4 Replies to ““One Solution Will Not Rule Them All””

  1. Thank you for the post Mallory! The comment “rings” true… haha sorry, I had to.

    The one size doesn’t fit all conclusion from the POWRR report really rang true with me and my experiences in different internships. Last year I spent time at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and this past summer I spent two months with a small music-and-dance-focused heritage library in London. Both institutions held remarkably similar collections of both library and archival materials dating from the 18th century to the present (although admittedly, the LoC AFC had a much larger collection). The big difference was their budgets, and therefore the level of preservation they could undertake. At both internships, I spent time rehousing photographs. At the LoC, I was given a stack of new sleeves, in all different sizes, and new, purpose-bought binder-boxes to store them in. In London, their preservation budget is so low that they couldn’t buy any new materials, so I had to re-use old plastic sleeves. There is no way that the London library would be able to afford something like Preservica to handle their digital holdings (of which there are many). However, the Internet Archive would be a great alternative solution… if they could find the staff time. If they were given an ultimate digital preservation goal to work up to, then they would no doubt feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. This article, and the report on Fixity, did a really good job identifying, as you say, simple first steps for struggling institutions.

    1. Hi Rosemary,

      Thanks for your comment! And as always, more puns on LOTR are always welcome.

      I think the examples you brought up are excellent evidence as to the difference between bigger and smaller institutions when it comes to preservation efforts. It’s striking that although the two institutions you mentioned hold similar materials, the LoC has a better chance of successfully preserving them than London due to their vast resources. It’s up to the smaller cultural heritage organizations to take those baby preservation steps now so that they don’t feel overwhelmed or pushed to meet goals they aren’t prepared to meet.

      Since you mentioned London, I wondered if their standards for digital preservation differ from ours in the United States. While small institutions in America may know about the NDSA levels and are aware about issues concerning digital files, I thought it would be interesting to see if the UK has similar standards, and if they are different, how that might influence their actions toward preservation.

      On the National Archives website for the UK, I found a link to a paper by the Head of Digital Preservation entitled, “Parsimonious preservation: preventing pointless processes! (The small steps that take digital preservation a long way forward).” Tim Gollins, the author, argues against acquiring complex digital preservation systems, arguing instead for open source or free resources, and the least amount of intervention with the digital object as possible. I didn’t see the term “fixity” once, which is interesting. I got the impression that the standards of preservation in the UK don’t aim for the most expensive software, but focus more on the ideas we read about this week.

      I think I’ve strayed off topic, but you probably get where I was going with that. With both your internships, you had the same materials with two different budgets and two different standards of preservation, but something tells me that your London library wouldn’t have even wanted to acquire a tool like Preservica, and that they would prefer simpler solutions.

      Here’s the link to the article I read: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/information-management/parsimonious-preservation.pdf


  2. Mallory, I was also struck by that quote about the Blake papers. Emulation is great and all, but not as great as using the software we are already familiar with. As that article mentioned, software from the past was, well, not very good by today’s standards. Computers were slow and prone to crashing, screens were small and ugly, graphics were either an afterthought or distracting.

    I think this is why format migration remains in the picture for preservation purposes. Emulation is a lot of work for uncertain value. While it is interesting to see Timothy Leary’s incomplete games, their value is so marginal that, rather than investing “enormous amounts of time, effort, and resources” at NYPL, it might have been better to simply preserve them in unusable disk image form until a researcher decided to dive deeply into them as a pet project. We just don’t have the resources to spare for every potentially interesting project, especially if users are not interested in dealing with obsolete emulated environments.

  3. The institution I am working with actually takes a multifaceted approach towards managing their digital content. They have been using Preservica, as they are well funded, but understaffed. For the most part this means a lot of their work is done for them. However, they also have their front access provided by Content DM, and their authority files in Archivespace.

    In regards to emulation, they rarely are concerned about doing so. They provide the tools for format migration to their patrons if necessary but for the most part they figure that if they have the files well preserved they can worry about the rest as they have need and staffing.

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