MARBL’s Digital Archives Program Continues to Evolve and Expand

Lucille Clifton's Word Processor

Lucille Clifton's Word Processor and Monitor, Digital Archives, MARBL


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The Digital Archives Program Settles Into MARBL.

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MARBL'S Digital Archives program is still new, only in its second year, deeply collaborative, and, in keeping with the larger field, constantly evolving. Our collections are part of hybrid archives that consist of both paper materials and born-digital content, files that are created and maintained in a digital medium. These digital archives appear in many of MARBL's manuscript collections, including the “papers” of Salman Rushdie, Lucille Clifton, Eamon Grennan, and Turner Cassity.

The material can take a surprising range of forms both physical and digital. We house hardware (such as old desktops, laptops and even older word processors) and store digital files created with computer applications that have long since gone out of use.

The challenge and opportunity of digital archives is to respect and leverage what makes this kind of archival content different while also integrating it into the broader collection for the benefit of patrons and researchers. Achieving this balance within the ever-changing landscape of digital archives demands broad cooperative efforts and regular surveys for new developments in the field . If we want to be effective stewards of our collections, we must attend to our own objects, archive, and researchers but we must also remain engaged with the larger field and, even more broadly, other sectors that may advance our work in the archives, such as digital forensics and personal information management.

Salman Rushdie Workstation
Screenshot from the Salman Rushdie Workstation,
Located in the Reading Room of MARBL

I am always elated when a change within the Digital Archives program coincides with new developments within the broader digital archives field. For instance, MARBL's Digital Archives staff will soon be expanding to include a digital archivist/metadata specialist and a Woodruff Research Library Fellow, both of whom are relatively new to digital preservation. Just as I am preparing orientation and training documentation for this new staff, the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) announces the official launch of its new outreach program, Digital Preservation in a Box . This resource acts as a sort of anthology of digital preservation concepts, glossaries, tools, and resources that will prove invaluable as I orient new staff to the work of MARBL's Digital Archives program and to our ongoing professional development as we grow. The kind of cooperation that creates such open-source tools (and ensures their ongoing relevance and maintenance) drives the field of digital archives and makes it a dynamic space in which to work and learn.

Authored By: 

Erika Farr, Curator of Digital Archives, MARBL

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