What did I learn from our project? The real question should be what I didn’t learn from our project. I found the Wentzville Community Historical Society to be facing similar problems as other institutions of their stature, but I also noticed that they were unique in where the collections currently stood. They don’t have a website (yet). They don’t have a singular storage space to call their own. They don’t have a variety of digital materials (yet). And, they have a president and members that are eager to take on digital preservation. If I were to boil down everything that I learned this semester about the Levels of Digital Preservation, bit-level preservation, file fixity, and all the other technical jargon that I never thought I would need to know, I would explain the following points to any institution looking for advice on how “to do” digital preservation before I tried to explain bits, fixity, and beyond.
Know what you have and picture what changes you want.
It is critical to know what it is you have and what it is you are trying to preserve. Whether this knowledge is from a working with acquisitions or from a detailed inventory, you have to know what you have before you can move any further. One of the most challenging parts of this project was my inability to actually visit the Wentzville Community Historical Society. While Lois, the President of the society, painted an excellent picture of their holdings and the state they are residing in, email descriptions just aren’t the same as seeing collections in person. Even a rough inventory could have made it easier to mold my suggestions for a more catered preservation plan and policy. So, to any institution looking to start a digital preservation project, learn about what it is you are going to preserve and if you don’t already have an inventory, make one. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just make one. And while you’re at it, make a copy of what you have.
Planning is essential.
Once you have your inventory and know what and why you are preserving, make a plan, not a policy, a plan. The next steps plan was an incredibly helpful assignment for thinking out how to make suggestions toward reaching Level 4 of the LoDP by the NDSA. If you know what you are aiming for, like Level 4 or even Level 1, you should think about some of the basic options you have already available to you and create a plan on how to utilize those resources. I found that already having my next steps plan made it significantly easier to write my policy, and I don’t doubt that institutions would also find a plan helpful prior to writing a new policy.
After working through this project and making suggestions, I have a strong urge to go to Missouri and help to implement some of those suggestions. Planning is great, but without action, the plan is only an ideal. So my biggest take away from this project is you have to start somewhere (physically, not theoretically.) Once you know what you wanna do and how to do it, you should just start. Use what you have and jump in. I’ve always been on the fence about MPLP and even started the semester with a cynical view of adapting that practice to digital preservation, but this project has shown me that the minimum can be sufficient. You don’t need thousands of dollars worth of software or indestructible hardware. You need two storage spaces, a cursor, and a finger to click the copy then paste command. But most of all, you need the faith to just start.
Question: What was your favorite thing to do or what was you biggest surprise from this class?