What is Digital Preservation?


At the most basic level, digital preservation refers to the conservation of important objects, artifacts, and documents that exist in digital form. As technology continues to rapidly evolve and new software is propelled into mainstream use nearly every day, continued innovation leads to planned obsolescence for hardware and software, all too often rendering content created with older versions unusable. Universities have vast amounts of electronic media in their collections, and each item of digital content represents a unique challenge from a conservation standpoint. While museums have long employed art historians with specialties in artifact preservation, but to university libraries, it is often a challenge to find professionals who understand preservation from a computer science perspective. Just like ancient objects, digital objects can be fragile and require special care, and the growing dependence on changing technologies puts these digital items at great risk. As universities, libraries, and other organizations start to support and develop processes and resources for digital preservation, a new science and toolset is emerging to support and inform the work.


INSTRUCTIONS: Enter your responses to the questions below. This is most easily done by moving your cursor to the end of the last item and pressing RETURN to create a new bullet point. Please include URLs whenever you can (full URLs will automatically be turned into hyperlinks; please type them out rather than using the linking tools in the toolbar).

Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - Larry Larry Oct 30, 2011

(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Preservation of knowledge and content/material is central to the entire learning process, and the point of involving not "just" the content experts but also the technical experts is therefore vital - helga helga Nov 18, 2011
  • Speaking from a library perspective: the importance of this in the long run cannot be overestimated. So much data is being lost because it never makes it to physical form (and therefore no one thinks to send it to--or notify-- the library. When a library/archive is aware something needs preserving, then there's an entirely new skill set needed on staff, as well as a new way of thinking of materials and retrieval. I know my own institution is harvesting portions of the institutional website through archive.org, but it's costly and we're not getting the entire thing. Faculty have blogs and other content hosted off campus, which we don't have access to to preserve (or in many cases, even know about)... In the past, when someone passed or was no longer going to be producing scholarship, people would bring boxes of materials to the archives. Now a lot of that content might be on the web, and without a password no one can get in to the files. And in the case of self-hosting, if some specified period of time goes by without payment, the site might just vanish. Preserving digital content, as well as strategic thinking about digital content, will be of utmost importance for libraries in the near future. - lauren.pressley lauren.pressley Nov 19, 2011

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Agreed with skillset and fragile nature of digital objects as described above. Would include that it's particularly ephemeral and not necessarily found by or given to archives for preservation. - lauren.pressley lauren.pressley Nov 19, 2011
  • Information Literacy- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011
  • One aspect of the issue that contributes to its being so challenging is the way that digital content - production, ownership, distribution etc - is so distributed. Finding out who has what and educating them and providing services are a real challenge. there are also some interesting overlaps with data stewardship here - glenda.morgan glenda.morgan Nov 20, 2011
  • The Library of Congress and other institutions committed to preservation of national and international heritage are increasingly faced with curating and preserving the growing collection of scholarly and other materials that are Born Digital.http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/ - paul.turner paul.turner Nov 20, 2011

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • If this is not taken under consideration, I worry that we will lose a lot of primary sources and original content for scholarship and teaching. - lauren.pressley lauren.pressley Nov 19, 2011
  • another response here

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • Most academic libraries are working on this to some degree. - lauren.pressley lauren.pressley Nov 19, 2011
  • Iniana University did a wonderful media preservation survey that will really be a model for other schools and institutions and a real call to action on this issue http://www.indiana.edu/~medpres/documents/iub_media_preservation_survey_FINALwww.pdf - glenda.morgan glenda.morgan Nov 20, 2011
  • University of Notre Dame recently started a university-wide effort that is charged with coordinating, streamlining and strategically planning for the capture, preservation and use of digital assets across campus known as Digital ND.- paul.turner paul.turner Nov 20, 2011
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