Digital newspapers and preservation. Mention this topic to a roomful of curators, and in our experience, the conversation will move in a few predictable directions.
Most of the curators will share that they (or their institution) manage some number of digital newspaper collections—mostly digitized, either in-house or by vendors. A few will share that they also manage born-digital content, either acquired from publishers directly or harvested via the Web.
Someone will inevitably point to the excellent set of standards in the field, particularly for digitization efforts.
And then…most curators will share stories of their own legacy collections, which conform only in small part or not at all to those standards. They will share tales of wildly variable silos of content that have been created under different management and/or different grant-funded endeavors. These idiosyncratic and ad-hoc “collections” of digital news are inconsistent in their file types, structures, metadata, and storage locations. And their curators worry a lot about how to preserve these collections for future generations.
If you ask this hypothetical roomful of curators why they haven’t readied this content for preservation, most (if not all) will cite the same major barrier: resources. They have limited resources to expend on remediation activities, and the specifications and standards they might ideally deploy are simply too great an investment to consider.
The Educopia Institute and its affiliated digital preservation program, the MetaArchive Cooperative, heard (and hosted) these kinds of conversations for several years. We ran surveys to verify and document the needs we were hearing. And then, with generous funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and in partnership with a range of experts from San Diego Supercomputer Center and the libraries of University of North Texas, Penn State, Virginia Tech, University of Utah, Georgia Tech, Boston College, and Clemson University, we started to seek a way to lower the barrier to entry for managing digital newspapers for the long term.
These Guidelines are a first-draft version of our work to distill preservation-readiness steps into an incremental process that an institution of almost any size or type should be able to use to begin maturing its digital newspaper content management practices.
This first draft is being issued for public review and comment here from July 22, 2013-September 20, 2013.
In a nutshell, we’re engaging in this 60-day public review because we need content curators to help us understand what we’ve missed (we know there are gaps!) and what we’ve nailed. We want to know where you need more guidance and where you need less description. We want you to point us towards other resources in the field we may have missed, and above all, we want you to engage with us and with each other to make the final Guidelines as useful as they can possibly be.
We appreciate in advance any time you’re able to spend reading and commenting. We will be a part of the conversation that evolves here, and we will integrate your feedback into the published Guidelines this Fall.
We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all those who have already started the review/comment process prior to this public review phase, including our Advisors on this project (Liz Bishoff, Robert Horton, Sue Kellerman, Mary Molinaro, Frederick Zarndt), our “Chronicles Committee” (Mike Furlough, Gail McMillan, Tyler Walters, John Herbert, Bill Donovan, David Minor, and Chris Vinson), and our project team (Collin Brittle, Martin Halbert, Cathy Hartman, Nick Krabbenhoeft, Mark Phillips, Ryan Speer, and Hannah Tarver).
Any oversights and omissions herein are entirely our own, and we’ll point out the most grave: the Guidelines only deal with digital newspapers at this point, not broadcast or other forms of digital news. AV preservation brings in a host of additional factors and considerations. We hope to later expand the Guidelines (or to encourage someone else to do so…) to include the broader spectrum of “digital news,” but we are beginning with what we know well and can document most thoroughly: digital newspapers.
We look forward to the conversation!
Katherine Skinner and Matt Schultz