The Minds of Carolina Project as Innovation in Academic Exchange and Knowledge Preservation
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The archivist’s skills and standards are an essential part of the process of making digital information available and sustainable over time. Simply creating web pages with embedded text files or images is not archiving and will not result in long-term access or preservation. Backing up hard drives on CD-ROMs is not archiving. If materials are to be preserved and made universally available in a coherent and context-rich environment that will elucidate their content and reveal their creation process, they must be managed and maintained as they would be in an archival repository. Lacking extensive archival resources, we must find ways that facilitate the creator, in this case, the UNC scholar, to be his or her own archivist. Minds of Carolina is about developing tools, methodologies, and guidelines to help scholars prepare their materials, be they initially in analog or digital form, for archiving within the trusted digital repository at UNC. Minds of Carolina is the search for a means to bring the extensive and rich contributions of Carolina faculty to the world and preserve this material for the foreseeable future. Minds of Carolina is an exploration to produce a feasible way to capture the works from the digital incunabula that would otherwise die on individuals’ desktops or on CD-ROMs in a matter of a few years. New advances in information technology and new approaches to archiving will allow faculty who represent the Minds of Carolina to easily and effectively share their experiences and insights with others. Minds of Carolina will place UNC at the forefront of digital preservation and access for scholars and the public alike.
At this time no self-archiving project such as Minds of Carolina exists at any institutions of higher education, but concern for loss of important but inherently ephemeral and fragile faculty contributions is being voiced in a number of arenas. In January 2003 there has been a running thread on the Humanist listserv regarding self-archiving. In a related vein, MIT’s DSpace (www.dspace.org) initiative, launched in the fall of 2002, provides a structured and centralized environment, adaptable to many data formats and distinct research disciplines, in which faculty can deposit materials. While it accommodates a wide variety of formats, MIT’s initial implementation focuses on structured scholarly products such as publications but does not address the need to preserve and present much of the less formal scholarly work that faculty generate throughout their careers, such as drafts, notes, and correspondence. Most significantly, DSpace does not bring archival perspectives and practices to contributors nor does it leverage the skills of library and information science students. DSpace, however, underscores the importance and timeliness of the Minds of Carolina project that seeks to develop a more cost-effective, decentralized, and ubiquitous approach to self-archiving and long-term preservation. Several other universities including Cambridge, Columbia, Cornell, Ohio State, and the universities of Rochester, Toronto and Washington are adopting the MIT model (3).
Minds of Carolina will leverage the expertise of the archival community and the skills, time, and energies of SILS students to assist faculty with the selection, preparation, transformation, and deposit of their materials at the Minds of Carolina repository hosted by ibiblio housed within the School of Information and Library Science. Minds of Carolina is a unique project that will place UNC-Chapel Hill at the forefront of self-archiving initiatives, open access to scholarly information, and serve as a model to the rest of academia. Minds of Carolina will produce a “sharium” (4) or “collaboratorium” that Marchonini and other digital library visionaries discuss while providing a laboratory for SILS students who will work with contributors (5). It seeks to turn cutting edge archival and digital library theory into practice for the benefit of North Carolina, UNC, academia, and the world.