Considering how oblivious I was to digital preservation practices prior to this course, I feel like I learned so much in one semester. At the very least, I will no longer be reduced to a mild panic attack at someone asking me to explain the basic tenets of digital preservation. 🙂
I truly appreciated the consultation project, as it was a useful, practical exercise with a real organization that was (hopefully) mutually beneficial for everyone (Unfortunately, this kind of assignment has been somewhat rare in my other courses…but I digress). I often can process and learn new concepts and skills better by simply doing them as opposed to having abstract discussions about them.
It was also very enjoyable to work with the Greenbelt Museum on this; the Director was very enthusiastic about their digital preservation efforts and was quite candid about their lack of strategy and expertise. Being focused on museum scholarship, it was fascinating to learn about their practices and what they are attempting to do with a limited amount of staff and resources. Crafting recommendations and policy for the museum also helped me to understand that digital preservation is an iterative process, and that starting small is alright (and often preferable).
With all that in mind, my three takeaways from this class are:
- Again, small steps are alright.
It really is going to depend on the institution and where they are in their digital preservation processes. The emphasis should be on the state and needs of their digital collection and what the organization values most, then go from there.
- It’s all about context.
The “essence” of digital content differs depending on its purpose and functionality, therefore it’s unwise to apply the same digital preservation strategies to, say, image scans of rare manuscripts and the email archive of a famous politician. In hindsight, this is an obvious statement, but prior to this course I sort of thought digital preservation was more of a “one size fits all” practice.
- We can’t preserve everything, so let’s stop pretending we can.
This might just be my own personal interpretation of some of the readings, but I stand by it. Everything ends. We can’t save it all. Being obsessed with trying to save it all is a fool’s errand. Let’s focus on what’s of value. Yes, “what’s of value” will always be highly subjective according to organization, stakeholders, the community, etc. But no matter the kind of institution or the kind of content, it can’t all be saved. There needs to be a deliberate strategy & intent to this work so that it can be prioritized.