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From ‘starting digital preservation’ to ‘business as usual’

Anna McNally

Anna McNally

Last updated on 24 October 2019

Anna McNally is Senior Archivist at University of Westminster in the UK


The University of Westminster’s Records and Archives team manage the institutional records of the University (founded in 1838), alongside the deposited records of several architects and town planners, and a garment collection (the Westminster Menswear Archive). We started actively managing digital records in 2016 but, in a relatively fast-paced area (compared with paper records!), it’s hard not to always think of yourself as a beginner. In 2017 we recorded a webinar titled ‘Work In Progress’, which - despite having been in production for nearly 3 years now - is still how I would describe our digital preservation activities. While our software solution gives us confidence that we are meeting our targets with the NDSA levels, we’re aware that there is a lot more we could be doing.

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What can our memory institutions teach us about fake news?

Dave Tarrant

Dave Tarrant

Last updated on 24 October 2019

Dr David Tarrant is the senior learning advisor at the Open Data Institute (ODI). 


I would first like to thank the work of the BBC for the research behind this article that was broadcast in “Ian Hislop’s Fake News: A True History”. I have added to the story with details not included in the programme and checked these using a combination of sources. 

So what can our memory institutions teach us about fake news?

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Digitally Designed: Digital Preservation of Architectural records

Adrian Steel

Adrian Steel

Last updated on 24 October 2019

Adrian Steel is Director of Collections and Programmes at the Royal Institute for British Architects in the UK


Architects have used digital technology to aid design for several decades. The RIBA Collections – which comprise over 4 million items altogether – include the records of Colin St John Wilson and Partners, the architectural practice responsible for the British Library. The British Library was one of the earliest projects to benefit from computer-aided design, and among the surviving records are computer tapes and printouts relating to this pioneering use of technology.

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It’s just not always a clear cut: Digital, analog and everything in between.

Brecht DeClercq

Brecht DeClercq

Last updated on 6 November 2019

Brecht Declercq is Digitisation and Acquisition Manager for VIAA in Belgium


At first glance, there is a strict distinction between carriers of analogue and digital audiovisual information. But in practice, this distinction is not always clear. There are even carriers of audiovisual information that can hardly be catalogued under one of those two names. The word ‘digitisation’ is therefore not always used correctly. Moreover, there is an important difference between digital information, file-based information, and information stored on mass storage systems. By taking a closer look at the history of digital information storage, it becomes clear that the world has not made the switch overnight. There are decisive inventions, but more often even very long-term evolutions. Both inventions and evolutions, of which the importance is almost forgotten, even prove to be essential for understanding where we have arrived today, and how we can preserve any audiovisual information.

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Digitisation and long-term preservation of sound and audiovisual materials at the BNE

Mar Pérez Morillo

Mar Pérez Morillo

Last updated on 6 November 2019

Mar Pérez Morillo is Director of Digital Services and Processes at the National Library of Spain 


Morillo 1The National Library of Spain has been digitising its collections since the end of the twentieth century. It launched its digital library in 2007 (for the periodicals) and in 2008 (for the rest of the documents (printed books, manuscripts, incunabula, engravings, maps, music scores, photographs, drawings, etc.). Nowadays the digitised collection comprises more than 2.300 titles of periodicals and more than 220.000 for the rest of the formats, most of them publicly available on the BNE website.

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The long WARC to freedom

Tom Wilson

Tom Wilson

Last updated on 6 November 2019

Tom Wilson is Associate Archivist (Digital Preservation) for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Switzerland.


Our recent transfer of web-crawl suppliers taught us that the best laid plans can be derailed by factors beyond one’s control.

UNHCR has been capturing content for its web-archive since 2015, working with Internet Memory Research (IMR) as our supplier to capture, store and display this content. In 2018, IMR informed us that they would be going bankrupt. The timing of this announcement was decidedly inconvenient, as our procurement process for a new supplier had not yet been completed. This left us with the need to download our data from IMR and store it at UNHCR until we knew who our new supplier would be. We therefore drew up a plan to transfer the data, store it and then transfer it to our new supplier, all the while checking that the data remained complete and uncorrupted by this moving and storing.

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I’m Gonna Preserve (500 Files)

Sharon McMeekin

Sharon McMeekin

Last updated on 7 November 2019

I don’t think anyone could disagree that the highlight of last year’s World Digital Preservation Day was the State Library of Queensland’s outstanding parody song “All the Corrupt Files”. There was singing! There was dancing! There were costumes! There was high production value! There was even an awards ceremony!

And this year they’ve knocked it out of the park again as Preservana and “Smells Like Digital Preservation”. The University of Melbourne has also joined the party with the wonderful piece of story telling that is “Bits and Bytes”, which introduces two new characters that are quickly gaining a legion of fans. And to keep the music themed fun going there’s also a digital preservation themed playlist by the folks at the Netherland’s Institute for Sound and Vision.

Here at the DPC we couldn’t be left out of the fun, but what could we do? What classic song could we reinterpret? And how could we make it just that wee bit Scottish? Suddenly the answer was clear, there really was only one choice….

So please enjoy our entry into the digital preservation song contest (sadly due to time it’s minus the creative production of those above!)

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PDF: you know she’s a little bit dangerous

Yvonne Tunnat

Yvonne Tunnat

Last updated on 6 November 2019

Yvonne Tunnat is Digital Preservation Project Manager at Leibniz Information Centre for Economics in Germany


When you think about risky file formats, the PDF format is not the first one that springs in your mind isn’t it?

Instead, you might think of old word processing software for C64 or amiga 500, when 'windows' were just some glass to look through. Or, a more recent typical risky file format scenario: the dozen flavours of exotic file formats your institutional scientists give you on a regular basis, insisting that these formats are the only acceptable ones in their specific community and migration to some standard format known to normal population is just too much to ask for.

For us in the Digital Archive of the Leibniz Information Centre for Economics in Kiel/Hamburg, lacking files with such interesting formats – maybe luckily – the danger of our archiving reality lies elsewhere.

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BitList 2019: The Global List of Digitally Endangered Species

William Kilbride

William Kilbride

Last updated on 7 November 2019

The BitList 2019 is the first complete revision of the list since initial publication in 2017. 

Whereas The BitList was experimental in 2017 and 2018, the 2019 edition is considerably more robust in content and process. In part this is because it has established a small but definite following. The DPC has been asked to report and expand our 2017 recommendations in multiple contexts, and professionals in agencies around the world have reported their own use of The BitList to support advocacy and target resources to greater effect. That constitutes a success in relation to what we hoped to achieve in 2017, so in this edition we move from hopeful experiment to practical and continuing contribution back to the digital preservation community which have shaped and used it. 

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One Size Fits All?

Eld Zierau, Jette Junge, Claus Jensen and Lars Lundegård Olsen form the specialist group for digital preservation at the Royal Danish Library


There is a growing tendency in libraries and archives to strive for standard solutions, and a conception that all digital preservation challenges can be solved by one product. Our claim is that trying to achieve this constitutes one of the biggest risks for all types of materials.

The merger of two national libraries with the same goals and under the same jurisdiction has revealed how much the devil is in the detail and how the thought of “One Size Fits All” is indeed questionable within digital preservation as for many other areas. As it turned out to be so hard on a national level, it is surely much harder at an international level where there are legal and cultural differences.

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