The following is a guest post from Meg Phillips, Electronic Records Lifecycle Coordinator for the National Archives and Records Administration.
“What’s the bare minimum I can responsibly do with my electronic stuff?” was one of the central questions on the table at CurateCamp Processing. The unconference, focused onProcessing Data / Processing Collections, was a great way for a group of thought leaders and practitioners to surface issues keeping them up at night, compare notes, and start charting a path forward. The theme for this CURATEcamp framed a series of discussions on how archivists and librarians think about processing digital collections compared to the ways programmers, software developers, and engineers think about processing data. We worked on a lot of different issues, but I found one particularly interesting: what do recent discussions in the archival community about minimal processing mean for digital materials?
The CURATEcamp format allows all participants to propose and collectively select and organize the sessions the group is most interested in discussing. One of the sessions that resulted from this process focused on how the archival principles of “More Product, Less Process” (MPLP) as Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner describe in “More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing,” apply to the processing of digital materials.
The participants in this session wanted to explore whether we could reach a professional consensus around what must be done to all digital files. This question would also reveal what the community considers intensive processing that might be applied to only some collections or files. We wanted to benefit from MPLP’s rational approach to allocating resources. If we could figure out how to apply these concepts, the maximum number of collections would be usable by the greatest number of people in the electronic realm as well as the physical.
There are clearly some differences in managing paper and electronic objects, but there are similarities, too.