Digital preservation refers to long-term storage of digital information in an accessible and usable form for several decades or even centuries. The University of Turku has applied and been granted a permission by the Ministry of Education and Culture to store the materials in the Archives of History, Culture and Arts Studies (ACS Archive) to the national Digital Preservation Service for research data (DPS for research data). The University has signed an agreement with CSC – IT Center for Science this week. CSC is responsible for the realisation of the service.
ACS Archive of the University of Turku Accepted to the DPS for Research Data
The University of Turku, like most other universities, does not have reliable digital preservation services of its own. In the long run, devices, programs, and file formats become outdated and change. Reliable digital preservation requires active monitoring of information integrity and anticipation of various risks, and when necessary, refreshing the data in order to ensure its usability. Digital preservation of data requires an appropriate data system and with a national digital preservation service, the archiving needs of several organisations are solved cost-effectively and the future usability of the data is ensured in the long run.
The Ministry of Education and Culture offers and owns the national Digital Preservation Service for research data (DPS for research data) and CSC – IT Center for Science is responsible for its realisation. After hearing the Research Council, the University of Turku chose the ACS Archive as the pilot for the implementation of the DPS for research data and applied for a permission to store its materials in the DPS for research data from the Ministry of Education and Culture. The collections in the ACS Archive are nationally and internationally unique, and the Archive is the largest of its kind in Finland. In 2018 funding call for research data, the ACS Archive received a significant funding for the organisation and maintenance of materials. The funding period is until the end of 2023. Joining and using the DPS for research data is free for the organisation, but the implementation requires staff resources and the funding of the ACS Archive enables the implementation of the DPS for research data. The Ministry of Education and Culture granted the permission to the ACS Archive to store their materials in the DPS for research data at the end of last year, after which the University of Turku began the agreement negotiations and implementation planning with CSC. The agreement was signed between the University of Turku and CSC on 15 Feb 2021.
Unique Collections of the ACS Archive
The ACS Archive began operating at the end of the 1950s when the Department of European Ethnology began collecting and storing data systematically. At the moment, there are materials from several subjects at the School of History, Culture and Arts Studies, but the foundation of the materials is in the collections of European Ethnology, Folkloristics and Comparative Religion. The ASC Archive is a research archive, the materials of which can be used in research, university teaching, museum activities, and on a case-by-case basis according to discretion, in other purposes. A majority of the materials is currently only physically accessible at the facilities of the Archive, but the aim of the digitalisation project enabled by the University’s data funding is to transfer the materials to digital platforms where they are accessible to a wider audience of researchers. One of the most important goals of the digitalisation project is to ensure the long-term preservation of digital data.
– It is vital for the ACS Archive to have its research data in digital preservation. Our collections are significant from the point of view of research and cultural heritage, and their reliable storage must be ensured, emphasises University Teacher Kirsi Hänninen who is responsible for the operation of the ACS Archive.
Digital Preservation Will Be First Ensured for Dálvadas Collection of over 50 Years
In the first phase of the pilot, the materials of the Dálvadas project will be transferred to digital preservation. The Dálvadas materials are from a Saami Folklore Project which is still ongoing. The materials have been collected from the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian Lapland and their main focus is on Dálvadas village along the River Teno in Utsjoki and its nearby villages of Nuvvus, Aittajoki and Porta. The village community lived an isolated life with old traditions. The collection of the data for the Dálvadas project began in 1965, and it is nationally and internationally a significant collection and still actively researched. The collection has different categories, such as “Haunting tradition” and “Seers, Sages, Healers and Witches”.
The Dálvadas collection contains audio files, photos/slides, paper material, and videos. There are altogether 3,500 files in the collection. Metadata has a key role in the materials transferred to digital preservation. The metadata describes the contents, history and origin of the materials as well as how to use the material.
– Collecting the materials transferred to digital preservation and checking and creating the metadata has been the most laborious phase of the implementation of the DPS for research data. It is also extremely important to ensure that the data remains usable for centuries, notes Project Researcher Heli Syrjälä from the ACS Archive.
After the implementation of the DPS for research data, the metadata of the materials will become available in the research data catalogue of the University of Turku and in the national research database.
After the materials from the Dálvadas project, data that is already in digital form will be transferred to the DPS for research data. The goal is to digitalise and store all the data in physical form to the DPS for research data by the end of 2023. There will be altogether circa 20Tt of digital data in the ACS Archive.
Implementation of the DPS for research data has required collaboration between several University units. The Research Development and Legal Affairs units of the Development Services at the University of Turku in particular have been working in close collaboration to advance this project. The IT Services have had the main responsibility of the technical implementation of the service. CSC has offered excellent support and guidance in the implementation process.
Digital Preservation Makes Research Data at the University of Turku More Openly Accessible
The University can apply for more storage capacity to the DPS for research data from the Ministry of Education and Culture. After the pilot phase, digital preservation will become available for other data requiring long-term storage at the University of Turku.
– The development of the University's data management is one of the development targets in the University’s research infrastructure. Ensuring the digital preservation of important research data enables the reuse of scientific knowledge which in turn advances impact and the realisation of the principles of open science in accordance with the University’s Strategy. Ensuring the locatability and accessibility of research data also provides the basis for all research, but for multidisciplinary research in particular, says Vice Rector Kalle-Antti Suominen from the University of Turku.