Alum Peter Chan Lands Position as Stanford’s First Digital Archivist

SLIS alum Peter Chan recently started work as Stanford University Libraries’ first-ever Digital Archivist for the Manuscript Division, where he’s focusing on developing best practices for acquiring, capturing, processing, and describing born-digital materials.

The position is a career change for Chan, who previously worked as Vice President of Operations Planning & Support at Bank of America in Hong Kong. He also taught courses at the School of Accountancy in The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Chan has always enjoyed learning about new technology, and he became intrigued by the problems posed by the preservation of digital records while working in the financial systems field. “My knowledge of old file formats and storage media helped me recognize the problems with accessing and preserving those files for the future,” said Chan, who holds an undergrad degree in accounting and a Masters of Business Administration. “This in turn aroused my interest to learn how to solve the problem.”

Chan, who graduated from SLIS in June 2008, created his own LIBR-298 special studies project on DSpace to research how the open source software helps serve as a preservation repository.

He also started working part-time at Stanford while earning his MLIS degree at SLIS. When he was first hired by Stanford, Chan’s job involved making backup copies of a collection that had some born digital files in a personal computer. Chan successfully lobbied to expand the scope of his job to do further processing of the digital files, such as migrating ones in obsolete formats to long-term preservation formats and separating files with restricted information. He went on to other projects that included merging the metadata of a map collection and processing a born digital collection with 200,000 files in a full-text search format to facilitate finding the program listing and correspondence related to the computer game “Adventure.”

Chan’s position at Stanford is funded through November 2011 by the Mellon Foundation. “The best thing about my job is the opportunity to establish best practices for digital archiving rather than just following an established procedure,” he said.