Stumbled across this (anonymous – I have my theories!) posting, Getting to Grips with Digital Preservation, on the Collections Trust’s OpenCulture blog, and the point about abandoning the phrase ‘digital preservation’ has struck something of a chord. “Digital Preservation sounds like a tautology anyway – Digital is fast-moving, energetic, ever-changing, Preservation is, well, it’s dull, isn’t it?”
One of the most alarming pieces of feedback I’ve read from the recent Society of Archivists’ digital preservation roadshow series said something along the lines of ‘its a difficult subject to make interesting, but the speakers did quite well’. Why should it be a difficult subject to make interesting? Digital curation is a an innovative, fast-moving discipline, with a vibrant international research base, and nobody – if they’re really being honest – knows what the right answers are. Or at the most, they may have a few potentially right answers to a small subset of the questions. We’re living through the greatest revolution in recorded information creation and use since probably the invention of the printing press, and a professional archivist doesn’t find that interesting?!
One of the points I make in my roadshow presentation is that all the propaganda surrounding digital preservation – all that stuff about digital black holes in history – has actually been very effective. Only not perhaps, where we hoped it would hit home, amongst users and record creators, as amongst recordkeeping professionals ourselves. And then there’s the problem with digital preservation theory – unfortunately, you can learn to use all the jargon in the world but it won’t actually preserve anything.
If the digital preservation marketing strategy is working so well amongst archives and records professionals, then god help us when it comes to trying to persuade information creators and users to take an interest!
As campaigning organisations of various other kinds take a deliberate step away from thundering scare stories towards softer advocacy strategies promoting the benefits of their chosen cause, I agree with the OpenCulture blogger that the digital preservation community needs to become much more sophisticated in the way seeks to promote itself in the quest for longer-term sustainability of digital content.
Did you hear about the amazing success story of the re-created BBC Domesday project?