The current issue of Ariadne, the web magazine for information professionals, includes an article by three members of Wellcome Library staff. Trust me I’m an Archivist: experiences with digital donors describes some of our encounters with potential donors of digital archival material, both good and bad! Working with digital archives is an emerging field, so it is important for those of us involved to share our experiences with colleagues across the world.
The Wellcome Library is in the unusual position of being a collecting repository with no legal mandate to acquire archives. This means that we have to find other methods of persuading potential donors to give us their archives. So far, we have found it easier to persuade people to part with boxes of papers than their digital equivalents. Ironically, whilst there is no hurry to transfer paper based archives, which can often survive for hundreds of years with no intervention, it is vital that we acquire digital material as soon as possible. Degradation of digital data, rapid obsolescence of hardware and software, and the fragility of items such as memory sticks all contribute to the vulnerability of digital archives. The longer digital material remains outside the archive, the higher the cost of working with it, and the less chance of being able to access all the data.
More information about our work in this area can be found on the Library’s Digital Curation pages. We always welcome contact from others working in this field who wish to exchange ideas.