Understanding Digital Stewardship

Understanding Digital Stewardship: Capturing and Preserving Museum Data to Ensure Access for Present and Future Generations

The Library of Congress blog Digital Preservation, Digital Curation, Digital Stewardship: What’s in (some) Names defines the terms digital curation, preservation and stewardship and conveys that these terms are frequently used interchangeably. The blog relates digital curation and preservation as closely associated with the skills and functions of librarians and scientists while digital stewardship is correlated with the work of curation and preservation. In order to attain a better understanding of digital stewardship, I compare digital stewardship with a diagram exhibiting the Digital Curation Lifecycle.

The Digital Curation Lifecycle Model  exhibits the interconnectedness of Metadata, Access, Digitization and Asset management. Each of these components are linked together with curation, preservation, appraisal, selection, transformation, disposal, and storage. After analysis of the Digital Curation Lifecycle Diagram, I recognize similarities between the diagram and digital stewardship; the likeness is the process in which the data is identified, organized, stored and housed to ensure the materials will have the longest lifespan possible. Ultimately, digital stewardship advances an institution’s capacity to preserve and provide accessibility to digital resources for the benefits of present and future generations.

My experience with the development and maintenance of the Oral History Program at the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum (THSM) opens my mind to the significance of digital storage and access. In regards to digital storage, THSM stores both the audio and metadata on the primary kiosk, which houses the hard drive. More specifically, the metadata, such as the chapters, titles and other audio information is stored in a local SQL Database. Currently, this storage strategy is efficient for the Museum.

There has been some consideration about housing all of the stored data in the Cloud, as there are many advantages. For instance, the Cloud enables the system to be more scalable so THSM can quickly deploy additional listening stations or kiosks. In addition, storing the data in the Cloud allows the local vendor (Ideaship) and institution to perform backups more easily and recover from kiosk hardware failure more quickly. Ultimately, it has been decided the kiosk should be able to operate independently of the web in case it becomes necessary to be deployed at a location without internet connection.

In relation to the accessibility of the Oral History Program, the resources are only available internally. There is one Oral History Kiosk located in the Tribune Research Library. Since THSM is still in the initial phases of the Program, I understand this decision. However, in the near future, I envision the Oral History Program becoming readily accessible to the public. My hope is for the THSM to link their Oral History Recordings to their online collection via the web. This accessibility will benefit THSM, as well as other institutions because when curators and researchers of other museums have accessibility to the oral history recordings, the information can be shared in context with their exhibits and ultimately, will be viewed by a larger audience.

Digital stewardship is a complicated process, which requires collaboration of museum experts from different departments, such as the IT, digital, marketing, curatorial and often, local vendors. THSM is a small Museum with only six staff members; the size of the Museum presents a challenge for the advancement of the Oral History Program.

Amy Bradshaw, Graduate Student, Museum Science & Management, Education track

University of Tulsa, March 2017


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Amanda Vestal says:

    I loved that you focused on the interconnectedness of different departments and how that is essential to have a successful digital stewardship policy. Your hands-on activity with us in different “departments” to create our own object and then having to all come together to create a bigger object really showcased the importance of working together.


    1. Zachary Qualls says:

      I agree on Amanda’s observation of the departmental interconnections for success.


  2. Zachary Qualls says:

    This is an excellent blog post. I appreciate the straightforward definitions applied to the Digital Curation Life-cycle and then applying your personal experiences with digital preservation of oral histories. While the author discusses the elaborate processes involved in digital stewardship, including the collaboration that is essential for this idea to give itself longevity and relevance in the field, there is one particular statement made that personally hits home;

    …”Ultimately, digital stewardship advances an institution’s capacity to preserve and provide accessibility to digital resources for the benefits of present and future generations…”

    Advances an institutes capacity to preserve and provide accessibility? What a profound statement as we all (often to well know) combat so many hurdles and obstacles in the humanities and performing arts. Hurdles that include extreme budget cuts and questions about the legitimacy of the arts and humanities in general. Perhaps Digital Stewardship is that unforeseen resource that billows the capacity of institutes striving for historical empathy and as a byproduct the relevance of our existence and the truth we all seek.

    editors note: I use the term ‘unforeseen resource’ in the sense that not all museums and historical agencies have access and/or the means to explore digital mediums in the field of museology.


  3. Alex London says:

    What a fantastic message regarding the benefits and possibilities of digital stewardship. Judging from this post, perhaps one of the biggest hurdles facing digital stewardship is defining the semantic parameters, and other guidelines that will govern digital stewardship as a whole. And perhaps, digital curatorial endeavors or other similar programs could help define these regulations.
    Personally, one of the most intriguing aspects about audio cataloging is the hope that institutions can use technology to restore or clean-up audio that may have been virtually lost. If museums could explore this avenue, it would not only bring a new element to the conservation process, but it could provide beneficial cultural and historical information to scholars and patrons alike. The possibilities are especially exciting, well done!


  4. Hannah Johnson says:

    This was a really interesting subject and so pertinent in this modern technologically driven society. I think that the need for digital stewardship will continue to increase as more and more institutions put scholarly information on the internet. My concern is that many institutions do not have enough funding to properly implement digital stewardship ideals. However, the public is at a point where they expect everything to be online and immediately accessible. If the information is not digitally available they are angry and the credibility of the institution is questioned. If information is hurriedly and incompletely put online does the digital stewardship suffer?


  5. molly noah says:

    Amy, thank you for your article! Your work with the Tulsa Historical Society is important for the community as well as the institution. I am excited at the potential of this program being “digitally sharable”. The ability to share these interviews with other institutions allows for more collaboration and deeper understanding of the forces that have shaped our community. None o these opportunities are available without properly storing and caring for digital records.


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