Ya’qub Ebrahim & Thandokazi Maceba

Ya’qub Ebrahim & Thandokazi Maceba

Last updated on 3 November 2021

Ya’qub Ebrahim and Thandokazi Maceba are both Data Curation Officers at University of Cape Town Libraries, Digital Library Services.

For a number of years now we have planned and strategised and now it’s time to implement. Implement what you ask? Well, it all started in 2015 when UCT libraries had the vision of creating two Data Curator positions in the Digital Library Services department. Fast forward to 2018 and we have successfully scoped and motivated for implementing a digital preservation system. Finally in 2021, this system, which we have named Izolo (isiXhosa for ‘Yesterday’) is installed and set to store not only historic, or ‘special,’ collections at the University, but all data requiring preservation at UCT[1]. But, policies aside, as the data curators and preservation experts we see our job as being to ensure that data gets preserved, period.

After over a decade of ongoing digitisation work at UCT Libraries, we are faced with a great backlog of digital archiving. Digital records formerly kept on the manuscripts and archives servers are now kept on a staging area server to be prepared for ingest into Izolo. We have created workflows for moving digital objects already stored on UCT servers to be ingested into Izolo (using Arkivum Perpetua).

While we haven’t fully gone into production with using Izolo for new projects, many tests have been conducted and the system is up and running. Importantly, we do also already have a working integration with our open access data  repository ZivaHub, through which all data published on ZivaHub gets automatically preserved on Izolo. From there, as with all the other data we are beginning to ingest now, Izolo allows us to automatically check the integrity of our data, easily preserve it, and create derivatives for requesters to easily access via the online, i.e. user-facing portal.

Having started with the auditing of the data of many of our own collections in the library, we are now ready to start preserving them. The Hugh Brody collection of the ǂKhomani San, as well as the research data originally supplied on legacy media (CD-R, floppy discs, transparencies) together with historic university theses are on the cusp of being ingested. These materials currently live on our internal server and will be transferred to Izolo using the Arkivum Preservation and Access modules using Filesender Pro as our bulk data transfer programme. Further projects and collections within and beyond the Library are being developed and are populating our preservation plan.

We have also recently launched an exhibition platform for UCTs Digital Collections called Ibali (running on our own Omeka S installation as well as iiif media and manifest servers). Ibali enables our community to showcase their collections and share their stories with a global audience. Recently, the Libraries have launched their first internal collection on Ibali, the Community Media Trust-produced AIDS Archive, the archival data of which is now also in the pipeline to be preserved.

We all know that the longer the original media devices stay lying around, the more they are prone to degradation and incompatibility issues. The University has recognized this and hence the forward move towards digitally preserving our data. Digital Preservation here we come! :)

[1] While we currently already use AtoM for our digital finding aids, we are working with Arkivum’s Usability and Preservation modules to handle our digital preservation needs going forward.

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