For more than a decade, UTSA Special Collections has been proactive in acquiring, preserving, and providing access to donor-created electronic records (“born-digital” files).
These records come from our collections in various formats. Record types include email correspondence, word processing documents, administrative records, and project files spanning the multiple subjects of our diverse collections. These records have come to Special Collections in the form of disks and other physical media filed within paper collections and from direct transfers from donors and records units.
Additionally, Special Collections manages the digitization of collections for greater use. Materials selected for digitization include photographic prints and negatives, audiovisual material, and manuscript folders. Following best practices in the archives field, these are captured using in-house digitization equipment or outsourced to professional labs. Digitized materials are generated explicitly for the purpose of describing them with rich metadata and making them available online. Users can access our digitized material through our digital collections page or via links from our collection guides.
As our digital holdings grow, the department has come to understand and fully support the need to safeguard and steward our digital content. In 2013 we realized the need for a dedicated Digital Archivist staff position. This position is responsible for leading the development and implementation of solutions for the long-term preservation of our digital materials. The Digital Archivist oversees the application of best practices in acquiring, creating, preserving, and making available for use both born-digital and digitized material.
Digital Stewardship Activities:
- The Digital Archivist works closely with other archivists and staff to provide guidance for donors and records creators regarding the transfer of born-digital material, and to develop workflow to ensure reliability of material ingested to our holdings.
- The department has assembled a digital curation workstation that includes various hardware and software needed to read and faithfully copy content from computer media, and has created a workflow for ingesting new electronic content that is modeled after leading best practices.
- UTSA Special Collections is in the process of selecting a digital preservation platform that will fulfill our goal of generating OAIS-compliant archival packages of digital content which can be automatically ingested into secure, long-term, managed storage for preservation.
- Our department has proactively captured collections of web content (Archived Websites) and has committed resources to the curation and description of these historically valuable web collections. See more about our web archiving methods and collection guidelines.
Projects and Initiatives
- We participated in the Society of American Archivists’ 2014 Jump In initiative, which involved completing an inventory of digital material stored on physical media within our University Archives collections. In late 2014 we completed a full inventory of computer media in all of our holdings.
- While completing Jump In, we saw the opportunity to compile information about various physical storage media that other participants reported finding in order to create a sharable quick reference poster.
- In the course of investigating long-term digital preservation platforms we conducted two pilot testing projects with ArchivesDirect, which pairs open-source Archivematica software with DuraCloud storage. We presented on our experience with the first pilot at the 2015 Texas Conference on Digital Libraries and reported on our second pilot at a 2015 panel sponsored by the Archivists of Central Texas.
- Our department is addressing the issue of access to born-digital records within our archival collections. We have experimented with methods of providing access using our existing digital collection management system (see our Community Alliance for a United San Antonio Records (CAUSA) collection).