United we stand 

I attended a Digital Preservation Coalition training event recently in Liverpool called “Making Progress with Digital Preservation”. This came at a good time for me after having been in post as Digital Archivist at Lancaster University for a couple of months and finding myself trying to do just that.  It was a great opportunity to meet some of my fellow professionals in the region and also to meet a wide range of practitioners from different disciplines who had come together to try and get their heads around some of the challenges faced by the emerging and changing discipline of Digital Preservation.

One of the big themes of the day – and something I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to recently – is the need for advocacy – as William Kilbride, chief executive of the DPC, said “a huge part of digital preservation is relentless advocacy” and certainly the relentless nature of it can seem daunting. I often think that very few people really grasp what it is I am trying to achieve in my job – it can be quite hard to explain – and without having the record creators on board with the task of preserving is impossible. Digital preservation does not take place in isolation – it is a combination of tasks undertaken by a wide range of people taking on the challenges posed by the technologies, information, curation, selection and so on and so on. 

As was discussed at the event, digital preservation is an activity undertaken by people from many different disciplines each of whom bring a different angle or perspective to many of the issues with are being grappled with. This includes librarians, records managers, archivists, data managers, IT systems people, researchers… the List is endless.  It’s a collaborative effort and one which, if it is to succeed, needs to be taken up and be taken seriously by anyone who is engaged in data creation.  And by that of course I mean everybody.

Funding models for projects mean that there are a multiplicity of time-limited projects, the results of which are scattered and difficult to navigate even for someone who knows a little about the subject. On the plus side here are lots of people who are keen to share their knowledge, experience and expertise, and only by string collaborative working will we really achieve results.

I’m preparing to introduce my colleagues to the principles of Digital Preservation because that advocacy work starts at home, and I can’t save the world digital data on my own.

This week I’ve been reading this article by Anthony Cocciolo, Professor of Information at the Pratt Institute, New York and Library Science which looks at the archivist in a data managers world.  I’ve also looked at this article from International Article of a Digital Curation on how we should be taking a holistic approach to data curation.

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