2 comments:

  1. Hi Thomas,

    Thank you for your great post! One thing I noticed in so many of the digital preservation policies that I read, including those you have examined, was their often quite vague nature. I think that this definitely has to do with the fact that this document is for the public to view. The institutions, like you said, don’t want to present their policies as too wordy, or use words that the public will not understand. I wonder if this vagueness is only for the public’s benefit, or if it also allows for maximum flexibility in their actual carrying-out of the policy. Flexibility can be a very good thing, and allows the policy to be carried out with collections of varying formats and over various technologies (hardware and software) as things in the digital world change. However, I think it also makes things *harder* when trying to apply to policy, because it created more work and thought during each project and with each collection. I even wonder if, possibly, some of these institutions have another digital preservation policy, one that is much more detailed, that they do not show to the public. If this were the case, they would have specific guidelines for their work (and therefore save time), while also having the ability to deviate from their own rules by having a much more vague publicly available policy.
    I wonder if this desire for flexibility is the same reason that standards are not often mentioned in the policies. Maybe the OAIS model works for almost every accession… except one. For one reason or another. So the institution wants to avoid writing this specific requirement into their public-facing policy so that, when they deviate from standards, they cannot be held accountable by their own policy.
    In terms of the NDSA standards – have these spread internationally? I agree that they are an incredibly valuable resource, and would aid many institutions in creating digital preservation policies… but perhaps they are just not that widely known (yet)? I don’t know that actual answer to this (and I certainly think that they should be widely known!). For my post, I explored differences in US and European policies, and got the impression that some things just had not crossed the pond yet, one way or another.

    Rosemary

  2. Nice post Thomas. Your point about really wordy policies is a good one. From my perspective, the most essential thing for a digital preservation policy to do is to clearly explain how the institution is approaching digital preservation and what kind of assurances it offers based on that policy. Ideally, a policy offers this clarity to anyone who might submit material to it, those who fund and support it and also to the staff working in the institution to follow through on it.

    To you question about why the NDSA levels don’t show up much in these. It is worth noting that the levels are still relatively new. It is likely the case that many of these policies pre-date them. To that end, I do agree with you that the levels offer a very clear way to communicate the kinds of assurances an organization might offer based on it’s focus and approach.

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