Don't think you work with data?

Last updated on 2023-04-24 | Edit this page

Estimated time: 60 minutes



  • What sort of data do you work with?
  • What do you do with it?
  • What tools do you use to help you?


  • Recognise that they work with data
  • Compare what tasks they peform on data and the tools they use

Don’t think you work with data? Think again

Task 1

This group task is an opportunity for you to think about the sort of data you have, what you do with it, and what tools you use to do that.

  • Start by getting into pairs.
  • Brainstorm all the different sorts of data you work with (examples might include metadata, catalogue data, legacy data, data ouptut from DROID etc.)
  • Your instructor will gather in these ideas and lead a discussion to establish that we are all talking about roughly the same thing when we talk about data
  • Get into groups of 4-6.
  • Discuss your own data, trying to answer questions including; How much data do you have? Where is it stored? Who has access to it? How is it formatted or stored? Can you move it about easily - in and out of systems? In particular think about the tools you use to help you manage your data as well as any problems you have with it.
  • Each group then reports back on two problems they have with their data.
  • The instructor will collate these on a whiteboard and facilitate a discussion about; a) how starting to think in terms of data is a good first step for what we will be learning, b) what it is we will be learning, and c) how what we will be learning will help us to solve some of the problems we are facing.

Task 2

This follow-on task aims to guide learners in thinking about data as conceptually seperate from the systems that produce, store, and preserve it. It offers an opportunity to think about how data move through archival systems and the value of archival data outside of those systems.

  • As a group, consider the types of data you discussed in the previous task and select one representative example.
  • Using sticky notes, map the lifecycle of a data point from the moment of creation to its long-term home or to disposition (long term transfer, destruction, etc.)
  • Discuss: How many people or organizations have been custodians of the data? How many systems has it moved through? Is there a relationship between the individual(s) creating the data and those who make preservation or disposition decisions? How does the lifecycle of the dataset impact documentation, metadata, or the data itself?
  • Each group attaches their data lifecycle map to the whiteboard
  • The instructor will lead a discussion about lifecycles of archival data and highlight the potential value of these data outside of the systems we typically associate with archival data.

Key Points

  • We all have data and it is not just enough to put it into a system and forget about it