Catching up with past NDSA Innovation Awards Winners: Martin Gengenbach

 

Nominations are now being accepted for the NDSA 2020 Innovation Awards.

Martin Gengenbach won a 2013 Innovation Award in the Future Steward category. Martin was recognized for his work documenting digital forensics tools and workflows, especially his paper, “The Way We Do it Here: Mapping Digital Forensics Workflows in Collecting Institutions” and his work cataloging the DFXML schema. He is currently the Lead, Preservation at Gates Archive.

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

When I received the 2013 NDSA Innovation Award for Future Steward, I had just accepted a position at Gates Archive in Seattle, WA, and I am still there! Gates Archive is the trusted custodian for the personal and philanthropic collections of the Gates Family. In my current role as Lead, Preservation, I oversee physical and digital preservation activities at the archive. I also teach courses in Digital Forensics for the SAA Digital Archives Specialist Certification. The DAS courses (both Fundamentals and Advanced) have been an important way for me to continue to grow in my understanding about digital forensics for archives and special collections and engage with practitioners across the country. 

On a more personal note, my most recent activity has been to take some family leave time to care for my 6-month old son, Henry.

What did receiving the NDSA Award mean to you?

I felt so honored to receive the NDSA Innovation Award! As a newbie archivist and recipient of the “Future Steward” award, this recognition provided a major boost to my professional confidence, and helped me to manage the imposter syndrome that we all feel, particularly as a new member of the profession. Also, by attending the Digital Preservation conference I met so many other scholars and practitioners in the field who I have stayed in touch with, both as colleagues and as friends. Many of the people and projects that I first encountered through the Digital Preservation conference are still important resources in my everyday professional life.

What efforts, advances, or ideas over the last few years have you been impressed with or admired in the area of digital stewardship?

One finding I noted in my research on digital forensics workflows in 2012 was the limited examples of documentation for processing or providing access to born digital content. Thankfully this is no longer the case, and I’m really impressed by the proliferation of born-digital arrangement and description guidelines that are now available online. I’m particularly excited about the recently released version 4 of the Guidelines for Efficient Archival Processing in the University of California Libraries, as previous versions were really helpful in developing my views on digital processing as part of a broader processing program. I’ve also been following the DLF Born Digital Access Group, and the work they have been doing to push digital stewards to think more critically about policies and practices around access to digital holdings. These resources are great for the digital stewardship community, as they provide examples for organizations that may have mature processes for acquiring and preserving digital content but are still working on developing ways to process that content, and what those processing decisions mean when it comes to providing access to users.

Digital and analog preservation are often kept very separate organizationally; there is “preservation” and then there is “digital preservation.” Has your current position changed your thinking about (digital) preservation?

Most organizations have had to incorporate digital preservation into existing systems and workflows as they began to receive digital content over time. Gates Archive is a relatively new archive and we have had the opportunity to build an organization from day one with the assumption that collecting and delivering digital content will be central to our business; we have the benefit of not having to “fit digital into” any existing structures. In practice, the result is that all archive staff are comfortable and capable working with physical or digital materials, and digital expertise is distributed. It makes all of our work better to be able to have additional inputs into a developing process or policy, and there is no “that’s not my job.” We are all invested in developing a successful digital preservation program.

For me, this integrated model has been further highlighted by research I presented at the Digital Preservation conference in 2014. In a follow-up to the work for which I was recognized, I went back to each of the institutions and discovered many digital forensics workflows that were operational in 2012 had paused or halted work due to employee turnover. This reinforced the need for a comprehensive approach to cultural heritage stewardship that integrates digital and physical workflows to ensure that stewardship is not limited by individual technical skills and expertise. I’ve got the recent article, “What’s Wrong With Digital Stewardship: Evaluating the Organization of Digital Preservation Programs from Practitioners’ Perspectives” at the top of my to-read list, and I’m excited to see what that group of authors has to say.