16th international conference on digital preservation: iPRES2019 reflections

Amsterdam Skyline: so many vapour trails

During the week of 16-20 September I attended the 16th international conference on digital preservation (iPRES2019) in Amsterdam. The first challenge was the daunting prospect of the 24-hour journey to get to Amsterdam from Melbourne, Australia… For those interested, helpful suggestions I received to combat the effects of jet lag included:

  1. The use of melatonin (thanks Peter Neish!)
  2. Trying out the Timeshifter app (thanks Matthew Burgess!)
  3. Movies, books, alcohol, plenty of water, fruit and sleep (thanks Micky Lindlar!)
  4. Pulling two all-nighters in a row before flying (thanks Ben Kreunen!)
  5. Be like David Boon. “Drink heavily on plane, stay drunk rest of time. David Boon averaged 55 on the tour where he drank 52 cans of beer on the flight over. A lesson for us all.” (thanks David Groenewegen!)

The University of Melbourne enterprise architecture-digital preservation collaboration

The University of Melbourne crew (me & my colleagues Lyle Winton and Sean Turner) put together a presentation on our enterprise architecture and digital preservation collaboration work. Chuffed to see this made it into Jenny Mitcham’s armchair iPRES highlights! And yes. We used personal emoji in our slides. Lots of emoji.

https://twitter.com/Jenny_Mitcham/status/1173893804115550209?s=20

https://twitter.com/JamesMooneyUK/status/1173937610852577286?s=20

Australasia Preserves poster presentation

I also put together a video and a digital poster all about the Australasia Preserves digital preservation community of practice. The poster got an honourable mention in the poster competition (hooray!) which was won by the fabulous Sarah Middleton and Sharon McMeekin for their poster, Engaging Decision makers: An Executive Guide on Digital Preservation.

https://twitter.com/AConraux/status/1173524713227862016?s=20
https://twitter.com/jayechats/status/1174282635876741123?s=20

A few highlights

A caveat for this section: I didn’t get to half of what I wanted to in terms of sessions during the conference, and here follows, in no particular order, some interesting sessions I was able to get to that made an impression on me. For lots more info on great work being done around the world, take a look at the iPRES2019 program, and browse through the collaborative notes.

Preserving Complex Digital Objects workshop

In this workshop we broke up into groups, self-selecting broad areas (advocacy and building a business case; preservation planning; risk management; depositor agreement) to focus on for preserving Breathe, the digital ghost story by Kate Pullinger, designed to be read on a mobile phone. The many interactive elements and external dependencies that Breathe takes advantage of presents a lot of elements to think about when attempting to usefully preserve such a work. There are collaborative notes for this workshop for more details and outcomes from each of the groups.

FAIR and trustworthy repositories

Working in a university context with research data firmly in our remit for digital preservation, I’m really interested in exploring connections between the FAIR principles and trustworthy repositories so it was good to see some work in this area presented by Mustapha Mokrane (Data Archiving and Networked Services) and Jonas Recker (GESIS Data Archive for the Social Sciences).

Collaborative digital preservation and shared specifications

Together Forever, or How We Created a Common and Collaborative Digital Preservation Service presented by Johan Kylander (CSC – IT Center for science) shared a unified model for digital preservation capabilities in Finland between archives, libraries, and museums. The paper presents how digital preservation services were designed, the visible products from the user’s point of view, and how the services are managed in cooperation with partner organizations. I particularly found interesting the sharing of common specifications, developed in collaboration with data curators, including Metadata Requirements and Preparing Content for Digital Preservation and File Formats.

Bayesian statistical approach to risk by The National Archives (UK)

I actually didn’t get to this poster due to being busy presenting my own poster at the same time, but am fascinated by this work offered by The National Archives (UK). They are aiming to “map and explain the complex and shifting digital preservation risk environment using Bayesian networks…[and to] evaluate a Bayesian statistical approach to understanding, managing and reducing digital preservation risk”. This is one paper of many I’ll be delving into and thinking about over the coming months.

Keynote: Michelle Caswell

Michelle Caswell’s keynote presentation invited us to explore feminist standpoint epistemology, and our positionality in our roles as digital preservationists, particularly given that we deal with issues of selection and appraisal with the work we do in preserving digital materials.

https://twitter.com/AngelaBeking/status/1174227192290664448?s=20
https://twitter.com/jayechats/status/1174233023526723584?s=20

The future of iPRES working group

The iPRES working group is actively exploring the future of the iPRES conference, and the way that it is governed and run. Checkout the recording for more info on this initiative, and take a look at the working group folder for outputs and work to date.

Setting up open access repositories: challenges and lessons from Palestine

I very much enjoyed hearing about this work focussed on methodology, solutions, and challenges developing open access institutional repositories and research data management services at four universities in Palestine, presented by Rawia Awadallah. The lessons learned are aimed to be of use to other developing countries seeking to increase visibility of their research outputs and build researchers’ skills and capabilities in data management and digital preservation, and highlights the value to be gained and further connections to be made by sharing increasingly more diverse international offerings at conferences like iPRES.

Amsterdam City Archives visit

On the last day of the conference week, professional visits were arranged, and I ended up at the Amsterdam City Archives. An austere building well worth a visit if you find yourself in town. I particularly loved hearing about Mirjam Schaap’s (@archivebychance) work with student activists’ archives and participatory archiving experiences.

https://twitter.com/jayechats/status/1174962907081146368?s=20

Other fun stuff

Euan Cochrane spearheaded the creation of a crowd-sourced digital preservation conference bingo card. And of course iPRES wouldn’t be the same without the new addition of games, both last year and this year! This year brings us Ross Spencer’s “Nibble in Cyberspace: #Digipres Adventures, Volume 1” with the inspiring message, “you can’t beat entropy, but you can fight it as long as you try”. Also, good ol’ fashioned in-person conference boardgames.

Digital preservation conference bingo card
Nibble in Cyberspace: #Digipres Adventures, Volume 1 https://twitter.com/beet_keeper/status/1171445095171645440?s=20
https://twitter.com/iPRES2019/status/1174591142136033280?s=20

In conclusion, iPRES remains for me a conference full of people and projects that inspire me to continue to work in this field, and also to continue to explore the varied research and development work being done by practitioners and researchers all around the world.

TheEye
The Eye Filmmuseum, host venue of iPRES2019

 

 

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iPRES conference reflections: People, connections, and opportunity

This blog post was originally written for the iPRES 2019 blog as part of the “WhyPRES” feature series, aiming to share experiences from past iPRES conference goers with the wider digital preservation community. 

Jaye’s iPRES belt notches

I feel very privileged to have three notches on my iPRES digital preservation conference belt: Bern (2016), Kyoto (2017), and Boston (2018) – thus completing one full iPRES conference-zone hop around the globe (Europe to Australasia to the Americas).

Bern, iPRES 2016

When I reflect on my iPRES conference experiences, three interrelated elements are in play: people, connections, and opportunity. At the time of Bern’s iPRES2016, I was new to the digital preservation field, sharing a poster presentation of the University of Melbourne’s ten-year digital preservation strategy and attending as many conference sessions as possible (while trying not to embarrass myself with overexpression of awe at sightings of various digital preservation superstars). After contributing 12-odd years of my life to a very different career, I was grateful for the many digital preservation colleagues who willingly offered me their time and made me feel that my contributions to the field were welcomed.

The University of Melbourne’s poster submission for iPRES2016

I attended valuable sessions on stewardship that directly contributed to my work at the University of Melbourne – notably “Will Today’s Data Be Here Tomorrow? Measuring the Stewardship Gap” and “What Makes a Digital Steward: A Competency Profile Based on the National Digital Stewardship Residencies”. Also particularly of note was the model for a National Approach to Digital Preservation in the Netherlands (with a workshop also presented the following year at iPRES 2017 focusing on practical implementations of the model for a network of distributed facilities). I still find the Dutch approach an impressive piece of work, one that I consider to be a potential starting point for any national investigations of how digital preservation services could evolve. iPRES excels at providing a forum for high-level thinking on the future of digital stewardship and preservation for the benefit of many different people and organisations.

Kyoto, iPRES 2017

By 2017 the University of Melbourne’s digital preservation project was in full swing, and the university invested in membership of the Digital Preservation Coalition. We were thus eligible to apply for a DPC Leadership Programme scholarship, which I was delighted to be awarded. The scholarship enabled me to attend iPRES2017 in Kyoto, where I experienced the enthusiasm and drive of the DPC team and all they seek to achieve on behalf of the digital preservation community. I was able to attend valuable sessions on preservation storage and acquisition and appraisal. I discovered Lauren Work and Heidi Kelly’s “Documentation to the People: Building Empathy into Technical Documentation for Digital Archiving” – their case “that by creating documentation that is underpinned by empathy for ourselves, our users, and those in our archives, we will improve our community, our tools and software, and our practices” is one that resonates strongly for me.

DPC Scholarship Holders at iPRES2017

Boston, iPRES 2018

For iPRES2018 in Boston, my iPRES experience changed again following an invitation from Nancy McGovern to join the organising team. Working behind the scenes of a conference is both challenging and rewarding, particularly in terms of the innovations that the team generated in 2018: the first code of conduct, ad hoc sessions (lighting talks, digital preservation graphics), the game room sessions, and digital-only posters.

The iPRES2018 Organising Team busting out some epic celebrations

iPRES is the best (educational) excuse for a shindig I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in my professional career. I look forward to it every year, particularly as it enables me to extend and strengthen my connections in the digital preservation field. I’ve gotten a better handle on who likes gin, who likes beer, and who likes tea (these things are important). I think that iPRES2019 in Amsterdam is the next great opportunity to be energised by the passion and dedication that digital preservation people bring to the grand challenges of curating and preserving the earthly record in all its bits and pieces.

 

Image credits

  1. iPRES belt notches, image designed by Rhys Weatherburn
  2. Ten-year Strategy for Digital Preservation poster, The University of Melbourne
  3. DPC Scholarship holders, picture by William Kilbride 
  4. iPRES2018 Organising Team, picture by Jaye Weatherburn

Australasia Preserves at IDCC 2019

The Australasia Preserves digital preservation community of practice had a strong presence at the 2019 International Digital Curation Conference (IDCC 2019), which was held at the University of Melbourne, Australia (February 4-7 2019). This was the first time this conference has been held in the southern hemisphere.

The Australasia Preserves community of practice was founded in February 2018. During IDCC 2019, we celebrated the first year with an innovative ‘digital’ cake (made by our resident baker extraordinaire Kirsten Wright) and with dedicated sessions at the IDCC Unconference. The aim of these sessions was to brainstorm topics and ideas for the community to engage with during 2019. We discussed the challenges of providing sustainability for communities of practice and issues in digital preservation. We also reflected on how important it is to have people from multiple different sectors getting involved in Australasia Preserves. This diversity of people and organisations allows us to be open to new ideas and different opinions, something we feel is a real strength, and pivotal to the ongoing success of the community.

During the IDCC Unconference sessions, we decided to continue the successful monthly virtual online meetups that we held throughout 2018, featuring diverse speakers who shared their experience and challenges with digital preservation. Potential topics for 2019 included: tools and technology, training, policy and process.

The idea of initiating an Australasia Preserves digital preservation conference was proposed, particularly due to our geographical distance from many key digital curation and digital preservation conferences that take place internationally. We also reflected on the value in sharing works-in-progress, and the importance of finding ways to share failure – what happens when things don’t work, and how we can learn from this.

Many people at the Unconference sessions mentioned the safe space that Australasia Preserves provides for inquiry and interaction. We developed a code of conduct during 2018 with community input. We strive to make the online forum and the face-to-face events inclusive, supportive and enriching environments, where everyone can feel free to contribute and ask questions. We are a community of people at all levels of digital preservation knowledge and expertise, with emphasis on respect and collegiality through all our communications.

In other busy IDCC 2019 conference happenings, a small group of Australasia Preservers put together a digital preservation carpentry workshop. We are in the process of determining next steps for this work. I also shared more about the community in a lightning talk.

Within this emergent community of practice, we are discovering that the collective issues involved in digital preservation are bringing together people from a broad range of public and private sector organisations and institutions in Australasia. There are many differences between how these institutions are governed, how they run, and what their needs are for digital preservation, but there are also similarities. It is by fostering conversations about these differences and similarities that we are slowly but surely building connections to help drive digital preservation practice in our region for everyone.

Although most of our events have an Australasian focus, we welcome international members who are interested in contributing to our online forum and conversations, and learning more about happenings in this region. Local connections are important, but equally important is our connection to global efforts in digital preservation.

 

 

Digital preservation carpentry workshop at IDCC2019

At the very first meeting of the Australasia Preserves digital preservation community of practice in February 2018, there was discussion around the idea of developing “digital preservation carpentry” lessons. These lessons would be taught in the Library Carpentries style, focussing on hands-on activities and experimentation with tools to manage digital content for long-term preservation.

Throughout 2018 more discussion and activities revealed the importance of making sure we tightly coupled digital preservation concepts with tool experimentation, so that essential digital preservation elements such as authenticity and integrity could be clearly demonstrated. We also created a survey to find out what people were interested in learning most.

As a next step, a small group of us have put together some potential content for a digital preservation carpentry lesson. We are trialling this at a workshop as part of the 14th International Digital Curation Conference (IDCC2019).

Registration for the workshop is open until 21 January 2019 (you don’t have to be attending the whole IDCC conference to participate in the workshop). We encourage anyone with an interest to come along and contribute to the development of digital preservation carpentry.

Australasia Preserves: Establishing a digital preservation community of practice

On February 16 2018, The University of Melbourne Library Digital Scholarship team organised and hosted the inaugural “Australasia Preserves” event. This event brought together 75 people interested in digital preservation in Australia and New Zealand, from a variety of different institutions and organisations.

Our goal was to start to build a community of practice for digital preservation in our region for all interested people and organisations, regardless of institutional affiliation or skill level.  We’ve wanted to get a community like this together for a while. Because we are a very small team working on a very big digital preservation project, we have a keen interest in generating greater connections with other digital preservation initiatives, projects, and work being done, and in exploring opportunities for collaboration.

To kick off, I welcomed everyone then spoke briefly about the University of Melbourne digital preservation project I’m working on. Key points included:

  • We’ve done two years of investigatory work, benchmarking the current level of digital preservation awareness and activity at the university in various areas
  • We’ve identified and prioritised gaps for improvement
  • We’ve run infrastructure pilots to determine requirements for digital preservation systems and processes
  • Our findings so far have enabled us to draft a business case in order to seek funding for the next two years of work, including implementing preservation storage, improving skills and training for digital preservation, and improving governance and management for long-term preservation

Next up, we heard lightning talk presentations. We chose this format to maximise sharing of different areas and their current work or current challenges. Six speakers from Australia and three from New Zealand spoke for five minutes each. Details of the speakers can be seen on the event page.

There was active participation on Twitter (#AusPreserves). During the lightning talks, we noticed a comment about “jargon” that had popped up online.

And so, in agile project fashion, we whipped around the room quickly, inviting attendees to give explanations for various terms that were of concern. There’s already some great resources available for explaining digital preservation terms, most notably the Digital Preservation Handbook Glossary  which we pointed to, and our crowd-sourced jargon busting can be found in the collaborative notes from the event.

The second part of the event involved exploring, as a group, what an ongoing Australasian digital preservation community of practice could be like. Small group discussion was reported back to the whole room.

Three questions focussed the discussion:

  1. How could an Australasian digital preservation community of practice work?
  2. How can it be useful to you?
  3. Are there opportunities for collaboration?

Key and recurring points made by attendees throughout the event included:

  • This is something we all want to keep doing, we need to be talking and sharing more, as we feel isolated
  • Keeping the communication going beyond face-to-face is likely necessary (e.g. social media, closed forums such as Slack & Google groups, or a central resource that allows long-term search across it)
  • Informal sharing is important: we may not always want to be speaking for our organisations
  • We all have technical capacity gaps, so skills sharing and better knowledge transfer could help this situation
  • We need training at many different levels, as there are many different levels of knowledge and awareness in the community

As the digital preservation community is widely dispersed here, both across Australia and across the Tasman in New Zealand, next steps include continuing the conversation online at our newly established Google group forum. In addition, the Digital Scholarship team at the University of Melbourne is actively planning what the next steps could be in terms of future events and meetings that we may want to run.

Community building for digital preservation has begun in the Australasian region. There is a clear need and a strong appetite for better sharing of our work in digital preservation, and we hope this initiative contributes to building a robust support network.

Further resources to check out

Collaboration and Digital Preservation

Image: johnhain, Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/cooperate-collaborate-teamwork-2924261 CC0

Most aspects of information management benefit from collaborative activities, and many of them now have collaboration firmly established. Library cataloguing is an example where collaboration is the norm and happens on an international scale. In digital preservation, collaborative activities have become more evident at all levels, and collaboration is now assumed to be one of the keys to success.

The key reason collaboration is central to and embedded in digital preservation is the scale of the challenges, which are simply too big for any one organisation, no matter how well resourced it is, to address adequately. Another reason is recognition of the need to have a shared community of practice—communication and networks with others working in the field—to enable best practice approaches to be discussed and tested. The opportunities to build communication and social networks through collaborative projects were valued highly by interviewees in a 2014 study by Patricia Condon, “Digital Curation Through the Lens Of Disciplinarity: The Development Of An Emerging Field,” (PhD dissertation, Simmons College School of Library and Information Science, 2014, 140.)

Because digital preservation is expensive and resources are scarce, sharing costs and resources through collaborative activities is an effective approach to successful and sustainable digital preservation, especially given the magnitude of the challenges. When issues are similar across different kinds of organizations (such as libraries and archives) and different sectors (for example, different scientific disciplines, the corporate business world, government departments), it is usually advantageous to combine expertise and experience.

However, collaboration has costs attached, and unless there is a high level of mutual understanding, less than ideal partnerships can result. Despite any concerns, the benefits usually outweigh the disadvantages.

The benefits include:

  • Better use of resources through shared development costs, attracting resources and support for well-coordinated programs, with improvements in efficiency
  • Improved access to expertise, tools and systems, and shared learning opportunities
  • Increased ability to influence producers of materials, to influence the development of standards and practices, and to encourage influential stakeholders to take preservation seriously.
Image: geralt, Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/social-media-personal-2457842 CCO

There’s lots of published material about collaboration in digital preservation. A good place to start are these two short pieces:

Brungs and Wyber suggest collaborative actions that are needed at national and international levels. Mayernick et al. describe a more specific collaborative activity, grassroots initiatives in the U.S. rescuing government data in danger of disappearing because of changing government imperatives.

Chapter 9 of our forthcoming book Preserving Digital Materials (Ross Harvey and Jaye Weatherburn, third edition, 2018), describes a number of examples of collaborative activities in digital preservation. We also note some of the history of collaborative activities in digital preservation from the early 2000s. We end chapter 9 by noting an increasingly collaborative trend, producing a strengthening collegial environment that fosters national and international engagement and cooperation.

Collaboration is set to remain one of the key characteristics of the digital preservation community, achieved through well-established social networks, partnerships, and the sharing of knowledge and expertise.

Written by Ross Harvey and Jaye Weatherburn

International Digital Preservation Day 2017

One of my first tasks when I began in my role as a Digital Preservation Officer at the University of Melbourne (in March 2016) was to interview 40-odd research support staff, in order to analyse the university’s capability to support digital preservation, and to identify the improvements required for effective long-term sustainability of digital assets. 

One of the questions I asked during the interview process was:

What does digital preservation mean to you?

To celebrate the very first International Digital Preservation Day in 2017, I’ve put together a few of the responses to this question in a short video.

What does digital preservation mean to you? from Jaye Weatherburn on Vimeo.

To find out more about what the University of Melbourne Digital Preservation Project team has been up to, head to the project blog, and read all about International Digital Preservation Day here.