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What Is Digital Curation?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated Jan 29, 2024
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Digital curation is an activity that involves the process of selecting and subsequently preserving a wide variety of digital assets and files. This process can preserve these assets for future generations, facilitate research, or serve a number of other similar purposes. In some cases the act of curation can be seamlessly integrated into activities that generate digital assets, which is a process typically known as sheer curation. Other circumstances typically involve an outside entity which actively seeks out, selects, and preserves various forms of data. The curation process can also involve other activities, such as transferring data to other storage media and devising file systems to facilitate the future use of the data.

Curation is an activity that involves three primary processes. The first process of curation is to select items that will be preserved or placed into a collection. This typically requires a great deal of expertise in a particular subject so that items of lasting value are selected. After items have been placed in a collection, they must then be preserved. Some unique issues, such as obsolete storage systems and the relatively short lifespan of magnetic tape and other media, must be taken into account in digital curation.

The final activity involved in the curation process is typically referred to as presentation. One of the main ways this activity manifests in digital curation is in the creation and management of file systems. In addition to ensuring that the data is not corrupted, altered, or lost, it must be stored in a way that allows it to be easily accessed. One of the important reasons behind digital curation is to facilitate research, so the data has to be organized in a way that scholars, scientists, and others can find what they need when it is required.

There are many different challenges to digital curation, one of which is the difficulty in obtaining data in the first place. Digital curation often takes the form of post hoc preservation, which is an activity that involves gathering digital assets for archival purposes after they are created and used. The concept of sheer curation can remove this barrier because it is designed to automatically archive digital assets when they are created. Since the archival process can have little to no effect on the asset creation process, it may be performed without requiring an excessive amount of extra time or effort.

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