Laura Giles

Laura Giles

Last updated on 3 November 2021

Laura Giles is the City of Culture Digital Archivist at The University of Hull, UK

We’ve blogged before about our work on the City of Culture digital archive and now in keeping with the Breaking Down Barriers theme of this World Digital Preservation Day we’re now thinking about the ways that the City of Culture digital preservation work can help us open doors across the university to build relationships and embed good practice around the creation, storage and eventual preservation of digital records.

As an example, one area we’ve been really keen on supporting as a library and archives is Knowledge Exchange (KE). Universities across the country are currently getting to grips with the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) which is a government-instituted set of criteria designed to get universities to demonstrate how their knowledge is valuable to wider society. This can mean things like partnership working with local authorities and businesses, commercialisation and public and cultural engagement events (amongst many other things). It’s vital to be able to provide evidence of this kind of activity. One of the ways we have identified that we have the potential to support with is the collection, arrangement and preservation of KE activity output data.

We’ve been trying to make sure we as a library and archives service have a seat at the table as the university develops its activities and organisation around KE. It’s vital for the university’s ongoing success that the most is made of KE activity that is undertaken and that we are able to shout from the rooftops about our successes and learn from what doesn’t work so well. That can’t be done without the right data being in the right place with the right metadata. This is where our skills and experience come in – we think we’re the right people to advise.

Maybe sometimes it can feel a little bit awkward or unnatural to be pushing ourselves to where we haven’t explicitly been asked to be but it’s all part of our aim to demonstrate that digital preservation can and should be embedded in our work from the outset. We’ve taken every opportunity going to raise our profile with the university’s KE team and with academics engaged in KE activity, by engaging with consultation on the university’s KE concordat, attending a KE training course with dozens of academics as library representative and signing up for our internal KE conference. The KE team are possibly slightly bemused by our persistence at this point but we’re working hard to break down barriers!

When we get difficult questions it will be great to be able to use the City of Culture archive as an example of what digital preservation can look like and what it can be used for and hopefully lead to positive working practices going forward. Being part of the conversation around KE also means that we naturally raise our profile across the university and hopefully that will lead to other fruitful collaboration and deposits of valuable material as time goes on.

It’s good to feel like we are being proactive in building relationships and sharing know-how. It can feel a little daunting to walk into a room of academics knowing you are going to be using every opportunity possible to shoehorn data management and digital preservation into the conversation (whether they have asked or not) but once you push through that self-doubt you do tend to find that there is a great deal of interest out there as long as you can find a way to demonstrate the relevance to their work.

It’s early days yet but we are looking forward to what this journey holds for us!

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