A visit to ARA 2015 in Dublin

Along with a group of fellow Skills for the Future trainees, I recently attended the Archives and Record Association’s annual conference, held in Dublin. The overall theme of this year’s conference was ‘Challenges, Obligations, or Imperatives? The Moral and Legal Role of the Record Keeper Today’  and there were some excellent and thought-provoking papers.  Unfortunately a fire at Dublin airport meant myself and several other delegates  missed the Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland’s Conference Address, but I did get to hear the Lord Mayor of Dublin’s welcoming speech in the impressive surroundings of the Royal College of Physicians.

Lord Mayor of Dublin welcomes delegates to ARA 2015

Lord Mayor of Dublin welcomes delegates to ARA 2015 © Carrie Davenport for ARA

A ‘conference first’ this year, was the running of a dedicated Digital Preservation stream to complement the Archives/Records and Conservation programmes. I attended talks on ‘Digital preservation on a budget and with a budget’ by Emily Nimmo of RCAHMS (former Project Manager of Digital Preservation Europe based at the University of Glasgow). She related her experiences of working on a low-budget, in-house project to create automatic checksum values for digital objects being ingested into RCAHMS’ online catalogue system. She contrasted this low-budget experience, with the process of procuring  third-party digital preservation system, Preservica.  Securing the substantial funding from RCAHMS needed not only a clear understanding of the technical requirements, but the ability to create a detailed tender document, digital preservation strategy and a convincing business-case.

Preservica were a strong presence at the event. Their demonstrations included a step-by-step guide to ingesting Microsoft Outlook email into a digital preservation environment. Preserving email poses many challenges but this system successfully manages and preserves all attachments, and maintains the relationships between other emails in a ‘conversation’. They also demonstrated how the system can ‘lock down’ documents, apply retention schedules and manage various levels of access and permissions. Impressive stuff.

Simon Wilson of the University of Hull, guided us through ‘A Moral Maze – liaising with depositors over born-digital archives’ and exhorted us all to consult or revisit the International Council on Archives’  Code of Ethics.  Simon also described himself as ‘the archivist in the corner’ of the ongoing University of Hull and University of York’s Jisc-funded Research Data Spring project,  ‘Filling the Digital Preservation Gap’  This project seeks to explore how the open source system Archivematica  might be utilised and developed to enable research data to be archived in accordance with Open Archival Information System (OAIS) principles.  Archivematica’s developers are also collaborating with Arkivum (currently being used by our own RDM team) to integrate both systems. The aim is to provide an end-to-end solution for the digital preservation and long term storage of research data. I’ve been following both these projects with great interest during my traineeship and look forward to seeing their outcomes.

As well as attending talks and workshops, I also produced a poster for the conference, outlining the purpose and aims of my traineeship.  An enjoyable afternoon was spent at our trainee stand in the conference ‘market place’,  speaking to the many delegates who stopped by to find out more.postcardsonstall1

ARAPostersnipI’m now in the last month of my traineeship and am busy writing up reports and preparing for my ‘Farewell’ presentation at General Register House in Edinburgh. I’ll be outlining my experiences during the past year in front of an audience of trainees; archive professionals; representatives from the Scottish Council on Archives and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop. I look forward to telling you all about it in my October blog post.

Categories: Archive Services

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