Digital forensics and digital archiving

Computers today function as personal environments and extensions of self—we inhabit and customize our computers, and their desktops are the reflecting pool of our digital lives. The digital archivist, therefore, has much to learn from techniques that model the computer as a physical environment replete with potential evidence…(Kirschenbaum, Ovenden, & Redwine, 2010, p. 7)



I’m six years late getting to this publication, but the parallels drawn between the processes involved in digital forensics and the work of digital archivists makes for fascinating reading. It’s a great example to me of how to keep looking outside your own backyard for novel and interesting strategies that can be made useful for organising, preserving, and providing access to information.

Something that really spoke to me was this:

Perhaps the strongest point we can make is to reinforce the distinction between tools and procedures…Technology is expensive, but methodology is free.

This paper also mentions a JISC/NIPO study (written by Seamus Ross and Ann Gow) from 1999, called Digital Archaeology: Rescuing Neglected and Damaged Data Resources, calling it the:

…starting place for any cultural heritage professional interested in matters of forensics, data recovery, and storage formats… Although more than a decade old, the report remains invaluable.

The Forensics Wiki has a wealth of information for anyone interested in dipping into this field – Ross & Gow cite this as a possible avenue for encouraging cross-disclipline collaboration and sharing of practitioner skills between forensics and the cultural heritage community.



The National Library of Australia deserves better than this.

This is a backwards step that encourages a return to siloed, hard-to-find resources – not just for Australians, but for a growing worldwide cohort of supporters.

For the last year and a half, I was working to help support the collection and preservation of public policy research for a digital repository called Australian Policy Online (APO) based at Swinburne University of Technology.

The Australian National Innovation and Science Agenda is one of the many resources catalogued at APO. Being exposed to national agendas like this one has made me highly aware that a government that cannot support a significant service like Trove is not a government that supports innovation.

The National Innovation and Science Agenda states that innovation is:


…not just about new ideas, products and business models; innovation is also about creating a culture where we embrace risk, move quickly to back good ideas and learn from mistakes.


In December 2015 I was able to visit the Trove headquarters at the National Library of Australia. I got to see innovative projects being created with passion, dedication, and buckets of enthusiasm by a very small team more than willing to look outside the box when faced with inevitable digital challenges. Challenges that arise when you attempt to aggregate digital content from many disparate cultural sources and systems.

Tim Sherratt points to the value of Trove as being not just a portal, but a platform:


Portals are for visiting, platforms are for building on. All those hundreds of aggregated collections, all those millions of digitised newspaper articles are available in a form computers can understand via an API (Application Programming Interface). That means clever developers, innovative industries, hackers and tinkerers can take Trove’s data and BUILD NEW THINGS. BOOM! Ideas have to start somewhere, and Trove offers plenty to play with.


This lack of support from our political leadership signals a crisis for our nation’s knowledge workers. It will make access to information even harder for those in remote cities and towns, or those who are disadvantaged by social status. It will mean that some of our brightest minds who use the technical capabilities of Trove to improve society will be hampered.

If our government – our leaders – do not recognise the invaluable gateway to knowledge that Trove is, we must make some noise as cultural heroes and make them realise that knowledge is power, and those of us who can wield it will not go out without a fight.




OCLC Asia Pacific Regional Council Conference 2015

The seventh OCLC Asia Pacific Regional Council Conference was held at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, on 3-4 December 2015.

Over two days information workers from over 19 countries gathered to share success stories, challenges, and ideas about the future of libraries.

Bringing ideas from business and the world of corporate advertising, keynote speaker Dan Gregory asked an important question that can be useful to all GLAM sectors:

What is the tangible value that you are offering beyond the utilitarian, the merely functional? What is your value proposition?

Gregory also spoke of the importance of engaging communities in ways that enable them to feel ownership, rather than just obligation, and talked of the changes that hyper-connectivity has brought about, in particular how communities and groups can form from shared common values, rather than simply ethnic connections, or geographic location.

Global collaboration was a big theme of the conference, especially with so many different country representatives in attendance, including some from Europe and Canada.

Peter Green asked a great question on Twitter about librarians being good at collaboration generally, but wondering whether we are good at it outside our own circles? I’d love to see this question debated by a lively group of information people.

Lorcan Dempsey‘s thoughts on the networked world and the evolving scholarly record, especially new roles for publishers in thinking about and creating systems that provide workflows and services for the entire research lifecycle, were thought-provoking. I was especially struck by the notion that coordination at scale is required to build and maintain One Big Global Library.

One of my favourite moments of the conference was the answer to an audience question by David Whitehair.

Rather than engaging in an endless debate about schemas and standards, this answer for me succinctly demonstrates a flexible, forward-thinking approach to the challenges that metadata can create for digital records and discoverability.

For me the strongest theme running throughout the conference was that global collaboration is key to building our value propositions and our services so that our cultural institutions do not become extinct. To do this we must be able to foster creativity and innovative ideas by building spaces and time for them into business practices.