Who is Brett Lougheed?

photoBrett Lougheed is a Digital Curator/Archivist at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.  He has been seconded by the Office of the Vice-President (Research) to assist in the development of the functional requirements for a system to preserve, describe, and provide multi-tiered access to the primarily digital records of the National Research Centre for Residential Schools.

The story behind his secondment (in his own words):

(The only thing more frightening than the following tale is Brett’s soon to be Movember Moustache)

As I write this blog post it is October 31, 2013 – Halloween.  And in the spirit of the day I want to share with you a scary story.  This story is all the more frightening because it is true!!

It was a dark and stormy night …

The mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is set to expire on June 30, 2014.  The following day, the National Research Centre for Residential Schools at the University of Manitoba is expected to assume stewardship responsibilities for what is expected to be approximately 150-200 TB of data accumulated as a result of the functions of the TRC, including recordings of TRC events, public and private statements from Residential School Survivors, as well as digitized copies of government and church records provided to support the work of the TRC.  In exactly 8 months, the Research Centre is expected to have put in place a system that will not only preserve this large volume of records in perpetuity but also provide the TRC’s user community with uninterrupted access to this data during this transitional phase.  [Cue lightning strike, shrieks of horror, maniacal laugh]

From the perspective of someone involved in the development of this system, this tight time frame for implementation is terrifying.  The University put forth a lot of effort over a nearly three-year period in developing its bid for hosting the National Research Centre but it was not until June 21, 2013 when, during an emotional signing ceremony on campus, an official announcement was made that the University had been selected.  Although preparatory planning was undertaken prior to this announcement it was not until the UofM was officially selected as the site for the NRC that planning for its implementation really began in earnest.

An Information Technology sub-committee of the Implementation Committee was struck consisting of Shelley Sweeney (University Archivist and co-Chair of the Implementation Committee), Doug Stoyko (Director of Computer and Network Services), Greg Bak (former Digital Archivist at Library and Archives Canada and current Assistant Professor in the UofM’s Archival Studies program), Camille Callison (Indigenous Services Librarian), Kiera Ladner (Associate Professor in Political Studies), Marlene Atleo (Associate Professor in Educational Administration, Foundations and Psychology), Jesse Boiteau (blogger extraordinaire and current Archival Studies student), and myself.  This committee meets bi-weekly to discuss technological issues surrounding the implementation of the NRC, primarily the design and implementation of a digital asset/content management system that will realize the vision for the NRC detailed in the UofM’s bid document.

Three key themes regarding the functional requirements became evident during my initial read through of the bid document: access and privacy, co-curation and participatory archiving, and digital preservation.  The NRC system will have to provide access to records locally and remotely, allow for multi-tiered levels of access via authentication, and adhere to culturally appropriate access protocols.  The system will have to enable the creation of a network of virtual communities of Survivors, their families, scholars, and others whereby users can communicate with each other and contribute to the record via co-curatorial means such as adding descriptions or tags, creating their own digital collections, and uploading their own content.  And the system will have to be able to preserve the digital content for the long-term by employing digital preservation strategies in the goal of establishing a Trusted Digital Repository that adheres to established international standards such as the Open Archival Information Systems Reference Model (OAIS) and the Trustworthy Digital Repositories Audit and Certification Checklist (TRAC).

Starting this week I was seconded for a 3 month term to solely work on further developing the functional requirements for this system.  This process will involve closely reviewing the bid document and extrapolating from the requirements outlined therein.  It will also involve researching similar systems – similar in content and functionality – to determine whether there are lessons to be learned from the implementation of these systems, and whether we might utilize their technology or replicate their functionality in the development of this system.  Although I do have some experience in developing the Libraries’ digital asset management system, I am an archivist, not a systems analyst or architect, so my input will be mostly from an archives perspective.  We plan to involve a content management specialist who will work with us to ensure that the archival requirements are formulated in such a way that they are understandable and usable by a system architect for the design phase of development.

The development of this system has to be as consultative as possible to ensure that it meets the expectations of Survivors, their families, researchers, and the general public.  A panel of stakeholders is being established that will be consulted on a regular basis regarding the requirements, design, testing, and implementation of the system.  But I would also appreciate any and all feedback from anybody with an interest in this project, especially at this early stage in development.  I can be reached via email at Brett.Lougheed@umanitoba.ca, or leave a comment on the blog.