Believe it or not, just because something is digital doesn't mean it can or will live forever. That's why digital curation exists.
Don't fret if you don't know what digital curation means. It sounds fancy, but it's under the umbrella of library science and involves taking care of digital information. According to the Digital Curation Centre, a world leader in digital curation, "Digital curation involves maintaining, preserving and adding value to digital research data throughout its lifecycle." Or, to put it another way, preserving digital information and media long after the technology it was born on fades away.
Degrees in digital and data curation have gained steam in recent years, some of which may prepare graduates for all sorts of cool jobs in the field.
Degrees and certificates in digital curation
Digital and data curation degrees exist at both the undergraduate and graduate level. In America, specifically, the degrees are usually at the graduate level.
American college students enrolled in digital curation programs will commonly pursue a graduate certificate. It can either be a graduate certificate in digital curation, like those offered at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, or a graduate certificate in digital curation and data management, which is offered as an online graduate certificate at the University of North Texas. Certificates are often available after earning 12-15 credit hours.
Sometimes you'll see digital or data curation as a specialization within a graduate program in library science. That is the case at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In those cases, students are taught more than just digital or data curation, they're taught what it takes to thrive as a librarian in general. You can't go wrong either way.
Digital curation program courses
A digital curation degree or certificate program can include all sorts of classes, which may vary according to the institution and degree or certification conferred. You may take library science or information science classes, in addition to digital and data curation classes, and may take other core courses.
Here are a couple of courses you may see in a digital curation program:
- Digital preservation: Focusing on the long-term accessibility of a multitude of digital materials, this course may introduce you to different approaches and current issues in digital preservation. Not only may you learn methods and tools you can apply to maintaining digital information, you may also learn existing theories and the history of the field.
- Digital curation fundamentals: The University of North Texas offers this course and sums up its description quite well. UNT states on its website, "This course introduces fundamental concepts, practices, procedures, processes, and vocabulary for the entire lifecycle of digital materials from creation through appraisal, ingest, and storage, to access and reuse."
Other courses you may see pop up in digital or data curation degree or certificate programs may include: metadata applications, digital libraries, and digital collections and exhibitions.
Digital curation careers
While earning a degree is no guarantee of securing a job, earning a traditional or online degree or certificate in digital curation could prepare you for a job as a digital curator at libraries, museums, archives, or even government agencies and corporations. But there are other jobs within digital preservation you may want to consider after graduating.
Some of these jobs, according to Kent State University, include:
- Data curator
- Digital collections manager
- Web archivist
- Digital preservation project manager
- Digital reformatting specialist
Since digital or data curation programs are often within library science and information science schools, you may be able to land jobs within those fields as well. Take your master's degree in digital curation or graduate certificate in digital curation, combine it with your bachelor's degree, and it could make you an attractive applicant to libraries, museums and businesses everywhere.
Although it might seem like there's a new technology being developed every week, it's nice to know there's someone out there preserving the most timeless and useful information and data.
Graduate School of Library and Information Science, The iSchool at Illinois, http://www.lis.illinois.edu/academics/degrees/specializations/data_curation
Kent State University School of Library and Information Science, Digital Preservation, https://www.kent.edu/slis/programs/mlis/digital-preservation.cfm
UNC School of Information and Library Science, Certificate in Digital Curation, http://sils.unc.edu/programs/certificates/digital_curation
UNT College of Information, Digital Curation and Data Management, http://lis.unt.edu/digital-curation-and-data-management