Digital Repair Cafe

Lots of heritage institutions, from the largest museum to the smallest local group, are confronted with obsolete carriers containing data they’d like to safeguard. But not every organisation has the equipment they need for this. AMSAB-ISG therefore took the initiative – together with the six other archive institutions in the AIDA (Automatic Ingest Digital Archives) working group and meemoo – to set up the Digital Repair Cafe project.

The Digital Repair Café is a collective solution for digitally safeguarding various types of obsolete digital media. A capture station was built for this, with playback equipment for different types of carriers and associated workflows.

The extensive project documentation is available on the CEST knowledge platform (only in Dutch) and on a separate project website.

Alongside meemoo and Archiefbank Vlaanderen, the AIDA working group consists of the seven archive institutions involved, i.e. Amsab-ISG (Institute for Social History), ADVN (Archive for National Movements), AMVB (Archive and Museum for the Flemish Living in Brussels), AVG-Carhif (Archive and Research Centre for Women’s History), CAVA (Centre for Academic and Liberal Archives), Letterenhuis (‘House of Literature’) and VAi (Flemish Architecture Institute).

These organisations set up the Digital Repair Café project to provide a collective service for reading data from various types of obsolete media. Old playback equipment was collected and purchased, and workflows were drawn up to explain the processes for capturing the content from these various obsolete carriers. Pooling resources and knowledge makes it much more efficient and sustainable to capture this information and include the required integrity controls. These controls check that the transferred content is identical to the content (still) on the disk.

Meemoo was responsible for acquiring the reading and playback equipment, developing the set-ups, and drawing up the workflows and user guides for identifying and capturing data from obsolete carriers.


Inventory of carriers and hardware required

Before we could make a start, we had to find out what types of carriers our partner organisations had in their collections, and what playback equipment they needed. Meemoo developed documentation to help them identify their obsolete carriers, and drew up templates for registering their carriers and playback equipment. This meant the participating archive institutions could easily make an inventory of the carriers in their collection as well as any playback equipment they owned.

Build set-ups and develop work processes

Building the playback equipment set-ups for the carriers in question, drawing up the required work processes, and testing and adjusting everything took place in various iterations. The various set-ups were also extensively documented. We benefited greatly here from the experience we have gained through our work in this area with Resurrection Lab, including the capturing of data from obsolete carriers from Opera Ballet Vlaanderen (CEST-page in Dutch only) as well as ADVN (Archive for National Movements), HeK (House for Electronic Arts) and Liberal Archive (CEST-page in Dutch only) .

We’ve created set-ups and workflows for:

  • 3,5 inch diskettes;

  • 5,25 inch diskettes;

  • DDS tapes;

  • Jaz disks;

  • Magneto-optical disks;

  • Optical disks (CD-ROM, CD-R(W), DVD-R(W), DVD+R(W));

  • SuperDisk;

  • Travan tapes;

  • USB sticks;

  • Zip Disks;

  • Various memory cards.

Pilot projects

All set-ups and workflows were tested by the participating archive institutions, who were able to investigate 50 different carriers on the capture station for a full day. This enabled them to try out as many workflows and user guides as possible. Meemoo provided all the supervision they needed, including individual workshops to run through all the work processes. The user guides and work processes were refined further as a result of these experiences.

Creating educational content

We documented the set-ups and work processes in user guides which you can find via GitHub. A user guide for identifying obsolete carriers has also been created.

Communications with the sector

Meemoo scheduled a Capturing content from old carriers workshop for the cultural heritage sector, which would include a presentation of the capture station, for 13 March 2020. Unfortunately, Covid-19 measures have resulted in this workshop being postponed until a later date in autumn 2020.

We will publish the results from this project internationally on this website:

Want to find out more?

Do you have a question?
Contact Nastasia Vanderperren
Expertise Officer
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