CASE Projects

CASE Projects

Teaching Resources

Computational Archival Science

Computational Practices

Data Practices

The nature of how data are collected, created, analyzed, and shared is rapidly changing primarily due to advancements in computational technologies.

Modeling and Simulation Practices

The ability to create, refine, and use models of archival phenomena is a central practice… Models can include flowcharts and diagrams.

Computational Problem Solving Practices

Problem solving is central to archival inquiry.

Systems Thinking Practices

Systems thinking analyses… focus on an inclusive examination of how the system and its constituent parts interact and relate to one another as a whole.

Archival Tasks

Domain 1: Selection, Appraisal, and Acquisition

  • Task 1: Identify sources of archival materials by applying knowledge about record creators to determine records appropriate for acquisition.
  • Task 2: Establish, maintain, and keep a record of communication(s) with creators and/or potential donors of archival materials.
  • Task 3: In determining the acquisition of archival materials, identify and evaluate record characteristics.
  • Task 4: Appraise archival materials for their enduring value and long-term retention.
  • Task 5: Implement disposition recommendations or decisions through legal instruments retention schedules, deeds of gift, purchase contracts, deposit agreements, and other instruments.
  • Task 6: Promote cooperative acquisition and disposition strategies.

Domain 2: Arrangement and Description

  • Task 1: Analyze the existing arrangement and description of archival materials and make decisions about any further arrangement and description that may be necessary.
  • Task 2: Design and implement an arrangement plan to either perfect the existing arrangement or establish a new one.
  • Task 3: Design and implement a descriptive plan to identify and explain the structure, context, and content of archival materials to promote their accessibility.

Domain 3: Reference Services and Access

  • Task 1: Define the information needs of users and keep abreast of current research trends and strategies.
  • Task 2: Develop policies and procedures designed to serve the information needs of various user groups, based on evaluation of institutional mandates and constituencies, the nature of the collections, relevant laws and ethical considerations, and appropriate technologies.
  • Task 3: Respond appropriately to user requests by providing information about and from archival materials and providing access to archival materials, making copies, referring to other sources, or providing an explanation for denying the request.
  • Task 4: Develop policies and procedures for assessing reference and access services for evaluation and planning purposes.

Domain 4: Preservation and Protection

  • Task 1: Analyze the current condition of archival materials including the devices and media on which they are preserved to determine appropriate preservation priorities and actions.
  • Task 2: Develop and adopt strategies and proper technologies for preservation; make and implement appropriate preservation and conservation decisions about reformatting, handling techniques, laboratory treatments, and referrals to technical experts.
  • Task 3: Apply best practices for long-term storage of archival materials including proper containers, encasements, shelving, storage facilities, environmental controls, and digital preservation requirements
  • Task 4: Ensure the security of archival materials regardless of format from damage, destruction, theft, unauthorized access, and other forms of loss.
  • Task 5: Prepare and implement procedures for disaster prevention, response, and recovery.

Domain 5: Outreach, Advocacy, and Promotion

  • Task 1: Promote the use of archival materials and awareness of the collections to diverse communities through public outreach and educational programming.
  • Task 2: Develop relationships with key constituents, stakeholders, and communities to broaden and diversify support for the archival program.
  • Task 3: Develop and participate in programs that draw directly on archival materials to support such activities as exhibitions, conferences, publications, and editorial projects.
  • Task 4: Develop and participate in efforts to market archival collections and repositories to multiple constituencies.

Domain 6: Managing Archival Programs

  • Task 1: Develop a strategic vision for an archival program, establish priorities, continually assess progress toward that vision, and make adjustments as environments and resources change.
  • Task 2: Assess staffing needs, recruit appropriate personnel, and train staff; support professional development; and ensure that the staff works together to fulfill the archives’ mission.
  • Task 3: Assess financial performance and participate fully in budget processes and effective resource management.
  • Task 4: Identify facility, equipment, and technological needs and prepare and implement plans to meet those needs.
  • Task 5: Create policies, standards, and procedures that define and facilitate the range of activities in archival programs.
  • Task 6: Use appropriate technologies to manage archival programs and collaborate with other allied professions, inside and outside parent institutions, to ensure that the archival record is preserved.

Domain 7: Professional, Ethical, and Legal Responsibilities

  • Task 1: Maintain professional awareness of current issues in the field of archival history, theory, and practice by reading professional literature, attending conferences, and participating in continuing education and professional exchanges.
  • Task 2: Contribute to the development of the archival profession through research, publishing, presentations, and advocacy.
  • Task 3: Knowledge about statutory or other legal authorities and professional standards and act appropriately with respect to archival materials.
  • Task 4: Conform to professional and ethical standards and promote best practices.

Data are collected through observation and measurement. Computational tools play a key role in gathering and recording a variety of data across many different archival endeavors. Computational tools can be useful in different phases of data collection, including the design of the collection protocol, recording, and storage.

The increasingly computational nature of working with archival data underscores the importance of developing computational thinking practices in the classroom. Part of the challenge is teaching students that answers are drawn from the data available. In many cases archivists use computational tools to generate data… at scales that would otherwise be impossible.

Computational tools make it possible to efficiently and reliably manipulate large and complex archival holdings. Data manipulation includes sorting, filtering, cleaning, normalizing, and joining disparate datasets.

There are many strategies that can be employed when analyzing data for use in an archival context, including looking for patterns or anomalies, defining rules to categorize data, and identifying trends and correlations.

Communicating results is an essential component of understanding archival data and computational tools can greatly facilitate that process. Tools include both conventional visualizations such as graphs and charts, as well as dynamic, interactive displays.

Computational models that demonstrate specific ideas or phenomena can serve as powerful learning tools. Students can use computational models to deepen their understanding of archival science.

Computational models can be used to test hypotheses and discover solutions to problems. They make it possible to test many different solutions quickly, easily, and inexpensively before committing to a specific approach.

Students who have mastered this practice will be able to articulate the similarities and differences between a computational model and the phenomenon that it is modeling.

Part of taking advantage of computational power… is designing new models that can be run on a computational device. Students… will be able to define the components of the model, describe how they interact, decide what data will be produced by the model.

An important practice… is the ability to create new or extend existing computational models. This requires being able to encode the model features in a way that a computer can interpret.

While some problems naturally lend themselves to computational solutions, more often, problems must be reframed so that existing computational tools can be utilized. Strategies for doing this include decomposing problems into subproblems, reframing new problems into known problems for which computational tools already exist, and simplifying complex problems so the mapping of problem features onto computational solutions is more accessible.

Enabling students to explore archival problems using computational problem solving practices such as programming, algorithm development, and creating computational abstractions. The ability to encode instructions in such a way that a computer can execute them is a powerful skill for investigating archival problems. Programs include ten-line Python scripts.

Students who have mastered this practice will be able to articulate the pros and cons of using various computational tools and be able to make an informed, justifiable decision.

When there are multiple approaches to solving a problem, or multiple solutions to choose from, it is important to be able to assess the options and make an informed decision about which route to follow. Even if two different approaches produce the same correct result, there are other dimensions that should be considered when choosing a solution or approach such as cost, time, durability, extendibility, reusability, and flexibility.

Students who have mastered this practice will be able to develop solutions that consist of modular, reusable components and take advantage of the modularity of their solution in both working on the current problem and reusing pieces of previous solutions when confronting new challenges.

The ability to create and use abstractions is used constantly across archival science undertakings, be it creating computational abstractions when writing a program, generating visualizations of data to communicate an idea or finding, defining the scope or scale of a problem or creating models to further explore or understand a given phenomenon.

Troubleshooting broadly refers to the process of figuring out why something is not working or behaving as expected. There are a number of strategies one can employ while troubleshooting a problem, including clearly identifying the issue, systematically testing the system to isolate the source of the error, and reproducing the problem so that potential solutions can be tested reliably.

Students who have mastered this practice will be able to pose questions about, design and carry out investigations on, and ultimately interpret and make sense of, the data gathered about a system as a single entity... Computational tools such models and simulations are especially useful in such investigations.

Computational tools are useful for conducting such inquiry as they can provide learners with controls for isolating different elements, investigating their behaviors, and exploring how they interact with other components of the system.

Students who have mastered this practice will be able to identify different levels of a given system, articulate the behavior of each level with respect to the system as a whole, and be able to move back and forth between levels, correctly attributing features of the system to the appropriate level.

Students who have mastered this practice will be able to communicate information they have learned about a system in a way that makes the information accessible to viewers who do not know the exact details of the system from which the information was drawn.

Students who have mastered this practice will be able to define the boundaries of a system so that they can then use the resulting system as a domain for investigating a specific question as well as to identify ways to simplify an existing system without compromising its ability to be used for a specified purpose.