By Elizabeth Yakel

Our nation has a rapidly growing need for professionals who can manage and preserve the ever-increasing amounts of digital information being generated daily. A just-concluded four-year grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services enabled me and my co-Principal Investigator Paul Conway to develop a program that provided local and national internship opportunities for practical experience in digital preservation. Over the course of the project, 78 UMSI master’s students participated in “Engaging Communities to Foster Internships for Preservation and Digital Curation.”

Elizabeth Yakel

Professor Elizabeth Yakel is principal investigator of the “Engaging Communities to Foster Internships for Preservation and Digital Curation” project.

This program has involved partnerships with some of the top digital preservation organizations in the U.S., including the Center for Research Libraries, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Internet Archive, the LOCKSS Program at Stanford University, OCLC Research, the Smithsonian Institution Archives, Florida Center for Library Automation (now the Florida Virtual Campus), The Henry Ford, Portico, and MediaPreserve. Here at the university, we have placed students as interns with the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, the U-M Library, and the Bentley Historical Library.

While our students gained hands-on experience at these sites, many also made valuable contributions to their hosts’ organizations. For example, during his 2009 U-M Library/Hathi Trust internship, Michael Shallcross (MSI ’10) noted that the digital repository lacked a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. His report, “HathiTrust is a Solution: The Foundations of a Disaster Recovery Plan for the Shared Digital Repository,” provided the impetus for the organization to initiate a disaster planning project.

In 2012, MSI student Jamin Koo and a student from the Florida Virtual Campus collaborated on “PDF to PDF/A,” a conversion project that resulted in an award-winning poster for iPres 2012, a digital preservation conference.

Another goal of the grant project was to offer digital preservation expertise to local organizations. Over the past four years, students have worked on digitization projects at the Michigan Theater, the U-M Law Library, and the Ypsilanti Historical Society, among other sites.

Second-year MSI student Alison Bailey interned at the University of Michigan Dearborn’s Mardigian Library, examining preservation metadata for the Voice, Vision and Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive. Jesse Johnston (MSI ’12) worked at Michigan State University’s digital humanities center, Matrix, focusing on digital preservation of the American Black Journal. He presented a poster about his work at the Society of American Archivists 2011 annual meeting.

Throughout the project, the on-site mentors praised the U-M master’s students as bright, flexible, and creative in solving problems and overcoming obstacles. Students were able to work as digital curators or preservationists and develop skills to complement their classroom experience. While the project is over, we continue to place students in digital preservation internships and are always looking for more opportunities in this area. You can read more about the project and the students’ internship products.