Introductory Blog Post

Hi, (I hope I posted this in the right place!)

My name is Maggie McCready and I’m starting my second year in the MLIS program at UMD. I wanted to take this class because I feel like digital preservation isn’t something I know enough about. Most of the archives I have worked in are still focused upon addressing “analog” records, and throw around “digitization” as a buzz word to sound forward thinking but are really only approaching digitization from a very basic standpoint. I want to learn how to actually manage digital and born digital records, and hopefully this is the right class to take for that.


With regard to the readings, I was super psyched to have such an approachable and straightforward introduction to the topic. I’m not very technically minded, so I’m glad the readings started off by introducing more of the concepts and issues related to digital preservation.  Prof. Owens’ 12th axiom of digital preservation (I think #12?) really hit the nail on the head for me, that “highly technical definitions of digital preservation are complicit in silencing the past”– using opaque and overly technical language to describe this really necessary process is exclusionary, making digital preservation seem like this complex and lofty goal that no small institution can ever achieve. I appreciate that Professor Owens has stated this so plainly in our first reading and I’m hopeful that means this course will be taught with this in mind.

The following readings that covered the Digital Dark age reminded me a lot of discussions I’ve heard about the “period of catastrophic loss” projected to happen within the next ten years for magnetic audiovisual materials. I completely disagree with the article by Lyons “There Will Be No Digital Dark Age”, like sure, dude, archivists are aware that we need to save this stuff and sure we’re trying but the digital dark age is a very real thing that’s already happening.  I think Kuny and Tansey address it well, recognizing that institutions can and do interfere with the preservation of their records in order to control the way they are remembered, sometimes purposefully deleting records, but also there is a general disinterest amongst records creators with digital preservation. Obsolescence is also a huge issue, with new formats for storage being produced constantly, we are already having problems with accessing files on floppy discs, Jazz drives, etc.

I did appreciate Vint Cerf and Kuny’s argument for preserving the digital environment or the software in addition to a digital object in order to ensure that the file can still be read and used in its intended way. That was something I hadn’t really thought about before, because my experience with digitization so far has been with relatively simple digital objects like scanned images. Preserving complex digital objects like programs, videogames, or websites really interests me, I feel like there’s so much involved with that process and I want to understand how institutions like the internet archive, MITH, or the LGBTQ Video Game Archive are approaching preserving videogames.  I think this area in particular is something I’m really interested in.

Intro and initial thoughts

Hello everyone. I’m Tina. I’m in the Master of Library and Information Science program. This is actually my second graduate degree. I also have an MS in nutrition. I’ve come to learn this is far from unusual in the MLIS program. Right now, I work full time on a digitization program of historical medical texts. I’ve been looking forward to taking a digital preservation class so that I can put what I’ve learned on the job in context and understand more about the field in general.

I’m also coming at this on a personal level because, like many people, I keep my own digital collections. I’ve amassed a lot of electronic records since I started grad school and I do refer back to them. I think about them every time I start a new class and regret not coming up with a standard naming system from the start for searching. I also have personal records of sentimental value. I get a kick out of reading my earlier writing, not because it’s particularly good, but because it sometimes feels like someone else wrote it. It’s interesting to me to see how much (or little) I’ve changed and what I was thinking at the time. Most of what I’ve written is gone now. I’m glad that Trevor Owens mentions in his introduction to our text that he is writing for a wider audience than just information professionals because I think empowering people to keep their own history is important. That being said, I’ve generally taken the view that my writing will really only be interesting to me in the long run. Blogging is new to me.

Reading reflections

There is a lot in our readings this week that resonated with me. I can appreciate that the unique qualities of digital collections require a different way of thinking about information and preservation, but I also recognize a lot of similar issues to those in maintaining any collection. Several of our readings addressed the idea of a digital dark age, that records using obsolete formats or technologies will be lost, and the role that information professionals can take in preventing this.

In “There will be no digital dark age,” Bertram Lyons responds to an NPR report on digital preservation, suggesting that they were ignoring the role that information professionals and institutions play. Following on Lyons’s comments, Eira Tansey agrees but goes on to write that the real problem is that archivists are not in positions of power to ensure the safe disposition of records because they can’t control compliance with acquisition policies or the budget that would sustain preservation. These concepts of underappreciated professions and having to prove your worth are not new to library science or many other professions. When I started library school, I was under the impression that I wouldn’t have to explain the value of my work in a library because administrators would understand the importance of the functions that sustain it. I understand it a little differently now because things change, and you have to justify whether old methods continue to be necessary in new contexts.

Tansey suggests that advocating on our own behalf isn’t enough because we need advocates in positions of power to make digital preservation sustainable. I agree but I’m not sure how we can have external advocates if we’re not prepared to persuade them.

I’m looking forward to our discussions this semester.

Welcome to Digital Preservation INST 784

You have found your way to the course site Information Studies 784, Digital Preservation, a graduate seminar at the University of Maryland. The course meets this fall in College Park, Maryland.

The course syllabus is available here. This course is built around this public course blog where we share and constructively comment on the work of our fellow learners.

Along with engaging with course readings, each student in this course works as a digital preservation consultant for a small cultural heritage organization. So posts to this blog will explore both thematic issues in digital preservation and report outs on attempts to apply what we are learning to help a small cultural heritage organization develop it’s approach to digital preservation.

The best way to get ahold of me, the instructor, is email. You can reach me at trevor dot john owens at gmail dot com.