Due to increased access to technology, the average individual is able to create many items of cultural heritage including videos, blogs, websites, photographs, social networking profiles and other digital objects. Individuals, however, are not generally considering how to preserve these items and unfortunately much digitally born material is lost without archivists and preservationists ever being able to assess the cultural value of these materials. Furthermore, digital assets are far more fragile than physical artifacts, and no one industry has mastered digital preservation or data curation sufficiently enough to guarantee that we will have access to these materials in years to come. We have no idea of the items of historical and cultural heritage that we may have already lost.
Some digital preservation institutions are making strides to address issues of cost, technical obsolescence, inadequate metadata, issues of provenance, quality and legal implications including NDIIP, the Digital Library Federation as well as many public and private universities. Some choose strategies of refreshing content, migration or emulation to make preserved collections available long-term. Many are attempting to agree on metadata standards and best practice for digital preservation.
Economies of scale in large institutions make it easier to manage the preservation of digital objects, as the setup and maintenance costs of such projects can be shared across a group. LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe) is one example of an initiative that seems to be ensuring subscriber access to electronic journal articles. The Internet Archive has been preserving selective digital collections and websites since 1996, acknowledging the need for tracking of the Internet and digitally accessible collections. Similarly, the Library of Congress and Twitter have established the relevancy of preserving tweets from Twitter users and are working on these initiatives (Landgraf, 2010). Furthermore, repositories such as Merritt from the University of California Curation Center (UC3) offer management, archiving and sharing of digital content amongst the University of California community.
While many have acknowledged the broader importance of digital preservation for digital objects, how can librarians and information professionals help with these initiatives on a smaller scale? How can we in our individual institutions ensure that our and our patrons’ vital content is preserved when it is appropriate and useful to do so?
The following sections detail three approaches for smaller institutions including a repository approach, a community archives approach and a personal archives approach. Understanding the goals of your specific institution can be instrumental in determining the approach that would be most suitable for preserving your collections.
Landgraf, G. (2010). Library of Congress to Archive Twitter. American Libraries 41(6/7), 24-5.
Willett, Perry. (2011, June 16). Merritt. In University of California, California Digital Library. Retrieved July 15, 2011, from http://www.cdlib.org/services/uc3/merritt/
Home. (2008). In LOCKSS. Retrieved July 29, 2011, from http://lockss.stanford.edu/lockss/Home
Wayback Machine. (n.d.). In Internet Archive. Retrieved July 29, 2011, from http://www.archive.org/web/web.php
Digital Preservation. (n.d.). In Library of Congress. Retrieved July 29, 2011, from http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/
Digital Preservation. (2011, January 10). In Digital Library Federation. Retrieved July 29, 2011, from http://old.diglib.org/preserve.htm
Flecker, Dale. (2002, April). Preserving Digital Periodicals. Council on Library and Information Resources, Building a National Strategy for Digital Preservation: Issues in Digital Media Archiving. Retrieved on February 23, 2011, from https://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub106/pub106.pdf#page=14
Rusbridge, Adam, and Seamus Ross. (2007). The UK LOCKSS Pilot Programme: A Perspective from the LOCKSS Technical Support Service. International Journal of Digital Curation 2(2). Retrieved on February 17, 2011, from http://www.ijdc.net/ijdc/article/view/49/55