The University Archives and its Focus on Fixity

The Council of State Archivists (CoSA) has designated today as Electronic Records Day and we’d like to use this occasion to provide updates about our efforts to preserve and provide access to born-digital archival records within the University Archives. I wrote about born-digital records in a previous blog post, but as a reminder, challenges unique to born-digital records include bit rot, technological obsolescence, and file authenticity.

Because the last challenge, authenticity, is such a vital piece of the archival puzzle, the Princeton University Archives recently revised its instructions for donors who transfer or donate archival materials containing digital records. You can find those procedures freely available on our website, so rather than repeat them here, it’s more useful to explain why we made the change. Our new policies better reflect a core property that helps archivists demonstrate the authenticity of digital records: fixity.

Archivists understand fixity to be verifiable evidence that a digital file has remained the same over time or across a series of events. Any number of things could impact a file’s fixity, from the purely mundane to the absolute sinister; a person opens a file to delete a punctuation mark or a virus attacks a server to corrupt every sixth block of data on a disk. To generate fixity information at the University Archives, we rely on cryptographic hash values, known in other circles as checksums. Computer programs produce these unique alphanumeric characters by using a variety of hash algorithms, with Message Digest (specifically MD5) and Secure Hash Algorithm (specifically SHA-1 and SHA-256) being the most widely used in archives and libraries.

Examples of MD5 cryptographic hash values

Examples of MD5 cryptographic hash values

With these cryptographic hash values created for each file, Mudd archivists are able to compile a manifest—yes, similar to a ship’s or flight manifest—and later verify if all the files that made it on board the ship (or disk or server or flash drive) are the same as those currently aboard; no additions, no subtractions, and no alterations.

After a transfer is complete, we can quickly verify fixity on each file using our newly installed Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device (FRED). Running a highly customized Ubuntu Linux operating system tailored to meet the needs of archivists and librarians handling born-digital records, this machine is capable of verifying checksums as well as reading most contemporary varieties of solid-state, magnetic, and optical media. I’ll share more about FRED in a future post.

Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device (FRED)

Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device (FRED)

While it’s no secret that cryptographic hash algorithms occasionally “collide”—which is to say, a program might assign the same hash value to more than one file—and that well-known attacks have occurred on different algorithms, such instances are extremely rare and an archival repository can safeguard against collision by using more than one algorithm, which Mudd most certainly does. Nonetheless, the focus on fixity is one of many ways the University Archives is working to secure tomorrow’s digital history today, by providing future users with authentic digital records. Happy Electronic Records Day!

WWI European Pamphlet Collection Now Available Online

Written by Elizabeth Bennett

1914: War Breaks Out in Europe!

We are pleased to announce the availability of a large digital collection of pamphlets documenting World War I in Europe. These pamphlets were collected by the Princeton University Library starting from the outbreak of the war, as part of a larger European War Collection, and later renamed the Western European Theater Political Pamphlet Collection. They cover a broad range of topics including the economy, the press, the military, arms, territorial disputes, and others. The collection also includes speeches, sermons, bulletins, calendars, and songbooks. It is a multi-lingual collection with material in English, German, French, Italian, Russian, and other languages and reflects the views of people on all sides of the war.
War_Facts_and_Figures

Access to the online digitized pamphlets is through the finding aid for the collection. For additional information, please contact History Librarian Elizabeth Bennett or the Mudd Library.

University Archives Launches Digital Repository of Senior Theses

 Written by Lynn Durgin

Through a joint project of the University Archives, the Office of the Dean of the College, and the Office of Information Technology, senior theses for the Classes of 2013, 2014, and all future classes will be collected and made accessible to the campus community via Princeton University’s digital repository, DataSpace.

mason_thesis

The University Archives made the transition from collecting paper theses to theses in digital format (PDFs) to broaden accessibility of senior theses within the Princeton community. The Senior Thesis Collection is the most frequently used collection at the University Archives and, as such, are consulted by Princeton students at a rate of about 1,000 per year to explore topics, gather ideas for possible faculty advisers, find sources, gain familiarity with disciplinary writing styles, develop research methodologies for their own theses, and to generally understand what makes a good thesis. The DataSpace repository also has the capability to capture and deliver multiple file formats including text, video, audio, and image files.

“The senior thesis has a long history at Princeton,” said University Archivist Dan Linke. “This is just the next chapter for this important aspect of a Princeton education.”

While most theses will be available in full-text on all Princeton-networked computers, a small number will only be available at computer terminals in the Mudd Manuscript Library, and none will be directly accessible to the general public. Senior theses submitted in 2012 and before will continue to be available in paper format at the Mudd Manuscript Library.

dre_1_thesis

A direct link to the Senior Thesis Collection in DataSpace is available here: http://dataspace.princeton.edu/jspui/handle/88435/dsp019c67wm88m.

For more information on the Senior Thesis Collection, contact mudd@princeton.edu.

Princeton University Records Management Launches New Website

files

Princeton University Records Management has a new look (and a new online address)! The new records management website replaces the records management guidelines website created in 2007. Those who visit the original website will be redirected to the new website, which includes new records management policies and retention schedules as well as information on a wide range of records management topics. The website is the place for University employees to start when they are determining how to manage the records in their custody.

Some features of the records management website include:

  • Policies and procedures
  • A records management manual
  • A new record retention schedule for University financial records (coming Summer 2014)
  • The records retention guidelines that were introduced in 2007, which will continue to provide guidance until formal retention schedules are created in these areas
  • A menu of services and training provided by Princeton University Records Management
  • An integrated blog

Please browse through the website and send feedback. Our goal is to help you integrate records management into your workflow as seamlessly as possible.

Records Management and University Archives: Perfect Together

The job of the Princeton University Archives is to keep in perpetuity the University records that should be kept, and the University Records Manager, Anne Marie Phillips, helps to identify them.  She also helps offices determine how long non-permanent records must be kept before they can be destroyed.

With the University’s first financial records retention schedule coming online, she identified almost 300 boxes of journal vouchers and check registers from the 1950s and 1960s held within the Archives that should have been destroyed long ago.

containersThese records filled 21 bins (see above photo) and weighed over 6,000 pounds.  Now that shelf space can be used for permanent records that the Archives will keep for as long as there is a Princeton.

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Archival Description Group Wins National Award

The University Library’s Archival Description Working Group has won another award for its efforts in finding new ways to deliver information about our collections to our users. The Society of American Archivists will present the C.F.W Coker Award to the group in August for findingaids.princeton.edu, the University Library’s interface for descriptions of Princeton archives and manuscript collections. Society of American Archivists Logo The Coker Award “recognizes finding aids, finding aid systems, innovative development in archival description, or descriptive tools that enable archivists to produce more effective finding aids. To merit consideration for the award, nominees must set national standards, represent a model for archives description, or otherwise have a substantial impact on national descriptive practice.” It is awarded to archives throughout North America; previous winners include the Archivists’ Toolkit project, the Online Archives of California, and the working group that developed Encoded Archival Description.

The Award Committee noted that the team at Princeton “created a complete user experience of the Princeton University collections that is elegant in its outward simplicity and robust in its search capabilities. . . . The site is, in short, a triumph of innovative descriptive practice.” Maureen Callahan, John Delaney, Shaun Ellis, Regine Heberlein, Dan Santamaria, Jon Stroop, and Don Thornbury serve on the Working Group. The site also builds on descriptive data created by many staff involved with aggressive processing and data conversion projects over the last seven years.

The site was publicly released last September. The group was also awarded the Mid Atlantic Regional Archives Conference’s Finding Aid Award in April. As always, our biggest reward is the use of the finding aids, and the material they describe, by our patrons, but it’s great to receive recognition for all the effort that went into developing the site.

Princeton wins MARAC Finding Aid Award

We are very pleased to announce that the Princeton University Library’s Archival Description working group has been awarded the 2012 Frederic M. Miller Finding Aid Award by the Mid Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC). The award recognizes outstanding finding aids and finding aid systems in the Mid Atlantic region. Submissions are evaluated in the areas of content, design, innovation, and adherence to descriptive standards.

Main Page for the new finding aids site

Main Page for the new finding aids site

Princeton’s archival description working group includes two Mudd staff members: Maureen Callahan and Dan Santamaria, who serves as chair of the group. Former Mudd staff member Regine Heberlein is also a key member of the group, as are Don Thornbury and John Delaney from Firestone Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and Jon Stroop and Shaun Ellis of the library’s digital initiatives group.

The group was awarded first prize in the 2012 competition for findingaids.princeton.edu, the redesigned finding aids interface for descriptions of Princeton’s archives and manuscripts collections. The new interface was the result of more than a year of close collaboration between Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and Digital Initiatives staff. The site contains descriptions of all of the archival and manuscript collections held at Princeton and includes a number of innovations including:

Images of the collection in the context of the finding aid

Images of the collection in the context of the finding aid

• Delivery of images of actual collections material directly from the finding aid interface

Contents lists that are sortable by title, date, or physical location in the collection

Enhanced topic features, listing collections related to our collecting strengths

• Better options for users to contact the library and connect with each other, including “Ask a Question” buttons for reference requests and commenting features for users wishing to request a description enhancement or share information within their own social networks

• Automated requesting of collections material from all contents lists

• Direct access to components of collections (often boxes and folders) from search results and Faceting and browsing options from search results.

In addition to the work of the team that developed the finding aids site, it should be noted the site is built on data created by dozens of library staff over the last several years. The innovations described above would not be possible without the work of these staff members in processing and describing our collections.

The award comes with a small monetary prize, which will be donated to a small historical society in New Jersey. While use of the finding aids by our patrons is our biggest reward, it’s great to receive recognition for the hard work that went into developing the site. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Mudd Library Awarded Grant to Provide Global Access to Records of the Cold War

by: Maureen Callahan

The historian John Lewis Gaddis, author of a 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of George Kennan, has stated that the Mudd Library holds “the most significant set of papers for the study of modern American history outside of federal hands.”

This may be true, but is often only relevant to researchers who have the resources to access them. We have worked diligently to make sure people could find information about our collections, but until now, there were only a very few ways to actually study these records – come to Princeton, New Jersey and access them in the reading room, or order photocopies of what you think you might be interested in, based on descriptions in our finding aids (we also have a few collections digitized and online, and some microfilmed collections of our records may be in your local library).

We want to change this to make it easier for everyone to access our materials. Thanks to the generosity of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a taxpayer-funded organization that supports efforts to promote documentary sources, over 400,000 pages of records from six of our most-used collections will be digitized and put online for anyone with an internet connection to access. We hope that our records will become newly accessible and indispensible to international researchers, high school and college students, and anyone else with an interest in the history of the Cold War.  As Gaddis wrote in a letter of support for our grant, this kind of access “has the potential, quite literally, to globalize the possibility of doing archival research. That’s no guarantee that this will produce a greater number of great books than in the past. What it will ensure, however, is a quantum leap in the opportunities students and their teachers will have to bring the excitement of working with original documents into all classrooms.”

Collections include:

John Foster Dulles Papers

John Foster Dulles (1888-1959), the fifty-third Secretary of State of the United States for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, had a long and distinguished public career with significant impact upon the formulation of United States foreign policies. He was especially involved with efforts to establish world peace after World War I, the role of the United States in world governance, and Cold War relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Dulles papers document his entire public career and his influence on the formation of United States foreign policy, especially for the period when he was Secretary of State.

We plan to digitize the following:

Series 1. Selected Correspondence 1891-1960

Series 3. Diaries and Journals 1907-1938

Series 5. Speeches, Statements, Press Conferences, Etc 1913-1958

 

George Kennan Papers

George F. Kennan (1904-2005) was a diplomat and a historian, noted especially for his influence on United States policy towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War and for his scholarly expertise in the areas of Russian history and foreign policy. Kennan’s papers document his career as a scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study and his time in the Foreign Service.

We plan to digitize the following:

Subseries 1A, Permanent Correspondence 1947-2004

Subseries 4D, Major Unused Drafts 1933-1978

Subseries 4G, Unpublished Works 1938-2000

 

Council on Foreign Relations Records

The Council on Foreign Relations is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and national membership organization dedicated to improving understanding of international affairs by promoting a range of ideas and opinions on United States foreign policy. The Council has had a significant impact in the development of twentieth century United States foreign policy. The Records of the Council on Foreign Relations document the history of the organization from its founding in 1921 through the present.

We plan to digitize the following:

Studies Department 1918-1945

 

Allen W. Dulles Papers

The Allen W. Dulles Papers contains correspondence, speeches, writings, and photographs documenting the life of this lawyer, diplomat, businessman, and spy. One of the longest-serving directors of the Central Intelligence Agency (1953-1961), he also served in a key intelligence post in Bern, Switzerland during World War II, as well as on the Warren Commission.

We plan to digitize the following:

Series 1, Correspondence 1891-1969

Series 4, Warren Commission Files 1959-1967

 

Adlai E. Stevenson Papers

The Adlai E. Stevenson Papers document the public life of Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965), governor of Illinois, Democratic presidential candidate, and United Nations ambassador. The collection contains correspondence, speeches, writings, campaign materials, subject files, United Nations materials, personal files, photographs, and audiovisual materials, illuminating Stevenson’s career in law, politics, and diplomacy, primarily from his first presidential campaign until his death in 1965.

We plan to digitize the following:

Subseries 5D, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations 1946-1947

 

James Forrestal Papers

James V. Forrestal (1892-1949) was a Wall Street businessman who played an important role in U.S. military operations during and immediately after World War II. From 1940 to 1949 Forrestal served as, in order, assistant to President Roosevelt, Under Secretary of the Navy, Secretary of the Navy, and the first Secretary of Defense.

We plan to digitize the following:

Subseries 1A, Alphabetical Correspondence

Subseries 5A, Diaries

 

Digitization will occur over the course of two years, and materials will be added to the web as they are digitized. Please be in touch with us if you have any questions about any of our materials.

 

Revised Dissertation Embargo Policy in Effect

The new policy for the Publication, Access, and Embargoing of Doctoral Dissertations, which was approved on May 14, 2012, is now in full effect.

The new policy enables each graduate student to request a two-year embargo on his or her dissertation, with the potential for renewal. When approved, the embargo applies to the dissertation’s availability in ProQuest, as well as in Princeton’s digital repository, DataSpace. If not embargoed, dissertations are made available in full-text to subscribing institutions via ProQuest, and in full-text on the Internet through DataSpace.

Individuals who submitted their dissertations between August 29, 2011 and June 19, 2012 had an opportunity to request an embargo retroactively. They were contacted by email on June 19, 2012 (and again on September 7, 2012) and given until October 15, 2012 to request approval for their embargo. The dissertations that were not embargoed during this period were released to universal accessibility via DataSpace on November 5, 2012.*

The process of gaining approval for an embargo is governed by the Graduate School. Students who wish to embargo their dissertation should fill out the Dissertation Embargo Request and Approval Form, obtain an approval signature from their advisor or a committee member, and submit the form as part of the Advanced Degree Application Process. Written confirmation of the embargo approval from the Graduate School must be presented in hard copy at the time of submission to the Mudd Manuscript Library.

Details about submitting your dissertation to the Mudd Manuscript Library are here: http://www.princeton.edu/~mudd/thesis/index.shtml

*As an interim measure while the new policy was being developed, on March 23, 2012, all dissertations that had been deposited in DataSpace in the fall of 2011 were restricted to the Princeton network. Those submitted in the spring of 2012 were also limited to the Princeton network. All dissertations from August 29, 2011 and forward that were not embargoed were released universally via DataSpace on November 5, 2012.

Editing the world’s online encyclopedia: Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon Three

On October 19th, 2012 staff members of Mudd Manuscript Library once again opened the doors and archives for the purpose of composing and  editing Princeton University-related articles on Wikipedia.

For this third event of its kind, we decided to hold it during our normal business hours during volunteer weekend with the focus of enhancing Princeton athletics information.

We had a total of 11 attendees with 3 new user names created.

Here a new user learns how to create and edit articles from a Wikipedian

A number of articles were created and are still being edited.

  1. Princeton Cannon Song
  2. Class of 1952 Stadium
  3. User:Undead q/Karl Langlotz
  4. List of Princeton University Olympians
  5. Hollie Donan
  6. User:Lmd08/sandbox (Princeton Tiger Mascot)
In addition a number of articles were expanded.
  1. Lisa Brown-Miller Coaching details added
  2. The Princeton Tigers page gained the addition of:
  • Women’s Golf
  • Golf
  • First football game

Two photos from the editing were also added to Wikimedia Commons

We count this edit-a-thon as yet another success and plans are being made for future events that will include undergraduates in learning more about Wikipedia and editing.

Princeton Alumni Weekly writer Brett Tomlinson was a participant in our event and has also written here about his experience.