I am the National Digital Stewardship Resident at UMass Boston’s University Archives and Special Collections. Last weekend I visited Martha’s Vineyard, the summer playground of presidents and the site of the most recent Mass Memories Road Show event, the 43rd overall. Despite cooler temperatures and overcast skies, it was a beautiful Fall weekend on the island.
For the uninitiated, the Mass Memories Road Show is an ongoing community based digital humanities project conducted by UMass Boston since 2004. The goal of the project is to collaborate with Massachusetts cities and towns to organize community building events where images and stories that document the history of Massachusetts through the eyes of its citizens are collected one town at a time. To learn more about the Mass Memories Road Show project, visit UMass Boston’s Open Archives web site.
I didn’t travel to Martha’s Vineyard on this cool and overcast late October weekend just to support my host institution or to dine on an obscenely large lobster roll at the famous Black Dog Tavern. No, I went to work on my NDSR project. My project is to develop a digital preservation plan for UMass Boston. The ingredients in my test kitchen are the images and videos of the Mass Memories Road Show collection so I went to learn more about how these digital objects are created and collected.
My original intention was simply to float between several stations responsible for
generating the digital objects and the metadata for these objects. I was primarily interested in observing the information stations where metadata about contributed photographs is captured; the scanning and digital stations where contributed photographs are digitized; the keepsake station where large format photographs, artifacts and contributors are photographed; and the video station where contributors are recorded telling their stories. By observing these stations, I hoped to better understand the workflows used to create the collection and to gain insight on how best to preserve the resulting materials.
The surprise for me was the interest in digital preservation that was expressed to me by many of the volunteers affectionately known as “roadies.” Many event volunteers are information professionals who have a personal and professional stake in digital preservation. As I moved around the room, introducing myself to the volunteers, I was continually asked about digital preservation issues and my NDSR project.
An artist and volunteer from the Martha’s Vineyard Museum was interested in how he could create awareness at the museum for the need for digital preservation. He was concerned that no one is collecting born digital cultural heritage on Martha’s Vineyard and that there will be a large gap in the cultural record as a result. Several librarians engaged me in discussions about digital preservation topics such as preservation friendly file formats, concerns over obsolescence and the use of cloud storage.
At the end of the day I had accomplished far more than I had set out to do — on the road in Martha’s Vineyard. My presence and participation at the road show had raised awareness in and influenced people to talk about digital preservation. All that and a lobster roll, what a trip.
Please visit this space each week and help NDSR Boston continue to generate awareness and interest in digital stewardship issues.
Thanks, Jeff Erickson