Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dartmouth at the Digital Directions 2014 Conference

Image from the blog PDXretro.com

This past July I had the great opportunity to attend the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s Digital Directions 2014 conference. In a lucky turn, this year’s conference was held in Portland, Oregon, home of my alma mater, Reed College. In addition to reexperiencing the highlights of one of my favorite American cities, I was able to meet and engage with many people doing amazing work in digital collections across the country and beyond.

The conference covered a fascinating diversity of topics, from high-level project management and planning to specific examples of workflows and equipment setups. One of the first things impressed upon me was the fascinating diversity of digitization efforts occurring across the world. As the demand for digital content continues to expand, many institutions are rushing to fill that need. Because of this, it can often seem that no two institutions’ digital programs are the same, or even particularly similar.

To its credit, the Digital Directions did a phenomenal job accounting for these various setups. The three days were jam-packed with a fascinating variety of discussion topics and presentations. The first day consisted of mostly big-picture type talks. We discussed the interplay between digital preservation (maintenance of access to digital content) and digital curation (adding value to digital content), as well as how to craft each institution’s best practices and standards according to their needs. The day was wrapped up with an impressively no-nonsense discussion about rights and responsibilities from a legal perspective by Peter Hirtle, followed by a lovely meet-and-greet at the Portland Art Museum.

The following days covered a wide variety of topics, including a fascinating section about audio and video digitization (an area unfortunately outside my range of experience). However, it soon became apparent that the challenges faced by those audio and video digitization teams were remarkably similar to my own in the world of object and document reproduction. Many digitization projects face the same fundamental roadblocks: time, equipment, resources, access, and storage.
Image from NEDCC's twitter account

While the specifics varied, these fundamental issues could not help but make themselves apparent. The relative merits of, say, cloud storage (to pick a random example), can be endlessly debated among digital librarians, and indeed I’d doubt there ever will be a definitive final-word on this topic. But the crucial takeaway must be a willingness to engage with these issues, understanding the risks and drawbacks inherent in each option so that they can be minimized, or at the very least understood fully so that we may deal with them more effectively in the future. Among the many useful things I learned at Digital Directions 2014, perhaps the most important one was that my own peers are an incredible resource, both within Dartmouth and world-wide. By learning through their experiences and sharing my own, I hope to do my part to keep the Dartmouth Library’s Digital Collection growing and improving well into the future.

Written by Ryland Ianelli

No comments:

Post a Comment