In Perpetuum Week 2 Report

The primary Week 2 activity was to take the “Born Digital Blog” AIMS survey and modify with supplementary questions as needed. The goal was to have a more structured survey to provide more context for my informal Materials Inventory. Unfortunately, taking the AIMS Survey was not as bounded an exercise as I’d hoped. After struggling with the broad scope of the survey, I found was easier to begin modifying the survey with respect to images, while trying to remain media-neutral, than to answer the whole survey for all of my materials.

Ultimately, I modified the two-part AIMS survey by:

  1. combining “digital environment” (e.g., hardware, software, back-up) questions from Parts I and II for capture in a spreadsheet;
  2. answering relevant “digital creation, use, and management” questions from Part I while interjecting my own; and,
  3. creating a list of “personal context” questions that reflect my priorities and process activities specifically for images.

The final result yielded answers that were structured in such a way that I could better act upon them (the difficult part!), which will be chronicled in subsequent entries.

Brief Analysis of the AIMS Survey for Personal Preservation

The survey is split into two sections. Part I begins with the note: This part of the survey is designed to be a prompt sheet for phone / face-to-face interview with donors by curators / digital archivists. Since I am playing both roles, the asking/answering is not such a fraught event as a one-time donor/curator conversation might be, though the survey asks for follow-up contact info. However, one of the lessons learned from acquiring and cataloging digital materials for an institutional repository is that at least one or two exchanges are required about the materials, the metadata, the policies. For a donor with even a minimal amount of hardware and history of creating digital files, I imagine this would be a prolonged conversation. In fact, I’m curious about the phases of an inventory / acquisition cycle before there is a complete hand-off to the institution, a very human-intensive process. Certainly schlepping materials off a few hard drives makes for quicker acquisition, but time invested at the beginning of the inventory and during acquisition might result in easier organization and less uninformed forensic work in the lab. Part I was very useful as a prompt to consider the range of digital environments where a donor’s content might reside and the informal policies or practices a donor might have regarding use.

Part II begins with the note: This part of the survey is designed to be filled out by digital archivists regarding technical details of the tools used to create digital material. This section was also useful as a prompt to consider hardware, software, networking, internet access, and security issues. However, this information begged to be organized in a spreadsheet, and there was some information from Part I that would make more sense when combined with Part II. Also, there was information from my informal inventory that I wanted to capture, hence the new spreadsheet.

The Born Digital Blog mentioned in a late 2010 post that the AIMS survey was to be put online with a database backend, but I can’t find the exact post at the moment.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m hating on the AIMS survey. It was developed and modified by two very thoughtful groups of people who are working in a different context from me and who have other pressures as well (e.g., library directors; institutional missions; project partners; funding requirements). Thanks to their hard work and willingness to share, I can adapt the survey for the home user or the lone preservationist.

Per the document, “This work is based on the Paradigm records survey published by the Bodleian Library, Oxford University.” Further, “This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Revision: July 16, 2010. Born Digital Collections: An Inter-Institutional Model for Stewardship (AIMS).”

Next posts will be the actual artifacts (spreadsheet, modified questions with answers, personal context questions) and some decisions about images.