Texas Digital Library Conference System, 2015 Texas Conference on Digital Libraries

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The Digital Dilemma: Examining the Practicality of Digital Forensics in Cultural Institutions
Angelique K Kelley

Last modified: 2015-04-21


In today’s world, technology has become a vital component of our day-to-day lives; impacting everything from the pictures we take to the ways we communicate to the methods we use to safeguard important pieces of data. It should therefore come as no surprise that many cultural institutions, including galleries, libraries, archives, and museums, have been forced to adapt not only their collection policies but also their preservation methods to accommodate the ever-changing technologies and formats making their way into permanent collections. One technique that has been gaining popularity in recent years is digital forensics, a criminal science approach with a surprising correlation to the needs of cultural institutions with digital content. While digital forensics and cultural institutions share a common need for legal document authentication and controlled archival storage, the question remains: how practical are these techniques for collecting institutions outside of government archives? Is digital forensics to become accepted archival management practice, or are cultural institutions likely to continue their current practices for handling digital materials while still searching for a better solution?

These questions will be explored through an analysis and comparison of BitCurator and Archivematica, common digital forensics software packages currently in use within many cultural institutions. This presentation will review personal experiences with these programs gained through a Fall 2014 internship with the University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries, Special Collections. This internship was undertaken as part of the internship and research writing requirements of the Certificate in Digital Curation program offered at the Johns Hopkins University. Additionally, assessments of current literature on the topic will be evaluated in order to give a big picture image of how digital forensics might be utilized, so that cultural institution personnel can better assess the practicality of digital forensics within any given collection.

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