Problems in Long-Term Retention of Electronic Records was a practical, hands-on introduction to digital archives. Groups of students were assigned specific problems in digital archiving to solve. These problems involved the recovery, processing, and storage of digital data from obsolete or legacy media, including mainframe tapes, 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch floppy disks, video games, and an ADAT machine. Where possible, groups worked with the records creators to produce context-rich descriptions and arrangments of records. Digital files were archived on iSchool servers using the open source DSpace repository application.
Group Project: Archiving digital data from the Denise Schmandt-Besserat Collection
Our group was tasked with safely extracting files from a collection of 76 3.5-inch floppy disks, part of the Denise Schmandt-Besserat Papers at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. We created disk images, extracted files from the disk images, created descriptive metadata for each disk image and file, and ingested the files and metadata into the iSchool's DSpace repository. We interviewed the records' creator, Denise Schmandt-Besserat to better understand and contextualize the materials. Our final report documents our work.
We used the equipment in the iSchool's Digital Archaeology Lab, together with procedures developed by prior students in the Problems class, to mount the disks safely using a computer running the Ubuntu operating system. We used the UNIX hash command to generate checksums of the original physical disk in order to verify the precision of subsequent copies. We created disk images using the UNIX disk dump command. We then extracted the individual files from working copies of the disk images. We created xml metadata files for all extracted files as well as for the disk images.
At the same time as we processed the disks, we examined the Schmandt-Besserat Papers at the Briscoe Center and interviewed Denise Schmandt-Besserat twice. Once we understood Schmandt-Besserat's work as well as the contents of the disks, we decided on an arrangement for the digital records that replicated the arrangement of files on the original media. We documented each disk photographically. We created a structure in DSpace to represent the disks and receive the extracted disk images and files. We then bundled together the extracted files, metadata files, and text files documenting our UNIX commands, in a single directory structure. Working with the iSchool Content and Communications Strategist, we ingested the contents of this directory structure into the iSchool DSpace repository.
In addition to the disk images and extracted files, our work yielded a biographical sketch, scope and content notes, a file inventory, a recording of our oral history interview with the records creator together with a time and subject index for the interview, and our project final report. These materials are currently hosted by the iSchool as the Denise Schmandt-Besserat Papers community.