When will I see you again?…understanding our collections

Sorry I’ve been away folks…time flies when you’re having fun with digital preservation.

Things have been progressing nicely, and I’ll blog about my other activities in due course, but for now I wanted to focus on collections and collections surveys.

In line with tasks for the first phase of my plan I wanted to understand more about what we were intending on preserving for the long term with a digital preservation repository. So whilst the survey would touch on what we have the moment it would also touch on what we might have!!

From the research I had done on the subject (British Library collection profiling and the DPC online wiki, amongst others), and the people I had spoken to, who had carried out similar activities, it was clear that a deep survey was not going to be feasible within the limited amount of time available to carry this task out. So I decided to keep it fairly high level with a view to conducting a more detailed analysis if, and when, the collections are to come under the custody of the Centre for Research Collections (CRC). The main purpose of the survey then became to ascertain any issues with the collections and what the likely impact of would be on our storage requirements, now and in the long term.

Whilst some, who have carried out a similar activity have based their survey on type (i.e maps, newspapers) I decided to base the survey on provenance for the simple reason that that their current location will be the origin from which they come to us.  It felt more natural to consider them as discreet collections in their own right, rather than divide them up by content type. To that end I focussed on two areas:

  1. Collections held by the CRC,
  2. Collections generated by the University, but outwith the CRC.

For the purpose of consistency I generated one Collections Survey form to gather data, regardless of provenance, and then distilled that information into a spreadsheet for further statistical analysis.

Whilst surveying collections with the help of those to manage those collections was simple once they had been identified, I quickly realised that it would not be possible for me to single-handedly assess any physical media we have acquired over the years (and we do have a lot of it – CDs, floppy discs, DVDs, mini discs, HDDs). That’s going to require resourcing in some way, shape or form (something I’m pursuing further) but nevertheless is important to ascertain as this could have a significant impact on costs, for migration/digitisation and processing, and storage! Watch this space…



  1. […] to answer that is firstly to understand the institutional drivers for preserving digital content, the scope of what it will manage, the departmental and wider organisational strategic goals, the departmental objectives for […]

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