June 23, 2020

OSSArcFlow Guide to Documenting Born-Digital Archival Workflows

The purpose of the Guide to Documenting Born-Digital Archival Workflows is to encourage and assist collecting institutions of all shapes, sizes, and types to begin documenting their born-digital workflows. In our experience, both through the OSSArcFlow project and in consultation with many collecting institutions, the vast majority of today’s born-digital archiving activity is not well documented. Most collecting institutions believe that their born-digital archiving workflows are still too ad hoc or nascent to deserve formal documentation, and the lack of formal documentation keeps collecting institutions from being able to see, share, compare, and build upon their collective successes, failures, gaps, challenges, and opportunities.

In the Guide, we aim to make the daunting task of selecting, implementing, and refining born-digital archiving workflows more achievable. To do so, we first document and describe the steps that are commonly included in digital curation workflows, from acquisition to access and preservation. We then provide a process map and detailed guidance to help you produce your own born-digital workflows documentation in both visual and descriptive formats. Finally, we provide a set of use cases for this visual and descriptive documentation, illustrating with case studies and examples how you can use it to help your institution improve its born-digital archiving practices over time.

The Guide includes four main sections:

  1. Introduction – provides a brief background of the project, the research questions that have driven our inquiry, and how to use this Guide in your own work as an archivist and curator of born-digital collections.
  2. Common Steps in OSS Born-Digital Archival Workflows – provides brief descriptions of each of the main steps in born-digital archiving (13 in total) and what tools are commonly used to accomplish each of these steps today.
  3. Documenting Born-Digital Workflows – provides detailed guidance to help you use the OSSArcFlow survey, interview questions, and visualization model to document and depict your own workflow. 
  4. Using Workflows – provides guidance and examples of how an institution can use its existing workflows to identify growth/maturity goals, to advocate for resources, and to transform roles/relationships as needed to improve its born-digital archiving practices. 

We are grateful to the Institute of Museum and Library Services for its generous support of this project work, and to our project partners for willingly and excitedly participating in every step of this work with us.