Digital curation is the selection, preservation, maintenance, collection and archiving of digital assets. Digital curation establishes, maintains and adds value to repositories of digital data for present and future use. This is often accomplished by archivists, librarians, scientists, historians, and scholars. Enterprises are starting to use digital curation to improve the quality of information and data within their operational and strategic processes. Successful digital curation will mitigate digital obsolescence, keeping the information accessible to users indefinitely.
The term curation in the past commonly referred to museum and library professionals. It has since been applied to interaction with social media including compiling digital images, web links and movie files.
Approaches to digital curation
Create new representation
For some topics, knowledge is embodied in forms that have not been conducive to print, such as how choreography of dance or of the motion of skilled workers or artisans is difficult to encode. New digital approaches such as 3d holograms and other computer-programmed expressions are developing.
For mathematics, it seems possible for a new common language to be developed that would express mathematical ideas in ways that can be digitally stored, linked, and made accessible. The Global Digital Mathematics Library is a project to define and develop such a language.
Convert print resources
The process of converting printed resources into digital collections has been epitomized to some degree by librarians and related specialists. For example, The Digital Curation Centre is claimed to be a "world leading centre of expertise in digital information curation" that assists higher education research institutions in such conversions. The DCC, based in the UK, began operations in early 2004 and suggests the following as a general outline of their approach to digital curation:
- Conceptualize: Consider what digital material you will be creating and develop storage options. Take into account websites, publications, email, among other types of digital output.
- Create: Produce digital material and attach all relevant metadata, typically the more metadata the more accessible the information.
- Access and use: Determine the level of accessibility for the range of digital material created. Some material may be accessible only by password and other material may be freely accessible to the public.
- Appraise and select: Consult the mission statement of the institution or private collection and determine what digital data is relevant. There may also be legal guidelines in place that will guide the decision process for a particular collection.
- Dispose: Discard any digital material that is not deemed necessary to the institution.
- Ingest: Send digital material to the predetermined storage solution. This may be an archive, repository or other facility.
- Preservation action: Employ measures to maintain the integrity of the digital material.
- Reappraise: Reevaluate material to ensure that is it still relevant and is true to its original form.
- Store: Secure data within the predetermined storage facility.
- Access and reuse: Routinely check that material is still accessible for the intended audience and that the material has not been compromised through multiple uses.
- Transform: If desirable or necessary the material may be transferred into a different digital format.
Sheer curation is an approach to digital curation where curation activities are quietly integrated into the normal work flow of those creating and managing data and other digital assets. The word sheer is used to emphasize the lightweight and virtually transparent nature of these curation activities. The term sheer curation was coined by Alistair Miles in the ImageStore project, and the UK Digital Curation Centre's SCARP project. The approach depends on curators having close contact or 'immersion' in data creators' working practices. An example is the case study of a neuroimaging research group by Whyte et al., which explored ways of building its digital curation capacity around the apprenticeship style of learning of neuroimaging researchers, through which they share access to datasets and re-use experimental procedures.
Sheer curation depends on the hypothesis that good data and digital asset management at the point of creation and primary use is also good practice in preparation for sharing, publication and/or long-term preservation of these assets. Therefore, sheer curation attempts to identify and promote tools and good practices in local data and digital asset management in specific domains, where those tools and practices add immediate value to the creators and primary users of those assets. Curation can best be supported by identifying existing practices of sharing, stewardship and re-use that add value, and augmenting them in ways that both have short-term benefits, and in the longer term reduce risks to digital assets or provide new opportunities to sustain their long-term accessibility and re-use value.
The aim of sheer curation is to establish a solid foundation for other curation activities which may not directly benefit the creators and primary users of digital assets, especially those required to ensure long-term preservation. By providing this foundation, further curation activities may be carried out by specialists at appropriate institutional and organisation levels, whilst causing the minimum of interference to others.
A similar idea is curation at source used in the context of Laboratory Information Management Systems LIMS. This refers more specifically to automatic recording of metadata or information about data at the point of capture, and has been developed to apply semantic web techniques to integrate laboratory instrumentation and documentation systems  Sheer curation and curation-at-source can be contrasted with post hoc digital preservation, where a project is initiated to preserve a collection of digital assets that have already been created and are beyond the period of their primary use.
Channelisation is curation of digital assets on the web, often by brands and media companies, into continuous flows of content, turning the user experience from a lean-forward interactive medium, to a lean-back passive medium. The curation of content can be done by an independent third party, that selects media from any number of on-demand outlets from across the globe and adds them to a playlist to offer a digital "channel" dedicated to certain subjects, themes, or interests so that the end user would see and/or hear a continuous stream of content.
Challenges of digital curation
- Storage format evolution and obsolescence
- Rate of creation of new data and data sets
- Maintaining accessibility to data through links and search results
- Comparability of semantic and ontological definitions of data sets
Response to digital curation challenges
- Specialized research institutions
- Academic courses
- Dedicated symposia
- Peer reviewed technical and industry journals
- Digital artifactual value
- Digital asset management
- Digital Curation Centre
- Data format management
- Digital obsolescence
- Digital preservation
- Data curation
- International Society for Biocuration
- Erin Scime (8 December 2009). "The Content Strategist as Digital Curator". A List Apart.
- Rusbridge, C.; Buneman, P.; Burnhill, P.; Giaretta, D.; Ross, S.; Lyon, L.; Atkinson, M. (2005). "The Digital Curation Centre: A Vision for Digital Curation". 2005 IEEE International Symposium on Mass Storage Systems and Technology (PDF). p. 31. doi:10.1109/LGDI.2005.1612461. ISBN 0-7803-9228-0.
- "What is Digital Curation?". Digital Curation Centre. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
- Elizabeth Yakel (2007). "Digital curation". Emerald Group Publishing. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
- E. Curry, A. Freitas, and S. O’Riáin, “The Role of Community-Driven Data Curation for Enterprises,” in Linking Enterprise Data, D. Wood, Ed. Boston, MA: Springer US, 2010, pp. 25-47.
- Digital Curation Centre. "About the DCC". Website. Digital Curation Centre. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- The ImageStore Project - ImageWeb
- Digital Curation Centre: DCC SCARP Project
- Whyte, A., Job, D., Giles, S. and Lawrie, S. (2008) 'Meeting Curation Challenges in a Neuroimaging Group', The International Journal of Digital Curation Issue 1, Volume 3, 2008
- Frey, J. 'Sharing and Collaboration' keynote presentation at UK e-Science All Hands Meeting, 8–11 September 2008, Edinburgh
- Paul Watry (November 2007). "Digital Preservation Theory and Application: Transcontinental Persistent Archives Testbed Activity". The International Journal of Digital Curation. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
- Digital Curation Centre
- Digital Preservation Coalition
- DigCCurr 2007 - an international symposium on Digital Curation, April 18-20, 2007
- 1st African Digital Management and Curation Conference and Workshop - Date: 12-13 February 2008
- International Journal of Digital Curation
- Animations introducing digital preservation and curation
- Content Strategist as Digital Curator, A List Apart Journal, December 2009
- Digital Curation Centre
- Digital Curation and Trusted Repositories: Steps Toward Success*DigCurV A project funded by the European Commission to establish a curriculum framework for vocational training in digital curation.