December 14, 2010—The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) today released a report examining how the cultural heritage community can benefit from methods and tools developed for work in digital forensics.
The report, Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections, was written by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Richard Ovenden, and Gabriela Redwine, with research assistance from Rachel Donahue.
Digital forensics was once specialized to fields of law enforcement, computer security, and national defense, but the growing ubiquity of computers and electronic devices means that digital forensics is now used in a variety of circumstances.
Because most records today are born digital, libraries, archives, and other collecting institutions increasingly receive computer storage media—and sometimes entire computers—as part of their acquisition of "papers." Staff at these institutions face challenges such as accessing and preserving legacy formats, recovering data, ensuring authenticity, and maintaining trust. The methods and tools that forensics experts have developed can be useful in meeting these challenges. For example, the same forensics software that indexes a criminal suspect's hard drive allows the archivist to prepare a comprehensive manifest of the electronic files a donor has turned over for accession.
The report introduces the field of digital forensics in the cultural heritage sector and explores some points of convergence between the interests of those charged with collecting and maintaining born-digital cultural heritage materials and those charged with collecting and maintaining legal evidence.
Kirschenbaum is associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Maryland and associate director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH). Ovenden is associate director and keeper of special collections of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, and a professional fellow at St Hugh's College, Oxford. Redwine is archivist and electronic records/metadata specialist at the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. Donahue is a doctoral student at the University of Maryland's iSchool and research assistant at MITH. The authors conducted their research and writing with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections is available electronically at http://www.clir.org/pubs/abstract/pub149abst.html. Print copies will be available in January for ordering through CLIR's Web site, for $25 per copy plus shipping and handling.