Command Line Interface

Certificate Eligibility: 
5 ARC, 0.75 CEU
1 day
Max Attendees: 
Tools and Services

Learn the basics of digital files, data manipulation, and computer coding for efficient digital collection management.

For archivists working in contemporary collecting institutions, basic digital skills are essential. As technology makes it easier to create text, image, audio, and video files, and as archivists continue digitizing analog collections, the impact of electronic records on our work only increases. For archives, there is a heightened risk of loss or inability to access these records if basic computing skills for ingest, management, and preservation are not acquired as part of the archivist’s toolkit.


In this course you’ll learn hands-on skills for working with digital archival objects at the most basic levels: files, data, and the computer operating systems in which they live. These basics establish manual and automated capacities for protecting the bits, automating/extracting metadata, and preparing for the next steps of building and managing digital archives.


You’ll get an overview of the landscape of digital collections in archives, including digitized materials, born-digital acquisitions, and the various approaches employed in the field to acquire, stabilize, describe, store, and preserve collection content. You'll also learn simple methods to deconstruct file formats in order to understand the difference between file metadata and file system metadata. More specifically, you’ll receive an introduction to and hands-on training in the use of command line programs for working with files and metadata that come included with many operating systems, as well as additional GUI and command line tools such as MediaConch (previously MediaInfo), ExifTool, MDQC, NARA FileAnalyzer, DataAccessioner, Bulk Extractor, Bagger/BagIt/Exactly, and Fixity—all tools that support identification, transfer, storage, metadata generation, and monitoring of digital collections. You’ll come away with a clear knowledge of how to use computers' natural languages, how to combine multiple tools and skills, what role they play in collection management workflows, and a sense of how to implement their use.


This course is less about a specific processing approach and more about providing archivists with basic computing skills that will help them make use of any tools that come their way and will help them speak the native language of the computing environments in which files (archival objects) reside.


Participants will be required to use a laptop with all applications downloaded and installed in order to participate in hands-on exercises. All applications are available free of charge on the Internet. A list of applications and file sets will be distributed to participants.

Learning Outcomes: 
Articulate the basic functions and components of computers, computer applications, and their salient features
Describe the basic composition of an individual digital file and how computers and software create and work with them
Identify applicable data and metadata that enable a digital file to be understood, preserved, and used
Who Should Attend: 

Archivists, managers, practitioners, museum professionals, and records managers

What You Should Already Know: 

Basic understanding of general archive functions and practicies; it is recommended that participants have watched the Thinking Digital webinar


This course builds on others in the Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) curriculum, such as Basics of Managing Electronic RecordsElectronic Records—The Next StepThinking DigitalAccessioning and Ingest of Electronic Records, and Metadata Overview for Archivists.

DAS Core Competency: 
1. Explain the nature of digital records and their lifecycle.
2. Communicate and define terminology, requirements, roles, and responsibilities related to digital archives to a variety of stakeholders.
3. Formulate strategies and tactics for appraising, acquiring, describing, managing, organizing, preserving, and delivering digital archives.
4. Incorporate technologies throughout the archival lifecycle.
5. Strategically plan for the sustainability of digital archives.
6. Employ standards and best practices in the management of digital archives.
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