Here is the first post from Tallinn, Estonia, where I am attending the conference Aligning National Approaches to Digital Preservation (23-25 May). As this once again is an international conference, I hope that the Dutch fans will forgive me for blogging in English this week. The title of the conference is perhaps a little bit deceptive – it is not going to be about aligning necessarily national initiatives, but really about taking cooperation and collaboration in digital preservation in whichever form to a higher, international level. Unlike, e.g., iPRES, which focuses more on technical developments in digital preservation and on specific projects, this conference takes cooperation and alignment as its focus – that is the stuff we all know we have to do in order to meet the digital challenge, the stuff that is mentioned in hundreds of big, fat reports (mostly in the “we should …” form – without talking much about how); it is the stuff my own organization (the Dutch Digital Preservation Coalition, NCDD) is made of – and yet it is also the stuff that is often so difficult and slow to realize at any practical level.
And even when we do succeed in cooperating on something, we mostly fail to look at the issues from a truly digital, global perspective. In the US, NDIPP will not fund projects that include non-US partners; in Europe the Commission has the same policy – funding for European partners only. The idea for this conference came from Educopia, the people behind MetaArchive. Martin Halbert of North Texas University told me that one of the reasons for organizing the conference was that too little news about what is going in Europe tends to get through to the US stakeholders. For me, being a Dutch person, it is not always easy to imagine what it is like to live in a country that is so big that the rest of the world does not come into the picture much.
This Monday morning there is a sense of some suspense in the organizing committee. I know that we’ve got a pretty good line-up of speakers, and we’ve been skyping for months on how to fit it all together (Skype, by the way, is an Estonian invention!) – yet I do not quite know what will come out of it. The organizers emphasize that this is the first conference of its kind, and we will have to see how it goes. It is easy to agree on alignment, but to really make it work is another matter altogether.
So, I say: let’s begin by giving everybody who says “we should …” a fine of some sort – I have read and heard so many of those in the past three years as coordinator of the NCDD, that I think we pretty much have our fill of that. We should standardize, cooperate and align – let’s take that as the premise from which this conference starts. No need to repeat the obvious.
Let us instead pamper those people who come up with practical, doable ideas.
Tallin, Estonia: where the Middle Ages survive in the Old Hanseatic Town
and Russian influences are visible (above).
This is our venue, the National Library of Estonia (above), an enormous building, which looked rather Soviet to me, but turns out to be a product of re-awakening national awareness in Estonia in 1985. It is the largest building in Tallinn; upkeep is expensive and so the National Library rents out an entire wing.
(I made the collages at the top from the thousands of photos I took at DP events in the past three years, to adorn the conference website.)
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