To enhance graduate students’ experience with learning data management, the information studies college opened the Digital Curation Innovation Center this semester.

The center aims to be a leader in the digital curation field by sponsoring research projects that integrate digital curation and analyze research among various fields. Digital curation — an emerging field of study — refers to taking archives, storing them digitally and making them accessible online.

The center will allow students who study archival research to use their skills outside of the classroom with the center’s labs.

“We believe students interested in archive studies really need to have not only traditional understanding but need to learn how to blend it with technology,” said Michael Kurtz, the center’s associate director.

The center’s research includes several projects already in the works as well as new initiatives. Most projects fall under the cyberinfrastructure category or the justice, human rights and cultural heritage category.

As one of its cyberinfrastructure projects, the information studies college is collaborating with the National Agricultural Library in this university’s Archives Research and Collaboration Lab for a fellowship program. Ricky Punzalan, the lab’s director, said he and his team will develop data curation strategies for the library by creating a system for capturing and preserving agricultural data.

“It’s a tremendous help having a center like the DCIC consolidating the research,” Punzalan said. “It’s also a good way to represent range of projects we do within the iSchool.”

One of the new initiatives in the other category is the Looted Holocaust Assets Research Project, which is part of a partnership with the National Archives and the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Kurtz said he aims to create a database to help people who lived during the Holocaust find and reclaim any lost property.

“Part of the center’s mission is trying to take these sensitive issues — and this remote, locked-away information that are only in certain archives — and make them more public and more accessible to the people who care about it,” said Diane Travis, an information studies doctoral candidate who works at the center. “It’s also a form of social justice in terms of transparency and access to these records.”

During fall 2013, the information studies college created the curation and management of digital assets degree specialization, which focuses on creating, preserving and managing access to digital archives. The specialization will be renamed the archives and digital curation specialization starting in June and will be powered by the center with a redefined course load.

“Looking at the exploding demand for people to manage digital information in workforce, this center really was a need,” Kurtz said.

About 50 students are enrolled in the specialization, but the school is expecting this number to increase to more than 100 students in the fall. Having a growing amount of students working on this degree specialization is a major step toward students getting practical experience in digital curation, Kurtz said.

Starting June 1, the center also will offer the information studies college’s first post-master’s degree certification, the curation and management of digital assets certificate. The certification courses, with an expected 15 interested students so far, will be taught online and is aimed at people in the middle of their careers who need training in cloud computing tools and technologies, Kurtz said.

“It’s been really exciting,” Travis said. “There’s a lot of potential to do good and act as an educational tool for the students to get real-world experience doing the stuff they learn about in classes, and it’s incredibly valuable.”