Introducing Digital Collections: An Access and Preservation Platform

This is cross-posted from The Spinning Wheel blog, maintained by UMW Libraries Special Collections and University Archives.

In celebration of Preservation Week, UMW Libraries is excited to announce the release of a new digital preservation and access platform, Special Collections and University Archives: Digital Collections, powered by Preservica. Simpson Library has been providing access to its unique digitized collections for ten years, and this new platform takes our digital preservation initiatives to a higher level, as well as provides the user community with more materials for research. Many of our readers may be familiar with Archives@UMW, our previous platform, and we hope that you will find just as much use and enjoyment from our new system as we move forward with our digital preservation technology and goals.

A screen capture of the home page of the Digital Collections system. It shows an introductory paragraph and five collections.
The home page of the new Digital Collections system.

As more and more formats are created and used by our University community, library staff must develop strategies to select, acquire, preserve, and provide access to these unique resources. While we will always archive traditional, analog formats, many of our campus community members submit papers as PDFs rather than printed pages, and create class projects on blogs and YouTube rather than poster board. In addition to viewing our fantastic physical materials, we know that future researchers will also want to take a look at those PDFs, videos, and websites. A large part of our mission at Special Collections and University Archives is to collect the institution’s history, and much of that today is digital.

While storing multiple copies of digital resources is always a good start, we also want to make sure we are pursuing active digital preservation. That is, we need to constantly be able to assess the usability of our digital files, making sure they are formatted for consumption (i.e. could you still open an electronic file you created in the early 90’s with today’s software?). If not, we must migrate those files to new, sustainable derivatives. It’s important to confirm that none of the records we are acquiring have viruses or other issues, and that none of the data deteriorates or “rots” over time. Perhaps most importantly, though, we must be able to provide access to the materials we are archiving. Our new platform will help us effectively manage all of these tasks.

We have lots of goals, ideas, and imaginings for Digital Collections. This summer, in collaboration with the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, we plan to start an archival appraisal and acquisition project of the many UMW blogs created over the years. We will also proactively collect current projects created on Domain of One’s Own as we work with community members to decide what should and can be preserved. We plan to continue digitizing our unique materials, such as scrapbooks and ledgers, as well as our audiovisual materials, expanding current collections and creating new ones.

A screen capture of the Trinkle Hall Blueprint collection, showing website features such as facets and a search box.
Trinkle Library, a part of the UMW Blueprints and Architectural Drawings Collection, incorporates facets to assist with narrowing down browse and/or search results.

As access is a top priority for us at Simpson Library, we hope that you will take a moment to browse our new website. With the exception of undergraduate honors projects and graduate Education projects, which have been migrated into Eagle Scholar, all of our digital archival collections are available to search and browse through Special Collections and University Archives: Digital Collections. University Publications are still searchable through our custom interface, Eagle Explorer. Archives@UMW will be available through the summer, but we will have all links pointing to our new platform by the start of the fall semester. As you are viewing the new system, please send us any suggestions or feedback you may have. We are always appreciative of your ideas for improving access and usage of our collections!