The Center for Research Libraries Global Resources Initiative is currently studying how NGOs and archiving institutions collect, manage and preserve digital human rights documentation, including blogs, social media, and video and other media from mobile devices; the project is described in significant depth on The Documentalist, the project’s blog.

Read the full post, but here’s an excerpt:

Challenges for archiving

Volume and rapid distribution of electronic documents:

Thanks to increased access to handheld digital devices and the internet, digital documentation is cheap, easy to produce and, and quickly disseminated. This creates a challenge of volume, as images, texts, and videos of human rights events flood the World Wide Web. Relatedly, organizations are increasingly creating internal, operational documents via electronic means, resulting in a larger volume of production than paper documentation previously allowed. In both cases, archivists are challenged to keep pace with the rapid generation of new digital items as they preserve relevant materials.

Ephemeral nature of electronic documents & rapidly changing technology:

Digital documents are ephemeral—they lack the tangibility of hand written notes, printed photos, or typed reports that encourages people to save them—and because computer storage is a limited resource for non-profit organizations, such documents (e.g., email or internal memoranda) are frequently deleted with no hard-copy back-up. To further complicate this issue, all forms of digital documents are created in a context of constantly changing technological media, thus making it difficult to maintain access to documents that do get saved. In each case, the result is loss of valuable material for sustained activism, policy-making, and scholarship.

Recording provenance, contextual information & metadata:

Because there is no uniform and easy means for doing so, field workers often do not collect provenance (chain-of-custody), contextual information, and metadata associated with the digital documents they create—information that is necessary if documents are to continue to serve scholarship, policy making, or legal work. Relatedly, because there are no guidelines for sorting and storing documents, many organizations save or delete internal documentation in a piecemeal fashion. Both scenarios result in incomplete and disorganized records.

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