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