In 2022, on top of business as usual, RMIT University Archives have focussed on digital preservation initiatives and on making our collection more accessible through digital means.
In August, RMIT University welcomed its first digital archivist, Nicholas Kelly. Looking after digital records now and into the future is a complex craft requiring specialist skills. Nick has developed workflows for three discreet digital collections: student records, course guides, and digital theses. An important part of Nick’s role is sharing his knowledge with other staff.
We also joined the Australasia Preserves community of practice, and the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) as an Associate Member.
Risks and challenges
At present, the Archives team are the only people with access to our catalogue, and the content management system is not fit for purpose.
There is also a lack of historical information, which coincides with the advent of digital records. We have some digital records on CD-ROM and floppy disc, but the content is ad hoc and increasingly inaccessible. Digital records are more fragile than analogue or paper due to:
- outdated file formats,
- corruptable software and hardware,
- scarce or inaccessible as technologies evolve,
- and data decay.
This current state poses many risks for RMIT. There are legal ramifications for non-compliance with the Public Records Act. RMIT’s cultural legacy is also at risk. For example, we were asked recently if we had records documenting the setup of RMIT Vietnam. Except for a box containing reports and publications donated this year by Professor David Wilmoth, records about this significant milestone have not been transferred to Archives.
As RMIT’s digital transformation is realised, a viable strategy needs to be put in place organisation-wide to ensure that RMIT’s heritage and culture can be preserved for future value.
In 2023 the Library’s Collections team is undertaking a project to develop a digital archiving strategy and roadmap in 2023 which is a significant first step, but also the skills and knowledge of our staff, especially those developed by our digital archivist, are integral to its success.