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Cloudy Culture: Preserving digital culture in the cloud

Lee Hibberd

Lee Hibberd

Last updated on 27 January 2017

Cloudy_culture

By now you’ll have heard of The Cloud. The big amorphous space out there that is the answer to anything digital. You want more storage? You need the cloud. You want a back-up copy of all of your treasured photos? You need the cloud. You want to undertake large scale high performance number crunching? You guessed it…you need the cloud. So it’s no surprise that the cloud is featuring more and more in the cultural heritage sector too. Tate Gallery, the Parliamentary Archives and the Bodleian Library have all dipped their toes, or their heads, into cloud technology. The National Library of Scotland has also been thinking about the role of the cloud, which is essentially a service that stores and manages digital information, as part of its continuing mission to preserve the nation’s digital culture. Is the cloud the answer to all our digital problems and if it is surely there’s a price tag attached to it. To find out the National Library of Scotland is about to embark on a journey of discovery with the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, National Galleries of Scotland and the Digital Preservation Coalition. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t heard of these organisations, just be assured that we are all interested in preserving digital culture for current and future generations. Our journey starts at a project called EUDAT…

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Social Media for Good: the Series, Episode 2

Sara Day Thomson

Sara Day Thomson

Last updated on 27 January 2017

UK_Data_Service_logoThis year, DPC's Research and Practice team has been working on two studies commissioned by the UK Data Service as part of their Big Data Network Support. Both Preserving Social Media and Preserving Transactional Data will address the issues facing long-term access to this big, fast-moving data and will be published as Technology Watch reports. As part of Preserving Social Media, this series of posts examines some of the points of tension in the efforts of research and collecting institutions to preserve this valuable record of life in the 21st century. 

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Business continuity procedures – UK Data Archive, University of Essex

Sara Day Thomson

Sara Day Thomson

Last updated on 13 December 2016

This case note was developed in 2015 as part of the work for the 2nd edition of the Digital Preservation Handbook.

Business Continuity planning and practice involves organizations proactively preparing for potential incidents and disruptions in order to avoid suspension of critical operations and services, or if operations and services are disrupted, that they resume operations and services as rapidly as required by those who depend on them. The development and use of a business continuity plan based on sound principles, endorsed by senior management, and activated by trained staff will greatly reduce the likelihood and severity of impact of disasters and incidents. It is an important component of ensuring bit preservation and makes a significant contribution to digital preservation through this.

The Data Archive is the UK national data centre for the Social Sciences funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The Archive holds certification to ISO 27001, the international standard for information security, which requires information security continuity to be embedded in an organisation's business continuity management systems. The digital storage system at the Data Archive is based, for security purposes, on segregated and distributed storage and access. Business continuity at the Data Archive is based around the resilience provided by creating multiple copies of the data and specified recovery procedures, alongside pre-emptive failure prevention. Each file from any dataset has at minimum three copies. The Archive also creates a read only archival copy of each study and any update as it is made available on the system.

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Social Media for Good: the Series

Sara Day Thomson

Sara Day Thomson

Last updated on 27 January 2017

UK_Data_Service_logoThis year, DPC's Research and Practice team has been working on two studies commissioned by the UK Data Service as part of their Big Data Network Support. Both Preserving Social Media and Preserving Transactional Data will address the issues facing long-term access to this big, fast-moving data and will be published as Technology Watch reports. As part of Preserving Social Media, this series of posts examines some of the points of tension in the efforts of research and collecting institutions to preserve this valuable record of life in the 21st century.

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I'm Sara Day Thomson, Project Officer for the DPC, specialising in the pursuit of new ideas in digital preservation. 

If you want to get involved, follow me on Twitter @sdaythomson and the DPC account @DPC_chatter to get the scoop on upcoming DPC events and activities!

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Fear of the executables: who is going to preserve software in the UK?

Paul Wheatley

Paul Wheatley

Last updated on 30 January 2017

I was reminded this week about the issue of software preservation from a couple of different quarters. First by a slightly random twitter conversation about reading lists, and secondly by the latest blog post from David Rosenthal. The former took me back to one of the first pieces of digital preservation literature I ever read. It was originally recommended to me by former colleague, friend and mentor, David Holdsworth. It helped me to really understand, for the first time, what the challenges of preserving digital stuff were all about. It's a short piece in the Computer Conservation Society bulletin called "The Problems of Software Conservation" by Doron Swade. It delves into what it means to preserve something interactive, where the function is (largely) more important than the physical form. Looking back, what strikes me about this writing is the date of publication. 1993. Despite many advances in digital preservation, so much so that someone touting the existence of a digital dark age provokes a backlash, we still haven't nailed the software preservation problem 22 years later.

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Assessing long term access from short term digitization projects

Sara Day Thomson

Sara Day Thomson

Last updated on 13 December 2016

Appropriate and timely examination of the digital preservation plans of digitization projects can have a lasting impact. Projects may not know or understand the risks they run. Simple assessment can help them identify and address these risks sooner rather than later.

Digitization projects often - and sensibly - start by establishing and meeting the needs of a modern user community and are mostly funded over a short term. But the outputs from digitization projects are likely to be valuable in the long term, so how can we take steps to make the outputs of digitization robust in the long term? This case note reports some work undertaken by the University of London Computer Centre in assessing the long term plans of 16 digitization projects, providing a basic survey tool to help funders and project managers alike to relfect on the long term preservation plans.


See the full text of the case note here.

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Practical Preservation: West Yorkshire Archive Service accepts a digital collection

Sara Day Thomson

Sara Day Thomson

Last updated on 13 December 2016

Nobody has the perfect answer to digital preservation for every case. If we try we may fail; if we don’t try we will certainly fail.

Digital Preservation can be intimidating for organizations which have previously been used to managing and collecting paper archives. In this case note, staff from West Yorkshire Archives Service report on their experience in taking their first large digital archive. This made them confront new problems and new ways of working, they conclude that If we try we may fail; if we don’t try we will certainly fail.


See the full text of the case note here.

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Small Steps - Long View: how a museum service turned an oral history headache into an opportunity

Sara Day Thomson

Sara Day Thomson

Last updated on 13 December 2016

The benefits of digital preservation can be expressed in terms of new opportunities they create in the short and long term. Even relatively simple steps can bring early rewards if properly embedded within the mission of an organization.

This case note examines Glasgow Museums' approach to its large and growing digital collections. It describes how some simple steps in addressing digital preservation have created short and long term opportunities for the museums. They used some very traditional simple and well know approaches - creating an inventory, assessing significance and promoting access - as the basis for building confidence to manage the wider challenges they face.


See the full text of the case note here.

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ASR2: Using METS to keep data and metadata together for preservation

Sara Day Thomson

Sara Day Thomson

Last updated on 13 December 2016

Long-term access is improved when content and metadata are wrapped in a single package. In this way data managers will be able to access technical and administrative information with the content. The METS standard can help achieve this.

This case note examines the 'Archival Sound Recordings 2' project from the British Library, noting that one of the challenges for long term access to digitised content is to ensure that descriptive information and digitised content are not separated from each other. The British Library has used a standard called METS to prevent this.


See the full text of the case note here.

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Welsh Journals Online: Effective Leadership for a Common Goal

Sara Day Thomson

Sara Day Thomson

Last updated on 13 December 2016

Long-term access often requires co-operation from many staff. There is a risk that responsibilities are unclear. Consequently it is important that a senior member of staff is charged with delivering an organization’s digital preservation strategy.

This case note examines a complex digitisation project at the National Library of Wales from the perspective of the organisation. There are many parties with an interest in digital preservation and many different skills are required. This creates a risk which can be managed where an organisation is clear about where responsibility lies for preservation actions. The solution in this case was to nominate a single senior member of staff as the lead officer for digital preservation and allowing them to work across different sections of the institution to achieve a shared goal.


See the full text of the case note here.

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