Chronicle of Higher Ed: Born Digital, Projects Need Attention to Survive

Jennifer Howard, Chronicle of Higher Education, recently wrote a nice piece on the complications of preserving born-digital collections. It’s worth the read, and good to see these issues hit the academic newswires.

The first challenge is making sure people can get to the work when they do want to come. Analog or digital, no work will have much influence if it doesn’t stick around to be cited or argued with. The technological advances that make digital-humanities work possible also put it at risk of obsolescence, as software and hardware decay or become outmoded. Somebody—or a team of somebodies, often based in academic libraries or digital-scholarship centers—has to conduct regular inspections and make sure that today’s digital scholarship doesn’t become tomorrow’s digital junk.

Bradley J. Daigle, director of digital curation services at the University of Virginia Library, calls this “digital stewardship.” It’s an essential but easily overlooked element in any digital-humanities project. Born-digital work can die. Digital stewardship “involves care and feeding” to make sure that doesn’t happen, he says. “My unit essentially pays attention to the life cycle of the digital object.”

“Bradley Daigle, a digital curator at the U. of Virginia, and his colleagues Matthew Stephens and Lorrie Chisholm were in charge of preserving an early digital archive on the Civil War.”

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