Building a Digital Curation Workstation with BitCurator

July 17, 2013, 15:30 | Centennial Room, Nebraska Union

This poster builds on the recent report from the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) titled “You’ve Got to Walk Before You Can Run: First Steps for Managing Born-Digital Content Received on Physical Media” (Erway, 2012). The report identifies eleven specific steps archivist can follow to safely and effectively process born-digital content. This poster considers the hardware needs of archivists and scholars as they look to implement the OCLC’s recommendations by offering a model born-digital curation workstation using readily available PC hardware and a suite of free and open source tools being developed and extended by the BitCurator project. It also offers a use-case demonstrating why such a workstation is a valuable asset for a working digital humanities center.

While a number of commercial solutions are available to aid in processing and curating born-digital collections, the cost of these solutions are frequently beyond the means of libraries and archives at smaller institutions (Kirschenbaum et al, 2010). BitCurator helps ameliorate these obstacles by making available a suite of open source digital forensics tools that run on industry standard PC hardware. The use of standard hardware and open source tools lowers the cost of entry to born-digital curation, thereby enabling more institutions to begin processing their born-digital collections.

The poster offers a best practices example of how to build a digital curation workstation. In conjunction with basic system hardware, a digital curation workstation requires a wide range of media access devices. Some of these devices, such as flash drive readers and DVD/CD-ROM drives, are readily available and come standard on most desktop PCs. However, older media devices, such as 3.5" and 5.25" disk drives, can be more difficult to find and integrate into a present-day computer. In addition, older media may not be formatted for a file system that is recognized by current operating systems, so part of this poster will include instructions on how to use the USB based FC5025 5.25" drive controller to access data across a range of file formats.

While this poster presentation offers practical solutions to some of the challenges of digital curation, it is also intended to promote serious inquiry into the need for the preservation of our digital heritage. In fact, much early work in the digital humanities may be in need of reclamation through tools such as those described above, as was the case recently at MITH with the Shelley-Godwin Archive. That project extends textual analysis work done by Neil Fraistat in the late 1980s on Percy Shelley’s poems and manuscripts. However, that early work was done on a PC running MS-DOS and saved as WordPerfect 4.2 files on 5.25” disks. Using the digital curation workstation described in this poster, we were able to access the floppy disks, download the original files onto a flash drive, and then convert them into the current Word format, all while preserving the original notations. This example illustrates the need for effective and accessible tools for the preservation and recovery of our digital past, both in terms of scholarship and born-digital culture. This poster will enable other digital humanists to take advantage of the work that is being done in the field of digital curation to help preserve and extend their own research for future generations of scholars.


Erway, R. (2012). You’ve Got to Walk Before You Can Run: First Steps for Managing Born-Digital Content Received on Physical Media. OCLC Research.
Kirschenbaum, M. G., R. Ovenden, and G. Redwine (2010). Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections. Council on Library and Information Resources.
Lee, C. A., M. Kirschenbaum, A. Chassanoff, P. Olsen, and K. Woods (2012). BitCurator: Tools and Techniques for Digital Forensics in Collecting Institutions. D-Lib Magazine 18: 5-6.