ATG Article of the Week: Born Digital, Projects Need Attention to Survive

by | Jan 9, 2014 | 0 comments

Born Digital, Projects Need Attention to Survive is an article from  Chronicle of Higher Education by Jennifer Howard that draws needed attention to “digital stewardship” and the fact that it requires “much more than just dumping a copy in an archive.”  At the outset, Ms. Howard reinforces her point by quoting Bradley J. Daigle, director of digital curation services at the University of Virginia Library who notes that digital stewardship “involves care and feeding” and paying “attention to the life cycle of the digital object.”  

The article goes on to discuss how essential the concept of “digital stewardship” is to the value of digital humanities projects by again referencing Bradley J. Daigle and the University of Virginia Library’s experience.  Ms. Howard points to the Civil War project Valley of the Shadow, which was started in the early 1990’s and remains a valuable scholarly resource because of the attention given to digital stewardship – including the willingness to make the requisite financial investment. According to the article, the project had to be rebuilt in 2009 taking “the entire site and atomized it into several hundred thousand individual files,” then analyzed them to see if they were damaged or in still-usable formats.” Obviously, this was a major undertaking but it was necessary to preserve the integrity and usefulness of the collection.

Other digital humanities projects are also discussed like the Texas Slavery Project and the work being done at the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab.  The article placing them within the evolving world of digital scholarship and the conversation is expanded to including concerns about how digital humanities projects can have broader impacts.

However, the main take away remains the need for constant attention to insure the viability of digital humanities collections, and as a corollary, the desirability of putting long-term archiving strategies in place early on.  But don’t take our word for it.  Check it out yourself!


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