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,”

1 comment:

  1. Very nicely put. I believe that the future of visual resources is in the unique materials we curate, not the resources we share with many other collections. We do add value to these shared resources with our local cataloging, but this does not have as a high a value for the majority of the users who have access to our collections. In the near future, I can see much more integration of our content with other materials, and much less emphasis on the maintenance of individually created databases.