Building up our digital preservation service

Kirsty explaining the pre-ingest and ingest process

Kirsty explaining the pre-ingest and ingest process

On the 14th December last year the Centre for Research Collections, at the University of Edinburgh, welcomed colleagues from Court Services to witness the ingest of the first corpus of digital records through our digital preservation system, Archivematica.

This represents a huge step the University has now taken to begin to address the issue of the preservation of historic and cultural digital assets that form part of its corporate memory.

Dr Lewis Allan (Head of Court Services) and Evelyn Dunton (Administrator) joined Dr Joe Marshall (Head of Special Collections), Rachel Hosker (Archives Manager) and Grant Buttars (Deputy University Archivist) to watch Kirsty Lee (Digital Preservation Curator) explain the detailed workflows and processes that the Archives team undertake to authentically transfer, process, prepare, document and ingest archival digital records produced as part of the University’s core function.

Having previously captured the records Kirsty gave an overview of our set of workflows from developing a submission agreement to Archivematica ingest before demonstrating the initial steps taken to prepare for a transfer to ensure we fully document its accession, via ArchivesSpace, and that there is a designated working area on our local server to pre-process the collection. Key software used to evaluate collections and facilitate the appraisal process, such as DROID and Treesize Pro, were also explained particularly when documenting removal of files from a collection. Also, given some files had become corrupted during transfer, necessitating a re-capture, Kirsty was able to affirm the merits of pre-transfer checksuming and how software such as Quick View Plus can help to visually identify corrupt files.

Once happy all the records documenting the transfer and the actions the Archives team had taken, along with the core records themselves, were appropriately contained in a structure that satisfies the preservation software Lewis and Evelyn watched as their Court Records were transferred to the server, via a secure shell client, and then selected for ingest through the Archivematica Dashboard. Kirsty demonstrated the flexibility of Archivematica in tailoring the microservices that can be switched on or off, depending on the Curator’s requirements, before explaining what was happening to their precious content as Archivematica churned through its activities.

By the end of the session the Archives team were able to show that the first corpus of Court records had been authentically and sustainably transferred to the Archive, fully under its custody, in line with established standards and best practice.

Over the course of the next few months we will begin to build up our preservation service by ingesting other key records series alongside its integration with open source discovery tools currently in use within the University.

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