Category: recordkeeping

Five ways to love your data

Guest post by Gillian Oliver, co-author of Digital Curation, 2nd edition

As with any love story with a happy ending, a successful relationship with data will take effort and commitment.  Here are five practical ways to ensure the course of true love runs smoothly:

1. Data by design

data

Image source: DATA by flickr user Janet McKnight

Unlike human relationships you can specify your ideal characteristics and so make sure you’re working from the best possible starting point. It’s never too early to begin design, project planning should incorporate awareness of data requirements from the perspectives of the stakeholders involved. If you need convincing, remember that up-front awareness and being proactive will greatly assist in reducing the overall costs involved in data curation. The types of features to think about are likely to include choices relating to open or proprietary file formats, metadata schema and workflows, naming conventions and storage requirements.

2. Learn from others

Learn from others. Don’t try to go it alone – there’s a wealth of experience out there and much of it is freely accessible to make use of.  Here are just two examples of websites which can be mined for practical advice:  The Digital Preservation Coalition contains many useful reports, especially the Technology Watch series.  The Digital Curation Centre has an astonishing wealth of content, ranging from basic explanations of core definitions to very practical tools and guidance.

3. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel

This is further emphasising the point above, which can’t be repeated often enough.  There are many standards available, such as the Open Archival Information System standard which provides ahigh level conceptual model for digital archives, or the Dublin Core schema for descriptive metadata. These standards have been developed by international and cross-disciplinary communities, and are subject to ongoing review.

data-scrabble-turned

Image source: data (scrabble) by Flickr user justgrimes

4. Don’t be a loner, get out and socialise

There are plenty of opportunities to collaborate and work together with people grappling with the same problems which can only enrich your relationship with your data. Sharing your knowledge will help continue to build and grow the worldwide community of practice. Socialising can be face to face, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to take advantages of the many conferences, workshops and events that take place around the world, or online. The Open Preservation Foundation provides a central hub for tools, advice and knowledge exchange – particularly useful are the blogs which provide insight into current activities, both successes and failures.

5. Never give up

Good relationships can be established at a much later stage, unappreciated and unloved data need not be rejected if there are signs that there is potential for a fulfilling and positive future. But you will need specialist advice if you need to go down this track.  BitCurator provides a gateway to digital forensics tools and methods in the cultural heritage context. Brown Dog is a project that seeks to bring the long tail of data into the light – the focus of their efforts is past and present uncurated data.

So, what are you waiting for?  Love your data, starting today!

Gillian Oliver is Associate Professor at Monash University and the co-author of Digital Curation, 2nd edition (Facet 2016) and Records Management and Information Culture (Facet 2014), the co-editor of Engaging with Records and Archives (Facet 2016) and a Co-editor in Chief of the journal Archival Science.

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Think differently about how we understand, interpret and interact with archives and records

Facet Publishing have announced the release of Engaging with Records and Archives: Histories and theories9781783301584

Engaging with Records and Archives showcases the myriad ways in which archival ideas and practices are being engaged and developed and offers a selection of original, insightful and imaginative papers by emerging and internationally renowned scholars, taken from the Seventh International Conference on the History of Records and Archives (I-CHORA 7).

The book, edited by Fiorella Foscarini, Heather MacNeil, Bonnie Mak and Gillian Oliver, reveals the richness of archival thinking through compelling examples from a wide variety of views of records, archives and archival functions, spanning diverse regions, communities, disciplinary perspectives and time that will captivate the reader.   Examples include the origins of contemporary grassroots archival activism in Poland, the role of women archivists in early 20th century England, the management of records in the Dutch East Indies in the 19th century, the relationship between Western and Indigenous cultures in North America and other modern archival conundrums.

The editors said, “Today, more than ever before, everyone, not only archives specialists, would benefit from a deeper and better informed engagement with archival objects and practices as they become increasingly engrained in our daily lives, from the pervasiveness of archival materials on the web, to the use of archive-based knowledge in all sciences, to the uncertainty about the preservation of our digital memories that we may all ex
perience sooner or later. The 11 essays selected for inclusion in this book explore different ways of historicizing and theorizing record making, recordkeeping and archiving pr
actices from a range of disciplinary perspectives and through the eyes of creators, custodians and users.”

 

Fiorella Foscarini PhD is an associate professor in the Faculty of
Information at the University of Toronto. She is Co-editor in Chief of the Records Management Journal and co-author of Records Management and Information Culture (Facet 2014)

Heather MacNeil PhD is a professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto where she teaches courses in the areas of archival theory and practice and the history of record keeping.

Bonnie Mak PhD is an associate professor at the University of Illinois, jointly appointed in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science and the Program in Medieval Studies. She teaches courses in the history and future of the book, reading practices, and knowledge production.

Gillian Oliver PhD is an associate professor at Victoria Univeristy of Wellington. She is the co-author of Records Management and Information Culture (Facet 2014) and Digital Curation, 2nd edition (Facet 2016) and is Co-editor in Chief of the journal Archival Science.

 

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