MSU Digital Curation Planning

April 1, 2010

Digital Curation Planning One-on-One Unit Interviews

Filed under: Survey — admin @ 3:43 pm

During the months of January, February, and March 2010,  members of the MSU Digital Curation Planning Team conducted one-on-one meetings with select respondents to our October 2009 baseline data questionnaire.  As we could not interview every survey participant, we decided to focus on units that reported use of content management systems and/or digital repositories. These units would have concentrations of digital content that they are trying to manage and/or preserve. They were likely to be open to help and suggestions that we might offer, and might already have solutions in place that could be of use to other units. We were also interested in talking to units that created digital content documenting MSU history in some way and that might have sent non-digital content to the MSU Archives in the past. Units interviewed included:

The meetings were structured as informal, two-hour conversations rather than formal interviews and were held at the unit offices. Discussions included how the digital content to be preserved relates to the mission of the unit; whether it was of ongoing use or of archival value—that is, whether it documents the activity of the unit or the university; the file formats used; and the storage infrastructure, including any space issues. Regarding the unit’s content management system and/or digital repository, we asked about the system(s) they use, why they chose it, and how they use it. We also asked about their ingest, archival storage/preservation, and access processes and workflows. Finally, we asked about metadata stored with or related to the content and any file naming conventions.

We are currently  in the process of analyzing the results of the interviews and have made some general observations to date. Each of the units developed solutions that fit the nature of their data and the needs of their users. Some use commercial applications, and some use open-source software. The Turfgrass Information Center, for example, has long used Cuadra STAR as its database/content management system, and the Department of Theatre uses the relatively new open-source ResourceSpace repository solution. Some units—such as Broadcasting Services—hold digital content of archival value to the university.

The interviewed units exhibited some very positive trends related to preservation and curation. First, most backed up their data in some fashion. Many of them demonstrated a good use of metadata, and many were using repository software with very good access and discovery interfaces to manage their content. Importantly, many of the units had strong support from their management and stable funding. Most of the units expressed interest in appraisal and curation guidelines, and they do need some help: Although the units back up their data, the backups  tend to be located very close to production servers—often in the same building, if not the same room. Some of the units create only minimal metadata for their digital content, and we found little in the way of digital curation policies.

We are also in the process of performing a comparison of metadata schema among the units interviewed and the Dublin Core set of metadata elements. Six of the ten units interviewed had metadata schema to share. Three units use metadata schema based on Dublin Core, with slight variations to reflect local needs. The Department of Art & Art History uses the Image Resource Information System (IRIS) data standard for cataloging and management of art images, and the metadata is based on the Visual Resources Association Core (VRA Core) and the Cataloging Cultural Objects (CCO) guide to good cataloging practices. Physical Plant’s metadata is specified for use in its commercial engineering content management system for managing facilities assets. Finally, the Turfgrass Information Center uses indexing terms it has specified in the Cuadra STAR system for cataloging bibliographic information of all things turfgrass.

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