Beyond the research data: acquiring and preserving the personal archives of Canadian scientists
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In recent years, a great deal of attention has been given to the management and preservation of research data and scholarly publications. National and international initiatives are slowly improving access to the data and publications produced through public research funding. These efforts have given new critical roles to librarians and archivists working to acquire, manage, and preserve information in all disciplines, but especially in the sciences and social sciences. Less attention, however, has been given to the personal archives of researchers who produce this scientific material. Policymakers can mandate the deposit of research data and publications produced through research grants but what then becomes of the ancillary records such as correspondence, gray literature, photographs, media coverage, and teaching material? Do the definitions of “research data” and “publication” define the boundary of scientific archives? What standards and best practices should be applied to the analog and digital personal archives of scientists? This presentation will address these questions and other challenges faced by archivists working with scientific material by considering several case studies from the Dalhousie University Archives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Computer punch tape containing fish and bacteria data collected in the early 1960s was recently re-discovered during a comprehensive collections assessment for digital records. A recent mass digitization project enabled the online dissemination of the personal archives of the late oceans policy expert Elisabeth Mann Borgese. In 2015, web archiving tools were used to capture research data produced by the late Ransom Myers, a world-renowned marine biologist and mathematician. In 2016, the Archives acquired hundreds of floppy disks and several hard drives as part of the personal archives of the late Bill Freedman, an environmental scientist who studied the effects of economic activity on ecosystems and biodiversity in the Canadian Arctic and boreal and temperate forests. These case studies will illustrate the fuzzy boundary of scientific archives and highlight some of the current approaches used by the Dalhousie University Archives to acquire and preserve the personal archives of Canadian scientists, including web archiving, digital forensics, digitization, and standards-based cataloguing and preservation activities. The presentation will underscore the importance of personal archives to the long-term preservation of scientific research data and scholarly publications.
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