Digital preservation in a nutshell, part II

As Richard noted in Part I, digital preservation is a “series of managed activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital materials for as long as necessary.” But what sort of digital materials might be in scope for the PoWR project?

We think it extremely likely that institutional web resources are going to include digital materials such as “records created during the day-to-day business of an organisation” and “born-digital materials created for a specific purpose”.

What we want is to “maintain access to these digital materials beyond the limits of media failure or technological change”. This leads us to consider the longevity of certain file formats, the changes undergone by proprietary software, technological obsolescence, and the migration or emulation strategies we’ll use to overcome these problems.

By migration we mean “a means of overcoming technological obsolescence by transferring digital resources from one hardware/software generation to the next.” In contrast, emulation is “a means of overcoming technological obsolescence of hardware and software by developing techniques for imitating obsolete systems on future generations of computers.”

Note also that when we talk about preserving anything, “for as long as necessary” doesn’t always mean “forever”. For the purposes of the PoWR project, it may be worth us considering medium-term preservation for example, which allows “continued access to digital materials beyond changes in technology for a defined period of time, but not indefinitely.”

We also hope to consider the idea of life-cycle management. According to DPC, “The major implications for life-cycle management of digital resources is the need actively to manage the resource at each stage of its life-cycle and to recognise the inter-dependencies between each stage and commence preservation activities as early as practicable.”

From these definitions alone, it should be apparent that success in the preservation of web resources will potentially involve the participation and co-operation of a wide range of experts: information managers, asset managers, webmasters, IT specialists, system administrators, records managers, and archivists.

(All the quotations and definitions above are taken from the DPC’s online handbook.)