1 Nov 2013

Getting Started in Digital Preservation - dpc Workshop, Dublin 1st Nov. - Review

Today I attended a one-day introductory workshop delivered by the Digital Preservation Coalition, which covered the nuts and bolts of digital preservation. It became quite clear from the outset that attendees' ideas, needs and priorities on this tricky topic differed. These ranged from arguing the business case to secure funding for the preservation of particular materials to identifying the general requirements for a successful digital preservation project and the particulars of approaching risk analysis.

Essentially, this workshop delivered a high level walk-through on how to accomplish a successful digital preservation project, which will deliver on the needs of all stakeholders involved. It also provided us with a substantial list of information resources that can make this happen.

The first presentation introduced us to the idea of getting started in digital preservation activities. Much digital information requires long-term preservation as it represents value to particular users in the present, whilst at the same time creating information contexts and opportunities for users of the future. Preservation means migration (adjusting file formats to ensure accessibility), emulation (intervening in an operating system to ensure that legacy software continues to read information), hardware preservation (maintaining the physical computing environment to read information), and research and development of new preservation and access solutions.

Various challenges arise when engaging with digital preservation activities, which consequently require careful planning and execution. See the presentation "Getting Started in Digital Preservation: what do I need to know?" for details on those challenges, approaches and related support tools.

The next presentation introduced us to identifying appropriate file formats for preservation. This included a practical showcase using Pronom + Droid, a public file format registry. I found this quite useful as it highlighted the challenges inherent in the changing of file formats over time (i.e. identifying 'robust' formats versus 'proliferating' formats versus 'conformant' data containers).

We were then shown how to implement a workflow for digital preservation. Six basic steps apply:
1) Know what you have, 2) Prioritise the risks, 3) Plan what to do about them, 4) Test the plan, 5) Implement the plan, 6) Check the plan has worked. Practical planning tools include PLATO, DMPonline and OAIS. This presentation is particularly valuable if your are new to the field of digital preservation as it introduces a step-by-step protocol to executing digital preservation projects.

The reality is that successful digital preservation projects rely on considerable planning, manpower and expertise (appropriate funding is a separate question altogether). This workshop helped me to better understand what's ultimately required, including which information resources to consult to make sure that projects get properly off the ground.


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