Digital Collections and How YOU Can Preserve History (Preservation Week Part 2)
The first post in our preservation series talked about conserving items in Fordham’s Archives and Special Collections. But what else are we doing to make sure Fordham’s unique collection of resources and knowledge are passed on?
In my position as “Metadata Management Librarian” I am able to look at preservation a little differently than maintaining the integrity of the items in our collection. One of the major components of my job is working on our digital collections. These collections range in topics from medieval manuscripts to football programs from the 1930s to videos of seminars and classes from Fordham’s different organizations. They include books, letters, artwork, videos, and pictures that are all available to our students, faculty and administrators. Some of the images or videos you have seen on the Library’s social media pages are found within these digital collections.
Metadata is essentially the underlying data of the things you are interacting with- the very basic and structural information of the movie you are watching or the book you are reading. This information becomes even more important when you are throwing things into a storage space. Sure, you have tons of pictures of hedgehogs scattered in your phone, but is there an easy way to pull them all together so you can view them all at once? Adding metadata to each item in our digital collections allows people to know what is being shown and some background on the item. This becomes even more important if something happens to the items- an image becomes corrupted or a video just stops playing so they are no longer viewable- so you can know what used to be there. With the metadata you should be able to find out what resource you should be looking at and, with the help of your friendly neighborhood librarian, be able to locate the original or a preserved digital reproduction.
The resources you use for research and papers does not necessarily have to be limited to articles and books you find in the library. The library’s archival and video resources are not only available on site, but many can be accessed from the comfort of a computer.
While adding items into a digital collection are not enough to count as “digital preservation” without further work, it is a step towards making these things more accessible and increasing their usability. Utilizing the items within the collections to support your papers and projects helps perpetuate the collections. For every paper or project that is written, created or presented, the lives of these now digital objects are extended as their exposure is increased. You can be part of the Preservation Week “Pass it On” mission!
These types of projects are frequently being done, both inside and outside of Fordham. One of our digital collections– York Corpus Christi Cycle Plays- is a collection of recorded performances. These videos are of a 1998 production originally arranged and recorded by the University of Toronto. However, as you will notice if you watch the videos, the plays seem a little dated. These kinds of performances of the York Plays date back to a tradition started during the medieval period.
However, the scripts for the performances have to come from somewhere! Going even further back, the text of the performances can be found in a manuscript that is currently held (and digitized) by the British Library dating to the 15th-16th century.
While our collections of videos that were uploaded in 2019 can stand alone as videos of a play or as a recording of a 1998 performance, the story starts much farther back than that. The importance of preserving the original manuscript is imperative, but the new and creative forms the content of the manuscript became allowed a richer and well-rounded life for the York Cycle Plays. Now that the plays are digitized, they are available for the next generations to access, use and reuse in a variety of formats.
As the current semester winds down, remember that the work you are doing now can help give voice to these resources and pass it on to your community and those who come after you.
In case you missed it… don’t forget to check out our Preservation Week video!