Digital Preservation is a course I had been looking forward to since I first looked at the iSchool Two-Year Plan. I’ve even moved classes around to make sure I could fit in Digital Preservation Fall 2018. My specialization is Archives and Digital Curation and I’m greatly interested in this field. I felt strongly that once I took this class, I would just “know” digital preservation.
I’m happy to have taken this course because it sort of lifted the veil for me. Digital preservation is not just one thing; there are many methods and approaches to preserving digital objects. I did not expect to learn so much theory, and kind of did not enjoy it at first, but now at the end of the semester I realize why it is so important.
Here are a few of the most important lessons I learned this semester:
Variability in digital preservation approaches
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to digital preservation. It always “depends.” It depends on the institution’s preservation intent, on their resources, on their audience, or other factors. These influences all shape the actual digital preservation plan. I enjoyed learning about different preservation approaches and the reasons behind them, like the benefits of emulating Salman Rushdie’s laptop or why screenshots can be enough to suffice for web archiving. Knowing about the different approaches makes me feel confident that I will be able to address unique digital preservation issues that I may come across in the future.
Scalability of digital preservation plans
Institutions don’t have to immediately follow every step in the OAIS model to practice digital preservation. I really appreciated learning about the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation as it makes scaling plans a lot easier. It’s nice to know that organizations of every size are able to work on preserving their digital content. I also enjoyed class discussions on our consulting projects for this reason. We were all learning the same lessons and were able to apply them differently to suit the needs and resources of our institutions.
Digital preservation is ongoing and constant
Digital mediums and objects can become at risk for obsolescence and corruption, so preservation actions never stop. I was surprised to learn this, as I imagined there would be some one-and-done software application to ensure records were safe. As it turns out, digital preservation is more complicated than that. It’s not even wise to rely on a single software application because that can become obsolete and unsupported, too. Observation, migration, storing copies, and other habits are all important for ensuring the longevity of digital objects.
My favorite thing about this course was definitely the consulting project. Although we learned a lot from class and readings, actually being able to put our learnings to use made me feel more confident about my digital preservation knowledge and capabilities. This was also my first time learning about and writing policy, so that has been valuable for me, too.
Now that we have taken this course and learned so much about the practice, how can we contribute to the field of digital preservation?