Before taking this course, I thought you had to have a certain amount of technical know-how to be able to do digital preservation and I didn’t realize how much planning and policy work was involved. Being able to work with a real organization was definitely useful for me, and hopefully they’ll be able to use some of the work from this semester to guide their efforts moving forward.
The Importance of Positive Thinking
I was intimidated by digital preservation at the start of the semester and I think my organization was also feeling like they didn’t have the knowledge or resources to improve their practices. For example, they originally told me that they didn’t have extra copies or backups of their files and they felt like they needed a fancier storage system. However, after some additional conversations, they mentioned that they had access to Google Cloud and Dropbox. These are actually good options for a small organization and the museum has enough storage space available to last for awhile! But the staff didn’t think of cloud storage as a valuable resource until we progressed through the various assignments. I feel that part of my job as a consultant was helping them to see that they weren’t as doomed as they thought they were. Staying positive doesn’t mean that we should ignore problems where they exist, but sometimes it just takes a little creative thinking to figure out a solution.
Sometimes the Rules Don’t Matter
It’s nice to be able to consult models like OAIS but organizational context also matters. Even with the Levels of Digital Preservation, I felt that some of the higher level steps weren’t as applicable to my particular institution. For instance, I didn’t want them to worry as much about file formats because they tend to use very common formats and don’t have the resources to migrate or emulate files. I gave them a range of options to consider, but I know that they’re probably going to focus on the easiest actions. Even if the museum only reaches Level 1 or Level 2, this will still be an improvement. It’s important to avoid getting caught up in things like SIPs and DIPs if it’s just going to confuse people.
Theory and Practice
There’s no one way to do preservation and it’s important to clarify your intentions for preservation before you start trying to take action. I came into this class thinking I needed a list of steps to follow and an understanding of different tools for digital preservation. But it turns out that I enjoyed the more theoretical readings and I found that an understanding of the different frameworks and lineages for preservation was just as important.