Title: Functions and Skills (Dimension 2 of Matrix of Digital Curation Knowledge and Competencies)
Author: Christopher (Cal) Lee, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Draft: June 18, 2009 (Version 18)
Project: DigCCurr (IMLS Grant # RE-05-06-0044)

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 3.0 License

The table below summarizes digital curation functions and skills, which are the second dimension of the DigCCurr Matrix. This dimension addresses digital curation "know how," as opposed to the conceptual, attitudinal or declarative knowledge that dominates several of the other matrix dimensions. Functions and skills are essential -- though often quite challenging -- for educators to address. We have identified 24 high-level functions or function categories, which are listed below. Each is then composed of many sub-functions.

Note: This table does not yet list the sources for the specific functions and sub-functions, except for when: (1) the definition includes a direct quotation from a source, or (2) the definition uses specialized terminology from the Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS), in which case the reader is referred to the OAIS for definition of those terms. A version of the table that lists the sources, as well as numerous explanatory footnotes, is available from the DigCCurr project site, and we are in the process of adding the full set of sources to this document. Digital curation activities can take place in a diversity of organizational settings. For purposes of simplicity and consistency, we have used the term "Archive" to refer to the entity that is responsible for long-term management, preservation and dissemination of digital objects.

Function or Function Category Definition/Explanation First-Level Sub-Functions
Access Making digital resources available to Consumers.
  • Coordination of access activities
  • Delivery of responses
  • Exposure
  • Generation of access collections
  • Generation of Dissemination Information Package (DIP)
  • Information discovery
  • Information retrieval
  • Legal discovery
  • Viewing
Administration Control, coordination and oversight of day-to-day digital curation operations.
  • Activation of requests
  • Archival information update
  • Assign responsibilities
  • Budgeting and resource allocation
  • Communications
  • Customer service
  • Deliberation process
  • Establishing standards, policies and rules
  • Facilities management and planning
  • Human resource management
  • Implementing and enforcing standards, policies and rules
  • Leadership
  • Management of system configuration
  • Management of and response to challenges or complaints
  • Managing relationships between Administration and Management
  • Monitoring and proof of compliance with standards, policies and rules
  • Monitor changes in warrant
  • Planning
  • Project management
  • Review and update of standards, policies and rules
  • Organizational change management
  • Risk management
  • Security
  • Statistical analysis to support operations
Advocacy & Outreach Activities aimed at influencing systems or behavior outside of the Archive.
  • Engagement with local community
  • Negotiation for resources
  • Outreach and public programming
  • Standards development
  • Understanding and promoting Archive's role within the larger institutional context
Analysis & Characterization of Digital Objects/Packages Identifying and documenting the properties of digital objects/packages that are relevant the ongoing curation and use of the objects/packages. This includes identification of significant properties, which are "properties of digital objects that affect their quality, usability, rendering, and behaviour" [3]
  • Characterization of digital objects within information package
  • Characterization of information package
Analysis & Evaluation of Producer Information Environment This is often done in relation to known benchmarks or standards. It includes assessments of recordkeeping systems and authenticity of documents within those systems. It can also include the analysis of work practices within the producer environment. Focus can be at level of organization/institution, information system (e.g. recordkeeping system), collection, or individual items.
  • Assessment of business activity
  • Assessment of existing systems
  • Identification of digital curation requirements in production environment
  • Preliminary Investigation
Archival Storage "Services and functions used for the storage and retrieval of Archival Information Packages" [9]
  • Disaster planning, preparation and response
  • Ensuring sufficient redundancy of copies
  • Error checking
  • Holdings maintenance
  • Management of storage hierarchy
  • Providing data
  • Receiving data
  • Replacing media
Common Services "Services such as inter-process communication, name services, temporary storage allocation, exception handling, security, and directory services necessary to support" digital curation. [9]
  • Network services
  • Operating system services
  • Security services
Collaboration, Coordination & Contracting with External Actors Initiation, management and cultivation of relationships between the Archive and other entities in the environment (including other Archives).
  • Conflict resolution involving Producers, Consumers and Archives
  • Establishment of succession, contingency or escrow arrangements with external actors
  • Identifying, establishing and coordinating specific types of collaborative relationships with other Archives
  • Management of agreements
  • Negotiation and maintenance of effective relations with external actors
  • Sourcing
Data Management Design and maintenance of the intermediate data structures that are used to manage and provide basic access to digital data. Many of these activities have traditionally been the responsibility of database administrators, with the intermediate data structures being tables in relational databases. However, intermediate data structures in other data management layers/environments can also play a similar role in digital curation and require responsible management, e.g. file systems, Extensible Markup Language (XML) data elements, and catalog data within data grids [7].
  • Administering database
  • Generating reports
  • Linking/resolution services
  • Performing queries
  • Receiving database updates
Description, Organization & Intellectual Control Development, capture and management of descriptive information (DI), preservation description information (PDI) and packaging information (PI) associated with Archival Information Packages (AIPs) [9]. This is at a higher level of abstraction than both Data Management and Archival Storage. It ensures that the data associated with Content Information that is addressed in Data Management, Archival Storage and Access is sufficiently detailed, complete, and accurate.
  • Analyzing existing DI, PDI and PI, and determining needs for DI, PDI and PI
  • Assigning unique, persistent identifiers
  • Creation and capture of DI and PDI
  • Creation and capture of PI
  • Creation and maintenance of representation information registry
  • Creation and maintenance of producer profiles
  • Creation and maintenance of policy/rule registries
  • Creation and maintenance of tools registry and tools service
  • Establishing plans and conventions for DI, PDI and PI
  • Subject analysis
  • Visualization
Destruction & Removal "The process of eliminating or deleting records beyond any possible reconstruction." [4]  
Identifying, Locating & Harvesting Identification, locating and harvesting (i.e. "gathering up" [2]) aggregates of resources, for purposes other than direct and immediate use of the resources.
  • Defining and setting parameters for harvests and file requests
  • Extracting identifier information to determine network locations of resources
  • Harvesting metadata from external sources or
  • Making requests to appropriate locations to collect resources
  • Synchronizing content
Ingest "Services and functions that accept Submission Information Packages from Producers, prepares Archival Information Packages for storage, and ensures that Archival Information Packages and their supporting Descriptive Information become established within" an Archive. [9] Note: The main conceptual boundary between Transfer and Ingest is: getting an object into the archives environment generally, which can include a staging area (Transfer), and the formal incorporation of the object as part of an AIP into the Archive (Ingest).
  • Assigning preservation levels
  • Committing AIPs to the archive
  • Coordinating updates
  • Generating AIPs
  • Matching content with rules and agreements
  • Providing feedback to Producers
  • Receiving submissions
  • Scheduling items in queue to be ingested
Management Activities of the actor(s) who sets overall Archive mandate, policy and resources "as one component in a broader domain of activity." [9]
  • Creation or approval of repository service definition
  • Definition or approval of archives mission, objectives and goals
  • Definition or approval of high-level policies
  • Fund raising
  • Mandate and guidance for resource utilization
Preservation Planning & Implementation "Services and functions for monitoring the environment" and designing, recommending and initiating strategies "to ensure that the information stored in the OAIS remains accessible to the Designated User Community over the long term, even if the original computing environment becomes obsolete." [9]
  • Defining significant properties to preserve
  • Developing packaging designs and migration plans
  • Developing preservation strategies and standards
  • Monitoring designated community
  • Monitoring technology
  • Reconciling preservation requirements with preservation capabilities
Production Appropriate creation of digital objects/packages, either directly (i.e. born digital) or through digitization of analog materials.
  • Assigning to a management class
  • Ensure production is authorized and ethically sound
  • Fixing to a medium
  • Generating digital content
Purchasing & Managing Licenses to Resources Activities that ensure appropriate and timely expenditure of financial resources for software or data required for curation of digital collections.
  • Encumbering and tracking expenditure of funds of purchased and licensed resources
  • Establishing Archives intellectual property rights in support of preservation actions on digital objects
  • Managing licenses
Reference & User Support Services Direct engagement with Consumers, in order help them find, make use of, make sense of, answer questions related to, or perform tasks that rely upon curated information.
  • Developing policies for reference services
  • Facilitating access to useful and appropriate digital objects
  • Help desk and end user technical support
  • Providing associated information to consumers
Selection, Appraisal & Disposition Processes associated with determining what subsets of all possible digital information should be kept, how long they should be kept, and where they should be kept. This includes disposition, which is the determination that, at a particular time or upon the occurrence of a particular event, a digital object or set of digital objects should be either (1) removed out of an operational system and into another one, or (2) destroyed.
  • Deselection
  • Enacting selection, appraisal or disposition
  • Evaluation and monitoring of collections
  • Identifying needs
  • Identifying valuable information resources
  • Making selection, appraisal or disposition decision
  • Selection/collection policy development
Systems Engineering & Development "Systems analysis and development work necessary for IT infrastructure development. It also lends technical assistance to...activities surrounding the acquisition, development, and deployment of advanced IT and communications systems." [1]
  • Analysis
  • Coding, testing and implementation
  • Database analysis
  • Database design and specification
  • Design
  • Interface design
  • Operation and maintenance
  • Requirements Definition
  • Specification
Transfer Moving data from one environment into another.
  • Detachment
  • Getting
  • Putting
Transformation of Digital Objects/Packages Activities that result in a "change of state information" [8] that is considered to be part of a digital object or package. For purposes of digital curation, it is important to attend to (1) the ways in which and the extent to which transformations violate the integrity of state information, (2) whether or not a given transformation is reversible, (3) what transformations are most appropriate to apply at given points in a digital curation workflow, and (4) how to document the nature and rationale behind transformations.  
Use, Reuse & Adding Value to Accessed Information Users acting upon information objects or packages (including after they have received DIPs). The Archive may provide support for use, such as tools that allow client-side visualization of data sets. Users may also provide value-added information (e.g. annotations or tagging), which the Archives then Ingests to ensure persistent access to the information.  
Validation & Quality Control of Digital Objects/Packages Identify component parts and ensure everything expected is present (e.g. compare to included definition file, “packing list,” negotiated agreement, selection criteria).
  • Bitstream checks
  • Component checks
  • Digital object checks
  • Information Package checks
  • Virus checks

We have identified four meta-level functions, which can be applied to any of the functions listed above. The meta-level functions are summarized below.

Category First-Level Sub-Functions
Analysis & Documentation of Curation Functions
  • Monitoring and logging
  • Process mapping
Education and Sharing of Expertise or Guidance on Curation Functions  
Evaluation & Audit of Curation Functions
  • Audit of curation functions
  • Certification of repositories or programs
Research & Development to Support Curation Functions
  • Business process identification and analysis
  • Research methods
  • Supporting and administering research and development
  • User needs analysis and usability assessment


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[4] Information and documentation -- Records management -- Part 1: General. ISO 15489:2001. 2.

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