Tim Mifsud

Tim Mifsud

Last updated on 8 April 2021

Tim Mifsud is Digital Archives Project Officer at the National Archives of Australia

The National Archives of Australia is focused on building its capacity for digital archiving, both in terms of technology and its people. Part of that plan has been the establishment of the Digital Archives Innovation and Research section – and as members of the section, nothing fits us better than the acronym of DAIR. Yet who, and what, is DAIR? This is a new section, formed in July 2020 to help the National Archives achieve its vision of being a world leading archive in this digital age, with a focus on investigating digital preservation techniques and processes, as well as building digital archiving capability within the Archives. James Doig, Carey Garvie and Bridget Dexter were the first members, joined by Rowena Loo as Director and Tim Mifsud later in 2020.

Since its formation, DAIR has focused on working collaboratively within and external to the National Archives – we’re working with the sections responsible for implementing digital archiving solutions and have made connections with external initiatives, such as the UK National Archives' DiAGRAM and Archangel projects, the Australian Preservica User Group and the Digital Preservation Coalition’s EDRMS Preservation Taskforce.

In more recent months DAIR has worked on developing a Strategic Research Priorities Framework and Plan to identify key research areas and focus our efforts. Two main projects being worked on at present are:

  • Database Preservation:  to develop an agreed approach to the appraisal, transfer preservation and delivery of databases

  • Emulation:  to test the Emulation as a Service Infrastructure (EaaSI) program of work (as hosted by the Software Preservation Network) to determine the feasibility and benefits of adopting emulation as an access strategy at the National Archives.

So far, DAIR has had excellent engagement with internal stakeholders in regards to navigating an agreed way forward for the National Archives to research and recommend approaches to address the challenges of database preservation. Similarly, DAIR has had initial successes accessing items from the collection which otherwise would not be possible without an emulation platform like EaaSI.

In the sense of ongoing responsibility, DAIR has been steadily reviewing and revising training materials to support the Digital Archiving Capability Strategy, a subset of the overall National Archives Workforce Plan and Capability Framework. The strategy sets out pathways for building digital archiving capability within the National Archives. In support of the strategy we have been raising our visibility within the National Archives through proactive communication. We have engaged with staff with regular weekly and monthly blog posts in what we call the DAIR Dip.

So you might ask – “How is any of this this daring?” The answer lies in the sheer size of the challenge. It takes bravery and daring, and a belief that it is possible for such a small team within a national institution to achieve such a broad program of work. However, we gain strength from working with colleagues within the National Archives and in the broader digital preservation community, and can take inspiration from organisations much smaller than us to see what is achievable with limited resources – so we continue to DAIR.

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