Presentations (Communicative Events)

Access Strategies for Born-Digital Archives: Lessons of the International Fellowships Program Project

Gorjevsky, Jane

Columbia University Libraries has recently completed a large grant-funded project to preserve and make accessible the archives of the International Fellowships Program. Active in 2001-2013, the IFP offered fellowships for post-graduate study to social justice leaders from underserved communities in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Russia, and the Middle East. The IFP records included a substantial (3.6 TB) digital component, with documents and multimedia from 22 countries in 10 languages and 7 non-Roman character sets, as well as the related web archive.

This presentation focuses on strategy and solutions we employed to make these varied holdings accessible to researchers as a single digital archive. The project included multiple entryways into the archive: the dedicated IFP Archives website, OPAC, and the archival finding aid. The digital archive had to be both searchable and browsable. Since the only file-level descriptive metadata was contained in file names and directory paths, a browsing presentation, mimicking the standard file explorer interface, has been developed. In addition, the textual materials were fully indexed using Solr to enable multi-language full-text and file path searching. The IFP Archives website was designed to support downloading of all types of materials and streaming of videos. Tiered access (online vs. dedicated reading room laptops) required additional features.

The collection has been used actively, and a usability study was conducted in the fall of 2016 on three user groups: academic researchers, students, and philanthropy professionals. The study results provide insights into user reaction to the interface and presentation of archival materials.


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January 24, 2020