Catching up with past NDSA Innovation Awards Winners: AIMS Project

The AIMS Project (An Inter-Institutional Model for Stewardship) won a 2012 Innovation Award in the Project category. AIMS participants were recognized for their work developing a framework for stewarding born-digital content and filling the gap between applying standards such as OAIS and the necessary workflows and tools for implementation. The responses to this Q&A were provided by AIMS Project participants from Stanford University, University of Hull, and University of Virginia.

What have you/project teams been doing since receiving an NDSA Innovation Award?

Stanford: Made the digital archivist position continuing (aka “real”), 2+ years ago we added another full-time digital archivist. DLSS & Special Collections collaborated to build our capacity and procedures for acquiring and processing and delivering b-d materials. Received 3 grants to develop our open-source email processing/delivery platform (ePADD project, discovery online). This last has morphed into a new grant application by Harvard & the Univ. of Manchester (w/ us as consultants) to further develop ePADD with more preservation elements.

  • Total born-digital collections acquired since 2012: ~140 accessions and ~250 TB. Born-digital processing projects (processed and in progress) include: Amos Gitai, Dorothy Fadiman, Helen & Newton Harrison, Ted Nelson, New Dimensions, Silicon Genesis, Ruth Asawa, Lourdes Portillo. Other collection acquisition highlights (unprocessed) include: Rebecca Solnit, Lynn Hershman-Leeson, Marlon Riggs, Bob Stein, David Bohrman.
  • Through the born-digital program, Stanford and Virginia are members of the Software Preservation Network and both nodes for the Emulation as a Service Infrastructure (EaaSI) project
  • Stanford DLSS and Special Collections has also worked together with a number of other institutions, including University of Michigan, Duke University, Indiana University, and Princeton University to develop ArcLight, an open source discovery and delivery environment for archives.
  • After Yale, Mark Matienzo served as the Director of Technology for the Digital Public Library of America, and joined Stanford in 2016.

Virginia: We have also made digital preservation and management a priority by making the AIMS position permanent.  We have been fortunate to have both digital archivists and a digital preservation librarian as full time positions.

Hull: Simon Wilson retained responsibility for born-digital archives when he returned to his substantive role as Senior Archivist. Hull retained a high profile across the UK with lots of advocacy for encouraging organisations to take practical steps with digital preservation and proposed that digital archives could be undertaken as a shared-service between multiple archive services.

  • The project gave us a huge boost of confidence with increased advocacy within the institution and lead to the inclusion of born-digital archives as key activity for the library service
  • Colleagues from Hull collaborated with the University of York in a project funded by JISC to look at the suitability of Archivematica to support research data management activity – an opportunity to review and identify similarities and differences between research data and born-digital archives
  • Advocated and secured funding from a range of sources including The National Archives to create an archive for Hull UK City of Culture 2017

What did receiving the NDSA Innovation award in 2012 for AIMS mean to you and/or the project team?

Recognition of work that was critical to the basic operations within archives then and now. This was an international group that came together, identified significant challenges, and developed strategies to address them.

The Award also helped introduce and integrate our work into the larger preservation community. Since 2012, Virginia, for example, has been very active in the NDSA with two staff being elected as Coordinating Committee Chairs and several others being chairs of Interest and Working Groups.

The encouragement of working with others for mutual benefit – a legacy that has remained central to our philosophy. Simon Wilson served on the Digital Preservation Coalition’s Partnership and Sustainability Sub-committee (2016-2019) and contributed to the international curatorial team reviewing NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation

What efforts, advances, or ideas over the last 5-8 years have caught your attention or interest in the area of digital stewardship?

There are too many to note but the rise of Distributed Digital Preservation Services has made significant advances to help many organizations understand and implement digital preservation in a cost effective manner. Software preservation and emulation have also risen to the fore based on much of the scholarly foundations of folks like those at MITH. With the rise of cloud services, emulated environments are now much more standardized than they were in the AIMS years.

The AIMS project was a significant collaborative and technical endeavor. What components of the project do you think have sustained or grown in the digital stewardship community over time? What ideas or work from the project had you hoped would gain traction in the community, but did not quite catch on?

We still live in hope of an integrated hierarchical collections discovery platform and UI. Entities like the DPLA, though one of the largest digital portals in the world, still lack the means to represent hierarchical collections. Much of our archival materials (including born digital) are difficult to discover and access.

What are some priorities or challenges you see for digital stewardship?

Better integration of new technologies such as augmented reality (which includes artificial intelligence and machine learning). There is too much data being produced for humans to manage themselves.

Metadata is still largely siloed by organization and efforts to integrate and iterate metadata is still a major challenge for the library and archives professions.

Digital preservation is still a major challenge for any organization that manages digital content. Much of the funding still comes from collections budgets and a shift to consider preservation akin to infrastructure (like electricity) is the only way we will be able to scale to meet the challenge of preserving the cultural record.

Hull’s experience has been very dependent on project funding and this has seen phases of activity / in-activity which has demonstrated the need for dedicated resource to transition into a service which can be maintained though for the long term it should be considered part of business as usual with all members of the team contributing to this strand of activity.