In summer/fall 2012, I posted a series regarding the implementation of WordPress as an content management system.  Time prevented me from describing how we decided to configure WordPress for use in the University of Illinois Archives.  In my next two posts, I’d like to rectify that, first by describing our basic implementation, then by noting (in the second post) some WordPress configuration steps that proved particularly handy.

Continue reading »

Tagged with:  

Knight News Challenge Proposal

On September 30, 2014, in Research, by Chris Prom

Imagine a world in which everyone’s life story can be made preservable and accessible.

The Mykive project seeks to provide people with a flexible set of tools that they can use to help people preserve, aggregate, and make accessible the digital legacies that are currently trapped in “the cloud” or in other locations that make them difficult to access, preserve, and use. By aligning the work of several innovative projects into a broader software environment and archival framework, myKive seeks to enable the development of the trusting partnerships that underlie successful archival acquisitions, and ultimately to build a storehouse of personal digital archives that are open to research, interpretation, analysis, and innovation.

Continue reading »


Resources for the Accidental Digital Curator

On May 7, 2014, in Research, by Chris Prom

Today I am speaking with Sam Meister and Erika Farr at a Lyrasis Town Hall Meeting, The Accidental Digital Curator: Acquiring and Preserving Digital Archives​​.  In my talk, I will describe the “More Product Less Process” approach to processing born-digital materials at the University of Illinois.  Here are some resources that I’d like to cite, as supplementary resources to my talk, or having some value for those who are  just getting started with the acquisition, management, processing, and access to born digital archives:

Continue reading »


Email Transfer Form

On May 6, 2014, in Research, by Chris Prom

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with an administrator whose email will be provided to the University Archives for permanent retention.  Since the materials in question are not being donated the the University, but are being preserved as records, we do not secure a deed of gift.  Instead, the following form provided an effective way to gain informatory about the records and to inform the individual of actions the archives will be undertaking to preserve the records, as well as the management principles that lie behind those actions:

Continue reading »

Tagged with:  

Thematic Theme Structure, Hooks, and Filters

On April 14, 2014, in Research, by Chris Prom

One of the most useful resources I found when developing a child theme in the wordpress thematic theme framework was the theme structure document formerly found on the website.

With permission from Deryk, I am reproducing it here:

And, here is another great resource for development using Thematic:

Tagged with:  

Job Announcement – University of Illinois

On April 4, 2014, in Research, by Chris Prom

I would like to take the liberty of noting something off topic, that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is recruiting to fill the position of Archives and Literary Manuscript Specialist in our Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Continue reading »


Selected Email Preservation Resources

On April 4, 2014, in Research, by Chris Prom

This past Monday, I spoke at the Museums and the Web “Deep Dive” on email preservation.  At the session, I distributed the following handout, which is drawn largely from my Digital Preservation Coalition Tech Watch Report.  I am posting it here, in response to a request at the seminar.

Selected Email Preservation Resources

Key Readings

David Bearman,  “Managing Electronic Mail.”  Archives and Manuscripts 22/1 (1994), pp. 28–50: outlines the major social, technical and legal issues that an email preservation project must address; is particularly useful in suggesting ways that system designs can support the effective implementation of policies.

Maureen Pennock, “Curating E-Mails: A Life-cycle Approach to the Management and Preservation of E-mail Messages,” 2006: Reviews the major challenges to email preservation and summarises some prospective approaches, with particular emphasis on the need to manage email effectively during its period of creation and active; also outlines the major conceptual approaches that can be used to preserve email, with somewhat less description of particular tools or services.

Richard Cox, “Electronic Mail and Personal Recordkeeping. In Personal Archives and a New Archival Calling: Readings, Reflections and Ruminations. Duluth, Minnesota: Litwin Books, pp. 201–42.  Reviews the history of attempts that the archival profession has made in preserving email messages and their content, suggesting that the best approaches will understand and preserve them as the organic outcome of our professional and personal lives. Cox suggests that those wishing to preserve email draw on concepts and procedures from both the records management and manuscript archives traditions, but the chapter contains relatively little direct implementation advice.

Gareth Knight, InSPECT: Investigating Significant Properties of Electronic Content 2009: A report on email migration tools, completed for the InSPECT project, includes a description and analysis of the structure of an email message, identifying 14 properties of the message header and 50 properties of the message body that must be maintained during migration if an email is to be considered authentic and complete. The report also outlines a procedure for testing whether particular email migration tools preserve those properties and applies that procedure to three specific tools.

Christopher Prom, Preserving Email, Digital Preservation Coalition Technology Watch Report: Provides a summary of social, legal, and technical challenges and opportunities for email preservation, reviewes and explains internet standards and technologies for email exchange and storage, and recommends particular approaches to consider in an email preservation project.

Useful Tools


Exchange Server: A proprietary application developed and licensed by Microsoft Corporation, providing server-based email, calendar, contact and task management features. Exchange servers are typically used in conjunction with Microsoft Outlook or the Outlook Express web agent. Exchange servers use a proprietary storage format and messages sent using Exchange typically include extensive changes to the header of the file. Calendar entries, contacts, and tasks are also managed via extensions to the email storage packet. Depending on local system configuration, users may be able to connect to a specific Exchange server using an IMAP-aware client application.

Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP): A code of procedures and behaviours regulating one method by which email user agents may connect with email servers and message transfer agents, allowing an individual to view, create, transfer, manage and delete messages. Typically contrasted with the POP3 protocol, IMAP is defined in the IETF’s RFC 3501. Email clients connecting to a server using IMAP usually leave a copy of the message on the server, unless the user explicitly deletes a message or has configured the client software with rules that automatically delete messages meeting defined criteria.

Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME): A protocol for including non-ASCII information in email messages. Specified in IETF RFC 2045, 2046, 2047, 4288, 4289 and 2049, MIME defines the precise method by which non-Latin characters, multipart bodies, attachments and inline images may be included in email messages. MIME is necessary because email supports only seven-bit, not eight-bit ASCII characters. It is also used in other communication exchange mechanisms, such as HTTP. Software such as message transfer agents, email clients, and web browsers typically include interpreters that convert MIME content to and from its native format, as needed.

PST: .pst is a file extension for local ‘personal stores’ written by the program Microsoft Outlook. PST files contain email messages and calendar entries using a proprietary but open format, and they may be found on local or networked drives of email end users. Several tools can read and migrate PST files to other formats.

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP): A set of rules that defines how outgoing email messages are transmitted from one Mail Transfer Agent to another across the Internet, until they reach their final destination. Defined most recently in IETF RFC 5321.

Tagged with:  

Archival Information Packet Structure

On February 18, 2014, in Research, by Chris Prom

When I teach the Society of American Archivists’ DAS Courses “Arranging and Describing Electronic Records,” participants spend a lot of time on exercises intended to help build knowledge about the concept of the archival information packet. The reason we do that is because I believe that once you understand the elements of the packet, you have a much better idea what the end product of your arrangement and description efforts should look like.  Each repository’s packet will look a little bit different since (1) the tools and technologies it uses are different, and (2)  DACS allows a lot of room for local practice and decision making. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been grappling with the need to revise and standardize an AIP will allow the University of Illinois ingest over 5TB of electronic files (both born digital and digital surrogates) into our library’s repository infrastructure.  Here is what I came up with  [updated May 6, 2014]:


Continue reading »

Tagged with:  

WordPress Accessiblity

On January 22, 2014, in Research, by Chris Prom

I have recently been using WordPress heavily on the University of Illinois main website.  We took many step when implementing WordPress to identify a theme framework that made webpages as accessible as possible.  This eventually led us to the Thematic framework–a barebones parent/child theme which provides pretty good accessibility out of the box.

However, there are several accessibility issues that seem to derive from the WP core rather than themes.  That’s way I was so happy today when I stumbled on this post regarding a WP accessibility plugin:

Updated Feb 17, 2014: here is another post about WP Accessibility:

Tagged with:  

By Thomas Padilla, graduate research assistant, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Among the many challenges that archival arrangement and description present, the subjectivity of the archivist is perhaps the most significant. While individual subjectivity cannot be escaped, a distanced form of subjective arrangement and description can be applied by topic modeling collections, a technique that is becoming more common in digital humanities projects.  

Continue reading »

Tagged with: