JISC Beginner's Guide to Digital Preservation

…creating a pragmatic guide to digital preservation for those working on JISC projects

Archive for January, 2011

Your Digital Legacy

Posted by Marieke Guy on 31st January 2011

Personal Legacy

Last week Law.Com published an interesting article entitled What Happens to Your Digital Life When You Die?.

The article, written by Ken Strutlin, starts by explaining that the dealing with our digital legacy is something the legal world has yet to get to grips with.

Still, one of the neglected ensigns of internet citizenship is advanced planning. When people die, there are virtual secrets that follow them to the grave — the last refuge of privacy in a transparent society. Courts and legislatures have only begun to reckon with the disposition of digital assets when no one is left with the knowledge or authority to conclude the business of the cyber-afterlife.

It is an immensley complicated area and “the most important long-term consideration is who can access a person’s online life after they have gone or become incapacitated?“. Many people can leave behind a huge amount of digital data. Much of this, for example images and documents, may no longer be sat on a local hard drive but may be out there stored on cloud services such as Flickr and Facebook. It is likely that loved ones will be keen to be able to access and collate this data.

Information on both legal rights and what physically needs to be done is becoming increasingly important.

A few years ago a colleague of mine passed away and after some time I took it upon myself to notify Facebook. Relatives had initially posted some information (such as funeral details) up on my colleague’s wall but no other action had been taken. The profile had remained as one of a living user. After I contacted them Facebook acted quickly and effectively and memorialized the account. It is quite clear that they have a well thought out set of procedures in place.

Work Legacy

At UKOLN where I work we have touched on this subject when considering how you deal with the digital legacy of staff who move on. Although former members of staff are not ‘dead’ the problems that their leaving causes can be similar to those when someone dies – unknown passwords and use of unlisted services, to name two. In the past this type of information has been described as corporate or organisational memory and has often been subdivided into explicit and tacit knowledge. Recording corporate knowledge, especially the tacit type, has always caused problems, but the digital nature of resources now adds another level.

Strutlin offers a recount of the tale of the Rosetta stone, whose meaning was originally lost but then rediscovered when a Napoleonic soldier found a triptych in the Egyptian town of Rosetta which offered meanings for the hieroglyphics. Strutlin’s response is that “We need more than serendipity to preserve the data of our lives beyond our lifetimes“.

Over time it is likely that laws will emerge and processes and procedures will evolve but we need to be proactive about instigating them.

The principal concern today is the passing on of passwords, divvying up social media contents, and protecting virtual assets. But five minutes from now, those social media sites will include life logged metrics with excruciating details about our health, activities, and collective experiences. They will be more intimate and vivid than any handwritten personal journal or photo album. And they will demand clear and comprehensive rules to oversee their final disposition.

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Supporting long-term access to digital content

Posted by Marieke Guy on 28th January 2011

The MLA has recently released a principles paper on Supporting long term access to Digital Material.

“At a time when digital formats are increasingly important, it is vital to ensure they are sustainable and accessible over the long term. This is equally the case for materials that originate in digital format, and for those that originate in different forms which are then digitally reformatted.”

The paper, commisssioned by the MLA, was produced on its behalf by Collections Trust, in collaboration with the following organisations:

The National Archives; Heritage Lottery Fund; Archaeology Data Service; The British Library; Collections Trust; Digital Preservation Coalition; Museums Galleries Scotland; Joint Information Systems Committee; UKOLN.

The principles will be supplemented by guidance and other tools to support long term access to digital material across the sector and promoted using a joint advocacy and marketing plan.

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Approaches to Digitisation Training Day

Posted by Marieke Guy on 14th January 2011

Next month I will be presenting at the Approaches to Digitisation Training Day.

The day is being organised by the British Library Preservation Advisory Centre and Research Libraries UK and will be held on Wednesday 9 February 2011 at the British Library Centre for Conservation, London. It aims to give an overview of how to plan for and undertake digitisation of library and archive material; and to preserve the digital objects that are produced.

By the end of the day participants will be able to:

  • Explain the benefits of digitising material
  • Give examples of the types of materials that are suitable for digitisation
  • Identify the issues to be considered when planning for digitisation
  • Define what is meant by digital preservation
  • Describe the risks to digital objects and explain how digital preservation can address these risks.

I will be presenting on Other sources of information and next steps. My talk will look primarily at digital preservation and explore some of the resources linked to from the JISC Beginner’s Guide to Digital Preservation.

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Software Preservation Workshop for Digital Curators

Posted by Marieke Guy on 10th January 2011

The Software Preservation Study team are running a free workshop for digital curators and repository managers to understand and discuss the particular challenges of software preservation. It’s on Monday 7 February 2011 and will be held in London.

There is increasingly a need to preserve software: for example software is sometimes needed to unlock accompanying research data and make it (re)usable, or software is often a research output in its own right. The workshop’s premise is that curators and software developers will need to collaborate to preserve software: the curator needing the technical knowledge of the developer, and the developer needing the preservation expertise and mandate of the curator. This workshop is intended to be the first ‘bridging’ event between these two previously separate communities – so ground-breaking in its own small way.

Friendly technical expertise will be provided by the Software Sustainability Institute and the Science & Technologies Facilities Council (STFC). It’s a workshop for curation practitioners where real examples can be discussed and useful advice exchanged.

The team have created a briefing paper entitled Digital Preservation and Curation: The Danger of Overlooking Software which gives potential attendees a taster of what will be explored in more detail at the event.

Registration will open at 10:30am, with the workshop starting promptly at 11am on Monday 7 February at Brettenham House. Lunch will be provided. The team are aiming to finish the event at 3pm but will be holding a surgery-style session for additional queries, and walk-throughs of the methodologies until 4pm.

The workshop is free to attend but places are strictly limited. Further details and the full agenda will be provided to registrants.

For more details see the Software Preservation blog.

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