Friday, October 10, 2014

Preserving Our Digital History

Have you ever tried to access a digital document that you created in the mid-1990s? Finding a computer with the hardware to read the 3.5” floppy or Zip disk it was probably stored on is a massive challenge. But even if you do find a way to access the files, you likely will have trouble opening or reading the content – and that’s if the disk and content haven’t been accidentally erased or corrupted over the years!

Digital preservation is a huge task, and staff at the UNCG University Libraries are tackling issues head on with a newly-created tool aimed at acquiring, managing, and preserving important digital archival files now so that researchers – now and in the future – can have greater insight into how our University and society as a whole operates. This development puts UNCG ahead of most other institutions in terms of proactively addressing digital preservation.

BDRM interface
The new tool – called Born-Digital Records Management, or BDRM – is a collaboration between the Libraries’ Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and Electronic Resources and Information Technology (ERIT) departments. In preserving University history, for instance, it allows us to actively acquire electronic newsletters, presentations, websites, and other materials that typically lose information and operability if printed.

The BDRM interface allows faculty, staff, and administrators to upload their digital archival records directly to University Archives. Behind the scenes, archivists can use the BDRM tool to arrange and describe these files in a way that makes them findable through online searches, through our finding aids, and (coming soon!) through a special BDRM public website.

While an archivist may simply stumble upon a forgotten Civil War era diary that is still perfectly readable, the accessibility of a chance find is much less likely in the digital world. With their work on BDRM, the University Libraries is ensuring that valuable records aren’t lost due to file deterioration or technological obsolescence. We want to be sure that the archival records created today – regardless of format – are findable and retrievable by researchers now and in the future.

If you have questions about BDRM or transferring digital archival files to the University Libraries, please contact Special Collections and University Archives.


October is Archives Month, an annual observance of the agencies and people responsible for maintaining and making available the archival and historical records of our nation, state, communities and people. As part of the month-long celebration, this blog is highlighting some of the innovative and exciting work being done in Special Collections and University Archives.

October 10 is also Electronic Records Day, as sponsored by the Council of State Archivists. This day is designed to raise awareness among state government agencies, the general public, related professional organizations, and other stakeholders about the crucial role electronic records play in their world. We in SCUA recognize the importance of electronic records in modern communication, and we are working to ensure that the importance archival records of today are preserved for researchers now and in the future. 

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