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

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 receiving applications for research fellowships in the humanities

Fellow John Pipkin works with the John Herschel papers in the Reading Room at the Harry Ransom Center.Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.
Fellow John Pipkin works with the John Herschel papers in the Reading Room at the Harry Ransom Center.Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.
The Harry Ransom Center is now receiving applications for its 2011-2012 research fellowships in the humanities. The application deadline is February 1, 2011. 

Information about the fellowships and the application process is available online.

About 50 fellowships are awarded annually by the Ransom Center to support scholarly research projects in all areas of the humanities. Applicants must demonstrate the need for substantial on-site use of the Center’s collections. All applicants, with the exception of those applying for dissertation fellowships, must be post-doctorates or independent scholars with a substantial record of publication.

The fellowships range from one to three months, with stipends of $3,000 per month. Also available are $1,200 to $1,700 travel stipends and dissertation fellowships with a $1,500 stipend.

Information about the Ransom Center collections can be found online  or in the “Guide to the Collections.”

The stipends are funded by Ransom Center endowments and annual sponsors, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Research Fellowship Endowment, the Hobby Family Foundation Endowment, the Dorot Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Jewish Studies, the Robert De Niro Endowed Fund, the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the South Central Modern Language Association, and The University of Texas at Austin Office of Graduate Studies.

Applicants will be notified of decisions by letter on or before April 1, 2011. Fellowship recipients and their research projects will be announced on the Center’s website in May 2011.