I was delighted recently to welcome colleagues from across the UK to Lancaster University for an Archivematica UK User group meeting. It was the hottest day of September here in Lancaster and while the campus did look lovely I did recommend our wonderful campus ice cream shop* to help cool down.
Archivematica UK User Group is an informal group made up of people considering, testing or using Archivematica, a digital preservation system. Those who attended are at all different stages of development and have a wide range of collections that they manage. What unites us all is a desire to tackle digital preservation as best they can with the resources they have available and to share experiences with others in the digital preservation community.
What Archivematica is: an open-source digital preservation system.
What Archivematica is not: a magic bullet that will solve all your digital preservation needs.
It relies very much on community input and can be implemented in a wide range of environments. It’s very important for all of us to be able to share experiences and what we’ve been up to so we can all move forward with tackling digital preservation.
My colleague Dr Adrian Albin-Clark and I were up first talking about our experiments with using Archivematica for the preservation of research data. RCUK stipulate that research data should be preserved and made available for at least 10 years after last use – or forever in practical terms! We’ve been focusing on how to get our institutional Research Information System (in our case Pure) to work with Archivematica and you can see details of Adrian’s work here.
Jasmin Boehmer, a student at Aberystwyth University gave us an insight into her research around metadata and rights management and we were excited to learn that her dissertation should be available soon via Aberystwyth University’s library catalogue. A lot of digital preservation development work requires time, a resource few of us can spare, so it’s fantastic that there are people out there undertaking detailed research and then sharing the results.
Jake Henry reported the latest news from the National Library of Wales where they are working at integrating Archivematica with their local digital repository and providing long term preservation and access to a wide range of digital content. They are also supporting a national programme of managing digital archives which involves remote deposit and management of digital collections from across Wales. It looked complicated and ambitious but we really look forward to hearing more from this project. We especially liked their local instance of Archivematica – Archwfmatica; wonder if there are plans for a Welsh language version…
Final update from the morning was Kirsty Lee from the University of Edinburgh who was the envy of all having attended Archivematicamp (Un)conference in Michigan – there’s a report here from some other attendees but it sounded like a really useful event where it was as much about attendees learning about Archivematica development as users giving feedback on what they wanted. We are really hoping there might be an Archivematicamp UK at some point – watch this space!
After lunch Jen Mitcham and Julie Allinson from the University of York gave an update from their “Filling the Digital Preservation Gap” project – part of the JISC-funded Research Data Spring project. This was the official last day of the project but not the end of the work! There will still be more blog posts to read here and the work they have already produced is extremely well documented and shared. I personally have found it of great practical use and also inspirational not least in terms of file format identification work which was the general discussion topic for the afternoon. We were invited to think about the “problem” of unidentified file formats – which is especially acute for those who work with very diverse research data outputs. There was some discussion about how we might contribute to file format identification as a community and balancing up the widely different needs of different institutions. For some it would be worthwhile and important to invest time and resource in id-ing particular file types but for others a more basic level of preservation has to be the priority with id-ing work coming second. I do now wonder if it might be useful to try and do more advocacy work in this area to try and get the creators of the data to help map and describe formats.
Next up was John Kaye who is leading on JISC’s research and development strand around managing research data and digital preservation. There’s a lot happening here particularly around the issue of shared services and it was useful for sharing experiences of managing and preserving research data and a good opportunity to hear what support JISC is planning to offer in these areas.
Heather Roberts from the Royal Northern College of Music was up next asking for advice on taking first steps with Archivematica and there were some very good tips from the floor – someone very sensibly said “be very clear about what you want to achieve”. Archivematica has the functionality to do lots of different things and in different ways but as I said earlier, it’s not a magic bullet, so it’s a good idea to have a clear idea of the workflow and infrastructure to fit it into. This is great advice for anyone looking at systems and tools to help solve problems!
Finally we were delighted to have a Skype call with Sarah Romkey from Artefactual Systems, the company who produce Archivematica who updated us on the news from the company and what devlopments are in the pipeline. It was also a chance for us to add our questions and comments. I was just relieved that the technology all worked to enable the conversation!
It was a very packed day and as ever it felt like there wasn’t enough time to speak to everyone who was there. It hot and there was a bit of noise from the exciting new building developments which are taking place outside the library (!) but I hope everyone enjoyed visiting as much as I enjoyed hosting. I have various avenues from this which I intend to chase up and am looking forward to the next Archivematica UK User group meeting in the new year.
*other makes of ice cream are available
Rachel MacGregor, Digital Archivist