Putting the Focus on Practitioners
By Chiara Cirinna (FRD) with Claudia Engelhardt (UGOE)
DigCurV conducted a series of focus groups in five countries in throughout Autumn 2011 to identify the skills and competences needed for digital preservation and curation and discuss the need for vocational education and training in this field. Participants brainstormed ideal job profiles for the varied roles in the digital curation field.
Discussions began with a brief introduction, moving swiftly to the perceived challenges of digital curation and preservation. Participants indicated skills and competences they believed to be necessary for those engaged in digital curation and elaborated on training methods for these skills and competences. The focus also addressed suitable formats for training as well as the relevance of accreditation or certification.
The growth in digital objects requiring long-term preservation has caused a sharp uptick in the emergence of new jobs as well as demand for new skills and competences in more traditional roles. One of the main objectives of the DigCurV project is to design a core curriculum to offer practitioners in the digital curation field a framework for continuous professional development. According to participants, the skills and competences required for digital preservation and curation span a broad spectrum, ranging from technical expertise, IT knowledge and digital preservation-specific skills to social and management skills, knowledge of the organisation, subject domain and library, archival and/or information science.
Participants stated that there is an urgent need for training in digital preservation and curation; IT and technical digital preservation skills were identified as having the greatest need for training. Generic skills, management skills and the ability to train others were also indicated as having a considerable need for training. Participants in Ireland and Lithuania reported a great need for introductory training.
The findings of the focus groups indicated that blended learning, one to two weeklong courses, and short-term courses (2-3 days in length) were the most frequently mentioned formats. Several participants expressed a need for long-terms courses, such as a 1-2 year master’s degree. It was noted by several participants that there is a necessity to augment the curricula of basic professional education and training of cultural heritage professionals to include the integration of digital preservation and curation issues. The majority of focus groups stressed the importance of accreditation or certification.
DigCurV conducted nine focus groups: three in Ireland; two each in the UK and Italy; and one each in Germany and Lithuania. The number of attendees ranged from 3 to 11. The common feature shared by attendees was their involvement in digital preservation in some way, be it as practitioners, managers, researchers or lecturers. Attendees came mainly from the cultural heritage and university sectors, from various types of organisations including libraries, archives, museums and universities. They held positions at different institutional levels from practitioners and managers, through to executives, researchers, lecturers/professor and trainers.
The findings of the focus groups suggest that the development and expansion of training in the field of digital preservation and curation needs to be pushed forward forcefully, now, in order to enable cultural heritage institutions to fulfil their task of preserving our cultural heritage for the long-term.