Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A look at DigitalPreservationeurope


Planets (Preservation and Long-term Access Through Networked Services) has released the first of four filmed and written studies to show how national libraries and archives in Europe are using Planets tools to preserve large and valuable digital collections. DigitalPreservationEurope (DPE) fosters collaboration and synergies between many existing national initiatives across the European Research Area. DPE addresses the need to improve coordination, cooperation and consistency in current activities to secure effective preservation of digital materials. 

Digital preservation is a set of activities required to make sure digital objects can be located, rendered, used and understood in the future. This can include managing the object names and locations, updating the storage media, documenting the content and tracking hardware and software changes to make sure objects can still be opened and understood.
  1. "Digital preservation combines policies, strategies and actions to ensure access to reformatted and born digital content regardless of the challenges of media failure and technological change. The goal of digital preservation is the accurate rendering of authenticated content over time." (ALA 2007:2)
  2. "The act of maintaining information, in a correct and Independently Understandable form, over the Long Term." (CCSDS 2002: 1-11)
  3. "All activities concerning the maintenance and care for/curation of digital or electronic objects, in relation to both storage and access." (Research Councils UK 2008: 6)
 Essentially, DPE is concerned with preserving the digital world. Scanning and digitizing is only part of the solution to record preservation. Once the document, photograph, video or audio file has been created, there is still the issue of migrating and preserving the digitized files in formats that will be readable to machines in the future. Quoting again from the DPE website:
Digital objects are much more 'fragile' than traditional analogue documents such as books or other hard copy mediums. Digital objects are fragile because they require various layers of technological mediation before they can be heard, seen or understood by people. Digital objects are also much more venerable to physical damage. One scratch on CD-ROM containing 100 e-books can make the content inaccessible, whereas to damage 100 hard copy books by one scratching move is - fortunately - impossible. A flash memory stick can drop into glass of water or get magnetized, portable hard drive or laptop can slip from your hands and get irreparably damaged in a second.
Digital objects require pro-active intervention to remain accessible. While you can put a book on a shelf and return to it in upwards of 100 years and still open it and see the content as it was intended by the author/publisher, the same approach of benign neglect to a digital object is almost a guarantee that it will be inaccessible in the future.
Genealogists, especially those with huge investments of time and energy into large database files need to be not just interested, but obsessed with digital preservation. All this reminds me, it is time to migrate my files again.

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