an archival program that advances the long-term preservation of a state’s valuable geospatial assets. This toolkit will help organizations, especially (but not exclusively) state governments, develop a sustainable geoarchiving program. We’re investigating partnership opportunities to support implementations of the toolkit and we’d love to hear any ideas you might have on this front.

(There will be a presentation on the Toolkit at this week’s National States Geographic Information Council Midyear meeting in Annapolis.)

NDSA card, by wlef70, on Flickr
NDSA card, by wlef70, on Flickr

We will also continue to address digital geospatial data issues under the auspices of the Content Working Group of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance.

Membership in the NDSA is open to any organization with an interest in advancing digital stewardship capacity, and current members include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, New York Public Library, Thomson Reuters, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, California Digital Library, Harvard University, Public Broadcasting Service and over 100 more.

A Geospatial subgroup of the Content Working Group has just been formed and its initial conference call will be held this week. Check this space for more details on its activities.

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