Meister – Question 4
4What has been your most enlightening moment in your work with data curation?
Digital Archivist and Assistant Professor, Mansfield Library – University of Montana
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 To date, some of my most enlightening moments have been working with and learning from data creators, a process that I hope to expand in the future. A recent series of interactions with a creator who donated a collection of architectural drawings illustrates the types of valuable information that may be exchanged during such meetings. In this case, the Library had already acquired a set of paper drawings, and we were considering the acquisition of a set of AutoCAD drawing files from the same donor. Compared to the range of file formats within our existing collections, AutoCAD files represented a significantly new endeavor in relation to the inherent complexity of these digital objects and preservation concerns due to the proprietary nature of the file format itself.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 I met with the donor to collect additional information to assist in determining the feasibility of acquiring these materials. Conducting an in-person meeting with the donor provided an opportunity to field test our local donor survey instrument to obtain valuable contextual details about the materials, including the creation process, file management procedures, rights and intellectual property concerns, and access requirements. More a dialogue than an interview, the donor meeting also included discussion of, and valuable insight into, the potential access needs of future users of the materials. As an architect who both created and used AutoCAD files on a regular basis, the donor articulated the specific elements of the drawing files that would likely be important for future users, whether undergraduate students or architects seeking to understand the technical details of a building as part of a renovation project. Capturing the donor’s perspective on contextual details and access needs has proved to be highly valuable, informing both the feasibility assessment and preservation strategy for these specific materials. Through our collaboration with the donor, we have developed an initial preservation strategy of migrating the files to PDF/E, an emerging international standard. This strategy will mitigate the issue of the proprietary nature of the native AutoCAD format by converting these files to an open preservation format. Alongside this migration strategy we will also explore the feasibility of an emulation preservation strategy to provide access to the native AutoCAD files.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 This example of a creator and archivist interaction demonstrates the value that both perspectives bring to the data curation process. Creators have a unique understanding of the research and creation process that results in new data, the type of descriptive information needed to understand that data, and the potential access needs related to and uses of that data. Archivists appreciate and understand the importance of capturing contextual information to ensure that data is made accessible in a form that is meaningful and understandable to both current and future users. The umbrella of data curation provides an excellent opportunity to re-frame and redefine the traditional roles of creator and archivist. Increased involvement and interactions between these entities closer to the point of creation have the potential to inform the design of tools and systems to ensure that valuable contextual information is captured throughout the data lifecycle.