Building the ship while sailing it: Evolving workflows at WSUL Digital Collections

From images of the first human-to-human heart transplant performed in the United States to photographs taken for the Detroit News between 1860 and 1980, the Wayne State University Libraries Digital Collections is a treasure trove of digital images, texts, and audio visual materials. At present the 47,000 items in the collection amount to about three terabytes of data, but Graham Hukill, Cole Hudson, Amelia Mowry and others working in concert with staff at the Walter P. Reuther Library and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) expect that to grow to twenty terabytes in the near future.

As the WSUL Digital Collections team anticipates ingesting new digital files from both the Reuther Library and the DPLA, they are looking for new ways to better manage the process and to meet the standards required of a trustworthy digital repository. Not satisfied with the existing solutions, Hukill and company have been testing new workflows and processes. He described where the team began and where they are headed in a candid presentation to the student chapter of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance at WSU School of Library and Information Science on Saturday, April 29, 2017.

In the presentation, Hukill outlined the multistep process required to move an object described in ArchiveSpace through digitization, file preservation, translation to searchable formats, and finally into a user-friendly interface. The team has struggled with how to define content models for different kinds of digital files and with how to represent the relationships between digital files and collections to end users.

For a more complete picture of the processes the team explored, the problems they’ve encountered, and the progress they’ve made, please view the full presentation at:

Digital Collections Presentation & Meeting, April 29, 2017

Presentation: Two Sides of a Coin: Digital Collections of the Digital Repository

Date: Saturday, April 29, 2017
Time: 2 p.m.

Presenters:  Cole Hudson and Graham Hukill, both from the Digital Publishing Unit of the Wayne State University Library Systems.

The Wayne State Library system contains not only books and journal articles, both digital and physical copies, but it also contains rare manuscripts, books and special collections, as well as archival collections. The presentation will focus on how these collections go from being digital items to an online presence available for patron viewing.

The NDSA chapter meeting will follow the workshop. We will be discussing potential tours for the summer and different summer project ideas.

You can join the meeting in person at Kresge Library, Room 315 or virtually at:

All SLIS students are welcome!

Before the Metadata

Writing metadata that describes born digital content is a topic of much discussion in the digital preservation world, but before that metadata can be written a digital image file must be readied for ingest. That’s where Paul Neirink, Digital Resources Specialist at the Reuther Library comes in. On Saturday, February 25, 2017, Paul brought a box full of outdated data hardware to the NDSA chapter meeting to demonstrate disk imaging preservation techniques.

Watch the recording of Paul’s presentation here. Presentation begins at minute 4:30.

Floppy disks, CDs and other older data storage units are not preservation-quality formats and it’s important to extract the information contained on them quickly and without altering any of the creation data associated with it. Paul typically begins by researching the hardware used to create the source files such as an internal hard drive, zip disk drive, 3 ½ inch disk drive, etc. Using a variety of adapters, he links the drive to his computer and then opens a command-line tool such as ExifTool. Through trial and error, he manually structures output so an exact copy of the disk image is in a format ready to be ingested by a digital repository.

Here are two articles Paul referenced during his talk:

What Does It Take to Be a Well-rounded Digital Archivist?

Digital Archeology and Forensics

February 2017 Workshop & Meeting

The next meeting of the WSU student chapter of NDSA will be:

Date: Saturday, Febrary 25, 2017

Time: 2 p.m.

Workshop: What’s in the Box?

Presenter:  Paul Neirink, Digital Resources Specialist at the Reuther Library

As archivists and digital practitioners, we will encounter numerous formats that we may not recognize or be able to identify. In this workshop, we’ll examine a box of potentially obsolete digital storage devices and discuss how best to identify, retrieve, and preserve the digital objects they contain.

The NDSA chapter meeting will follow the workshop. We will be discussing possible colloquium topics for an event being planned for spring/fall 2017.


You can join the meeting in person at Kresge Library, Room 302 or virtually at:
All SLIS students are welcome!