Saturday, September 6, 2008

Society of American Archivists Poster

Thank you everyone who gave me encouraging comments on the Personal Digital Archives poster presented at the Society of American Archivists annual meeting in San Francisco, August 2008.

JPEG Image of the poster is available on the Web:

Content of the poster:
Society of American Archivist: ARCHIVES 2008
Personal Digital Archives
Sarah Kim, School of Information, The University of Texas at Austin, August 28-30, 2008

What is happening
Living with personal digital materials
Everyday accumulation: Individuals are constantly surrounded by evolving digital information technology. Consequently, accumulate a large amount of personal digital materials overtime in their everyday lives (e.g.,
digital photographs, document files, websites, blogs, e-mails, audio-video materials, etc.).

Everyday management: Individuals develop and practice their own methods to manage their personal digital materials using various on/off-line virtual spaces, whether it is “benign neglect,” panicky backup, building a labyrinth of directories, or creating multiple duplicate files and storing them in different locations.

Increasing archival preservation needs for personal digital materials
Personal digital materials are and may be the only evidence of the active interactions between individuals and society; they are the fragments of memory documenting the lives of individuals, families, and society. Personal digital materials should be treated as archives and preserved beyond one’s lifetime so future generations of families, communities, and societies can (re)construct their identities, traditions, and histories.

Challenges of long-term survival of personal digital materials
  • Less likelihood to survive: There is great risk for personal digital materials to become obsolescent due to rapid technological changes.
  • Immeasurable quantity: Due to the ubiquitous use of digital technology in everyday life, the amount of personal digital materials is staggering
  • Inherently personal: The value of personal digital materials shifts over time through individuals’ lives. Selecting what to keep, what to destroy, and who will have access to them is a matter of personal decision.
  • Heterogeneity: It is difficult to generalize the types of personal digital materials and the everyday record creating/keeping practices of individuals.
What is needed
Grass-root level preservation of personal digital materials

Private individual and/or family digital archives
  • Functions as a space for self-representation and/or self-reflection; a place where future generations can learn about the individual, what she did and how thought of herself.
  • Functions as a centralized personal digital repository.
  • Aims for long-term preservation as an archives, rather than as mere data storage.
  • Managed and operated by individuals as a part of their everyday record-keeping practices;
  • Will be maintained through future generations by families or by archival institutions.
Personal Digital Archives and the Archival Profession
The preservation of cultural memories captured in personal documents (paper and recently, digital form) is one of the primary duties of the archival profession for hundreds of years. Preservation practices, theories, and experiences nurtured in the archival profession will provide the intellectual foundation for personal digital archives.
  • In the post-custodial era, the archivist should take on the role as facilitator of personal digital archives or as the developer of personal digital archives system.
  • While individual personal digital archives function as private archives, they can be integrated into the larger effort to preserve society’s cultural heritage under the concept of documentation strategies.
  • Issues of appraisal, privacy, intellectual property rights, access, which are all largely discussed in the archival tradition, will provide valuable insights into similar issues of personal digital archives.
  • Digital preservation strategies and methods that have been seriously explored in the field of archives for decades, such as the development of the Open Archives Information System Reference Model and practices of institutional repositories, can be applied to develop a system model, software, and/or services for personal digital archives.
Current Movements: Numerous entities are conducting research on how individuals are managing (keeping, organizing, and retrieving) their personal digital materials. [e.g., Digital Lives Research Project, Researchers in Personal Information Management (PIM) studies, Microsoft MyLifeBits project, etc.]