Assistant Professor, College of Information Studies
University of Maryland
Digital collections and projects created by humanities scholars constitute extensive, valuable, scattered bodies of historical and cultural evidence. Born outside of memory institutions, these collections and projects confront major barriers to sustainability. Though many at-risk digital collections and projects are within the scope of preservation missions of institutional libraries and archives, most institutions lack capacity to take in and sustain any more than a narrow swath of digital scholarship. Beyond that, research communities have deep investments in their collections; many seek new models of institutional partnership that keep varying levels of power over and responsibility for collections in the community’s hands. Libraries and archives cannot and should not comprehensively collect and sustain the growing mass of digital community collections. The “Sustaining Digital Community Collections” project aims to develop context-driven sustainability models, which share responsibility for the long-term care of digital projects among libraries and research communities. This project builds on a prior study of digital humanities collections, which found that sustaining digital collections depends on understanding and maintaining idiosyncratic, distributed, collaborative workflows of collection development and maintenance. In order to build sustainable infrastructures for the cultural record in a growing diversity of communities and institutions, we need an understanding of the human and technical workflows on which collections depend. This project is currently developing cases of three digital humanities projects-including a large-scale linked data hub, a unique corpus of Islamicate texts, and a local community archive–to document collaborative workflows of collection development and maintenance and identify roles that libraries and archives may play to help realize community-determined, community-led strategies for sustaining digital collections.