My name is Natasha Young and I am a Digital Archive Trainee taking part in the 2021 cohort of Bridging the Digital Gap trainees. The traineeship is run by The National Archives and I have been seconded to Gloucestershire Archives to get hands-on archiving experience. I have had the privilege of learning traditional archiving skills from professional archivists and digital preservation experts in an active archive setting. As well as learning whilst working, The National Archives have also set up an online training program that teaches us how to be archivists and how to approach the various considerations for digital archiving and preservation.
The traineeship has been designed to bring different perspectives and digital skills into the archive sector. The question many archivists are attempting to answer is: how do we keep digital information secure and enduring for future generations? Gloucestershire Archives has a duty to maintain council documents for future accountability of decisions made by those in charge of the county, so this question is an important one.
Since leaving University with a degree in Digital Media, my focus has been on information architecture, user experience, and user interface design. I love using digital technologies to create meaningful and interactive experiences for users. This focus is what sparked my interest to become a Digital Archive Trainee, as it merges my experience in information management with digital technologies. Using emerging technologies helps us to assess how we might solve the puzzle of making digital data both maintainable and accessible.
The traineeship has come at a very apt time as the challenges of the Coronavirus outbreak have caused many classes, meetings and events to move online to be consumed digitally. This has meant that many people from around the world are able to access content in a way that wasn’t possible before. This new-found focus on moving into the digital space has become just as important for the archive sector. However what I wasn’t expecting when joining the sector was how many constraints to accessibility there are. One of the pieces of work I have been doing since starting at the Gloucestershire Archives is to edit down a collection of digitised cassette recordings into more manageable chunks so they can be shared more easily with the public. The recordings are fascinating but have not previously been widely accessible due to their obsolete format and copyright constraints.
I have been enjoying the traineeship for a number of reasons, the main one being how kind and down-to-earth everyone is. I have also been enjoying the various creative challenges to bringing to life the history that is locked away inside the archive strongrooms. I am looking forward to the next project coming my way which will allow me to use my newly acquired ingesting, accessioning, and cataloging skills in a local project focused on ensuring under-represented groups have a voice in the Archives.
We anticipate that this project will gather and create born-digital content that will need to be stored, maintained, and validated. Digital archiving is a constantly evolving discipline as digital data is surprisingly fragile compared to physical documents. There is no ‘one-and-done’ solution as technology is constantly changing, and files are susceptible to bit-rot or corruption. Mitigating these risks and being able to collect, and keep safe, archive material which documents the lives and experiences of previously under-represented groups is a key piece of work. The work we do today will be what informs future generations, so it’s important that the county’s Archives are inclusive and representative of who Gloucestershire is.