Curation Junction, What's your Function? Defining What it Means to Do Digital Curation in Order to Teach It

Christopher (Cal) Lee, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Proceedings of the 2009 Annual Conference of the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE)
[Updated June 17, 2009 to replace missing row in Table 3]


Information professionals are increasingly responsible for taking care of digital collections across their full life - from pre-creation design and planning to provision of access, potentially over long time scales. The activities required to fulfill these responsibilities, often labeled "digital curation," can occur within various professional, disciplinary, institutional, or organizational contexts. Graduate library and information science programs are uniquely positioned to prepare professionals who will be responsible for digital curation, but this will require new curricula and educational offerings, which may cut across traditional professional boundaries.

The DigCCurr (Digital Curation Curriculum) and DigCCurr II projects are developing conceptual frameworks, educational offerings, professional field experiences and doctoral-level research opportunities, in order to prepare the next generation of digital curation professionals. One of the fundamental activities of DigCCurr is a detailed elaboration of the components of digital curation - i.e. what it means to "do" digital curation. Based on collection and analysis of data from numerous sources (documents, surveys, interviews), we have developed a Matrix of Topics for a Digital Curation Curriculum.

This paper will summarize the motivation, methodology and data that have served as the basis for the DigCCurr matrix and will explain the components of the matrix, which is based on six dimensions: mandates, values and principles; functions and skills; professional, disciplinary or institutional/organizational context; type of resource; prerequisite knowledge; and transition point in the information continuum. This paper places strong emphasis on the second dimension: functions and skills. What do our numerous data sources suggest the next generation of digital curation professions will need to do, and what are the implications for educators at schools that prepare information professionals?


Information professionals are increasingly responsible for taking care of digital collections across their full life - from pre-creation design and planning to provision of access, potentially over long time scales. The activities required to fulfill these responsibilities, often labeled "digital curation," can occur within various professional, disciplinary, institutional, or organizational contexts (e.g. social science data archive in a university, a corporation's collection of scanned documents, state archives, private art museum, independent research center). Graduate library and information science programs are uniquely positioned to prepare professionals who will be responsible for digital curation, but this will require new curricula and educational offerings, which may cut across traditional professional boundaries.


The DigCCurr (Digital Curation Curriculum) and DigCCurr II projects at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC SILS) are developing conceptual frameworks, educational offerings, professional field experiences and research opportunities, in order to prepare the next generation of digital curation professionals. One of the fundamental activities of DigCCurr is a detailed elaboration of the components of digital curation - i.e. what it means to "do" digital curation. Based on collection and analysis of data from numerous sources (documents, surveys, interviews), we have developed a Matrix of Topics for a Digital Curation Curriculum. Both projects are funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

DigCCurr brings together an Advisory Board of experts from Australia, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The grant includes funding for a set of Carolina Digital Curation Fellows who entered the masters program at SILS in fall 2007. Repositories at UNC are providing practical experience opportunities for the Fellows. We hosted an international conference in April 2007 (DigCCurr2007) and will host another international conference in April 2009 (DigCCurr2009), in order to advance awareness of and promote professional interchange around digital curation issues.

Motivation and Background

The past several decades have witnessed numerous advances in the management, preservation and dissemination of digital resources. There have been many distinct streams of activity that address parts of the puzzle or particular types of materials, e.g. computer science, archival administration, records management, librarianship, data engineering, electronic discovery, digital forensics, museum curation, management of information systems (MIS). In approximately the past ten years, individuals engaged in many of the individual streams of activity have increasing come to recognize that there are a common set of challenges and opportunities that they share. The term "digital curation" has recently come into use, which reflects increasing confluence of previously distinct communities. Elizabeth Yakel offers a definition of digital curation that is very consistent with the working definition of the DigCCurr project:

The active involvement of information professionals in the management, including the preservation, of digital data for future use [13].

Within this broad scope, the overall question that drives the DigCCurr project is: What knowledge and competencies do professionals need in order to do digital curation work?

Methodology and Data

We are collecting a diverse set of data. Our research design is iterative, with numerous opportunities to gain feedback on and revise both our findings and curriculum materials. Our approach is to blend models, guidance documents and theoretical frameworks concerning digital curation and preservation with insights from practitioners who are creating curation processes in their repositories. By exploring what the first generation of digital curation professionals are doing and discussing presssing challenges with scholars in the field, we are developing a proposed body of knowledge, skills, and perspectives for educational programs to provide to their students. We recognize that a digital curation curriculum can never be considered finalized but must instead change in relationship to the world it serves.

Documentary Sources

We are obtaining and analyzing a variety of documentary sources. We have carried out, and continue to supplement, a detailed review of existing literature relevant to digital curation and digital curation education. We have qualitatively coded syllabi of courses being offered at UNC SILS, using the Matrix of Topics for a Digital Curation Curriculum (described below) as the basis for our coding categories. We have also examined materials from many existing educational offerings outside of UNC SILS.

Interviews with Domain Experts

The 17 members of the DigCCurr Advisory Board have served as valuable sources of data and guidance. We conducted semi-structured interviews with all Board members, gaining their insights on the following issues:

We recorded all interviews and qualitatively coded the transcripts. We gained further feedback from the interview participants by presenting interview findings at an Advisory Board meeting on April 21, 2007. Advisory Board members were able to extend, clarify, and synthesize their earlier responses.

Participation in Educational Workshops

In addition to reading and analyzing written materials from existing educational offerings, we have also had the opportunity to participate in several workshops, in order to gain insights about scope, content, pedagogical design and implementation.

Table 1 - Educational Workshops Attended to Inform DigCCurr
Date Location Workshop Organizers DigCCurr Participants
July 16-21, 2006 Ithaca, NY Digital Preservation Management: Implementing Short-Term Strategies for Long-Term Problems Cornell University Library Lee, Schaefer, Tibbo
May 21, 2007 Arlington, VA Building Trust in Digital Repositories: Using the DCC Self-Certification Toolkit Digital Curation Centre Tibbo
June 18, 2007 Vancouver, Canada Developing a Digital Libraries Education Program Indiana University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Virginia Tech Hank, Tibbo
June 8-14, 2008 Tirrenia, Italy DELOS Summer School DELOS Association on Digital Libraries, Digital Curation Centre, DigitalPreservationEurope, and Feltrinelli Foundation Hank (participant), Tibbo (participant & lecturer)
July 7-11, August 6-10, 2008 La Jolla, CA Electronic Records Summer Camp Data-Intensive Cyber Environments (DICE) Group, and Society of American Archivists Lee, Tibbo


On April 20, 2007, we administered a questionnaire to participants at the DigCCurr 2007 conference. The instrument surveyed respondents' perceptions in three areas: digital curation challenges, needs, and deficiencies at their local institutions, necessary digital curation curriculum components, and essential digital curation professional competencies. Although there was not a large enough sample of questionnaire respondents (36 total) to report any definitive or generalizable findings, the responses did provide us with a rich set of perspectives. We identified several themes, which served as a basis for further inquiry:

We used the results of the April 2007 questionnaire to design a wider survey of digital curation professionals. In March-April 2008, we distributed a recruitment message to 221 individuals, 55 (25%) of whom completed an online survey that elicited their perspectives on barriers to digital curation; core curriculum competencies and functions; and professional competencies and hiring practices. [12]

Job Postings

We are currently completing analysis of job postings to 9 professional mailing lists that resulted from a query for: ("digital preservation" OR "digital curation" OR "digital collection" OR "digital archive" OR "digital repository" OR "data curation" OR "institutional repository") AND (job OR position OR vacancy). [5] By qualitatively coding the job postings using categories based on the DigCCurr Matrix, we are able to identify the elements that are receiving the most attention from prospective employers.

Ongoing Feedback from Professionals and Students

Throughout the course of the DigCCurr project, we have been disseminating and gaining feedback on project deliverables at a diversity of professional conferences. This has included numerous conference papers and presentations, as well as a tutorial entitled "Digital Curation and Digital Preservation: An Introduction" at the 2007 Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL) and a workshop called "Education for Digital Stewardship: Librarians, Archivists or Curators?" at JCDL 2008. We have also gained experience in implementing the curriculum at UNC SILS, which has provided us both informal day-to-day feedback from students, as well as more formal input through periodic structured evaluation forms that we have asked students to complete as part of courses and Fellowship experiences.

Matrix of Topics for a Digital Curation Curriculum

We have developed a 6-dimensional matrix for identifying and organizing the material to be covered in a digital curation curriculum. Development of the matrix and digital curation curriculum has been founded on several main principles, which we have elaborated in more detail elsewhere [6]:

Table 2 summarizes the six dimensions of the matrix. A given curriculum unit can focus on a dimension in general or specifically as it intersects with one or more other dimensions. For example, one could teach a general unit on digital preservation (main considerations and practices), but one might also want to teach a unit specifically on preservation of video, preservation measures to be applied at the time of digital object creation, preservation in a corporate recordkeeping context, or some combination thereof.

Table 2 - Matrix of Digital Curation Knowledge and Competencies (Version 10)
Dimension Explanation or Elaboration
1. Mandates, Values and Principles  
1.1. Professional Ethics  
1.2. Core Digital Curation Principles & Values
  • Abstraction
  • Accountability
  • Adaptability and Robustness
  • Authenticity
  • Automating and Informating [15] of Tasks
  • Chain of Custody
  • Collection
  • Context
  • Continuum and Lifecycle Orientations
  • Critical Inquiry
  • Diversity
  • Evidence
  • Long Term
  • Openness and Interoperability
  • Provenance
  • Scale and Scalability
  • Significant Properties
  • Stakeholders
  • Trust
1.3. Legal Requirements  
1.4. Standards  
1.5. Interoperability and Sustainability Requirements  
2. Functions and Skills See below for detailed breakdown
3. Professional, Disciplinary or Institutional /Organizational Context Understanding of challenges, opportunities and characteristics of particular disciplines or institutions (e.g. social science data archive in a university, commercial collection of scanned page images, state archives)
3.1. Professional Context  
3.1.1. History of Professional Activities History of activities relevant to digital curation in various streams of work activity:
  • Care and properties of physical media
  • Hardware and software interoperability
  • Long-term management of institutional archives and personal papers
  • Social science data archives
  • Natural and physical science data archives (e.g. earth and space science)
  • Management and provision of access to digital library collections
3.1.2. Professional Development Important elements of and strategies for actively participating in a profession and remaining aware of current state of professional principles and practices (e.g. professional associations, conferences, continuing education)
3.2. Disciplinary Context  
3.3. Institutional/Organizational Context  
3.3.1. Characteristics of Information and Record Creating Environments  
4. Type of Resource  
4.1. Level of Aggregation
  • Component
  • Object
  • Collection
4.2. Level of Abstraction
  • Work
  • Expression
  • Manifestation
  • Item
4.3. Medium
  • Magnetic
  • Optical
4.4. Format  
4.5. Genre  
5. Prerequisite Knowledge  
5.1. Terminology All areas of the curriculum will introduce new terminology to students. This item in the table of topics is
intended to call out fundamental terminology that might not be addressed elsewhere. See e.g. glossaries of
the professional associations such as SAA.
5.2. Characteristics of Technologies  
5.2.1. Definitions of Technology Exposure to various definitions of technology. Recognition that technology is much more than the latest
computer gadgets (includes simple artifacts such as paper, as well as social processes and expectations).
5.2.2. History and evolution of ICTs General Patterns and Lessons Main lessons from studies of technology (e.g. unexpected consequences, importance of social context,
rejection of technological determinism, values/norms and processes being embedded in technology) Specific Developments and
Generations of Technology
Basic understanding of the evolution of ICTs, such as:
  • From purpose-built computers to mainframes, time sharing, minicomputers, personal computers, client-server, mobile devices
  • Dominant storage technologies from given eras
  • History of the Internet
5.2.3. Essential Characteristics and
Elements of Current and Emerging ICT
    Abstraction and virtualization (e.g. emulation, virtual machines, virtual name spaces)
  • Compression
  • Data structures and data types
  • Databases
  • Encryption
  • File formats
  • File Systems
  • Identifiers for digital objects
    • Commonly used identifiers (e.g. file names, URLs)
    • Promising approaches for persistent identifiers
    • Differences between local and global identifiers
  • Images (vector, raster)
  • Markup languages (including XML)
  • Models and modeling
    • Entity-relationship and object-oriented approaches
    • Types of models (e.g. functional, data flow)
  • Networks
  • Operating Systems
  • Programming
  • Roles and differences between source code, compilers, interpreters, machine instructions
  • Role and relationships of main hardware components
  • Security
  • Storage media and systems - operation and characteristics (magnetic and optical)
  • Standards
    • Roles of standards – both within the computer industry and for digital curation
    • Types of standards
    • Standards development process
6. Transition Point in Information
  • Pre-Creation Design and Planning
  • Creation
  • Primary Use Environment (Active Use)
  • Transfer to Archives
  • Archives (Preservation Environment)
  • Transfer Copies or Surrogates to Secondary Use Environment
  • Secondary Use Environment

The matrix has been iteratively developed, based on data sources and feedback mechanisms described above. The matrix is a tool for thinking about, planning for, identifying and organizing the digital curation curriculum. It is also helping us to address issue of core vs. specialized (optional) educational elements.

Digital Curation Functions and Skills

The elaboration of digital curation functions and skills has been the main focus of our matrix development and fundamental to the DigCCurr curriculum development. 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 in Table 3. Each is then composed of many sub-functions.

Note: Table 3 does not 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. Digital curation activities can take place in a diversity of organizational settings. For purposes of simplicity and consistency, we have use the term "Archive" to refer to the entity that is responsible for long-term management, preservation and dissemination of digital objects.

Table 3 - Main Digital Curation Functions (Version 15)
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 in Table 4.

Table 4 - Meta-Level Functions (Version 15)
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

Building the Functions into the Curriculum at UNC SILS

In addition to developing products to be used by digital curation educators and professionals more broadly, the DigCCurr project is also developing and setting the groundwork for a digital curation curriculum at UNC SILS. As a test bed for the curriculum, we confront a number of challenges and opportunities. Our analysis of course syllabi at SILS has identified a large number of valuable elements relevant to digital curation, which are already being taught in our school. We have also been fortunate to have a complementary Digital Library Curriculum Project currently underway at UNC SILS and Virginia Tech [14]. We continue to analyze the existing UNC SILS curriculum to determine opportunities and potential areas of revision or expansion. We are also looking to other course offerings at UNC and nearby institutions. In the past two years, we have been translating our conceptual products into more specific decisions about course expectations for the Digital Curation Fellows and other UNC SILS students interested in pursing careers in digital curation.

We are developing modules on specific topics; many are based on content developed by UNC SILS faculty and several others are based on content developed by outside experts who have served as guest lecturers in specialized digital curation seminars that we have organized. Once completed, the modules will be shared through the Web. We have also developed entirely new classes to address areas of recognized need, based on the DigCCurr Matrix. We developed an introductory seminar for the Digital Curation Fellows (Fall 2008), two digital curation special-topics seminars (Spring 2007, Spring 2008), and a new course called Understanding Information Technology for Managing Digital Collections (Fall 2008). In collaboration with the Data Intensive Cyber Environments (DICE) group, who have recently joined the UNC SILS faculty, we will offer a course on iRODS Rule Construction (Spring 2009), which will provide students and area professionals with hands-on experience with development of rules-based data grid environments.

The DigCCurr grant from IMLS is funding five Carolina Digital Curation Fellows, who are building on what they learn in the curriculum by participating in practical field experiences designed by a set of campus project partners. The field experiences are providing Fellows with the opportunity to contribute to the management of a wide range of digital objects including public records, cultural heritage assets, teaching materials, and research data. The Fellowships are helping us to integrate the curriculum and experiential components, advertise the existence of the program at UNC SILS, draw attention to the need for digital curation, and provide an essential empirical testing ground for the viability and appropriateness of the curriculum content in specific contexts. Two of the partner sites have realized so much value from the IMLS-funded Fellows that they have decided to fund additional Digital Curation Fellows through their own budgets (four new Fellows in the 2008-2009 academic year).

Open Questions and Future Work

The DigCCurr project has provided us the opportunity to develop and enhance our understanding of the knowledge and skills required for digital curation. There are five persistent and fundamental questions for educators and others responsible for curriculum development:

  1. What should students learn in the classroom as part of a formal educational program?
  2. What should students learn from practical field experiences?
  3. What should they know before engaging in professional education (pre‐requisite knowledge)?
  4. What should they learn after leaving school (continuing education)?
  5. What research is still necessary, in order to develop and convey appropriate professional practices in digital curation?

UNC SILS has received a second grant from the IMLS, DigCCurr II: Extending an International Digital Curation Curriculum to Doctoral Students and Practitioners for 2008-2012. It is focusing directly on the last two questions, by developing curriculum and Fellowship opportunities for doctoral students, and providing summer institutes for continuing education of professionals. Professional education is a process that is never completed. This is particularly true in the dynamic and rapidly evolving field of digital curation. We look forward to continuing engagement with students, scholars and allied professionals, as we learn together what digital curation means and what is required to do it well.


This work was supported through IMLS Grant # RE-05-06-0044. I would like to thank the current and past members of the DigCCurr and DigCCurr II teams for their numerous contributions to the projects: Heather Bowden, Rachael Clemens, Amber Cushing, Carolyn Hank, John Schaefer, and Helen Tibbo.


[1] ERA Program Management Information. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Page Last Updated: July 29, 2008.

[2] "Harvesting." In Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1989.

[3] Hedstrom, Margaret, and Christopher A. Lee. "Significant Properties of Digital Objects: Definitions, Applications, Implications." In Proceedings of the DLM-Forum 2002, Barcelona, 6-8 May 2002: @ccess and Preservation of Electronic Information: Best Practices and Solutions, 218-27. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2002.

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

[5] Lee, Christopher A. "What do Job Postings Indicate about Digital Curation Competencies?" Society of American Archivists Research Forum, San Francisco, CA, August 26, 2008.

[6] Lee, Christopher A., Helen R. Tibbo, and John C. Schaefer. "DigCCurr: Building an International Digital Curation Curriculum & the Carolina Digital Curation Fellowship Program." In Archiving 2007: Final Program and Proceedings, May 21-24, 2007, Arlington, VA, edited by Scott A. Stovall, 105-109. Springfield, VA: Society for Imaging Science and Technology, 2007.

[7] Moore, Reagan W. "Building Preservation Environments with Data Grid Technology." American Archivist 69, no. 1 (2006): 139-58.

[8] Moore, Reagan. "Towards a Theory of Digital Preservation." International Journal of Digital Curation 3, no. 1 (2008): 63-75.

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