An Institutional Framework for Creating Authentic Digital Objects
AbstractIn the future, a scholar or researcher will want to know that a digital object is trusted - that it is authentic and reliable. Digital objects can be surrogates, resulting from a digitization process, or they can be objects whose only form is digital. Much has been accomplished in existing open source digital library platforms to provide capabilities for preserving digital objects including now ubiquitous features such as persistent identifiers, integrity checks, audit trails, and versioning. However, achieving a level of digital object authenticity will require a multi-dimensional approach involving policies, processes, and continued technological innovation. This paper proposes steps that the institution can take to insure the availability of authentic digital objects in the future. In this proposal, authenticity is based on definitions from archival diplomatics and relies on methods from public key cryptography for digitally signing an object with a secure time stamp. Trustworthy processes, re-definition of traditional roles, and the implementation of technologies to support authenticity are all required to meet the needs of digital scholarship. Implementation and policy issues are discussed with specific attention to transformations required of the archival institution and the professional archivist.
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