Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Documents. Legs. Stages.

March 20, 2006

Mid-afternoon, we were given some background information on the course: it is JISC funded, based on a course first given at Cornell University, run by the Digital Preservation Coalition, with the University of London Computing Centre, the Archaeological Data Service and KDSC Digital Consultancy.

There are two key documents: the Trusted Digital Repositories report and the OAIS standard (see sidebar links); there are ‘three legs‘ to their approach: Technology, Resources and the organisation; and they outlined five key stages to creating a digital preservation archive: Acknowledge, Act, Consolidate, Institutionalise, Externalise.

The five key stages are pretty interesting. I reckon we’re between Stage Two and Three.

Stage One: Acknowledge. Understand that digital preservation is a local concern.
Stage Two: Act. Initiating digital preservation projects.
Stage Three: Consolidate. Segueing from projects to programmes.
Stage Four: Institutionalise. Incorporating the larger environment.
Stage Five: Externalise. Embracing inter-institutional collaboration and dependencies.

These five stages are worth discussing in more detail when I get back to work.

Introductions & Why Bother?

March 20, 2006

Ten people are attending including me. Most are from publicly funded organisations such as the Scottish National Archives, Scottish National Library, The National Archives, N. Ireland Public Records Office, Natural History Museum, Durham University and The University of London. Reassuringly, most people said that, like AI, they are in the early stages of developing a digital archive and digital preservation policies.

The first presentation is entitled, ‘Why bother? Incentives and risks in digital preservation.’ Mostly familiar stuff explaining why the preservation of digital data is important. The speakers acknowledge that they are preaching to the converted but I suppose it’s important we get it out of the way. Perhaps because many delegates are from publicly funded organisations, they’ve highlighted how one of the stimuli for developing preservation strategies and implementing digital preservation archives is because their funding bodies expect them to so that data can be re-used. A later PPT slide (oh, sweet lamb of God! a week of Powerpoint Presentations…), showed how over the last decade, the re-use of existing data has increased at a rate far greater than the production of data. So it speaks for itself. If people want to and expect to be able to re-use existing data, then there’s a need to preserve it.

More interesting (and unverifiable) facts to come out of this first session is that the world produces the equivalent of 37,000 Library of Congresses each year. I’m glad it wasn’t my job to work out the figures for that. Lots of data is being created each year with 75% of it being digital. Yet, three times of this data flows unrecorded, 99% via the telephone. So let’s not get too hung up on preserving every last piece of information we exchange. Like much in life, it’s about prioritising and selecting the right type of information to be recorded. The Curator’s job.

The now infamous BBC Doomsday Project was discussed and also the more interesting NASA Viking Mission where information from a Mars landing was ‘preserved’ on data tape which, when needed 30 years later, was found to be deteriorating, despite being in what was considered decent environmental conditions. Significantly, it was this incident that led to NASA leading the creation of the OAIS Reference Model (see links to the right), the main subject of this week’s training programme.

Finally, this first session discussed Mind The Gap, the new report on the state of digital preservation in the UK. Highlights include:

  • 84% of respondents to a questionnaire for the report agreed there were legal drivers to preserve in their organisations.
  • 73% recognised that if they failed to comply they would be failing to meet legal requirements.
  • 70% of UK companies use email for contract negotiations, HR letters and financial transactions.
  • 81% were able to specify a lifetime for the digital information and had to keep some of it for at least 50 years. How?
  • 64% need to preserve digital data in order to protect intellectual property.
  • 22% preserve to support patent applications.
  • Over 80% recognised that their organisations would benefit from improved access to information brought about by having a suitably catalogued and searchable digital repository.
  • 50% of respondents still print out documents in order to preserve them!

Arrival: The desperate hunt for a broadband connection.

March 20, 2006

Arrived in Birmingham at 11am and then a short hop to the University by 11.30. Immediately looked for a fixed network connection after realising on the train that the laptop has had its built-in wireless card ‘disabled’! Is there no escape from ITP’s iron grip? 😉

After throwing the poor ‘Conference Park’ staff into DEFCON 2, I was shown a hole in the wall that looked promising and then left alone in the room to do my business. The laptop didn’t like it however and complained of a weak connection. Essentially, I was knocking on the door of the University’s network and being told to sod off.

Next, I found a sympathetic conference attendee with a working wireless connection and he offered to download the necessary drivers to get the wireless card working. The joy in my heart must have been obvious as he got straight to work. However, the 50MB download failed at 95% and he has been otherwise occupied since then, so as I write (on Notepad), it’s looking like I’ve been thrown back three years to a dial-up modem. Knocked down but not yet defeated though.

After a light lunch, there was an introductory session.

20:25 UPDATE! I am wireless! The Man delivered the drivers on a CD-R in the bar (where the best wireless connection may be found). I feel whole again.