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Final report published as part of Mellon-funded project on computer forensics and born-digital cultural heritage

By Gabriela Redwine

The report 'Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections' was recently published by the Council on Library and Information Resources
The report 'Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections' was recently published by the Council on Library and Information Resources

Computer storage media have begun to arrive in archival collections with increasing frequency over the last 20 years. Approximately 50 of the Ransom Center’s holdings contain floppy disks, CDs, or personal computers. Faced with the daunting task of capturing files from these media and making them available to researchers, archivists have begun to investigate fields such as computer science, engineering, and computer forensics for advances that may facilitate this work.

The Ransom Center recently participated in a Mellon-funded project, led by Matthew Kirschenbaum at the University of Maryland, designed to explore the convergences between computer forensics and the preservation of born-digital cultural heritage materials. Ransom Center archivist Gabriela Redwine and Richard Ovenden, associate director and keeper of special collections at the Bodleian Libraries, served as collaborators on the project, which the Library of Congress named one of the “Top 10 Digital Preservation Developments of 2010.” The resulting report, Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections, was recently published by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). In 2011, the Society of American Archivists recognized the report with a Preservation Publication Award Special Commendation.

Digital Forensics is the first publication of this length to present computer forensics to the archives and library communities. Building on the pioneering work of Jeremy Leighton John at the British Library, the report examines the relevance of forensic techniques and methodologies to archivists, curators, and others engaged in the collection and preservation of born-digital cultural heritage materials. The report considers challenges related to legacy formats, the authenticity of files, and data recovery; explores the ethical implications of implementing forensic techniques as part of an archival workflow; and concludes with recommendations and next steps. Side bars by an international group of practitioners and scholars cover topics such as diplomatics and donor agreements, offer a sample forensic workflow, provide case studies from the Bodleian and Stanford libraries, and describe “Rosetta” machines of particular use in capturing born-digital materials. Detailed appendices provide contact, pricing, and specifications information for open source and commercial forensics hardware and software.

The authors solicited feedback about an earlier draft of the report at a May 2010 symposium organized around the same topic, which brought together practitioners from archives and libraries, scholars from the humanities and computer science, and computer forensic experts from government and industry.

Ransom Center receives $10,000 grant to catalog collection of science materials

By Alicia Dietrich

The Ransom Center has received a $10,000 grant from the Friends of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics to rehouse and rearrange its holdings of the Herschel family papers and to create an online finding aid.

The Herschel family papers, acquired in 1960 with subsequent smaller accessions of additional materials, largely represent the life and work of Sir John F. W. Herschel (1792-1871), the English mathematician, astronomer, chemist, and experimental photographer/inventor. John Herschel has been called Britain’s first modern physical scientist, and his correspondence has been noted as one of the most valuable archives for 19th-century science.

The Herschel family papers at the Ransom Center form a significant resource for the study of the history of science in general and also for studies in several individual fields, such as astronomy, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. The lives of the Herschels, their pioneering achievements, their interactions with other leading scientists of their time and their influence on their colleagues’ work are topics scholars may pursue in the papers.

The Herschel family papers will be closed to scholars during the duration of the grant, which runs through Dec. 31, 2011.

Please click on the thumbnails below to view full-size images.

 

Ransom Center Receives Grant To Catalog Spanish Comedias Sueltas

By Jennifer Tisdale

Comedias sueltas from the Harry Ransom Center's collection. Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.
Comedias sueltas from the Harry Ransom Center's collection. Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.

The Ransom Center has received $137,015 from the Council on Library and Information Resources Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives for “Revealing Texas Collections of Comedias Sueltas.”

The Ransom Center holds more than 14,000 “comedias sueltas,” a generic term for plays published in small pamphlet formats in Spain from the late 17th through the 19th century. Purchased in pieces, generally in collections of bound volumes, the materials have been described as one of the major collections of Spanish dramatic literature in suelta form in North America.

While portions of the collection are minimally cataloged, the grant will allow for the creation of individual database records for each suelta, making more extensive information about the collection available on the Ransom Center’s Web site. The grant will also support the cataloging of more than 600 sueltas at the Cushing Library at Texas A&M University.

The project will be completed by February 2014.

Texas House investigates purchase of rare books

By Harry Ransom Center

In celebration of its fiftieth anniversary, the Ransom Center has published Collecting the Imagination: The First Fifty Years of the Ransom Center, a richly illustrated chronicle of its history, which is available in the ONLINE STORE.  The following is an excerpt from Collecting the Imagination.

On April 19, 1943, the Texas House of Representatives voted 99 to 17 to order an investigation into the 1939 purchase of nine rare books by The University of Texas.  The resolution, submitted by C. S. McLellan of Eagle Lake, charged that Read more