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How can mainstream IT help digital preservation? (Austin PASIG, 1)

10 januari 2012 Gepubliceerd door 1 Commentaar

When I entered the field of digital preservation, I was told that mainstream Information Technology (IT) did not have much to offer memory organizations, because a) private industry was not much interested in preserving anything at all (unless obliged by law), and b) if it did preserve something, it did not care about the “look and feel” which matters so much to memory organizations. And, of course, we ourselves kept on telling  everybody that digital preservation is much much more than simply making a back-up.

Austin, TX; former Treasury Office

Early IT at well protected former Treasury Office, Texas State Capitol, Austin

So libraries and archives took it upon themselves to develop preservation projects and do preservation research – with varying results, because in the beginning, those projects where mainly staffed by library and archives people without solid IT backgrounds. Also, R&D projects, especially the international EU projects, tended to live a life by themselves and not reflect the requirements of their own organizations. In many cases, I would assume, the organizations were not yet capable of clearly articulating their requirements. It was all so new to us.

Meanwhile, I have been picking up signals that IT and digital preservation may be moving closer together, and that’s why I have flown to Austin, TX, for a PASIG meeting (Preservation and Archiving Special Interest Group). Judging by the program it is quite a technical meeting, with much attention paid to cloud services, super computing and IT infrastructures. As I am not a technical expert, I may not understand everything that will be going on, but the combination of a focus on digital preservation and the strong presence of such companies as Oracle, Microsoft and DuraSpace, will have me looking out for opportunities to work together with mainstream IT.

Because, let’s face it, none of us memory organizations have IT engineering as our core business or expertise. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make more use of mainstream IT? And spend more time on being archives and libraries and museums and research data centres?

The backdrop of the Texas Ranger Statue along the Great Walk has changed considerably over the years ...

This does not mean going back to old-fashioned library and archive practices, because IT is so crucial to our business that we must build up expertise – if only to be a good and critical customer of third-party services.

Plus: sound IT practices (durable storage media, multiple copies at different places, regular media refreshment and basic data management) are essential to digital preservation. Without sound IT practices, there is no long-term access.

Texas State Capitol, Austin

Just my luck: I came to Austin hoping for a bit of sunshine, but instead arrived on the coldest and rainiest day in a long time. Austinites are happy with the rain, though, there's been quite a drought recently, and the grass of the Capitol's grounds is still more yellow than green.

By the way: I am a little in awe of Texas. Everything is so BIG here. If you put the map of Texas on Europe and locate the North of Texas on top of Amsterdam, the south would be in Umbria, Italy; the west near Paris, the east beyond of the Czech Republic. Streets are big here and buildings are big; my hotel room is the biggest I’ve ever had. At breakfast I got a half-litre coffee mug (fortunately, the coffee was weak as ever, otherwise I might not have survived), the cutlery felt big and heavy, and I sat on a leather chair that seemed to be built for super sized people (of which there are quite a few as well). That’s of course because the portions of food are also …  you-know-what.

The State Capitol dome is 15 ft higher than the one in Washington, and the floor space is the biggest of any state capitol.

PS: Two headlines from this morning’s USA Today:

  • “Drought area drenched”
  • “Supersized vehicles sap gains from improved fuel economy.”

What did I tell you??

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