Making Digital Curation a Systematic Institutional Function

  • Christopher Prom


Over the past decade, a rich body of research and practice has emerged under the rubrics of electronic records, digital preservation and digital curation. Most of this work has taken place as research activity (often financed by government agencies) within libraries and information/computer science departments. Many projects focus on one format of information, such as research publications or data, potentially de-contextualizing individual records. Meanwhile, most institutional archives and manuscript repositories, which possess a rich theoretical and practical framework for preserving context among mixed analog materials, have failed to extend their capabilities to digital records. As a result, relatively few institutions have implemented systematic methods to capture, preserve and provide access to the complete range of documentation that end users need to understand and interpret past human activity.

The Practical E-Records Method attempts to address this problem by providing easy-to-implement software reviews, guidance/policy templates, and program recommendations that blend digital curation research findings with traditional archival processes and workflows. Using the method discussed in this paper, archives and manuscript repositories can use existing resources to incrementally develop digital curation skills, building a collaborative, expanding program in the process. Archival programs that make digital curation a systematic institutional function will systematically gather, preserve, and provide access to genres of documentation that are contextually-rich and highly susceptible to loss, complementing efforts undertaken by librarians, information scientists and external service providers. Over the next year, the suggested techniques will be tested and refined at the University of Illinois Archives and possibly elsewhere.
Research Papers