Workbook on Digital Private Papers > Working with record creators > Accessioning digital and hybrid personal archives

Accessioning digital and hybrid personal archives


The term 'accessioning' in the digital environment essentially denotes the activities which take place after the records survey and prior to ingest into the digital repository, i.e. 'the process of transferring the selected records and the records survey metadata (the Submission Information Package (SIP)) from the creator's computing environment to the accessions archive where the Archival Information Package (AIP) is generated; this represents phase 2 in the lifecycle of a digital archive. This process must take into account the concerns of all parties with a stake in the archive:

Paradigm developed a transfer protocol for the purposes of the project which attempts to take all these issues into account. However, it should be noted that this only represents one possible approach to the transfer process (transfer via removable media), and ultimately the process must accommodate a range of different methods which will vary according to the selected approach to collection development (see Chapter 02 Collection development), e.g. electronic transfers from the donor/depositor via a secure upload mechanism, or transfer via retired hardware and media when records have reached the end of their active life.

This section outlines the Paradigm transfer protocol and documentation, and points to practical 'how-to' guides for accessioning two commonly-encountered types of digital record. The paper-based component of hybrid archives is not covered because most collecting institutions will have well-established procedures in place for transferring traditional archives to the repository.

Transfer protocol

The Paradigm transfer protocol was designed to balance the needs of archivists with those of record creators, and to be both effective and relatively straightforward to carry out.

The goal of the protocol is to enable authentic records to be securely transferred from the premises where they are currently accessed or stored to the premises of the Library's Digital Archive. It includes measures designed to:

The transfer protocol developed for the project is based on copying the records selected for accession to removable media.

Pre-accession assessment

The pre-accession assessment of the archive will normally include a site visit to conduct the records survey and some discussion with the depositor (or representative) via phone or email. The records survey has been developed to enable the digital archivist to gather the information required to undertake an accession which includes digital materials; it assists the archivist in:

The transfer list

A transfer list was produced (see Appendix D: Transfer list) to document the transfer process; this forms part of the audit trail for each accession and supports the authenticity of its component digital objects. A separate list can be used for each directory structure, e.g. email directory; 'my documents' folder. It allows the archivist to record:

It is useful to supplement the transfer list with printed screenshots of the system information and directory structures as a visual aid. A copy of the list is offered to the creator and a copy remains with the archivist to form part of the audit trail.

Transferring records to removable media

The first site visit and survey should have helped the archivist to determine which records are to be captured, how they will be captured and how long the transfer process will take. This should be agreed with the creator and the archivist should now be prepared to make the first accession; for this they will need:

At the premises where the records are to be copied, the archivist should follow these steps:

If the archivist is able to use a USB mass storage device, then it is possible to add a toolkit of compression, checksumming, screencapture and encryption software to this device and to run these while the device is connected to the creator's computer, rather than creating checksums and encrypting files using the archivist's laptop. Archivists should also explore digital forensics tools, which are designed for investigators to capture digital material that can subsequently be used as evidence onsite, as these have interfaces for the extraction of materials and can automatically create checksums for each file.