An Introduction to Digital Curation

Humorous Dilbert Cartoon Featuring Digital Curation

As technology becomes ubiquitous with everyday life, a need to organize non-analog data becomes more and more apparent. Digital data is created on a massive scale and as technology quickly becomes obsolete, many of these assets live on a ticking timer. In the digital world, something that was there one day may be gone the next. The question becomes how do we preserve these assets so that they can be available for later generations and preserve them in ways that the new generations will be able to utilize and understand? Moreover, which digital information should be saved and which should be thrown away? These conundrums form the basis of digital curation, an emerging field whose groundwork has been being laid since the beginnings of the world wide web and the mass dissemination of information.

Digital curation had humble beginnings with the concept of digital preservation in the UK in the 1990’s. The University of Warwick had several meetings discussing strategies for preserving digital data and research information. If data was not managed in some way it could be lost. The concept of digital curation however did not see the light of day till the 2000’s when discussion turned to making preserved data usable for as long as possible and maintaining future access. The Digital Curation Centre was created in 2003 as a way to further understanding of the field, procure funding, and discuss training initiatives. The DCC broadened digital curation to the archiving of not only digitally created data but digital copies of analog data. It also stressed the importance of maintaining data for research purposes, having easy digital access to statistical data helps researchers with problems such as climate change or overfishing. The Institute of Museum and Library Sciences and DCC met in 2008 to formalize the International Data Curation Education Action (IDEA) to formalize specific courses, certificates, and training programs geared towards digital curation.

As more and more people become attuned to the conveniences provided by technology, digital curation becomes all the more important to make sure users get easy access to the information they want. In the museum and library field, digital curation has the ability to attract new visitors or provide avenues for visitors that are unable to visit the museum to view the collection or research documents. While digital curation can never replace physical objects, it does have the ability to make museums more accessible than ever.

Article by: — Christopher Rahmeh