Developments in digital preservation and digitisation at the Norfolk Record Office: an update from Transforming Archives Trainee Pawel Jaskulski

It’s been six months since my first “Meet the Team” blog with Outreach and Engagement Trainee Lizzie and it calls for an update on what I have been up to since then!

The main focus of my traineeship is to support the development of a digital preservation strategy at the Norfolk Record Office. As part of the Transforming Archives programme I completed an undergraduate short course: An Introduction to Digitisation and Digital Preservation, which was extremely helpful in this, especially as it was delivered by the Head of Training and Skills at the Digital Preservation Coalition Sharon McMeekin. Scheduled between January and March this year, the distance learning module was taken as part of our Continuing Professional Development at the Centre for Archive and Information Studies (CAIS), University of Dundee. For my final assignment for the course I conducted a survey of approaches to digital preservation at the NRO and wrote a report with future recommendations, which is available on my LinkedIn profile. Writing the report was very useful for me as it solidified my learning about digital records accessioning and archival processing and how this has been done here at the NRO. It also suggests areas for improvement, which helped me to identify how I could further assist with developing a digital preservation system which is compliant with the OAIS (Open Archival Information System).

Developing and sharing skills

One of my biggest achievements has been the successful deployment of the Archivematica ingest system in a test environment. I learnt a great deal about the Linux operating system, working with Virtual Machines and how open source software is made of various interdependent components that together form a suite of tools. This was followed by installing test versions of AtoM (Access to Memory) and ArchivesSpace, which are open source cataloguing systems that are being considered as an alternative to CALM, the cataloguing software currently used at the NRO.

As a result of these tests, I was invited to a meeting with the East of England Regional Archives Council (EERAC) and participated in a discussion about different options for collaboration on digital preservation between archives in the network. During the meeting I demonstrated Archivematica in practice and explained the benefits (as well as drawbacks) of the use of open source software. The presentation I compiled for the meeting: “Archivematica and Local Authority Archive Services” is available on SlideShare. The presentation explains digital preservation terminology and how to find equivalents within traditional archival processing procedures. It was also the basis for training sessions I delivered for colleagues.

Continuing professional development

The Transforming Archives traineeship has given me the opportunity to attend training events and digital preservation conferences across the UK. I have attended a Practical Digital Preservation Workshop organised by the Archives and Records Association, Information and Records Management Society and Preservica; the WIWIK (What I Wish I Knew) Digital Preservation Coalition student conference and Cambridge Big Data’s conference, ‘Our Digital Future – Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Long Term Data Preservation and Access. I also attended the Archivematica UK user group meeting in York, a Digital Preservation ‘In Your Shoes’ event at The National Archives and a Genus Digitisation Workshop.

Out of all of these training events, I gained the most from meeting the digital preservation team at The National Archives. Along with some of my fellow trainees, I attended a scrum session and learnt about software development at TNA. We had a session on Web Archiving, accessioning digital records procedures and digitisation workflow. There was a demonstration of DROID (a digital collections profiling tool), the PRONOM file formats registry (a database of file formats) and how adding new file formats entries works. We were introduced, and encouraged to use, TNA tools for metadata validation, such as the CSV Validator, as well as how to write your own validation schemas using standard expressions. This is to ensure that metadata is delivered and stored in the standard way.

Digital-Accessions-Profile copy

A survey of digitally born archives received by the Norfolk Record Office compiled with The National Archives’ DROID profiling tool identified 107 various file formats.

I also gained a lot from the Archivematica UK user group meeting, led by Jenny Mitcham at the Borthwick Institute for Archives. All attendees contributed to the discussion by outlining how they use Archivematica and what stage of deploying the system they’re at. The event included updates from universities that use Archivematica for Research Data Management and preservation. It was great to learn that the Archivematica community is growing and to see a demonstration of the new features of the software from Max Eckard (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan) and Sarah Romkey (Artefactual Systems, who are the lead developer of Archivematica). For anyone interested in learning more about Archivematica, the ‘Digital Archiving at the University of York’ blog is a key point of reference.

This week I am looking forward to attending the Copyright and Cultural Memory Conference organised by CREATe (RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy, based at the University of Glasgow) and I will also be taking the Prince2 Project Management Course later this month.

Digitisation Projects and the Norfolk Sound Archive

In addition to working on the digital preservation strategy I have worked on two digitisation projects: ‘Voices from the Workhouse’ for Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse and the Butlin’s Heritage photographic collection held by the History of Advertising Trust.

c-gp_14-10a021 copy

A page from a minute book of the Mitford and Launditch Poor Law Union, digitised as part of the ‘Voices from the Workhouse’ Project. In a letter dated 07 March 1851, an apprenticeship candidate enquires about maintenance and clothing. NRO catalogue number C/GP 14/10.

I am also currently working with the Norfolk Sound Archive on the East meets East project, a regional community heritage project set up to explore 150 years of grassroots connections between East Anglia and Japan. The recorded interviews, held in the sound archive, feature Norfolk residents with a Japanese background or with connections to Japan. I am creating playback master and access copies of the original sound recordings and capturing and enriching the metadata.

In between these projects I have been involved in translating original records from Polish and last week assisted a senior archivist to collect an early automobile industry business archive. It was great to see how an ‘in situ accessioning’ works and to be treated with a scone with home-made rhubarb jam during the break was the icing on the cake!

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4 Responses to Developments in digital preservation and digitisation at the Norfolk Record Office: an update from Transforming Archives Trainee Pawel Jaskulski

  1. Sid Kettle says:

    I have foften ound potentially useful,records which ar every difficulkt to read (alkthough in English). It just takes time. Would it not be sensible to allow free/subsidised photocopying in exchange for a digital transvript?


  2. Many thanks for useful article, you helped me a lot.


  3. Pingback: Transforming Archives: Norfolk Record Office | The National Archives blog

  4. Pingback: Meet the team: Colin Armstrong Digitisation and Digital Preservation Trainee | Norfolk Record Office

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