Tagged: Preservation

Building Bridges

This guest post from Sara Mannheimer and Ryer Banta is about introducing undergraduates to the foundations of research data management through something everyone can relate to—organizing personal digital files. You can read more about their experience in The Complete Guide to Personal Digital Archiving which features their co-authored chapter, “Personal Digital Archiving as a Bridge to Research Data Management”

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In 2016, we were both working at Montana State University Library, but working in totally different divisions. Sara was the Data Management Librarian with a focus on research data management and data management planning for faculty and graduate students. Ryer was the Undergraduate Experience Librarian, focusing on information literacy instruction and support for undergraduate students. In many ways it would seem that we were living in very different parts of the library.

Although our jobs were quite different, we connected over our shared conviction that undergraduates would benefit from learning fundamental research data management skills. Undergraduates are entering a data-driven job market, where skills related to data management are in high demand. In industry, data scientists are working in a wide variety of sectors, and in academia, researchers are increasingly required to publish research data. Tailoring research data management lessons to undergraduates also served a key student population at MSU. Montana State University is a mid-sized university with about 16,500 total students, about 14,000 of whom are undergraduates. So we knew that there could be a big potential impact if we could figure out a meaningful way to help undergraduates build research data management skills.

As we began to think about creating a useful and meaningful research data management related lesson for undergraduates, our immediate challenge was figuring out how to get over the hurdle of making research data management relevant. Most undergraduates do not encounter research data on a regular basis, and we wanted to connect research data management to their daily life, their current schoolwork, or ideally both. The instructional principle of making lessons relevant may seem to be fairly common sense, but it is also supported by constructivist learning theory. We dipped our toes into this rich area of scholarship while developing our lesson, focusing on a couple of aspects of constructivist learning theory. For anyone developing learning experiences, we highly recommend dipping your toes, and even diving headlong, into constructivist learning theory and related theories.

Constructivist learning theory encompasses several principles, but we focused on the principles related to active, student-focused discovery. Two core tenets of constructivist learning theory specify that:

  • New learning builds on prior knowledge. By tapping into students’ past experiences, educators can create a learning sequence that extends from prior knowledge to the current lesson to a lifelong pattern of curiosity and learning.
  • Meaningful learning develops through “authentic” tasks. Activities conducted in class should simulate activities that students will use in their class assignments and in their real lives. This strategy ensures that the skills students learn in the classroom have direct relevance to their lives outside of the classroom.

Applying these tenets provided us with new insights about how to make research data management relevant for undergraduates. Given that new learning builds on prior knowledge, we aimed to understand students’ prior knowledge regarding data, tap into students’ past learning experiences, and then build upon that knowledge in the classroom. Given that meaningful learning develops through “authentic” tasks, we aimed to teach concrete, relatable skills that could be practiced both during instruction and afterwards. We wanted to position research data management skills in the context of students’ current lives, rather than promising a theoretical applicability to an abstract future career.

Taking a cue from constructivist learning theories, we realized that we could start with data that students already use and manage on a daily basis, specifically their digital files on their computers. At the same time, we also realized that many of the basic principles of research data management are also found in personal digital archiving practice. These dual realizations helped us focus our lesson on principles and practices that could be immediately applied to students’ digital files. In fact, in our lesson, we designed activities that got students started on reorganizing their files following personal digital archiving best practices. We organized our lesson into four key sections:

  • Set the stage. Students describe the use, importance, and challenges of data within their discipline or other personally relevant contexts. This step helps prepare students to apply the lesson to their own lives.
  • Basics of personal digital archiving. Students discover basic personal digital archiving strategies and principles that are also used to manage research data. This step provides a foundation of knowledge that informs in-class activities.
  • Apply learning with activities. Students apply personal digital archiving strategies and principles to organize and document their own files and data. This step provides students with hands-on experience with personal digital archiving strategies.
  • Debrief to connect personal digital archiving to research data management. Students reflect upon the value of the personal digital archiving principles and practices for their own personal data and discover the connection and similarities between personal digital archiving and research data management. This step allows students to process the lesson and consider future applications of the skills they learned.

We have had success with this lesson, and we have found that teaching personal digital archiving practices can act as a bridge that connects key practices of research data management to students’ everyday lives. Personal digital archiving builds on students’ prior knowledge of their digital belongings, and allows students to learn through authentic tasks that have immediate relevance to their daily lives. We hope that other librarians and educators can adapt and reuse the basic instructional strategies that we developed in their own learning contexts. Critical thinking about managing digital materials—whether personal files or research data—is a foundational skill that will benefit students during their undergraduate education and in their future careers.

Ryer Banta is the information literacy and technology librarian at Centralia College (WA), where he manages digital resources and services, and helps learners develop information literacy and lifelong learning skills. His research interests include open education, instructional design, educational technology, information literacy, and user experience.

You can follow Ryer on Twitter @RyerBanta

Sara Mannheimer is the data librarian at Montana State University in Bozeman, where she facilitates research data management and sharing, and promotes digital scholarship using library collections and “big data” sources. Her research focuses on data management practices, data discovery, digital preservation, and the social, ethical, and technical issues surrounding data-driven research.

You can follow Sara on Twitter @saramannheimer

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The Complete Guide to Personal Digital Archiving helps information professionals break down archival concepts and best practices into teachable solutions. Whether it’s an academic needing help preserving their scholarly records, a student developing their data literacy skills or someone backing up family photos and videos to protect against hard-drive failure, this book will show information professionals how to offer assistance.

Find out more about the book and read a sample chapter here.

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Digitization in the context of collection management

Here is another free chapter from one of our books for International Digital Preservation Day.  This one is about digitization in the context of collection management and is taken from Anna E Bulow and Jess Ahmon’s book, Preparing Collection for Digitization.


Read the free chapter, Digitization in the context of collection management, here

Find out more about the book, Preparing Collections for Digitization, here

Digital preservation strategies for visualizations and simulations

To mark International Digital Preservation Day we have made a new chapter from Preserving Complex Digital Objects freely available to download and view.

The chapter, ‘Digital preservation strategies for visualizations and simulations‘ is by Janet Anderson (formerly Delve), Professor of Digital Humanities, University of Brighton, Hugh Denard, Lecturer in Digital Humanities, King’s College London and William Kilbride, Executive Director, The Digital Preservation Coalition.


The main theme that emerges from the chapter is an acknowledgement that emulation has now come of age as a suitable digital preservation strategy to take preserving complex digital objects.

Read the chapter here

Find out more about the book Preserving Complex Digital Objects here


In this post-truth world, can we still rely on archives to tell the truth?

Facet Publishing have announced the release of The Silence of the Archive by David Thomas, Simon Fowler and Valerie Johnson

 In recent years big data initiatives, not to mention Hollywood, the video game industry and countless other popular media, have reinforced and even glamorized the public image of the archive as the ultimate repository of facts and the hope of future generations for uncovering ‘what actually happened’. Chambers Cat 2.02.qxdThe reality is, however, that for all sorts of reasons the record may not have been preserved or survived in the archive. In fact, the record may never have even existed – its creation being as imagined as is its contents. And even if it does exist, it may be silent on the salient facts, or it may obfuscate, mislead or flat out lie.

The Silence of the Archive, written by three expert and knowledgeable archivists, with a foreword by Anne J. Gilliland, draws attention to the many limitations of archives and the inevitability of their having parameters.

Co-author David Thomas said,

In The Silence of the Archive, we explore the question of whether archives are all that they seem. Are there silences, omissions and falsehoods which undermine their truth claims? Are their holdings, as some of us were taught, the unselfconscious products of administrative processes, or are they the products of powers relations? Is there a democratic deficit in archives?

The book, part of the Principles and Practice in Records Management and Archives series, will make compelling reading for professional archivists, records managers and records creators, postgraduate and undergraduate students of history, archives, librarianship and information studies, as well as academics and other users of archives.

About the authors:

David Thomas is a Visiting Professor at the University of Northumbria. Previously, he worked at The National Archives where he was Director of Technology and was responsible for digital preservation and for providing access to digital material.

Simon Fowler is an Associate Teaching Fellow at the University of Dundee where he teaches a course on military archives. Previously he worked at The National Archives for nearly thirty years.

Dr Valerie Johnson is Director of Research and Collections at The National Archives. She has worked as an archivist and a historian in the academic, corporate and public sectors.


Anne J Gilliland is Professor, Department of Information Studies, Director, Center for Information as Evidence, University of California, USA.

​The series editor: Geoffrey Yeo is honorary researcher in archives and records management at University College London (UCL), London.

About the book:

The Silence of the Archive | May 2017 | 224pp
Paperback: 9781783301553 | Hardback: 9781783301560 | eBook: 9781783301577

How can heritage institutions work with their communities to build broader, more inclusive and culturally relevant collections?

Facet Publishing have announced the release of Participatory Heritage, edite9781783301232.jpgd by Henriette Roued-Cunliffe and Andrea Copeland

 The internet as a platform for facilitating human organization without the need for organizations has, through social media, created new challenges for cultural heritage institutions. Challenges include but are not limited to: how to manage copyright, ownership, orphan works, open data access to heritage representations and artefacts, crowdsourcing, cultural heritage amateurs, information as a commodity or information as public domain, sustainable preservation, attitudes towards openness and much more.

 Participatory Heritage uses a selection of international case studies to explore these issues. It demonstrates that in order for personal and community-based documentation and artefacts to be preserved and included in social and collective histories, individuals and community groups need the technical and knowledge infrastructures of support that formal cultural institutions can provide. In other words, both groups need each other.

The editors said, “It is our hope that this book will help information and heritage professionals learn from others who are engaging with participatory heritage communities”.

Henriette Roued-Cunliffe, DPhil is an Assistant Professor at the Royal School of Library and Information Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She teaches and researches heritage data and information, and in particular how DIY culture is engaging with cultural heritage online and often outside of institutions. Her website is: roued.com.

Andrea Copeland is an Associate Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University, Indianapolis. Her research focus is public libraries and their relationship with communities, with a current emphasis on connecting the cultural outputs of individuals and community groups to a sustainable preservation infrastructure.

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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