The answer is; because it’s complicated.
In this presentation I will talk briefly about why digital preservation is important, the barriers to implementation, and some tasks and resources that will get you started.
Digital preservation is important because the cultural heritage being created today is “born digital” while yesterday’s cultural heritage is being converted in enormous quantities to digital formats. If individuals and institutions don’t preserve these materials, there will be a large gap in the cultural record that cannot be closed.
Digital preservation must be actively pursued. Benign neglect does not work for digital objects because they are stored on volatile and decaying media and require vanishing equipment and computing platforms for access and use. Without intervention, digital material will become inaccessible and unusable.
Digital preservation is time consuming, expensive and ongoing. Advocacy and outreach to institutional stakeholders is required to raise organizational awareness and procure support and funds. Cultural heritage institutions must gain an understanding of digital materials and what is needed to make them available long term. Money must be allocated to acquire the resources necessary to carry out digital preservation and time must be dedicated to permit staff to make use of these resources.
Implementing digital preservation can be done incrementally. A good place to start is to research best practices and consult guides like the NDSA’s Levels of Digital Preservation. This research will help you identify the most important digital preservation tasks and how best to perform them. Specific tasks that can be incorporated into processing workflows to improve digital preservation include better file naming and organization, selecting preservation friendly file formats, maintaining multiple copies of files, generating checksums and recording metadata. Don’t delay until everything is planned and all resources are in place, because that perfect storm is not likely to occur.
After five minutes and twenty slides, I hope everyone will understand the need for digital preservation and feel they can begin the process of preserving their digital materials without becoming completely overwhelmed.
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