15 Mar 2024

From Archive to Access webinar: Event review

This article is written by Maeve Kerins, a Library Assistant in the Technological University Dublin – City Center.

Shows a traditional Japanese print depicting a market scene
Image provided on UCD Library's eventbrite registration page

On Friday 8th of March 2024, I attended an online webinar event “From Archive to Access”, provided by the Library Association of Ireland’s Open Scholarship Group. This was a virtual event that included presentations from three leading figures in the field of preservation and digitization of unique materials, all of whom are based in Ireland. 

I am currently working as a Library Assistant for Technological University Dublin Library Services. I primarily work in the Client and Faculty Services team that deals with customer service and frontline service-related queries. However, one of my back-of-house duties and long-term projects is helping on an archival project, which will ultimately result in the digitization of materials onto our online repository, Arrow. 

For some context, TU Dublin Library Services are currently preparing to move into their new library space on Grangegorman’s main campus. Before 2020, TU Dublin had five separate libraries and the Central Services Unit, which have since moved into the temporary library facility in Park House on the North Circular Road. Along with the migration of the different library collections, we have also migrated many materials to be digitally scanned and preserved as part of our Archive collection. My current role in this project, as a non-specialist, concerns the initial set-up stages to help the incoming future archivist that goes ahead with this project's next stages.  

Given that my role is currently on the non-digital side, I hoped to gain insight into how other sites developed their archiving guidelines and procedures. Furthermore, I hoped to gain a further understanding of how TU Dublin’s project might develop and evolve once the next phase of the project begins.

Therefore, when I saw the advertisement for this event, I felt it was a fantastic opportunity for me to learn from those with more experience curating accessible content. 

My main expected learning outcome from this online seminar was to gain a greater understanding of how I can make sure, to the best of my ability, that the archive boxes that I am currently creating are easily accessed and the physical items within them are organized in a system that is easy to navigate.

Agenda for the Archives to Access webinar 11am - 1105 AM Introduction by Michelle Dalton, Chair of the LAI Open Scholarship Group. 1110-1130 AM DRI's guide to archiving digital records for volunteer and community groups - Dr Maeve O'Brien, Membership Manager, DRI. 1130-1145 Source The National Gallery of Ireland's online resource - Leah Benson, archivist, The National Gallery of Ireland. 1150-1205 putting Chester Beatty online  - Tim Keefe, Head of digital, Chester Beatty Library. 1210-1225 panel discussion. 1225-1230 Wrap-up.
From Archives to Access webinar agenda

Digital Repository of Ireland

Kicking off the webinar, with flourish, was Dr Maeve O’Brien, who currently serves as Membership Manager at the Digital Repository of Ireland. During Maeve’s presentation, I took several notes on the DRI’s emphasis on storage and the importance of multiple backup options. Maeve, spoke of how “non-specialists” should always use the “3-2-1 rule”: 3 copies of an item record, two media types and one offsite copy.  

TU Dublin Library has followed this example; however, it was good for me to learn the justifications around organizing metadata in this manner. I have created a version of this organizational rule in my work with TU Dublin. I have stored digital records of the archive materials on my personal PC, I have a personal digital file on my own work OneDrive, and there is a shared OneDrive with my colleague(s) that also worked on this project along the way. We have a physical and digital copy of each archived item. 

National Gallery of Ireland

The second presenter Leah Benson, who is currently based in the National Gallery of Ireland Archives, discussed the National Gallery’s “Source” which is the Irish Art Digital Archive & Library tool.

Source houses 16,000 records and 6,000 associated digital images from The Irish Art Archive, Yeats Archive and Source Stories

Chester Beatty

The final presenter Tim Keefe, Head of Digital, Chester Beatty Library, gave a fascinating preview of new software that has rendered objects within its collection to be manipulated and visited through their new online collection space. The hopes are that this will enhance user experience and research output to a larger landscape, given the global mobility of education resources in the last number of years.  

Q & A Panel 

To conclude the event a Q&A Panel gave attendees the opportunity to direct specific questions towards any or all of three speakers. I was keen to ask about a particular challenge that I had been facing within my current project with TU Dublin. 

My Question: 

“Are there any guides that you would recommend for what language / specific descriptors to use – so that the “public” can access materials easily? In particular materials such as group photographs that might not have easy identifiers?” 

All three speakers work with materials such as photographs and pictures that are not always easy to describe in a unique manner. I felt a question like this was best directed at them, for their advice and experience in creating metadata for both physical and digital materials.

It is important they are user-friendly and easily understood by all users, particularly colleagues within the Collection team that take over the project after me. The way in which I organize the metadata within our physical and digital collection records is crucial to ensuring an easy transition of workflow.

I was provided with several helpful resources that I have since bookmarked and will no doubt use as I move forward with the TU Dublin archive project. 

See the resources recommended below: 

DRI Guide to archiving digital records for volunteer and community groups 

Dublin Core and the Digital Repository of Ireland v.3 

Dublin Core Metadata Basics

Tim and Leah in particular, in their presentations, highlighted that one of the main factors they were focusing on with their projects, was user experience.

Their respective collections are to be used as resources to enhance teaching and learning, increase engagement with the museum and reach the most amount of people possible. It is important for archive collections to be both a research resource and a public asset.

Concluding Remarks

I am thankful to have been afforded the opportunity to attend an event such as this and see what unique projects are being conducted in this area. As open scholarship and open access evolve to meet the growing demands of higher education and research interest, it is important that all of us working in libraries and information processing, professions, keep growing our skills and knowledge in all areas. 

Resources Mentioned:


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