Chris Loftus

Chris Loftus

Last updated on 3 July 2017

A DPC bursary enabled me to attend the above event hosted at ULCC last month. As someone from an archives background relatively new to digital preservation, Ed Pinsent’s introduction to this one day course at Senate House - which put forward the suggestion that discussion of file migration has previously been dominated by computer science and technical analysis of file format - was reassuring music to my (until recently) untechnical ears. In the context of the reading and research I had undertaken thus far, the idea of shifting the focus back to people, collections, and content was a welcome one.

The event was an engaging mix of well delivered information, live demonstrations and exercises covering migration issues; including migration as a method, format choice,  available tools and guidance, embedded properties and loss of functionality. Throughout each unit a common thread of practical use and meaning was evident. This concept of approaching migration-understanding from a content-driven point of view rather than one purely concentrated on technical specification and format meant that at all times students were able to keep in mind real-life usage cases. By upholding the functional needs of users and the practical problems of data loss to stakeholders, a much more fully formed understanding of migration was possible than if focus had been limited to just technical format specification.

Throughout the day lively discussion was encouraged which gave participants an opportunity to share practical examples of migration and their experiences of problems. One notably striking case was recalled by an attendee from a large multi-national drugs company which related to the importance of maintaining font compatibility in documents (in this case one particular scientific symbol was particularly at risk during migration and if lost, could put life or death calculations out by a factor of a thousand). Equally pertinent was a consideration of  freelance photographers or filmmakers and the vital importance of embedded metadata to their ability to make a living.

The day concluded with further discussion which went beyond the remit of migration and covered the future of the OAIS model and the need to plan for ‘Digital Preservation version 2’. An interesting end to a well delivered and adeptly pitched event.

Details of other DPTP training courses can be found here

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