Elizabeth-Anne Johnson

Elizabeth-Anne Johnson

Last updated on 3 November 2021

Eilzabeth-Anne Johnson is Electronic Records Archivist at University of Calgary Libraries and Cultural Resources

At the University of Calgary Libraries and Cultural Resources (LCR), we're in the process of developing our digital preservation program. As part of this undertaking, we've been breaking down the barriers of the ways we communicate with each other and with our colleagues, patrons, and donors outside the institution. Acquiring, cataloguing, migrating, and sharing our digital material all comes with challenges. Learning how best to communicate with colleagues in different departments and with different areas of expertise has been crucial for our projects. While digital preservation can seem like the domain of only archives and libraries, LCR operates eight University of Calgary libraries on campus and across the city. Included in LCR are two art galleries: the Nickle Galleries and the Founders' Gallery at The Military Museums, as well as Archives and Special Collections, the University of Calgary Copyright Office, Research Data Centre and the University of Calgary Press. All these units create born-digital material.

Ensuring that IT staff, our migration and conservation staff, librarians, archivists, and other LCR staff understand each other, and each other's needs, means that it is a lot easier to make sure that the material we migrate gets off its fragile carriers and onto our servers and eventually into the digital preservation system we’re working on implementing. We need to collaborate with each other, and with our hardware and software vendors to acquire equipment, solve support tickets, devise metadata schema, and create pathways for material to move throughout our digital environment. Each partner’s contribution adds to the provenance and overall meaning of each digital artefact, and capturing these contributions is important.

Sharing knowledge with colleagues outside our institution has also been an important part of our work. Archivists sometimes tend to work in silos. It has been helpful for me, as the Electronic Records Archivist, to reach out to colleagues doing similar work in other places and find out how they are dealing with a specific problem or media type. The DPC listserv is a very valuable resource for this kind of discussion! Our AV conservation team is also frequently collaborating on the challenges of tricky formats and migration issues with colleagues across the professional AV preservation field.

Another group of people that it's important we break down the communication barrier with is the community of researchers and donors that surround LCR. As we roll out our digital asset management system as a way of accessing our holdings, we're showing donors what they can expect to see online from collections like the EMI Music Canada fonds and how they can access the material we steward. We're also developing ways to communicate with potential donors of born-digital material to ensure that our acquisition processes are clear and practicable for them, and that we can get the material and metadata we need to preserve and provide access to this material.

All these stakeholders have different priorities and points of view, and all of us have our own areas of expertise. By breaking down the barrier of communication, we can build a robust digital preservation program that serves all our needs, and the needs of our digital material, well into the future.

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