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Digits for Good: Preserving the Digital Glenbow Library and Archives

World Digital Preservation Day 2020 takes place November 5. It’s a good time for us to reflect on the unique digital assets that we received when we accepted the stewardship of the physical material in the Glenbow Library and Archives.

Digital assets present a different set of inventory, transfer, access and preservation challenges for the University of Calgary libraries. But they also allow us to provide online services to our users, which has become so necessary in the time of COVID-19.

Through digital preservation of these assets, we ensure that the digital material that we collect or create now is available indefinitely into the future. We’re not talking five years; we’re thinking 500.

The Digital Collection and Other Digital Assets

When we received stewardship for the physical Glenbow Library and Archives, we also received stewardship of digitized photographs, scanned documents, audio-visual digitized objects, oral histories, emails, databases and hard drives of data.

All in all, we transferred over 500,000 files and 2.5 TB of data.

Securely Moving Digital Assets from Glenbow Museum to University of Calgary

You can think of moving digital objects the same way you would move physical objects: create an inventory, pack them up safely, move them, check that everything moved safely, and put them away. Simple.

We used DROID to create an inventory. This allowed us to create a profile of all of the files that were coming over and identify any files that were potentially at risk for obsolescence. We used the “sneakernet” method to transfer data over via portable hard drives: transfer the data to local storage, re-profile it, and check fixity to ensure the materials transferred securely. Finally, we moved the assets into secure storage in our digital asset management system.

Creating and Collecting New Digital Content

A major goal for the UCalgary team in the stewardship of these archives and library materials is to enhance the access to these materials through mass digitization. So far we’ve started with the microfilm and photograph collections.

Our Glenbow Archivist, Bonnie Woelk, has been working on new donations to the Glenbow Archives. These donations could come with digital archival records that we will need to manage and preserve.

The Risk and the Reward: Our Digital Preservation Mission

As our collection of digital material grows, we are continuing our strategy to safeguard our materials through the full realization of our digital preservation program.

Over the next year we are expanding our current safeguards for our digital materials. We will be implementing a digital preservation system and increasing our resources to support this infrastructure and service.

As we take in our jpgs and tifs, bits and bytes, it’s exciting to imagine what form this data will take in a hundred years and all of the potential conservation processes we’ve applied to ensure that what is accessible now is available to future researchers.