dinsdag 31 mei 2011

Clifford Lynch’s synthesis – ANADP11 (9)

_DSC3333 Clifford Lynch of the Coalition for Networked Information has a remarkable talent for analyzing a lot of information and bringing it together in a synthesis. Throughout the conference you could see him sitting quietly somewhere in the audience, digesting what happened, pondering it, and drawing his conclusions (photo right and photo below).

I am not sure that it is entirely appropriate to synthesize the synthesizer, but I do want to give you some highlights from Cliff’s ‘opinionated synthesis’ (the highlights themselves, of course, being opinionated as well …).


‘Yes, alignment _DSC2842is very necessary,’ Cliff started out, because:

  • Working in the same direction makes much needed collaboration possible;
  • Everybody will benefit from mutual support and shared learning.
  • What Cliff did not hear enough about at the conference: Collectively we can make a much more effective case towards governments, funders and society at large. (Cliff: ‘It is of fundamental importance that we clarify and educate.’)

The six axes of alignment dealt with in the conference interrelate in very complicated ways, of course, but Cliff took the conference outline as his point of departure anyway.

_DSC3116 Technical panel

  • Testing & benchmarking are very important topics. We need to learn to do this better and we need to introduce scale into the equation. This ties into the economic angle: we need to test commercial products.
  • ‘There is some glib talk about interoperability’; we need to be more specific: what? how? what goals?
  • What Cliff did not hear enough about at the conference, was the danger of a monoculture. We must be careful not to align too much; we need diversity to further develop the field.
  • Two areas deserve more attention: the bit storage layer (how to trade off between partners? what is the role of commercial services? what about standards?; and, secondly, security and integrity. ‘Just imagine the impact if somebody would raid and Wikileak all the embargo collections we hold …’ The stakes are substantial!

Organizational panel

  • Cliff thought that the honesty displayed by yours truly (see blog) was ‘wonderful’, and contained ‘lessons for all’. I humbly thank Cliff for this comment – and hope that others will be motivated to follow the example.
  • We are moving from cooperation in short-term projects into cooperation in fundamental, on-going programs, which is a very good thing.
  • What Cliff missed: information about aligning strategies within national borders: what variation is there in assigning levels there. He also missed more conversation about the question of replication – what choices have to be made? What about autonomy and interdependence?

_DSC3107Standards panel

  • Some standards may not be DP-specific, but as they characterize the materials we deal with, they are relevant.
  • There is a thicket of analytic standards – and maybe  we are rushing prematurely into some of them. Perhaps it is better to talk about ‘best practices’ for the time being.

Legal panel

  • The legal issues are becoming more dominant all the time.
  • Cliff was impressed by the report of the Comité des sages and the efforts it reflects to define collective EU principles on copyright.
  • Cliff suggested that a bunch of smart people from both sides of the ocean get together to drive policy on copyright matters. [Would not that be great – is it feasible?]

Educational panel

  • A lot of curricula feed back into national programs.
  • We are focused on educating professionals – but we should also start training people outside our field and the general public. The ‘national preservation week’ launched by the Library of Congress is a great initiative to Make the Case for digital preservation.

_DSC3263 Economic panel

  • A very important distinction: digitization is very different from digital preservation when it comes to funding. The latter has no immediate payoffs and is thus harder to fund.
  • We did not talk much about scale; more attention required, in combination with cost models.
  • When it comes to sustainability, the very fact that we define certain goods as public is in itself a sustainability strategy.
  • Instability in public funding is a nightmare!
  • We should pay some more attention to the connection between risk management and costs both for physical and for digital materials.

The elephants in the room

According to Cliff, the elephant in the room (a topic that is avoided by implication) is the data deluge in e-science, Big Data. As e-science drives both education and technology, this is very relevant. But national libraries are not paying much attention to what happens in Big Data.

_DSC3401Perhaps a smaller elephant is audiovisual content, both physical and digital. This information is expensive to maintain, and AV materials seem to be the step children of national collection strategies.

Another elephant: What is the extent of born-digital material – government, commercial, social media. We do not have a good assessment of this content yet.

If we ever have another conference like this, Cliff suggested that we add two more axes to the discussion: Making the Case towards funders and the public at large; and: Strategic alignment of collection policies (personal records, social media, games, news: who preserves what?).

(PS: Just in case you wonder: ANADP11, blog post no. 8 is still to come; I am waiting for some necessary information.)

maandag 30 mei 2011

The right mind-set: training and education at ANADP11 (8)

It is no secret that very few of those presently involved in (R&D in) digital preservation have been formally trained to do so. As Meg Phillips of the US National Archives said at the conference: ‘Present staff at cultural heritage institutions have patched it together – they have degrees in the arts or humanities, and what they know of digital preservation they have mostly learned on the job.’ This is no wonder, of course, since DP is a new field and it takes a while for supporting industries such as education and training to catch up. Judging by the presentations of the educational panel this work is still ongoing. Because it does not only involve defining new skills, but also combining those skills with existing skills (library, museum, etc.), fitting all those skills in job descriptions that real-live people can actually fulfill and fitting all those job descriptions into effective work flows and organizational settings. Then develop training programs and curricula that can deliver those people.


Educational panel, from the left: Andreas Rauber (TU  Wien), Sheila Corrall (Univ. of Sheffield), Joy Davidson (UK DCC), George Coulbourne (US LoC)

_a5To make things more complicated, the ‘new’ skills and the ‘old’ skills do not always go well together. As Joy Davidson emphasized, this is where the library meets IT and these two have very different service-mindsets: whereas libraries are about very personal, individual service, IT is about rolling services out to lots of people. Service requires softer skills (communication), whereas IT is more about facts and figures.

And there is more. When asked to define her ‘fantasy staff member’, Meg Phillips of the US National Archives and Records Administration (and one of the few archivists present), said that NARA needs staff with broad knowledge of formats and digital preservation tools, staff who can think, who can help make decisions. Howard Besser of New York University added: ‘We do not need tinkerers; we need people who can deal with the scale of the digital challenge, who can deal with new, emerging problems.’ Some existing staff can be trained new skills, Howard said, but as this is more about mind set than actual skills, we must accept that some of the staff we have will not be able to make the change. It is the younger people, the students, who have the right mind frame.

_a6Students attending the conference: ‘Please continue to invite students to these meetings; it develops our thinking at a strategic level.’

The panel reviewed a number of training and education initiatives (check out the slides here). Joy Davidson said she was happy about the level of international cooperation between the different projects and institutions. Yet there is still a lot of diversity in the language used by stakeholders in the different contexts, which makes it hard to develop cross-disciplinary curricula. It is is continuing to be difficult to determine what is generic about DP (education) and what is specific to the contexts.

Here is the educational panel’s answer to the question “Where do you want to be in five years?”

  • foster inter-disciplinary group projects in undergrad and postgrad courses (making use of tools like Planets Testbed and Plato). This could be a quick win
  • ability to describe and compare data management courses across international postgraduate research courses
  • establishment of frameworks for assessing data management skills and professional development progression paths for skills development for a range of disciplines
  • greater practical experience opportunities for students
  • greater engagement with professional bodies and industry to cooperate on raising awareness amongst researchers of the need to acquire sound data management skills
  • ability to match skills across data curation lifecycle and the various roles
  • development of information science courses that complement and bridge the gaps in the data management skills of researchers and information technologists. More real-life examples of data management and curation as it relates to day to day activities on the job
  • more induction level data management training for all secondary, undergraduate, postgrad and PhD students.

That is some to-do list! But a crucial one. In the end, even in a technical field such as digital preservation, it is the people that make the difference – between ‘tinkering’ and a truly digital mind-set.


zondag 29 mei 2011

Who pays for the invisible and unglamorous but absolutely necessary? – ANADP11 (7) & ESDI11 Round table

‘Economic sustainability’ is a buzz word in digital preservation. It is about what it costs and who pays. It is about users expecting everything that is online to be freely available while the people who do the actual work of providing preservation and access need to feed their families.

On the eve of their session, the ANADP11 economic panel does not (yet) seem daunted by the fact that they have to deal with difficult questions about money – from the left: Aaron Trehub (Auburn University; Alabama Digital Preservation Network; Neil Grindley (JISC), Bohdana Stoklasová (Czech National Library); Maurizio Lunghi (Fondazione Rinascimento Digitale).

There was an ANADP11 panel about these issues as well as an ‘ESDI Roundtable discussion’ (ESDI = Economic Sustainability of Digital Information) the next day. The latter was organized by Neil Grindley of JISC as a follow-up to earlier work by the US/UK  Blue Ribbon Task Force.

I am going to bring some threads from both meetings together in this post. First of all: in a financial context it is essential that we distinguish digitization (the act of making digital copies) from digital preservation (the act of preserving digital objects). Every time I think we have made this point clear enough, some speaker will mix them up again. So, I begin by citing Bohdana Stoklasová of the small but very active Czech National Library (remember those wonderful young web archivsts at IIPC11!):
‘Digital preservation work is invisible, and therefore it is hard to find funding for it. Digitizing new material is much more appealing to funders, because the benefits are immediately visible.’ (Bohdana Stoklasová)
agrindleyThe conversation that followed was mostly about funding and the sustainability of funding (we need long-term money rather than project money), and less about what digital preservation actually costs (the jury is still out on that, as witnessed by a workshop report from an international cost modelling meeting in The Hague last year).

Neil Grindley from JISC offered the audience some valuable insights into how funders think: ‘When a funder sees a problem, he wants to throw money at it and solve the problem. But some problems are too large and intractible.’ Comparing DP to an asteroid (slide right), the question is where and when to hit the asteroid to disarm it. Timing is very important, as is scale. Laura Campbell (Library of Congress) agreed that this is an important issue that funders have to address: exactly where will funders’ money be most effective in bringing DP costs down? She agreed with Grindley that funders from all over the world need to talk about this and align their efforts so that the money will be used in the most effective way. Grindley’s conclusions merit further discussion:



Grassroots initiatives from the US

atrehub2Americans tend to have a wonderful way of ‘cutting to the chase’. Aaron Trehub of Auburn University Libraries (photo left) was a case in point:
‘An unofficial definition: Digital preservation is the flipside of digital collection-building. Like most infrastructure, it’s invisible, unglamorous, and absolutely necessary’.

‘DP is necessary because: – things (hurricanes, etc.) happen; – hardware breaks; – software crashes; – files get corrupted (‘bit rot’); – somebody hits the wrong button; – somebody drops something; – burning files to CDs and DVDs isn’t enough; – it costs money to restore lost collections.’

‘One solution: distributed digital preservation (DDP): – multiple copies of digital content; – at geographically dispersed locations; – with at least 75-125 miles between them; – preferably out of hurricane pathways; – and across different power grids'; – with different system administrators; – on live media, with audits for integrity; = and in at least 3 copies (LOCKSS = six copies).’

‘DDP basic ingredients: – institutional commitment; – quorum of at least six institutions; – hardware (LOCKSS boxes), – in-house IT support; governance structure; – enough $$$ to cover membership and/or LOCKSS fees (your institution might already be a member!); – enough ‘sweat equity’ to keep it running.’

Such a DDP set-up works even for a poor state such as Alabame, which established the ‘Alabama Digital Preservation Network’ (or ADPNet), in which libraries, museums, archives and other cultural heritage organizations in Alabana share the work of preservation. The network now holds some 3TB of data and has been self-sustaining since 2008. Here is Aaron Trehub’s assessment of ADPNet’s significance and his economic advice for anyone thinking about doing something similar (and do check out the remainder of Aaron’s slides when they become available through the Educopia event website!):



ESDI11 – Economic Sustainability of Digital Information Roundtable

aesdi1On Thursday, a selection of ANADP11 attendees defied increasing bouts of conference fatigue and gathered to meet with some extremely early risers across the ocean who attended via Skype (also see the tweet threat on #ESDI11 with excellent work by cardcc). Neil Grindley explained that a mini-taskforce consisting of Chris Rusbridge (present LinkedIn profile: ‘retired’ at ‘None’) and Brian Lavoie is following up the work done earlier by the Blue Ribbon Task Force, by trying to turn their 100+ page report ‘Sustainable economics for a digital planet’ into a ‘reference model’, a tool that can help us understand the economic issues and the dynamics of sustainability, provide us with a joint vocabulary, and help us make the case vis-à-vis funders and the public at large. In that sense the model is to work much like the OAIS model did for technical issues – although Chris Rusbridge was quick to add that he does not like the OAIS model much (‘In reality digital archiving is a much more fluid and continuing activity than the closed box idea that is at the centre of OAIS’).

But first a few words on the BRTF work. Sabine Schrimpf of the NCDD’s German colleagues, nestor, reported from the nestor working group which studied the relevance of the report for Germany (Report in German. The working group agreed with many of the Task Force’s findings, but was ‘reluctant’ to accept the report’s recommendations for more public-private partnerships (PPP’s). I felt much the same way when I read the report – the US economy’s dynamics are different from much that goes on in Europe. We accept much more readily that preservation is a public duty and should be funded accordingly. (But note Clifford Lynch’s assessment of PPP’s: ‘Mostly, when there are profits, they go to private partners; if there are losses, they to to the public sector.’)

About the reference model: Chris Rusbridge (at right, with Brian Lavoie standing by via Skype, see cable mess above) stressed that the present text is very, very draft (see slides forthcoming on JISC website), but what I saw from it looks promising. It charts all those roles and relationships that make the digital world so different from the analogue world. E.g., what are the properties of sustainability? We do a lot of the work for ‘future users’, but they have no voice yet, so who can function as their ‘current representatives’? Who benefits, who pays; what about free riders? Where do rights holders come in? Etc. (‘Nobody wants preservation; everybody wants the digital asset.’ Chris Rusbridge)

The slides are very much worth reading – all of them will be made available through the JISC website, but here is a taste for you (thanks, Chris, for making these available to me on Sunday afternoon!)








Wouter Schallier of LIBER (the European Association of Research Libraries) reviewed the work that LIBER is doing to make the case for digital information, focussing on the (access) project Europeana, where digital content from all the EU member states is being made available. As an access project, Europeana is presently sustainable, but the future is uncertain. What will happen to Europeana if one of the major aggregators stops doing the work? Off the record doubts could be registered as well as to the added value of Europeana in comparison to Google. Is the Europeana system user-friendly enough?

Matthew Loy and Nancy Maron from Ithaka joined the conference by Skype to report on the sustainability research they did for JISC a couple of years ago, with a number of cases studies (full documentation here). Clifford Lynch (Coalition for Networked Information, CNI) commented that in his view the case studies are not classical digital preservation sustainability situations.

In the end, everybody agreed that the work Rusbridge and Lavoie are doing on the ESRM can definitely have value for the community, especially in the difficult task of Making the Case vis-à-vis funders and the public at large. But it is complicated business that Lavoie & Rusbridge are trying to chart, and a possible pitfall is that people will start using it as a standard (‘we are ESRM-compliant’). And there is need for a community to support the work and test it. Sabine Schrimpf suggested the nestor working group, but more testing is obviously needed.

Chris Rusbridge (furiously tweeting) and Clifford Lynch (CNI).

Clifford Lynch commented at some time during the meeting that ‘the BRTF report is cited a lot, but I am not sure how well it has been read.’ Matthew Woollard drew attention to the option strategies mentioned in the report. As we do not know what future demand will be for what we are presently curating, the way to save money might be to invest a little money into preservation work now, for say five years, and then decide later what selection from the material merits expensive curation measures. Clifford Lynch added that this strategy is being promoted by the US National Science Foundation as well, as short-term options tend to be cheap.

I leave you with Neil Grindley’s key words from the meeting. To be continued, absolutely.


zaterdag 28 mei 2011

Legal alignment? Forget it! - ANADP11 (6)

_DSC3137The most succinct summary of the legal status quo with regard to digital objects came from Dwayne Buttler (University of Louisville and legal adviser to MetaArchive): ‘Copyright law prevents you from making copies, and I cannot imagine a digital world without copies.’  It did not make the legal panel (photo, from the left: Dwayne Buttler, Adrienne Muir, Wilma Mossink) any less cheerful – after all, legal complications are their bread and butter.

Adrienne Muir of Loughborough University compared national deposit arrangements with regard to web archiving. Some are legal deposits, others are voluntary (although not necessarily less effective, as witnessed by the Netherlands); some include audiovisual materials, others do not. ‘This variance’, she said, ‘leads to gaps in what is being preserved for the future.’ Adrienne does not think that legal alignment is the most appropriate approach to filling this gap. She expects more progress from aligment in implementation (which is just what Laura Campbell and I were talking about - see previous post).

comitedessages The community’s struggle with copyright provisions is well-known. Wilma Mossink of the Dutch SURF Foundation explained that preservation in itself is not the biggest problem. Providing access to what you have preserved, however, is complicated. She reviewed the situation in Europe and then concluded that legal alignment at the European level is difficult because of dependency on unpredictable factors (lobby by rights holders; member states unwilling to give up their legal systems). Wilma expects more benefit from communal defined legal requirements, and said we should strive for one voice in those. Access to preserved digital objects, Wilma asserted, shall be more easily arranged by agreements between the stakeholders than by legislation.

Wilma referred to ‘The New Renaissance’, a recent report by a ‘Comite des sages’ (committee of the wise) that pleads more access to Europe’s cultural treasures through the Europeana project. Strangely enough, it says that one copy of all European digital cultural treasures should be archived at Europeana – although Europeana is not, at present, an archive at all. It is an aggregator for content from member states. Europeana is about access, not about preservation.


Dwayne Buttler (above) undoubtedly won the contest for the most entertaining presentation of the conference. His characteristic assessment of the situation:


The law is imperfect, but perhaps US institutions can expect some help from the “fair use doctrine’:


Woops. I just realized that Buttler drew up the permission-to-reuse-conference-stuff-by-Educopia forms all speakers signed, but did not sign one himself, ‘I am a lawyer after all’, he said with a broad smile. Am I in trouble now? Or can the fair use doctrine be made to apply in this case as well?

Perhaps it is safer for me to refer to writings by Buttler that are on the MetaArchive website anyway: the governance contract underlying the MetaArchive cooperative, and which anyone with similar intentions can consult:


In summary: in my experience it is pretty rare for lawyers to agree on anything, but lo and behold: it happened at this conference. Their joint advice: do not expect fast progress in legal alignment to make it easier to provide access to preserved content (which is what memory institutions want to do). As a community of heritage institutions, we should pull together and develop a joint stance and voice to lobby more effectively, but meanwhile – and at the same time – voluntary agreements between the stakeholders offer the best prospect for opening up those digital treasures.

Related posts: ANADP11 – 1, ANADP11 - 2, ANADP11 - 3, ANADP11 - 4, ANADP11 - 5

_DSC2967Tallinn main square on a glorious spring evening

ANADP11 - corrections & additions

_DSC2663I welcome anyone who does not agree with something I have written about the conference to send me an e-mail (inge.angevaare@kb.nl). There was a lot going on at the conference, and I may have gotten some things wrong. I slip any changes back into the original text, but for early readers, I will list them specifically in this blog post.

Blog no. 5, about standards:  I rewrote Hans Hofman’s comments on Saturday, 17:00 Dutch time) after an e-mail from him which clarified his viewpoint:

Hans Hofman of the Dutch National Archives (also attending on behalf of the International Council of Archives) suggested that there are many standards already available that also relate to digital preservation, such as international record keeping standards. He feels that we keep reinventing the wheel if the DP community does not make use of these. As an archivist, he also felt dat the discussions at this conference were being dominated by libraries and their collection approach to digital preservation, and if there ever is a next conference (there was talk of that possibility), we should find the common ground between libraries and archives (active management over time of digital objects) and focus on those.

Are we rushing into standards? – ANADP11 (5)

_DSC3215 In a conference about alignment a session on standards is very well placed, for standardization is a form of alignment in and of itself. And yet, we have all heard the adagium with which Raivo Ruusalepp (left) opened the session: ‘Standards are great; everybody should have one.’ There are so many standards: digital preservation standards, external standards that we really do not know the value of (e.g., PDF), standards from specific domains – ‘it’s like a Chinese menu we have to choose from.’ OAIS is of course the most well-known and well-used DP standard (but for organizations to advertise that they are ‘OAIS-compliant’ is utter nonsense; OAIS is a reference model, a framework of concepts, nothing more, nothing less).

Speaking also on behalf of Estonian colleages Mihkel Reial and Kai Idarand, Raivo went on to describe how the Estonians reacted to a massive cyber attack four years ago. They agreed to step up security measures – but whether the words have always been turned into actions is up for debate.


The other members of the standards panel, from the left: Cal Lee (UNC School of Information and Library Science, Chapel Hill), Bram van der Werf (Open Planets Foundation) and Matthew Woollard (UK Data Service). In the background Robert Sharpe of Tessella, vendor & conference sponsor.

_DSC3041Matthew Woollard of the UK Data Service (photo right) told the conference why his organization went through an ISO 27001 certification process that cost it no less than GBP 100,000: for pragmatic reasons, in order to secure annual funding to the amount of GBP 1 million. ‘A reasonable investment,’ he concluded  with a quite British sense for the understatement.

Matthew Woollard went on to make a pitch for the Data Seal of Approval in the context of present European efforts to develop a three-tiered certification system (see also previous post). ‘Read the DSA,’ he said, ‘it is simple, it is understandable, and it may help you understand your organization better.’ He expects that at some point in time, some level of certification may be required for any organization participating in EU-funded projects.

Cal Lee of the UNC School of Information and Library Sciences dealt with contextual information (metadata) and the conventions and standards involved in those. I must admit that some of it was too technical for my (policy & communications) brain – my apologies, Cal (check out his slides on the conference website in due course). But he made a few fundamental assertions with regard to metadata standards that merit reproducing:



_DSC3072 Bram van der Werf of the Open Planets Foundation (photo right) raised some fundamental issues of his own with regard to standards. He said: ‘Most major challenges are about people.  Standards are basically designed to allow less clever people to perform activities that clever people have designed. Thus quality requirements and standards are most suited to deal with static challenges. Digital preservation is by no means a static field; rather it is a moving target. Thus one may wonder if standards really help to improve digital preservation. I would propose that we start thinking in terms of current best practices and accept that they will evolve continually.’

Hans Hofman of the Dutch National Archives (also attending on behalf of the International Council of Archives) suggested that there are many standards already available that also relate to digital preservation, such as international record keeping standards. He feels that we keep reinventing the wheel if the DP community does not make use of these. As an archivist, he also felt dat the discussions at this conference were being dominated by libraries and their collection approach to digital preservation, and if there ever is a next conference (there was talk of that possibility), we should find the common ground between libraries and archives (which is active management over time of digital objects) and focus on that.


David Giaretta, APA (left): ‘I never thought I would say this, but I actually agree with Hans’ [Hofman, right in the photo] 

It was also argued that digital preservation is not an activity in itself – it is part and parcel of an entire work flow and standards should reflect that. Matthew Woollard would like to see them become more context- and culture-specific.

In conclusion, Cal Lee prepared this slide with standards success factors:


donderdag 26 mei 2011

Diversity in approaches – ANADP11 (4)

The organizational panel was a showcase for the many different ways in which institutions develop methods to cooperate in digital preservation.


From the left: Martin Halbert (MetaArchive), yours truly (NCDD), David Giaretta (APA), Michelle Galinger (NDIIPP/Library of Congress).

David Giaretta of the Alliance for Permanent Access to the Records of Science (APA) drew a picture of the many initiatives in the European research arena. Digital preservation, David asserted, is not a separate activity, it must be fitted into the research infrastructure. The European Commission is funding many R&D projects in digital preservation (Planets, ParseInsight, CASPAR, Shaman, etc.; you can google them for more info). If truth be told, the variety of institutions and projects is quite overwhelming – perhaps that is why David’s slides have a tendency to be that as well ;-) – here’s an example that can keep you busy for a while.


Present efforts are focused around APARSEN, with over 30 participating organizations. The intention is to establish a Europe-wide competence center for digital preservation. A new acronym for me was SCIDIP-ES. Here is the accompanying elucidating slide:


Europe is also working on a three-tiered audit and certification system that makes a lot of sense to me: it allows institutions to grow into certification:  there is a light-weight instrument for basics (the Data Seal of Approval), a second level of self-audit, and then a super-level of external audit.

imagemichelleWhile the Alliance clearly takes the technical requirements as its starting point, the US NDIIPP program draws its inspiration from the social context, from ‘shared values’ and ‘common goals’ – Michelle Galinger (left) told the conference. NDIIPP began as a project organization, but as time went on the need was felt to build something more committed, something more sustainable. This led, in 2010, to the establishment of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA), in which partners ‘commit to formalized roles and structure within alliance’.

A third genre of DP organizations are the national coalitions, mostly bottom-up voluntary networks of custodial institutions across the borders of traditional domains (archives, libraries, museums, research institutions). The UK DPC and German nestor are networks to promote awareness and share knowledge and expertise. The Dutch NCDD goes a step further and intends to build an infrastructure (see yesterday’s post).

All of the above are enabling organizations, facilitators. To my mind things get really interesting when institutions actually start sharing the burden of digital preservation. Not surprisingly, reciprocal hands-on networks like these have mainly sprung up in the United States. Martin Halbert of North Texas University summarized the distributed preservation approach:

martin1  martin3 


The American version of the distributed preservation approach is not undisputed. LOCKSS is about bit preservation, and especially in Europe there are those that believe that without proper preservation strategies the job cannot be done. At this conference I got the distinct impression that for economic reasons, thinking is turning in the direction of spending our money on relatively simple preservation methods for the short term, especially because it is very difficult to tell what will be valuable in the future. Matthew Woollard of the UK Data Service spoke out in this direction. After some years the material can be reappraised and more expensive preservation strategies can be applied to selected material only.


Lively discussions about organizational aspects during the break-out session.

One of the nice features of this conference, I thought, was the room for conversation, for discussion. During this break-out session Laura Campbell’s idea for a global preservation body (see blog) was pretty much rejected. It was felt that while the organizations doing the actual preservation must have continuity and long-term commitment, interaction between these organizations should be more fluid, more spontaneous. The International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC, see recent blogs on their General Assembly) was repeatedly mentioned as an excellent example of how fluid, voluntary groupings of people with similar problems can work in the  21st century.

The conclusion was that in DP (not unlike in many other situations) one size does not fit all. Commonalities, shared problems, are basic to successful types of cooperation, and sometimes these must be context- and culture-specific. It was also said, during another session, that in a young field such as digital preservation we need to experiment with different approaches in order to discover what works and what does not.

At the end of the day, Laura Campbell and I, over dinner, thought of a very fluid and informal network to address some issues that really need addressing on a high international level, such as how to redefine our collection profiles within a digital paradigm. To be continued!

PS: Meanwhile the conference has come to a close. But there is good stuff yet to share with you. So, if you will bear with me, I will go on blogging about it for a few more days. Until the story is told.


Conference reception: We were so captivated by the singing of the National Library’s Women’s Choir, that the excellent food remained untouched for quite a while …