(Déjà vu? This post by Stephen Klein and Polly Thistlethwaite originally appeared on the Graduate Center Library blog.)
An increasing number of dissertations and theses at the Graduate Center include born-digital components framing evidence, commentary, and analysis. How do we document and preserve these components, and, maybe someday, even entire graduate works, in digital format?
The Graduate Center Library, the department in charge of CUNY’s dissertation preservation and distribution, has a special contract with Archive-It, a part of the Internet Archive, and cousin to the Wayback Machine. With Archive-It, we take a snapshot of the digital components – websites, files, data, source code – that accompany a thesis published with the GC Library, preserving all elements of the work in digital amber at that meaningful point in time. Eventually, the Internet Archive’s crawlers might get around to capturing the work, if it is not buried too deeply. But the Archive-It subscription allows library staff to direct crawlers’ in-depth attention to capture the work, at a point we determine, and to preserve this record in perpetuity.
Archive-It Amber @ CUNY
Jonathan Maxwell’s MALS project, a visually vibrant web site, was nicely captured by Archive-It. Jonathan’s site functions exactly as like the ‘live’ site, with the exception of the banner indicating that “you are viewing an archived web page.”
The library also captured David Smey’s supporting files at the day of his dissertation submission. David, a Music graduate, “illustrated” his dissertation with audio and video examples.
Gregory Donovan, a 2013 Psychology graduate, built a participatory social network to collect and analyze data collected for his dissertation. Internet Archive is not (yet) able to capture Gregory’s site’s full functionality — links to the timeline and the Soundcloud recording don’t work. But now that we can be in conversation with the Internet Archive folks, they are investigating these limitations. We believe web archiving capabilities will improve in the near future.
Prof. Steve Brier, the Graduate Center’s Senior Academic Technology Officer and co-founder of the New Media Lab, supports GC students in combining digital work with academic research. He works with students employing a range of technologies — data visualization, digital audio and video, software development, web-based curating and display, and data mining. Contact Prof. Brier to discuss ideas for digital dissertation components. We all look forward to supporting more file varieties and combinations!
If you have a digital component to your thesis or dissertation, and your deposit date is approaching, the GC Library’s Dissertations & Theses deposit guide will direct you to this new form to start the Digital Amber flowing.