Annie Hughes TCD Digital Humanities and Culture Intern at ITMA

ITMA hosts a number of interns as part of their professional career development. During 2021 Annie Hughes, a TCD MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture student, focused on the digital infrastructure of the Góilín Song Project.

Annie Hughes Blog Portrait 800
Annie Hughes, TCD MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture Intern at ITMA

As part of the Irish Traditional Music Archive’s five year strategic plan, launched in 2019, three core themes for the strategy were prioritised: content, care and access. During my internship, I had the opportunity to engage with each of these priorities in some capacity. 

My work was focused on the collection of the Góilín Song Project, which features as a microsite in the exhibitions section of the website. The Góilín SP, and other exhibitions like it, are curated out of larger volumes of digital material in order to generate a specialised and immersive learning environment.


When building a digital archive, you need to determine how to best capture the data, how to optimise the categorisation and metadata and how to best safeguard the material. In briefly outlining the tasks that I was involved in and how they fit into ITMA’s overall framework, I will use the core themes of the strategic plan as headings.

Content

My first task was to identify and locate content to be prepared for ingest into a digital preservation system called Perpetua. I started by surveying the status of the Góilín collection in terms of data volume, formats, and heterogeneity and associated metadata. The metadata, or the descriptive information, has primarily been recorded in Soutron, ITMA’s integrated library system. I harvested the metadata from Soutron and prepared it for inclusion in Submission Information Packages (SIPs). 

For the next step, the Archival Information Packages (AIPs) were generated from SIPs upon ingest and managed by Archivematica wherein the content is stored and preserved. The Dissemination Information Packages (DIPs) were then created to be distributed as digital content and accessed via AToM on the website’s interface. 

To visualise this conceptual framework, the following diagram demonstrates one facet of how ITMA’s cogs turn to produce both the access to material and the preservation aspects of ingesting digital objects and associated metadata into a repository.




Care

Becoming acquainted with the various platforms and the ingest process gave me a newfound appreciation for the care and precision that goes into the maintenance of digitised archival material. Luckily for me, learning the ropes and navigating a multitude of platforms was made easier with the patience and guidance from ITMA staff. In order to ensure the highest standards in digital preservation, each of the steps in the ingest process need to be followed exactly, and a detailed workflow document was an important deliverable of my internship. Digital representation of material serves a unique purpose in offering several additional models and content forms that can be extracted from an original content collection.

It’s an exciting time for new research into infrastructure development for access and discovery as well as preservation and sustainability in sound studies. As a Digital Humanities student, it’s been very rewarding to contribute to work involving the long-term preservation of digital assets
Annie Hughes

Access

The labour of organising material according to international standards of archival and library practice is integral to creating collections that are widely accessible. The content of a collection is made easily discoverable and searchable by improving information architecture through content presentation. It can seem like a daunting task to engage with large volumes of cultural material without some initial guidance, but a website interface can act as a structured introductory pathway into a collection. 

With the upcoming migration of the ITMA website to the Craft 3 CMS, I did some research into what this could mean for the representation of ITMA’s content, particularly that of the Góilín microsite. When using a search interface to explore and investigate a cultural heritage collection, user’s information needs are continuously evolving as they acquire knowledge and gain context. Craft 3 has an adaptable control panel for content creation and administrative tasks, and this will assist in offering an evolving model that accommodates the user in exploring material that piques their interest. 

Digital libraries, repositories and archives offer wonderful opportunities for knowledge discovery. They also adhere to the complex challenge of appropriately representing digitised material for exploration of information from disparate sources. This challenge opens up interesting lines of inquiry for the interdisciplinary field of Digital Humanities, a field that encompasses ICT, knowledge management, and a variety of humanities disciplines. Finding new ways to curate specialised environments online that maximise engagement can empower users with different backgrounds and experiences to interact with a wide range of sources. 

As someone who has a passion for traditional Irish singing, being involved in the behind-the-scenes work of the ITMA has been a hugely valuable experience. It’s exciting to see cultural intuitions like the ITMA increasingly embracing inventive digital tools and finding new ways to attract and sustain broad user engagement online. 


Annie Hughes, 2021

TD MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture