Rieger, Preservation in the Age of Large-Scale Digitization

March 2nd, 2008 by Gabriel Bodard

CLIR (the Council on Library and Information Resources in DC) have published in PDF the text of a white paper by Oya Rieger titled ‘Preservation in the Age of Large-Scale Digitization‘. She discusses large-scale digitization initiatives such as Google Books, Microsoft Live, and the Open Content Alliance. This is more of a diplomatic/administrative than a technical discussion, with questions of funding, strategy, and policy rearing higher than issues of technology, standards, or protocols, the tension between depth and scale (all of which were questions raised during our Open Source Critical Editions conversations).

The paper ends with thirteen major recommendations, all of which are important and deserve close reading, and the most important of which is the need for collaboration, sharing of resources, and generally working closely with other institutions and projects involved in digitization, archiving, and preservation.

One comment hit especially close to home:

The recent announcement that the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) will cease funding the Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS) gives cause for concern about the long-term viability of even government-funded archiving services. Such uncertainties strengthen the case for libraries taking responsibility for preservation—both from archival and access perspectives.

It is actually a difficult question to decide who should be responsible for long-term archiving of digital resources, but I would argue that this is one place where duplication of labour is not a bad thing. The more copies of our cultural artefacts that exist, in different formats, contexts, and versions, the more likely we are to retain some of our civilisation after the next cataclysm. This is not to say that coordination and collaboration are not desiderata, but that we should expect, plan for, and even strive for redundancy on all fronts.

(Thanks to Dan O’Donnell for the link.)

One Response to “Rieger, Preservation in the Age of Large-Scale Digitization”

  1. Dot Porter Says:

    “The more copies of our cultural artefacts that exist, in different formats, contexts, and versions, the more likely we are to retain some of our civilisation after the next cataclysm.”

    That’s the aim of LOCKSS – Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe – to encourage libraries to take part in distributed preservation of digital works (http://www.lockss.org/lockss/Home). I don’t know much about their software (“open source, peer-to-peer, decentralized digital preservation infrastructure”) but the idea is a sound one. Points to the importance of open access, too – the more copies there are, the more likely that a copy will be available into the future. Keeping your digital data locked up is not a sound strategy for long-term preservation.

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