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Preservation Week Project: Assessing 255 GB of Senator Byrd’s Digital Files

05 / 02 / 14   |   By:

Many archival repositories are grappling with the challenges of preserving and arranging digital information. As this material sits unprocessed, it is not only unavailable to researchers but it runs a higher risk of becoming lost forever.

Is there a better way for archivists to manage electronic documents?

In honor of “Preservation Week,” our digital archives team joined forces with the Byrd Center for Legislative Studies (Byrd CLS) to conduct a pilot project for the preservation and arrangement of a selection of Senator Byrd’s digital files.

The Byrd CLS received a sizable amount of digital information from Senator Byrd when he left office in 2010. After two years, the staff had processed over one million files in the Senator’s electronic constituent correspondence, but that was just one small part of a much larger set of digital materials.

Our pilot program is designed to take an organized approach to the assessment and arrangement of digital material. Our ultimate goal is to develop a set of recommended best practices for the proper archiving of congressional electronic records, which will be made available to the wider community.


An example of digital media to be processed in this program. The CD above contains ten of Senator Byrd’s floor speeches from 2009. None of this information has been processed so that researchers can access it.

The program launched on Tuesday, April 29, when our team met with archivists at the Byrd CLS to review the project and to collect material to be processed. The team selected 255 GB of electronic records which resided on optical disks and on two external hard drives. The type of digital material is typical of many offices. It runs the gamut from word processing files, to emails, to videos, to photos and scans.

We are now in the assessment phase, which includes these components:

  • Virus scan
  • File format analysis
  • File validation (are they true or corrupted?)
  • File duplication analysis
  • Metadata extraction
  • Personally Identifiable Information (PII) investigation
  • Creation of Archival Information Packages (AIP)

After this phase is concluded, we will assess the material for archival value and suggest an arrangement scheme that would ideally fit into existing record groups at the Center. Our final report will summarize our findings, challenges and issues, and recommendations for next-steps.

We promise to share what worked — and what didn’t work — throughout the process. Stay tuned; more to come!

Read the next blog for early results »

About Mark Evans

Mark Evans is recognized as a leading expert on digital archiving issues, challenges, and the range of available solutions. He offers clients a rare combination of engineering expertise and archival understanding, which are essential and complementary considerations for establishing a successful digital archiving program. He has over a decade of experience in delivering a broad range of consulting and technology-centric projects across multiple business and government sectors.

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