Friday, 12 February 2016

Digital Isn’t Different Conference

Peoples History Museum, Manchester
Last week I attended the Digital Isn’t Different conference by the Collections Trust held at the Peoples History Museum in Manchester. The event was primarily about the digital strategy for museums and how to approach the rising amount of digital materials that were starting to be used. It covered both digital collections and digital asset management.

Interestingly a similar point was reinforced that I took away from the DPC Student Conference in that the Digital Collections process is largely the same as it is with none digital items, there is plenty of transference of skills and strategy. But at the same time what you do decide to accept still needs to be in line with your policy and mission statement and well as the resources at your disposal.

The secondary focus of the conference was to provide more information on what Digital Asset Management is and how to utilise Digital Asset Management Systems to help with your collection. One quote from an Extensis webcast that stuck with me was this:

“You can find a recipe for Norwegian Apple Cake in seconds – but can you find your own records that were created yesterday”

I think this can really reinforce that it is not always just about gathering information but there needs to be an effective way to filter through and actually find what you are looking for, this is especially true in a digital environment. There have been plenty of anecdotes over the last few years of organisations going completely paperless and then promptly being unable to actually find anything anymore.
The conference about to begin!

Digital Asset Management (DAM)

Digital Asset Management is just the process that an organisation will use in order to be able correctly create, store, retrieve and use digital information. A DAM has several important aspects in how they interact with your collection and they are planning, findability, connectivity security, useability and preservation.

Business continuity planning- If you only have one staff member who can use the software or hardware, is it worth investing in? Compare how your current system is used, it is still working? Does it need to be changed?

Findability and connectivity- File naming conventions are important for digital assets that you create and can help significantly rather than just utilising the default camera naming settings. Keyword tagging can also feed into this in order to aid with identification, for example a picture of a ruined castle could be tagged with “castle, ruins, building” and then this metadata can be searched bringing up relevant pictures easier.

Security, usability and preservation- Security is not just in regards to protecting the actual data from someone attempting to access it but it also covers aspects of copyright and intellectual property rights. Preservation is another incredibly important aspect, although this could be covered by a DAM there is dedicated software available for digital preservation (archivematica, preservica, etc.). It is important to have the DAM take this into account and provide ways of integrating this into your overall process.

Integrity is something that is vital to born-digital assets, there are checksums that can be created to confirm that data has not been altered. But this means that during the workflow there needs to be a time specifically taken to creating these checksums and then later on in the workflow checking the checksums against the original to confirm that no alterations have been made.

Ultimately when dealing with digital files there are several things to keep in mind file sizes are getting larger and larger, there is always going to be more digital files tomorrow then there are today and finally people expect to be able to access/find files instantly, this includes colleagues as much as the public!

Case Studies
There were several museums who gave their own experience using digital assets ranging from full blown apps to large scale digitisation projects. It was very interesting to see other institutes tackle this problem and see what issues they encountered along the way.

One incredibly interesting talk by Kendall Museum covered their experience with an HLF funded digitisation project and how they went about choosing what collections to digitise. Resulting in their digital catalogue that provides high quality images of minerals and herbarium. It was also interesting to see that for the purposes of digitisation they chose to use the Metamorfoze Imaging Standard which is an internationally recognised Preservation Imaging Guideline from the Netherlands, it is actually for the digitisation of paper documents but it can also be used for other projects as well. Using this standard provides a guarantee that regardless of the lighting conditions that the the image is viewed in it can be determined accurately what the original colour looked like to give the best idea of what the artefact or record will actually look like. They have a blog post on the subject that is well worth reading.

Group discussion on the process of accepting a digital record
Perhaps the greatest thing that I will take away from the conference is information about the sheer amount and variety of resources available when looking into digital assets. Such as:

Strategy and Planning:
Collections Trust ‘Going Digital’ – An information package including tools about how to start thinking about the digital side of things and how to assess your organisations current procedures.

The National Archives ‘How to manage your information’ – This covers a number of different guides and tools to help plan your digital strategy and understand how to manage all the information.

Digitisation/Digital Assets information:
JISC Guides – JISC has a number of detailed guides on a variety of subjects such as Creating, Finding, Managing, Digitisation and Delivering and Using. There is also the JISC Toolkit which relates to the equipment needed for digitisation projects.

Extensis Webcast – Recordings of webcasts from the company Extensis who provide Digital Asset Management Systems.

DPC Digital Preservation Handbook – Something I was already familiar with but nonetheless an excellent and well written guide for all things digital preservation.

British Library ‘Fail to prepare for digitisation, prepare to fail at digitising!’ – The British Library has a number of different posts and discussions about their own process in Digitising collections, definitely a site worth looking at.

Social Media/Blogging:
Thirty8 Digital ’Blogging Ideas’ – Inspiration for blogs primarily aimed at museums but could still be used for archives, Thirty8 digital also has a number of other resources on various social media platforms such as twitter as well as some digital strategy worksheets all available on their resource page.

#CultureThemes – A blog that posts a new hashtag every few weeks in order to create some cohesion but also look at some more interesting artefacts/records that places may have. Once again largely aimed at museums but still relevant to other heritage sectors!

Museum in a box – A 3D printing project aimed at getting pieces from smaller museums scanned and then using the replicas as learning resources.

Overall having a Data Asset Management plan in place does seem like the obvious and clear choice, but as was mentioned throughout the conference it is important to look at your current systems in order to see what you already have in place and what you may need, ideally your new system wants to feed in to your existing systems as much as possible. The conference also one hundred percent reinforced something from the DPC Student Conference in that you need to know what you have and where it is, just because something is digital it doesn’t mean that this becomes less relevant.

To conclude, it was definitely a very interesting two days. There was a much grander focus on the museums side of Digital Assets but that is understandable and everything covered is still very relevant to other heritage institutions. If you want to see what people were tweeting about during the event, we were using the hashtag #DigitalIsntDifferent. I think that this event has really helped to supplement what I learned and covered in my previous blog post about the DPC Student Conference, instead this time covering more on how to deal with the sheer amount of information that an organisation could potentially be taking in.

David Heelas
Transforming Archives Trainee

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments and feedback welcomed....