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published: April, 2002

Archives & Museum Informatics, 2002.
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0  License

speakers

Now you see it, now you won't
Suzanne Keene, University College London, United Kingdom
http://www.suzannekeene.info

Demonstration: Demonstrations 1

"Digital materials, regardless of whether they are created initially in digital form or converted to digital form, are threatened by technology obsolescence and physical deterioration." - Research Libraries Group report

This demonstration will take a sceptical look at the issues around the long term preservation of digital assets. It will be in the form of a website that illuminates these issues by comparing requirements for digital preservation to requirements for the preservation of actual items. At a time when museums are investing so much time and funding in creating digital assets, we need to take stock of the implications of doing so. There will be links to work around the world in this important area.

There are a number of important issues to consider in digital preservation. Some of them are to do with resources, funding, skills, and long term digital stores; others, more important, are to do with policies and planning.

Preservation policies: Long term digital preservation is expensive. At the outset, it needs to be decided whether the digital asset should last for the long term (indefinitely), the medium term (for a defined period of time), or if it is only useful until technology renders it inaccessible.

Tracking and retrieval: as they are created, digital assets require cataloguing using metadata - without this it is not retrievable.

Technical obscelence: there are opinions on whether this is best planned for through emulation (the imitation of obsolete systems on future generations of computers), or via migration (the transfer of digital assets from one generation of technology to the next).

Physical media: It will almost certainly be necessary to adopt reformatting - copying information content from one storage medium to a different storage medium (media reformatting) or converting from one file format to a different file format (file re-formatting).

Authenticity is another consideration. How to ensure that digital material is what it purports to be.

The international academic community is aware of these issues. A Digital Preservation Coalition has been formed in the UK. There are others in the USA, and in Australia, and elsewhere.