Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Digital Curation

A new term has been buzzing around library literature for the past few years: digital curation. Traditionally, curation was the act of organizing and maintaining a collection of artworks or artifacts. Digital curation, broadly interpreted, is about maintaining and adding value to a trusted body of digital information for current and future use. It is the active management and appraisal of digital information over its entire life cycle. Digital preservation focuses on the actions taken to ensure the accessibility of digital information across time and new technologies.

Digital curation most often refers to the management of open access publishing, or literature that is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. It can include born-digital research, images and projects produced by scholars, students and institutions. Those of us in the visual resources management field have been curating digitally for the past decade.

Most academic libraries have built collections by doing one of two things:

-They have purchased collections to support their local organizations.

-They have curated special collections of unique or valuable items.

The focus for most libraries or collections is changing to concentrate on the second role. In the future, the bulk of what will be curated will be digital. These two highly complementary concepts should take into account the needs of current and future users.

There are several challenges to in this new approach to image collection building: First, the visual resources collection will need to develop the skills and infrastructures to manage collections of open access content, while developing a solid strategy for long-term preservation of digital information. The visual resources librarian will be required to assist the faculty in the creation, evaluation and collection of this digital content. Second, such a strategy will be difficult or dangerous, because in effect it will require canceling or not purchasing vendor materials, or producing visual resources itself, on the assumption that the content will be available in an open access format. This may or may not be true in the long term. It requires a clear collection development policy and budgeting in our visual resources collections and libraries.

Given a definition that ranges from managing to archiving to preserving data along the data life cycle, there are various points were digital curation services can be pursued by visual resources managers: at a point of visual project initiation (articulating the project and pursuing funding); at a point of recent or ongoing visual production; at a point where a larger community needs to be engaged (broadening access); and at a point where time considerations are important (archiving and preserving in a repository).

It behooves us to keep abreast with resources about digital curation; there are many web sites and blogs, conferences and online classes, papers and panels that can be located.

An article of interest: David W. Lewis, “A Strategy for Academic Libraries in the First Quarter of the 21st Century,”

Friday, May 14, 2010

Writing grant proposals as screenplays

I recently took a half-day workshop in grant writing by Jonathan O’Brien which was sponsored by an organization offering Technical Assistance Grants. He compares writing grant proposals to writing screenplays - a useful slant for organizing one’s thinking about important elements to be included. “Time is of the essence” took on new meaning for me. He encourages us to present our proposal within a context of urgency and state the consequences if the project is not funded. He suggests this will get your proposal set in the “consider” pile on the first review. Of course the proposal still has to be compelling and well documented to make it through the process toward funding.

While investigating funding source for a couple of computers for an arts organization, I discovered a case for getting to know staff at the granting agencies... On the website the scenarios were all organizational development with no mention of actual equipment funding. By talking to an assistant at the granting agency I learned equipment would be an excellent cause and was encouraged to apply. The trick is to focus on how the equipment, program or materials (digital images) will serve your audience - not how it will serve the staff or department. Connect each reason of need to an overall goal for your organization. Example - With a goal of creating broad support to develop a more stable base for programming by enhancing communication and increasing membership, the computers will allow us to expand our correspondence with the larger community by creating an email list to share upcoming events, reminders, and an avenue for dialog. Specific details also enhances your request. Example - The single ten-year-old computer has crashed several times in the past year bring all work to a halt each time; most recently it caused a week’s delay in sending invitations to artists to participate in an exhibition, which is a major fund-raiser for the operations of the Center.


The National Endowment for the Humanities

The Humanities Collections and Reference Resources

Deadline: July 15, 2010

If this is a perfect match for your project and you lack experience in grant proposal writing, get help from someone experienced in Federal grants...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How to catalog Apples and Oranges?

So you are creating a digital asset system, which will serve a diverse user base. Your institution does not want to build a different management system for each user even if the marketing group may have different needs for digital assets than say the development or curator group. In an educational institution, there may be different subject areas or even in a design studio each individual may have a unique perspective. So, how to build an integrated system that supports all needs?

The key is flexible but clear rules
First, define a core group of fields that are to be filled all assets.  You will want that information which will aid in the management of the assets, such as:
  • Location of digital file
  • Title
  • Usage rights
  • Owner/creator of digital file
You will also want the fields that will aid users in cross collection searching, which must be derived from a study of your own users' needs when searching digital collection. For example in an art museum, all users would probably be interested in creator of original object, location of original object and possibly its provenance.  Thus a search on a particular object might not only turn up an image of that piece, but if doing a cross collection search, also promotional material about it and possibly informal images of it within an exhibit.  These fields would then be part of the core fields, which all groups would complete for their digital assets.

Secondly, define data standards before you start - i.e. decide what field will be used for which particular information.  You can start with data standards developed for each specialty, but chances are you will also need to create a crosswalk for differing data standards.  The important thing is to have each group use the assigned field for all the descriptive metadata, so that your crosswalks are accurate.