“What I Wish I Knew Before I Started”…some thoughts from the Digital Preservation Coalition event at The British Library

In this Eventswatch post, digital preservation student Mary Dunne talks about what she learnt from attending the Digital Preservation Coalition event “What I wish I knew before I started” (#WIWIK2015)

Since starting my Traineeship in Digital Preservation at the University of Glasgow Archive Services, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend two events organised by the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC). DPC are partners in my traineeship and it’s great being able to tap into such a fantastic resource of information and support. Last year I attended their “Making Progress in Digital Preservation” event and on January 16th of this year, I assisted at “What I Wish I Knew Before I Started” at the British Library.

The event aimed to give an overview of digital preservation basics, look at emerging trends, and invite reflections on the profession from key players within the digital preservation world. The audience was predominantly made up of library, archives and information management students/trainees and provided an opportunity to hear at first-hand what a career in digital preservation can offer.

The day kicked off with the DPC’s Sharon McMeekin and what she perceived to be the seven main “challenges” of digital preservation. Her presentation was full of useful links to information sources on tools, standards, solutions and training. Yes, there ARE lots of acronyms but don’t be intimidated by that, learn to “talk-the-talk”, collaboration is key and appreciate that the profession is still evolving and that nobody has all the answers. A positive message was that “You already have many of the skills you need!”

The Bodleian Library’s Lucie Burgess gave us her own “Top 5 Technologies for Budding Digital Archivists”. Coming in at number 1 was IIIF – the International Image Interoperability Framework that enables the sharing of very high resolution digitised images without the need for interoperable infrastructures. Matthew Addis of Arkivum spoke on the opportunities and burdens of Bit Preservation and emphasised that there are “no silver bullets” and that successful digital preservation involves a combination of “people, processes, skills and infrastructure”. He also showed a video “How Toy Story 2 Almost Got Deleted”, a salutary tale painfully demonstrating the fact that “backups are not preservation” – it had us all wincing! The morning’s session ended with Fiona Kearney of the Information and Records Society telling us about her organisation and what it could offer its members.

Mary 1

The “round” table at the event


The second half of the day saw presentations from Helen Hockx-Yu (British Library), Adrian Brown (Parliamentary Archives), Deon Cotgrove (BBC) and Dave Thomson (Wellcome Collection). It was fascinating to hear professionals from such a range of institutions talking about their work in digital preservation. What struck me most was the repeated emphasis on team-work, collaboration and project management.

The sheer scale of some of the projects was breathtaking. The British Library’s web archiving project headed up by Helen Hockx-Yu, is annually archiving the entire UK domain (in excess of 10 million using the ‘.uk’ domain alone). Deon Cotgrove had some equally jaw-dropping statistics from the BBC’s project to archive its obsolete D3 tape format. With over 340,000 D3 tapes, the project has only recently drawn to a close. And now they’re starting on their 140,000 Digibeta tapes. Digital preservation is a constant process.

Adrian Brown spoke of the range of experiences and opportunities that working in digital preservation has offered him including “writing books” (and I can’t imagine there were many students in the room who haven’t referenced his excellent digital preservation “How to” guide!) Dave Thompson’s presentation had us all sitting up and taking notice. “Digital preservation is not an exercise in technology for its own sake; it’s a social activity” “Digital preservation is not a technical problem; it’s a social problem”, “…one day archivists will rule the world”!? I manned the roving mic for a final Q&A round-table session that inspired some interesting debate on ethics and collaborating and engaging with IT departments.

The key messages I took away from this event? Digital Preservation is not ALL about the Bits; you can’t do it on your own; communication and collaboration are vital to its success.

You can view the all the slides from the WIWIK15 presentations on the DPC website

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: