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Born Digital @ Yale: Digital Archaeology & Preservation Lab

Information related to born-digital archival collections at Yale

Digital Archaeology and Preservation Lab

The di Bonaventura Family Digital Archaeology and Preservation Lab was established in 2015 to support the technological needs of digital material from across Yale University Libraries and Museums, special and general collections alike. The lab is located at 344 Winchester Avenue, and is co-managed by the Preservation Department and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Lab Operations

Digital Preservation

The Digital Preservation Department uses the lab to support the preservation of digital materials from across campus collections, including both special and general collections, and archival and non-archival materials. 

Currently the lab hosts vintage computers and supporting paraphernalia for use in various digital preservation activities described further below, and two digital preservation-managed disk-imaging workstations for use in bulk-imaging born-digital carriers (CD-ROMs, floppy disks, DVD-ROMs) from the Library's general collections. 

For more information about digital preservation at Yale please see the forthcoming Digital Preservation Services LibGuide.

Digital Accessioning Support Service

The Digital Accessioning Support Service works with born-digital content on physical media from special collections across Yale University Libraries and Museums. This includes disk imaging, transferring and packaging files from media, and scanning for standard personal identifying information and potentially harmful viruses or malware. For more details, please refer to the Digital Accessioning Support Service tab above.

Lab Equipment

Disk Imaging Machines

There are four disk imaging machines in the lab.

Two machines were built and configured by our Digital Preservation Manager and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library's Digital Archivist for use in general disk imaging workflows including those managed by the born digital accessioning service. These disk imaging machines have built-in drives for 3.5 and 5.25 inch floppy disks and optical media and a number of USB-ports. Each machine is partitioned to operate in Linux and Windows and both partitions can access a third hard drive, so material can be shared between partitions. The primary software used for disk imaging includes FTK Imager in Windows, Guymager in the BitCurator environment, and Kryoflux in both environments.

Two additional machines were configured by the Preservation Department for use in a dedicated workflow for bulk-imaging general collections born-digital materials from the various libraries across campus. Such materials include CD-ROMs, floppy disks, and DVD-ROMs.These machines have two CD/DVD-ROM drives attached, a Kryoflux device installed in each with a 5.25 inch floppy drive and a 3.5 inch floppy drive configured with the Kryoflux device, and are running the BitCurator environment in an offline/non-networked mode. For more information on our work preserving general collections digital materials please see the Digital Preservation Services LibGuide to come. 

Quarantine Machine

This machine has a built in Tableau T3458is Forensic Bridge, optical media reader, and 3.5 and 5.25 inch floppy disk readers. The machine is not networked and is primarily used to scan media to identify the presence of viruses and/ malicious software prior to imaging.

Vintage Machines 

The Preservation Department's Digital Preservation Unit uses the Lab for hosting its growing collection of vintage computing equipment. This equipment is used for a number of purposes:

  1. To support the validation of emulated environments that were created based on the vintage computers and which are used in preserving access to our digital collections over time. This involves configuring emulated environments with operating systems and software packages and validating their performance against the same software running on original hardware to ensure the information experience the user interacts with in using the emulated hardware is as authentic/similar to the original as is possible. 
  2. To support the validation of the migration of content between formats by enabling comparison of the migrated content to the original files being opened and interacted with using original software on contemporaneous hardware.
  3. To provide a last-resort mechanism for retrieving digital content from old media using original hardware where no other options are successful.
  4. To provide a last-resort mechanism to enable researchers to experience the original look and feel of using vintage computing hardware to interact with digital content.
  5. To enable to creation of new emulation solutions and interfaces based on vintage computing hardware.

For more information on our work with vintage computing hardware please see the Digital Preservation Services LibGuide to come.

Write blockers

The lab hosts a number of write blockers for various media, including hard drives, USB- connected media, and digital memory cards. These are used to protect media from alteration while accessing files and creating disk images.

Visit the Lab

The lab hosts open hours for staff every Friday from 1 - 5 pm. These hours provide an opportunity to work with the specialized computers and other equipment in consultation with trained staff.

Due to the security measures at 344 Winchester, staff members wishing to visit the lab during these hours must make an appointment by sending an email explaining the reason for the visit and suggested meeting time.

Staff wishing to consult with the Digital Accessioning Service can contact

Staff wishing to consult with the Digital Preservation Services team can contact or visit the Digital Preservation Services LibGuide to come.