We are at an important moment in the creation and maintenance of research records. The shift from analog to digital records has been entrenched for a generation, but some of the systems that were among the early adopters are now reaching the end of their lifespan. Digital files spread over computers and hard disks are being periodically lost with each new funding cycle.
The eScholarship Research Centre (eSRC) at The University of Melbourne is one institution facing this dilemma. The centre closed in 2020, and the technology underpinning its Online Heritage Resource Manager (OHRM) is no longer maintained. There are many humanities and social sciences (HASS) researchers still using the OHRM, who are now unsure of the future of the massive research investment they have made.
Data relating to more than 1000 projects could be lost if the OHRM’s content is not safely ported to a modernised system. These cultural resources include:
- Find & Connect, which contains history of and information about Australian orphanages, children’s homes and other institutions
- The Australian Women’s Register, Australia’s premier online archival resource for discovering, promoting and preserving the diverse stories of Australian women past and present
- the Encyclopedia of Australian Science and Innovation, a gateway to the history and archives of science, technology and innovation in Australia
- POLY, which conserves polymers in museum collections.
This project is creating a pathway to rehome valuable data from the OHRM to a tool called Descibo Collections. This is a sensible evolution in that Describo uses similar technology as the OHRM while being more modern and easier to maintain.
The project is developing a modern, standards-based, highly configurable (per domain) and easy-to-use ecosystem of tools. Specifically, by being configurable per project, Describo Collections can be as expressive or restrictive as required by the project. It will produce standards-compliant data resources that are as future-proof as possible.
This integration activity builds on standardisation work in the ARDC’s Language Data Commons of Australia (LDaCA) project and the Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC).
By making it easier to harvest and merge datasets, this will improve integration of data in the HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons. It will also provide pathways for data to be reused in new contexts.
Who Will Benefit
The safe porting of data from the outgoing OHRM tool to Describo will enable HASS and Indigenous researchers to keep using valuable findings from more than 1000 projects.
We are partnering with The University of Melbourne.
An online service will be developed with a file upload capability and an interface designed in consultation with the OHRM community. The service will cover one of the OHRM datasets, and any single user will be able to operate on the data, creating, updating and linking resources.
The service will support:
- multi-user access to the collection
- a custom profile defining the resources that can be curated
- export of the complete dataset to object storage in various formats.